Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/422

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380 Old- World Sii7'vivals in Ross-shire.

lible remedy against any pranks played by the fairies, such as stealing the milk when the cows are at pasture among the hills. When I was young I had a slight injury to my wrist and our old nurse, who had the most profound belief in all manner of old cures, took me to a skeely " woman, who after mumbling an incantation over the injury tied a piece of scarlet string round the wrist, which accordingly got well in a few days. Not long ago, someone I know, sprained her ankle, and sent for the wise woman with her incantation and her red string. Strange to say, in spite of this the limb showed no signs of getting better, and the doctor had to be sent for. It is hardly to be wondered at that the dear man, on seeing the red string and the neglected state of the foot, poured out torrents of invective against old wives' superstition. Nevertheless the moment his back was turned, the red string was retied on top of the ban- dages and after the foot got well the cure was probably attributed to the red string rather than to the doctor's surgical skill. ^

It is a common belief that the fairies were quite often seen perhaps a generation or so ago. It is generally agreed, however, that nobody sees them in these days, because as one old woman told me, there is so much Gospel preached nowadays. Also, because we are getting wiser. Perhaps we are. My friend Rory, afore-mentioned, told me that he had once seen a fairy, or a gruagach as he called her, in one of the distant corries up in the hills. She was washing clothes at a burn a little distance away from him. This seems to be a favourite occupation with them " Perhaps she was an ordinary mortal," I said. " No," said Rory, " because it was at three o'clock on a summer's morning, and what mortal women would be likely to be washing clothes at that hour, miles away from anywhere ? " " It must just have been a fairy," I agreed, " but what were you doing up in the corry at that hour of the morning ? "

' See ante p. 372, note.