Jaidev listeners, welcome to Superstitions, a Spotify original from past, I'm Alastair Murden and I'm here to tell you about good and bad luck, where we find it, where it finds us, whether it exists at all. My business is storytelling and I've heard all sorts of stories that illustrate why we believe the things we do. And I share them with you every week on this podcast today, we're talking about one of the most famous superstitions, one whose totemic quality puts it in a similar category with a rabbit's foot we discussed last year.
I'm talking, of course, about the four leaf clover, not just a symbol of Ireland, but the image we all think about when we hear the words good luck.
You can find episodes of superstitions and all other Spotify originals from Park asked for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. In a moment, we'll travel to Ireland for a chance encounter with some fairy magic. This episode is brought to you by Faneuil's sportsbook, don't just watch college basketball, get in the action and shoot your shot with the fan to a sports book app. There's more ways to play the bracket all tournament long. New users get your first bat risk free, up to 1000 dollars.
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Now they're launching more than one thousand Wi-Fi connected lift zones and community centers nationwide to provide safe spaces to get online. Learn more at Comcast dotcom slash education. Before we begin, I would like to get one thing very clear a shamrock is not a four leaf clover. These are two completely different things. Shamrock, taken from the Irish word shamrock or young clover is the garden variety three leaf clover. It is not the same as the far rarer for leaf variety.
You probably know the gist of it. For centuries, the four leaf clover has been seen as a sign that you're protected by some mystical good fortune, much like a rabbit's foot or a discarded penny. What many people consider to be the first literary reference to the four leaf clover was in 16 20 from English merchant politician and writer Sir John Melton. He reportedly wrote, If a man walking in the fields find any four leaved grass, he shall in a small while after find some good thing.
Now, just because that's the written mention, it does not mean the superstition actually began in the 17th century. So you see what we know as Irish history is shrouded in mystery past a certain point written records began significantly after Christian missionaries such as Palladio Sense and Patrick brought the Roman religion to the island. Before then, Celtic Ireland had an oral culture. The facts we do have a distorted by both the natural variations that occur in oral histories and Christian revisionism accounts of Irish history that were written around the first millennia.
seeI such as the Boer, Gabala, Aerin or the Book of Invasions, are written as history but contain more than a fair share of Christian and pagan mythology. To date, scholars remain uncertain of where the line between history and fairy tale lies in these works. And that is where our story begins. Not in history, not in myth, but somewhere in between. The year was six 03 A. Dominie, at least that's what they said to the woman who lived on the lake the year had no, no, no name, none that she cared about.
Anyway, her life was one of solitude, lived on a cranberg or false island in the center of the water.
She was a boundary, a Drouet. Her mother was one before her and her grandfather. Before that, she had never known her great grandfather, but had heard tales of his glory days where he served as the spiritual minister of a whole clan. Her name, sadly, has been lost to time, but we will call her Devil. Devil kept to herself.
And though the new God had been in her country for 100 years, she had no interest in letting go of the old ways. The newcomers tales of a great empire that unified the world did not impress her. Nor did their story of the man who died and lived again. They did not speak to her the way the fields in the hills and the trees did. Their stories could not hope to be as real as the two IJA, whose presence was felt throughout Asia, even as huge stone churches continue to spring up across the countryside.
This trend deeply bothered Derval, but it was easy enough to live alone, far away from this new Christian God until that is the day their world collided with hers. Derval left her cranberg at mid-afternoon, crossing the narrow bridge to the mainland and thence into a grove of trees, the oaks or Dakhlallah closed around her with their deep brown bowels. Very little light penetrated through the branches, but it was a friendly sort of darkness.
The grove welcomed her and she treated it with the deference and respect it deserved. She stepped past a ring of mushrooms and into a nearby clearing. After mere minutes of walking, the trees opened up above, allowing light to spill down into this glade and warm the bed of Clover's below. There was nowhere quite like it in the world.
Derval was quite certain, nowhere so peaceful, which is why the crying came as such a shock.
Derval looked around. The glade was empty. She was sure of it. Nothing but soft. Clover's all around, but her shadow moved at the very edge of the green, a small red bush rising up and down. Derval stood and approached her handgrips the bronze knife on her hip, which she used for pruning plants. As she approached her grip, relaxed, there was no need for alarm.
