Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Second Series

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Second Series

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Author: Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939
Folklore — Ireland
Ireland — Social life and customs
Atlantic Coast (Ireland) — Social life and customs
Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Second Series


By Lady Gregory

DRAMA

Seven Short Plays
Folk-History Plays, 2 vols.
New Comedies
The Image
The Golden Apple
Our Irish Theatre. A Chapter of Autobiography

IRISH FOLK LORE AND LEGEND

Visions and Beliefs, 2 vols.
Cuchulain of Muirthemne
Gods and Fighting Men
Saints and Wonders
Poets and Dreamers
The Kiltartan Poetry Book

Ballylee Castle
From a sepia drawing by Robert Gregory


VISIONS AND BELIEFS IN THE WEST OF IRELAND COLLECTED AND ARRANGED BY LADY GREGORY: WITH TWO ESSAYS AND NOTES BY W.B. YEATS

There’s no doubt at all but that there’s the same sort of things in other countries; but you hear more about them in these parts because the Irish do be more familiar in talking of them.

SECOND SERIES

G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS

NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
1920


Copyright, 1920
by

LADY GREGORY

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

CONTENTS

  page
 
I.—Herbs, Charms, and Wise Women 3
 
II.—Astray, and Treasure 29
 
III.—Banshees and Warnings 45
 
IV.—In the Way 65
 
V.—The Fighting of the Friends 77
 
VI.—The Unquiet Dead 89
 
VII.—Appearances 111
 
VIII.—Butter 189
 
IX.—The Fool of the Forth 195
 
X.—Forths and Sheoguey Places 205
 
XI.—Blacksmiths 239
 
XII.—Monsters and Sheoguey Beasts 245
 
XIII.—Friars and Priest Cures 281
 
   Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places 295
 
   Notes 343
 

[Pg iv]
[Pg 1]

I

HERBS, CHARMS, AND WISE WOMEN


[Pg 2]
[Pg 3]

I

HERBS, CHARMS, AND WISE WOMEN

There is a saying in Irish, “An old woman without learning, it is she will be doing charms”; and I have told in “Poets and Dreamers” of old Bridget Ruane who came and gave me my first knowledge of the healing power of certain plants, some it seemed having a natural and some a mysterious power. And I said that she had “died last winter, and we may be sure that among the green herbs that cover her grave there are some that are good for every bone in the body and that are very good for a sore heart.”
As to the book she told me of that had come from the unseen and was written in Irish, I think of Mrs. Sheridan’s answer when I asked in what language the strange unearthly people she had been among had talked: “Irish of course—what else would they talk?” And I remember also that when Blake told Crabb Robinson of the intercourse he had had with Voltaire and was asked in what tongue Voltaire spoke he said, “To my sensations it was English. It was like the touch of a musical key. He touched it probably in French, but to my ear it became English.”
[Pg 4]
[Pg 5]


I was told by her:
There is a Saint at the Oratory in London, but I don’t know his name, and a girl heard of him in London, and he sent her back to Gort, and he said, “There’s a woman there that will cure you,” and she came to me, and I cured her in two days. And if you could find out the name of that Saint through the Press, he’d tell me his remedies, and all the world would be cured. For I can’t do all cures though there are a great many I can do. I cured Pat Carty when the doctor couldn’t do it, and a woman in Gort that was paralysed and her two sons that were stretched. For I can bring back the dead with the same herbs our Lord was brought back with—the slanlus and the garblus. But there are some things I can’t do. I can’t help anyone that has got a stroke from the Queen or the Fool of the Forth.
I know a woman that saw the Queen one time, and she said she looked like any Christian. I never heard of any that saw the Fool but one woman that was walking near Gort, and she called out, “There’s the Fool of the Forth coming after me.” So her friends that were with her called out though they could see nothing, and I suppose he went away at that for she got no harm. He was like a big strong man, and half-naked—that’s all she said about him.
It was my brother got the knowledge of cures from a book that was thrown down before him on the road. What language was it written in? What language would it be but Irish. Maybe it was God gave it to him, and maybe it was the other people. He was a fine strong man, and he weighed twenty-five stone—and he went to England, and then he cured all the world, so that the doctors had no way of living. So one time he got on a ship to go to America, and the doctors had bad men engaged to shipwreck him out of the ship; he wasn’t drowned but he was broken to pieces on the rocks, and the book was lost along with him. But he taught me a good deal out of it. So I know all herbs, and I do a good many cures, and I have brought a great many children home, home to the world—and never lost one, or one of the women that bore them. I was never away myself, but I am a cousin of Saggarton, and his uncle was away for twenty-one years.


This is dwareen (knapweed) and what you have to do with this is to put it down, with other herbs, and with a bit of threepenny sugar, and to boil it and to drink it for pains in the bones, and don’t be afraid but it will cure you. Sure the Lord put it in the world for curing.
And this is corn-corn (small aromatic tansy); it’s very good for the heart—boiled like the others.

