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On the top of the hill of Cooc-na-Cro' (Gallows Hill) in Bantry, just in full view of the White Mountain, Cahir Rua's Den, and Black Stairs, there lived a poor widow, with a grandchild, about fifteen years old. It was All Holland Eve, and the two were about going to bed when they heard four taps at the door, and a screaming voice crying out. "Where are you, feet-water?" and the feet-water answered, "Here in the tub." "Where are you, band of the spinning wheel?" and it answered, "Here, fast round the rim, as if it was spinning." "Besom, where are you?" "Here, with my handle in the ash-pit." "Turf-coal, where are you?" "Here, blazing over the -ashes." Then the voice screamed louder, "Feet-water, wheel-band, besom, and turf-coal, let us in, let' us 'in:" and they all made to the door.

Open it flew, and in rushed frightful old hags, wicked, shameless young ones, and the old boy himself, with red horns and a green tail. They began to tear and tatter round the house, and to curse and swear, and roar and bawl, and say such things as almost made the poor women sink through the hearthstone. They had strength enough however, to make the sign of the cross, and call on the Holy Trinity, and then all the witches and their master yowled with pain. After a little the girl strove to creep over to the holy water croft that was hanging at the bed's head, but the whole bilin' of the wicked creatures kep' in a crowd between her and it. The poor grandmother fell in a faint, but the little girl kep' her senses.

The old fellow made frightful music for the rest, stretching out his nose and playing the horriblest 'noise on it you ever heard, just as if it was a German flute. "Oh!" says the poor child, "if Granny should die or lose her senses what'll I--do? and if they can stay till cockcrow, she'll never see another day." So after about half an hour, when the hullabullo was worse than ever, she stole out without being noticed or stopped, and then she gave a great scream, and ran in, and' shouted, "Granny, granny! come out, come out, Black Stairs is a-fire!" Out pelted both the devil and the witches, some--by, the windows, some by the door; and the moment the list of them was out, she clapped the handle of the besorn where the door-bolt ought to be, turned the button in the window, spilled the feet-water into the channel under the door, loosed the band of the spinning-wheel, and raked up the blazing coal under the ashes.

Well, the poor woman was now come to herself; and both heard the most frightful roar out in the bawn, where all the company were standing very lewd [a] of themselves for being so easily taken in. The noise fell immediately, and the same voice was heard. "Feet-water, let me in." "I can't," says feet-water; "I am here under your feet." " Wheel-band, let me in." "I can't--I am lying loose on the wheel-seat." "Besom let me in." "I can't--I am put here to bolt the door." "Turf-coal, let me in." I can't--my head is under the greeshach." "Then let yourselves and them that owns you have our curse for ever and a day." The poor women were now on their knees, and cared little for their curses. But every Holy Eve during their lives they threw the water out as soon as their feet were washed, unbanded the wheel, swept up the house, and covered the big coal to have the seed of the fire next morning.


We have not in Ireland many traditional or legendary records of our wise women meeting the devil at such abominable sabats as he delighted to hold in German and Flemish forests, being conveyed thither on any article that came to hand. The utmost atrocity of which Irish witches were, in times past, proved guilty in their excursions, was the taking of an airy ride on a booliaun bid to the cellar of some English castle, and making themselves glorious with the wine and strong waters found there. The following adventure has been differently treated by fairy historians; so we confine ourselves to the principal facts, adhering to the Leinster version:--

[a] "Regretful, ashamed," the root being leiden, to suffer. Many words and expressions among our folk of the Pale are looked on as abuses or perversions, when they are in truth but old forms still carefully preserved.

Next: The Witches Excursion