Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY

GHOSTS

   Ghosts. or as they are called in Irish, Thevshi or Tash (taidhbhse, tais), live in a state intermediary between this life and the next. They are held there by some earthly longing or affection, or some duty unfulfilled, or anger against the living. "I will haunt you", is a common threat; and one hears such phrases as, "She will haunt him, if she has any good in her". If one is sorrowing greatly after a dead friend, a neighbour will say, "Be quiet now, you are keeping him from his rest; or, in the Western Isles, according to Lady Wilde, they will tell you, "You are waking the dog that watches to devour the souls of the dead". Those who die suddenly, more commonly than others, are believed to become haunting Ghosts. They go about moving the furniture, and in every way trying to attract attention.
   When the soul has left the body, it is drawn away, sometimes, by the fairies. I have a story of a peasant who once saw, sitting in a fairy rath, all who had died for years in his village. Such souls are considered lost. If a soul eludes the fairies, it may be snapped up by the evil spirits. The weak souls of young children are in especial danger. When a very young child dies, the western peasantry sprinkle the threshold with the blood of a chicken, that the spirits may be drawn away to the blood. A Ghost is compelled to obey the commands of the living. 'The stable-boy up at Mrs. G-------'s there," said an old countryman, "met the master going round the yards after he had been two days dead, and told him to be away with him to the lighthouse, and haunt that; and there he is far out to sea still, sir. Mrs. G------- was quite wild about it, and dismissed the boy." A very desolate lighthouse poor devil of a Ghost! Lady Wilde considers it is only the spirits who are too bad for heaven, and too good for hell, who are thus plagued. They are compelled to obey some one they have wronged.
   The souls of the dead sometimes take the shapes of animals. There is a garden at Sligo where the gardener sees a previous owner in the shape of a rabbit. They will sometimes take the forms of insects, especially butterflies. If you see one fluttering near a corpse, that is the soul, and is a sign of its having entered upon immortal happiness. The author of the Parochial Survey of Ireland, 1814, heard a woman say to a child who was chasing a butterfly, "How do you know it is not the soul of your grandfather". On November eve the dead are abroad, and dance with the fairies.
   As in Scotland, the fetch is commonly believed in. If you see the double, or fetch, of a friend in the morning, no ill follows; if at night, he is about to die.

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