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Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World

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« on: September 01, 2009, 01:30:38 pm »

Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World
by Jeremiah Curtin
[1895]




http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfgw/index.htm
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2009, 10:53:41 pm »

Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World
Collected From Oral Tradition in South-West Munster
by Jeremiah Curtin
Boston; Little, Brown & Co.
[1895]
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2009, 10:54:11 pm »

Introduction

Tales of the Fairies

    DURING my travels in Ireland I made a stay of some time at the house of a farmer at a cross-road west of Dingle. Besides cultivating two farms, this man kept a small country store, near the famous Ventry Strand, had a contract to keep a road in repair, and was, in general, an active person. He had built an addition in two stories to his house, and the upper story he rented to me. The part which I occupied was at the intersection of the roads, and had windows looking out on both of them. Not far from the house was the chapel,[in rural Ireland "chapel" means a Catholic church; "church," a Protestant church.] and about a mile beyond that the graveyard. The position was a good one from which to observe the people of the district as they passed to and fro on the two roads.

    My host, Maurice Fitzgerald, was a man who knew the whole countryside well, spoke Gaelic with more ease than English, and held intimate relations with the oldest inhabitants. He knew the Gaelic name of every field within two miles of his house and the name of every hill, cliff, and mountain for many a mile. It may be stated here that in the Gaelic-speaking parts of Ireland there is a most complete system of naming every spot that needs to be distinguished from those around it. My host was a man who retained a belief in fairies, though he did not acknowledge it--at least, explicitly and in words.
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2009, 10:54:24 pm »

    "When I was a boy," said he, "nine men in ten believed in fairies, and said so; now only one man in ten will say that he believes in them. If one of the nine believes, he will not tell you; he will keep his mind lo himself."

    It is very interesting indeed to find a society with even ten per cent. of the population professed believers in fairies. Of the remaining ninety per cent. a majority are believers without profession, timid believers, men without the courage of their convictions. The minority of the ninety per cent. falls into two parts, one composed of people of various degrees of belief in the fairy creed and philosophy, the other unbelievers. If one were to borrow the terms used in describing shades of difference in religious experience during our time, this minority might be divided into doubters, agnostics, and infidels.

    The people of any purely Gaelic district in Ireland, where the language is spoken yet, preserve numerous remnants of pre-Christian belief, and these remnants are, in many cases, very valuable. Grotesque, naïve, and baseless they seem to observers almost always, but if the beliefs and opinions of the ordinary great ones of the earth be examined with due care, and with that freedom of spirit which is indispensable in such investigations, it will be found that many of them are not a whit more reasonable nor built on a better basis than the fairy creed of Ireland.
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2009, 10:54:44 pm »

    The people in Ireland have clung to their ancient beliefs with a vividness of faith which in our time is really phenomenal. Other nations have preserved large and (for science) precious heritages of superstition, but generally they have preserved them in a kind of mechanical way. The residuum of beliefs which they give us lack that connection with the present which is so striking in the case of the Irish. Certain divisions of the great Slavic race have preserved a splendid remnant of the old cosmic philosophy of pre-Christian times, and preserved parts of it with remarkable distinctness, but for all people who speak English the beliefs of the Irish contained in their tales have a near interest and a popular value that no similar productions of other nations are likely to attain.

    As fairies are made to take such frequent part in Irish country life, and come to one's mind almost involuntarily when speaking of the supernatural in Ireland, I think it well to give in this connection some of the fairy tales and ghost stories told me at that house on the cross-road. These tales will show how vivid the belief of the people is yet, and will prove that fairies are not for all men personages of the past, but are as real for some persons as any other fact in life in this last decade of the nineteenth century.

    After I had written down all the tales about Fin Mac Cool and other heroes that I could find in that region, I invited my host to come to me in the evening and bring two or three men to tell strange adventures of our own time, true tales of the district.
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2009, 10:54:54 pm »

    I was moved to this by what I had learned at the funeral of a man who had died from a fairy stroke a few days before, and by meeting two men who had been injured by similar strokes. One of the two was a farmer's son who had fallen asleep incautiously while near a fairy fort and was made a cripple for life; the other was a man of fairly good education, who, besides his English knowledge, read and wrote Gaelic. I was unable to obtain the details relating to his case, but the man who died had interfered with a fairy fort and hurt his hand in the act. The deceased was only thirty-three years old, a strong, healthy person, but after he had meddled with the fort his hand began to swell, and grew very painful. The best doctors were summoned, but gave no relief, and the man died from a fairy stroke, according to the statement of all, or nearly all, the people.

