Various Superstitions and Cures
THERE is a book, a little book, and the house which has it will never be burned; the ship that holds it will never founder; the woman who keeps it in her hand will be safe in childbirth. But none except a fairy man knows the name of the book, and he will not reveal it for love or money; only on his death-bed will he tell the secret of the name to the one person he selects.
The adepts and fairy doctors keep their mysteries very secret, and it is not easy to discover the word of a charm, for the operator loses his power if the words are said without the proper preliminaries, or if said by a profane person without faith, for the operator should not have uttered the mystery in the hearing of one who would mock, or treat the matter lightly; therefore he is punished.
Some years ago an old man lived in Mayo who had great knowledge of charms, and of certain love philtres that no woman could resist. But before his death he enclosed the written charms in a strong iron box, with directions that no one was to dare to open it except the eldest son of an eldest son in a direct line from himself.
Some people pretend that they have read the charms; and one of them has the strange power to make every one in the house begin to dance, and they can never cease dancing till another spell has been said over them.
But the guardian of the iron box is the only one who knows the magic secret of the spell, and he exacts a good price before he utters it, and so reveals or destroys the witchcraft of the dance.
The juice of deadly night-shade distilled, and given in a drink, will make the person who drinks believe whatever you will to tell him, and choose him to-believe.
A bunch of mint tied round the waist is a sure remedy for disorders of the stomach.
A.sick person's bed must be placed north and south, not cross ways.
Nettles gathered in a churchyard and boiled down for a drink have the power to cure dropsy.
The touch from the hand of a seventh son cures the bite of a mad dog. This is also an Italian superstition.
The hand of a dead man was a powerful incantation, But it was chiefly used by women. The most eminent fairy women always collected the mystic herbs for charms and cures by the light of a candle held by a dead man's hand at midnight or by the full moon.
When a woman first takes ill in her confinement, unlock instantly every press and drawer in the house, but when the child is born, lock them all up again at once, for if care is not taken the fairies will get in and hide in the drawers and presses, to be ready to steal away the little mortal baby when they get the opportunity, and place some ugly, wizened changeling in the cradle beside the poor mother. Therefore every key should be turned, every lock made fast.; and if the fairies are hidden inside, let them stay there until all danger is over for the baby by the proper precautions being taken, such as a red coal set. under the cradle, and a branch of mountain ash tied over it, or of the alder-tree, according to the sex of the child, for both trees have mystic virtues, probably because of the ancient superstition that the first man was created from an alder-tree, and the first woman from the mountain ash.
The fairies, however, are sometimes successful in carrying off a baby, and the mother finds in the morning a poor weakly little sprite in the cradle in place of her own splendid child. But should time mortal infant happen to grow up ugly, the fairies send it back, for they love beauty above all timings; and the fairy chiefs greatly desire a handsome mortal wife, so that a handsome girl must be well guarded, or they will carry her off. The children of such unions grow up beautiful and clever, but are also wild, reckless and extravagant. They are known at once by the beauty of their eyes and hair, and they have a magic fascination that no one can resist, and also a fairy gift of music and song.
If a person is bitten by a dog, time dog must be killed, whether mad or not, for it might become mad; then, so also would the person who had been touched by the saliva of time animal.
If, by accident, you find time back tooth of a horse, carry it about with you as long as you live, and you will never want money; but it must be found by chance.
When a family has been carried off by fever, the house where they died may be again inhabited with safety if a certain number of sheep are driven in to sleep there for three nights.
An iron ring worn on the fourth finger was considered effective against rheumatism by the Irish peasantry from ancient times.
Paralysis is cured by stroking, but many forms and mystic incantations are also used during the process; and only certain persons have the power in the hands that can effect a cure by the magic of the stroke.
The seed of docks tied to time left arm of a woman will prevent her being barren.
A spoonful of aqua vitae sweetened with sugar, and a little grated bread added, that it may not annoy time brain or the liver, will preserve from lethargy and apoplexy and all cold diseases.
The juice of carrots boiled down is admirable for purifying time blood.
Clippings of the hair and nails of a child tied up in a linen cloth and placed under the cradle will cure convulsions.
Tober Maire(Mary's well), near Dundalk, has a great reputation for cures. And thousands used to visit it on Lady Day for weak eyesight, and the lowness of heart. Nine times they must go round the well on their knees, always westward. Then drink a cup of the water, and not only are they cured of their ailment, but are as free from sin as time angels in heaven.
When children are pining away, they are supposed to be fairy-struck; and the juice of twelve leaves of foxglove may be given: also in cases of fever time same.
A bunch of mint tied round the wrist keeps off infection and disease.
There is a well near the Boyne where King James washed his sword after time battle, and ever since time water has power to cure the king's evil.
When a seventh son is born, if an earth-worm is put into the infant's hand and kept there till it dies, the child will have power to charm away all diseases.
The ancient arrowheads, called elf-stones by the people, are used as charms to guard the cattle.
It is not safe to take an unbaptized child in your arms without making time sign of time cross over it.
It is unlucky to give a coal of fire out of the house before the child is baptized. And a piece of iron should be sewn in the infant's clothes, and kept there till after the baptism.
Take a piece of bride-cake and pass it three times through a wedding-ring, then sleep on it, and you will see in a dream the face of your future spouse.