It was a young peasant woman on her knees with her hands covering her face. Greetings, Cullin. Are you hurt? The woman stood up in shock, dropping her hands to her sides, she stammered that she was fine. Thank you very much. Not a scratch on her. Derval cocked her head, sizing her up. Then she spoke again, keeping the reassuring tone in her voice to not be afraid of me. I am sure you've heard all manner of rumors about the woman on the lake.
The woman shakily nodded, which may Derval want to curse in annoyance. Whatever great respect her grandfather had earned in days of old had dwindled significantly over the last century.
But she forged ahead, rest assured, young one, I am but a boundary a woman of the woods.
If that term scares you, I am no demon with halting breaths, the woman finally replied. Neither am I. Her name was marein and her story was a strange one. She came from a village not too far away with a church at its center. She professed herself to be a woman of good faith, but one who is just as susceptible to the seven deadly sins as anyone. Derval did not ask what those were merely kept listening. A fortnight ago, Married had come home late to find that her father's farm was blooming more bounteous than it ever had before.
Crops that recently struggled to sprout were green and verdant, and it was all her brothers could do to harvest them all in time. Then the rumors came unrelated to the crops. People whispered that Marad had sinned, having relations with the man outside of holy matrimony. And yet her good fortune continued. When a man spit at her in the street, he would miss or sometimes even slip into a pile of dung himself.
When a storm flooded all the local fields but somehow left her farm untouched, it was all the accusers needed to gain traction with the rest of the townsfolk.
Passions grew so high that they tried to hang her as a witch, but the rope broke over and over again, no matter how many times they tried to reset it at her first opportunity, she had fled into the woods.
She was protected, it seemed. But such protection could not ease the minds of her community who were bent on her destruction. Derval felt pity for this woman and took her in. She washed her and made a meal for them. It was only that night when cleaning married's well-worn tunic that she found the reason for her protection.
Trapped in the folds of moraines grass stained tunic was a single four leaf clover. Derval gasped, holding the small green charm in her hands. Marad yawned. What's that? Devil smiled fondly. I wish I had the words to explain it to you. You've been blessed in a way you could not have known. How did it become trapped in your garments like this? Where you rolling around in?
Devil stopped speaking, noticing a blush on moraines cheeks. Oh. That night, devil went out into the woods to the field of Clover's there, she gathered a number of the three leafed kind, packing them carefully into her bag charms. They were, though, not as potent as the one she had found against the maidens breast. The forest wasn't dark that night, for a figure was waiting for her, someone who she summoned with a silent prayer. He resembled a man straight backed and strong and unblemished, not scarred and callous the way human warriors are.
He looked on her with eyes that had seen the land when it was new, eyes that had looked on an army of giants and held no fear. Derval bowed her head and thanked this being for his appearance.
What do you wish to know? Daughter of Bartnoff, Derval took a deep breath before asking such a visitation was a boon not to be wasted on frivolous curiosity. She said, I wish to know more about the changing world. Is my knowledge the rights and tasks I perform? Are they doomed to die? A slow death, my dear. I wish I could tell you what the future holds. We are not the future. We have the past.
I can not predict the coming of the main reasons or the death of King Nuada.
At the hands of the memorial's change comes and the seasons we can prepare for, but can never know for sure. They will hold for us. Devil's Heart sank. There was nothing she feared more than to see her traditions, her life vanish into obscurity or worse, painted as the work of evil by the God who now ruled her lands. She opened her mouth to ask again and her distant shouts from the edge of the glade. She turned to see some faint orange lights past the tree line.
Walking towards her home to call it a mob would be an overstatement. But it had the same sort of passion torch carrying fanatics who tracked Marad from her village ready to purge the demon from their midst. Their actions were not condoned by their bishop, but he had not forbidden them from doing so either. The older boys wanted to prove their manhood and burning a lady's man was far easier than waiting for the next clan war to roll around, Derval crept behind them, keeping just out of their torchlight.
Their progress was steady and she could not get around them, skulking in the dark behind them. She worked her craft, weaving spells of drowsiness and confusion from the bag of herbs she always carried with her and setting them into the wind. Her magic besets the group one by one. Gradually, the mob thinned as its members peeled off or lay down to nap in the grass. But three of these boys were not touched by her incantations and continued to the lake torches burning bright against the deep blue sky.
Morad had awakened but was trapped on the cranham. If the boys set fire to the bridge, she had no escape. This time she had no protection. The four leaf clover was far from her. In devil's pocket with a cry, Derval finally revealed herself. Stepping between these boys and the narrow bridge, she shouted, returned home angry children. Your quarrel will find no satisfaction here. The boys grinned in a ghoulish fashion. The arrival of Derval had confirmed their suspicion.
