The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Some Folk-Lore from Achterneed

SOME FOLK-LORE FROM ACHTERNEED.

THE following was gleaned by me during a few days' stay at the hamlet of Achterneed, in the parish of Fodderty, Ross-shire. The hamlet lies on the slope of a hill near the well-known health resort of Strathpeffer, and is a station on the Dingwall and Skye line of railway.


I.—Death Customs.

A cock crowing during the afternoon is regarded as an omen of a death near at hand in the neighbourhood. An old man died on the 21st of September this year in the hamlet. A cock crowed between three and four o'clock the afternoon before; and it was the common remark among the inhabitants that a death was not far distant.

Any creaking of the chairs and tables in a house is looked upon as a sure sign of the death of one of the family. My informant told me that, not long ago, her mother entered a house in which was lying a young woman sick. She heard some creaking among the chairs or tables during the time she was in the house. On returning home she mentioned the fact, and at the same time made the remark that it was the warning of the death of the girl. The girl died not long after.

It is believed that dogs are gifted with the power of seeing what is to happen. Hence their howling before a death occurs in the vicinity.

When a death takes place, if there is a clock in the house, it is stopped, and looking-glasses and everything in the shape of ornaments are removed from the apartment in which the death occurs and the body is to be laid out. A table and a few chairs are left for the use of those that are to watch the body, for it is never left without one or more watchers. For this purpose several of the neighbours meet nightly. They spend part of the time in reading. Food, as well as whiskey, is served them; but the food is not partaken of in the apartment in which the dead is laid out. When the others retire to another apartment for this purpose, one remains with the dead. Whiskey, however, may be drunk beside the dead body. Lights are burned not only beside it, but in every apartment of the house during the whole of each night till it is buried.

It is accounted very unlucky for a cat to pass between one and a dead body. Cats are, therefore, shut out of the apartment in which the body lies. Some do not allow a cat to remain in the apartment in which one lies dying. On the occasion of the death of the old man spoken of above, another old man from the hills entered, and, seeing a cat lying on the bed beside the dying man, at once ordered the animal to be taken not merely off the bed but out of the room.

It is unlucky to look at a funeral procession through a window, or to stand in the door to do so. One must go right outside. My informant has been reproved by her father for attempting to do so.

At funerals there is a religious service in the house, but none at the grave. There is always a liberal supply of whiskey, and sometimes some indulge rather freely; although at one time, not long ago, the people came to a resolution to dispense with it.

The deceased father's wearing apparel is not distributed to the sons, if he has any, but is given to his brother or brothers. There is a strong feeling against the sons using it.

The same does not hold with regard to the clothing of the deceased mother, for it commonly goes to the daughter or daughters.

II.—Marriage Customs.

It is looked upon as very unlucky for a marriage party to meet a woman. If a woman sees such approaching, she leaves the road to avoid the meeting.

During the time the dance to "The Reel of Tulloch" is going on, the biidegroom's man steals away with the bride. When the flight is discovered, the whole of the guests rush off in search of the fugitives, and never rest till they are caught and brought back.

Sometimes the bridegroom disappears.

The bride is welcomed to the house by her mother, if she is alive; but, if she is dead, by her maternal aunt.

Bread, i. e. oaten cakes, and cheese, are thrown over the bride on her coming up to the door of the house.


III.—Charms.

A Cure for Whooping-Cough.

Take the child out of the parish, and carry it over a stream in another. This is called "crossing strange water," and effects a cure.


A Cure for the Evil Eye.

The father of the patient takes the marriage ring, a penny, a six-pence, a shilling, and a florin, puts them into a wooden latlle—the one in use in the household—and goes with the mother and the patient to the nearest stream, fills the ladle with water, and with that water sprinkles the sufferer. This goes by the name of "silver water."


IV.— Luck.

Modes of averting Ill-Luck.

Deer-grass (lycopodium) brings luck to a house, and as long as a piece of it is in a house, ill-luck will not enter.

Horse-shoe.—It is almost the universal custom to keep one or more old horse-shoes in the house, or affixed to some part outside.

Lady keeps some in the hall of, and when one of the maids one day removed them, with the intention of throwing them out, her mistress observed what was to be done, and forbade it, with the remark, "Throw out the horse-shoes, throw out all the luck." (Told by the maid). The house in which I lived had one lying on the window-sill outside.

(Rev.) W. Gregor.