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What is Scéalaíocht?

5th of June  2024 

Scéalaíocht is the Irish term for storytelling. The practice involves telling stories, myths, legends and historical tales that often have been passed down through generations. It relies heavily on oral tradition and where bards and seanchaí (traditional storytellers) played a crucial role in preserving and transmitting the cultural history, and folklore. Irish mythology is organised into several cycles, each focusing on different themes, characters, and periods. 


The Ulster Cycle is set during the reign of King Conchobar mac Nessa, who ruled Ulaid, encompassing modern-day eastern Ulster and northern Leinster. Central to this cycle is the epic "Táin Bó Cúailnge" (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), which details the heroics of Cú Chulainn as he defends Ulster from Queen Medb of Connacht. The cycle includes various tales of Cú Chulainn’s exploits, his training with Scáthach, his love for Emer, and his tragic death, emphasising heroism, loyalty, warfare, and tragic destiny.


The Mythological Cycle revolves around the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods and goddesses of pre-Christian Ireland. Key stories include the "Book of Invasions" (Lebor Gabála Érenn), which narrates successive invasions of Ireland, and "The Second Battle of Mag Tuired" (Cath Maige Tuired), describing the conflict between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians. This cycle highlights themes of divine intervention, magical prowess, and the struggle between good and evil.


The Fenian Cycle focuses on the exploits of the Fianna, a band of warrior-hunters led by Fionn mac Cumhaill. Notable tales include Fionn’s early adventures, "The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne," and "The Battle of Gabhra," exploring heroism, adventure, loyalty, love, and betrayal. 


Lastly, the Cycles of the Kings narrate the lives and deeds of various Irish kings, blending historical events with mythological elements. Stories such as the adventures of Niall of the Nine Hostages and the mystical tales of Mongan mac Fiachna illustrate themes of kingship, governance, and the ethical challenges of rulership. These cycles collectively form a significant part of Ireland's literary and cultural heritage, reflecting the values and beliefs of ancient Irish society.


Historical legends in Irish mythology often blend fiction and facts. These beings enrich the narratives with elements of the supernatural, adding layers of mystery and moral lessons. Fairies often embody the capricious nature of fate, leprechauns symbolise trickery and the pursuit of fortune, and banshees serve as ominous harbingers of death, all contributing to Irish mythology.


The art of Irish storytelling is a vibrant and essential part of Ireland's cultural fabric. It not only preserves the rich landscape of Irish myths, legends, and folklore but also fosters a sense of community and continuity. By embracing and promoting Scéalaíocht, both traditional and modern practitioners ensure that this treasured cultural practice continues to thrive for future generations.


Why is there separate Scéalaíocht and storytelling categories in the Fleadh ? 

Storytelling is expressed in English and Scéalaíocht is spoken in Irish Gaelic. 


Why are the stories in cycles?

The stories are organised into cycles to help provide structure and coherence to the themes in the endless amount of tales. Each cycle focuses on specific characters and events. 


Are people creating stories that reflect history today and why is that important? 

The All-Britain Fleadh, alongside the traditional Scéalaíocht and storytelling, allows for new stories and contemporary pieces to be told. By creating new stories, it helps people to reflect and understand issues and events that are going on today. Storytelling is a crucial way to document and preserve the culture and history of modern Ireland.

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