Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.

lady-gregoryThe Fighting of the Friends

Lady Gregory’s Works:

“One time on Hy, one Brito of Columcille’s brotherhood was dying, and Columcille gave him his blessing but would not see him die, and went out into the little court of the house. And he had hardly gone out when the life went from Brito. And Columcille was out in the little court, and one of the monks saw him looking upward, and wonder on him, and he asked what was it he saw. And Columcille said, ‘I have seen just at this moment the holy angels fighting in the air against the power of the enemy, and I gave thanks to Christ, the Judge, because the winning angels have carried to heaven the soul of this stranger that is the first to have died among us in this island. And do not tell his secret to any person in my lifetime,’ he said.”
–“Saints and Wonders.”

“With that King Arthur entereth into a great forest adventurous, and rideth the day long until he cometh about evensong into the thick of the forest. And he espied a little house beside a little chapel, and it well seemed to him to be a hermitage… And it seemed to him that there was a strife in the chapel. The ones were weeping so tenderly and sweetly as it were angels, and the others spake so harshly as it were fiends …. The voices ceased as soon as he was within. He marvelleth how it came that this house and hermitage were solitary, and what had become of the hermit that dwelt therein. He drew nigh the altar of the chapel, and beheld in front thereof a coffin all discovered, and he saw the hermit lying therein all clad in his vestments, and his hands crossed upon his breast, and he had life in him yet, but he was nigh his end, being at the point of death … The King departed and so returned back into the little house, and sate him down on a seat whereon the hermit wont to sit. And he heareth the strife and the noise begin again within the chapel, and the ones he heareth speaking high and the others low, and he knoweth well by the voices that the ones are angels and the others devils. And he heareth that the devils are distraining on the hermit’s soul, and that judgment will presently be given in their favour, whereof make they great joy. King Arthur is grieved in his heart when he heareth that the angels’ voices are stilled. And while he sitteth thus, stooping his head toward the ground, full of vexation and d’scon tent, he heareth in the chapel the voice of a Lady that spake so sweet and clear that no man in this earthly world, were his grief and heaviness never so sore, but and he had heard the sweet voice of her pleading would again have been in joy… The devils go their way all discomfit and aggrieved; and the sweet Mother of our Lord God taketh the soul of the ……. And the angels take it and begin to sing for joy ‘Te Deum Laudamus.’ And the Holy Lady leadeth them and goeth her way along with them.”
–“The High History of the Holy Grail.” Translated by Sebastian Evans.

Before I had read this old story from “The High History of the Holy Grail” I had heard on our own roads of the fighting at the hour of death, and how the friends of the dying among the dead come and use their strength on his side, and I had been shown here and there a house where such a fight had taken place. In the old days it was a king or saint who saw and heard this unearthly battle; but now it is not those who live in palaces who are aware of it, and it is not around the roof of a fair chapel the hosts of good and evil gather in combat for the parting soul, but around the thatched and broken roof of the poor.

I was told by An Islander:

There are more of the Sheogue in America than what there are here, and more of other sort of spirits. There was a man from there told me that one night in America he had brought his wife’s niece that was sick back from the hospital, and had put her in an upper room. And in the evening they heard a scream from her and she called out “The room is full of them, and my father is with them, and my aunt.” And he drove them away and used the devil’s name and cursed them. And she was left quiet that night, but the next day she said “I’ll be destroyed altogether tonight with them.” And he said he’d keep them out, and he locked the door of the house. And towards midnight he heard them coming to the door and trying to get in, but he kept it locked and he called to them by way of the keyhole to keep away out of that. And there was talking among them, and the girl that was upstairs said that she could hear the laugh of her father and of her aunt. And they heard the greatest fighting among them that ever was, and after that they went away, and the girl got well. That’s what often happens, crying and fighting for one that’s sick or going to die.

Mrs. Meagher:

There was an old woman the other day was telling me of a little girl that was put to bake a cake, for her mother was sick in the room. And when she turned away her head for a minute the cake was gone. And that happened the second day and the third, and the mother was vexed when she heard it, thinking some of the neighbours had come and taken it away.
But the next day an old man appeared, and she knew he was the grandfather, and he said “It’s by me the cake was taken, for I was watching the house these three nights when I knew there was some one sick in it. And you never heard such a fight as there was for her last night, and they would have brought her away but for me that had my shoulder to the door.” And the woman began to recover from that time.

Tom Smith:

There does often be fighting when a person is dying. John Madden’s wife that lived in this house before I came to it, the night she died there was a noise heard, that all the village thought that every wall of every garden round about was falling down. But in the morning there was no sign of any of them being fallen.
And Hannay that lived at Caliir, the bonesetter, when I went to him one time told me that one night late he was walking the road near Ardrahan. And they heard a great noise of fighting in the castle he was passing by, and no one living in it and it open to the sky. And he turned in and was going up the stairs, and a lady in a white dress stopped him and wouldn’t let him pass up. But the next day he went to look and he found the floor all covered with blood.
And before John Casey’s death, John Leeson asked me one day were we fighting down at our place, for he heard a great noise of fighting the night before.

A Farmer:

As to fighting for those that are dying, I’d believe in that. There was a girl died not far from here, and the night of her death there was heard in the air the sound of an army marching, and the drurns beating, and it stopped over the house where she was lying sick. And they could see no one, but could hear the drums and the marching plain enough, and there were like little flames of lightning playing about it.
Did they fight for Johnny Casey? No, believe me it’s not among the faeries Johnny Casey is. Too old he is for them to want him among them, and too cranky.
I would hardly believe they’d take the old, but we can’t know what they might want of them. And it’s well to have a friend among them, and it’s always said you have no right to fret if your children die, for it’s well to have them there before you. And when a person is dying the friends and the others will often come about the house and will give a great challenge for him. They don’t want cross people, and they won’t take you if you say so much as one cross word. It’s only the good and the pious they want. Now isn’t that very good of them?


There was a young man I knew died, a fine young man, twenty-five years of age. He was seven or eight days ill, and the night he died they could hear fighting around the house, and they heard voices but they couldn’t know what they were saying. And in the morning the ground was all covered with blood.
When Connors the young policeman died, sure the mother said she never heard such fighting as went on within the house. And there was blood splashed high up on the walls. They never let on how he got the touch, but I suppose they knew it them-selves.

A Gatekeeper:

There was a girl near Westport was away, and the way it came on her was, she was on the road one day and two men passed her, and one of them said, “That’s a fine girl,” and the other said, “She belongs to my town,” and there and then she got a pain in her knee, and couldn’t walk home but had to be brought in a car. And she used to be away at night, and thorns in her feet in the morning, but she never said where she went. But one time the sister brought her to Kilfenora, and when they were crossing a bog near to there, she pointed out a house in the bog, and she said “It’s there I was last night.” And the sister asked did she know any one she saw in it, and she said “There was one I know, that is my mother’s cousin,” and she told her name. And she said “But for her they’d have me ill-treated, but she fought for me and saved me.” She was thought to be dying one time and given over, and my mother sent me to see her, and how was she. And she was lying on the bed and her eyes turned back, and she speechless, and I told my mother when I came home she hadn’t an hour to live. And the next day she was up and about and not a thing on her. It might be the mother’s cousin that fought for her again there. She went to America after.

An Aran Woman:

There’s often fighting heard about the house where one is sick, that is what we call “the fighting of the friends” for we believe it is the friends and the enemies of the sick person fighting for him.
I knew a house where there were a good many sleeping one night, and in the morning there was blood on the threshold, and the clothes of those that slept on the floor had blood on them. And it wasn’t long after that the woman of the house took sick and died.
One night there was one of the boys very sick within, and in the morning the grandmother said she heard a great noise of fighting in the night about the door. And she said: “If it hadn’t been for Michael and John being drowned, you’d have lost Martin last night. For they were there fighting for him; I heard them, and I saw the shadow of Michael, but when I turned to take hold of him he was gone.”

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.

lady-gregorySea Stories

Lady Gregory’s Works:

“The Celtic Twilight” was the first book of Mr. Yeats’s that I read, and even before I met him, a little time later, I had begun looking for news of the invisible world; for his stories were of Sligo and I felt jealous for Galway. This beginning of know-ledge was a great excitement to me, for though I had heard all my life some talk of the faeries and the banshee (have indeed reason to believe in this last), I had never thought of giving heed to what I, in common with my class, looked on as fancy or superstition. It was certainly because of this unbelief that I had been told so little about them. Even when I began to gather these stories, I eared less for the evidence given in them than for the beautiful rhythmic sentences in which they were told. I had no theories, no case to prove, I but “held up a clean mirror to tradition.”
It is hard to tell sometimes what has been a real vision and what is tradition, a legend hanging in the air, a “vanity” as our people call it, made use of by a story-teller here and there, or impressing itself as a real experience on some sensitive and imaginative mind. For tradition has a large place in “the Rook of the People” showing a sowing and re-sowing, a continuity and rebirth as in nature. “Those,” “The Others,” “The Fallen Angels” have some of the attributes of the gods of ancient Ireland; we may even go back yet farther to the early days of the world when the Sons of God mated with the Daughters of Men. I believe that if Christianity could be blotted out and forgotten tomorrow, our people would not be moved at all from the belief in a spiritual world and an unending life; it has been with them since the Druids taught what Lucan called “the happy error of the immortality of the soul” I think we found nothing so trivial in our search but it may have been worth the lifting; a clue, a thread, leading through the maze to that mountain top where things visible and invisible meet.
To gather folk-lore one needs, I think, leisure, patience, reverence, and a good memory. I tried not to change or alter anything, but to write down the very words in which the story had been told. Sometimes Mr. Yeats was with me at the telling; or I would take him to hear for himself something I had been told, that he might be sure I had missed or added nothing. I filled many copybooks, and came to have a very faithful memory for all sides of folk-lore, stories of saints, of heroes, of giants and enchanters, as well as for these visions. For this I have had to “pay the penalty” by losing in some measure that useful and practical side of memory that is concerned with names and dates and the multiplication table, and the numbers on friends’ houses in a street.
It was on the coast I began to gather these stories, and l went after a while to the islands Inishmor, Inishmaan, Inisheer, and so I give the sea-stories first.
I was told by:

A Man on the Height near Dun Conor:

   It’s said there’s everything in the sea the same as on the land, and we know there’s horses in it. This boy here saw a horse one time out in the sea, a grey one, swimming about. And there were three men from the north island caught a horse in their nets one night when they were fishing for mackerel, but they let it go; it would have broke the boat to bits if they had brought it in, and anyhow they thought it was best to leave it. One year at Kinvara, the people were missing their oats that was eaten in the fields, and they watched one night and it was five or six of the sea-horses they saw eating the oats, but they could not take them, they made off to the sea.
And there was a man on the north island fishing on the rocks one time, and a mermaid came up before him, and was partly like a fish and the rest like a woman. But he called to her in the name of God to be off, and she went and left him.
There was a boy was sent over here one morning early by a friend of mine on the other side of the island, to bring over some cattle that were in a field he had here, and it was before daylight, and he came to the door crying, and said he heard thirty horses or more galloping over the roads there, where you’d think no horse could go.
Surely those things are on the sea as well as on the land. My father was out fishing one night off Tyrone and something came beside the boat, that had eyes shining like candles. And then a wave came in, and a storm rose of a moment, and whatever was in the wave, the weight of it had like to sink the boat. And then they saw that it was a woman in the sea that had the shining eyes. So my father went to the priest, and he bid him always to take a drop of holy water and a pinch of salt out in the boat with him, and nothing would harm him.

