The Sacred Cow

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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Among ancient superstitions of the Irish there was some relation to the Sacred Cow, reminding one of India, or even of the Egyptian worship of Apis. The Ossianic Transactions refer to this peculiarity.

There was the celebrated Glas Gaibhne, or Grey Cow of the Smith of the magical Tuaths. This serviceable animal supplied a large family and a host of servants. The Fomorians envied the possessor, and their leader stole her. The captive continued her beneficent gifts for many generations. Her ancient camps are still remembered by the peasantry. Another story is of King Diarmuid Mac Cearbhail, half a Druid and half a Christian, who killed his son for destroying a Sacred Cow. But Owen Connelan has a translation of the Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institute, which contains the narrative of a cow, which supplied at Tuaim-Daghualan the daily wants of nine score nuns; these ladies must have been Druidesses, the word Caillach meaning equally nuns and Druidesses. As W. Hackett remarks, "The probability is that they were pagan Druidesses, and that the cows were living idols like Apis, or in some sense considered sacred animals."

One points out the usefulness of the Irish Druids in a day when enchantments prevailed. Etain, wife of Eochaid, was carried off by Mider through the roof, and two swans were seen in the air above Tara, joined together by a golden yoke. However, the husband managed to recover his stolen property by the aid of the mighty spell of his Druid.

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