[From Folklore of the Isle of Man, A.W.Moore, 1891]
HERE is but little trace of superstitions connected with the great objects of Nature, the mountains, rivers, glens, sea, &c., which were probably regarded by the ancient inhabitants of Man merely with dumb awe and reverence. But of their adoration of the Heavenly Bodies which supplied them with light, and of the animals, trees, and plants, which supplied their daily needs, there are significant traces.1 Their religion, like those of all primitive races, was, in effect, a vague worship of the phenomena of nature, which they regarded as living powers. Now, of all the phenomena which. are visible to man, the Sun is at once the most awful, beneficent,. and mysterious. It is the source of light and warmth, and, when it departs, darkness and cold follow. With darkness,. fear and death are associated, and with light, joy and life. And as the sun is the source of light, it was considered the originator and generator of life. The worship of the sun was a very widely extended cult, a cult of which we have remains, even at the present day, in the ceremonial observances at no less than four festivals during the year. Of these, the one perhaps most distinctly connected with solar adoration is the pro cession to the tops of the highest hills on Laa-Lunys (the first of August, see p. 120); and as the connection between the sun and fire is naturally intimate, so it is not improbable that the fires called bonfires, which still light up the hill-tops on the eves of the great festivals of Boaldyn, of Midsummer, and of Sauin, have some connection with sun worship. A further reason in support of this contention is afforded by the undoubted fact that the practice of lighting these fires at such a time is evidently a very ancient one, as in the eighth century, when the Christian synods vainly endeavoured to put it down, it is described as having been in vogue from a remote period. We have (in Chapter VI.) also referred to the practice of leaping over these bonfires, and of driving cattle through them; of rolling the fire-wheels, and of lighting fires to the windward of fields. We have given the popular notion that these ceremonies were performed with a view to driving away Fairies, Witches, and all evil influences; and have alluded to the widespread notion of the purifying power of fire. But, as we have just indicated, it is probable that their object, in the earliest times, was the worship of the sun; and it would seem that primitive man imagined that he could thus influence or charm the sun into providing him with a due amount of sunshine for his own welfare and that of his animals and crops; and it would seem, also, that as the flames of these bonfires mimicked the sunshine, they were supposed to promote fertility, for, as we have already seen (in Chapter VI.) the crops were supposed to flourish only as far as the bonfires were visible. These bonfires, according to the testimony of Julius Caesar, were used by the ancient Celts for sacrificing human beings; and from another source we learn that it was considered that the fertility of the year would be in accordance with the number of victims. The funeral pyre of Balder, himself the sun-god, being lit on Midsummer eve, is significant of the same custom among the Scandinavians; and, when we remember that the Gaelic Highlanders, as late as the middle of last century, pretended to burn a man on their Need- fires, a sign of the reality of the burning at an earlier epoch, we may conjecture that a similar practice once prevailed in Man.
The Moon and the Stars, as mitigators of darkness, were also recipients of adoration, but in a much less degree. As regards the moon, with the exception of the belief that too much gazing at it would deprive those who did so of their senses, the only superstitions left are in connection with amatory questions. For it was supposed that, if the new moon were invoked in due form, the applicant would learn in a dream the identity of his or her future partner. But it was absolutely necessary that this invocation, the words of which are unfortunately lost, should be addressed to the moon in the open air, as, if it passed through glass, there would be no response. It was also supposed that the best time for marrying, or engaging in any important undertaking, was when the moon was full.
As regards Animals, Trees, and Plants when, in previous chapters, any mention has been made of the superstitions connected with them, we have for the most part merely given the popular explanation of the sacrifice of the former, and the use of the latter, on such occasions as the eves of Boaldyn, Sauin, and Midsummer, i.e., as being charms to ward off the influence of Fairies and Witches, or to expel disease; and, in the absence of such explanation, we have refrained from giving one of our own. But in this chapter, where all the superstitions on this subject have been brought together, we propose to briefly investigate their true primary connection, which, as already stated, is probably with the earliest known form of religion, i.e., that of the worship of the phenomena of nature.