Here, after all, was a witch protecting a witch. The tallest of them step toward the bridge, torch swinging like a weapon, and something stopped it in mid-air and closed around the head of the torch, extinguishing the flame. Devils eyes widened in disbelief, the fairy she had spoken to me hours before stood beside her clutching the burning hot wood as if it were not but driftwood.
With a jerk of his wrist, the boy's arm snapped and he fell in terror to the earth, the spirits release the torch and approach. The boy's devil's gaze fell to the being's hand. It was red and scorched like hers would have been if she had done the same thing. The hand raised and anointed each of the boys with a touch. Your rage will fade. Shame will take its place, go back to your homes and never think again on what you intended to do.
The boys did not need to be told twice. They fled into the night, pausing only to wake their fallen companions. The fairy turned back to Derval and Marad with a look. The Druid understood this was not a rescue they could rely upon for all time. The two women would need each other more than he. His talisman would be with them as long as it lasted. But there's no Fay luck that can replace a loyal companion.
The fairy returned to the kingdom underground whether to lay down and rained, and the two women lived out their years together above ground. They would not always be alone. They would find loners and outcasts and other open minded people to join them for the slaughter that marked the conversion of England and Europe never came to this fair country, though the spread of Christianity never slowed. No, Centurion's came to talk pagans and burned down cities, and something else happened that Derval did not expect.
The very priests themselves would use the three leaf clover as a teaching tool, a symbol of their holy trinity until their dying day. Marad insisted that this was a good thing, a way that the old ways would never truly be forgotten. But the relative peace could not last, and centuries later, the green fields of era would be painted red with innocent blood. In just a moment, we'll follow our four leaf clover to some of the most infamous times in Irish history.
You discover their practices, seek their advice, and let yourself become more vulnerable than ever before, they have the ability to heal what the doctors can't or so they say.
Hi listeners. It's Vanessa from the podcast series Cults. Be sure to check out our four part special on Myracle Healer's airing right now. Meet figures from around the world who claimed powers and pushed remedies. But Harbord, more sinister intentions. You don't want to miss it. And if you're looking for more episodes on the most radical and deadly groups in history, tune into cults every Tuesday from Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple to Charles Manson and the Manson family.
To Keith Ranieri and Nexium, you'll uncover the unscrupulous methods used to turn bright eyed recruits into diehard believers. Follow the Spotify original from podcast Cults Free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
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Sportsbook Doug Faneuil dot com four terms and restrictions. Gambling problem call one 800 gambler. Now back to the story. Compared to the rest of the world, Christianity arrived in Ireland in a peaceful way sometime in the fifth century, the Celtic practices that once held sway there were integrated into new Christian customs in a practice known as syncretism. Central to this conversion was the Shamrock, which legends say St.. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.
From this viewpoint, each petal of the shamrock was supposed to represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The four leaf clover is considered lucky because the extra leaf is supposed to be a sign of God's grace. Redundancy aside, it's interesting to note that the totems served essentially the same purpose. Whether it was a blessing from the God or a God would make little material difference to those who held it. And in the 17th century, many native Irish would take luck wherever they could find it.
Donald clutched his beau until his knuckles went white. It had been five years since his village was put to the torch by Cromwell soldiers, but it felt closer to 50. Dout hounded them almost as much as the plague. The Tories were fighting for a string of tiny victories in a war that had already been lost. What use was torching a parliamentarian supply train or raiding a village controlled by the English? When these questions arose, Donnel only had one answer.
It was to make sure the English never felt at home in their land. The victories ones in battles they were in every sleepless night they could give to their oppressors. But Donnel was now on the run. A troop of English had surprised his camp in the wee hours of the morning and scattered his men to the wind.
For all he knew, their heads could be lining a ditch in the bog of Allen.
He was crossing a recently torched glade when his eye caught a speck of green amongst the ash, barely pausing to think he picked the clover and tucked it into his glove. There was something poignant to him about the part of Ayda that refused to surrender to Cromwell's torch. Mere moments later, he came to a halt. The unmistakable sounds of pillaging came from just over the horizon. Practised in his art, he found a vantage point on a nearby hill and knocked an arrow.
There were maybe seven or eight knights putting a farm to the torch. Hardly a significant conquest. He almost let the scene be. But the cries of the peasants stirred something in Donnel.
