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A Folklore Survey of County Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp


Lucky and Unlucky Deeds

It is unlucky to see the new moon through glass; to throw dust or slops out of a house on New Year’s Day, as you throw away with them all the good luck of the year; to throw dust or slops towards a neighbouring ‘fort’;[135] to see one magpie, or a ‘weazel’ (stoat), without saluting it by bowing or taking off your hat; to go out of a house where they are churning without ‘putting your hand to the churn,’ i.e. giving a few strokes with the churn ‘dash,’ so that you will not ‘take’ the butter; and to take fire out of a house,—so that, if you light a pipe indoors, it should be smoked out before leaving. Iron and pins,—except crooked pins with the points towards you,—should be picked up, and the first thrown over the left shoulder. Rub your hand on wood if it itches or after a boastful speech or speaking too confidently of the future; in east Clare you touch wood twice, with the phrase, ‘Good word (or time) be it spoken,’ after an imprudent expression.[136] You should bow to the new moon. Turn your money for luck after seeing the new moon. On visiting a friend in a new house, you should give some present, however small. In east Clare some persons are careful to throw a hen or other fowl that has died of disease over the fence on to their neighbour’s land, to remove the ill-luck from their own poultry.[137] Others will not wash eggs offered for sale, as it stops the hens from laying more; this is held at least near Tulla and Sixmilebridge, but seems dying out near the former place.

The geasa and buadha, or tabus and lucky acts, relating to the present County Clare are described in the ‘Leabhar na g Ceart’ (Book of Rights),[138] in a poem by Cuan na Leochain, who was slain in 1024. The King of Cashel (over-king, therefore, of North Munster) was forbidden to pass a night at Latteragh, in northern Tipperary at the beginning of harvest; to encamp for nine consecutive nights at the river Suir; to hold a border meeting at Gowran; and to listen to the groans of women (in a raid) in southern Tipperary. The king of Connacht was not to go in a speckled cloak,—the prose adds ‘on a piebald horse,’—to the heath of Luchaid in Clare. On the other hand, the ruler of Cashel brought good luck by plundering cattle in Connacht while the cuckoo sings; burning north Leinster; passing over Sliabh Cua,— ‘on a Tuesday,’ says the prose,—to pacify south Munster; crossing Magh Ailbhe with a light grey host; and resting six weeks (of Lent) every year at Cashel. It was most unlucky for him to wait for a feast at Killarney Lake for a full week from a Monday. At the present day some families still have their own tabus, lucky and [un]lucky deeds and days, dreams, and omens, which sometimes even run counter to beliefs generally received,—e.g. that the Friday falling on the thirteenth of any month, or to dream of a wild cat or other wild animals, is lucky.


Chapter 10


Chapter 12