A BATCH OF IRISH FOLK-LORE.
FOR the past year or two I have been endeavouring to get people to collect Irish folk-lore, but hitherto I have not obtained as much as I had hoped. Rather than delay any longer, I now publish what I have received, exactly as it was sent to me.
Miss Emily Fitzgerald, of Glanleam, Valencia Island, co. Kerry, was the first to respond, and she enlisted the assistance of Miss Sinclair, of Bonny Glen, Donegal.
Mr. Daniel H. Lane, of Cork, obtained some very interesting items from Connemara, chiefly through the instrumentality of a local doctor. Dr. C. R. Browne's additional notes are of great value, as they extend over several counties.
Mr. G. C. Campbell, of Londonderry, gives a collection of folk-tales and cures from Londonderry and Donegal, which have the additional value of being, as far as possible, in the narrator's own words, and he, with the instinct of a true collector, has added the source of his information. I have to thank Mr. Robert Patterson, of Belfast, for interesting Mr. Campbell, and for adding a few notes of his own.
Miss Alice Watson, of Seapoint, Dublin, has quite recently kindly sent me some observations she has made in Queen's County and co. Dublin.
Some notes on folk-lore and customs will be found in a recently published paper by Dr. Browne and myself. I may as well take this opportunity to record the following:
In Innisbofin, co. Galway, the people have a very firm belief in fairies. Mr. Allies, who resides there, informed me that one old man told him that he saw a number of fairy girls, dressed in brown, around him one day when he (Mr. Allies) was shooting rabbits. Mr. Allies offered £50 if a fairy could be shown to him, and £100 if he took a photograph of one. Mr. Allies has not yet paid away any money. Mr. Allies and his brother were quarrying a rock by the side of the harbour, and at last the men refused to work at it any longer, as it was so full of the "good people" as to be hot. This was two or three years ago. Mr. Lane gives an amusing instance of the solicitude of the old women for Mrs. Allies' baby (see p. 358).
My first batch of folk-notes are those contributed by Miss Emily Fitzgerald, with the aid, for Donegal, of Miss Sinclair:—
Valencia.—In illness the " old people" say any improvement taking place on Friday or Sunday is unlucky. Not likely to last.
Cure for Erysipelas (Kerry, Valencia).—To arrest erysipelas, the name of the patient must be written round the part affected in the blood of a black cat, a cat that has not a single white hair.
"Febrifuge" (Valencia).—The first egg laid by a little black hen, eaten the very first thing in the morning, will keep you from fever for the year.
Cure for Erysipelas (Donegal).—Rub the part affected with butter made from the milk of the cows belonging to a married couple, who both had the same name before their marriage. — Miss Sinclair, Bonny Glen, Donegal.
Cure for Erysipelas (Donegal, Arranmore).—Send the son or daughter of a couple who each had the same name before their marriage to the bog for bog-water, and bathe the part affected with it.—Idem.
Apply the blood of anyone of the name of McCaul to the affected part.—Idem.
For Ulcerated Sore-throat (Donegal).—Take the patient by the two ears and "shake the devil out of him or her".—Idem.
(This Miss S. knows to be a fact, for it was done to one of their labourer's sons.)
Dried fox's tongue has many virtues; e.g., it will draw thorns however deep.—Idem.
Cure for the Evil.—A robin's breast rubbed on the place.—Idem.
Cure for a Sick Cow (Donegal).—Cut off the piece of turf on which the cow first treads when getting up, and hang it on the wall, and the cow will recover.—Idem.
Cure for a Sore Mouth (Donegal).—A posthumous child will cure a sore mouth.—Idem.
Cure for Whooping-Cough (Kerry).—Some milk to be poured into a saucer, a ferret to drink some of it, and the rest to be given to the patient.—Miss Butler, Waterville.
St. John's Eve Fires (Kerry).—Fires were (and are still in a less degree) lighted all over the country on St. John's Eve, especially little fires across the road; if you drove through them it brought you luck for the year. Cattle were also driven through the fires.