What were they fighting for, if not for the rights of the Irish to be free?
He was alone. His men were rooted. Perhaps this was the only victory he could hope for, shooting a couple of English to show that even when picking on peasants, they were not safe. When he loosed his first arrow, he almost lost his nerve. Armoured soldiers were slow, but once they spotted his hiding place, he couldn't win this fight. But then the arrow struck home and he gasped. The night fell like a tree, the shaft having pierced through his slim eyehole.
It was a one in a thousand shot, even for an archer as good as Donnel. The rebel didn't waste it. He loosed another arrow and another one by one. His opponents fell every arrow, piercing a minute gap in their armor. As the last of them fell, he let out a cry of victory. He never saw the fairy hand guiding his arrow heads to their targets. All he knew was that for the first time in five years, he felt hope again.
You may have heard the expression, the luck of the Irish, I'd like to take a moment to tell you that the phrase has little connection to the four leaf clover. It doesn't even originate in Ireland, but rather in American mining towns in the 19th century. It carries with it an ironic connotation because of the origin of many Irish American immigrant communities. Around that time, Irish immigration to America boomed in the mid 19th century, due in large part to the potato famine or great starvation that ravaged Ireland from 1845 to 1852.
In fact, the writer of today's stories is a descendant of one such family. Needless to say, for centuries it seemed to outsiders like the Irish were in fact a curse to people. But we aren't following them to America. We're staying in the old country to tell the story of an unlucky detective and an even unlucky family. Let's go over it again, Mrs. Kelly, just so we have the facts straight, Quintin Walsh sucked on a cigarette, feeling the smoke swirl in his lungs.
He loved his job, but sometimes digging up trauma was an unpleasant necessity, like the case of the Kelly family who had retained him to investigate a series of murders that had mystified the guards since the early 70s. The only member of the Kelly family still willing to talk about the case was the matriarch Grace, who Walsh noted in his book as not an actress or a princess. She deeply sighed and went over everything. She knew her husband's last ride in the country, how she had seen a figure drive his car back up to their home and had gone to bed comfortable in the knowledge that she would wake to find him lying beside her.
And she had, after a fashion, been right.
Fergus had been the fourth member of the Kellys to die under baffling circumstances, they had two cousins who died in a car bombing in Belfast, a nephew who fell off of a cliff into the sea and a daughter who had just disappeared. She didn't count, but the papers all acted like she did. Quinton Walsh knew all of this, of course. But as a private detective, it was his job to go over the details until he could recite them in his sleep.
He was playing chess with an opponent or opponents whose pieces he couldn't even see. With no new evidence. He was stuck with the police theories unless he could come up with one of his own. Most of the guards assumed that these killings were politically motivated. Fallout from the troubles up in Northern Ireland. The horror of Bloody Sunday was still fresh in everyone's mind. Even five years after the fact, Quinten doubted the political angle. The Kelly family did have its share of loyalist politicians, but he didn't think pushing people off a cliff was a go to tactic for the IRA.
The only thing that would shake up this case in Quinton's mind would be retreading Fergus Kelly's final drive at night on the anniversary of the murder.
If he could get into the killer's mind, perhaps he would find something everyone else had overlooked, Quinton didn't make a habit of carrying firearms, but he packed his old service pistol just in case people act strangely in the wee hours of the morning.
And he wasn't about to take this macabre tour unprotected. First stop at sunset, the starry plough, a pub 50 miles away. It was quiet there. The bartender claimed it always calm down right before the Monday night, Caleigh and he sat in a corner for an hour. The same estimate for Fergus. Something about sitting alone in this pub made the detective's mind start to shift almost without him noticing. He felt the deep loneliness that had been gnawing at him for years, the frustration at chasing hopeless cases until he had to admit he had lost.
He shook it off.
He was here to empathize with a killer, not have a midlife crisis. He paid and went on his way. His second stop was at a power plant. The family managed. Fergus had liked to do snap inspections to make sure everything was running smoothly.
The dark blue of Twilight made the plant look like a castle from the distance, chain links and concrete morphing into stone in the gloom. There were no revelations here, though a security guard did ask him what he was doing. The detective lied, of course, because he didn't have time to explain.
