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Pilgrimage & penance in Ireland in 1840 - a partisan view

Posted by Mrsk on June 29, 2005 at 22:44:54:

Croagh Patrick - They begin their station at the sign of St. Patrick’s knee, and there say seven paters, seven aves, and a creed; and go on their knees about the length of four perches, over rocks, until they get to a little altar, where they say fifteen paters, fifteen aves, and a creed; they then return, but still on their knees, and say seven paters, seven aves, and a creed. Thus ends their labour, unless they be married persons who have no children; [the additional rites belonging [54] to such persons we shall not detail;] after which they go down the mountain to the well of glass. There they sit up all night, and bring thither the blind, the halt, and the maimed, presenting them to the saint of the well, and cry to him to deliver them all from their diseases and infirmities. They sit up three nights, to wit, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and next proceed to Aughawale, where they go through a station: and then enter the well, in which are three trouts; they pick op baits and throw them into the water, and it is the most lucky omen in the world to them if a trout come out and eat the bait, but, if not, they cry out to St. Columbkill to send them out; if they do not appear, there is some misfortune to come upon them, with the loss of friends and relations. If among the multitudes that come here there be any in war with their neighbours, they take up a flag which they call St. Columbkill’s slate; this they turn upside down in the name of that saint, and then return home and fast fifteen days, taking nothing but bread and water once in the twenty-four hours: this they do in honour of St. Columbkill, and to induce him to put the person or persons who have injured them to deaths But if that does not do, they return to the well again, and go round their station about it backwards, and turn the flag upside down again. If stormy weather happen, either in spring or harvest, the whole country will say that it was because Columbkill’s slate was turned, and they will even watch in harvest to prevent the people from turning it.

They next proceed to AUGHAGOUR, where there is another well: after which the pilgrims go St. Patrick’s bed, where there are two old trees. It is awful to see the condition of these when the station is over. The people cut off their hair, both men and women, and take horse-shoes and brogue-nails, pins and needles, and fasten them to the trees; they also cut up their clothes, be they ever so new, and tie them to these trees, lest on the day of judgment the Almighty should forget that they came there, and in order that the tokens should [55] be known, when St. Patrick would lay them before the tribunal.

They next proceed to LOUGHHARROW, This lake is in the centre of a shaking bog, and within five or six miles of Balla; to this lake they bring large pieces of gutter, and throw them therein to the saint of the lake, praying him to. save their cattle that year. Here they have pipers and fiddlers, and tents of every description, an which whiskey is sold, and they dance round the lake, and drink whiskey. Here parties, and families, and parishes come to fight and quarrel; here also all manner of debaucheries are committed, and young persons are corrupted. In the end, they all bring home bottles of the lake water, and shake it among their cattle; and, if any person become sick, some of it is spilled into his ears.

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