When anyone is lying dead in a room the walls must be hung with sheets, and the door left open (because the spirit hovers in the room after it has left the body, and must have free egress), five candles must be round the coffin, one of which is not to be lighted. As the coffin is being taken out of the door the sheets are to be taken down.—Mrs. O'Connell, Darrynane.
The first child that dies in a family must be buried in the children's burial-ground (there are numbers of them about the country for unbaptised children), otherwise two others will follow if the first is buried in the churchyard.
Water that has been used to bathe the feet must be put outside the door at night for fear of fairies.
A gentleman I know at Listowel remembers, about eight years ago, being very much astonished when a cloud of dust was being blown along a road, seeing an old woman rush to the side and drag handfuls of grass out of the fence, which she threw in great haste into the cloud of dust. He inquired, and learned that this was in order to give something to the fairies that were flying along in the dust.
People had assured him, and no laughing could get them out of the belief, that they had seen a field full of fairies—little people two or three feet high.—Mr. Creagh.
A headless coach—that is, without horses—was said to career about the neighbourhood of Listowel when any misfortune was about to take place. Mr. Creagh remembers, as a boy, servants assuring him that they had seen it.
There was a common belief, though it is not much heard of now, that priests could turn people into hares.
Country people in Kerry don't eat hares; the souls of their grandmothers are supposed to have entered into them. (February 1891.)
The following notes were contributed in June, 1892, by Mr. G. C. Campbell, as nearly as possible in the actual words of his various informants: —
The Origin of the Fairies.—The. fairies are fallen angels. The time when Lucifer was head-angel, he was cast out of heaven. Pride put Lucifer down. There was wans o' the angels took part wi' the Almighty, and there was wans took part wi' Lucifer. The wans that sided wi' the Almighty, they stayed in heaven, an' the wans that sided wi' Lucifer they went straight to hell. But there was a third party, wans that kep' silent, an' the Almighty sent them out o' heaven into the rocks, an' sea, an' bushes, an' land; an' they are the gentry, the wee-folk. They say if there 's wan drap o' blood in them at the Judgment Day they'll be pardoned, but I don't believe they have wan drap o' blood in them.—Informant, Katie Mahon, Londonderry, beggar.
Added to this.—They say some are hanging by the heels in the elements yet.—Margaret Farren, co. Derry, farmer's wife.
Fairy Story.—There was a young married lady, an' she was very rich, an' the fairies took her away the night her first baby was born; so they could not find her no road. They had a coachman, an' he was always listenin' at the door of the fairies. So on Hallowe'en night he went back to the door; with that they opened the door, an' got him listenin', and let him in. So when he went in, he got his eye on this one (the lady), he got a hoult of her, an' took her out wi' him; he won her from them, an' took her home to her own house.
Says they, "Ye have her with ye now, but she'll not be much use to ye now, for she's both deaf an' dumb. . . ." That night twelvemonth the coachman went back to the door again, an' he heard them saying, "Well, this night twelve-month we lost a noble lady; she was not much service to them, though, for we left her both deaf an' dumb." "Well," says one fairy, speakin' out, "it wouldn't be hard for them to cure her, for if they would go to a spring-well where the water-grass grows, an' take some water-grass an' squeeze the juice out of it, an' put some of it in her ears, an' give her the rest to drink, it would cure her."
The coachman then went straight to a spring-well and got the water-grass, an' did just what they said, an' the lady got all right, an' was never bothered with the wee-folk again.—Nancy Sweeny, Derry, pedlar.
Fairy Story.—I heard my mother tell of a young man, an' he lived up bye there. One Hallowe'en night he went out for a bit of a daunder; an' just as he was comin' off the lane into the road he saw a whole troop of fairies comin' along the road, an' what had they but a girl wi' them; an' he seen she wasn't one of the fairies, so he catched a hoult of her, an' at that they turned into everything—horses, and all that. But he wasn't feared o' any o' them, an' kep' a hoult of her until he got her right intil his mother's. An' the girl she could speak noan—for ye know the wee-folk puts a thmg in their mouth that they can't speak. The mother she came forrard an' shook hands wi' her, an' said she was right glad to see her, an' the girl she laughed, but said nothin'. She stayed wi' them, an' did all the work for them.