A Galway Bay Lobster-Seller:

   They are on the sea as well as on the land, and their boats are often to be seen on the bay sailing boats and others. They look like our own, but when you come near them they are gone in an instant [1].
My mother one time thought she saw our own boat come in to the pier with my father and two other men in it, and she got the supper ready, but when she went down to the pier and called them there was nothing there, and the boat didn’t come in till two hours after.
There were three or four men went out one day to fish, and it was a dead calm; but all of a sudden they heard a blast and they looked, and within about three mile of the boat they saw twelve men from the waist, the rest of them was under water. And they had sticks in their hands and were striking one another. And where they were, and the blast, it was rough, but smooth and calm on each side.
There’s a sort of a light on the sea sometimes; some call it a “Jack O’Lantern”  and some say it is sent by them to mislead them.
There’s many of them out in the sea, and often they pull the boats down. It’s about two years since four fishermen went out from Aran, two fathers and two sons, where they saw a big ship corning in and flying the flag for a pilot, and they thought she wanted to be brought in to Galway. And when they got near the ship, it faded away to nothing and the boat turned over and they were all four drowned.
There were two brothers of my own went to fish for the herrings, and what they brought up was like the print of a cat, and it turned with the inside of the skin outside, and no hair. So they pulled up the nets, and fished no more that day. There was one of them lying on the strand here, and some of the men of the village came down of a sudden and surprised him. And when he saw he was taken he began a great crying. But they only lifted him down to the sea and put him back into it. Just like a man they said he was. And a little way out there was another just like him, and when he saw that they treated the one on shore so kindly, he bowed his head as if to thank them.
Whatever’s on the land, there’s the same in the sea, and between the islands of Aran they can often see the horses galloping about at the bottom.
There was a sort of a big eel used to be in Tully churchyard, used to come and to root up the bodies, but I didn’t hear of him of late–he may be done away with now.
There was one Curran told me one night he went down to the strand where he used to be watching for timber thrown up and the like. And on the strand, on the dry sands, he saw a boat, a grand one with sails spread and all, and it up farther than any tide had ever reached. And he saw a great many people round about it, and it was all lighted up with lights. And he got afraid and went away. And four hours after, after sunrise, he went there again to look at it, and there was no sign of it, or of any fire, or of any other thing. The Mara-warra (mermaid) was seen on the shore not long ago, combing out her hair. She had no fish’s tail, but was like another woman.

John Corley:

   There is no luck if you meet a mermaid and you out at sea, but storms will come, or some ill will happen.
There was a ship on the way to America, and a mermaid was seen following it, and the bad weather began to come. And the captain said, “It must be some man in the ship she’s following, and if we knew which one it was, we’d put him out to her and save ourselves.” So they drew lots, and the lot fell on one man, and then the captain was sorry for him, and said he’d give him a chance till tomorrow. And the next day she was following them still, and they drew lots again, and the lot fell on the same man. But the captain said he’d give him a third chance, but the third day the lot fell on him again. And when they were going to throw him out he said, “Let me alone for a while.” And he went to the end of the ship and he began to sing a song in Irish, and when he sang, the mermaid began to be quiet and to rock like as if she was asleep. So he went on singing till they came to America, and just as they got to the land the ship was thrown up into the air, and came down on the water again. There’s a man told me that was surely true.
And there was a boy saw a mermaid down by Spiddal not long ago, but he saw her before she saw him, so she did him no harm. But if she’d seen him first, she’d have brought him away and drowned him.
Sometimes a light will come on the sea before the boats to guide them to the land. And my own brother told me one day he was out and a storm came on of a sudden, and the sail of the boat was let down as quick and as well as if two men were in it. Some neighbour or friend it must have been that did that for him. Those that go down to the sea after the tide going out, to cut the weed, often hear under the sand the sound of the milk being churned. There’s some didn’t believe that till they heard it themselves.

A Man from Roundstone:

   One night I was out on the boat with another man, and we saw a big ship near us with about twenty lights. She was as close to us as that rock (about thirty yards), but we saw no one on board. And she was like some of the French ships that sometimes come to Galway. She went on near us for a while, and then she turned towards the shore and then we knew that she was not a right ship. And she went straight on to the land, and when she touched it, the lights went out and we saw her no more.
There was a comrade of mine was out one night, and a ship came after him, with lights, and she full of people. And as they drew near the land, he heard them shouting at him and he got afraid, and he went down and got a coal of fire and threw it at the ship, and in a minute it was gone.

A Schoolmaster:

   A boy told me last night of two men that went with poteen to the Island of Aran. And when they were on the shore they saw a ship coming as if to land, and they said, “We’ll have the bottle ready for those that are coming.” But when the ship came close to the land, it vanished. And presently they got their boat ready and put to sea. And a sudden blast came and swept one of them off. And the other saw him come up again, and put out the oar across his breast for him to take hold of it. But he would not take it but said, “I’m all right again now,” and sank down again and was never seen no more.

John Nagle:

   For one there’s on the land there’s ten on the sea. When I lived at Ardfry there was never a night but there was a voice heard crying and roaring, by them that were out in the bay. A baker he was from Loughrea, used to give short weight and measure, and so he was put there for a punishment.
I saw a ship that was having a race with another go suddenly down into the sea, and no one could tell why. And afterwards one of the Government divers was sent down to look for her, and he told me he’d never as long as he’d live go down again, for there at the bottom he found her, and the captain and the saloon passengers, and all sitting at the table and eating their dinner, just as they did before.

A Little Girl:

   One time a woman followed a boat from Galway twenty miles out, and when they saw that she was some bad thing, wanting some of them, they drowned her.

Mrs. Casey:

   I was at home and I got some stories from a man I had suspected of having newses. And he told me that when he was a youngster he was at a height where there used to be a great many of them. And all of a sudden he saw them fly out to where a boat was coming from Duras with seaweed. And they went in two flights, and so fast that they swept the water away from each side the boat, and it was left on the sand, and this they did over and over, just to be humbugging the man in the boat, and he was kept there a long time. When they first rose up, they were like clouds of dust, but with all sorts of colours, and then he saw their faces turned, but they kept changing colour every minute. Laughing and humbugging they seemed to be.
My uncle that used to go out fishing for mackerel told me that one night some sort of a monster came under the boat and it wasn’t a fish, and it had them near upset

At an evening gathering in Inishmaan, by a Son of the House:

   There was a man on this island was down on the beach one evening with his dog, and some black thing came up out of the sea, and the dog made for it and began to fight it. And the man began to run home and he called the dog, and it followed him, but every now and again it would stop and begin to fight again. And when he got to the house he called the dog in and shut the door, and whatever was outside began hitting against the door but it didn’t get in. But the dog went in under the bed in the room, and before morning it was dead.

The Man of the House:

   A horse I’ve seen myself on the sea and on the rocks–a brown one, just like another. And I threw a stone at it, and it was gone in a minute. We often heard there was fighting amongst these. And one morning before daybreak I went down to the strand with some others, and the whole of the strand, and it low tide, was covered with blood.

Colman Kane:

   I knew a woman on this island and she and her daughter went down to the strand one morning to pick weed, and a wave came and took the daughter away. And a week after that, the mother saw her coming to the house, but she didn’t speak to her.
There was a man coming from Galway here and he had no boatman. And on the way he saw a man that was behind him in the boat, that was putting up the sail and taking the management of everything, and he spoke no word. And he was with him all the way, but when the boat came to land, he was gone, and the man isn’t sure, but he thinks it was his brother.
You see that sand below on the south side. When the men are out with the mackerel boats at early morning, they often see those sands covered with boys and girls.
There were some men out fishing in the bay one time, and a man came and held on to the boat, and wanted them to make room for him to get in, and after a time he left them. He was one of those. And there was another of them came up on the rocks one day, and called out to Martin Flaherty that was going out and asked what was his name.
There’s said to be another island out there that’s enchanted, and there are some that see it. And it’s said that a fisherman landed on it one time, and he saw a little house, and he went in, and a very nice-looking young woman came out and said, “What will you say to me?” and he said, “You are a very nice lady.” And a second came and asked him the same thing and a third, and he made the same answer. And after that they said, “You’d best run of your life,” and so he did, and his curragh was floating along and he had but just time to get into it, and the island was gone. But if he had said “God bless you,” the island would have been saved.

A Fisherman on Kilronan Pier:

   I don’t give in to these things myself, but they’d make you believe them in the middle island. Mangan, that I lodged with there, told me of seeing a ship when he was out with two other men, that followed them and vanished. And he said one of the men took to his bed from that time and died. And Doran told me about the horse he saw, that was in every way like a horse you’d see on land. And a man on the south island told me how he saw a calf one morning on the strand, and he thought it belonged to a neighbour, and was going to drive it up to his field, when its mother appeared on the sea, and it went off to her.
They are in the sea as well as on the land. That is well known by those that are out fishing by the coast. When the weather is calm, they can look down sometimes and see cattle and pigs and all such things as we have ourselves. And at nights their boats come out and they can be seen fishing, but they never last out after one o’clock.
The cock always crows on the first of March every year at one o’clock. And there was a man brought a cock out with him in his boat to try them. And the first time when it crowed they all vanished. That is how they were detected.
There are more of them in the sea than on the land, and they sometimes try to come over the side of the boat in the form of fishes, for they can take their choice shape.

Pat O’Hagan:

   There was two fine young women–red-haired women–died in my village about six months ago. And I believe they’re living yet. And there are some have seen them appear. All I ever saw myself was one day I was out fishing with two others, and we saw a canoe coming near us, and we were afraid it would come near enough to take away our fish. And as we looked it turned into a three-masted ship, and people in it. I could see them well, dark-coloured and dressed like sailors. But it went away and did us no harm.
One night I was going down to the curragh, and it was a night in harvest, and the stars shining, and I saw a ship fully rigged going towards the coast of Clare where no ship could go. And when I looked again, she was gone.
And one morning early, I and other men that were with me, and one of them a friend of the man here, saw a ship coming to the island, and he thought she wanted a pilot, and put out in the curragh. But when we got to where she was, there was no sign of her, but where she was the water was covered with black gulls, and I never saw a black gull before, thousands and crowds of them, and not one white bird among them. And one of the boys that was with me took a tarpin and threw it at one of the gulls and hit it on the head, and when he did, the curragh went down to the rowlocks in the water-up to that-and it’s nothing but a miracle she ever came up again, but we got back to land. I never went to a ship again, for the people said it was on account of me helping in the Preventive Service it happened, and that if I’d hit at one of the gulls myself, there would have been a bad chance for us. But those were no right gulls, and the ship was no living ship.

