This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
There is a book, a little book, and the house which has it will never be burned ; the ship that holds it will never founder ; the woman who keeps it in her hand will be safe in childbirth. But none except a fairy man knows the name of the book, and he will not reveal it for love or money ; only on his death-bed will he tell the secret of the name to the one person he selects.
The adepts and fairy doctors keep their mysteries very secret, and it is not easy to discover the words of a charm, for the operator loses his power if the words are said without the proper preliminaries, or if said by a profane person without faith, for the operator should not have uttered the mystery in the hearing of one who would mock, or treat the matter lightly ; therefore he is punished.
Some years ago an old man lived in Mayo who had great knowledge of charms, and of certain love philtres that no woman could resist But before his death he enclosed the written charms in a strong iron box, with directions that no one was to dare to open it except the eldest son of an eldest son in a direct line from himself.
Some people pretend that they have read the charms ; and one of them has the strange power to make every one in the house begin to dance, and they can never cease dancing till another spell has been said over them.
But the guardian of the iron box is the only one who knows the magic secret of the spell, and he exacts a good price before he utters it, and so reveals or destroys the witchcraft of the dance.
The juice of deadly night-shade distilled, and given in a drink, will make the person who drinks believe whatever you will to tell him, and choose him to believe.
A bunch of mint tied round the wrist is a sure remedy for disorders of the stomach.
A sick person's bed must be placed north and south, not cross ways.
Nettles gathered in a churchyard and boiled down for a drink, have the power to cure dropsy.
The touch from the hand of a seventh son cures the bite of a mad dog. This is also an Italian superstition.
The hand of a dead man was a powerful incantation, but it was chiefly used by women. The most eminent fairy women always collected the mystic herbs for charms and cures by the light of a candle held by a dead man's hand at midnight or by the full moon.
When a woman first takes ill in her confinement, unlock instantly every press and drawer in the house, but when the child is born, lock them all up again at once, for if care is not taken the fairies will get in and hide in the drawers and presses, to be ready to steal away the little mortal baby when they get the opportunity, and place some ugly, wizened changeling in the cradle beside the poor mother. Therefore every key should be turned, every lock made fast ; and if the fairies are hidden inside, let them stay there until all danger is over for the baby by the proper precautions being taken, such as a red coal set under the cradle, and a branch of mountain ash tied over it, or of the alder-tree, according to the sex of the child, for both trees have mystic virtues, probably because of the ancient superstition that the first man was created from an alder-tree, and the first woman from the mountain ash.
The fairies, however, are sometimes successful in carrying off a baby, and the mother finds in the morning a poor weakly little sprite in the cradle in place of her own splendid child. But should the mortal infant happen to grow up ugly, the fairies send it back, for they love beauty above all things ; and the fairy chiefs greatly desire a handsome mortal wife, so that a handsome girl must be well guarded, or they will carry her off. The children of such unions grow up beautiful and clever, but are also wild, reckless and extravagant. They are known at once by the beauty of their eyes and hair, and they have a magic fascination that no one can resist, and also a fairy gift of music and song.
If a person is bitten by a dog, the dog must be killed, whether mad or not, for it might become mad; then, so also would the person who had been touched by the saliva of the animal.
If, by accident, you find the back tooth of a horse, carry it about with you as long as you live, and you will never want money ; but it must be found by chance.
When a family has been carried off by fever, the house where they died may be again inhabited with safety if a certain number of sheep are driven in to sleep there for three nights.
An iron ring worn on the fourth finger was considered effective against rheumatism by the Irish peasantry from ancient times.
Paralysis is cured by stroking, but many forms and mystic incantations are also used during the process ; and only certain persons have the power in the hands that can effect a cure by the magic of the stroke.
The seed of docks tied to the left arm of a woman will prevent her being barren.
A spoonful of aqua vita sweetened with sugar, and a little grated bread added, that it may not annoy the brain or the liver, will preserve from lethargy and apoplexy and all cold diseases.
The juice of carrots boiled down is admirable for purifying the blood.
Clippings of the hair and nails of a child tied up in a linen cloth and placed under the cradle will cure convulsions.
Tober Maire (Mary's well), near Dundalk, has a great reputation for cures. And thousands used to visit it on Lady Day for weak eyesight, and the lowness of heart. Nine times they must go round the well on their knees, always westward. Then drink a cup of the water, and not only are they cured of their ailment, but are as free from sin as the angels in heaven.
When children are pining away, they are supposed to be fairy-struck; and the juice of twelve leaves of foxglove may be given ; also in cases of fever the same.