An' Hallowe'en night was a twelve-month. The young fellow he was goin' out, an' his mother she wasn't for him goin' out, but the girl she was glad like to see him goin', an' signed with her hand to him to go on. An' when he got forenenst the place he got the girl, he catched sight of the fairies again, an' he kep' back, an' he heard them talking, an' says one to the other: "This night twelve-month they got a girl from us here." "But not much good to them was she," says another, speaking up, "for we left her that she couldn't speak a word." "An'," says another wee one, speakin' out, "they could soon cure her o' that; for if they would go an' take that black cock that's on the roost, an' give her three sopes o' water out of his skull, she would soon speak for them."
So the young fellow he started off home, an' went straight an' pulled the black cock off the roost an' killed him. An' says his mother, "What's come on my boy? Is he losing his senses?" But the girl she laughed, an' he gave her the three sopes o' water out of the black cock's skull, an' then she spoke rightly, an' told them she w-as from Connaught, an' that she had just gone to the door for some water when the wee-folk came an' carried her wi' them, an' left a big lump in her place (her mother and all the people thought it was her lying dead, an' they buried it).
So thin the young fellow an' his mother an' the girl they all went off to Connaught, an' left Moville. An' when they got to Connaught they went straight to her mother's house, an' asked if she could lodge them for a night. At that she began to cry, an' she said she couldn't lodge them. Says she, "I can't help cryin', for Hallowe'en night was a twelve-month my daughter dropped dead at the door, an' I never saw one that minded me more on her than that girl." "Oh," says the young fellow, speaking up, "an' may be it is her!" "No," says she, "how could it be her, for she's dead and buried." "Well," says he, "had she any kind of mark on her ye would know her by." "Yes," says she, "she had a big mole on her left shoulder." "Well," says he to the girl, "show her your left shoulder." An' when the woman saw the mole she knew it was her own daughter, an' then they had the great feasting, an' the young fellow he married the girl. An' the way the people about here knew about it was that they wrote an' told them all that happened.
By the Holy that's true, for I heard my mother telling it many's the time.—Ann Hegarty, Moville, farmer's wife.
Fairy Story.—There was a man at Carrowkeel (co. Donegal), an' he left his own house for Derry to buy something he needed. An' when he went home, his next door neighbour was dead, an' he met the fairies coming along the road, and this woman was with them. The fairies had taken her—she had just had a baby that night—an' they just left an ould lump of wood in her place, in the shape of a woman. So he heard one fairy sayin' to another that such an a man would be sorry for his wife, "but he has as much in her place now as will do him." With that the man threw an iron hoop round her an' his own coat—they say, if you can get an iron hoop an' a man's coat roun' any one the wee-folk can't touch them—an' he got a hoult of her, an' the fairies they kicked an' blackened him, but he held on like grim death, an' he took her from them, an' took her to his own house. An' when he went in with her, his own wife was at the wake next door. He put her into bed an' gave her a drap o' warm milk; they were both all clabber with the wrastling with the wee-folk.
So he took his own supper, an' then he went up to the wake; an' he took in kreels an' kreels of turf an' piled on a big fire. His own wife came for-ead, an' says she: "In the name of God, are you goin' out of your senses, an' what do you mean at all puttin' on such a fire? what do you want? sure the people 's too warm." "Hold your tongue," says he; "if I am goin' wrong in the mind I'11 be worse before long." Then says he to a boy, says he: " Come up here an' get a hoult of this in the bed, an' I'll soon roast it." So the boy he came up, an' got her by the heels, an' he got her by the two showl'ers, an' they threw her into the fire. She went up the chimly, an' spat back at them. Says he to her husband: "Come on down to my house; your wife's safe an' sound in my house." An' he went an' got his wife back safe an' sound.—N. Sweeny, Derry, pedlar.