It seems highly probable, indeed, that the belief in the efficacy of such charms against Fairies and Witches, was encouraged by the early teachers of Christianity as a means of diverting the minds of their converts from their worship of nature or its spirit, personified by animals and trees. Animal worship was at one time prevalent in every part of the world; and it is clear that man considered some animals at least superior to himself. A mild and distant reflex of this opinion may possibly be found in the popular modern belief that some animals "are wiser than Christians." Dogs, for instance, are supposed to be able to forecast a coming death, to recognise Witches, when men cannot, and to understand human speech; and horses are accredited with seeing ghosts when invisible to men. The luckiness or unluckiness connected with certain animals is also possibly a remnant of this belief. It was unlucky to meet a cat on New Year's morning, but on other occasions there seems to have been no particular significance attached to this animal, though there was a hazy notion that it was, especially if black, the companion of Witches. Magpies were lucky or unlucky, according to the number of them that were seen. The popular distich on this subject is
One for sorrow, two for death,
Three for a wedding, and four for a birth.
Ravens, too, had an uncanny reputation, but this may have been, originally, because they were supposed to be Odin's messengers ; while to see a hare cross a road was deemed very unlucky.
It is also possible that a survival of a belief in animal superiority may have originated the confidence which still exists in their weather wisdom (see p. ). After what we have stated with reference to the idea of the superiority of some animals entertained by primitive man, the undoubted fact that he sacrificed them will seem very curious at first sight. But when we learn that this was thought to be the very highest honour he could pay them, and the greatest kindness he could do them, the aspect of the question is changed. It is true, of course, that there were animals worshipped by some tribes which its members would not venture to kill. This cult is called Totemism as each tribe is supposed to be of the kindred of its totem or sacred animal, and to kill, or kill and eat it, would be the height of impiety.2 On the other hand, there were animals which were worshipped on account of their being killed and eaten. But they were not killed and eaten on ordinary occasions, but only on certain festivals. And, as they thought that all things must die, the gods included, they supposed that they did particular honour to and conferred a benefit upon the victims they sacrificed, by relieving them from the suffering and weakness attendant upon old age; while the benefit to them selves was gaining a communion with the Deity by eating his body and drinking his blood. A remnant of this form of sacrifical worship perhaps occurs in the Manx custom of "hunting the wren." For we have seen that this bird was highly honoured, being called almost universally the "king of birds," and yet once a year it was ceremonially slain, and its feathers distributed, so that each might receive some benefit from its divine virtue. This divinity of the wren is also indicated by the former practice of the Manx fishermen not to go to sea without a dead wren to protect them from storms (see p.133).
The procession of the laare vane, "white mare," on twelfth- night, and at the harvest festival, 3 may also have some connection with animal worship. For it seems probable that in Man as in St. Kilda, the "mare" once possessed a hide, that pieces of of this hide were plucked off like the feathers of the wren, and that they were supposed to have similar virtues. On Hollantide-eve, too, the last night of the old year, a calf was sacrificed, as we have learned from the old ballad sung on that occasion. And the bonfires at Boaldyn, Midsummer, and Sauin formerly consumed sacrifices either of men or of beasts. But we have not to go to tradition for instances of animal sacrifices, or even to such ceremonies as the slaying of the wren, of which the symbolical meaning has been lost ; for we know, on the testimony of those now living, that lambs were burnt in Man less than 50 years ago, and that not even according to popular superstition for the discovery of Witches or the expulsion of disease, but, in the words of the informants, son oural, "for a sacrifice." It seems possible, too, that the practice of burning animals to discover Witchcraft, &c., really originated from their being burnt for sacrificial purposes. In all these sacrifices the notion of laying the sins of the people on the sacrificed was probably present, and we have this more nearly represented in the recent custom already alluded to,4 of throwing diseased cattle, like scapegoats, out to sea, so as to ward off the disease from their fellows.