The Old Man in the Kitchen:

   It’s in the middle island the most of them are, and I’ll tell you a thing that I know of myself that happened not long ago. There was a young girl, and one evening she was missing, and they made search for her everywhere and they thought that she was drowned or that she had gone away with some man. And in the evening of the next day there was a boy out in a curragh, and as he passed by a rock that is out in the sea there was the girl on it, and he brought her off. And surely she could not go there by herself. I suppose she wasn’t able to give much account of it, and now she’s after going to America.
And in Aran there were three boys and their uncle went out to a ship they saw coming, to pilot her into the bay. But when they got to where she was, there was no ship, and a sea broke over the canoe, and they were drowned, all fine strong men. But a man they had with them that was no use or of no account, he came safe to land. And I know a man in this island saw curraghs and curraghs full of people about the island of a Sunday morning early, but I never saw them myself. And one Sunday morning in my time there were scores and scores lying their length by the sea on the sand below, and they saw a woman in the sea, up to her waist, and she racking her hair and settling herself and as clean and as nice as if she was on land. Scores of them saw that.
There’s a house up there where the family have to leave a plate of potatoes ready every night, and all’s gone in the morning.
They are said to have all things the same as ourselves under the sea, and one day a cow was seen swimming as if for the headland, but before she got to it she turned another way and went down. And one time I got a small muc-warra (porpoise) and I went to cut it up to get what was good of it, for it had about two inches of fat, and when I cut it open the heart and the liver and every bit of it were for all the world like a pig you would cut up on land.
There’s a house in the village close by this that’s haunted. My sister was sitting near it one day, and it empty and locked, and some other little girls, and they heard a noise in it, and at the same time the flags they were sitting on grew red-hot, that they had to leave them. And another time the woman of the house was sick, and a little girl that was sitting by the fire in the kitchen saw standing in the door the sister of the woman that was sick, and she a good while dead, and she put up her arm, as if to tell her not to notice her. And the poor woman of that house, she had no luck, nothing but miscarriages or dead babies. And one child lived to be nine months old, and there was less flesh on it at the end of the nine months than there was the day it was born. She has a little girl now that’s near a year old, but her arm isn’t the size of that, and she’s crabbed and not like a child as she should be. Many a one that’s long married without having a child goes to the fortune-teller in Galway, and those that think anything of themselves go to Roundstone.

A Man near Loughmore:

   I know a woman was washed and laid out, and it went so far that two half-penny candles were burned over her. And then she sat up, came back again, and spoke to her husband, and told him how to divide his property, and to manage the children well. And her step-son began to question her, and he might have got a lot out of her but her own son stopped him and said to let her alone. And then she turned over on her side and died. She was not to say an old woman. It’s not often the old are taken. What use would there be for them? But a woman to be taken young, you know there’s demand for her. It’s the people in the middle island know about these things. There were three boys from there lost in a curragh at the point near the lighthouse, and for long after their friends were tormented when they came there fishing, and they would see ships there when the people of this island that were out at the same time couldn’t see them. There were three or four out in a curragh near the lighthouse, and a conger-eel came and upset it, and they were all saved but one, but he was brought down and for the whole day they could hear him crying and screeching under the sea. And they were not the only ones, but a fisherman that was there from Galway had to go away and leave it, because of the screeching.
There was a coast-guard’s wife there was all but gone, but she was saved after. And there’s a boy here now was for a long time that they’d give the world he was gone altogether, with the state he was in, and now he’s as strong as any boy in the island; and if ever any one was away and came back again, it was him. Children used often to be taken, but there’s a great many charms in use in these days that saves them. A big sewing-needle you’ll see the woman looking for to put back again into the world before they die in the place of some young person. And even a beast of any consequence if anything happens to it, no one in the island would taste it; there might be something in it, some old woman or the like.
There were a few young men from here were kept in Galway for a day, and they went to a woman there that works the cards. And she told them of deaths that would come in certain families. And it wasn’t a fortnight after that five boys were out there, just where you see the curragh now, and they were upset and every one drowned, and they were of the families that she had named on the cards.
My uncle told me that one night they were all up at that house up the road, making a match for his sister, and they stopped till near morning, and when they went out, they all had a drop taken. And he was going along home with two or three others and one of them, Michael Flaherty, said he saw people on the shore. And another of them said that there were not, and my uncle said, “If Flaherty said that and it not true, we have a right to bite the ear off him, and it would be no harm.” And then they parted, and my uncle had to pass by the beach, and then he saw whole companies of people coming up from the sea, that he didn’t know how he’d get through them, but they opened before him and let him pass.
There were men going to Galway with cattle one morning from the beach down there, and they saw a man up to his middle in the sea-all of them saw it.
There was a man was down early for lobsters on the shore at the middle island, and he saw a horse up to its middle in the sea, and bowing its head down as if to drink. And after he had watched it awhile it disappeared.
There was a woman walking over by the north shore-God have mercy on her-she’s dead since-and she looked out and saw an island in the sea, and she was a long time looking at it. It’s known to be there, and to be enchanted, but only few can see it.
There was a man had his horse drawing seaweed up there on the rocks, the way you see them drawing it every day, in a basket on the mare’s back. And on this day every time he put the load on, the mare would let its leg slip and it would come down again, and he was vexed and he bad a stick in his hand and he gave the mare a heavy blow. And that night she had a foal that was dead, not come to its full growth, and it had spots over it, and every spot was of a different colour. And there was no sire on the island at that time, so whatever was the sire must have come up from the sea.

A Man Watching the Weed-gatherers:

   There’s no doubt at all about the sea-horses. There was a man out at the other side of the island, and he saw one standing on the rocks and he threw a stone at it and it went off in the sea. He said it was grand to see it swimming, and the mane and the tail floating on the top of the water.

A Woman from the Connemara Side:

   I was told there was a mare that had a foal, and it had never had a horse. And one day the mare and foal were down by the sea, and a horse put up its head and neighed, and away went the foal to it and came back no more.
And there was a man on this island watched his field one night where he thought the neighbours’ cattle were eating his grass, and what he saw was horses and foals coming up from the sea. And he caught a foal and kept it, and set it racing, and no horse or no pony could ever come near it, till one day the race was on the strand, and away with it into the sea, and the jockey along with it, and they never were seen again.

Mrs O’Dea and Mrs. Daly:

   There was a cow seen come up out of the sea one day and it walked across the strand, and its udder like as if it had been lately milked. And Tommy Donohue was running up to tell his father to come down and see it, and when he looked back it was gone out to sea again.
There was a man here was going to build a new house, and he brought a wise woman to see would it be in the right place. And she made five heaps of stones in five places, and said, “Whatever heap isn’t knocked in the night, build it there.” And in the morning all the heaps were knocked but one, and so he built it there [9].
One time I was out over by that island with another man, and we saw three women standing by the shore, beating clothes with a beetle. And while we looked, they vanished, and then we heard the cry of a child passing over our heads twenty feet in the air.
I know they go out fishing like ourselves, for Father Mahony told me so; and one night I was out myself with my brother, beyond where that ship is, and we heard talk going on, so we knew that a boat was near, and we called out to let them know we heard them, and then we saw the boat and it was just like any other one, and the talk went on, but we couldn’t understand what they were saying. And then I turned to light my pipe, and while I lighted it, the boat and all in it were gone.

Mrs. Casey:

   I got a story from an old man down by the sea at Tyrone. He says there was a man went down one night to move his boat from the shore where it was to the pier. And when he had put out, he found it was going out to sea, instead of to touch the pier, and he felt it very heavy in the water, and he looked behind him and there on the back of the boat were six men in shiny black clothes like sailors, and there was one like a harvest-man dressed in white flannel with a belt round his waist. And he asked what they were doing, and the man in white said he had brought the others out to make away with them there, and he took and cut their bodies in two and threw them one by one over the boat, and then he threw himself after them into the sea. And the boat went under water too, and the poor man himself lost his wits, but it came up again and he said he had never seen as many people as he did in that minute under the water. And then he got home and left the boat, and in the morning he came down to it, and there was blood in it; and first he washed it and then he painted it, but for all he could do, he couldn’t get rid of the blood.

Peter Donohue:

   There was a woman, a friend of this man’s, living out in the middle island, and one day she came down to where a man of this island was putting out his curragh to come back, and she said, “I just saw a great crowd of them–that’s the Sheogue–going over to your island like a cloud.” And when he got home he went up to a house there beyond, where the old woman used to be selling poteen on the sly. And while he was there her little boy came running in and cried, “Hide away the poteen, for the police are on the island! Such a man called to me from his curragh to give warning, for he saw the road full of them with the crowd of them and they with their guns and cutlasses and all the rest.” But the man was in the house first knew well what it was, after what he heard from the woman on the other island, and that they were no right police, and sure enough no other one ever saw them. And that same day, my mother had put out wool to dry in front of where that house is with the three chimneys, near the Chapel. And I was there talking to some man, one on each side of the yard, and the wall between us. And the day was as fine as this day is and finer, and not a breath of air stirring. And a woman that lived near by had her wool out drying too. And the wool that was in my mother’s yard began to rise up, as if something was under it, and I called to the other man to help me to hold it down, but for all we could do it went up in the air, a hundred feet and more, till we could see it no more. And after a couple of hours it began to drop again) like snow, some on the thatch and some on the rocks and some in the gardens. And I think it was a fortnight before my mother had done gathering it. And one day she was spinning it, I don’t know what put it in my mind, but I asked her did she lose much of that wool. And what she said was, “If I didn’t get more than my own, I didn’t get less.” That’s true and no lie, for I never told a lie in my life-I think. But the wool belonging to the neighbouring woman was never stirred at all.
And the woman that had the wool that wasn’t stirred, she is the woman I married after, and that’s now my wife.
There was a man, one Power, died in this island, and one night that was bright there was a friend of his going out for mackerel, and he saw these sands full of people hurling, and he well knew Power’s voice that he heard among them.
There was a cousin of my own built a new house, and when they were first in it and sitting round the fire, the woman of the house that was singing for them saw a great blot of blood come down the chimney on to the floor, and they thought there would be no luck in the house and that it was a wrong place. But they had nothing but good luck ever after.

Peter Dolan:

   There was a man that died in the middle island, that had two wives. And one day he was out in the curragh he saw the first wife appear. And after that one time the son of the second wife was sick, and the little girl, the first wife’s daughter, was out tending cattle, and a can of water with her and she had a waistcoat of her father’s put about her body, where it was cold. And her mother appeared to her in the form of a sheep, and spoke to her, and told her what herbs to find, to cure the step-brother, and sure enough they cured him. And she bid her leave the waistcoat there and the can, and she did. And in the morning the waistcoat was folded there, and the can standing on it. And she appeared to her in her own shape another time, after that. Why she came like a sheep the first time was that she wouldn’t be frightened. The girl is in America now, and so is the stepbrother got well .

