Mícheál Ó hAodha
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Travellers as countercultural
in ‘Insubordinate Irish’
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Irish oral tradition had a range of beliefs concerning the existence of countercultures made up of beggars and various types of wanderers. The countercultural motifs incorporating the idea of a ‘pagan’ marriage ceremony provided a link connecting the construction of Travelling people with an imagined sexual licentiousness and a romantic concept of ‘freedom’. Apart from the Tinker Questionnaire, most of the Irish Folklore Commission (IFC) references to fighting by Travellers pertain to challenges and single combats. According to the IFC respondents, Travellers utilised two forms of secret communication. One involved a spoken language known as Cant or Gammon, and the second, a sign language that took the form of physical ‘markers’. The notion of a separate ‘Travelling society’ that was presided over by its own rulers, and which was the subject of separate and secretive practices and taboos, had very old roots in the European imaginary.

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‘Insubordinate Irish’

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