Or maybe he didn't want to be embarrassed. This surely did seem like something someone did only when they were out of ideas. The third stop was somewhere between the power plant and their mansion, a distance that Fergus had taken approximately five hours to traverse. If the timeline was correct, only he'd arrived at the other end as a dead man. Quinton's stopped halfway along the road where a dirt path led him to a cliff by the sea. Treacherous ground. If you were like the late Fergus Kelly going here at night, this made him think of a question the guards could never answer.
Why not throw the body off a cliff instead of going to the trouble of driving it all the way back to his home and leaving him in his bed, there was no logical answer. But there was also no logical explanation for how no DNA evidence had been found in the car, on the body or in the bed where he'd been deposited. Quentins, depressing train of thoughts returned, he seemed doomed to follow unanswerable questions his whole life, he thought determination was a virtue.
But it seems there is only a fine line between determination and stubbornness. His unwillingness to let go of things made him a good detective, but it had cost him his marriage and many of his friends. He was a romantic who was thwarted by his own obstinacy. And now here he was at the logical end point, trying to solve the unsolvable. But then his eyes alighted on a shape in front of him, and he froze. The man, if it was a man shifted, seeming to turn towards him.
It was too dark to make out any features. But the voice had a grin in it when he spoke. It's a great crack, isn't it? Walking in the footsteps of the dead.
A chill ran up Quinten spine, he fished a flashlight out of his pocket and pointed it at the figure, the man raised a hand to block his face, revealing a hunting knife in his black gloved palm. Who are you? Quentin demanded. The sheep laughed. Don't you recognize me? I'm Baylor of the Evil Eye. He took a step forward by instinct, Quinton drew his pistol and raised it, stop where you are, he shouted. I need you to drop the knife and show me your ID.
The flashlights being flickered, the faceless man chuckled again, bad luck, Detective.
The lights went out, the shape lowered its hand and charged. Quinton Walsh opened fire at the figure with each flash. The man was standing closer and closer and closer, but the detective never saw his face.
The knife entered just below his ribs and the gun dropped from his fingers. Quinton grappled with the man as the strength bled out of his limbs. He tried to seize any part of his attacker the hair, the pockets, anything that could give him an advantage. But he was too weak and all his protests were shrugged off effortlessly. In a choking voice, he asked, Why did you come back, Bailleau of the Evil? I clicked his tongue. Nostalgia, I guess.
The detective was found dead the next morning, but the case did not end there in his fruitless struggle with the nameless killer Quinson Walsh had dislodged something the man had kept in his pocket for years and years. A four leaf clover lost in the scuffle lay by the detectives side, soaking up blood. And the killer, having finally lost the protection of the ferry, fell off the cliff and into the sea while walking back to his car. The murder was never solved and his name was never known, but somehow the Kelly family knew they could now rest easy.
The true origin of the four leaf clover superstition has, like pre-Christian Irish history, been lost to time. What remains is a distorted view built of secular and religious beliefs. Some Christian readings even say that Eve carried a four leaf clover out of the Garden of Eden, which, like the biblical elements of the Book of Invasion's, are most likely a retroactive addition to the mythology. One of the most popular secular assumptions is that each of the four leaves stands for a specific virtue.
Faith, hope, love and luck respectively. But the magic of the four leaf clover is not limited to history. You see, the genetic mutation that causes a clover to have one extra leaf is extremely rare. It's estimated that one in every 10000 clovers will have this mutation.
Even isolating which gene causes the mutation was a daunting challenge for researchers, as clover plants have exceedingly complex genealogies. Researchers did determine that certain environmental factors can encourage the number of four leaf clovers in any given number of plants, though even in a warmer climate, it is quite rare.
So finding a four leaf clover is a sort of luck just weighing the odds.
And perhaps there's a lesson in here about the nature of biology.
Look at it like this. Many of the traits that allow humans, plants and mammals to survive start as mutations or variations in an individual member of a species. For that individual, having that special mutation that allows the species to continue is a form of luck. When you find a four leaf clover, it's like the universe is reminding you of your uniqueness. And that is a special thing even if you don't believe in fairies. Thanks again for listening to superstitions.
You can find more episodes of superstitions and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify. We'll be back next week with a new episode until next time. Be wary of the things you cannot explain. Superstitions is a Spotify original from. It is executive produced by Max Cuddler Sound Design by Keri Murphy with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Isabel Away. This episode of Superstitions was written by Robert Hiemstra with Writing Assistants by Andrew Kealoha, fact checking by Onya Bailey and research by Brian Petrus.
I'm Alistair Murden.