Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/223

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Collectanea. 209

drink a decoction thereof, and wash the wounds therewith, or dip tents therein and put them into the wounds."

Away back, before even the twihght of history, Diancecht, chief physician of the Tuatha-de-Danaan, had, at the battle of the Northern Moytura, fought in Carrowmore in Sligo, a wonderful bath or fountain "prepared with the essences of the principal healing herbs and plants of Erinn." Into this bath the wounded had only to be plunged, and forthwith they were ready for battle once more, more formidable than ever. The story is doubtless but a myth. But that there is such a story proves that there was in ancient Ireland a vast amount of herb-lore. This plant- knowledge was the free property of the many. It is scarcely to be wondered at if there was much that was restricted to but a few. Possibly the rustic " cures " we have been speaking about were of the latter kind : they may be the last relics of the science of pre-Christian Schools of Herbalists, and so have come down to us from the dawn of medical science. In view of this opinion it might, we submit, be worth investigating whether or not there be in the " errib " above revealed some strong medical property, whose influence would help an animal shake off a passing indisposition, whether lassitude from the effects of a burning sun or of too hearty a meal, or a cold, etc. Indefinite ailments of endless variety, I may venture to say, crystallise in the mind of our cattle-medicine-men under the one appellation, elf-shooting.

The skill and knowledge of the Cow-Doctor may be but the superstitions of a School of Medicine which had its day a thousand or two thousand years ago. Or they may be the relics of the superstitions — always using the word in its primary sense — of a long extinct Paganism, which expression of opinion is barely another way of presenting the former. But have we not, in either way of regarding them, to admire the energy and hardi- hood which have lived so long, and live on still in remote districts, despite the vminterrupted persecutions of fifteen or sixteen centuries of enlightenment? Rustic beliefs are as tenacious of life as are the rustics themselves, as my old friends of the Gallagher clan for example.

But they are at last, long as they ran, giving up. They are