The curious superstition about the unluckiness of letting blood, especially that of a king or person of high rank, fall on the ground, may also have some sacrificial meaning. We have a historical instance of this in Man, for it is remembered to this day that when Iliam Dhone, William Christian, was shot at Hango Hill in 1662, blankets were spread where he stood, so that not one drop of his blood should touch the earth.
The equally curious notion that all nail and hair cuttings should be carefully destroyed may have some connection with this species of superstition, though the reason popularly assigned for this precaution is that it is to prevent the Witches getting hold of them, and so gaining power over their owners. Hair was formerly supposed to have great sanative virtues, but why it was formerly considered obligatory to hang a criminal by a hair rope, as the following story related to Train will show, does not appear
"A malefactor, who had been condemned to suffer the extreme penalty of the law, was taken from Castle Rushen to the place of execution, where a great concourse of people were assembled from all parts of the Island to witness a spectacle of rare occur rence. By an old customary law, it was ordained that a person convicted of felony should be hanged by the neck in a hair rope; but in the case alluded to one of the constituted authorities had given orders privately that a hempen halter should be substituted The innovation was discovered by some of the spectators just as the convict was suspended from the fatal tree. The populace instantly became so infuriated . . . that they not only had well-nigh killed the executioner for not publicly resisting such an infringement of the ancient statute, but also, having cut down the felon in the agonies of death, they even . . . again hung up the dead body in a hair halter.
The prevalence of superstitions connected with Trees in past ages will not be wondered at when we remember that Europe was formerly almost all one vast forest. Its primitive inhabitants lived in small clearings in this forest, and they must have been greatly impressed, not only by the immensity of their surroundings, but by the great changes produced in them by the seasons. The first approach of Spring, with its budding leaves, must have filled them with wonder and joy, and the approach of Winter, and the consequent decay of vegetation, must have inspired them with equal wonder and sorrow. We cannot be surprised then if they adored their mighty surroundings, and attributed their natural changes to the agency of Deities or Spirits. In the Isle of Man, trees seem always to have been rare, and perhaps this is why there are so few tokens of any tree worship, though there are some signs of an adoration of the reproductive power of Nature. Thus the invitation to Bridget, on the first of February, to repose upon a rush or straw couch,5 is probably the remains of some ceremony connected with the first revival of vegetation in Spring. On May-day,6 as we have seen, branches of trees, especially of the mountain ash, were strewed upon the thresholds,acustom which is now supposed tobe practised as a protection against Fairies and Witches, but which was probably formerly a method of invoking the reproductive power of Nature. For trees were supposed to produce fertilising effects on both women and cattle, and, according to Camden, the Irish "fancy a green bough of a tree fastened on May-day against the house will produce plenty of milk that summer."7 We have already seen that the Cuirn tree, or Mountain-ash, was regarded with special veneration. It was planted, in common with the Thorn and the Ash (unjin), by the sacred wells in Man. Some of these trees are still to be found in these positions, and votive offerings have, within living memory, been placed on them. The Cuirn tree was considered an antidote to witchcraft, though this scarcely explains why a stick of it was substituted, on Good Friday, for the ordinary iron poker. Another significant ceremony, as showing the adoration of nature, was the combat between winter and summer which took place on May-day (Laa-boaidyn); the latter, which was represented by a young girl, decorated with leaves, being victorious, and thus typifying the victory of Nature's reproductive power.8 In the Isle of Man winter was represented by a man in winter garb, but in some countries the defeated champion was dressed to represent death, so that the contest was still more significant of the triumph over decay. The Midsummer celebrations seems also to have been connected with Nature as well as Sun worship, being intended as charms to promote the fertility of the crops. The sacrifice of Balder, too, who was both Oak-god and Sun-god, as typified by the bonfires which were formerly made of oak wood, is significant of this connection ; as is also the probability that this was the day on which the Druadh cut the mistletoe, and thus enabled Balder to be slain.9 For the oak which was thus burned was universally considered the noblest of trees, and we have seen that the object of ceremonial sacrifice received adoration. But it is in our harvest festival that we . have retained the most characteristic survival of the adoration of the reproductive power of nature, or of its spirit. For the last sheaf,10 called the maiden, and the little sheaf taken from it, called the harvest doll, were the objects of much ceremony, and the fact of their being preserved till the following harvest would seem to indicate a belief that the corn's life could thus be continued from one harvest to the next, and so ensure lasting fertility. It may be noted, too, that the ceremony of the laare vane, or white mare 11 may have had some connection with the last sheaf as this sheaf is in some counties in England and Wales to this day called "The Mare."
