I often say that I’m not superstitious.
Then I wink. That’s blarney. I am helplessly superstitious. In life and sports. I am a sucker for superstitions.
So while I was in Ireland last week on vacation, I kissed the Blarney Stone. I did not kiss the old stone for good luck. Sure, we all need good luck. But I believed if I did not kiss the old stone while in Ireland, then I’d be prone to bad luck.
So on a rainy day in Ireland, we climbed the narrow, stone, winding steps of the old Blarney Castle, which in itself presented pieces of good luck. I did not slip and fall backwards, break a bone or two, or knock down the climbers behind me on the indoor spiral steps leading toward the stone.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is a tradition that’s been around in Ireland for several centuries. It’s really not about good luck. Kissing the old stone is believed to give a person the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness. I need plenty of that too. A guy can never have enough eloquence and persuasiveness. Along with luck, clean underclothes, Nutella, hugs and golf balls.
The iconic stone is set in a wall of the Blarney Castle, constructed in 1446 on the site of a demolished 13th century castle. That’s one thing about Ireland. Its history humbles you. Vikings. Castles. Old graveyards. Stone fences. Kings. Queens. Earls.
The site of the Blarney Stone, in my mind, represents tourist Ireland at its best. On one side of the grounds, you have this old castle and historic stone that folks from all nations visit and wait in line to kiss. Deep history, roots and tradition. On the other side of the grounds, you have the largest gift and sweater shop in Ireland. It’s like Branson meets Ireland.
Various legends surround the Blarney Stone’s origins. However, in 2014, geologists from the University of Glasgow concluded the famous rock is made of 330-million-year-old limestone local to the south of Ireland. The stone is the real thing, not a tourist gimmick.
So I kissed it, very quickly, in a steady, pesky rain, while lying down on my back and holding onto two bars and being helped by the official Blarney Stone guy while a photo was taken. He said something to me in a deep, grumbly Irish accent. Could have been “Be careful” or “good luck” or “hurry up, chubby American.” I had no idea. I kissed the stone and moved on hurriedly. Yes, it felt a little weird kissing a rock wall backwards while my wife and others watched.
Folks travel from around the globe to give the Blarney Stone a peck. Winston Churchill is among the notable figures who have kissed the stone. That was in 1912 when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. Who’s to say that little smooch didn’t bestow a little eloquence on Churchill, who went on to become British prime minister in 1940 and earn a reputation as a masterful orator?
In a weird sort of way, I think it’s cool to have kissed an old rock that Winston Churchill once kissed more than 100 years ago. I wondered if old Winston got a little dizzy like me when he got up off the ground afterwards, or if he held onto the two bars for dear life in fear that he was going to fall backwards into a deep hole in the castle?
The word “blarney” itself means skillful flattery or nonsense. As history suggests, the term came into use when an old queen in Ireland sent one of her earls to seize Blarney Castle but the deals were stalled by talk. The old queen grew exasperated by the earl’s reports about the lack of progress. She uttered something to the effect that the reports were all “Blarney.”
Irish folks are said to be full of blarney. I think it’s a compliment. Chalk up one for our Irish eloquence and persuasiveness.
And instinctive gift of BS.
The local lore is that mischievous, local youth may break into the Blarney Stone grounds occasionally and do things to the old stone that makes it less appealing to touch or kiss. But I figured, “What the heck?” Nature has its own methods of disinfection. I kissed the stone anyway.
For the record, I had kissed the old Blarney Stone once previously on a trip to Ireland in 2011. I’m not sure if it brought me eloquence, persuasiveness or good luck. But my life is good today. So I was lucky enough to give it another peck.
I’m glad I kissed the Blarney Stone again. Passing up the opportunity may have caused me bad luck, or stripped me of what little eloquence and persuasiveness I may own. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to kiss the old stone again someday. Very eloquently, of course.