A Galway Woman:

   One time myself, I was up at the well beyond, and looking into it, a very fine day, and no breath of air stirring, and the stooks were ripe standing about me. And all in a minute a noise began in them, and they were like as if knocking at each other and fighting like soldiers all about me.

Mary Moran:

   There was a girl here that had been to America and came back, and one day she was coming over from Liscannor in a curragh, and she looked back and there behind the curragh was the “Gan ceann” the headless one. And he followed the boat a great way, but she said nothing. But a gold pin that was in her hair fell out, and into the sea, that she had brought from America, and then it disappeared. And her sister was always asking her where was the pin she brought from America, and she was afraid to say. But at last she told her, and the sister said, “It’s well for you it fell out, for what was following you would never have left you, till you threw it a ring or something made of gold.” It was the sister herself that told me this.
Up in the village beyond they think a great deal of these things and they won’t part with a drop of milk on May Eve, and last Saturday week that was May Eve there was a poor woman dying up there, and she had no milk of her own, and as is the custom, she went out to get a drop from one or other of the neighbours. But not one would give it because it was May Eve. I declare I cried when I heard it, for the poor woman died on the second day after.
And when my sister was going to America she went on the first of May and we had a farewell party the night before, and in the night a little girl that was there saw a woman from that village go out, and she watched her, and saw her walk round a neighbour’s house, and pick some straw from the roof.
And she told of it, and it happened a child had died in that house and the father said the woman must have had a hand in it, and there was no good feeling to her for a long while. Her own husband is lying sick now, so I hear.

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.

lady-gregoryLady Gregory’s Work’s

Monsters and Sheoguey Beasts

The Dragon that was the monster of the early world now appears only in the traditional folktales, where the hero, a new Perseus, fights for the life of the Princess who looks on ciyjng at the brink of the sea, bound to a silver chair, while the Dragon is “put in a way he will eat no more kings’ daughters.” in the stories of today he has shrunk to eel or worm, for the persons and properties of the folklore of all countries keep being trans-formed or remade in the imagination, so that once in New England on the eve of George Washington’s birthday, the decorated shop windows set me wondering whether the cherry tree itself might not be a remaking of the red-berried dragon guarded rowan of the Celtic tales, or it may be of a yet more ancient apple. I ventured to hint at this in a lecture at Philadelphia, and next day one of the audience wrote me that he had looked through all the early biographies of Washington, and either the first three or the first three editions of the earliest–I have mislaid the letter–never mention the cherry tree at all. The monstrous beasts told of today recall the visions of Maeldune on his strange dream-voyage, where he saw the beast that was like a horse and that had “legs of a hound with rough sharp nails,” and the fiery pigs that fed on golden fruit, and the cat that with one flaming leap turned a thief to a heap of ashes; for the folk-tales of the world have long roots, and there is nothing new save their reblossoming.

I have been told by a Car-driver:

I went to serve one Patterson at a place called Grace Dieu between Waterford and Tramore, and there were queer things in it There was a woman lived at the lodge the other side from the gate, and one day she was looking out and she saw a wool-pack coming riding down the road of itself.
There was a room over the stable I was put to sleep in, and no one near me. One night I felt a great weight on my feet, and there was something very weighty coming up upon my body and I heard heavy breathing. Every night after that I used to light the fire and bring up coal and make up the fire with it that it would be near as good in the morning as it was at night. And I brought a good terrier up every night to sleep with me on the bed. Well, one night the fire was lighting and the moon was shining in at the window, and the terrier leaped off the bed and he was barking and rushing and fighting and leaping, near to the ceiling and in tinder the bed. And I could see the shadow of him on the walls and on the ceiling, and I could see the shadow of another thing that was about two foot long and that had a head like a pike, and that was fighting and leaping. They stopped after a while and all was quiet. But from that night the terrier never would come to sleep in the room again.

By Others:

The worst form a monster can take is a cow or a pig. But as to a lamb, you may always be sure a lamb is honest.
A pig is the worst shape they can take. I wouldn’t like to meet anything in the shape of a pig in the night.
No, I saw nothing myself, I’m not one of those that can see such things; but I heard of a man that went with the others on rent day, and because he could pay no rent but only made excuses, the landlord didn’t ask him in to get a drink with the others. So as he was coming home by himself in the dark, there was something on the road before him, and he gave it a hit with the toe of his boot, and it let a squeal. So then he said to it, “Come in here to my house, for I’m not asked to drink with them; I’ll give drink and food to you.” So it came in, and the next morning he found by the door a barrel full of wine and another full of gold, and he never knew a day’s want after that.
Walking home one night with Jack Costello, there was some-thing before us that gave a roar, and then it rose in the air like a goose, and then it fell again. And Jackeen told me after that it had laid hold on his trousers, and he didn’t sleep all night with the fright he got.
There’s a monster in Lough Graney, but it’s only seen once in seven years.

