Kissing the Blarney Stone is no feat for the faint of heart

The sky above the castle is the color of iron. The wind has a bite to it. I have just paid a number of Euros to enter the grounds, and although I can’t quite figure out how much this is in American dollars I will not be deterred from my goal.

I’m in Ireland and I am on my way to kiss the Blarney Stone.

This, I acknowledge, is a silly thing, yet I’m determined. I’ve even read up on it. The legends of the Blarney Stone are many. Some involve Gaelic gods with names I can’t pronounce. A common thread seems to be a former lord of the manor named Cormac McCarthy, who talked Queen Elizabeth out of stripping him of his land rights. McCarthy was not a particularly eloquent man, the legend goes. Not, that is, before a witch turned him on to a certain stone. I’ve been unable to determine if McCarthy is any relation to the author of “No Country for Old Men.”

Depending on what story you believe, the Blarney Stone originated in Israel, Scotland or some magical realm involving wiccans and leprechauns. The circumstances of McCarthy’s tensions with the Queen also vary from legend to legend. None of this matters to me. The bottom line is this: kissing the Blarney Stone bestows the gift of gab.

I don’t really believe that kissing the Blarney Stone will make me more eloquent, although I’m secretly hoping it will land me a job on the Boston Housing Authority. I just got it in my head that this is the thing to do in Ireland, like visiting the Colosseum in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If it eliminates a few “um”s or “you know”s from my speech, it will be a bonus.

I should note that I’m not Irish. Most of the people from the Pioneer Valley I am here with are, however, and as I approach the 12th century castle it occurs to me that none of them are around. It’s only later that I learn they have kissed the Blarney Stone on previous trips, rendering the ritual superfluous for them.

<a href=Blarney Castle.jpg">Blarney Castle As I climb to the top of the castle I’m struck by how similar it is to the stone lookout towers you find in state parks back in New England. If this is where the royals lived, I’d hate to see the 13th century peasant digs. Blarney Castle is cold, cramped and dark. It says “dungeon” more than “mansion.” You take your life in your hands just walking up the winding stone stairs. I expect to turn a corner and find some miscreant doing unspeakable things.

At the very top, on the parapets, is the stone. It’s set into a wall in such a way that you have to be lowered head first and upside down to kiss it. This just adds to the allure. There are two men here for this purpose. They have the air of undertakers and do not favor small talk. When I ask one if this job ever gets old, he simply nods.

Being lowered to kiss the Blarney Stone feels, in fact, like being lowered into your grave. I’m careful to empty my pockets beforehand, then turn my camera over the second gentleman and instruct him how to use it.

The deed itself is done quickly. It’s only after I kiss the stone that I wonder how many mouths have touched it, with how much saliva it is varnished, how many germs lie in wait. I mumble my thanks to the two undertakers. The mojo obviously has not taken.

Back on the ground, I look up at the hole where the Blarney Stone is and down at the bushes below. There must be more spare change there than in the cushions of your grandmother’s sofa, but there are guards and I can’t approach. I have to content myself with walking around the castle garden, which features poisonous plants like wolfbane. Some of them are inside little cages so over-zealous tourists don’t harm themselves.

Afterwards, everything is more or less the same. I can’t say I speak any better but at least I haven’t come down with some disease. It’s only later that night that I feel my tongue loosen somewhat. This could be the after-effects of the Blarney Stone or the result of that other great Irish ritual: drinking Guinness at a pub.

Source : http://www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/10/kissing_the_blarney_stone_is_no_feat_for_the_faint_of_heart.html

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