Full-blown language capabilities is one of the primary attributes that separates man from animal. People talk. … And not just talk. We gossip, give speeches, negotiate, ask questions, explain. Speech is our primary method of self-expression and connection to others. But ‘The Gift of Gab’ doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Fortunately, according to legend, it is a gift that can be bestowed with a kiss.
Welcome to Blarney, Ireland! Located eight kilometers NorthWest of Cork City, population 2,536; Blarney is home to a local football club, the gift store in Blarney Wollen Mills, Blarney Castle, and the Blarney Stone.
Originally built by Cormac MacCarthy and his family, Blarney Castle dates back to before the year 1200, though it has been seized, destroyed, and rebuilt a number of times to the current castle which has been standing since 1446. The castle is partially in ruin, but remains open to the public. Surrounded by paths directing tourists to whimsically named rock formations like Druid Circle, Witch’s Cave, and The Wishing Steps; then around to the Poison Garden thriving with plants like Wolfsbane, Opium, Ricin, and Cannabis.
By far the most famous feature of the castle is the Blarney Stone. While the power of the stone is unquestioned, the origin of that power has many stories, many possibilities, all of which provoke healthy debate. Some say it is Jacob’s Pillow, a biblical artifact brought to Ireland by the Prophet Jeremiah. Others claim it is Lia Fail, the coronation stone of Ireland. The story goes that the stone itself would shout with joy when a true king of Ireland stood or sat on top of it. Some claim it is the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses. The Blarney Castle website itself believes that a witch who was saved from drowning revealed the stone’s power to the MacCarthy family. All compelling stories, but none quite explain why kissing the stone would bestow the gift of eloquence.
The earliest and most traditional origin story gives the best explanation for the stone’s invaluable gift. Cormac Laidir MacCarthy found himself involved in a lawsuit sometime in the 15th century. He appealed to the Goddess Clìodhna, Queen of the Banshee and the patron Goddess of Cork County, for her assistance. Clìodhna told MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found on his way to court the following morning. He did so and went on to win his case through eloquent argument. To keep the stone safe, MacCarthy set the stone into the parapet of his castle.
For more than 200 years millions of people have made the pilgrimage to, until recently, risk life and limb to participate in the ritual. To achieve the kiss, one must ascend to the castle’s peak, then lean backwards over the edge of the parapet. Before the safeguards of wrought iron rails and crossbars, an assistant would bodily dangle the participant over the side of the castle. A possibly terrifying journey to receive the ability to “flatter without offending.”While records are not kept as to who may have kissed the stone, staff and proprietors claim the ritual has been undertaken by literary giants, statesmen, and stars of the silver screen.
Texas Tech University even boasts a fragment of the Stone has lived outside its old Electrical Engineering Building since St. Patrick’s Day, 1939; though no one is sure how that might’ve been verified. Seniors traditionally kiss the fragment on graduation for the same gift of eloquence. Most famously, the Blarney Stone gave rise to the phrase, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” As the belief that kissing an Irishman who has kissed the Blarney Stone would pass on the gift of gab second hand.
The word “Blarney” itself has come to mean ‘clever, flattering, or coaxing talk,’ ‘empty flattery,’ or ‘beguiling talk.’ To be charming. Isn’t that a gift we’d all like? To be effortlessly charming... Well, pucker up Buttercup. Let’s climb up and kiss a rock and then we’ll all talk better.