"Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing
Hourly joys be still upon you."
In washing the new-born infant great care was used not to let the water touch the palms of the hands, and this care was continued for a considerable length of time, under the belief that to wash the palms of the hands washed away the luck of this world's goods. 1 By some a live coal was thrown into the water in which the new-born infant was washed. By others it was carefully poured under the foundation of the dwelling-house, to prevent it from coming in contact with fire, and thus to preserve in coming years the child from the harm of burning. When dressed it was turned three times heels over head in the nurse's arms, and blessed, and then shaken three times with the head downward. These ceremonies kept the fairies at a distance from the infant, and prevented it from being frightened when suddenly awaked from sleep, as well as from growing in a knot. The same ceremonies were gone through every time the child was dressed. When it was laid out of the arms, as to bed, the words, "God be with you," or "God bless you," were repeated.
To guard the child from being forespoken, it was passed three times through the petticoat or chemise the mother wore at the time of the accouchement. It was not deemed proper to bestow a very great deal of praise on a child; and one doing so would
have been interrupted by some such words as "Gueede sake, haud yir tung, or ye'll forespyke the bairn." Such a notion of forespeaking by bestowing excessive praise was not limited to infants, but extended to full-grown people, to domestic animals, and to crops. If the child was sickly, and there was a suspicion that it had. been forespoken, recourse was had to the well-approven modes of discovering the truth or the untruth of the suspicion.
Here are two modes. A new shilling, after being put three times round the crook, was placed on the bottom of a wooden cap. The cap was filled with water, which was immediately poured off. If the shilling came off with the water, the child had not been forespoken. Three stones--one round, to represent the head, another as near the shape of the body as possible, and a third as, like the legs as could be found--were selected from a south-running stream, that formed the boundary between twa lairds' laan, heated red hot, and thrown into a vessel containing a little water. A new shilling, was laid on the bottom of a wooden cap, and this water was poured over it. The water was then decanted, and if the shilling stuck to the bottom of the cap the sickness was brought on by forespeaking. The water used in the ceremony was administered as a medicine.
To turn away the evil eye, and to preserve the child from the power of the fairies, a small brooch, of the shape of a heart, was worn on one of the petticoats, usually behind.
There were those who had the reputation of having the power of showing to the parents or relatives the face of the one who had been guilty of casting ill upon the child. If ill had been cast upon the child it was cured by taking its own first shirt, or the petticoat the mother wore before confinement, or the linen she wore at the time of delivery, and passing it through it three times, and then three times round the crook.
If the child became cross and began to dwine, fears immediately arose that it might be a "fairy changeling," and the trial by fire was put into operation. The hearth was piled with peat, and when the fire was at its strength the suspected changeling was placed in front of it and as near as possible not to be
scorched, or it was suspended in a basket over the fire. If it was a "changeling child" it made its escape by the lum, throwing back words of scorn as it disappeared.
One mode of bringing back the true child was the following. A new skull was taken and hung over the fire from a piece of a branch of a hazel tree, and into this basket the suspected changeling was laid. Careful watch was kept till it screamed. If it screamed it was a changeling, and it was held fast to prevent its escape. When an opportunity occurred, it was carried to n place where four roads met, and a dead body was carried over it. The true child was restored.
On the first symptoms of the child's cutting teeth, a teethin bannock was made. It was baked of oatmeal and butter or cream, sometimes with the addition of a ring, in presence of a few neighbours, and without a single word being spoken by the one baking it. When prepared, it was given to the child to play with till it was broken. A small piece was then put into the child's month, if it had not done so of its own accord. Each one present carried away a small portion. Such a bannock was supposed to ease the troubles of teething. It went also by the name of teething plaster.
When once a child was weaned, suck was not on any account again given. Thieving propensities would have been the result of such an action. Neither was it lawful to cut its nails with knife or scissors. 1 That, too, begot a thieving disposition. Biting off was the only mode adopted.
If a child spoke before it walked, it turned out a liar.
When a child entered a house something was given it. Its hand was crossed with money, or a piece of bread was put into its hand. If this was not done, hunger was left in the house. It was sometimes a custom to put a little meal into the child's mouth the first time it was carried out and taken into a neighbour's house. 2
The cradle was an object of much care. A child was never put into a new cradle. A live cock or hen was first placed in
it; and the firstborn was never put into a new cradle, but into an old one, borrowed. In sending the cradle it was not sent empty. In some districts, it' it was borrowed for a girl's use, a live cock was tied into it, and if for a boy's, a live hen. In other districts it was filled with potatoes, a bag of meal, or such like, respect being commonly had to the state of the borrower. It was not allowed to touch the ground till it was placed on the floor of the house in which it was to be used.
7:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 16.
9:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 16, and F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 11 (30).
9:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 20.