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Lizzy Shannons new book celebrates everything Irish
It was only after arriving in America from Belfast, Ireland, in the 1980s that Lizzy Shannon realized that she had missed the fact that she indeed was Irish. That's because when she was growing up, only the history and culture of the English were covered in her school books.
'It wasn't until I immigrated to the United States that I found out people loved Ireland,' said Shannon during a recent interview.
What the Sherwood resident quickly discovered when looking into her own roots is the answer that she had been asking for years.
'I said, 'why can't you be Irish and British'? And I am.'
Now Shannon has penned her second book, 'A Celtic Yearbook,' a book that looks at everything Irish - from festivals, traditional remedies, folklore, elixirs and anything else that smacks of the Emerald Island.
'People have been asking me to do this for years,' Shannon said of her new book.
While researching her roots, Shannon discovered that her father's uncle - a man she remembers as a mild, Pooh-bear type of man with Al Capone-type spats and a cane, was actually Ernest Blythe, a member of the original Irish Republican Army, and an associate of Eamon de Valera, the main leader of Ireland's struggle to gain independence from the English who went on to head the Irish government.
Shannon said she divided her book into the 13 months of the Druid calendar covering practical Irish topics like creating a pomanders by simply taking an orange, filling it with cloves and sticking it in the closet to brewing up a batch of mead, a type of honey-based beer.
'For October, I got superstitions - the fairy folk,' she said. 'Mom used to scare the devil out of us (when we were) going to bed.'
The chapter includes tales about leprechauns (which are in fact are male Irish fairies), creatures that Shannon refers to as 'nasty, wee buggers.' Banshees, (female fairies) that date back to a superstitious time in Irish history when the creatures were blamed for the disappearance of children, get the spotlight as well.
Growing up, Shannon said she was taught to be respectful of fairy rings, those circle of trees in otherwise forested areas, which in Irish folklore are the entrances to elfin kingdoms.
'It's like a parallel universe and those fairy rings are perhaps a portal,' said Shannon.
To this day in Ireland, some farmers have fields where they will leave a circle of trees in the center of them, plowing around them.
'They're afraid if they cut them down, they'll be cursed,' she said.
Meanwhile, 'A Celtic Yearbook' also contains a good dose of the diaries, recipes and thoughts of Shannon's mother, Maureen, who spent her entire life in Belfast and Dundrum until her death in 2003 at age 79.
One of her diary entries is a step-by-step guide on how to clean a house.
Shannon still has her mother's hand-written musings and recipes, some dating to 1939 with World War II in full swing.
'She knew how to make things last,' Shannon said of her mother. 'She was a child of rations.'
Nevertheless, she could cook up a storm.
'Her Irish stew was the best in the world,' said Shannon.
Shannon said her father is still alive and can be found traipsing the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland.
'Celtic Yearbook' also contains a chapter on old wives' cures and elixirs. Among them filling a jug with mineral water and dropping a garnet stone into it. The water from the bottle then can be poured into a bowl and is good for soaking a sore or aching arm.
'There's something for every single month,' said Shannon, adding that there's even a mixture for keeping away gray hair with a concoction of pine needles.
The author of 'Time Twist,' her 2009 science fiction novel, Shannon is in the process of working on the book's sequel, 'Time Spin,' which she hopes to have out next year.
Also, Shannon has completed her first draft of 'Blood of Orange,' her Hollywood-optioned screenplay that is essentially an exaggerated non-fiction version based on her younger life.
She describes it as a story of a British girl growing up during what many Irish refer to as 'the troubles' in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s.
A 'Celtic Yearbook' is published on demand through Pacific Northwest Literary Book, a publishing venture between Shannon and Leona Leigh Grieve, a book editor.
Shannon, a former book editor herself, plans to release the book on Nov. 10 on Amazon.com. The roughly 100-page tome also will be available in local bookstores and on Kindle (Amazon's e-book reader).
The acrylic-on-aluminum-painted cover art is compliments of Jeff Sturgeon, a Snoqualmie, Wash., artist known for his metal art and astronomical artwork.
'I know him through the science fiction community,' said Shannon.
So what does she think her mother would say about her newest work?
'I think she'd be flattered but embarrassed; she didn't like attention brought upon herself,' said Shannon.
Visit Shannon's website at Lizzyshannon.com.