testimony to the truth of the story, and is in the possession of the O’Hierlyhie family, and is held by the Irish peasantry in such profound veneration that they will travel several miles to procure a drop of water from it, which, if given to a dying relative or friend, they imagine will secure their sure admission into heaven. Crofton Croker, who tells this story, adds that not long ago some water from this brazen bee-hive was administered to a dying priest by his coadjutor, in compliance with the popular superstition.
These stories were not wafted from one place to another, but derived from a common origin when the bees were regarded as friends and protectors of a house or a town. They went by the name of ‘the birds of God,’ or ‘Mary’s birds,’ in Germany, and were supposed to be in communication with the Spirit. When a master died in a house, his heir went before the hive and announced the death to the bees and entreated them to remain and protect him. In like manner, when a young couple became engaged they informed the bees and requested their favour. To some extent they would seem to have been regarded as the household spirits guarding a family, and they were always treated with reverence. A hive might never be sold, only given.