Cures for Warts.—Cut a potato, and cut it into ten sllces count out nine, and throw away the tenth. Rub the warts with the nine, then bury them, and as they rot the warts will go away.—Mary Deeny, co. Derry, domestic servant, and others.
Look at the new moon. As you keep your eye on her, stoop down an' lift some dust from under your right foot, an' rub the wart with it, an' as the moon wanes the wart dies.—Wm, Fleming, co. Derry, labourer.
If you see a funeral passing, stoop down an' lift some clay from under your right foot, an' throw it in the same road that the funeral is going, an' say, "Corpse of clay, carry my warts away," an' do this three times, an' as the corpse decays in the grave, your warts will go away.—Mary Feeney, co. Donegal, old beggar.
Get ten knots of barley straw, count out nine and throw away the tenth; rub the wart with the nine of them, then roll them up in a bit of paper an' throw them before a funeral, an' then the wart will wear away.* —Katie Mahon, Londonderry, beggar, and others.
If you were goin' along the road, an' happen on a wee drap o' water in the hollow of a stone, where you would not expect to find it, take an' wash the wart with it three times, an' the wart will wear away.*—Mary Dick, Londonderry, beggar, and many others.
If you happen to come on a big black snail, rub it across your wart an' stick it on a thorn, an' as the snail withers so will the wart.*—M. Farren, co. Derry, farmer's wife, and many others.
Take a wee bit of raw beef an' rub it across the wart, an' then bury it. Be sure an' let no one see it, an' as the beef rots so will the wart.†—Nancy Sweeney, Londonderry, pedlar.
Cures for Whooping- Cough or Chin-Cough.—Take the child to a donkey, an' pass it under a jackass three times. Then give the donkey a bit of oaten bread, an' give what the donkey doesn't eat to the child, an' if the child is too young to eat it, soften it down an' give it to it, and this will cure the chin-cough.*—M. Farren, co. Derry, farmer's wife, and others.
Lots of people come to our Jane for a bit of bread, for she an' her husband are of the one name; for if you can get a bit of bread from a couple of the one name it will cure the whooping-cough.*—M. Farren, co. Derry, farmer's wife, and others.
Cure for Sty on the Eye.—Take ten gooseberry jags, throw the tenth away, an' point the nine at the sty, an' throw them away, an' this will cure it.*—M. Farren, co. Derry, farmer's wife, and others. The following items were forwarded to me by Mr. Daniel H. Lane of Cork; most of them were given to him by the doctor of Kilkeiran and Carna, South Connemara. (April 1892.)
1. Immediately after birth the child is sometimes spat on by the father.
2. Child very generally given a piece of sugar after birth.
3. On May 1st, Shrove Tuesday, and certain Mondays in the year, the country people will not give food or fire or any commodity out of their houses.
4. Woman, before childbirth, occasionally wears coat of father of expected child, with the idea that he should share in the pains of childbirth.
5. There is a witch of great repute in the neighbourhood of Carna. When consulted by a rich person she goes into the fields, collects certain herbs not known to anyone but herself, performs secret rites and incantations, and, when these are over, the first living thing she sees is affected by the malady of the sick person, who immediately recovers. A man who saw her performing the incantations crawled away on his face and hands, to avoid being the first living thing seen by her.
6. At Letterard, two sisters tried to cure a sick brother by walking three times round three houses adjacent to one another, the tenants of which all had the same name.
7. A posthumous son (not daughter) is supposed to have healing power by breathing or expectorating on part affected.
8. A seventh son is also supposed to possess the power of healing by stepping across the body of diseased person.
9. A pregnant woman will not take an oath in a Court of Justice. This custom is recognised by the local magistrates.
10. A pregnant woman considers it unlucky to meet a hare.
11. A drowned body is searched for by floating a bundle of straws on the surface of the water; it is supposed to stop and quiver over the body.
