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Whitsuntide – 1889

The Holiday Customs of Ireland – James Mooney

Tawnagh tides Photo: EO'D
Tawnagh tides
Photo: EO’D

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol. 26 No. 130 (July – December, 1889)

Whitsunday, in Gaelic called Cingcis, is a moveable festival occurring generally about the end of May or the beginning of June, and deserves notice on account of the mysterious fatality connected with it, as well as with the following Monday and Tuesday. It is an unlucky season, and should a man born on any one of these three days ever throw a stone it will inevitably kill or cripple someone. No water must be sold during the same period, and for this reason no clothes are washed from Saturday until Thursday, nor are any sheep washed for shearing. Neither must one start on a journey or begin any important work, but, above all, no one must go near the water, either for bathing or boating, or even to cross a stream, for at this season one may be drowned in a cup of water. There are ancient legends to prove the truth of this belief, and every old woman can tell of instances within her own knowledge where a neglect of these precautions has resulted fatally. Death is not inevitable, however, for only one hour of all this time is fatal, but as no one may know which is the hour, or even on which of the three days it occurs, the only way to avoid the evil consequences is to observe the prohibition until the period has terminated. According to Lady Wilde, the fairies are also to be feared at this season, so that holy water must be sprinkled about the house to keep them away, and at this time also the water spirits come up out of the sea to hold their revels on the shore, and the water horse rises from the lough to graze at midnight in the green pastures upon its banks. A dance was formerly held also on Whitsunday.