    After supper the "man of the house" came with two other persons, and we passed a very interesting evening. One of the two visitors was a blind man named Dyeermud Duvane, about forty years of age, and born in the neighbourhood, who had been in America, where he lost his eyesight. He related to me somewhat of his life in the United States. He had been a worker in quarries, had been in charge of gangs of men in New England and the West. He had saved a considerable sum of money when he was placed over a gang of Italians in one of the quarries near Springfield, Mass. The Italians became enraged at him for some reason, and blew up the poor man in the quarry. He lost his sight, and lay in a Boston hospital till his money was gone. After that his friends sent him home, where he lives now in a very small way. Though blind, he found a wife, and with her lives in a little cottage, has a garden and a quarter of an acre of potatoes.
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« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2009, 10:55:05 pm »

    This blind man, though a sceptic by nature, knew some good cases of fairy action, and told the first story of the evening. The second man was seventy years old, white-haired, with a fair complexion, and blue eyes which were wonderfully clear and serious. This was a genuine believer in fairies and a rare example of one type of old Irishman. He lived near a fairy fort about a mile distant; his name was John Malone. His family and friends had suffered from fairies, and his daughter-in-law died from a fairy stroke.

    After some preliminary conversation, the blind man began as follows:

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« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2009, 10:55:22 pm »

John Connors and the Fairies

    THERE was a man named John Connors, who lived near Killarney, and was the father of seven small children, all daughters and no sons. Connors fell into such rage and anger at having so many daughters, without any sons, that when the seventh daughter was born he would not come from the field to see the mother or the child.

    When the time came for christening he wouldn't go for sponsors, and didn't care whether the wife lived or died. A couple of years after that a son was born to him, and some of the women ran to the field and told John Connors that he was the father of a fine boy. Connors was so delighted that he caught the spade he had with him and broke it on the ditch. He hurried home then and sent for bread and meat, with provisions of all kinds to supply the house.

    "There are no people in the parish," said he to the wife, "fit to stand sponsors for this boy, and when night comes I'll ride over to the next parish and find sponsors there."

    When night came he bridled and saddled his horse, mounted, and rode away toward the neighbouring parish to invite a friend and his wife to be godfather and godmother to his son. The village to which he was going was Beaufort, south of Killarney. There was a public-house on the road. Connors stepped in and treated the bystanders, delayed there a while, and then went his way. When he had gone a couple of miles he met a stranger riding on a white horse, a good-looking gentleman wearing red knee-breeches, swallow-tailed coat, and a Caroline hat [a tall hat].
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 10:55:33 pm »

    The stranger saluted John Connors, and John returned the salute. The stranger asked where was he going at such an hour.

    "I'm going," said Connors, "to Beaufort to find sponsors for my young son."

    "Oh, you foolish man," said the stranger; "you left the road a mile behind you. Turn back and take the left hand."

    John Connors turned back as directed, but never came to a cross-road. He was riding about half an hour when he met the same gentleman, who asked: "Are you the man I met a while ago going to Beaufort?"

    "I am."

    "Why, you fool, you passed the road a mile or more behind. Turn back and take the right hand road. What trouble is on you that you cannot see a road when you are passing it?"
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« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2009, 10:56:02 pm »

    Connors turned and rode on for an hour or so, but found no side road. The same stranger met him for the third time, and asked him the same question, and told him he must turn back. "But the night is so far gone," said he, "that you'd better not be waking people. My house is near by. Stay with me till morning. You can go for the sponsors to-morrow."

    John Connors thanked the stranger and said he would go with him. The stranger took him to a fine castle then, and told him to dismount and come in.

    "Your horse will be taken care of," said he, "I have servants enough."

    John Connors rode a splendid white horse, and the like of him wasn't in the country round. The gentleman had a good supper brought to Connors. After supper he showed him a bed and said, "Take off your clothes and sleep soundly till morning."

    When Connors was asleep the stranger took the clothes, formed a corpse just like John Connors, put the clothes on it, tied the body to the horse, and leading the beast outside, turned its head towards home. He kept John Connors asleep in bed for three weeks.
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2009, 10:56:33 pm »

    The horse went towards home and reached the village next morning. The people saw the horse with the dead body on its back, and all thought it was the body of John Connors. Everybody began to cry and lament for their neighbour. He was taken off the horse, stripped, washed, and laid out on the table. There was a great wake that night, everybody mourning and lamenting over him, for wasn't he a good man and the father of a large family? The priest was sent for to celebrate mass and attend the funeral, which he did. There was a large funeral.

