Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK
TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
THE BLACK LAMB
It is a custom amongst the people, when throwing away water at night, to cry
out in a loud voice, "Take care of the water"; or literally, from the Irish,
"Away with yourself from the water"--for they say that the spirits of the dead
last buried are then wandering about, and it would be dangerous if the water
fell on them.
One dark night a woman suddenly threw out a pail of boiling water without
thinking of the warning words. Instantly a cry was heard, as of a person in
pain, but no one was seen. However, the next night a black lamb entered the
house, having the back all fresh scalded, and it lay down moaning by the hearth
and died. Then they all knew that this was the spirit that had been scalded by
the woman, and they carried the dead lamb out reverently, and buried it deep in
the earth. Yet every night at the same hour it walked again into the house, and
lay down, moaned, and died; and after this had happened many times, the priest
was sent for, and finally, by the strength of his exorcism, the spirit of the
dead was laid to rest; the black lamb appeared no more. Neither was the body of
the dead lamb found in the grave when they searched for it, though it had been
laid by their own hands deep in the earth, and covered with clay.
1. Ancient Legends of Ireland.