[From ManxNoteBook vol i,1885]

Ancient Manx Superstitions


WHILE THE ANCIENT SUPERSTITIONS OF THE MANX PEASANTRY ARE, PRACTICALLY, ALMOST EXPLODED, a few are still preserved in the folklore and legends of Mann, and many are indicated in its native dialect. Language is, to a large extent, an index of the old customs, habits, and characteristics of a people. The belief in imaginary and fabulous beings and agencies is common to primitive tribes. The Irish, Highland Scotch, and Manx myths and superstitions were, probably, nearly identical, and it might be interesting to compare them. Some of the Manx are given below:–

SHEE denotes a fayor sprite: LHIANNAN-SHEE was a guardian spirit, or a genius. LHIANNAN literally means a sweetheart, or lover. SHEEAN signifies a charm. IMSHEE represents an imp or demon.

The CUGHTAGH was a spirit who had his abode in the caverns of seacliffs, and whose voice was the soughing of the waveless or the breathing of the zephyrs.

The GLASHTYN was a water-goblin, whose dwelling was a slimy cave beneath the froth and spray of a cascade, or a deep dark basin excavated by the rushing and eroding water in the rocky bed of a river.

The TARROO-USHTEY, or water-bull, was supposed to live in either salt or fresh water. He was believed to visit, and associate with, the herds of the farm, and a mule–FARLHEIY–between this imaginary creature and a cow was an occasional wonder.

The PHYNNODDEREE was a kind of satyr, a monster between man and beast, supposed to be covered with black shaggy hair and to have fiery eyes.

The KEIMAGH was a spirit supposed to haunt the stiles of grave-yards and to guard the sacred resting places of the dead.

CASLYS and ASHLINS denote respectively a ghost or spirit, and ASHLISH signifies a vision in a dream.

BOGGANE is a general term for any frightful apparition. The word FERRISH =fairy, is simply a corruption of the English word which it represents. In the Manx tongue a term denoting fairies is MOOINJER-VEGGEY, literally the little family, or little company.

The POHLLINAGH was a merman or mermaid. BEN-VARREY is another appellation for mermaid. Mermaids, it seems, were more numerous than mermen, for they were oftener heard of. We are told that these nymphs of the sea have occasionally become inamoured of native youths who chanced to wander in the vicinity of their grottoes.

FALLOGYS -divination from the aspect of the stars. The FALLO-GYSSAGH was a soothsayer and an astrologer.

OBBEE witchcraft, was implicitly credited. Ugliness and deformity in a mountain crone sufficed to establish her reputation as a sorceress. She was the CAILLAGH-NY-GHUESHAG–the BEN-OBBEE, whose visits were dreaded in the Sheading in which she resided. Her presence within a neighbour's cartilage was an ill-omen–DROGH-VONNEY. The animals of the farm would sicken and die in consequence of her evil-eye–DROGH-HOOILL, like the lambs of Virgil's Menalcas, who exclaims Nescio qui teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos. When a charm or incantation–PISHAG –was required, the BEN-OBBEE was always ready to perform it. She was an adept at chiromancy– FAAISHLAGHT. She had, it was supposed, the power of assuming the form of any of the lower animals. The shape, believed to be often selected, was that of a hare. The BENAAISHNEE = fortune-teller, practised chiromancy as well as the BEN-OBBEE, and her divinations were in great repute.




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