This is atair-talam (wild camomile), the father of all herbs—the father of the ground. This is very hard to pull, and when you go for it, you must have a black-handled knife.
And this is camal-buide (loosestrife) that will keep all bad things away.
This is cuineul-Muire (mullein), the blessed candle of our Lady.
This is fearaban (water buttercup) and it’s good for every bone of your body.
This is dub-cosac (lichen), that’s good for the heart, very good for a sore heart. Here are the slanlus (plantain) and the garblus (dandelion) and these would cure the wide world, and it was these brought our Lord from the Cross, after the ruffians that was with the Jews did all the harm to Him. And not one could be got to pierce His heart till a dark man came and said, “Give me the spear, and I’ll do it,” and the blood that sprang out touched his eyes and they got their sight.
And it was after that, His Mother and Mary and Joseph gathered their herbs and cured His wounds. These are the best of the herbs, but they are all good, and there isn’t one among them but would cure seven diseases. I’m all the days of my life gathering them, and I know them all, but it isn’t easy to make them out. Sunday evening is the best time to get them, and I was never interfered with. Seven “Hail Marys” I say when I’m gathering them, and I pray to our Lord and to St. Joseph and St. Colman. And there may be some watching me, but they never meddled with me at all.

Mrs. Quaid:
Monday is a good day for pulling herbs, or Tuesday, not Sunday. A Sunday cure is no cure. The cosac (lichen) is good for the heart, there was Mineog in Gort, one time his heart was wore to a silk thread, and it cured him. The slanugad (rib-grass) is very good, and it will take away lumps. You must go down when it’s growing on the scraws, and pull it with three pulls, and mind would the wind change when you are pulling it or your head will be gone. Warm it on the tongs when you bring it and put it on the lump. The lus-mor (mullein) is the only one that’s good to bring back children that are away. But what’s better than that is to save what’s in the craw of a cock you’ll kill on St. Martin’s Eve and put it by and dry it, and give it to the child that’s away.
There’s something in green flax I know, for my mother often told me about one night she was spinning flax, before she was married and she was up late. And a man of the faeries came in. She had no right to be sitting up so late, they don’t like that. And he told her to go to bed, for he wanted to kill her, and he couldn’t touch her while she was handling the flax. And every time he’d tell her to go to bed, she’d give him some answer, and she’d go on pulling a thread of the flax, or mending a broken one, for she was wise, and she knew that at the crowing of the cock he’d have to go. So at last the cock crowed, and he was gone, and she was safe then, for the cock is blessed.

Mrs. Ward:
As to the lus-mor, whatever way the wind is blowing when you begin to cut it, if it changes while you’re cutting it, you’ll lose your mind. And if you’re paid for cutting it, you can do it when you like, but if not they mightn’t like it. I knew a woman was cutting it one time, and a voice, an enchanted voice, called out, “Don’t cut that if you’re not paid, or you’ll be sorry.” But if you put a bit of this with every other herb you drink, you’ll live for ever. My grandmother used to put a bit with everything she took, and she lived to be over a hundred.

An Old Man on the Beach:
I wouldn’t give into those things, but I’ll tell you what happened to a son of my own. He was as fine and as stout a boy as ever you saw, and one day he was out with me, and a letter came and told of the death of some one’s child that was in America, and all the island gathered to hear it read. And all the people were pressing to each other there. And when we were coming home, he had a bit of a kippeen in his hand, and getting over a wall he fell, and some way the kippeen went in at his throat, where it had a sharp point and hurt the palate of his mouth, and he got paralysed from the waist up.
There was a woman over in Spiddal, and my wife gave me no ease till I went to her, and she gave me some herb for him. He got better after, and there’s no man in the island stronger and stouter than what he is but he never got back the use of his left hand, but the strength he has in the other hand is equal to what another man would have in two. Did the woman in Spiddal say what gave him the touch? Oh well, she said all sorts of things. But I wouldn’t like to meddle too much with such as her, for it’s by witchcraft I believe it’s done. There was a woman of the same sort over in Roundstone, and I knew a man went to her about his wife, and first she said the sickness had nothing to do with her business, but he said he came too far to bring back an answer like that. So she went into a little room, and he heard her call on the name of all the devils. So he cried out that that was enough, and she came out then and made the sign of the Cross, but he wouldn’t stop in it.
But a priest told me that there was a woman in France used to cure all the dumb that came to her, and that it was a great loss and a great pity when she died.

Mrs. Cloonan:
I knew some could cure with herbs; but it’s not right for any one that doesn’t understand them to be meddling with them. There was a woman I knew one time wanted a certain herb I knew for a cure for her daughter, and the only place that herb was to be had was down in the bottom of a spring well. She was always asking me would I go and get it for her, but I took advice, and I was advised not to do it. So then she went herself and she got it out, a very green herb it was, not watercress, but it had a bunch of green leaves. And so soon as she brought it into the house, she fell as if dead and there she lay for two hours. And not long after that she died, but she cured the daughter, and it’s well I didn’t go to gather the herb, or it’s on me all the harm would have come.
I used to be gathering an herb one time for the Bishop that lived at Loughmore, dandelion it was. There are two sorts, the white that has no harm in it, that’s what I used to be gathering, and the red that has a pishogue in it, but I left that alone.

