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The Cailleach and The Well of Youth

On the lands of Knock in Mull (an cnoc Muileach) at the point of Sròn na Crannalaich, near Loch Ba, there is a well, reputed to be ‘The Well of Youth.’ Thither Bera went regularly at ‘the dead of night,’ before bird tasted water or dog was heard to bark, and by then drinking from it kept herself always at sixteen years of age. At last, when making her way to the well on a calm morning (and such mornings are very beautiful in the West Highlands), she heard a dog barking. She exclaimed:

‘Little knows any living wight,
When mischance may befall him ;
For me early has the dog called,
In the calm morn above Loch Ba.
I had enough of spells
To serve the seed of Adam,
But when the mischance was ripe
It could not be warded off.’

Having said this, she fell, crumbling into dust. She lived so long that she had above five hundred children. These were buried by her in the ‘Burial Place of Hosts’ in Ireland, according to one version of the rhyme, and according to another in Cill-mo-Neacain in lona.

She buried Nine times nine by seven,
In the Burial Place of Hosts in Ireland.’

The latter place is said to be the same as the stony patch of ground, not far from the cathedral, called Cill-mo-ghobhlain or Cill-mo-ghobhannain.

John Gregorson Campbell, The Sharp-Witted Wife, in The Scottish Historical Review Volume XII, 1915, p413-414.

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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The Prattling Old Wife’

Many years ago, there lived in Kildavee, Cantire, a Chailleach bhearo,1 or prattling old wife, who possessed wonderful gifts. She had discovered a medicinal well, to which she repaired every seventh year, in order that she might get her youth renewed; and many a time search has been made for this well, but it has not yet been discovered. But this might arise from the circumstance, that, whenever the old Wife paid her visit to the well for the purpose of renewing her youth, she was very careful not to meet with any person on the road: for, if she did, it would deprive the waters of the well of their medicinal charm.

She managed this very well for a length of years; until one day, when she was going to the well, she accidentally met with a man; and although she went on and tried the well, yet its virtues had ceased, and its waters did not bring back her youth. This made her say—

Chairich mi m’fhear, is mo sheac mic,
Fo aon lie an Cildaibhi;
Ach cham e sin areinn mo creach,
‘Se neach, a dh’aimish orm an de.

“I buried my husband and my seven sons under a flag-stone in Kildavee; but that was not so much my loss as the man I met with yesterday.”

This prattling old Wife had a son called Doirbhain, or “the Turbulent,” because he was bad-natured and disobedient to her; which made her swear that she would never show her face at his door. But when Doirbhain saw his mother out in the field, quite destitute, he went to her and led her backwards to his house, so that her oath was not violated. And he took care of her as long as she lived.

The people did not forget this; and whenever they saw a cross child they used to say, ” Maybe he is like Doirbhain, and will make the best of the whole family!”

Source: The White Wife; with other stories, Supernatural, Romantic and Legendary collected and illustrated by Cuthbert Bede – Edward Bradley, 1865.

Notes

1 Probably a corruption of Cailleach Bheur.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Cailleach Bhearo, Renewal, Silence, Tales, Wells

 

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