[From Manx Quarterly, #9 1910]
Manx folklore is full of tales of fairies, brownies, and phynodderrees, and the influence these mythical beings exert on ordinary individuals. Those who wish to be specially favoured by the tiny fraternity must strictly conform to certain well-known rules, or luck will pass them disdainfully by.
This is particularly the case when anyone visits a Wishing Well to placate the fates and turn things to their own good. Having decided on what most to wish for, the wisher must stoop and drink from the palm of the hand three times, without speaking, at the same time revolving the wish, as it were, in the mind during the process. The wish must not be confided to any person however intimate until it be accomplished, or the breach of faith with the presiding deity will be followed by disaster and ill-fortune. One wonders whether the injunction to lap from the hand has any connection with the method adopted by the chosen three hundred of Gideon in scriptural history.
There are at least two Wishing Wells in the vicinity of Laxey namely, the one on the top of the beach known as Lord Henry's Well, and the other at Chibbyr-pherrick, whilst within easy reach by electric car is the famous holy well at Maughold, in close proximity to Maughold Church. This district will repay those who are interested, as the church is well worth a visit. The celebrated well on Maughold Head is situated half-way down the face of the cliff sloping to the sea, and like most holy wells, is formed in shape like a horseshoe. Tradition has it that it represents the imprint of the hoof of St. Patrick's steed, when he took a flying leap across the Island the healing and magic waters gushing forth as a, testimony to the virtues of the message of good tidings that he carried with him.
The Chibbyr pherrick is considered a very good Wishing Well, and visitors from Laxey who climb the mountain road to explore the beauties of Glen Roy are recommended to step aside and taste the magic waters of this famed spring. It is a good climb up the hill past Axnfell, but the splendid views of the valley that are unfolded by the way make the pilgrimage well worth the energy expended. Resting for a moment's breathing space near to Axnfell, beneath lies the village of Laxey, with the new road and tramway curving across their twin bridges, and the pretty station nestling among the trees by the little church, a rustic picture without parallel and unique in itself. In the distance, on the hill rising to Agneash, Lady Isabella stands forth a conspicuous object. Sheltering below the fir and pine trees on our left, that fill the air with their resinous odour, are the Gardens, looking the veritable "Beauty Spot," with their lovely flowering beds, their well-trimmed lawns and shady walks; whilst away to the right stretches the deep ghyll with. the pretty cottages dotted here. and there along the valley sides, and in the distance the sea, with a faint outline of the English coast rising above the horizon. Leaving this entrancing view behind, we climb the hill and follow the roadway that skirts the top of the rugged lhergy hill, till we come to the cottage near the well, which latter lies a little below the road way It is a lovely spot, this tiny valley with its streamlet almost lost in the wild and rank growth of rushes, heath heather, and golden gorse, with the speckled orchis occasionally peeping through, a fragile thing of beauty, fit emblem for Fairy Queen and retinue when they hold court in this wild and romantic spot.
Whilst lingering here, if the fates are propitious, a magpie or two may make their appearance. These somewhat peculiar birds are regarded as omens of approaching good or ill luck. The Manx rhyme has it-
One for sorrow; two for joy (Manx pronounce jie).
Three for a wedding; four, some die.
Five, a good ship on the sea.
Six, a letter coming to me."
If only one makes its appearance, the ill is neutralised if the bird flies to the left. On the wild and rock-strewn lhergy that falls so steeply down to the Glen Ray stream the wild "Buggane" used to roam uttering weird and fearsome noises that were a terroor to all peaceable people. When winter storms swept down the ghyll and rain and hail were driving hard before the furious gale, the screech of the terriblue buggane could be heard above the howling storm, ae he tore along this hillside in his tempestuous frenzy. Then the cottagers cowered round their firesides (chiollaghs) and shook their heads in trembling awe, pitying any poor wayfarer that might be abroad, for on such nights the dreaded "Tom the Thumper" and his black dogs, with the Wild Buggane of Lhergy Grawe, held high revel in the ghyll.
In the evening, however, the cuckoo may be seen bare, perched on some rock, in the gathering dusk, sending out his peculiar call across the deep valley to some other companion bird in. the nut trees on the other side. Those who hear the cuckoo call four the first time in the season must be standing on something soft, preferably grass or some soft mosey bank, if they wish to enjoy a comfortable and prosperous year, otherwise the portents are unfavourable. This superstition is somewhat analagous to that pertaining to the first glimpse of the new moon, which must not be seen through glass; otherwise, misfortune will ensue during the following month. If it be seen without any intervening obstacle, all is fair, and those who wish for increased wealth must turn over the coins in their pockets three times
Shooting stars, too, are favourable to the fulfilment of special wishes, but no exclamation must be uttered during the meteoaric flash and the act of wishing. Another superstition in connection with the stars is to count nine stars for seven consecutive nights, and then the first person that shakes hands with you is either to be your future husband or wife, according to the sex. As a rule, this is practised by young men and maidens who "keep company," so the probability is that if they are favoured with seven fine starlight nights consecutively, they will accordingly shake hands first.
Other superstitions survive in the various charms practised for curative purposes, such as the rubbing of a stie on the eye with a wedding ring, whifat some mysterious incantation is ufeuied at the same time by the charmer. Burns are sometimes treated in the wane way, and. cut and bleeding wounds are pressed by the fingers true while the incantation. is repeated; although in some cases the presence of the patient is unnecessary, the incantation only being uttered. These are typical examples of superstitious faith cures, believed in many of the rural districts still, and with which the modern cult of the so-called Christian Scientist is only comparable, the latter being only the old superstitions revived under a modern guise.