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.
Should a person be bewitched by an evil neighbour, he must take two black cocks, lay a charm over the head of one and let it loose ; but the other must be boiled down, feathers and all, and eaten. Then the malice of the neighbour will have no effect on him or his.
Ancient Egypt and Greece had likewise superstitions on the subject of sacrificing a cock. Even the last words of Socrates had reference to this subject. It is remarkable also that in the Christian legend it was a cock that testified indignantly by his crowing against Peter's treachery and cowardice, and aroused in him the remorse that was evidenced by his tears.
It is on Fridays that the fairies have the most power to work evil; therefore Friday is an unlucky day to begin work, or to go on a journey, or to have a wedding ; for the spirits are then present everywhere, and hear and see everything that is going on, and will mar and spoil all they can, just out of malice and jealousy of the mortal race.
It is then they strike cattle with their elfin arrows, lame a horse, steal the milk, and carry off the handsome children, leaving an ugly changeling in exchange, who is soon known to be a fairy sprite by its voracious appetite, without any natural increase in growth.
This superstition makes the peasant-women often very cruel towards weakly children ; and the trial by fire is sometimes resorted to in order to test the nature of the'child who is suspected of being a changeling. For this purpose a fairy woman is usually sent for, who makes a drink for the little patient of certain herbs of whose power she alone has the secret knowledge ; and a childless woman is considered the best to make the potion. Should there be no improvement in the child after the treatment with herbs, then the witch-women sometimes resort to terrible measures to test the fairy nature of the sufferer.
A child who was suspected of being a changeling, because he was wasted and thin and always restless and fretful, was ordered by the witch-woman to be placed for three nights on a shovel outside the door from sunset to sunrise, during which time he was given foxglove to chew, and cold water was flung over him to banish the fire-devil. The screams of the child at night were frightful, calling on his mother to come and take him in ; but the fairy doctor told the mother not to fear ; the fairies were certainly tormenting him, but by the third night their power would cease, and the child would be quite restored. However, on the third night the poor little child lay dead
Auguries and prophecies of coming fate may also be obtained from the flight of birds, the motion of the winds, from sneezing, dreams, lots, and the signs from a verse of the Psalter or Gospels. The peasantry attach great importance to the first verses of St. John's Gospel, and maintain that when the cock crows in the morning he is repeating these verses (from the ist to the 14th), and if we understood the language of animals and birds, we could often hear them •quoting these same verses.
A charm against sickness is an amulet worn round the neck, enclosing a piece of paper, on which is written the first three verses of St John's Gospel.