Finding The Unexpected in Ireland

I spent half of July in Ireland. At least, that’s what my stack of credit card receipts and cell phone full of photos would have you believe.

I hopped the pond expecting windy and cool coastlines, almost daily rain, and a nearly perpetual grey overcast. Instead, it was sunny, warm, and humid. I almost want a refund.


As with the best of travels abroad, it was the unexpected and the unlooked for that made the most impact on me. I had few goals outside of “have a pint in a pub,” “listen to some traditional Irish music in a pub,” “meet some locals,” and “see the sights.”

Thank heavens I had a family member who suggested we give the tour and tasting at the Kinsale Mead Co. a go. Located in Kinsale, one of the loveliest seaside towns I’ve ever seen, the meadery itself was an unusual bit of sight seeing. Not only was it a rather random inclusion in our sightseeing, it was an off-the-cuff idea we squeezed in before dinner. And on paper, it certainly didn’t scream “Irish!”

Little did I know.

Denis Dempsey, one of the co-founders of the Kinsale Mead Co., gave us a wonderful tour and shared the fascinating history of mead. He also had us sample different honeys which had been harvested at different times of the year from different regions.

A good mead sampling should always begin with a honey tasting…trust me.

A good mead sampling should always begin with a honey tasting…trust me.

The spectrum of flavors rivaled any scotch tasting I’ve done. Nutty. Smoky. Fruity. Light. Heavy. Who knew honey had so many different tastes?

Then Denis sat us down for a mead tasting, where we sampled the company’s offerings. Again, the spectrum of flavors boggled the mind. We might have been sipping a flight of different wine varietals for all of the various flavors.

But the truly unlooked for was neither in the honey nor the mead. It was unexpectedly in the history of mead itself.

Denis told us the story of Brigid, a powerful Celtic goddess (who was later morphed into a Christian saint) said to be closely connected to bees. Brigid was believed to have brought magical honey from the Otherworld to our mortal plane.

Although I was deep in the editing process of my first urban fantasy novel (I’m halfway through the first editing pass of it), something about this goddess snagged my storytelling attention. I spent much of the bus ride the following day Googling around to find what I could about Brigid and her connection to bees.

Turns out there isn’t a ton of historical literature written about her, and much of what’s online either glosses over or omits any mention of bees or honey. But what is online? Well, it’s the kind of stuff I’d imagine Neil Gaiman would devour for inspiration.

I’ve a desire to write the story of Brigid - or at least my story of Brigid - though I don’t honestly know what it looks like yet. I’ve dabbled with some ideas of dropping her into a traditional fantasy story and even sketched out some concepts for having her take the starring role in an urban fantasy story.

Somehow, though, I keep coming back to tales like Gaiman’s Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and, to a lesser degree, Good Omens. As much as I want to focus on a series right now, I suspect Brigid would be quite cozy indeed in a one-off, surreal story like one of Gaiman’s…and I suspect she’d approve of the offerings at the Kinsale Mead Co.