Medical Superstitions and Ancient Charms (2)

Many of the ancient cures and charms are strange and mystic, and were accompanied by singular mysterious forms, which no doubt in many cases aided the cure; especially amongst a people so imaginative and susceptible to spiritual influences as the Irish. Others show a fervent faith and have a pathetic simplicity of expression, such as we find in "The Charm against Sorrow," and others, from the original Irish, of equal pathos and tenderness, to be quoted further on. The utterance evidently of a people of deep, almost sublime, faith in the Divine power of the Ruler of the world, and of the ever-present ministration of saints and angels to humanity.

Every act of the Irish peasant's life has always been connected with the belief in unseen spiritual agencies. The people live in an atmosphere of the supernatural, and nothing would induce them to slight an ancient form or break through a traditional usage. They believe that the result would be something awful; too terrible to be spoken of save in a whisper, should the customs of their forefathers be lightly interfered with.

In the Western Islands especially, the old superstitions that have come down from the ancient times are observed with the most solemn reverence, and the people in fact, as to their habits and ideas, remain much the same as St. Patrick left them fourteen hundred years ago. The swift currents of thought that stir the great centres of civilization and impel the human intellect on its path of progress, have never reached them; all the waves of the centuries drift by their shores and leave them unchanged.

It is therefore in the islands and along the western coast that one gathers most of those strange legends, charms, mysteries, and world-old superstitions which have lingered longer in Ireland than in any other part of Europe.

Many of those included in the following selection were narrated by the peasants, either in Irish, or in the expressive Irish-English, which still retains enough of the ancient idiom to make the language impressively touching and picturesque. The ancient charms which have come down by tradition from a remote antiquity are peculiarly interesting from their deep human pathos, blended with the sublime trust in the Divine invisible power, so characteristic of the Irish temperament in all ages. A faith that believes implicitly, trusts devoutly, and hopes infinitely; when the soul in its sorrow turns to heaven for the aid which cannot be found on earth, or given by earthly hands. The following charms from the Irish express much of this mingled spirit of faith and hope:—Against Sorrow »