I'm still not entirely sure how it happened. One minute I was crossing through an archway in UCC's main quadrangle, and the next minute a crowd of girls squealed and lunged away from me as our tour guide announced, with no small amount of glee:
“...and they say that if you walk over this seal you'll get pregnant, or your girlfriend will, so mind yourselves, lads.”
I looked down and discovered that squarely under my feet was a tiled version of the UCC coat of arms. My friends, who happened to be a few steps behind me, started cackling, deeply sympathetic souls that they are. One brazenly followed me over the edge of the seal and stood there expectantly, looking up as if awaiting instantaneous impregnation. The laughter spread.
Our tour guide continued, telling us that walking across the quadrangle instead of around the periphery – something else that I had already unknowingly done – meant that you would also fail your term exams.
It's so unfair. They should really put up signs.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I came to Ireland expecting the place to be full of superstition. When I was a little girl, I had an extremely battered old book – I think it was called “Fairy Tales from the Emerald Isle” – that was full of fantastical madcap stories about magic and cunning washerwomen and so on. It was probably one of my earliest introductions to the country's folklore, and I loved it.
More importantly, it was a veritable mine of valuable information, teaching its readers how to outsmart pookas, ward off the evil eye, and win the favor of the Little People by setting a bowl of cream out overnight. These were old Irish traditions and stories that I came to know as well as our own American folklore.
Obviously, I didn't really expect Ireland to pay mass homage to these fairy tales today, in the 21st century (except perhaps in very rural areas, and if anyone could point me in the right direction, I’d love to see for myself). But I still imagined that there would be traces of superstition and the pagan tradition – and there definitely is, which is wonderful, because I'm a secret sucker for fortune-telling and folklore. In fact, I'm probably the ideal Irish tourist; I can’t even believe how many euros I've shelled out for shamrocks, flipped into fountains, or spent on the gift of gab. I'm probably restoring the floundering Irish economy all by myself.
However, even I was not prepared to be informed by a rather gleeful upperclassman that I could expect to tank my GPA and pop out a baby simply because I walked the wrong way on the UCC quad.
Thank goodness it's all just superstition. Knock on wood.