* * *
There is a monster of some sort down by Duras, it’s called the ghost of Fiddeen. Some say it’s only heard every seven years. Some say it was a flannel seller used to live there that had a short fardel. We heard it here one night, like a calf roaring.
One night my grandfather was beyond at Inchy where the lads from Gort used to be stealing rods, and he was sitting by the wall, and the dog beside him. And he heard something come running from Inchy Weir and he could see nothing, but the sound of its feet on the ground was like the sound of the feet of a deer. And when it passed by him the dog got in between him and the wall and scratched at him, but still he could see nothing but only could hear the sound of hoofs. So when it was passed he turned away home.
Another time, my grandfather told me, he was in a boat out on the lake here at Coole with two or three men from Gort. And one of them had an eel-spear and he thrust it into the water and it hit something, and the man fainted, and they had to carry him in out of the boat to land. And when he came to himself he said that what he struck was like a horse or like a calf, but whatever it was, it was no fish.
There is a boy I knew, one Curtin near Ballinderreen, told me that he was going along the road one night and he saw a dog. It had claws like a cur, and a body like a person, and he couldn’t see what its head was like. But it was moaning like a soul in pain, and presently it vanished, and there came most beautiful music, and a woman came out and he thought at first it was the Banshee, and she wearing a red petticoat. And a striped jacket she had on, and a white band about her waist. And to hear more beautiful singing and music he never did, but to know or to understand what she was expressing, he couldn’t do it. And at last they came to a place by the roadside where there was some bushes. And she went in there and disappeared under them, and the most beautiful lights came shining where she went in. And when he got home, he himself fainted, and his mother put her beads over him, and blessed him and said prayers. So he got quiet at last.
I would easily believe about the dog having a fight with something his owner couldn’t see. That often happens in this island, and that’s why every man likes to have a black dog with him at night–a black one is the best for fighting such things.
And a black cock everyone likes to have in their house–a March cock it should be.
I knew the captain of a ship used to go whale fishing, and he said he saw them by scores. But by his account they were no way like the ones McDaragh saw; it–was I described them to him.
We don’t give in to such things here as they do in the middle island; but I wouldn’t doubt that about the dog. For they can see what we can’t see. And there was a man here was out one night and the dog ran on and attacked something that was in front of him–a faery it was–but he could see nothing. And every now and again it would do the same thing, and seemed to be fighting something before him, and when they got home the man got safe into the house, but at the threshold the dog was killed.
And a horse can see many things, and if ever you’re out late, and the horse to stop as if there was something he wouldn’t pass, make the sign of the cross between his ears, and he’ll go on then. And it’s well to have a cock always in the house, if you can have it from a March clutch, and the next year if you can have another cock from a March clutch from that one, it’s the best. And if you go late out of the house, and that there is something outside it would be bad to meet, that cock will crow before you’ll go out.
I’m sorry I wasn’t in to meet you surely, knowing as much as I do about the faeries. One night I went with four or five others down by the mill to hunt rabbits. And when we got to the field by the river there was the sound of hundreds, some crying and the other part laughing, that we all heard them. And something came down to the river, first I thought he was a dog and then I saw he was too big and strange looking. And you’d think there wouldn’t be a drop of water left in the river with all he drank. An dl bid the others say nothing about it, for Patrick Green was lying sick at the mill, and it might be taken for a bad sign. And it wasn’t many days after that he died.
My father told me that one night he was crossing this road, he turned to the wall to close his shoe. And when he turned again there was something running through the field that was the size of a yearling calf, and black, and it ran across the road, and there was like the sound of chains in it. And when it came to that rock with the bush on it, it stopped and he could see a red light in its mouth. And then it disappeared. He used often to see a black dog in this road, and it used to be following him, and others saw it too. But one night the brother of the priest, Father Mitchell saw it and he told the priest and he banished it.
The lake down there (Lough Graney) is an enchanted place, and old people told me that one time they were swimming there, and a man had gone out into the middle and they saw something like a great big eel making for him, and they called out, “If ever you were a great swimmer show us now how you can swim to the shore,” for they wouldn’t frighten him by saying what was behind him. So he swam to the shore, and he only got there when the thing behind him was in the place where he was. For there are queer things in lakes. I never saw anything myself, but one time I was coming home late from Scariff, and I felt my hair standing up on my head, and I began to feel a sort of shy and fearful, and I could feel that there was something walking beside me. But after a while there was a little stream across the road, and after I passed that I was all right again and could feel nothing near.
I never saw anything myself but once, early in the morning and I going to the May fair of Loughrea. It was a little way outside of the town I saw something that had the appearance of a black pig, and it was running in under the cart and under the ass’s feet. And the ass would keep backing away from it, that it was hardly I could bring her along, till we got to the bridge of Cloon, and once we were over that we saw it no more, for it couldn’t pass the running water. And all the time it was with us I was hitting at it with my stick, and it would run from me then, for it was a hazel stick, and the hazel is blessed, and no wicked thing can stay when it is touched with it. It is likely the nuts are blessed too. Aren’t they growing on the same tree?
I was over at Phayre’s mill one time to get some boards sawed and they said l must wait an hour or so, where the mill wasn’t free. And I had a load of turf to get, and I went along the road. And I heard something coming after me in the gutter, and it stood up over me like an elephant, and I put my hands behind me and I said, “Madad Fior,” and he went away. It was just at the bridge he was, near Kilchriest, and when I was coming back after a while, just when I got to the bridge there, he was after me again. But I never saw him since then.
One time I was at the fair at Ballinasloe, and I but a young lad at the time, and a comrade with me that was but a young lad too. We brought in the sheep the Monday evening, and they were sold the Tuesday morning, and the master bid us to go home on the train. “Bad cess,” said my comrade, “are we to get no good at all out of the fair? Let us stop,” says he, “and get the good of it and go back by the mail train.” So we went through the fair together and went to a dance, and the master never knew, and we went home on the mail train together. We got out at Woodlawn and we were going home, and we heard a sort of a groaning and we could see nothing, and the boy that was ‘with me was frightened, for though he was a strong boy, he was a timorous man. We found then the groaning coming from beyond the wall, and I went and put my two fists on the wall and looked over it. There were two trees on the other side of the wall, and I saw walking off and down from one tree to the other, something that was like a soldier or a sentry. The body was a man’s body, and there was a black suit on it, but it had the head of a bear, the very head and puss of a bear. I asked what was on him. “Don’t speak to me, don’t speak to me,” he said, and he stopped by the tree and was groaning and went away.
That is all that ever I saw, and I herding sheep in the lambing season, and falling asleep as I did sometimes, and walking up and down the field in my sleep.
My father told me that in the bad times, about the year ’48, he used to be watching about in the fields, where the people did be stealing the crops. And there was no field in Coole he was afraid to go into by night except one, that is number three in the Lake Farm. For the dog that was about in those times stopped the night in the clump there. And Johnny Callan told me one night passing that field he heard the noise of a cart of stones thrown against the wall. But when he went back there in the morning there was no sign of anything at all. My father never saw the dog himself but he was known to be there and he felt him.
And as for the monster, I never saw it in Coole Lake, but one day I was coming home with my twobrothers from Tirneevan school, and there as we passed Dhulough we heard a great splashing, and we saw some creature put up its head, with a head and a mane like a horse. And we didn’t stop but ran.
But I think it was not so big as the monster over here in Coole Lake, for Johnny Callan saw it) and he said it was the size of a stack of turf. But there’s many could tell about that for there’s many saw it, Dougherty from Gort and others.
As to the dog that used to be in the road, a friend of his own was driving Father Boyle from Kinvara late one night and there it was–first on the right side and then on the left of the car. And at last he told Father Boyle, and he said. “Look out now for it, and you’ll see it no more,” and no more he did, and that was the last of it.
But the driver of the mail-car had often seen a figure of a woman following the car till it came to the churchyard beyond Ardrahan, and there it disappeared.
Father Boyle was a good man indeed–a child might speak to him. They said he had the dog or whatever it may be banished from the road, but of late I heard the driver of the mail-car saying he sees it on one spot on the road every night. And there’s a very lonely hollow beyond Doran’s house, and I know a man that never passed by that hollow but what he’d fall asleep. But one night he saw a sort of a muffled figure and he cried out three times some good wish-such as “God have mercy on you”-and then it gave a great laugh and vanished and he saw it no more. As to the forths or other old places, how do we know what poor soul may be shut up there, confined in pain?
Sure a man the other day coming back from your own place, Inchy, when he came to the big tree, heard a squealing, and there he saw a sort of a dog, and it white, and it followed as if holding on to him all the way home. And when he got to the house he near fainted, and asked for a glass of water.
There’s some sort of a monster at Tyrone, rising and slipping up and down in the sun, and when it cries, some one will be sure to die.
I didn’t believe in them myself till one night I was coming home from a wedding, and standing on the road beside me I saw John Kelly’s donkey that he always used to call Neddy. So he was standing in my way and I gave a blow at him and said, “Get out of that, Neddy.” And he moved off only to come across me again, and to stop me from going in. And so he did all the way, till as I was going by a bit of wood I heard come out of it two of the clearest laughs that ever you heard, and then two sorts of shouts. So I knew that it was having fun with me they were, and that it was not Neddy was there, but his likeness.
I knew a priest was stopped on the road one night by something in the shape of a big dog, and he couldn’t make the horse pass it.
One night I saw the dog myself, in the boreen near my house. And that was a bad bit of road, two or three were killed there.
And one night I was between Kiltartan Chapel and Nolan’s gate where I had some sheep to look after for the priest. And the dog I had with me ran out into the middle of the road, and there he began to yelp and to fight. I stood and watched him for a while, and surely he was fighting with another dog, but there was nothing to be seen.
And in the same part of the road one night I heard horses galloping, galloping past me. I could hear their hoofs, and they shod, on the stones of the road. But though I stood aside and looked-and it was bright moonlight-there were no horses to be seen. But they were there, and believe me they were not without riders.
Well, myself I once slept in a house with some strange thing. I had my aunt then, Mrs. Leary, living near, and I but a small little girl at the time. And one day she came to our house and asked would I go sleep with her, and I said I would if she’d give me a ride on her back, and so she did. And for many a night after that she brought me to sleep with her, and my mother used to be asking why, and she’d give no reason.
Well, the cause of her wanting me was this. Every night so sure as she put the candle out, it would come and lie upon her fret and across her body and near smother her, and she could feel it breathing but could see nothing. I never felt anything at all myself, I being sound asleep before she quenched the light. At last she went to Father Smith–God rest his soul!–and he gave her a prayer to say at the moment of the Elevation of the Mass. So the next time she attended Mass she used it, and that night it was wickeder than ever it had been.
So after that she wrote to her son in America to buy a ticket for her, and she went out to him and remained some years. And it was only after she came back she told me and my mother what used to happen on those nights, and the reason she wanted me to be beside her.
There was never any one saw so many of those things as Johnny Hardiman’s father on this estate, and now he’s old and got silly, and can’t tell about them any more. One time he was walking into Gort along the Kiltartan road, and he saw one of them before him in the form of a tub, and it rolling along.
Another time he was coming home from Kinvara, and a black and white dog came out against him from the wall, but he took no notice of it. But when he got near his own house it came out against him again and bit him in the leg, and he got hold of it and lifted it up and took it by the throat and choked it; and when he was sure it was dead he threw it by the roadside. But in the morning he went out first thing early to look at the body, and there was no sign at all of it there.
So I believe indeed that old Michael Barrett hears them and sees them. But they do him no mischief nor harm at all. They wouldn’t, and he such an old resident. But there’s many wouldn’t believe he sees anything because they never seen them themselves.
I never did but once, when I was a slip of a girl beyond at Lissatiraheely, and one time I went across to the big forth to get a can of water. And when I got near to it I heard voices, and when I came to where the water runs out they were getting louder and louder. And I stopped and looked down, and there in the passage where the water comes I seen a dog within, and there was a great noise-working I suppose they were. And I threw down the can and turned and ran, and never went back for it again. But here since I lived in Coole I never seen any-thing and never was afeared of anything except one time only in the evening, when I was walking down the little by-lane that leads to Ballinamantane. And there standing in the path before me I seen the very same dog that was in the old forth before. And I believe I leaped the wall to get away into the high-road. And what day was that but the very same day that Sir William–the Lord be with his soul!–was returned a Member of Parliament, and a great night it was in Kiltartan.
But I’m noways afeared of anything and I give you my word I’d walk in the dead of night in the nut-wood or any other place-except only the cross beyond Inchy, I’d sooner not go by there. There’s two or three has their life lost there–Heffernan of Kildesert, one of your ladyship’s own tenants, he was one. He was at a fair, and there was a horse another man wanted, but he got inside him and got the horse. And when he was riding home, when he came to that spot it reared back and threw him, and he was taken up dead. And another man–one Gallagher–fell off the top of a creel of turf in the same place and lost his life. And there was a woman hurted some way another time. What’s that you’re saying, John–that Gallagher had a drop too much taken? That might be so indeed; and what call has a man that laas drink taken to go travel upon top of a creel of turf?
That dog I met in the boreen at Ballinamantane, he was the size of a calf, and black, and his paws the size of I don’t know what. I was sitting in the house one day, and he came in and sat down by the dresser and looked at me. And I didn’t like the look of him when I saw the big eyes of him, and the size of his legs. And just then a man came in that used to make his living by making mats, and he used to lodge with me for a night now and again. And he went out to bring his cart away where he was afraid it’d be knocked about by the people going to the big bonfire at Kiltartan cross-roads. And when he went out I looked out the door, and there was the dog sitting under the cart. So be made a hit at it with a stick, and it was in the stones the stick stuck, and there was the dog sitting at the other side of him. So he came in and gave me abuse and said I must be a strange woman to have such things about me. And he never would come to lodge with me again. But didn’t the dog behave well not to do him an injury after he hitting it? It was surely some man that was in that dog, some soul in trouble.
Beasts will sometimes see more than a man will. There were three young chaps I know went up near Ballyturn to hunt coneens (young rabbits) and they threw the dog over the wall. And when he was in the field he gave a yelp and drew back as if something had struck him on the head. And with all they could do, and the rabbits and the coneens running about the field, they couldn’t get him to stir from that and they had to come home with no rabbits.
