Michael Doherty (University College Dublin) presented on Magico-Relgious Cures of Farm Animals in Ireland. Professor Doherty was a practicing veterinarian, before taking his position at UCD, and treated animals in both the north and the Republic. The theme running through the numerous examples given, as seen in earlier presentations as well, was the heavy use of homeopathic thinking in folk cures and charms. As we saw in the snake charm, these charms were not used on snake bites – rather, they were used to treat like with like. Since worms were seen as the cause of many afflictions, imagery of another, even more powerful, earth bound creature was used to kill the worm — the image of a venomous snake.
So it is with the animal charms being used in Ireland even to this day. For example, the use of red thread to bring vitality back to an animal believed afflicted by a piseóg acted against the belief that “fairy blood is white.” Or, the ‘turning of sod’ for a lame animal. Below I will list the various specific cures or charms discussed in the presentation. Professor Doherty has offered to make an article he wrote on this topic available, and I will post more when I receive a copy.
when a cow is “blinked” – it is caused by the evil eye – drench it with garlic and soot
bewitched sheep – red thread tied in the ears
pig nut (plant) used for evil eye cure
ruher peist – worm in the tail – treat with garlic (cut a slit in the tip of the tail, garlic / soot / goose dung mix applied
when a cow goes down – clove of garlic inserted under the skin
when cattle are dying of blackleg – cut a piece of the leg from a dead cow, dry it with smoke, and take a strip of the muscle from the dried leg to weave into the skin of living cows
when an animal goes lame – turn the sod – where the animals foot has touched, cut that piece of ground out, toss it into a whitethorn bush while reciting a prayer
bog bean (plant) – herbal remedy for people and animals
holly hung in the cow sheds to prevent ringworm