THE two great festivals of the ancient Irish were Lá Baal Tinné, or May Day (sacred to the Sun), and Lá Samnah, or November Eve (sacred to time Moon).
Food should be left out on November Eve for the dead, who are then wandering about. If the food disappears, it is a sign that the spirits have taken it, for no mortal would dare to touch or eat of the food so left.
Never turn your head to look if you fancy you hear footsteps behind you on that night; for the dead are walking then, and their glance would kill.
In November a distaff is placed under time head of a young man at night to make him dream of the girl he is destined to marry.
If a ball of worsted is thrown into a lime-kiln and wound up till the end is caught by invisible hands, the person who winds it calls out, "Who holds the ball?" and the answer will be the name of the future husband or wife. But the experiment must be made only at midnight, and in silence and alone.
Whitsuntide is a most unlucky time; horses foaled then will grow up dangerous and kill some one.
A child born at Whitsuntide will have an evil temper, and may commit a murder.
Beware also of water at. Whitsuntide, for an evil power is on the waves and the lakes and the rivers, and a boat. may be swamped and men drowned unless a bride steers; then the danger ceases.
To turn away ill-luck from a child born at that time, a grave must be dug and the infant laid in it for a few minutes. After this process the evil spell is broken, and the child is safe.
If any one takes ill at Whitsuntide there is great danger of death, for the evil spirits are on the watch to carry off victims, and no sick person should be left alone at this time, nor in time dark. Light is a great safeguard, as well as fire, against malific influences.
In old times at Whitsuntide blood was poured out as a libation, to the evil spirits; and the children and cattle were passed through two lines of fire.
On May morning the Skellig rocks go out full sail to meet the opposite rocks, which advance half way to meet them, and then slowly retire like retreating ships.
At Midsummer the fairies try to pass round the Baal fires in a whirlwind in order to extinguish them, but the spirits may be kept off by throwing fire at them. Then the young men are free to leap over the burning embers and to drive the cattle through the flames, while coals of fire must also be passed three times over and three times under the body of each animal.
Foot-worship was a homage to Buddha, and it was also a Christian ceremony to wash the feet of time saints. The Irish had many superstitions about foot-water, and no woman was allowed to wash her feet in the sacred wells though the lavation was permitted to men.
If a child is fairy-struck, give it a cup of cold water in the name of Christ and make the sign of the cross over it.
On St. Martin's Day when blood is spilt, whoever is signed with the blood is safe, for that year at least, from disease.
For the Evil Eye, a piece cut from the garment of the evil-eyed, burned to tinder and ground to powder, must be given to the person under the baneful spell, while his forehead is anointed with spittle thrice. So the Greeks spat three times in the face of the evil-eyed to break the spell.
Pass a red-hot turf three times over and under the body of an animal supposed to be fairy-struck, singeing the hair along the back. This drives off the fairies.
The Irish always went westward round a holy well, following the course of the sun, and creeping on their hands and knees. So did the ancient Persians when offering homage at the sacred fountains.
Red-haired people were held to be evil and malicious and unlucky, probably because Typhon, the evil principle, was red; and therefore a red heifer was sacrificed to him by the Egyptians.
In the mystic, or snake dance, performed at the Baal festival, the gyrations of the dancers were always westward, in the track of the sun, for the dance was part of the ancient ritual of sun worship.