12. When anyone dies a violent death, a heap of stones is placed on the spot, and passers-by keep adding to it.
13. Bodies always carried not by the shortest way to the graveyard; the same custom has come under my observation occasionally in Cork.
14. No grave allowed to be dug on Monday.
15. The gravediggers, once having commenced, must finish the digging, no change of diggers being allowed.
16. On Handsel Monday (first Monday in the year) the country people will not pay any money for anything if possible.
17. Doctor not allowed to take lymph from arm of child until he gives it some present, however trifling.
18. Chalking the backs of unmarried girls is practised on the last Sunday before Lent at Galway and elsewhere.
19. If a child falls accidentally, an old women makes him take three tastes of salt ; the idea being that the fairies caused the fall in trying to run away with the child, and salt is an antidote against fairies.
20. Weasels, so-called (properly stoats), are greatly respected, and addressed as "Pretty Lady" in Irish, with raised hat.
21. Dwarf or misshapen children are held to be given to a mother by the fairies in place of a healthy child they have stolen from her to renew the stock of fairies, and who, while the dwarf lives, is supposed to be a sort of fairy apprentice. When the dwarf dies, the healthy child it supplanted is supposed to have been admitted into the fairy band, and mothers assert at death of dwarf that they see the healthy child that should have been theirs.
22. When in a graveyard it is customary to walk as much as possible "with the sun", with the right hand towards centre of circle.
23. At Innisbofin, when the old women natives meet Mrs. Allies' baby out with its nurse, they spit on the ground all round it in a circle, to keep fairies from it ; an interesting but disagreeable custom.
The following were given to Mr. Lane by Dr. T. V. Costello of Bealadangan : —
On Lettermore Island, which also is in South Connemara, immediately after the birth of a child — which, by the way, is always delivered with the mother in a kneeling posture — the father throws (counting as he does so) nine articles of clothing over the mother : the number never varies. A piece of the ash from the remains of the peat-fire is tied up in a red rag and attached to the cow's tail, to prevent the fairies milking her during night.
Part of the ashes from the bonfire on the 24th June is thrown into sown fields to make their produce abundant.
After marriage, the bride and bridegroom go out of the church door simultaneously, as, if one went in front of the other, the former would be the first to die. I have heard of this custom elsewhere.
There also exist "knowledgeable women" and "herb women", which are the meanings of their Irish names, who live by fortune-telling and herb-healing. The Doctor is going to collect particulars of their remedies, and how they are applied.
Dr. C. R. Browne, as I have mentioned above, was good enough to give me the accompanying notes on most of Mr. Lane's items. They are derived from an exceptionally wide experience. (May 1892.)
1. This custom must be local, as in other parts of the country the father is carefully kept well out of the way on these occasions.
2. Child is given sugar after birth if it is in danger of death ; also on the way to chapel when taken to be christened, in the same case (Wicklow and Dublin). Child after birth sometimes given salt for luck. Salt is considered very lucky, and no poor person ever refuses salt to a neighbour, even though it may be the last in the house, which it is unlucky to give away, as it brings want to the house, but it would bring worse luck to refuse, as giving is a charitable act (Tipperary).
3. On Shrove Tuesday and All Souls' Day souls of the departed come out of Purgatory. Lamps and fires are lit for them, and chairs set, and no one will give food or fire out of the house, as that would bring great misfortune (Wicklow). In Tipperary and Limerick the country people object to giving away anything on a Monday, or going into a new situation on that day.
4. In the counties mentioned, women in childbirth often wear the trousers of the father of child round the neck, the effect of which is supposed to be the lightening of the pains of labour. I have myself seen a case of this in Dublin, about two years ago.
I have come across a case in which a county Wicklow witch is supposed to have cured a girl by gathering carrabone-beg and other herbs and making use of incantations. Witch, loo years old, still alive.