The following superstitions about Animals and Plants are probably not, except as regards the Weather-Lore to be derived from them, connected in any way with Nature worship, so that the popular explanation of their origin will suffice:
The Hedge-hog and the Hare were tabooed, from their supposed connection with Witches, who took their forms upon them.. The former animal was supposed to draw milk from cows, and the latter had a very bad reputation, though no specific misdeeds were attributed to it.
Mr. P. M. C. Kermode writes as follows concerning superstitions about the Hare :" Here, as elsewhere, it is the object of superstition, and seems to be a favourite form to be assumed by a Witch. Thus, while labourers have been at work in a field they would see the dogs pursuing a hare which would presently be lost to sight, in a few moments the dogs would be observed to bark and whine around a man well-known to all and suspected of being a Witch. Of course it was he who was pursued, and, being hard-pressed, was forced to assume his normal form, to the mystification of the dogs. Again, a man whose cattle were suffering from some unknown cause would learn that a hare might be seen at a certain hour every day in a particular spot. Suspecting the meaning of this he would load his gun, having as the only sufficient bullet a broken silver coin, and go in pursuit. Having shot the hare, he would follow his dogs, and find them howling by the side of a stream, while an ugly old crone would be seated on a boulder in the midst of it nursing her broken leg and muttering curses. Again, dogs will give chase to a hare, and, upon approaching it, stop suddenly and refuse to go further, even though encouraged to do so. This, of course, is because they recognise a Witch." 12 This belief that a Witch when she had turned into a hare could only be shot with a silver bullet was very general. The following incident, which is said to have occurred about 30 years ago, will illustrate this : A suspected Witch was successfully convicted in the parish of Andreas by a sportsman, who, seeing a hare crossing a field, fired and wounded it, and, when getting over a hedge to secure his prey, he found that he had shot an old woman, who was a reputed Witch. Oral.
At table, no one will turn a Herring; but, when one side is eaten, the bone is taken away, so that the rest can be eaten: for to 'turn the Herring would be tantamount to overturning the boat into which it was drawn from the ocean if it then chanced to be at sea. When a Cow had newly calved, she was driven over a burning turf to protect her from evil influences. Anyone removing into a new house formerly put in a Cock before taking possession, in order to thwart any bad wishes that may have been expressed by the last inhabitant. There was a superstition to the effect that the cross-bone of the head of a Bollan-fish would prevent anyone from straying from the most direct road to any place to which he wanted to proceed, eithe by day or night. Manx sailors seldom went to sea without one of these bones in their pocket to direct their course at night or in hazy weather.
