Ailing Cows

by Bernadette Weyde

In the case of animals ailing, herbs had to be boiled in some of their milk. This was supposed to produce wonderful results, described as follows by a man living at a place on the way from Castletown up South Barrule:-

“A farmer in his parish had a cow that milked blood and this in consequence of a witch’s ill-will.

He went to the charmer who gave him some herbs which he was to boil in the ailing cow’s milk, and the charmer charged him not to quit the concoction while it was on the fire, in spite of any noises he might hear.

The farmer went home and proceeded that night to boil the herbs as directed, but he suddenly heard a violent tapping at the door, a terrible lowing of the cattle in the cow-house, and stones coming down the ‘chumley.’ The end of it was that he suddenly fled and sprang into bed to take shelter behind his wife.

He went to the charmer again and related to him what had happened: he was told that he must have more courage the next time, unless he wished his cow to die. He promised to do his best, and this time he stood his ground in spite of the noises and the creaking of the windows until a back window burst into pieces and bodily let a witch in, who craved his pardon, and promised nevermore to molest him or his. This all happened at the farm in question in the time of the present farmer’s grandfather.

The boiling of the charmer’s herbs in milk always produces a great commotion and lowing among the cattle, and it invariably cures the ailing ones: this is firmly believed by respectable farmers whom I could name, in the north of the island in particular, and I am alluding to men whom one might consider fairly educated members of their class.”

(source: Celtic Folklore – Welsh & Manx (1901) by John Rhys; artwork ‘Three Amigos’ by Cherie Wollenberg)

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