The Story We Carry in Our Bones: Irish History for Americans

Fun facts: Druids (that were both male and female) had to study for twenty years and had to carry all of their knowledge in their heads. Nothing could be written down because they believed that knowledge is power and must be guarded. “Gaul” was the Roman word for “Celt,” and Celts were big, strong men and women who fought – naked or almost naked – quite fiercely. In Ancient Ireland law was of utmost importance and it protected everyone. There was no sexism, so women fought and ruled alongside men, and their warriors lived by a strict code of honor that prevented them from rape and hurting children. If they orphaned a child they were obligated to find a suitable foster family. There are historical references to Druids picking mistletoe as a cure for cancer (and there’s a side note about a recent incident of an oncology staff injecting mistletoe compounds into a patient with liver cancer).

The information is delightful; laid out in an orderly and visually engaging manner. But beware, eventually Irish history must cover the 1800s, during which the English tried to single-highhandedly kill off this story- and spiritual-rich culture.

I did not know this but during The Irish Famine, potatoes were not the only food available. There was plenty of food to go around. The problem was that the English were exporting it all to England. Potatoes were all the Irish had because the rest of the food was being kept from them. When Phytophthora infestans killed all of the potato crops, there was still plenty of food. It was still being kept from the Irish who were now starving. This brought with it the third exodus of Irish people to America, Canada and Australia. And once they had no food, they were evicted from their homes, and once evicted from their homes, they lived in lean-tos or in a large “workhouses” run by army men and policemen where they were separated from their children, wives and husbands and suffered from tuberculosis, whooping cough, influenza, dysentery, cholera, and typhus. This part is very difficult to read. Because of this many historians are now calling the Potato Famine a genocide. (There is a touching excerpt about the Choctaw Nation worth reading!)

It’s a fairly quick read and covers as much as author Juilene Osborne-McKnight can cover without going into too much detail on one subject. In fact, if you want to delve into more detail on any given section, she provides a thorough list of book and video references. The Story We Carry in Our Bones: Irish History for Americans is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting a cursory history of Celt and Irish-American history. Erin go Bragh!

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