There is a firmly-rooted belief in the weather wisdom of animals; and, apart from superstition, there is some reason for supposing that their faculties in this respect are more acute than men's. It is said that, during the earthquake in the Riviera, in 1887, animalsespecially dogs and catswere seen stealing out of the towns before the first shock was felt. But, on the other hand, they frequently make mistakes, as, for instance, when birds nest in an inclement spring, and con sequently lose their offspring. The following weather prognostics from animals are still esteemed in the Isle of Man.13 We may divide them into prognostics of Storm, Rain, and Fine weather. Storms will ensue when Seagulls come inland and Rooks fly to the mountains; when Cattle and Sheep seek shelter, and when the Porpoise, 14 or Herring-hog, is seen gambolling round ships at sea. Rain will follow when Sparrows chirp, when Rooks and Herons 15 fly low, when Rats and Mice are restless, and when many Bees return to the hive and none leave it. Fine weather is certain when Bats fly about at sunset, when Rooks, Herons, and Larks fly high, when Seagulls fly out to sea, when Bees are seen far from their hives, and Spiders spin their webs in the open air. The few remaining weather prognostics from other sources may be also conveniently discussed here. If the Hawthorn and Blackthorn have many berries the ensuing winter is expected to be severe. Clover is supposed to close up its leaves at the approach of a storm. A clear Sunrise betokens fine weather, and so does a red Sunset; but a pale Sunset is a sign of rain. The old Moon in the arms of the new is a certain forerunner of storms. A Halo round the moon means rain. When the Cumberland mountains are clearly seen, rain is expected.16
The following quaint tales about animals, though they do not come strictly under the head of Superstitions, may certainly be considered as belonging to Manx Folk-Lore :The Ushag reaisht, or Mountain-plover, is a favourite both in song and legend. The following ballad about it has been sung by Manx nurses as a lullaby, to the same tune as that of "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush," for many generations
Ushag veg my ny moanee doo 17
C'raad chaddil oo riyr syn vie?
Chaddil mish riyr er boare y dress,
As ugh my cadley cha treih!
Little red bird of the black turf ground,
Where did you sleep last night?
I slept last night on the top of the briar,
And oh! what a wretched sleep!
Ushag veg ray ny moanee doo
C'raad chaddil oo riyr syn oie?
Chaddil mish riyr er boare y crouw, 18
As ugh my cadley cha treih!
Little red bird of the black turf ground,
Where did you sleep last night?
I slept last night on the top of the bush,
And oh ! what a wretched sleep!
Ushag veg ruy ny mnoanee doo
Croad chaddil oo riyr syn vie?
Chaddil mish riyr er baare y thovane, 19
As ugh my cadley rho treih
Liltle red bird of the black turf ground,
Where did you sleep last night?
I slept last night on the ridge of the roof,
And oh! what a wretched sleep!
Ushag veg ray ny moanee doo
Croad chaddil oo riyr syn vie.
Chaddil mish riyr eddyr daa guillag,
Myr yinnagh yn oikan 20 eddyr daa lhuishag,
As a my cadley cha kiune!
Little red bird of the black turf ground,
Where did you sleep last night?
I slept last night between two leaves
As a babe 'twixt two blankets quite at ease,
And oh! what a peaceful sleep!
We have also a legend about this bird in connection with the Lhondoo, or Black- bird
It is said that once upon a time the haunts of the Lhondoo were confined to the mountains, and those of the Ushag-reaisht to the lowlands. One day, however, the two birds met on the border of their respective territories, and, after some conversa tion, it was arranged to change places for a while, the Ushag reaisht remaining in the mountains, till the Lhondoo should return. The Lhondoo, finding the new quarters much more congenial than the old, conveniently forgot his promise to go back. Consequently the poor Ushagreaisht was left to bewail his folly in making the exchange, and has ever since been giving expression to his woes in the following plaintive querulous pipe:
Lhondoo vet oo cheet, vet oo cheet? "Black-bird are you coming, are you coming?" The Lhondoo, now plump and flourishing, replies Cha-net dy bragh, cha-nel dy bragh! "No never, no never!" The poor Ushag-reaisht, shiveringTeh feer feayr. t'eh feer frayr !21 "It's very cold, it's very cold !"
Another form of the same story is as follows :The Ushag-reaisht complains giall oo dy horagh oo reesht "you promised you would come back"; ta'n traa liauyr, as cha vel 00 ayns shoh,
"the time is long and you are not here." But the Lhondoo replies Cha jig- dy bragh, "Will never come."
