A Heritage Week Mystery

People who grew up in Ireland when Wanderly Wagon was appointment television will have as much familiarity with the supernatural world as with the real world.

Who doesn’t know what the cry of a banshee means*, the importance of never picking combs off the ground** and why you should never step into a dark grass ring at dusk or dawn***?

But that’s nothing to the people who lived a hundred years ago who were seriously superstitious about pretty much everything, especially houses. Caoimhín Ó Danachair has written extensively on how to keep The Luck of the House, from how to choose a site (set markers for the corners, leave for a few days and if they are undisturbed, it can be assumed that the fairies don’t mind having a house there), to the proper contents of foundations (a coin, a religious medal, holy clay, a horse skull or cooking pot).

Above all, doors and windows must be guarded by the careful placement of bits of iron – in the form of horseshoes or nails – to make sure fairies couldn’t get indoors and upset the household.

However, in all Ó Danachair’s writings, and in all the Journals of the various historical societies around the country, and in all literature the National Museum of Ireland could dig up, there is no mention of the tradition of concealing a shoe in the walls of a building to bring good luck to the house and to ward off evil spirits anywhere in Ireland.

Which is why it is strange that a shoe has been found in a wall in Lisacul.

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The shoe fits all the criteria for a concealed shoe, according to the Northampton Museum who keep the worldwide database which records finds in North America, Canada, and a number of countries in Europe including the UK, France, Spain and Poland.

  • It is a child’s shoe
  • There’s only one shoe
  • It’s very worn

The only thing wrong is that it shouldn’t be there. So, is this a Lisacul-only tradition? Did someone from the UK, France, Spain or Poland have a hand in building the house? Where did the shoe come from?

If you have any ideas, please let us know. It’s driving us and the people at the National Museum and at the Northampton Museum crazy wondering about it.

*Someone in the family is going to die before dawn
**It probably belongs to a banshee so that someone is going to be you
***The fairies will take you and leave one of their own behind in your place