8. A seventh son is supposed to have the power of curing "St. Anthony's fire" by touch ; also to be able to cure tubercular affections by bleeding his gums and rubbing the blood on part affected (Wicklow). In Tipperary, the seventh son of a seventh son is supposed to have the power of healing many affections by touch, or in case of cross-birth to be able to bring about a happy result by lifting the woman in his arms three times, and shaking her gently. It is especially lucky if he has red hair or is left-handed.
9. No information on this point.
10. Pregnant woman is afraid to meet a hare for fear of the child being born with a hare-lip.
11. The custom of floating straw down a river, in the expectation that it will stop over a drowned body and indicate the spot, prevails in Cork and Tipperary. I have (when a school-boy) seen it done at Cork.
12. Cairn custom used to prevail in Tipperary; I am not sure whether it is still kept up. In the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, the spot where a man meets with a violent death is marked by scooping a cross out of the earth, into which passers-by throw pebbles. Sometimes the branches of a hedge, if there be one at the spot, are twisted into the form of a cross. In Cork I have seen the spot where a man was shot by the police in a fight, marked with a cross. The people pray at the spot for the rest of the soul of departed, especially on moonlight nights.
13. I believe it is a custom in most, if not all, small towns in the south for a body to be carried, on its way to the graveyard, round the town by the longest way to bid its last farewell to the place. If the body be that of a murdered man, it is, if possible, carried past the house of the murderer. In county Wicklow, if an old church lies on way to the grave the body is borne round it three times.
15. This custom prevails in Wicklow. In a case I know of, the gravedigger became ill while digging a grave; no one else could finish it ; so he had to get out of his bed to do so.
16. Hansel Monday custom obtains in most parts of Ireland. Paying money on that day supposed to bring poverty for the year. Any money the people receive on this day they spit on for luck.
17. When I was vaccinated (in co. Tipperary) my nurse said that my arm kept inflamed because doctor did not put silver in my hand when taking lymph from me.
18. In Tipperary the first Sunday in Lent is called Chalk Sunday, and men and boys chalk a cross on the back of any unmarried person who may pass. This sometimes gives rise to very amusing scenes.
19. This custom prevails in Tipperary and Wicklow.
20. Weasels in Tipperary and Wicklow hunted down and dreaded, and they are supposed to be able to spit fire and injure men and beasts. They are supposed to steal the milk from cows.
21. Belief in changelings was very common in Munster. If child was weak and pining it was supposed to be a changeling, and was put out at night on a hot shovel. A case occurred in Tipperary some years ago, but parents were acquitted.
23. In Wicklow they spit on a child for good luck, the first day it is brought out after birth.
I hope to be able to give you some notes on other points soon. I forgot to mention that a case of the cross in the hedge at scene of death may be seen near Rathfarnham, co. Dublin. Hansel custom, not confined to Hansel Monday, but silver is spit upon and considered specially lucky on Monday. Bargains are concluded by spitting on hand or luck-penny ; a match is made by breaking a stick and spitting on the hands of the matchmakers. If a thing or animal is sold on a Sunday, the Wicklow people will not take a luck-penny.
Finally, I may add some notes kindly forwarded to me by Miss A. Watson. (May 1893.)
Queen's County. — When we were children Hallow Eve was always an occasion for practising mysterious rites, the end and aim of each being to foretell the future. The first thing always was to get an old iron spoon, filled with lead in scraps ; this was held over a hot fire till it melted. Then a key, which must be the hall-door key, was held over a tub of cold water, and the hot lead was poured through the wards of the key. The lead cooled in falling through the water, and when it had all settled in the bottom of the tub, the old nurse proceeded to read its surface. I don't know whether there was originally one especial story of the "willow pattern" description, but I do know that the many I have heard all bore a family likeness. There was always a castle with a tower here, and a narrow window there, and a knight riding to the door to deliver a beautiful lady who was imprisoned there. And of course the lady was the round-eyed child who was listening with bated breath, and who was eventually to marry said knight. (If anyone likes to try the experiment, he will find that the lead falls in wriggles like snakes, with no possible pretensions to any shape or form.)
