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Man kissing the Blarney Stone. Source: Steve Bowbrick/CC BY NC SA 2.0

Ancient Tradition of Kissing Blarney Stone Banned Over Coronavirus Fears

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The traditional Irish practice of Kissing the Blarney Stone has been temporarily prohibited. This is in response to fear that the practice could increase the spread of the COVID 19 virus. The move is unprecedented - it is the first time in centuries that the tradition has been halted. According to local folklore, kissing the Blarney Stone gives a person the ‘gift of the gab’, the ability to speak with eloquence.

Ireland, like many other nations around the world, has enacted a series of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus commonly known as Coronavirus. The Irish government has cancelled the nation’s famous St Patrick’s Day Parade and also closed schools and universities.

Now one of the oldest tourist attractions in Ireland has announced dramatic restrictions. Blarney Castle and Gardens has announced that no visitor can kiss the Blarney Stone. According to the Irish Post , the attraction’s management has decided to “postpone ‘the kissing’ until further notice.”

Kissing of the Blarney Stone Suspended

The management posted on their Facebook account “that for the first time in our history the Kissing of the Blarney Stone has been postponed until further notice,” reports the   Irish Post . The rising threat of the virus means that the practice could potentially spread the illness which has been classed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

It was noted by the Irish Post that ‘the germs which would have accumulated over hundreds of years of being kissed by random strangers means it’s probably not the most hygienic of things.’ In recent weeks staff at the attraction have been taking precautionary measures. One visitor to the stone said that when “kissing the stone - they spray it with antiseptic before you do it,” according to the Irish Mirror . However, these measures are now deemed to be insufficient, thus no-one can kiss the famed object.

Kissing Blarney Stone. Date: early 20th century. (Archivist /Adobe Stock)

Kissing Blarney Stone. Date: early 20th century. ( Archivist /Adobe Stock)

1000-Year-Old Blarney Castle

The Blarney Stone is set in the keep of Blarney Castle in County Cork in the south of Ireland. There has been a fortress on this site for over 1000 years. The castle is in ruins apart from its keep, which is in a good state of repair. This castle was rebuilt in the 15th century by the powerful McCarthy clan, who ruled a powerful kingdom in southern Ireland. From this castle the McCarthy’s defied the growing power of the English Crown in Ireland.

The blarney Stone is on display in the castle’s keep. The Irish Examiner reports that ‘Legend has it that those who brave the lean over the castle ramparts to kiss the Blarney Stone are bestowed with the gift of the gab.’ In fact, the word ‘Blarney’ is synonymous with wordy and insincere talk. It originated from the lord of the castle’s long-winded correspondence aimed at retaining control of the fortress after Elizabeth I of England demanded that the lord hand over his castle to a government official.

Medieval Blarney Castle in Co. Cork – Ireland. (Patryk Kosmider /Adobe Stock)

Medieval Blarney Castle in Co. Cork – Ireland. ( Patryk Kosmider /Adobe Stock)

Cromwellian Conquest

The castle was destroyed during Cromwell’s brutal conquest of Ireland in the 1650s, when artillery destroyed much of the fortress apart from its keep. The castle later became a tourist attraction in the 19th century. Today it is owned by the Coulthurst Family, who have lived in the Blarney area for centuries.

There are many myths about the stone. One is that the stone gives those who kiss it eloquence and great persuasive powers. It is said to have gained that ability thanks to one of the McCarthys, who was given the same gift by a witch who they had saved from drowning.

A natural rock feature in the grounds of Blarney Castle. Legends say it is the Witch of Blarney turned to stone. Credit: Ioannis Syrigos

A natural rock feature in the grounds of Blarney Castle. Legends say it is the Witch of Blarney turned to stone. Credit: Ioannis Syrigos

Another legend states that it was once part of the Stone of Scone , a symbol of Scottish Royalty and one of Scotland’s national symbols. It was apparently given to the McCarthy lords for their assistance to the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn.

But not all is lost if you want to see the famous stone for yourself. At least for now, the attraction will stay open. Visitors will be able to visit the castle and view the stone. It is also possible for them to stroll in the famous gardens. They can also see famous landmarks such as the Seven Sisters - a prehistoric ring of standing stones.

The Seven Sisters in the grounds of Blarney Castle. Credit: Ioannis Syrigos

The Seven Sisters in the grounds of Blarney Castle. Credit: Ioannis Syrigos

Top Image: Man kissing the Blarney Stone. Source: Steve Bowbrick/ CC BY NC SA 2.0

By Ed Whelan

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