Nines

The magic number of the Celts

The number nine was a favourite number with the Celts and was used more frequently in ‘cure ceremonials’ than any other number.

Say that last night you went to your bed and in perfect health. When you awoke this morning, you find there is a lump or tumour on your face, or on some other part of your body. You had not felt any pain until you awoke, but now there is some pain, or is at least somewhat troublesome. You know now that some spirit of evil has touched you, and would you like to know the cure? Of course, you want the cure and, here it is!

Get nine pieces of iron, any articles will do, just make certain that they are made of iron. Then, “measure” the swelling with these irons, namely you make the sign of the cross with each on the “blighted” spot and throw the ninth iron over your head. There now, you are cured! praise be to God!

You don’t believe me, but I heard this story from an old lady called Mary. She told me, “My wee Bridie went to bed one night as well as ever she was. But, in the morning she had a lump on her cheek the size of a hen’s egg. To be honest, I paid little attention to it and thought it would be alright again before night time. I was thinking to myself that it had come on her suddenly and would suddenly disappear again. But the lump got worse and old Sadie from Ballinacorr came into the house about twelve o’clock. ‘In the name of God,’ said she, ‘what’s wrong with the little girl? God bless her !

There’s none of us that knows,’ says I.

And did you do anything for it?‘ says she.

‘I did not,’ says I, ‘for I hadn’t a clue what to do with it.

Well get nine irons,‘ says she, ‘and though you should have done it long ago, measure her.’

Well, we did, and she was all right within a very short time, and now for you!

” For inflammation of the eyelid, an equally remarkable use is made of the number nine. The sore, which usually assumes the form of a small round lump, tapering towards the top, is called a sty. To ‘cure’ it, take nine gooseberry pricks, or “stabs ” as they are called, and in succession ‘point’ first towards the eye, next towards the ground, and the final one was thrown over the left shoulder. I know a friend that once ‘doctored’ herself in the way that I have told you, and she got immediate relief.

Why the gooseberry “stabs” are the only ones which are effective I don’t know. In the same way I cannot explain ‘The Soot o’ Nine Pots’ being a sure remedy for many kinds of illness that can effect cattle. The one thing that I do know is that any number other than nine will not do. At one time someone suggested that the number was selected in honour of the ‘Nine Muses’, (Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomeni, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania and Calliope) but I believe this idea to be too fanciful to be seriously entertained. I believe it is sufficient for us to know that the directions for use are faithfully recorded and that we should use them in accordance with the precise directions that are contained in that great traditional and mystical list of medicines created by the Gaelic race since earliest times.

A Few Tips for Good Luck

If you visit Ireland or read Irish folklore and traditions you will undoubtedly come across many important warnings with regard to gaining peace, happiness, and good fortune. Now, there are very few of us that do not want good luck and the good fortune that it brings. So, for those of you who desire to have good luck I have gathered some of the more well-known warnings that fill Irish tradition.

The first of these is that you should never put a boot on your foot until you have two stockings on, i.e. one on each foot and not two on one foot. Any person who does not pay heed to this warning should abandon any hope of luck. It is said that Columbcille once put on a sock and a boot on one foot, intending to do the same with the other foot. Unfortunately, the saint’s enemies came upon him just as he was preparing to put on the second sock and was, therefore, unable to run away and avoid capture. It was at this time that the saint put his course upon any person who should do the same as he had done.

Market Day

Another warning says that if you are driving any animals to market and you meet a person who does not ‘bless’ them, be sure that before the person passes on you say, “God Bless your heart, your eye, and my share.” By saying this you will protect the animals from being ‘blinked’ by that person’s evil eye.

It is equally important that the ploughman guards his horses from the same dreadful evil of ‘blinking’. When he is approaching the end of the field, if he sees any person standing there to whom he must speak, he should never allow the horses to stand until he has turned their faces towards the other end, with their tails to the person. This will ensure the horses will be safe while the ploughman talks to the person.

All of the above warnings are means of preventing the ill luck of ‘blinking’, and it is always said that “Prevention is always better than cure!” But you might wonder if there was a cure for ‘blinking’, and the answer is “Yes”.

It is often said that “Quick is the glance of an eye under any circumstance, but quicker by far is the glance of blinker’s eye.” The harm that we fear could have already been done before we can guard against it. So, counteracting such an evil spell should be our immediate aim, and there is, thankfully, an effective antidote that we should remember. Firstly, the animal should be struck with any part of your clothing. In older times it would be said with ‘the tail of your coat’, and next the ground. This procedure should be repeated three times if a complete cure is to be obtained.

You are also warned that when you travel along a lonely road at night you should keep to the centre of the road, walking between the wheel tracks and keeping in the tracks made by your horse. Doing this will ensure that nothing can harm you while you follow those horse tracks.

Now that we are approaching the Christmas season it is important that you don’t give anything away on New Year’s Day. But if you find this unavoidable ensure the person who gets it from you brings something to you first. For example, if your neighbour’s fire happens to go out in the morning, do not give the neighbour any coal until you first receive turf. In the same way never, for any reason, allow a coal to be taken from your house while there is any person within the house who is sick. Also, it is important that you remember that under no circumstance allow a coal out of your house on a Monday morning.

It is also important that you give away no milk from the first churning, and the person to whom you give milk from your dairy should ‘bless’ the milk and the cow which gave it.

In the North of Ireland, it was always said that you should not “dung the byre” after the sun had set. Tradition forbade any removal of manure, or the sweepings of the house, after that time. Such chores were to be attended to during the day, “after the sun had risen, and before he has set.” Furthermore, on New Year’s day no ashes or food waste should be put out, and all the water you need for use in the house is to be brought in before dark on New Year’s Eve.

J.W.