A deep belief in the supernatural extends back to pre-Christian times. With the advent of Christianity, superstition and rituals such as pilgrimages around Holy Wells and climbing Croagh Patrick were incorporated into Christian ritual.
Religion, especially the belief that life was a prelude to a better one in the hereafter, was a powerful force in sustaining people's optimism in coping with their very difficult conditions throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition, during periods of extreme deprivation, such as the aftermath of famines, religious belief and ritual were the only source of comfort available.
Formal schooling only became available in the nineteenth century, replacing 'Hedge Schools,' which because of their very nature, depended on the local availability of a teacher. Priests and nuns played a crucial role in the development of the Irish educational system and this further contributed to the central role of religion in Irish life.