Superstitions and Pisreógs
Old Beliefs which brought good luck or misfortune
Though many of the old superstitious practices of the past have died away, Moycullen still retains some of them, and people are careful to observe certain rituals and customs which will guarantee good luck or prevent misfortune. Many of these beliefs and folk customs have been handed down through the generations from the pagan times. Others are based on folk magic and adaptations of Christian belief. We would love to hear from anyone who has further “Pisreógs” to add to the following list.
- There is one man in the village who was a bit of a “jack of all trades”. This man used to cut hair for the young boys of the village and for some of the men too. He always took special care that none of the clippings were left around for anyone to find, because he believed that if someone wished, he could do harm to you by putting a curse on you through the agency of your hair. He used to poke the clippings into the holes in the stone wall behind his house to hide them from any devious intruder.
- After milking a cow it was the custom to dip one’s finger in the milk and make the sign of the cross on the cow’s rump with the milk.
- Before putting a loaf of brown bread into the oven the woman of the house cuts a cross on it. Long ago the women used to say a brief prayer too, for protection from hunger and choking.
- Belief in the Banshee was very common in Moycullen and remains so to this day, as the following story illustrates. About twenty-five years ago a town family rented a house in Clooniff and kept a goat and a few chickens. One night, the goat got his neck twisted in a rope and began to choke. The animal was groaning for a while as it slowly expired. Several locals were visiting a neighbouring house that night and when they left the house to go home they heard the groaning noise and were afraid to come out because they thought it was the Banshee. They went back into the house and the whole household sat up for several hours trying to decide what direction the sound was coming from as that would tell them who was going to die. Of course it was a great joke the following morning when the dead goat was found, but the story proves how strong the belief in the Banshee still remains to this day.
- If you sell an animal to someone you must give the buyer some “luck money” so that the animal will do well for him.
- If you set out to go somewhere you should not go back to your house for any reason or you will not have luck on the journey.
- If you get your shoes dirty as you walk along, especially if you are going to a card game, you should not clean them off. “Muck is luck” people say.
- If a child gets a sudden desire for a little taste of some food in the house s/he should be given a little portion immediately. Otherwise the child might grow stunted.
- You should never cut your hair on a Monday, as it is considered bad luck.
- If a pregnant woman sees a hare, her baby will be born with a hare lip. Hares are generally unlucky.
- When a cow calves, there is a small oval membrane which is attached to the afterbirth. Local people call this the “lucky tongue” and they like to preserve it on a ledge in the cowhouse or on the wall until it rots away naturally.
- When a calf is born on the farm, you should say “Isn’t it a fine calf. God bless it”. Any young animal is blessed in this formulaic way to keep it from harm.
- It was considered very unlucky to bring a branch from a thorntree into the house.
- If you met a stranger on the road, you should always say to him/her “God bless you”. It might be perhaps a ghost or an evil spirit and they will never harm you if you say the blessing.
- If you see a black dog with fire coming out of his mouth it is the devil himself. If you see a black dog without fire coming out of his mouth it might be a fallen angel, condemned to wander the earth until judgement day. You are safe enough if you do not throw rocks at it, but if you do, you will rue the day.
- If you see the Choiste Bodhar or Carriage of Death you should stand to one side and say “slán”.
- You should always put your hand to your mouth when you are yawning so that no evil spirit can get in.
- You say “God bless you” when someone sneezes because it is believed that the heart stopped momentarily during a sneeze. The blessing ensures that it will start going again.
- If you get a feeling of terrible hunger while walking outside, that is called the “Féar Gorta” or the hungry grass. It means that someone died of hunger at that spot during the famine. You should eat something immediately.
- It is lucky to meet a man first, shortly after you set out on a journey.
- Things go in threes: if one person dies, three will die; if one baby is born, three will be born; if you have one piece of bad luck, you will soon have two more misfortunes before your luck turns.
- You should never kill a spider because spiders saved Christ by spinning a web across the mouth of a cave in which he and his mother were hiding during the “Slaughter of the Innocents”.
- It you see a tea leaf floating on top of your cup of tea you will shortly get some money.
- The Foidin Mara is the name given to the strange feeling that sometimes comes on you when you are in a familiar place and suddenly forget how to get out of it. The cure is to turn you coat inside out.
- An unmarried girl should never wear any ring on the fourth finger of her left hand or she will never get married.
- If you wanted to sell a cow which had recently calved, you had to tie a red rag on her tail to protect her from harm.