Sconemac's, The Evil Eye III

Scone's Scottish and Celtic Internet Book

Scottish Highlands and Islands Partnership

Scottish History and Culture

by Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot USA

"another page in my book"

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The Evil Eye



The Evil Eye III
Folklore of the Irish & Highland and Island Scots

A Man Herding Sheep:
I'll tell you now what happened to a little one of my own. She was just five years. And the day I'm speaking of she was running to school down the path before me, as strong and as funny as the day she was born, and laughing and looking back at me. And that night she went to bed as well as ever she was. And at about eleven o'clock in the night she awoke and gave a great cry, and she said there was a great pain in her knee, and it was m no other part of her. And in the morning she had it yet, and her walk had gone, and I lifted her and brought her out into the street, and she couldn't walk one step if you were to give her the three isles of Aran. And she lived for two nights after that.

When the doctor came and I told him, he said it was the strangest case he ever heard of, and the schoolmistress said, "I thought if I'd brought that child to the hill beyond and threw her down into the sea it would do her no harm, she was that strong."

But if such things happen, it happened to her, and touched she was. It was not death, it was being took away.

An Old Woman in an Aran village:
I'll tell you what happened a son of my own that was so strong and so handsome and so good a dancer, he was mostly the pride of the island. And he was that educated that when he was twenty-six years, he could write a letter to the Queen. And one day a pain came in the thigh, and a little lump came mside it, and a hole in it that you could hardly put the point of a pin in,and it was always drawing. And he took to his bed and was there for eleven months. And every night when it would be twelve o'clock, he would begin to be singing and laughing and going on. And what the neighbours said was, that it was at that hour there was some other left in his place. I never went to any one or any witchcraft, for my husband wouldn't let me but left it to the will of God; and anyway at the end of the eleven months he died.

And his sister was in America, and the same thing came to her there, a little lump by the side of the face, and she came home to die. But she died quiet and was like any other in the night.

And a daughter-in-law of mine died after the second birth, and even the priest said it was not dead she was, he that was curate then. I was surprised the priest to say that, for they mostly won't give in to it, unless it's one that takes a drop of drink.

An Old Man in the Kitchen:
I had a son that it was mostly given in to in Aran to be the best singer to give out a couple of verses, so that he'd hardly go out of the house but some one would want to be bringing him into theirs. And he took sick of a sudden, with a pain in his shoulder. I went to the doctor and he says, "Does your wife take tea?" "She does when she can get it," says I, and he told me then to put the spout of the kettle to where the pain was. And after that he went to Galway Hospital, but he got no better there and a Sister of Mercy said to him at last, "I'm thinking by the look of you, your family at home is poor." "That's true enough," says he. Then says she: "It's best for you to stop here, and they'll be free from the cost of burying you." But he said he'd sooner go die at home, if he had but two days to live there. So he came back and he didn't last long. It's always the like of him that's taken, that are good for singing or dancing, or for any good thing at all. And young women are often taken in that way, both in the middle island and in this.

Patrick Madden:
I'll tell you how I lost the first son I had. He was just three years old and as fine and as strong as any child you'd see. And one day my wife said she'd bring the child to her mother's house to stop the evening with her, for I was going out. And there was a neighbour of ours, a man that lived near us, and no one was the better of being spoken to by him. And as they were passing his house he came out, and he said, "That's the finest child that's in the island." And a woman that was passing at the same time stopped and said, "It was the smallest that ever

I saw the day it was born, God bless it." And the mother knew what she meant, and she wanted to say "God bless him," but it was like as if a hand took and held her throat, and choked her that she couldn't say the words. And when I came to the mother's house, and began to make fun with the child, I saw a round mark on the side of his head, the size of a crown piece. And I said to the wife, "Why would you beat the child in the head, why don't you get a little rod to beat him if he wants it?" And she said that she had never touched him at all.

And at that time I was very much given to playing cards, and that night I went out to a friend's house to play. And the wife before she went to bed broiled a bit of fish and put it on a plate with potatoes, and put it in a box in the room, for fear it might be touched by a cat or a rat or such like. But I was late coming in and didn't mind to eat it And the next night I was out again. And when we were playing cards we'd play first with tobacco and we'd go on to tea, and we'd end up with whiskey. And the next morning when the wife opened the box she laughed and she said "You didn't drink your tea when you were out last night, for I see you have your dinner eaten." And I said, "Why should you say that? I never touched it." And she held up the plate and showed me that the potatoes were taken off it; but the fish wasn't touched, for it was a bit of a herring and salty.

Well, the child was getting sick all the day, and I didn't go out that evening. And in the night we could hear the noise as if of scores of rats, going about the room. And every now and again I struck a light, but soon as the light was in it we'd hear nothing. But the noise would begin again as soon as it was dark, and sometimes it would seem as if they came up on the bed, and I could feel the weight of them on my chest as if they would smother me.