The following is a quaint fancy derived from the notes of the Blackbird's and Thrush's songs. The blackbird whistles Gow as smook, which is Anglo-Manx for "go and smoke." The thrush replies Cha vet thumbaga aym "I have no tobacco," or literally "There is no tobacco at me." To whom the blackbird again kionney, kionney, "buy, buy." The thrush is then forced to confess Cha vet ping aym "There is not a penny at me," and receives very bad advice Gow er dayl, "Go on trust," but he closes the controversy by saying, Cha der ad dou er, "They won't give it me
The following tale is told of the Herring:
Long ago the fish bethought themselves that it was time for them to choose a king in case there might be disputes among them, for they had no Deemster to tell them what was right, so they came together to choose a king. No doubt they all tried to put on their best appearance. It is said that the Fluke in particular spent so much time in putting on his red spots, that when he arrived he found the election was over and that the Herring had been made king of the sea. Upon hearing this, he curled his mouth on one side and said, "A simple fish like the Herring, king of the sea!"; and his.mouth has been on one side ever since. It is perhaps on account of this importance of the herring that the Deemsters, in their oath, swear to execute the laws of the Isle "as indifferently as the herring's back-bone doth lie in the midst of the fish."
There is a curious tradition that all the following creatures pass the winter in a torpid condition. They are seven in number, (though, as will be seen, some of the names vary), and they are consequently called ny shiaght cadlagyn, "the seven sleepers," having, however, no connection with the more famous seven of Ephesus. They are Craitnag, "the Bat"; Cooag, "the Cuckoo"; Cloghan-ny-cteigh, "the Stone-chat "; and Gollan-geayee "the Swallow "; which are found in all the lists; the others being Crammag, "the Snail"; Doallag, "the Dormouse "; Foillycan, "the Butterfly"; Shellan, "the Bee "; Jialgheer, "the Lizard ;" and Cadlag, "the sleeper," a mythical animal.
We now come to the superstitions about Trees and Plants. The Cuirn has already been discussed. The Thorn tree also, especially when it grew to a large size, was regarded with veneration, there being a very strong predjudice against cutting it down. It was supposed to be a favourite haunt of the Fairies, and there are numerous anecdotes still current of their being seen dancing in its branches.
The Elder tree, or Tramman, was vulgarly supposed to have been the tree upon which Judas Iscariot hanged himself, and it was possibly on this account that great reliance was formerly placed on its sanative and mystical virtues. It was used as a charm for protecting houses and gardens from the influence of Sorcery and Witchcraft, and, even at the present time, an Elder tree may be observed growing by almost every old cottage in the Island. its leaves, like those of the Cuirn, were picked on May-eve, and affixed to doors and windows to protect the house from witchcraft.
It was supposed that if you trod on the Luss-y-chialg,22 "Plant of the prickle," or St. John's wort, after sunset, on St. John's Eve, a fairy horse would rise out of the earth and carry you about during the whole night, only leaving you at dawn. The Luss-ny-tree duillag, "Plant of three leaves," or Shamrock, was said to be a cure for tooth-ache, and the Luss-ny-ollee,23 "Plant of the cattle," was efficacious for sores in the mouths of cattle, as well as for tooth-ache.
The Luss-yn-aacheoid. "Plant of the sickness," or Purple Meadow-button, was reckoned a preservative against the "Evil Eye."
The Luss-y-chellan is an herb which was said to keep milk from turning sour, and butter from being discoloured.
The Luss-ny-kiare-duillag, "Four-leaved clover," was efficacious against the wiles of Fairies or of Witches, and so was the Boltan-feaill-Eoin, "John's Feast-day plant, or Mugwort."24 This yellow weed was gathered on Midsummer-eve, and made into chaplets, which were worn on the heads of man and beast, who were then supposed to be proof against all malign influences. Of the metals, Iron was the only one invested with magical power. This notion probably took its rise from a dim tradition of the period when the people who had iron weapons overcame the earlier people of the stone and bronze ages. The Fairies, as should be noted in this connection, were always supposed to have used stone-headed arrows, the numerous flint arrow heads which are found being supposed to be their weapons. The magical power of iron, referred to above, is demonstrated in some of the legends already given about the virtues of magic swords, and it will also be remembered that an iron tongs sufficed to protect a newly-born baby from the Fairies. In the days when iron was rare, it would either be an object of veneration, or be viewed with suspicion. Mysterious virtues are, in fact, attributed to it in the popular stories of many nations. Even at the present day, a horseshoe is hung up over the entrance door of a house, a stable, or a cow-house, as a protection against the powers of evil. We have already referred to the strange superstition against using an iron poker to stir the fire on Good Friday. It is remarkable, in this connection, that iron knives were never made use of by savages in their sacrificial ceremonies, because they supposed that the spirits objected to this metal. But for this very reason that the spirits objected to it, it was used, as we have already seen, as a protection against them. It is possible that the superstition against cutting a child's nails during the first year of its life may be connected with this objection of spirits to iron.
