Shelf of old books
Curses, The Unexplained

Kiss Me, I’m Irish: The Good (and Bad) Luck of the Blarney Stone

Everyone knows that kissing the Blarney Stone gives you good luck. But where does all that good luck come from?  Did you know that there’s a lesser known legend surrounding the Blarney stone… and its curse? Could the “good luck” associated with kissing the Blarney stone be leached from the victims of this curse?

With Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I’ve put down the Guinness just long enough to write this blog post.  Being half Irish, anything that’s related to my heritage (that doesn’t involve potatoes) is something I want to discuss here.

Blarney Castle

Origins

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with the Blarney Stone, it’s a slab of rock that was added to one of the towers of Blarney Castle, Ireland in 1446.  The origins of this rock are shrouded in mystery, and there are many legends surrounding it.  One possibility is that it could be “Jacob’s Pillow”, a stone that the prophet Jeremiah may or may not have hauled to Ireland.  One myth even states that it’s the rock that Moses drew water from.  Every legend is vague in its details and ambiguous about how the stone would have ended up at Blarney Castle, of all places.  The official Blarney Castle website provides a little more discussion of the where this stone may have come from.  With little evidence or direct historical records to inspect, I’m not sure I believe any of these stories.  It could just be any old lucky rock.

The Good Luck

We’re here today to talk about the “magic” surrounding this mysterious stone.  The luck of the Blarney Stone is quite fascinating. As I mentioned before, it’s supposedly good luck to kiss it.  The stone is situated at the top of a tower.  In order to reach the stone and kiss it, you have to lean backwards and hang over a gaping hole, which reveals the cold hard ground dozens of feet below.  It is downright terrifying.  I actually went to the castle with my family as a child and kissed the stone myself. I remember how long the line had been to get to the Stone. If the staff had been transparent about just how much acrobatics and fearlessness was required to kiss the stone, the line would have been a fraction of its length.  However, if they’d warned us, I probably wouldn’t have gone all the way. I only did because I’d been waiting in line for an hour, and I didn’t want it to be for nothing.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if the reason why people are considered lucky after kissing the Blarney Stone is because they didn’t plummet to their deaths afterwards.  Nowadays, however, they have wrought iron bars in place to prevent such tragedy.

Image of kissing the Blarney Stone
ca 1900 “Kissing the Blarney Stone, Co. Cork.” from Villanova University Digital Library CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Not only is kissing the Stone good luck, but apparently those who kiss it are gifted with eloquence, or the “gift of the gab”.  I can’t help but wonder if this is true.  I’ve been told that I didn’t speak two words in all of first grade, but now I teach classes to over a hundred students, write blogs posts, short stories, and I’ve even, once or twice, been accused of being an extrovert (gasp!). I wish I had known about this happy side effect of kissing the Blarney Stone sooner, because I would have taken note of exactly when I managed to come out of my shell.  I apologize for not having any childhood diary entries or teachers’ report card comments to share as evidence of this good luck legend (possibly) coming to life.

The Curse

The Blarney Stone’s curse is less known than its counterpart. According to rumour, those who remove a stone (any stone, apparently) from the walls, or even the premises of the castle, will be cursed.  These foolish souls are plagued with bad luck, something that even Blarney Castle warns of on its website. Although, I have to take this fact with a grain of salt, because of course the proprietors of Blarney Castle would want to deter people from stealing little bits of their home.  Just a thought.

Many sources that speak of this curse are vague about the repercussions.  Those who steal a rock suffer from “bad luck”.  But what exactly is “bad luck”?  In 2009, Liam Sareman, a Canadian, experienced “months of misfortune” before returning his pilfered rock (Blarneycastle.ie).  Many other cases are similarly vague.

Stack of books

However, a more detailed account from Linda Kelly, a South Carolinian estate sales agent, was provided to the Irish Times in 2011 (Roseingrave, 2011; Kelly, 2011).  Kelly had purchased a piece of the Blarney Stone (or what was considered to be a piece of the Blarney Stone) from an estate sale for $1.

Soon afterwards, her work began to “slow down”, and she started to suffer from depression. She attributed this “bad luck” to the rock and mailed it back to Blarney Castle.  After it was no longer in her possession, she reported to immediately feel better.

The owner of Blarney Castle, Sir Charles Colthurst, claims that he receives pieces of stone in the mail from disgruntled tourists every year. Blarney Castle’s Twitter often posts pictures of the returned rocks and the letters that accompany them. Some years there are four or five pieces returned to their rightful place. It’s kind of funny to imagine Sir Colthurst reattaching these fragments to the wall with crazy glue.  Although, he probably gets the help to do that…

Linda Kelly had bought the rock from a priest who, by her own words, had lived a “sad life”.  Had he been troubled by the effects of the curse?  Kelly had said that she felt depressed.  Is it possible that the rock did not cause “bad luck” at all, but a turn in mood?  Depression could have caused her work to slide. By the same token, had Sareman had a similar emotional turn, he may have viewed the world pessimistically.  When the glass is half empty, everything would seem like it’s bad luck, when in fact, it just has to do with one’s outlook on life.

If my theory is right – and possessing a piece of the Blarney Castle causes unhappiness to the point where it becomes depression–it might not be “bad luck” that the victim is experiencing.  But whatever it is, it still might be a curse

🍀

What are your thoughts?  Is the curse blarney or do you think there’s some truth to it? Have you kissed the Blarney Stone?  Have you stolen bits of the Blarney Castle? Might be best to remain anonymous if you’ve done the latter, but please share your experiences in the comments section below!

Pile of books with open book in Gaelic

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