Play recording: Superstitions

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  • Teideal (Title): Superstitions.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840104.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture/demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Boats and fishing

Joe says he’s a pagan at heart, because he used to love these superstitions. It’s hard luck to meet a red-headed woman – especially if she’s one of the travelling people – when you’re going fishing. If she sees you first, you’re in trouble; if you see her and duck under the wall or something, you may have a chance. If you see a red-haired woman heading for your house, you’re going to have bad luck; if she’s going the other direction, it’s OK. Of course, Joe says, he’s not talking about a bottle-redhead here. Joe was once going fishing with a man who was really superstitious, and happened to mention that he’d seen so-and-so, a woman, who happened to be a redhead. The man put Joe out of the boat, wouldn’t let him come. It would have been worse if the woman had been chasing a rabbit – rabbits were bad luck, too.


Joe once went into the house of this same superstitious man. His wife was churning, and her husband had put all kinds of things under the churn – horse-shoes, cinders, sods of turf – that were supposed to keep the fairies from stealing the butter in the churn, to the point that the churn was at a rakish angle. Visitors were expected to put their hands on the churn before leaving, if churning was taking place, and say, ‘Come butter! Come butter! Ím an dá bhaile seo!’ (‘Butter of these two townlands!’) – it was bad luck if they didn’t.


This was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.