Surprise, surprise, Gaels were superstitious. Past tense? Well, we're not here to debate that. We're not going down the route of mist and mysticism either, this is just a collection of stuff folklore about Gaelic superstitions. In the light of Harry Potter this might come in handy, who knows!
Let's look at the vocabulary for charms and such things first, there's quite a variety:
Literally it means knowledge or lore and can be translated as a prediction but confusingly also as curse, eg Eòlas a' Chomais the curse of impotence (for a groom) which involves taking three threads of different colours, tying three knots into each and repeating your curses for impotence three times for each knot as you tie it. The only remedy apparantly is standing at the altar with an untied shoe and a sixpence beneath your foot. Anyone got a coin?
Another eòlas is Eòlas a' Cheartais, which might come in handy. Next time your due to appear in court, you can incant the following when leaving the house:
Falbhaidh mise an ainm Dhé,
An riochd iarainn 's an riochd each,
An riochd nàthrach 's an riochd féidh,
Is treise mi fhìn na gach neach,
Is dubh dhan bhaile ud thall,
Is dubh dhan bheil 'na bhroinn,
An teanga fo m' bhonn,
Gus an till mi a-nall,
Mise an eala bhàn,
'Nam bhan-rìghinn os an cionn,
Ionnlaididh mi m' aodann,
Mar naoidh gathanan gréine,
Mar a dh'ionnlaideas Moire a Mac,
Le bainne bruich,
Meirc air mo bheul,
Seirc air m' aodann,
Bas Mhoire mu m' amhaich,
Bas Chrìosda mu m' aodainn,
Teanga Màthair Ìosa 'am cheann,
Sùil a' chuimrich eatorra,
Is blas meal air gach aon ni,
Their mi gun dig mi.
Then, when you arrive at the courthouse, you set your right foot on the doorstep and say the following:
Gum beannaicheadh Dia an taigh,
Bho bhun gu bharr,
M' fhacal-sa os cionn na bhios a-staigh,
Is am facail-se fo m' thròigh.</span
Who knows, maybe it will steady your nerves ...
This is an incantation to locate a missing person. It involves the spell itself and then interpreting the signs around you, which is where the list of auspicious and not so auspicious things further down comes in handy. The frith is apparently best cast on the first Monday of a new quarter (remember that next time you're planning to get lost!). The frith is conducted as follows:
In the morning, recite the Ave Maria with eyes closed:
Fàilte dhut a Mhoire, tha thu lan de na gràsan, Tha an Tighearna maille riut. Is beannaichte thu am measg nam mnà,
agus is beannaichte toradh do bhronn, Ìosa.
A Naoimh Mhoire, a Mhàthair Dhé,
guidh air ar son-ne na peacaich a-nis, agus aig uair ar bàis.
Then walk to the door, open the door and hope to see any cross-shape, even if it's two hairs lying across each other and that is a good sign ... then go outside and walk sunwise (deiseal) round your hosue and say:
Dia romham, Moire 'am dhéidh, Is am Mac a thug Rìgh nan Dùl Is a chairich Brìghde 'na glaic, Mise air do shlios a Dhia, Is Dia 'nam luirg, Mac Moire is Rìgh nan Dùl, A shoillseachadh gach ni dheth seo, Le a ghràs mu mo choinneamh.
Then look around and consult the list of auspicous things below which will tell you whether the missing person is dead, alive or just lost in the pub.
Here's another variation in case you didn't like the first one:
Tha mise a' falbh air srath Chrìosd, Dia romha, Dia 'am dhéidh, Is Dia 'am luirg, An fhrith a rinn Moire dha Mac, A shéid Brìghde tro a ghlaic, Mar a fhuair ise fios fìrinneach, Gun fhios bréige, Mise a dh'fhaicinn samhla 's coltas.
These presumably involved imaginary anthropomorphic beings other than Mary and God before the arrival of Christianity, but have been painted with a Christian panache to render them more acceptable, like re-assigning Easter as a Christian holiday when it's actually a Germanic fertility holiday celebrating the goddess of fertility, Ostaria.
Geas (masc) -a; -an An enchantment or spell. Expressions are cuir fo gheasaibh 'to put a spell on someone' (notice the old dative); laigh geasan air 'to bespell someone'.
Giseag (fem) -eig; -an [also geasag] A diminuitive of geas, this is perhaps best translated as ensorcelment or spell (Scots cantrip is quite a good match although that seems to have a Gaelic equivalant in conntrachd 'curse').
A lovely one is the following, which is the Gaelic equivalant of Abrakadabra izzy wizzy etc:
Deanagan meanagan, Miga moga, Prionta croga, Sealbha bealbha buf!
Mallachd (boir) -an Curse or malediction. As the word 'malediction' states, this is simply wishing someone bad luck of some sort and doesn't require the person who curses (thoir mallachd air) to be a witch or magician.
Obag (fem) -aig; -an [also obaidh, ubag or ubhaidh] An incantation.
Orra (fem) -chan An amulet or charm. Examples of these are:
orra-ghràidh a love amulet orra-sheamhlachais an amulet which supposedly makes a cow accept a calf which isn't hers orra-chomais an impotence amulet - obviously to cause someone else to be impotent orra na h-aibhne an amulet made to drown someone you don't like orra an donais an amulet which supposedly sends someone straight to the devil orra-ghrùdaire a lovely amulet to make the wash tubs of a brewer not only overflow but empty themselves orra-bhalbh an amulet that supposedly renders someone incapable of speech
Making an orra-ghràidh involves a plant called altanach (knotgrass, polygonum aviculare) which is also called gràdh is fuath and the following incantation (which finishes of with the Lord's Prayer):
Sùil bhlàth Chrìosd air Peadar, Sùil chaomh na h-Òighe air Eoin, Gun leanadh, gun leònadh, gun lotadh, Gun iadhadh gu teann seachd altanach, Le seachd snaidhm cruaidh-snaidhm, Mu chridhe na h-eala, Rinn mise lot is a leòn, Gus an coinnich lot ri lot, Leòn ri leòn 's a cridhe a' breabadh le aoibhneas, Ri faicinn gnùis a rùin, An ainm an athar ...
Orra a chuir Moire ann an ìm, Orra-sheirce 's sìor-ghràidh, Nar stad do cholann ach d' aire a bhios orm, Gu leanaidh do ghràdh mo ghnùis, Mar a leanas a' bhó an laogh, Bhon latha seo a-mach gu uair mo bhàis.
We take no responsibility if this should not work :-)
Rosad (fir) -aid; -an A curse, more specific than mallachd which is the general term for a curse. A rosad involves magic to disable your victim somehow.
Sian (boir) sìne; -tan A counter-course, especially against rosadan.
Auspicous and not so auspicious signs
Lots of them, here's just a few which I suppose are interesting from the point of view that it tells us what was considered lucky:
animal lying down
animal standing up
symbolises recovering health
bird flying towards you
lucky for Macintoshes, regarded as evil by all others
chicken with cock in their midst
cockerel looking at you
safety from drowining
death, symbolises churchyard
death, symbolises churchyard
man coming toward you
man lying down
symbolises recovering health
lucky for Campbells, for others neither if facing you, bad luck if facing away
blessed sign but foretells death of a child
sign of a rosad
death or a curse at the least
woman walking past
woman with black hair
woman with brown hair
woman with fair hair
woman with red hair
woman with red hair and freckles
More to come, so watch this space!