Maurice Griffin and the Fairy Doctor
JOHN Malone had promised to give some information about doctors among the people, and tell how they got knowledge and power. When reminded of his promise, he told the following story:
There was a man at Dun Lean named Maurice Griffin. He was in service as a herder minding cows, and one morning while out with the cattle he saw something come down through the air in the form of a white cloud and drop on a hillock. It settled to be a lump of white foam, and a great heat rose out of it then. One of the cows went to the hillock and licked the foam till she swallowed every bit of it.
When he went into breakfast Maurice told the man of the house about the cloud, and that it was a wonder to see the cow licking up what had settled on the hillock. "And it was white as any linen," said he.
When the man of the house sent the servant girl to milk the cow that evening he told her not to spill any drop of the milk till she had it brought to himself.
Maurice Griffin went with the girl, caught the cow, and held her. The vessel the girl was milking in did not hold half the milk. She did not like to leave the cow partly milked.
"Drink some of this," said she, "and let me finish, for it would spoil the cow to leave part of the milk with her."
Maurice Griffin emptied the vessel three times, drank all there was in it. The girl filled it the fourth time and went home with the milk. The master asked, "Was any of the milk spilled or used?" She told him truly, "This is the same vessel that I use always in milking, and that cow never filled it before till to-night. I didn't like to leave any milk with her, so I gave some to Maurice."
"It was his luck gave him all; 'twas promised to him, not to me," said the master. He was fonder of Maurice Griffin than ever, and Maurice began to foretell right away and cure people. The report went out through the country that all he foretold came to pass, and all he undertook to cure he cured. The priest, hearing this, didn't want to have the like of him in the parish, and spoke of him from the altar, but Griffin gave no answer. One morning the priest went to where Griffin was, saluted him, and was saluted in turn. "I hear that you are curing and foretelling," said the priest. "Where did you get the knowledge to foretell and to cure?"
"I foretell and I cure many persons, I serve people," said Griffin; "and my business is as good as yours. Some say that you have power, your reverence, but if you have, you are not foretelling or curing."
"Well," said the priest, "I'll know can you foretell or not. Answer me a question, and if you can I'll believe you."
"I'll answer you any question you'll put to me," said Griffin.
"What time or minute of the day did the last new moon appear?"
"I will tell you that," said Griffin. "Do you remember that when you were passing Travug your horse stooped to drink and his right leg was first in the river? Under your neck you wear a stone which the Pope gave you; this stone always sweats three drops at the new moon; the stone sweated three drops when the horse's right foot touched the water, and that was the time of the new moon."
"Oh," said the priest, "what is rumoured of you is true; follow your hand, I'll not meddle with you from this out."
Griffin came home then and told the conversation. The master grew very fond of him after that, and having an only daughter he gave her to Maurice, and Griffin lived with his father-in-law till the old man died and left all he had to his son-in-law.
The people thought a deal of Maurice Griffin when he got the property, and they came for counsel and cure to him.
Griffin had two Sons; in course of time he grew old and at last was very weak, and his first son, Dyeermud, managed the property. In those days everything was carried to Cork on horseback. Griffin called Dyeermud one day to him and said, "I am in dread that I am going to die. I don't want you to go to Cork to be absent so long."
"The company is going, and I'd like to go, too," said Dyeermud. "My brother is here: he will care for you and attend to everything while I am gone."
"I want you here," said the father, "for it's to you I will do all the good."
Dyeermud had a great wish to visit Cork.
"Go," said the father, "but you'll be the loser, and you'll remember my words."
Dyeermud went to Cork, and during his absence the father became very sick. Once, when the younger son was sitting at his bedside, the old man said, "I am in dread your brother will not be at home."
"What you were to leave him leave me," said the son.
"I cannot. I'll give you the gift of curing, but foretelling I could not give if I wished."
"How can you give the gift of curing?"
"I'll give it to you," said the father. "Go out to-night, kill a sheep and dress it, pick the right shoulder as clean as any bone could be cleaned from flesh, and in the night look over that bone, and the third time you look you'll see every one that you knew who is dead. Keep that bone with you always and sleep with it, and what you want to know to cure any disease will come to you from the bone. When a person is to be cured from a fairy stroke, look over the bone and a messenger will come from the fairies, and you will be able to cure those who come to you."