The virtues of Salt 25 as a protection against Fairies, Magicians, &c., were universally recognised. If milk were taken fromn a house, it was considered necessary to put a pinch of salt in it, and this must be done by the mistress to prevent the luck of the house going with it. Fishermen will not lend any salt out of their boat, as to do so is considered unlucky, Salt was also strewed about the threshold if a woman were approaching her confinement, in order to drive away the fairies. It was put into a child's mouth at birth, and laid on the breast of a corpse.
A white Stone was considered very unlucky, and nothing will induce the fishermen to use one as ballast.
In the first part of this chapter we have discussed the super stitions which probably originated in the primitive Nature religion, and we may now briefly refer to those which have had their origin in other religions, especially the Christian. They are, for the most part, connected with churches and keeills, and all ancient monuments supposed to have been used for religious observances, which have always been regarded with superstitous awe. Any sacrilege against such edifices has always been considered by the Manx people as a most serious sin which would bring certain punishment on the offender.
In the words of Bishop Wilson, "They have generally hated sacrileges to such a degree that they do not think a man can wish a greater curse to a family than in these words :Clogh ny killagh ayns corneil dty hie mooar, i.e., "May a stone of the church be found in the corner of thy dwelling-house." Many stories might be told to illustrate this feeling, but we must content ourselves with a few specimens.
About one hundred years ago a farmer, in the parish of Jurby, during a violent storm of thunder and lighting, drove his sheep into one of the ancient keeills. It was afterwards observed that he lost all the lambs of that flock in the ensuing spring, and that many of them were born monstrosities.
Not long ago a small windmill was erected for driving a threshing machine, a portion of which was built of stones from an adjacent keeill; but immediately it was set to work it went with tremendous fury, and shook the whole of the premises, and had in consequence to be taken down. The owner of the farm on which this windmill was situate lost four head of cattle and three horses by disease within a very brief period. All these calamities were attributed to the use of the stones from the sacred edifice.
A portion of the roof of the keeill on the Rhyne farm in Baldwin was removed to a farm-house, but such unearthly noises resulted that it was soon restored. A somewhat similar story is told of a stone which was taken from St. Luke's Chapel in the same neighbourhood to a farm-house, but it had to be taken back, as those who lived in the house could not sleep at nights for noises, sometimes resembling a calf bleating, and at other times like a cart of stones being upset. At one time it was placed on the earthen fence of an adjoining field, but the fence would never stand, and the stone had to be removed again to the chapel.
Some years ago a farmer began levelling the keeill on Camlork farm, but he at once "took a pain in his arm, and had to stop work some days." Afterwards he continued his task, assisted by his wife and daughter, the consequence was the two latter died soon after, and the man became insane, and expired after living in that state for some time.
About thirty years ago a farmer put his sheep to graze in a field in which there was a stone circle, the result in the following spring being the same as in the case of the man who drove his sheep into a keeill. About the same period two men were employed to remove the stones from the circle at The Braid, in the parish of Braddan, in order to build a wall with them. No sooner had they commenced operations than one of them was seized with a terrible pain in one of his legs, and the other was similarly afflicted in one of his arms. They at once desisted and went home, but the leg of one and arm of the other were crippled and useless for the rest of their lives. Stories are also told of ploughs being broken without any apparent cause, when they were driven too close to one of these circles. Even to appropriate a portion of an old cist was sacrilege, as the following tale will show: A man had been tempted to take a large stone slab that formed the top of an old cist for a lintel. No sooner had he done this than his cow sickened and a calf died, and, more curious still, one of his hens was found dead on her nest. He at once recognised that this was a just punishment for the sacrilege he had committed and restored the slab to its original position. After this, of course, all went well.
