Thursday, March 24, 2011

April Fool's and the Amadán

            One of the theories on the origins of April Fool’s Day is related to the old calendar.  In the Middle Ages, even though the calendar was changed to mark the New Year as January 1, many still celebrated the more ancient practice of marking the New Year at approximately the Vernal Equinox.  In France and other locations it was a week-long celebration ending on April 1.  It is thought that these celebrants were referred to as April Fool’s by the more modern and self righteous new calendar adherents.
            One of my personal theories is that it was a resurrection of the Feast of Fools, celebrated on December 28 until the sixteenth century.  Many are familiar with the Feast of Fools from the scene in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  It was a festival that turned the hierarchy upside especially the clergy.  It was by all accounts celebrated with ridiculous ceremonies and mock consecrations and general buffoonery.  It in turn was a replacement for the Roman Saturnalia.  The growth of April Fool’s seems to have begun after the Catholic and Protestant Churches succeeded in eliminating the antics of the Feast of Fools.  As you may begin to see, the word fool had different implications in those days than it does now. Think court jester or The Fool of the Tarot.  Neither form of the fool is foolish, but is viewed as a vagabond or a trickster. Sound familiar???

            Near to my heart is “the fool” in Ireland.  If you are familiar with Gaelic you are not surprised that there are two words for fool.  The Irish word for a female fool is an óinseach.  Interestingly enough there is no popular folklore around this.

            The Amadán is the male fool.  In Irish myth there are two forms.  The Amadán na bruidhne, is considered malevolent, the fool of the fairy mounds and palaces.  This fool is thought to be responsible for the fairy stroke and more active in June.  He causes sudden and mysterious death.  The Amadán Mór is viewed as benevolent. He is part of Irish folklore, including the Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir, which is considered part of the Fenian Cycle.   Visit this link for a translation of the story.  It is often compared to Perceval of the Arthurian cycle.  . In the Eachtra. the Amadan, the son of a murdered king, flees to the forest with his mother.  There he grows large and hairy during the night.  At one point he loses his shins and after a quest and some trials.  When he meets achampion who challenges him for his wife, our hero declares he will defend her with only his fists.  The champion calls him a Big Fool. He wins the battle and has his legs restored by the magic of the Druid. 

            So when someone asks me how I can merge Druids, vampires and shapeshifters in my novel, Dark Dealings I think of stories like this and quote Una Rourke, my main character’s grandmother and Druid priestess, “We who have touched the Otherworld know differently.”  All things are possible.

            There are other practices around the Amadán.  Feel free to share them here.  Has anyone heard of blessing the entries with salt, ash and holy water to keep the Amadán out?