This section is from the book "Legendary Fictions Of The Irish Celts", by Patrick Kennedy. Also available from Amazon: Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts.
Near the townland mentioned there lived an old woman in bad repute with her neighbours. She was seen, one May eve, skimming a well that lay in a neighbouring farm ; and when that was done, she went into the adjoining meadow, and skimmed the dew off the grass. One person said he heard her muttering, " Come all to me, and none to he." In a day or two, the owner of the farm, coming in from the fields about noon, found the family still at the churn, and no sign of butter. He was a little frightened, and looked here and there, and, at last, spied a bit of stale butter fastened to the mantel beam of the open fire-place.
" Oh, you may as well stop," said he ; " look what's there ! " " Oh, the witch's butter," said one of the girls ; "cut it off the mantel-piece." " No use," said another; " it must be a charmed knife, or nothing. Go and consult the fairy man, in the old ruined house at-; if he doesn't advise you, nobody can." The master of the house took the advice ; and, when they had milk enough for another churning, this is what they did :-
They twisted twigs of the mountain ash round their cows' necks ; they made a big fire, and thrust into it the sock and coulter of the plough ; they fastened the ash twigs round the churn, and connected them to the chain of the plough-irons; shut door and windows, so that they could not be opened from without; and merrily began the churning.
Just as the plough-irons were becoming red-hot, some one tried the latch of the door, and immediately they saw the face of the witch outside the window. " What do you wrant, good woman ? " " The seed of the fire, and I want to help you at the churning. I heard what happened to you, and I'm rather lucky." Here she roared out; for the burning plough-irons were scorching her inside. " What ails you, poor woman ? " " Oh, I have a terrible colic ! let me into the fire for mercy's sake, and give me a warm drink." " Oh, musha, but it's ourselves are sorry for you ; but we could not open door or window now for St. Mogue himself; for 'fraid the witch 'ud come in and cut our quicken gads, or pull out the plough-irons, or even touch the churn-staff. She got a bit of butter out of the fresh churning the other day, and took a sod out of our fire; and till she brings back the butter and the sod we must labour away. Have patience, poor woman; when we see a sign of the butter we'll open the door for you, and give you such a warm tumbler of punch, with caraways in it, as would bring you back from death's door. Put more turf on, and keep the irons at a red heat." Another roar ensued, and then she ejaculated, " Oh, purshuin' to all hard-hearted naygurs, that 'ud see a fellow-creature dying in misery outside of their door ! Sure, I was coming to yous with relief, and this is the sort of relief you'd give me. Throw up the window a bit, and take those things I made out for yous. Throw the bit of butter you'll find in this sheet of white paper into the churn, and this sod of turf into the fire, and cut away the bit of butter on the mantel beam with this knife, and give it back to me, till I return it to the knowledgeable woman I begged it from for yous."
The direction being followed, the butter began to appear in heaps in the churn. There was great joy and huzzaing, and they even opened the door to show hospitality to the old rogue. But she departed in rage, giving them her blessing in these words-" I won't take bit nor sup from yez. Yez have thrated me like a Hussian or a Cromwellian, and not like an honest neighbour, and so I lave my curse, and the curse of Cromwell on yez all! "
There is a counterpart to the next legend in Campbell's West Highland Tales; we have met nothing similar in other collections. It would seem to have first been told long after the time of St. Patrick. In the stories found among the native Irish and Highlanders there is always evident more of the Christian element than among the Norse or German collections, yet even in this respect there is a peculiarity worth noticing. The Blessed Virgin is personally introduced two or three times in Dasent's Norse collection, and we cannot recollect a single instance of such a liberty being taken in our Leinster recitals.
fiction, Irish, Celtic myths, sacred text, St. Patrick, stories