One time I was helping Sully, the butcher in Loughrea, and I had to go to a country house to bring in a measly pig the people had) and that he was to allow them something for. So I got there late and had to stop the night. And in the morning at daylight I looked from the window and saw a cow eating the potatoes, so I went down to drive him off. And in the kitchen there was lying by the hearth a dog, a speckled one, with spots of black and white and yellow. And when he saw me he got up and went over to the door and went out through it. And then I saw that the door was shut and locked. So I went back again and told the people of the house what I saw and they were frightened and made me stop the next night. And in the night the clothes were taken off me and a heavy blow struck me in the chest, and the feel of it was like the feel of ice. So I covered myself up again and put my hand under the bedclothes, and I never came to that house again.
I never seen anything myself, but I remember well that when I was a young chap there was a black dog between Coole gate-house and Gort for many a year, and many met him there. Tom Miller came running into our house one time when he was after seeing him, and at first sight he thought he was a man, where he was standing with his paws up upon the wall, and then he vanished out of sight. But there never was any common dog the size of him, and it’s many a one saw him, and it was Father Boyle that banished him out of it at last.
Except that thing at Inchy Weir, I never saw anything my-self. But one evening I parted from Larry Cuniffe in the yard, and he went away through the path in Shanwalla and bid me goodnight. But two hours after, there he was back again in the yard, and bid me light a candle was in the stable. And he told me that when he got into Shanwalla a little chap about as high as his knee, but having a head as big as a man’s body, came beside him and led him out of the path and round about, and at last it brought him to the limekiln, and there left him.
There is a dog now at Lismara, black and bigger than a natural dog, is about the roads at night. He wouldn’t be there so long if any one had the courage to question him.
Stephen O’Donnell in Connemara told me that one time he shot a hare, and it turned into a woman, a neighbour of his own. And she had his butter taken for the last two years, but she begged and prayed for life on her knees, so he spared her, and she gave him back his butter after that, a double yield.
There was a woman at Glenlough when I was young could change herself into an eel. It was in Galway Workhouse Hospital she got the knowledge. A woman that had the knowledge of doing it by witchcraft asked her would she like to learn, and she said that she would, for she didn’t know what it would bring on her. For every time she did it, she’d be in bed a fortnight after with all she’d go through. Sir Martin O’Neill when he was a young lad heard of it, and he got her into a room, and made her do it for him, and when he saw her change to an eel he got frightened and tried to get away, but she got between him and the door, and showed her teeth at him and growled. She wasn’t the better of that for a fortnight after.
Indeed the porter did me great good, a good that I’d hardly like to tell you, not to make a scandal. Did I drink too much of it? Not at all, I have no fancy for it, but the nights seemed to be long But this long time I am feeling a worm in my side that is as big as an eel, and there’s more of them in it than that, and I was told to put sea-grass to it, and I put it to the side the other day, and whether it was that or the porter I don’t know, but there’s some of them gone out of it, and I think it’s the porter.
I knew a woman near Clough was out milking her cow, and when she got up to go away she saw one of those worms coming after her, and it eight feet long, and it made a jump about eight yards after her. And I heard of a man went asleep by a wall one time, and one of them went down his throat and he never could get rid of it till a woman from the North came. And what she bade him do was to get a bit of old crock butter and to make a big fire on the hearth, and to put the butter in a half round on the hearth, and to get two men to hold him over it. And when the worms got the smell of the butter they jumped out of his mouth, seven or eight one after another, and it was in the fire they fell and they were burned, and that was an end of them.
As to hares, there’s something queer about them, and there’s some that it’s dangerous to meddle with, and that can go into any form where they like. Sure, Mrs. Madden is after having a young son, and it has a harelip. But she says that she doesn’t remember that ever she met a hare or looked at one. But if she did, she had a right to rip a small bit of the seam of her dress or her petticoat, and then it would have no power to hurt her at all.
Doran the herd says, he wouldn’t himself eat the flesh of a hare. There’s something unnatural about it. But as to them being unlucky, that may be all talk. But there’s no doubt at all that a cow is found sometimes to be run dry, and the hare to be seen coming away from her.
One time when we lived just behind Gort my father was going to a fair. And it was the custom in those days to set out a great deal earlier than what it is now. So it was not much past mid-night when he got up and went out the door, and the moon shining bright. And then he saw a hare walk in from the street and turn down by the garden, and another after it, and another and another till he counted twelve. And they all went straight one after another and vanished. And my father came in and shut the door, and never went out again till it was broad day-light.
There was a man watching the fire where two hares were cooking and he heard them whistling in the pot. And when the people of the house came home they were afraid to touch them, but the man that heard the whistling ate a good meal of them and was none the worse.
There was an uncle of my own lived over near Garryland. And one day himself and another man were going through the field, and they saw a hare, and the hound that was with them gave chase, and they followed.
And the hound was gaining on the hare and it made for I house, where the half-door was open. And the hound made a snap at it and touched it as it leaped the half-door. And when my uncle and the others came up, they could find no hare, but only an old woman in the house–and she bleeding. So there’s no doubt at all but it was she took the form of a hare. My uncle spent too much money after, and gave up his land and went to America.
As to hares, there was a man out with his greyhound and it gave chase to a hare. And it made for a house, and went in at the window, and the hound just touched the leg. And when the man came up, he found an old woman in the house, and he asked leave to search the house and so he did in every place, but there was no bare to be seen. But when he came in she was putting a pot on the fire, so he said that he must look in the pot, and he took the cover off, and it was full of blood. And before the hound gave chase, he had seen the hare sucking the milk from a cow.
As to hares, there’s no doubt at all there’s some that’s not natural. One night I was making pot-whiskey up in that hill beyond. Yes indeed, for three year, I did little but run to and fro to the still, and one December, I was making it for the Christmas and I was taken and got nine weeks in gaol for it–and £16 worth of whiskey spilled that night. But there’s mean people in the world; and he did it for half a sovereign, and had to leave the country after and go to England. Well, one night, I was watching by the fire where it was too fierce, and it would have burned the oats. And over the hill and down the path came two hares and walked on and into the wood. And two more after that, and then by fours they came, and by sixes, and I’d want a slate and a pencil to count all I saw, and it just at sunrise. And some of them were as thin as thin. And there’s no doubt at all that those were not haresI saw that night.
As to hares, they’re the biggest fairies of all. Last year the boys had one caught, and I put it in the pot to wash it and it after being skinned, and I heard a noise come from the pot–grr-grr–and nothing but cold water in it. And I ran to save my life, and I told the boys to have nothing to do with it, but they wouldn’t mind me. And when they tried to eat it, and it boiled, they couldn’t get their teeth into the flesh of it, and as for the soup, it was no different from potato-water.
The village of Lissavohalane has a great name for such things. And it’s certain that once one night every year, in the month of November, all the cats of the whole country round gather together there and fight. My own two cats were nearly dead for days after it last year, and the neighbours told me the same of theirs.
There was a woman had a cat and she would feed it at the table before any other one; and if it did not get the first meat that was cooked, the hair would rise up as high as that. Well, there were priests came to dinner one day, and when they were helped the first, the hair rose up on the cat’s back. And one of them said to the woman it was a queer thing to give in to a cat the way she did, and that it was a foolish thing to be giving it the first of the food. So when it heard that, it walked out of the house, and never came into it again.
There’s something not right about cats. Steve Smith says he knew a keeper that shot one, and it went into a sort of a heap, and when he came near, it spoke, and he found it was some person, and it said it had to walk its seven acres. And there’s some have heard them together at night talking Irish.
There was a hole over the door of the house that I used to live in, where Murphy’s house is now, to let the smoke out, for there was no chimney. And one day a black cat jumped in at the hole, and stopped in the house and never left us for a year. But on the day year he came he jumped out again at the same hole and didn’t go out of the door that was standing open. There was no mistake about it, it was the day year.
As to cats, they’re a class in themselves. They’re good to catch mice and rats, but just let them come in and out of the house for that; they’re about their own business all the time. And in the old times they could talk. And it’s said that the cats gave a shilling for what they have; fourpence that the housekeeper might be careless and leave the milk about that they’d get at it; and fourpence that they’d tread so light that no one would hear them, and fourpence that they’d be able to see in the dark. And I might as well throw out that drop of tea I left on the dresser to cool, for the cat is after that. There might be a hair in it, and the hair of a cat is poison.
There was a man had a house full of children, and one day he was taking their measure for boots. And the cat that was sitting on the hearth said, “Take my measure for a pair of boots along with the rest.” So the man did, and when he went to the shoemaker he told him of what the cat had said. And there was a man in the shop at the time, and he having two greyhounds with him, and one of them all black without a single white hair. And he said, “Bring the cat here tomorrow. You can tell it that the boots can’t be made without it coming for its measure.” So the next day he brought the cat in a bag, and when he got to his shop the man was there with his greyhounds, and he let the cat out, and it praying him not to loosen the bag. And it made away through the fields and the hounds after it, and whether it killed one of them I don’t know, but anyhow the black hound killed it, the one that had not a white hair on its body.
You should never be too attentive to a cat, but just to be civil and to give it its share.
Cats were serpents, and they were made into cats at the time, I suppose, of some change in the world. That’s why they’re hard to kill and why it’s dangerous to meddle with them. If you annoy a cat it might claw you or bite you in a way that would put poison in you, and that would be the serpent’s tooth.
There was an uncle of mine near Galway, and one night his wife was very sick, and he had to go to the village to get some-thing for her. And it’s a very lonely road, and as he was going what should he see but a great number of cats, walking along the road, and they were carrying a young cat, and crying it.
And when he was on his way home again from the village he met them again, and one of the cats turned and spoke to him like a person would, and said, “Bid Lady Betty to come to the funeral or she’ll be late.” So he ran on home in a great fright, and he couldn’t speak for some time after getting back to the house, but sat there by the fire in a chair. And at last lie began to tell his wife what had happened. And when he said that he had met a cat’s funeral, his own cat that was sleeping by the hearth began to stir her tail, and looked up at him, affectionate like. But when he got to where he was bid send Lady Betty to the funeral, she made one dash at his face and scraped it, she was so mad that she wasn’t told at once. And then she began to tear at the door, that they had to let her out.
For cats is faeries, and every night they’re obliged to travel over seven acres; that’s why you hear them crying about the country. It was an old woman at the strand told me that, and she should know, for she lived to a hundred years of age.
I saw three young weasels out in the sea, squealing, squealing, for they couldn’t get to land, and I put out a bunch of seaweed and brought them to the land, and they went away after. I did that for them. Weasels are not right, no more than cats; and I’m not sure about foxes.
Rats are very bad, because a rat if one got the chance would do his best to bite you, and I wouldn’t like at all to get the bite of a rat. But weasels are serpents, and if they would spit at any part of your body it would fester, and you would get blood poisoning within two hours.
I knew an old doctor–Antony Coppinger at Clifden–and he told me that if the weasels had the power of other beasts they would not have a human living in the world. And he said the wild wide wilderness of the sea was full of beasts mostly the same as on earth, like bonavs and like cattle, and they lying at the bottom of the sea as quiet as cows in a field.
It is wrong to insult a weasel, and if you pelt them or shoot them they will watch for you forever to ruin you. For they are enchanted and understand all things.
There is Mrs. Coneely that lives up the road, she had a clutch of young geese on the floor, and a weasel walked in and brought away one of them, but she said nothing to that.
But it came in again, and took a hold of another of the geese and Mrs. Coneely said, “Oh, I’m not begrudging you what you have taken, but leave these to me for it is hard I earned them, and it is great trouble I had rearing them. But go,” she said, ‘to the shoemaker’s home beyond, where they have a clutch, and let you spare mine. And that I may never sin,” she said, “but it walked out, for they can understand everything, and it did not leave one of the clutch that was at the shoemaker’s.”
It is why I called to you now when I saw you sitting there so near to the sea; I thought the tide might steal up on you, or a weasel might chance to come up with a fish in its mouth, and to give you a start. It’s best if you see one to speak nice to it, and to say, “I wouldn’t be begrudging you a pair of boots or of shoes if I had them.” If you treat them well they will treat you well.
And to see a weasel passing the road before you, there’s nothing in the world like that to bring you all sorts of good luck.
I was out in the field one time tilling potatoes, and two or three more along with me, and a weasel put its head out of the wall–a double stone wall it was–and one of the lads fired a stone at it. Well, within a minute there wasn’t a hole of the wall but a weasel had put its head out of it, about a thousand of them, I saw that myself. Very spiteful they are. I wouldn’t like them.
The weasels, the poor creatures, they will do nothing at all on you if you behave well to them and let them alone, but if you do not, they will not leave a chicken in the yard. And magpies, let you do nothing on them, or they will suck every egg and leave nothing in the garden; but if you leave them to themselves they will do nothing but to come into the street to pick a bit with the birds.
The granyog (hedgehog) will do no harm to chickens or the like; but if he will get into an orchard he will stick an apple on every thorn, and away with him to a scalp with them to be eating through the winter.
I met with a granyog one day on the mountain, and that I may never sin, he was running up the side of it as fast as a race-horse.
There is not much luck in killing a seal. There was a man in these parts was very fond of shooting and killing them. And seals have claws the same as cats, and he had two daughters, and when they were born, they had claws the same as seals. I believe there is one of them living yet.
But the thing it is not right to touch is the ron (seal) for they are in the Sheogue. It is often I see them on the strand, sitting there and wiping themselves on the rocks. And they have a hand with five fingers, like any Christian. I seen six of them, coming in a boat one time with a man from Connemara, that is the time I saw they had the five fingers.
There was a man killed one of them over there near the point. And he came to the shore and it was night, and he was near dead with the want of a blast of a pipe, and he saw a light from a house on the side of a mountain, and he went in to ask a coal of fire to kindle the pipe. And when he went in, there was a woman, and she called out to a man that was lying stretched on the bed in the room, and she said, “Look till you see who this man is. And the man that was on the bed says, “I know you, for I have the sign of your hand on me. And let you get out of this now,” he said, “as fast as you can, and it will be best for you.” And the daughter said to him, “I wonder you to let him go as easy as that.” And you may be sure that man made off and made no delay. It was a Sheogue house that was; and the man on the bed was the ron he had killed, but he was not dead, being of the Sheogues.

