More ‘Rose’ Cures

I told you one tale of the cure for The Rose, or erysiphelas to give it its medical name – an ailment no doctor could cure!  But that’s doesn’t stop me telling you another.
We were all sitting round the fire one winter’s evening when the latch of the door was lifted and a head all wrapped in bandages appeared in the lamplight.
‘Come on on on in,’ we called, and a man came in.
‘I was looking for Harry McElroys’, he explained.  
‘I was just thinking as much,’ me mother said.  ‘On yer head ye have it.  God bless it.’
‘On me head it is’, he agreed.
Any person named McElroy was said to be able to cure it but few were willing – it was said to be unlucky.  Harry had a practice the envy of any doctor.  Our present visitor had come a long way on foot and we bade him sit down.  
‘No matter what they tell ye, no doctor can cure The Rose’.
‘Indeed, not’, all agreed.
‘I remember a fella once trying his hand out with the doctor’, one of our visitors said. 
He was a journeyman shoemaker and working at the time.  He dropped the boot.  He could never work and talk at the same time.
‘An’ he got cured?’ said another with contempt.
‘Oh, he got cured in the right oul’ style’, he added.
‘By the time that doctor was finished with him,
he wore the suit of dale boards!’

Walk on me back, there!

Many people are unaware of how prevalent still, especially in country areas, is the faith in those who ‘have the cure’ for many ailments.  There are documented cases where conventional medicine failed but the faith healer succeeded.  One woman had been suffering for a few years from a very bad rash on her neck and had received the best of treatment from doctors and consultants.  She went to the man with the charm for skin ailments.  He duly administered the cure by walking around her, spitting lightly and touching her neck with spittle while quietly reciting prayers.  He asked the lady not to wash her neck for nine days, with which request she duly complied.  After this time the rash was gone.
Another woman had a severely arthritic arm which she was unable to raise above shoulder level.  The curer she visited touched her arm and prayed.  Twenty minutes the lady was able to lift her arm freely and has continued to have this freedom of movement ever since.  There is scarcely a person – certainly in rural Ireland – who cannot tell a similar tale.
A person born after his/her father has died, has the cure for thrush.  This person would blow into the affected baby’s mouth.  This would be done three times before the baby would be cured.
A woman married to a man of the same surname had this cure.  A child with whooping cough is given three things to eat by this woman, for example, a piece of bread, an apple and a biscuit.  After the child had eaten these it would get better.
A person born feet first has the cure for backache.  He/she would cure your backache by walking on your back – a solution guaranteed to ‘kill or cure’!  A person born feet first was destined also to travel a lot.
If you wash your hands with rainwater that has been sitting in a hallowed stone, the warts will soon disappear.  Indeed some such stones (e.g. that near Kilnasaggart Standing Stone) became famous as Wart Stones.  Another cure for warts is to pick as many rushes as you have warts.  You touch each wart with a separate rush and then bury the rushes.  Tell no one where you have buried them and, as the rushes rot, the warts will disappear.  This can also be done using potatoes.

Ground Rules for Cures

A number of stipulations accompany the cure.  The curer often must not ask for or acknowledge the receipt of a gift as payment for the service.  They may accept the gift only if it is not acknowledged.   It is to protect against fake healers who are in it for profit.  Usually the healed person too is forewarned by others who have recommended the healer, that he/she must not offer recompense nor indeed even say ‘thank you’.
Cures or the power of healing are said to be possessed by the seventh son of a seventh son:  others believe too, by a seventh son; a seventh daughter or the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.  The power once owned can disappear if for example a cure for human complaints is used to cure an animal.  Some Holy Wells became useless and abandoned after horses, for example, were brought to drink and be mended there.  Others may have the ‘cure’ of specific complaints.  We will write of that next.
Many priests in the past had the cure.  Some have been renowned as faith healers (Padre Pio) and have made use of the gift openly. 
If a charm is used there is usually a requirement for its repeated use three times to be effective.  Many of the cures must be done at a certain time and in the case of herbal cures some of the herbs must be picked or prepared at certain stated times.  Certain cures involve the use of an object such as a small white stone (which is required in at least three of the cures for bleeding). 
The connection between religious belief, faith and healing has a long history in Ireland that precedes the coming of Patrick.  These traditions of charms, herbs, the use of wells and standing stones, became absorbed into the Christian tradition.  We conclude this article with reference to P. W. Joyce’s story of the Tuatha De Danaan.
In the De Danaan history, the leech-god or physician god Diancecht had great healing skill.  During the second battle of Moytura when the De Danaan fought the Fomorians, Diancecht chose a health-giving well ‘into which he put a number of sanative herbs gathered in every part of Ireland’ and over which he and his daughter and two sons chanted incantations.
During the battle all wounded De Danaan were brought here from the field and plunged into this bath.  They all came out whole and sound and ready to do battle again.  Unsuprisingly the De Danaan won.

Sundays Wells

The tradition of visiting Holy Wells (or Sundays Wells) in search of cures or relief from distress was strong in Ireland until recent decades.  In this area were St Bridget’s well at Faughart and St Mochua’s Well near Keady as well as an acclaimed Sundays Well in the Glen area of Newry.  The latter has fallen so much into disuse that it is almost forgotten although it can be found marked on most old maps of Newry.  We would like to know its exact location, if any of our readers can inform us.
St Bridget’s Well at Faughart is still held in high repute and it is impossible to visit in daylight hours without meeting with some faithful pilgrims.  The bushes that protect the well are bedecked with pieces of cloth or rags, religious objects like rosaries, or other mementos, possessions of the one for whom the cure is sought.  St Bridget’s Day, 1 February is a day of special pilgrimage still and throngs attend to this day.

Right Sort of Doctor

On Slieve Gullion’s sunny slopes, Deirdre is said to have grown from infancy to girlhood with a voice so sweet that when she sang, the thrushes were silent with envy. 
There too Fingan the great physician to King Conor MacNessa, had his house with door open on each side to the four winds of Heaven.  He was the right sort of a doctor too for he could tell from the smoke that arose from a house, how many were ill in it and what maladies they suffered from.
Tradition says that it was in a glen in the valley below it that Conor MacNessa, the only ruler in Ireland to believe in Christ before the coming of Patrick, died of holy anger on that first Good Friday.
Most people however, know the mountain for the Calliagh Berra whose home is atop and who it is said, still roams there at night.  It would be a brave man indeed who would confront her in her house by the lake at the midnight hour!

Ringworm Cure

You know of course, for only a gulpen doesn’t, that docken leaves can cure the nettle sting.  You must recite the couplet, while you’re rubbing the afflicted spot,
‘Docken, docken, in and out,
Take the sting of the nettle out!’
Ringworm is a little more complicated.  It takes two boys, whose father and mother is living, who go to the person who has the charm.  The boys are given three horse-shoe nails to be driven into some immovable part of the house in which the person affected lives.  One boy drives them in half-way, the other boy completes the job.  Usually the nails were driven into a beam in the kitchen.  If the sufferer was a man then it was two girls who went for the charm.
Warts could be cured in many ways.  There’s a wart stone in the field adjacent to the Kilnasaggart Stone in Carrickbroad where the afflicted appendage could be inserted and the wart would thereafter quickly disappear.  Most of us have learned that they could be cured too by rubbing with freshly killed red meat.  The meat is then buried and as it decays the warts disappear.  At home, we settled for the rub of a potato sliced in two.  It also had to be buried thereafter and the warts disappeared as it rotted in the ground.  Snails would do the same job.  Cut it open, you must and rub it on the wart.  Then you stick it on a thorn and as it withers away, away goes your wart.