It is unlucky to accept a lock of hair, or a four-footed beast from a lover.
People ought to remember that egg-shells are favourite retreats of the fairies, therefore the judicious eater should always break the shell after use, to prevent the fairy sprite from taking up his lodgment therein.
Finvarra, the king of the fairies of the west, keeps up the most friendly relations with most of the best families of Galway, especially with time Kirwans of Castle Racket, for Finvarra is a gentleman, every inch of him, and the Kirwans always leave out kegs of wine for him at night of the best Spanish wine. And in return, it is said, the wine vaults at Castle Racket are never empty, though the wine flows freely for all comers.
If a living worm is put in-to the hand of a child before he is baptized, and kept there till the worm is dead, that child will have power in after life to cure all diseases to which children are subject.
After being cured from a sickness, take an oath never to comb the hair on a Friday, that so the memory of the grace received may remain by this sign till your death. Or whenever you first see the new moon, kneel down and say an ave and a pater; this also is for memory of grace done.
People born in the morning cannot see spirits or the fairy world; but those born at night have power over ghosts, and can see the spirits of the dead.
Unbaptized children are readily seized by the fairies. The best preventive is a little salt tied up in the child's dress when it is laid to sleep in the cradle.
If pursued at night by an evil spirit, or the ghost of one dead, and you hear footsteps behind you. try and reach a stream of running water, for if you can cross it, no devil or ghost will be able to follow you.
If a chair fall as a person rises, it is an unlucky omen.
The fortunate possessor of the four-leaved shamrock will have luck in gambling, luck in racing, and witchcraft will have no power over him. But he must always carry it about his person, and never give it away, or even show it to another.
A purse made from a weasel's skin will never want for money; but the purse must be found, not given or made.
If a man is ploughing, no one should cross the path of the horses.
It is unlucky to steal a plough, or take anything by stealth from a smith's forge.
When yawning make the sign of the cross instantly over the mouth, or the evil spirit will make a rush down and take up his abode within you.
Never give away water before breakfast, nor milk while churning is going on.
A married woman should not walk upon graves, or her child will have a club-foot. If by accident she treads on a grave she must instantly kneel down, say a prayer, and make the sign of the cross on the sole of her shoe three times over.
Never take aim infant in your arms, nor turn your head to look at it without saying, "God bless it." This keeps away the fatal influence of the Evil Eye.
If a bride steers a boat on the day of her marriage, the winds and the waves have no power over it, be the tempest ever so fierce or the stream ever so rapid.
Do not put out a light while people are at supper, or there will be one less at the table before the year is out.
Never give any salt or fire while churning is going on. To upset the salt is exceedingly unlucky and a bad omen; to avert evil gather up the salt and fling it over the right shoulder into the fire, with the left hand.
If you want a person to win at cards, stick a crooked pin in his coat.
The seventh son of a seventh son has power over all diseases, and can cure them by laying on of hands; and a son born after his father's death has power over fevers.
There is one hour in every day when whatever you wish will be granted, but no one knows what that hour is. It is all a chance if we come on it. There is also one hour in the day when ghost seers can see spirits--but only one--at no other time have they the power, yet they never know the hour, the coming of it is a mystery.
In some parts of Ireland the people, it is said, on first seeing the new moon, fall on their knees and address her in a loud voice with the prayer: "O moon; leave us well as thou hast found us!"
It is unlucky to meet a cat, a dog, or a woman, when going out first in the morning; but unlucky above all is it to meet a woman with red hair the first thing in the morning when going on a journey, for her presence brings ill-luck and certain evil.
It is unlucky to pass under a hempen rope; the person who does so will die a violent death, or is fated to commit an evil act in after life, so it is decreed.
The cuttings of your hair should not be thrown where birds can find them; for they will take them to build their nests, and then you will have headaches all the year after.
The cause of a club-foot is this--The mother stood on a cross in a churchyard before her child was born--so evil came.
To cure fever, place the patient on the sandy shore when the tide is coming in, and the retreating waves will carry away the disease and leave him well.
To make the skin beautiful, wash the face in May dew upon May morning just at sunrise.
If the palm of the hand itches you will be getting money; if the elbow, you will be changing beds; if the ear itches and is red and hot, some one is speaking ill of you.
If three drops of water are given to an infant before it is baptized, it will answer the first three questions put to it.
To know the name of the person you are destined to marry, put a snail on a plate of flour--cover it over and leave it all night; in the morning the initial letter of the name will be found traced on the flour by the snail.
If one desires to know if a sick person will recover, take nine smooth stones from the -running water; fling them over the right shoulder, then lay them in a turf fire to remain untouched for one night. If the disease is to end fatally the atones in the morning will emit a clear sound like a bell when struck together.
A whitethorn stick is a very unlucky companion on a journey; but a hazel switch brings good luck and has power over the devil.
A hen that crows is very unlucky and should be killed; very often the hen is stoned, for it is believed that she is bewitched by the fairies.
It is asserted that on Christmas morning the ass kneels down in adoration of Christ, and if a person can manage to touch time cross on the back of the animal at that particular moment the wish of his heart will be granted, whatever it may be.
When taking possession of a new house, every one should bring in some present, however trifling, but nothing should be taken away, and a prayer should be said in each corner of your bedroom, and some article of your clothing be deposited there at the same time.