The purifying virtue of fire was often used to destroy the malignant power present in a dead or dying animal, and so prevent further misfortune, and to discover the person whose Evil Eye or charm-making was responsible for the loss. He was generally supposed to to be the first to approach the scene of the burning.
The farmer therefore chose a highway as the place for the burning or ‘oural losht’. In 1713, Mrs Tyldesley, of the Friary, burnt a calf on the road to Ballabeg. The fire lasted more than a day, its fumes causing great annoyance to travellers and the people living nearby, and the lady was presented (at Court).
She was treated tenderly by the Court, which adjourned the case so that it might be found out whether she intended to charm.
In 1719 a Rushen farmer’s wife was presented for ‘the diabolical practice of making a burnt sacrifice, on the Church way, of a calf, to avert their ill luck in cattle.’ She was forgiven on promising reformation.
Incidentally, the informer in the case sought to justify the charge by pointing out the success of the operation, for after it the farmer’s cattle had escaped further loss and multiplied.
oural losht = burnt sacrifice
(source: IOM Natural History & Antiquarian Society Vol V No.1 1942-1946; photo)