    Three weeks later John Connors was roused from his sleep by the gentleman, who came to him and said:

    "It is high time for you to be waking. Your son is christened. The wife, thinking you would never come, had the child baptized, and the priest found sponsors. Your horse stole away from here and went home."

    "Sure then I am not long sleeping?"

    "Indeed, then, you are: it is three whole days and nights that you are in that bed."
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2009, 10:56:49 pm »

    John Connors sat up and looked around for his clothes, but if he did he could not see a stitch of them. "Where are my clothes?" asked he.

    "I know nothing of your clothes, my man, and the sooner you go out o' this the better."

    Poor John was astonished. "God help me, how am I to go home without my clothes? If I had a shirt itself, it wouldn't be so bad; but to go without a rag at all on me!"

    "Don't be talking," said the man; "take a sheet and be off with yourself. I have no time to lose on the like of you."

    John grew in dread of the man, and taking the sheet, went out. When well away from the place he turned to look at the castle and its owner, but if he did there was nothing before him but fields and ditches.

    The time as it happened was Sunday morning, and Connors saw at some distance down the road people on their way to mass. He hurried to the fields for fear of being seen by somebody. He kept to the fields and walked close to the ditches till he reached the side of a hill, and went along by that, keeping well out of sight. As he was nearing his own village at the side of the mountain there happened to be three or four little boys looking for stray sheep. Seeing Connors, they knew him as the dead man buried three weeks before. They screamed and ran away home, some of them falling with fright. When they came to the village they cried that they had seen John Connors, and he with a sheet on him.
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2009, 10:56:59 pm »

    Now, it is the custom in Ireland when a person dies to sprinkle holy water on the clothes of the deceased and then give them to poor people or to friends for God's sake. It is thought that by giving the clothes in this way the former owner has them to use in the other world. The person who wears the clothes must wear them three times to mass one Sunday after another and sprinkle them each time with holy water. After that they may be worn as the person likes.

    When the women of the village heard the story of the boys some of them went to the widow and said:

    "Tis your fault that your husband's ghost is roaming around in nakedness. You didn't give away his clothes."

    "I did, indeed," said the wife. "I did my part, but it must be that the man I gave them to didn't wear them to mass, and that is why my poor husband is naked in the other world."

    Now she went straight to the relative and neighbour who got the clothes. As she entered the man was sitting down to breakfast.

    "Bad luck to you, you heathen!" said she. "I did not think you the man to leave my poor John naked in the other world. You neither went to mass in the clothes I gave you nor sprinkled holy water on them."
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2009, 10:57:14 pm »

    "I did, indeed. This is the third Sunday since John died, and I went to mass this morning for the third time. Sure I'd be a heathen to keep a relative naked in the other world. It wasn't your husband that the boys saw at all."

    She went home then, satisfied that everything had been done as it should be.

    An uncle of John Connors lived in the same village. He was a rich farmer and kept a servant girl and a servant boy. The turf bog was not far away, and all the turf at the house being burned, the servant girl was told to go down to the reek [a long pile of turf] and bring home a creel [basket] of turf. She went to the reek and was filling her creel, when she happened to look towards the far end of the reek, and there she saw a man sticking his head out from behind the turf, and he with a sheet on him. She looked a second time and saw John Connors. The girl screamed, threw down the creel, and ran away, falling every few steps from terror. It was to the reek that Connors had gone, to wait there in hiding till dark. After that he could go to his own house without any one seeing him.

    The servant girl fell senseless across the farmer's threshold, and when she recovered she said: "John Connors is below in the bog behind the reek of turf, and nothing but a sheet on him."

    The farmer and the servant boy laughed at her and said: "This is the way with you always when there's work to do."
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2009, 10:57:24 pm »

    The boy started off to bring the turf himself, but as he was coming near the reek John Connors thrust his head out, and the boy ran home screeching worse than the girl. Nobody would go near the reek now, and the report went out that John Connors was below in the bog minding the turf. Early that evening John Connors' wife made her children go on their knees and offer up the rosary for the repose of their father's soul. After the rosary they went to bed in a room together, but were not long in it when there was a rap at the door. The poor woman asked who was outside. John Connors answered that it was himself.

    "May the Almighty God and His blessed Mother give rest to your soul!" cried the wife, and the children crossed themselves and covered their heads with the bedclothes. They were in dread he'd come in through the keyhole; they knew a ghost could do that if it wished.

    John went to the window of two panes of glass and was tapping at that. The poor woman looked out, and there she saw her husband's face. She began to pray again for the repose of his soul, but he called out:

    "Bad luck to you, won't you open the door to me or throw out some clothes? I am perishing from cold."
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