Old Heffernan:
The best herb-doctor I ever knew was Conolly up at Ballyturn. He knew every herb that grew in the earth. It was said that he was away with the faeries one time, and when I knew him he had the two thumbs turned in, and it was said that was the sign they left on him. I had a lump on the thigh one time and my father went to him, and he gave him an herb for it but he told him not to come into the house by the door the wind would be blowing in at. They thought it was the evil I had, that is given by them by a touch, and that is why he said about the wind, for if it was the evil, there would be a worm in it, and if it smelled the herb that was brought in at the door, it might change to another place. I don’t know what the herb was, but I would have been dead if I had it on another hour, it burned so much, and I had to get the lump lanced after, for it wasn’t the evil I had.
Conolly cured many a one. Jack Hall that fell into a pot of water they were after boiling potatoes in, and had the skin scalded off him and that Doctor Lynch could do nothing for, he cured.
He boiled down herbs with a bit of lard, and after that was rubbed on three times, he was well.
And Pat Cahel that was deaf, he cured with the rib-mas-seala, that herb in the potatoes that milk comes out of. His wife was against him doing the cures, she thought that it would fall on herself. And anyway, she died before him. But Connor at Oldtown gave up doing cures, and his stock began to die, and he couldn’t keep a pig, and all he had wasted away till he began to do them again; and his son does cures now, but I think it’s more with charms than with herbs.

John Phelan:
The bainne-bo-bliatain (wood anemone) is good for the headache, if you put the leaves of it on your head. But as for the lus-mor it’s best not to have anything to do with that.

Mrs. West:
Dandelion is good for the heart, and when Father Prendergast was curate here, he had it rooted up in all the fields about, to drink it, and see what a fine man he is. Garblus; how did you hear of that? That is the herb for things that have to do with the faeries. And when you’d drink it for anything of that sort, if it doesn’t cure you, it will kill you then and there. There was a fine young man I used to know and he got his death on the head of a pig that came at himself and another man at the gate of Ramore, and that never left them, but was at them all the time till they came to a stream of water. And when he got home, he took to his bed with a headache, and at last he was brought a drink of the garblus and no sooner did he drink it than he was dead. I remember him well. Biddy Early didn’t use herbs, but let people say what they like, she was a sure woman. There is something in flax, for no priest would anoint you without a bit of tow. And if a woman that was carrying was to put a basket of green flax on her back, the child would go from her, and if a mare that was in foal had a load of flax put on her, the foal would go the same way.

Mrs. Allen:
I don’t believe in faeries myself, I really don’t. But all the people in Kildare believe in them, and I’ll tell you what I saw there one time myself. There was a man had a splendid big white horse, and he was leading him along the road, and a woman, a next-door neighbour, got up on the wall and looked at him. And the horse fell down on his knees and began to shiver, and you’d think buckets of water were poured over him. And they led him home, but he was fit for nothing, and everyone was sorry for the poor man, and him being worth ninety pounds. And they sent to the Curragh and to every place for vets, but not one could do anything at all. And at last they sent up in to the mountains for a faery doctor, and he went into the stable and shut the door, and whatever he did there no one knows, but when he came out he said that the horse would get up on the ninth day, and be as well as ever. And so he did sure enough, but whether he kept well, I don’t know, for the man that owned him sold him the first minute he could. And they say that while the faery doctor was in the stable, the woman came to ask what was he doing, and he called from inside, “Keep her away, keep her away.” And a priest had lodgings in the house at the same time, and when the faery doctor saw him coming, “Let me out of this,” says he, and away with him as fast as he could. And all this I saw happen, but whether the horse only got a chill or not I don’t know.

James Mangan:
My mother learned cures from an Ulster woman, for the Ulster women are the best for cures; but I don’t know the half of them, and what I know I wouldn’t like to be talking about or doing, unless it might be for my own family. There’s a cure she had for the yellow jaundice; and it’s a long way from Ennistymon to Creevagh, but I saw a man come all that way to her, and he fainted when he sat down in the chair, he was so far gone. But she gave him a drink of it, and he came in a second time and she gave it again, and he didn’t come a third time for he didn’t want it. But I don’t mind if I tell you the cure and it is this: take a bit of the dirt of a dog that has been eating bones and meat, and put it on top of an oven till it’s as fine as powder and as white as flour, and then pound it up, and put it in a glass of whiskey, in a bottle, and if a man is not too far gone with jaundice, that will cure him.
There was one Carthy at Imlough did great cures with charms and his son can do them yet. He uses no herbs, but he’ll go down on his knees and he’ll say some words into a bit of unsalted butter, and what words he says, no one knows. There was a big man I know had a sore on his leg and the doctor couldn’t cure him, and Doctor Moran said a bit of the bone would have to come out. So at last he went to Jim Carthy and he told him to bring him a bit of unsalted butter the next Monday, or Thursday, or Saturday, for there’s a difference in days. And he would have to come three times, or if it was a bad case, he’d have to come nine times.

But I think it was after the third time that he got well, and now he is one of the head men in Persse’s Distillery in Galway.

A Slieve Echtge Woman:
The wild parsnip is good for gravel, and for heartbeat there’s nothing so good as dandel

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