And in the morning I chanced to open the box where the dinner used to be put, and it as big a box as any in Aran, and when I opened it I saw it was all full of blood, up the sides and to the top, that you couldn't put your hand in without it getting bloody. I said nothing but shut the lid down again. But after, when I came into the house, I saw the wife rubbing at it with a thing they call flannel they got at Killinny, and I asked her what was she doing, and she said, "I'm cleaning the box, where it's full of blood." And after that I gave up the child and I had no more hope for its life. But if they had told me that about the neighbour speaking to him, I'd have gone over, and I'd have killed him with my stick, but I'd have made him come and spit on him. After that we didn't hear the noise the same again, but we heard like the sound of a clock all through the night and every night. And the child got a swelling under the feet, and he couldn't put a foot to the ground. But that made little difference to him, for he didn't hold out a week.

I lost another son after - but he died natural, there was nothing of that sort And I have one son remaining now, and one day he went to sleep out in a field and that's a bad thing to do. And the sister found him there, and when she woke him he couldn't get up hardly, or move his hand, and she had to help him to the house.

Pat Doherty:
I know a gentleman too got the touch, one of the Butlers. It was on a day he made a great leap he got it. And he went to the bed and for three or four days he couldn't stir, and red marks came out over him shaped like a bow. And then I went for the priest and brought him to see him, and when he heard of the marks, "I'm as bad as that myself," he said, making fun; "for I'm after making a journey in a curragh." But when the clothes were stripped back and he saw his skin, "Oh, murder!" he said, and he put on his stole and got out a book. And he said, "Did you hear what I did to the man at lona? He went to the well with a tin can for water, and when he got to the well, a few yards away from it, it was spilled. And he went back and filled it again, and the second time at the well it was spilled, and he fell along with it, and he got a little cut in the fall, and he began to bleed, and all the people said as much blood as would be in three men came away from him. And they sent for me, and the minute I came the bleeding stopped, and he was all right again and the cut closed up."

And then he put his head down and what he read I don't know, but he hardly got to the turn of the road outside the house, when the boy stood up from the bed and asked for something to eat. A

nother time I was drawing turf that came in the boats from Connemara to Kilronan pier. And of a sudden there came a swelling in my arm, and it was next day the size of an egg, and it turned black. And I couldn't lift the arm, and Healy the coastguard said to me to go to Doctor Lydon. And I said I would, but in the way I met with Father Jordan and I showed it to him. And he said; "What do you want with your Healy and your Lydons? Let me see it." And he pressed his hand on it two or three times like that, and the swelling began to go, and when I got home they were clearing weed on the shore, and I was able to go down and to give them a hand with it.

A Piper:
There was a cousin of my own used to feel some heavy thing coming on him in the bed in the night time. And he went to the friars at Esker to take it off of him, and they took it off. But Father Williams said, "If this is gone from you some other thing will be put on you." And sure enough it wasn't a twelvemonth after, he was carting planks and the horse fell, and the planks fell on his foot and broke it in two pieces. And after that again he got a fall, over some stones, and he died with throwing off blood.

I had a fall myself in Galway the other day that I couldn't move my arm to play the pipes if you gave me Ireland. And a man said to me-and they are very smart people in Galway-that two or three got a fall and a hurt in that same place. "There is places in the sea where there is drowning," he said, "and places on the land as well where there do be accidents, and no man can save himself from them, for it is the Will of God."

Mrs. Scanlon:
Some people call Mrs. Tobin "Biddy Early." She has done a good many cures. Her brother was away for a while and it was from him she got the knowledge. I believe that it's before sunrise that she gathers the herbs, anyway no one ever saw her gathering them [38]. She has saved many a woman from being brought away when their child was born, by whatever she does. She told me herself that one night when she was going to the lodge gate to attend the woman there, three magpies came before her and began roaring into her mouth, to try to drive her back. Father Folan must know about her, but he is a dark man and says nothing, and anyway the priests know as much, and are as much in dread as any one else.

I wish I had sent for her for my own little boy. It's often he asked me to bring him to the friars at Loughrea. But he never would tell how or where he got the touch. It came like a lump in the back, and he got weaker and smaller till you could put him into a tin can, and he twenty years. Often I asked him about it, but he'd say nothing. I believe that they are afraid to tell or they would be worse treated. I asked him was it at the jumping, for they used to be jumping over a pole, and he said it was not, and that he never took a jump that was too much for him.

But some that saw his back said he had been beat. And when the Doctor came in to see him, he was lying on the bed, and he turned him over and looked at him and said, "If he had all Lady Gregory's estate he couldn't live a week." And sure enough within five days he died. And many of the neighbours said they never heard such a storm of wind as rose about the house that night. I never saw him since, and I went late and early, in the mill and down by the river. But it's maybe a hundred or two hundred miles he was brought away.

Tom Flatley:But wherever there is a cure something will go, and what would a sheep or a heifer be beside a misfortune on a child?

There was a priest near Ennis, a woman I knew went to for a cure, and he wouldn't do it. "Tha me bocht," he said, "I am poor, but I will not do it." "I will pay you well," said the woman. "I will not do it," said he, "for my heart was killed two years ago with one I did. And it isn't money I'd ask of you if I did it," he said, "but to offer you my blessing and the blessing of God."

Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot USA,
Author, Poet,
Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland
Sources: Carmichael, and DeSilva O'Grady interviews.M



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