Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY

BEWITCHED BUTTER (DONEGAL)

Miss Letitia MacLintock

   Not far from Rathmullen lived, last spring, a family called Hanlon; and in a farm-house, some fields distant, people named Dogherty. Both families had good cows, but the Hanlons were fortunate in possessing a Kerry cow that gave more milk and yellower butter than the others.
   Grace Dogherty, a young girl, who was more admired than loved in the neighbourhood, took much interest in the Kerry cow, and appeared one night at Mrs. Hanlon's door with the modest request--
   "Will you let me milk your Moiley cow?"
   "An' why wad you wish to milk wee Moiley, Grace, dear," inquired Mrs. Hanlon.
   "Oh, just becase you're sae throng at the present time."
   "Thank you kindly, Grace, but I'm no too throng to do my ain work. I'll no trouble you to milk."
   The girl turned away with a discontented air; but the next evening, and the next, found her at the cow-house door with the same request.
   At length Mrs. Hanlon, not knowing well how to persist in her refusal, yielded, and permitted Grace to milk the Kerry cow.
   She soon had reason to regret her want of firmness. Moiley gave no milk to her owner.
   When this melancholy state of things lasted for three days, the Hanlons applied to a certain Mark McCarrion, who lived near Binion.
   "That cow has been milked by someone with an evil eye," said he. "Will she give you a wee drop, do you think? The full of a pint measure wad do."
   "Oh, ay, Mark, dear; I'll get that much milk frae her, any way."
   "Weel, Mrs. Hanlon, lock the door, an' get nine new pins that was never used in clothes, an' put them into a saucepan wi' the pint o' milk. Set them on the fire, an' let them come to the boil."
   The nine pins soon began to simmer in Moiley's1 milk.
   Rapid steps were heard approaching the door, agitated knocks followed, and Grace Dogherty's high-toned voice was raised in eager entreaty.
   "Let me in, Mrs. Hanlon!" she cried. "Tak off that cruel pot! Tak out them pins, for they're pricking holes in my heart, an' I'll never offer to touch milk of yours again."
   [There is hardly a village in Ireland where the milk is not thus believed to have been stolen times upon times. There are many counter-charms. Sometimes the coulter of a plough will be heated red-hot, and the witch will rush in, crying out that she is burning. A new horse-shoe or donkey-shoe, heated and put under the churn, with three straws, if possible, stolen at midnight from over the witches' door, is quite infallible.--ED.]

Footnotes

1. In Connaught called a "mweeal" cow--i.e., a cow without horns. Irish maol, literally, blunt. When the new hammerless breech-loaders came into use two or three years ago, Mr. Douglas Hyde heard a Connaught gentleman speak of them as the "mweeal" guns, because they had no cocks.

Aran Islanders, J. Synge [1898] (public domain photograph)