Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gaelic Folk Healing: Staunching Blood

This is my first entry on Gaelic Folk Healing, this one covers some of the traditional lore and practices to stop bleeding. This post is for the sake of exploration and is not intended to give medical advice!
Blood Drop by Mattia Belletti

Is beannuighthe ainm an fhir a sgoilt croidhe an làoigh ghil ;
Is maith an nidh thainic as, fuil, fion, agus fioruisge.
An ainm a n-Athar, stop an fhuil ; Sancti, taraidh dà chobhair.
Spiritus Sancte, stop an fuil ta ag teacht go treun.
~ Ortha Coisgthe Fola
There were healers who reported had the gift to stop bleeding, through the use of prayer or words of power. These gifts were sometimes thought to be passed through blood line or taught from one person to another. In some parts of Scotland, it was thought to be most effective when a male taught a female and a female taught a male these incantations. {Survival in Beliefs Among the Celts by George Henderson}.
In the Third Manx Scrapbook there is an instance of a Peel man named Gawne who was on a boat with a man bleeding to death and Gawne "saved his life without touching him, merely using a spoken formula." This gift was not only used on humans, but animals as well.
Also found in the Third Manx Scrapbook are accounts of a man named Jack Corlett of Ramsey who was thought to be especially gifted in staunching the bleeding of animals. Of this the author says:
"A friend of mine when about 11 years old watched a farrier cut a tumour out of the vaginal passage of a neighbour's cow near Leodas in Andreas. It was a serious operation, and the farrier refused to begin it until Jack Corlett came. As soon as the growth was cut out Corlett muttered his charm, and the bleeding ceased. This my friend saw, he says, with his own eyes."
There are few other accounts of people who supposed had this gift in the book which can be read here.

Some lore insists that to be able to stop bleeding on an individual, the healer must know the name of the person. An example of this is found in a story from Aultbea, Scotland where a blood-charmer named Ian Ban had trouble stopping the bleeding of a man injured at a wedding. It wasn't until another blood-charmer present spoke the victim's true name that the bleeding had stopped.

Not everyone was lucky enough to have someone around who supposedly had the power stop blood on command. Those people would turn to other means to staunch bleeding.

In Transactions of the Gaelic Society, Vol. 14 a cure to stop bleeding that was used in the Scottish Highlands was boiling a bowlful of blood into a powder, which was then given to the bleeding victim to swallow.
A cure reportedly used to stop bleeding in Ireland was cobwebs:
"This knowledge about cobwebs can be traced back to a medical manuscript that was transcribed from Latin into Irish by an Irish Liaig, T.Ó Cuinn in 1415. This manuscript is a compilation in Irish of various Latin works that were in general use by medical people in the middle- ages. The Tadhg Ó Cuinn manuscript has this to say about cobwebs:
Tele rania: i.e. the spider’s web; cold and dry; it has the retentive virtue; it stops the bleeding of wounds, and it heals as we have said.’ " {The Thread that Could Not Be Broken: Overview of Irish Traditional Medicine by Rosari Kingston}.

Lady Augusta Wilde cites in Ancient Cures, Charms and Usages of Ireland a prayer that is used in conjunction with scarlet coloured yarn to stop bleeding. The yarn was tied tightly around the neck and wrists {definitely not recommended!!!} while this prayer was said:

"There came a man from Bethlehem to be baptized in the river Jordan ;
 but the water was so muddy that it stopped flowing.
So let the blood ! So let the blood !
 Let it stop flowing in the name of Jesus, and by the power of Christ !"
Frogs and toads were used to stop bleeding in Scotland; living toads were brought face-to-face with a person to stop a nose bleed, and the ashes of a frog were administered to stop more serious bleeds {Healing Threads by Mary Beith}.
A charm called a "toad-stone" is noted in Scottish Charms and Amulets by Geoffrey Black that apparently was used to stop bleeding. It was a small black oval-shaped stone that was placed on a wound and the following incantation was said:
"The water’s mud [?wud] and runs aflood,
And so does thy blood.
God bade it stand and so it did.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, stand blood!"
Many different herbs were also used to stop bleeding, and there are a few named Lus na fola/Lus na fala {"herb of blood/blood weed"} including Yarrow{Achillea millefolium}, Shepherd's Purse{Capsella bursa-pastoris}, and Saint John's Wort {Hypericum perforatum}. Often these herbs would be used in ointments to be applied to wounds to stop bleeding and to promote healing in general.
To stop nose-bleeds Mary Beith mentions two folk cures used in the Scottish Highlands: a Broom{Cytisus scoparius} bundle was tied around a patient's neck or a seaweed called Linarich {Ulva lactuca ? } was placed on the forehead and temples. She also raises Stinging Nettle {Urtica dioica} poultices being used for minor bleeding, as well and Puffballs {Bovista nigrescens} and fresh Plantain {Plantago major} to staunch small amounts of blood flow.

If any readers happen to know of other Gaelic folk cures and lore for staunching blood, please feel free to share them!



1 comment:

  1. My father spoke of a prayer on the Irish side of his family that, when recited over someone who was bleeding, staunched the bleeding. He told me this prayer was passed from man to woman and then from woman to man and so on and was only to be passed on to a family member. He said he recalled from his youth when a great aunt of his, who had knowledge of the prayer, was called upon (on more than one occasion) to recite the prayer to assist someone who was bleeding. I do not know if the prayer was passed on to a male family member before this great aunt passed. I will ask some other family members if they know what happened to the prayer.