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.

lady-gregoryLady Gregory’s Work’s


I have been told:

Yes, they say blacksmiths have something about them, and if there’s a seventh blacksmith in succession, from generation to generation, he can do many things, and if he gave you his curse you wouldn’t be the better of it. There was one near the cliffs, Pat Doherty, but he did no harm to any one, but was as quiet as another. He is dead now and his son is a blacksmith too [46].
There was a man one time that was a blacksmith, and he used to go every night playing cards, and for all his wife could say he wouldn’t leave off doing it. So one night she got a boy to stand m the old churchyard he’d have to pass, and to frighten him. So the boy did so, and began to groan and to try to frighten him when he came near. But it’s well known that nothing of that kind can do any harm to a blacksmith. So he went in and got hold of the boy, and told him he had a mind to choke him, and went his way.
But no sooner was the boy left alone than there came about him something in the shape of a dog, and then a great troop of cats. And they surrounded him and he tried to get away home, but he had no power to go the way he wanted but had to go with them. And at last they came to an old forth and a faery bush, and he knelt down and made the sign of the cross and said a great many “Our Fathers,” and after a time they went into the faery bush and left him. And he was going away and a woman came out of the bush, and called to him three times, to make him look back. And he saw that it was a woman that he knew before, that was dead, and so he knew that she was amongst the faeries.
And she said to him, “It’s well for you that I was here, and worked hard for you, or you would have been brought in among them, and be like me.” So he got home. And the blacksmith got home too and his wife was surprised to see he was no way frightened. But he said, “You might know that there’s nothing of that sort could harm me.”
For a blacksmith is safe from all, and when he goes out in the night he keeps always in his pocket a small bit of wire) and they know him by that. So he went on playing, and they grew very poor after.
And I knew a woman from the County Limerick had been away, and she could tell you all about the forths in this place and how she was recovered. She met a man she knew on the road) and she out riding with them all on horseback, and told him to bring a bottle of forge-water and to throw it on her, and so he did, and she came back again.
Blacksmiths surely are safe from these things. And if a black-smith was to turn his anvil upside down and to say malicious words, he could do you great injury.
There was a child that was changed, and my mother brought it a nice bit of potato cake one time, for tradesmen often have nice things on the table. But the child wouldn’t touch it) for they don’t like the leavings of a smith.
Blacksmiths have power, and if you could steal the water from the trough in the forge, it would cure all things.
And as to forges, there’s some can hear working and hammering in them through the night.:

Yes, they say blacksmiths have something about them, and if there’s a seventh blacksmith in succession, from generation to generation, he can do many things, and if he gave you his curse you wouldn’t be the better of it. There was one near the cliffs, Pat Doherty, but he did no harm to any one, but was as quiet as another. He is dead now and his son is a blacksmith too [46].
There was a man one time that was a blacksmith, and he used to go every night playing cards, and for all his wife could say he wouldn’t leave off doing it. So one night she got a boy to stand m the old churchyard he’d have to pass, and to frighten him. So the boy did so, and began to groan and to try to frighten him when he came near. But it’s well known that nothing of that kind can do any harm to a blacksmith. So he went in and got hold of the boy, and told him he had a mind to choke him, and went his way.
But no sooner was the boy left alone than there came about him something in the shape of a dog, and then a great troop of cats. And they surrounded him and he tried to get away home, but he had no power to go the way he wanted but had to go with them. And at last they came to an old forth and a faery bush, and he knelt down and made the sign of the cross and said a great many “Our Fathers,” and after a time they went into the faery bush and left him. And he was going away and a woman came out of the bush, and called to him three times, to make him look back. And he saw that it was a woman that he knew before, that was dead, and so he knew that she was amongst the faeries.
And she said to him, “It’s well for you that I was here, and worked hard for you, or you would have been brought in among them, and be like me.” So he got home. And the blacksmith got home too and his wife was surprised to see he was no way frightened. But he said, “You might know that there’s nothing of that sort could harm me.”
For a blacksmith is safe from all, and when he goes out in the night he keeps always in his pocket a small bit of wire) and they know him by that. So he went on playing, and they grew very poor after.
And I knew a woman from the County Limerick had been away, and she could tell you all about the forths in this place and how she was recovered. She met a man she knew on the road) and she out riding with them all on horseback, and told him to bring a bottle of forge-water and to throw it on her, and so he did, and she came back again.
Blacksmiths surely are safe from these things. And if a black-smith was to turn his anvil upside down and to say malicious words, he could do you great injury.
There was a child that was changed, and my mother brought it a nice bit of potato cake one time, for tradesmen often have nice things on the table. But the child wouldn’t touch it) for they don’t like the leavings of a smith.
Blacksmiths have power, and if you could steal the water from the trough in the forge, it would cure all things.
And as to forges, there’s some can hear working and hammering in them through the night.

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland.

lady-gregoryWitches and Wizards and Irish Folk-Lore (W.B. Yeats)

Ireland was not separated from general European speculation when much of that was concerned with the supernatural. Dr. Adam Clarke tells in his unfinished autobiography how) when he was at school in Antrim towards the end of the eighteenth century, a schoolfellow told him of Cornelius Agrippa’s book on Magic and that it had to be chained or it would fly away of itself. Presently he heard of a farmer who had a copy and after that made friends with a wandering tinker who had another. Lady Gregory and I spoke of a friend’s visions to an old countryman. He said “he must belong to a society”; and the people often attribute magical powers to Orangemen and to Freemasons, and I have heard a shepherd at Doneraile speak of a magic wand with Tetragramaton Agla written upon it. The visions and speculations of Ireland differ much from those of England and France, for in Ireland, as in Highland Scotland, we are never far from the old Celtic mythology; but there is more likeness than difference. Lady Gregory’s story of the witch who in semblance of a hare, leads the hounds such a dance, is the best remembered of all witch stories. It is told, I should imagine, in every countryside where there is even a fading memory of witchcraft. One finds it in a sworn testimony given at the trial of Julian Cox, an old woman indicted for witchcraft at Taunton in Somersetshire in 1663 and quoted by Joseph Glanvill. “The first witness was a huntsman, who swore that he went out with a pack of hounds to hunt a hare, and not far from Julian Cox her house he at last started a hare: the dogs hunted her very close, and the third ring hunted her in view, till at last the huntsman perceiving the hare almost spent and making towards a great bush, he ran on the other side of the bush to take her up and preserve her from the dogs; but as soon as he laid hands on her, it proved to be Julian Cox, who had her head grovelling on the ground, and her globes (as he expressed it) upward. He knowing her, was so affrighted that his hair on his head stood on end; and yet spake to her, and ask’d her what brought her there; but she was so far out of breath that she could not make him any answer; his dogs also came up full cry to recover the game, and smelled at her and so left off hunting any further. And the huntsman with his dogs went home presently sadly affrighted.” Dr. Henry More, the Platonist, who considers the story in a letter to Glanvill, explains that Julian Cox was not turned into a hare, but that “Ludicrous Daemons exhibited to the sight of this huntsman and his dogs, the shape of a hare, one of them turning himself into such a form, another hurrying on the body of Julian near the same place,” making her invisible till the right moment had come. “As I have heard of some painters that have drawn the sky in a huge landscape, so lively, that the birds have flown against it, thinking it free air, and so have fallen down. And if painters and jugglers, by the tricks of legerdemain can do such strange feats to the deceiving of the sight, it is no wonder that these aerie invisible spirits have far surpassed them in all such prestigious doings, as the air surpasses the earth for subtlety.” Glanvill has given his own explanation of such cases elsewhere. He thinks that the sidereal or airy body is the foundation of the marvel, and Albert de Rochas has found a like foundation for the marvels of spiritism. “The transformation of witches,” writes Glanvill, “into the shapes of other animals … is very conceivable; since then, ’tis easy enough to imagine that the power of imagination may form those passive and pliable vehicles into those shapes,” and then goes on to account for the stories where an injury, say to the witch hare. is found afterwards upon the witch’s body precisely as a French hypnotist would account for the stigmata of a saint. “When they feel the hurts in their gross bodies, that they receive in their airy vehicles, they must be supposed to have been really present, at least in these latter, and ’tis no more difficult to apprehend, how the hurts of those should be translated upon their other bodies, than how diseases should be inflicted by the imagination, or how the fancy of the mother should wound the foettis, as several credible relations do attest.”
All magical or Platonic writers of the times speak much of the transformation or projection of the sidereal body of witch or wizard. Once the soul escapes from the natural body, though but for a moment, it passes into the body of air and can transform itself as it please or even dream itself into some shape it has not willed.

“Chameleon-like thus they their colour change,
And size contract and then dilate again

