The twilight world beyond the grave, fairies and the dead, haunting and possessions, the whispering spirit, and the ancient, ghostly Guardian of Self Defence.
They’ll all be discussed at this year’s World Ghost Convention, which takes place in the Cork City Gaol on October 29.
The Ghost Convention, now in its tenth year, is an always successful, always entertaining conference on a subject that fascinates most Irish people – even those who claim to be skeptics.
At this year’s event, there is an eclectic mix of speakers, from academics to spiritual healers, and from mediums to white witches.
One regular attendee is Ireland’s most famous witch, Helen Barrett, who is better known as the White Witch of the Isles. Barrett will be giving a talk about fate, “the power that predetermines our life’s events.”
Barrett is known for her ability to predict the future.
“I predicted that Diana would die in a tunnel. I predicted that birds would smash into the Twin Towers. I predicted that JFK junior would die in Martha’s Vineyard,” she said in a telephone interview. And just so she is not resting on past predictions, Barrett is happy to offer up a few for the future. First, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil will be discovered off the coast of Cork, making Ireland as wealthy as the oil-rich Norwegians. And second, there will be a European army and it will have a major base in Cobh, County Cork.
“I’ve always been right about these things because I think I slip back and forward into the future. And once while I was on Barrack Hill in Cork, I saw all these people coming down in blue hats.”
EU soldiers, that is.
Barrett will be spending her time at the podium talking about palmistry and how our lives are already planned out ahead of us and stamped in the center of our hands.
“I give a lecture every year in UCD to the psychiatry department. A lot of my family are psychiatrists. Every year, it’s the biggest audience in the college,” she said.
“I am supposed to be an expert in palmistry, but you have to be able to talk about it in a scientific way because these are psychiatrists.”
As Barrett explains it, before you are conceived you dream for four days. And in those four days you see your life stretch out before you. And before you are born, those dreams are imprinted on the palm of your hand. Those lines and markings on your hand dictate the course your life will take.
Princess Diana, for example, whom Barrett predicted would die young, had a very short life line. Barrett saw this on the day of the royal wedding, when Diana raised her hand to wave at the people who lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the new princess. President Obama too, she warns, has a short lifeline.
Barrett is Ireland’s most-high witch, and she has been a witch since she was born. In fact, she describes herself as “a hereditary witch. My grandaunt was a witch – it came down through my father’s side of the family.”
Her talk will also deal with the Law of Strategy, upon which the universe seemingly is based. She will outline the role it plays in our destiny and how we can call upon ancient, ghostly forces, namely the Guardian of Self Defence.
Barrett herself learned this lesson when she was very young. As well as going to ‘normal’ school in south Cork, she also took special classes with the children of witches from all over the world.
“I was in a class of 40 children where I was taught magic. We trained in magic from the age of five. The first lesson we were taught was not to tolerate bullying. They said to us, ‘All of you sitting here today, whenever you send out a [negative] thought, deed or action towards another person in this class, they will be taught to send it right back.’”
Also speaking at the conference will be Dr Margaret Humphries, of University College Cork’s Folklore & Ethnology Department. Like Barrett, Humphries has spoken at the Ghost Convention before.
“I’ve been speaking there for the last four or five years,” she said. “It usually fills out. It’s very well supported.”
Humphries, with her academic background, will be talking about the various rituals of death and intends to precede her speech with some lines from a poem by James Shirley, a 16th century poet.
“The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.”
“Despite scientific advances and post modern theories like those of Richard Dawkins, a mystery still exists,” she said, “Death still hasn’t been solved.”
Another UCC academic, Jenny Butler, will be giving a talk on the similarities and differences between the various representations of ghosts and fairies in Irish traditional writings and folklore, while Paul O’Halloran, a shaman and a spiritual healer, will be talking about the different types of haunting and possessions he has dealt with during his 25 year experiences.