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  • The Terror of the Cow Charmer August 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    A cute fairy post from the west of Ireland in the nineteenth-century. The narrator is a visiting sportsman.

    I heard, when passing the porter’s lodge, that the gate-keeper’s cow was ill. As she was a fine animal, the loss would have been a serious one to the family, and hence I became interested in her recovery. For several days, however, the report to my inquiry was more unfavourable, and at last the case was considered hopeless.  The following morning as I rode past, I found the family in deep distress ; and the gate-keeper had gone off to fetch  the charmer, who lived some ten miles distant. I really sympathised with the good woman. The loss of eight or nine guineas to one in humble life is a serious calamity ; and from the appearance of the cow I concluded, though not particularly skilful, that the animal would not survive. That evening I strolled out after dinner. It was sweet moonlight, and I bent my steps to the gate-house to inquire if the cow still lived. The family were in great tribulation. The charmer had arrived — had seen the cow — had prepared herbs and nostrums, and was performing some solitary ceremony at an adjacent spring-well from which he had excluded every member of the family in assisting. I was most curious to observe the incantation, but was dissuaded by the gate-keeper, who implored me to give the conjurer fair play.

    In five minutes the charmer joined us — he said the case was a bad one, but that he thought he could bring round the cow. He then administered the ‘unhallowed potion’, and I left the lodge expecting to hear next morning that the animal was defunct. Next day the bulletin was favourable ; and the charmer was in the act of receiving his reward. I looked at him: he was as squalid and heart-broken a wretch in appearance as ever trod the Earth. The cow still seemed weak, but the charmer spoke confidently of her recovery. When he left the lodge, and turned his steps homewards, I pulled up my horse and waited for him. He would rather have avoided an interview, but could not.

    ‘Well, fellow, you have humbugged that poor family, and persuaded them that the cow will recover?’

    ‘I have told the truth,’ said the charmer, coldly.

    ‘And will your prophecy prove true?’ I asked, in a tone of scornful incredulity.

    ‘It will,’ said he ; ‘but, God help me! this night I’ll pay dearly for it!’

    I looked at him – his face was agonised, and, terror-stricken, he crossed the fence and disappeared. When I passed the gate-house on my return, the cow was evidently convalescent, and in a few days she was perfectly well. I leave the solution of the mystery to the learned; for in such matters, as they say in Connaught — Neill an skeil a gau maun [sic: I have no skill in this].

    Beach particularly likes the ‘this night…’. Any other fairy charmer stories of this calibre: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    31 August 2012: Kate writes: Many years ago in college, I minored in Folklore. Ah, the benefits of a liberal education where I was actually encouraged to curl up with a book and while away the semester… There is a passage in the New Testament where a woman is too afraid to speak to Jesus, but her illness is healed when she touches the hem of his garment. He notices the power leaving his body and addresses her. Luke 8 40-48. The cure works, but there is a price to pay. If you believe that one can be a sin eater and take on another’s sins, why not feel exhausted when you have cured someone’s cow? It is work just as much as plowing the fields or baking bread.’ Thanks Kate!