Stories of Power, Powerful Stories: The Drunken Priest in Donegal
Taylor, Lawrence J. (1990) Stories of Power, Powerful Stories: The Drunken Priest in Donegal. In: Religious orthodoxy and popular faith in European society. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 163-184. ISBN 9780691028507
This story is one of twenty-three “priest stories” collected in one notebook by folklorist Sean Ó’hEochaidh from his natal community of Teelin in Donegal, Ireland. The notebook containing these Gaelic tales is dated 1945, but there are also dozens of other priest stories scattered through the more than seventy volumes of oral lore recorded by Ó’hEochaidh in his nearly half century (beginning in the early 1930s) of folklore collecting in the area. The stories relate the exploits of local curates and parish priests – many of them named – in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The narratives fall very neatly into two categories. In one, priests whom I will call “heroic”, battle the evil forces of the Protestant ascendancy in their local incarnations: landlords, agents, bailiffs, Protestant farmers and the rare Catholic collaborator (see Lawrence Taylor 1985). Such clerics are typically armed with the paraphernalia of the church, such as the priest who dons his stole and recites from his book in order to bring a Protestant up from Hell as an object lesson to his unregenerate family. The other category, which includes the story related above, features clerics who “have a taste for the wee drop” or, to translate the Irish euphemism, “drunken priests”. These protagonists perform their magic, whether to help or harm, usually unaided by anything but their inherent charisma.
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