There was also something we did with salt, earth, and water, which I have quite forgotten.
Then there was bobbing for apples, which sometimes consisted in an apple being put at the bottom of a tub of water, to be fetched up by the teeth ; and sometimes by suspending a piece of wood from a hook, with an apple at one end and a candle at the other. The wood was set revolving, and the victim, with open mouth, endeavoured to get a bite from the apple ; he sometimes bit the candle instead.
Then you go out to the garden blindfolded, and each pull up a cabbage. If the cabbage was well grown the girl was to have a handsome husband, but woe betide the unlucky damsel who got one with a crooked stalk ; her husband would be a stingy old man.
Then comes nut-burning, as an antidote to all this boisterous fun. You put two nuts on the bar and name them, but must not mention the names or all luck will vanish. If one hops off, then that pair will not marry ; if one burns to a cinder and not the other, it is a case of unrequited love; but if both burn away steadily, they will marry and live happy ever after.
County Dublin. — You must always bow when you meet a sweep, or even see one in the distance. If you don't, you will never have any luck.
You must bow when you see a magpie ; if it flies off, turn and bow in that direction, and say, "How do you do ?" This will avert all ill-luck. Magpie Rhyme. — "One for sorrow,
- Two for joy,
- Three for a girl,
- Four for a boy,
- Five for heaven,
- Six for hell,
- Seven 's the de'il's own sel !
It is very unlucky to meet a red-haired person first thing in the morning.
If you pass a house where there is building or painting going on, you must never walk underneath a ladder ; always go out in the road.
If you find a little spider on any article of dress, or in the china closet, etc., don't brush it off. If you leave it alone someone may give you a new one of whatever the spider was on, It is a common superstition amongst the Irish peasantry that the last person who has been buried has no rest, as they have to keep watch over the rest. Consequently, when two deaths occur near together, their friends make a great rush to see who shall be buried first. Near Renvyle, co. Galway, the relatives provide a quantity of new pipes and parcels of tobacco, which are distributed amongst those who attend the funeral, who sit about and smoke while the grave is being dug. They believe that the departed spirit, while watching the other graves, might like the solace of a little tobacco, so that all unused pipes and parcels of tobacco are left in the graveyard, but the people are at liberty to take away the pipes they have used.
A thread is sometimes tied round a toe of a corpse.
I don't know if the following can be included in folk-lore; it is more curious than edifying, but I can vouch for it absolutely, as my cousin has seen a seventh son do what follows. The seventh son of a seventh son has always been dowered with miraculous powers in the co. Meath they do this : When the child is born, the nurse puts a worm in a piece of muslin into each hand, and ties the hand up till the worm dies. One worm must be male, the other female. When the worms die they are thrown away and nothing more is done. When the boy grows up, you may get him to draw a line or a circle or any mark in the road, put a worm near that mark, it will crawl towards the mark and then draw back as if terrified, repeating this action again and again till it really crosses the line and remains motionless. If you examine it you will find it is dead. The actions of the worm are described as giving you the impression that it is mesmerised. If that same boy puts his finger into a pail of worms, every single one will die almost at once. My cousin says that the country people, having got a pail of worms for fishing with, will avoid meeting the seventh son of a seventh son (who are sure to be well known) lest their trouble should go for nothing and the worms should die.
A. C. Haddon.
- "The Ethnography of the Aran Islands, County Galway," by Prof. A. C. Haddon and Dr. C. R. Browne, Proc. Royal Irish Acad.^ 3rd Ser., vol. ii, 1893, p. 768.
- Opposite to.
- * = from Glenavy, co. Antrim.
- † = from Strangford, co. Down.
- Mr. Robert Patterson of Belfast, who asked Mr. Campbell to collect folk-lore, adds that "those cures which I mark with * or † I have been told by two of my servants in the same words, so they are known in Antrim and Down, as well as in Donegal and Derry."