The Fear Gurtha

The Féar Gortha is Gaelic for 'The Hungry Grass' which sounds like the Irish word Fear for 'man'.  There is a strange superstition around rural areas particularly after the Great Famine of 1848 that  certain patches of land were bewitched and that if a traveler passed over them that he would suffer uncontrollable pangs of hunger and if assistance were not given to him immediately he would die right there on the ground. 

There was also a 'Fear Gurtha' or 'hungry man' who appeared as a travelling mendicant, a gaunt figure, miserably clad who begged alms from passers-by; those giving alms received good fortune for the rest of their lives while those refusing suffered some calamity whereby they were reduced to poverty themselves and knew the gnawing pangs of hunger.

Irish peasants used to sprinkle the grass with any left-over crumbs from their meals in order to stave off the hungry grass.  Which is supposedly sent as a warning from the fairies against lack of generosity. 

There is a hill in County Cork known as Hungry Hill which rises over the estuary of Bear Haven and Bantry Bay.  It is 2000 feet above sea-level and has a waterfall which descends from a height of nearly 800 feet.  It was called Hungry Hill because the local peasants believed that many patches of Féar Gortha grew on it. 

Source: O'Hanlon, rev. John (Lageniensis), Irish Folklore: Traditions and Superstitions of the country. first published 1870, republished E.P publishing Ltd., 1973.

Stories, Myths and Legends associated with The Fear Gurtha:

Teige O'Driscoll and the Féar Gortha

 

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