"As you will not give me the knowledge of foretelling, I will not take the curing. I will live honestly."
"I have no power to give you the knowledge," said the father, "but since you will not take the curing I will give it to your mother. The knowledge I can give to no one but your elder brother."
Griffin gave the curing to the wife. The knowledge he could give to no one but the elder son, and to him only if present.
Maurice Griffin died and was buried before Dyeermud came from Cork.
Dyeermud was astonished when he came and didn't find the father.
"You did badly not to stay," said the younger brother.
"Didn't I leave you?"
"You did, but he could leave the knowledge only to you."
"Why didn't he give you the curing?"
"He offered it to me, but I thought it too much trouble. I would use it if I had it. I let it go to our mother. She is old; let her have it. As he did not give me the knowledge I didn't want the curing. Maybe in after years when I have children it's on them the diseases I cured would come."
It was rumoured that the curing was with the mother, and the people were coming to her.
Once her godson got a fairy stroke in the leg, and she was vexed because his parents did not bring him quickly, for next day she would not be able to cure him at all. At last they came, and she was angry that they were so slow.
"You might have made bacon of him if you waited till morning," cried she. She cured him, and he was a very strong boy after that.
The parish priest had a sick horse left out to die. The clerk was very sorry, the horse was such a fine beast. "Wouldn't it be better to go to Mrs. Griffin?" asked he.
"Oh, how could she cure the horse?" asked the priest.
"I'll go to her," said the clerk.
"If you go to her," said the priest, "I give you no leave."
The clerk went, told Mrs. Griffin that he had come in spite of the priest, and to cure the horse if she could.
"It was the priest himself that injured the horse," said Mrs. Griffin. "He gave him water while hot from driving, and because the priest is fond of the horse he patted him and muttered something without saying God bless you. Go now, spit three times into the horse's ears, and say God bless you."
The clerk went and did this; the horse rose up as well and sound as ever, and the clerk brought him to the stable. The priest was astonished, and said, "They have a gift in the family: I'll not trouble them any turn again."
Mrs. Griffin was not able to give her gift to any one; the bone was buried with her.
When he had finished this story Malone said that there were different kinds of doctors, but that all received their power either through inheritance, "it was in the family," or by a sudden gift.
Herb doctors are in much esteem among country people, and gain their knowledge from supernatural sources. They don't learn: "it is given to them." The following are two cases cited by the old man.
In former times all the people had great faith in old women who were herb doctors. These women became doctors, not by learning different herbs, and studying, but by a supernatural power, and this power came to them always without their expecting it.
One woman of great name as a doctor got her power in this way. Three women were going to a village a mile out of Dingle. On the road they came to a small river, and there was no way to cross, but to walk through the water. All at once a fine lady stood before them, spoke very kindly to the first woman, and asked would she carry her over the river.
"Indeed, then, I will not: I've enough to do to carry myself." The lady asked the second woman and received a like answer, but when the third woman was asked she said: "I will carry you and welcome, and why not?" So she took the fine lady on her back, carried her over the water, and put her down on the dry bank.
The lady thanked her very kindly, and said, 'When you wake to-morrow morning you will know all plants and herbs, you will know what their names are, and what virtues are in them."
Next morning when the woman woke she could call all plants and herbs by name, she knew where they grew, and knew the power of each, from that out she was a great doctor.
Another woman was at the seashore one day. After a time she turned to go home, and while on the way felt afraid, she began to tremble suddenly, and grow sick from dread. She felt that something unnatural was near her, looked behind, and right there saw some great dark form. The moment she looked it vanished, but from that out she knew all plants and herbs and was a very great doctor.
Sometimes the best doctors will leave off curing, for they say that curing will bring misfortune in the end to the doctors or their children. It is believed firmly that there is a compensation for all this supernatural knowledge, and for everything out of the usual course of things. All the people believe that priests have the power of curing if they would only use it, but they are unwilling to take on themselves the punishment for curing. In former days they took pity on poor people sometimes and risked their health to cure them.