Last night my daughter and I were walking to our car after a St. Paddy’s Day cooking demonstration. A scrumptious dinner of corned beef, colcannon, and chocolate orange Guinness cake topped off the evening of Gaelic cuisine. As we hurried down a dark alley babbling about food, my daughter declared that her knee sock had suddenly fallen down around her left ankle. But, here’s the mysterious part: Simultaneously my knee sock did exactly the same thing, fall down around my left ankle.
“Maybe that Irish chef had the sight,” my daughter suggested. “Do you think he dispatched one of those Celtic Pooka fairies to fool around with our socks? I’ve read they do their mischief after dark.”
“Um, frankly I think it’s a case of bad elastic,” I countered. “It’s hard to imagine why a Pooka fairy would orchestrate a synchronized sock failure. We should probably stop buying knee-highs at Walgreens.” However, this strange occurrence did prompt me to go home and brush up on Irish fairy history.
A crafty fairy sock snatcher
The Pooka appears to be a favorite among the Irish, a phantom fairy creature that appears in Celtic folklore. He’s best known for his crafty tricks. I assume this includes nabbing socks from unsuspecting dinner guests.
But I happen to know that the Celts brought more appealing gifts to their world than Pookas. They lived in a rugged land where nothing was too common to be exalted, and nothing was so exalted that it couldn’t be made common. They were ordinary people who took the tasks of their daily lives and treated them sacramentally, as outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. Celtic spirituality took common things and interpreted them as signs of a greater reality. Getting up in the morning and carrying out one’s duties of washing, tending the fire, milking and weaving, fishing and farming—all these modest jobs testified to a holy presence in creation. Nearly everything that happened between birth and death could become an occasion for recognizing the closeness of God.
No wonder Celtic spirituality thrives today
The Celtic approach to spiritual life honored these daily rhythms that offered them comfort and reassurance. During times of discord and disruption, their beliefs gave them a spiritual resource untroubled by violent events, or revolutionary changes. No wonder Celtic spirituality has enjoyed such a revival today.
So, if the Celts revered simplicity of their everyday tasks and dinner tables, I’d think they would also revere an evening with our daughters and sons celebrating life and some good Irish food.
Come to think of it, simplicity sounds downright tantalizing. Just imagine while we’ve all been out there striving, the real gift that waits for us at the end of the day might just be as humble as walking the dog.
As for that Pooka fairy business, who knows if it’s truth or whimsy? Just to be on the safe side I picked up some sturdy socks.