   One of their favourite stories is of some famous man, John Haydon says Socrates, falling asleep among his friends, who presently see a mouse running from his mouth and towards a little stream. Somebody lays a sword across the stream that it may pass, and after a little while it returns across the sword and to the sleeper’s mouth again. When he awakes he tells them that he has dreamed of himself crossing a wide river by a great iron bridge.
But the witch’s wandering and disguised double was not the worst shape one might meet in the fields or roads about a witch’s house. She was not a true witch unless there was a compact (or so it seems) between her and an evil spirit who called himself the devil, though Bodin believes that he was often, and Glanvill always, “some human soul forsaken of God,” for “the devil is a body politic.” The ghost or devil promised revenge on her enemies and that she would never want, and she upon her side let the devil suck her blood nightly or at need.
When Elizabeth Style made a confession of witchcraft before the Justice of Somerset in 1664, the Justice appointed three men, William Thick and William Read and Nicholas Lambert, to watch her, and Glanvill publishes an affidavit of the evidence of Nicholas Lambert. “About three of the clock in the morning there came from her head a glistering bright fly, about an inch in length which pitched at first in the chimney and then vanished.” Then two smaller flies came and vanished. “H; looking steadfastly then on Style, perceived her countenance to change, and to become very black and ghastly and the fire also at the same time changing its colour; whereupon the Examinant, Thick and Read, conceiving that her familiar was then about her, looked to her poll, and seeing her hair shake very strangely, took it up and then a fly like a great miller flew out from the place and pitched on the table board and then vanished away. Upon this the Examinant and the other two persons, looking again in Style’s poll found it very red and like raw beef. The Examinant ask’d her what it was that went out of her poll, she said it was a butterfly, and asked them why they had not caught it. Lambert said, they could not. I think so too, answered she. A little while after the informant and the others, looking again into her poll found the place to be of its former colour. The Examinant asked again what the fly was, she confessed it was her familiar and that she felt it tickle in her poll, and that was the usual time for her familiar to come to her.” These sucking devils alike when at their meal, or when they went here and there to do her will or about their own business, had the shapes of pole-cat or cat or greyhound or of some moth or bird. At the trials of certain witches in Essex in 1645 reported in the English state trials a principal witness was one “Matthew Hopkins, gent.” Bishop Hutchinson, writing in 1730, describes him as he appeared to those who laughed at witchcraft and had brought the witch trials to an end. “Hopkins went on searching and swimming poor creatures till some gentlemen, out of indignation of the barbarity, took him, and tied his own thumbs and toes as he used to tie others, and when he was put into the water he himself swam as they did. That cleared the country of him and it was a great pity that they did not think of the experiment sooner.” Floating when thrown into the water was taken for a sign of witchcraft. Matthew Hopkins’s testimony, however, is uncommonly like that of the countryman who told Lady Gregory that he had seen his dog and some shadow fighting. A certain Mrs. Edwards of Manintree in Essex had her hogs killed by witchcraft, and “going from the house of the said Mrs. Edwards to his own house, about nine or ten of the clock that night, with his greyhound with him, he saw the greyhound suddenly give a jump, and run as she had been in full course after a hare; and that when this informant made haste to see what his greyhound so eagerly pursued, he espied a white thing, about the bigness of a kitlyn, and the greyhound standing aloof from it; and that by and by the said white imp or kitlyn danced about the grey-hound, and by all likelihood bit off a piece of the flesh of the shoulder of the said greyhound; for the greyhound came shrieking and crying to the informant, with a piece of flesh torn from her shoulder. And the informant further saith, that coming into his own yard that night, he espied a black thing proportioned like a cat, only it was thrice as big, sitting on a strawberry bed, and fixing the eyes on this informant, and when he went to-wards it, it leaped over the pale towards this informant, as he thought, but ran through the yard, with his greyhound after it, to a great gate, which was underset with a pair of tumble strings, and did throw the said gate wide open, and then vanished; and ‘he said greyhound returned again to this informant, shaking and trembling exceedingly.” At the same trial Sir Thomas Bowes, Knight, affirmed “that a very honest man of Manintree, whom he knew would not speak an untruth affirmed unto him, ‘hat very early one morning, as he passed by the said Anne West’s door” (this is the witch on trial) “about four o’clock, it being a moonlight night, and perceiving her door to be open so early in the morning, looked into the house and presently there came three or four little things, in the shape of black rabbits, leaping and skipping about him, who, having a good stick in his hand, struck at them, thinking to kill them, but could not; but at last caught one of them in his hand, and holding it by the body of it, he beat the head of it against his stick, intending to beat out the brains of it; but when he could not kill it that way, he took the body of it in one hand and the head of it in another, and endeavoured to wring off the head; and as he wrung and stretched the neck of it, it came out between his hands like a lock of wool; yet he would not give over his intended purpose, but knowing of a spring not far off, he went to drown it; but still as he went he fell down and could not go, but down he fell again, so that he at last crept upon his hands and knees till he came at the water, and holding it fast in his hand, he put his hand down into the water up to the elbow, and held it under water a good space till he conceived it was drowned, and then letting go his hand, it sprung out of the water up into the air, and so vanished away.” However, the sucking imps were not always invulnerable for Glanvill tells how one John Monpesson, whose house was haunted by such a familiar, “seeing some wood move that was in the chimney of a room, where he was, as if of itself, discharged a pistol into it after which they found several drops of blood on the hearth and in divers places of the stairs.” I remember the old Aran man who heard fighting in the air and found blood in a fish-box and scattered through the room, and I remember the measure of blood Odysseus poured out for the shades.
The English witch trials are like the popular poetry of England, matter-of-fact and unimaginative. The witch desires to kill some one and when she takes the devil for her husband he as likely as not will seem dull and domestic. Rebecca West told Matthew Hopkins that the devil appeared to her as she was going to bed and told her he would marry her. He kissed her but was as cold as clay, and he promised to be “her loving husband till death,” although she had, as it seems, but one leg. But the Scotch trials are as wild and passionate as is the Scottish poetry, and we find ourselves in the presence of a mythology that differs little, if at all, from that of Ireland. There are orgies of lust and of hatred and there is a wild shamelessness that would be fine material for poets and romance writers if the world should come once more to half-believe the tale. They are divided into troops of thirteen, with the youngest witch for leader in every troop, and though they complain that the embraces of the devil are as cold as ice, the young witches prefer him to their husbands. He gives them money, but they must spend it quickly, for it will be but dry cow dung in two circles of the clock. They go often to Elfhame or Faeryland and the mountains open before them and as they go out and in they are terrified by the “rowtling and skoylling” of the great “elf bulls.” They sometimes confess to trooping in the shape of cats and to finding upon their terrestrial bodies when they awake in the morning the scratches they had made upon one another in the night’s wandering, or should they have wandered in the images of hares the bites of dogs. Isobell Godie who was tried at Loclilay in 1662 confessed that “We put besoms in our beds with our husbands till we return again to them… and then we would fly away where we would be, even as straws would fly upon a highway. We will fly like straws when we please; wild straws and corn straws will be horses to us, and we put them betwixt our feet and say horse and hillock in the devil’s name. And when any see these straws in a whirlwind and do not sanctify themselves, we may shoot them dead at our pleasure.” When they kill people, she goes on to say, the souls escape them “but their bodies remain with us and will fly as horses to us all as small as straws.” It is plain that it is the “airy body” they take possession of; those “animal spirits” perhaps which Henry More thought to be the link between soul and body and the seat of all vital function. The trials were more unjust than those of England, where there was a continual criticism from sceptics; torture was used again and again to distort confessions, and innocent people certainly suffered; some who had but believed too much in their own dreams and some who had but cured the sick at some vision’s prompting. Alison Pearson who was burnt in 1588 might have been Biddy Early or any other knowledge-able woman in Ireland today. She was convicted “for haunting and repairing with the Good Neighbours and queen of Elfhame, these divers years and bypast, as she had confessed in her depositions, declaring that she could not say readily how long She was with them; and that she had friends in that court who were of her own blood and who had great acquaintance of the queen of Elfhame. That when she went to bed she never knew where she would be carried before dawn.” When they worked cures they had the same doctrine of the penalty that one finds in Lady Gregory’s stories. One who made her confession before James I. was convicted for “taking the sick party’s pains and sicknesses upon herself for a time and then translating them to a third person.”


There are more women than men mediums today; and there have been or seem to have been more witches than wizards. The wizards of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries relied more upon their conjuring book than the witches whose visions and experiences seem but half voluntary, and when voluntary called up by some childish rhyme:

Hare, hare, God send thee care;
I am in a hare’s likeness now,
But I shall be a woman even now;
Hare, hare, God send thee care

   More often than not the wizards were learned men, alchemists or mystics, and if they dealt with the devil at times, or some spirit they called by that name, they had amongst them ascetics and heretical saints. Our chemistry, our metallurgy, and our medicine are often but accidents that befell in their pursuit or the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life. They were bound together in secret societies and had, it may be, some forgotten practice for liberating the soul from the body and sending it to fetch and carry them divine knowledge. Cornelius Agrippa in a letter quoted by Beaumont, has hints of such a practice. Yet like the witches, they worked many wonders by the power of the imagination, perhaps one should say by their power of up vivid pictures in the mind’s eye. The Arabian philosophers have taught, writes Beaumont, “that the soul by the power the imagination can perform what it pleases; as penetrate heavens, force the elements, demolish mountains, raise valleys to mountains, and do with all material forms as it pleases.”

He shewed hym, er he wente to sopeer,
Pores tes, parkes ful of wilde deer;
Ther saugh he hertes with hir hornes hye,
The gretteste that evere were seyn with ye.

Tho saugh he knyghtes justing in a playn;
And after this, he dide hym swich plaisaunce,
That he hym shewed his lady on a daunce
On which hymself he daunced, as hym thoughte.
And whan this maister, that this magyk wroughte,
Saugh it was tyme, he clapte his handes two,
And, farewel! al our revel was ago

   One has not as careful a record as one has of the works of witches, for but few English wizards came before the court, the only society for psychical research in those days. The translation, however, of Cornelius Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia in the seventeenth century, with the addition of a spurious fourth book full of conjurations, seems to have filled England and Ireland with whole or half wizards. In 1703, the Reverend Arthur Bedford of Bristol, who is quoted by Sibley in his big book on astrology, wrote to the Bishop of Gloucester telling how a certain Thomas Perks had been to consult him. Thomas Perks lived with his father, a gunsmith, and devoted his leisure to mathematics, astronomy, and the discovery of perpetual motion. One day he asked the clergyman if it was wrong to commune with spirits, and said that he himself held that “there was an innocent society with them which a man might use, if he made no compacts with them, did no harm by their means, and were not curious in prying into hidden things, and he himself had discoursed with them and heard them sing to his great satisfaction.” He then told how it was his custom to go to a crossway with lantern and candle consecrated for the purpose, according to the directions in a book he had, and having also consecrated chalk for making a circle. The spirits appeared to him “in the likeness of little maidens about a foot and a half high … they spoke with a very shrill voice like an ancient woman” and when he begged them to sing, “they went to some distance behind a bush from whence he could hear a perfect concert of such exquisite music as he never before heard; and in the upper part he heard something very harsh and shrill like a reed but as it was managed did give a particular grace to the rest.” The Reverend Arthur Bedford refused an introduction to the spirits for himself and a friend and warned him very solemnly. Having some doubt of his sanity, he set him a difficult mathematical problem, but finding that he worked it easily, concluded him sane. A quarter of a year later the young man came again, but showed by his face and his eyes that he was very ill and lamented that he had not followed the clergyman’s advice for his conjurations would bring him to his death. He had decided to get a familiar and had read in his magical book what he should do. He was to make a book of virgin parchment, consecrate it, and bring it to the cross-road, and having called up his spirits, ask the first of them for its name and write that name on the first page of the book and then question another and write that name on the second page and so on till he had enough familiars. He had got the first name easily enough and it was in Hebrew, but after that they came in fearful shapes, lions and bears and the like, or hurled at him halls of fire. He had to stay there among those terrifying visions till the dawn broke and would not be the better of it till he died. I have read in some eighteenth century book whose name I cannot recall of two men who made a magic circle and who invoked the spirits of the moon and saw them trampling about the circle as great bulls, or rolling about it as flocks of wool. One of Lady Gregory’s story-tellers considered a flock of wool one of the worst shapes that a spirit could take.
There must have been many like experimenters in Ireland. An Irish alchemist called Butler was supposed to have made successful transmutations in London early in the eighteenth century, and in the Life of Dr. Adam Clarke, published in 1833, are several letters from a Dublin maker of stained glass describing a transmutation and a conjuration into a tumbler of water of large lizards. The alchemist was an unknown man who had called to see him and claimed to do all by the help of the devil “who was the friend of all ingenious gentlemen.”