Near the village of Blarney, in Ireland, about 8 km north-west of the small city of Cork, lies the Blarney Castle. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. It is said that anyone who kisses the stone is endowed with “the gift of the gab” or skill at flattery. Millions of tourist including world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen have climbed the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence. Just how long this custom has been practiced or how it originated is not known, but the tradition seems to have begun in the late 18th century.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is for some people a difficult physical feat. In the past, to kiss the Stone the participant must ascend to the castle's peak, then lean over backwards on the parapet's edge while an assistant held the person by the ankles. Later, the parapet was fitted with wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars, but the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia, an extreme or irrational fear of heights.
There are many legend surrounding the Barney Stone. According to one version of the legend, Cormac Laidir McCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, was involved in a lawsuit. So he appealed to the goddess Clíodhna for her assistance who instructed MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court. He did as he was told and then pleaded his case with such great eloquence that the verdict went in his favor. MacCarthy was convinced the stone was magical and incorporated it into the parapet of the castle.
Another story goes that during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dermot McCarthy, the ruler of the castle, was required to surrender his fortress to the Queen as proof of his loyalty. He said he would be delighted to do so, but something always happened at the last moment to prevent his surrender. Once, when the eloquent excuses of McCarthy were repeated to the Queen, she uttered "Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!", referring to the particular form of nonsense talk typical among the townsfolk.
The term Blarney has thus come to mean “convincing smooth talk” or "misleading nonsense”, and is now part of the English dictionary.
Kissing the stone in 1897, before the safeguards were installed. Photo credit
View of the Blarney Stone from the ground. Photo credit
Blarney House at Blarney Castle, Ireland. Photo credit
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