Even sacrilege of a milder kind was resented, as will appear from the following show : Some thirty years ago the churchwardens of Maughold decided to put two steps to the communion rails of the church, instead of one, which was very high. The labourers in taking away the old steps disinterred a number of bones, which were left exposed during the time that two of them were absent at dinner. The third, who remained and took his mid day (munlaa) dinner in the church, distinctly heard sounds of whispering or murmuring (tassoneagh) all over the church. When his fellows returned, they at once re-interred the bones, when the whispering ceased.
But in the following, on the contrary, which is of quite recent origin, there seems to be no resentment at all :There was an old Roman Catholic Chapel at the south end of Douglas, near the Castletown-road. When this chapel was pulled down, a house was built on its site. The woman who occupied this house with her husband, and who often used to sit up waiting for him to return home till a very late hour, declared that every night when the clock struck twelve she distinctly heard the tramp of many feet entering the room where she sat. Then there was silence, and after a time the sound of feet again. Doubtless this was the arrival of the ancient worshippers at mid-night mass, and their departure from it.
As a proof of the simplicity and piety of the Manx, Vicar-General Wilks, writing in 1777, states that they do not usually reckon the time "by hours of the day, but by the traa shirvaish, i.e., the service time, viz,, nine in the morning, or three in the evening, an hour, two hours, before service time, &c."
Other superstitions connected with religion have already been mentioned. They are the bowing of the sun on Easter Sunday morning; and the lowing of the cattle and blooming of the myrrh plant at midnight on Christmas-eve; the making of the branches of the cuirn into crosses on May-eve; the notions that the influence of Christ is a protection from Fairies, &c., at Christmas time, and that children were more especially liable to evil influences before baptism.
1 The question of the real origin and significance of the ideas of primitive Man on these subjects is still obscure, and the views given must be regarded as merely tentative For an able account of this question see "The Golden Bough," by J. G. Frazer, M.-A. Macmillan & Co.), from which the writer has derived some valuable hints.
2 Thus it was taboo for Cuchullin to eat his namesake, the dog.
3 [appears to be missing ]
4 See p. 92.
5 See p. 106,
6 See p. 110.
7 It seems probable that the practice of making these branches into crosses is probably of Christian origin, and, therefore, comparatively speaking of recent date, though it must be remembered that the symbol of the cross was known before Christianity existed.
8 See p. 112.
9 According to the well-known myth, the beloved Balder was invulner able till pierced by the mistletoe.
10 p. 122.
11 pp. 104, 122.
12 Manx Note Book. Vol. I., pp. 126-7.
13 NOTE.It will be noticed that most of them are common to many countries.
14 Yn Pherkin vooar in Manx.
15 Coar-ny-hastan." Crane of the eel" in Manx.
16 There are some other bits of weather Folk-Lore which have become proverbial, and will be found under the heading of Proverbs.
17 The first and third lines in the first three verses are repeated three times, but in the last verse the first line only is repeated.
18 Crouw, "a bunch growing on one stem or stalk." Cregeen.
19 Thovane, "a rib or lath on the roof of a house, under the scraws. Cregeen.
20 Oikan, "The gradations from infancy to manhood are marked by a copious variety of terms: Oikan, Lhanoo, Paitchey, Poinnar, Stuggyr, Seollag, Dooiney. "Rev. W. Gill. Oikan is the first stage of all.
21 These words "T'eh feer feayr" exactly represent the Plover's shrill and piteous whistle.
22 Hypericum perforatum.
24 Artemisia Vulgaris.
25 See stories of "Fairy Dogs," ch. III,; "Magician's Palace," ch. V. and "New Year's Eve," ch. VI.