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'HE Manchester Museum at the Owens College contains two votive rag-branches and a prayerstick or tally. These curious evidences of the survival of ancient forms of worship are noteworthy.*

The first of the rag-branches comes from an island in Gougane Barra Lough, county Cork, where there is a famous holy well, dedicated to St. Finbar. The prayerstick comes from the same locality. The scene at Gougane

*There are many references to the subject in the works of travellers and anthropologists. The following list will be found useful:

The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains, and Springs. By Robert Charles Hope, F.S.A. London, 1893. The Holy Wells of Ireland. By Philip Dixon Hardy, M.R.I.A. Dublin, 1840.

Folk-lore of Scottish Lochs and Springs. By James M. Mackinlay, M.A. Glasgow, 1893.

Celtic Folk-lore. By John Rhŷs. Oxford, 1901. 2 vols.

Ethnology in Folk-lore. By G. L. Gomme. London, 1892.

Rag Offerings, &c. By William Copeland Borlase (Athenæum, April 1st, 1893).

Rag-bushes. By M. J. Walhouse (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1880, vol. ix., p. 97).

Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall. By M. and L. Quiller-Couch. London, 1894.

Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland. By W. G. Wood-Martin. London, 1902. 2 vols.

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Barra Lough is graphically described by Thomas Crofton Croker, but his description is too long to be quoted in full. The lake is surrounded by barren mountains, and in its centre is a small island connected with the mainland by an artificial causeway. On St. John's Day, 1813, Croker witnessed the famous "pattern" of St. Finbar. As he and his companions forded the eastern end of the lake they could hear the noise of the assembled people, who were nearly half a mile away. From the shore of the lake to the wall of the chapels on the island there was an immense crowd, all engaged in reciting prayers. A piece of rusty iron of this shape passed from one devotee to another. It was placed three times, with a short prayer, across the head of the nearest person, to whom it was then handed that he might go through the same ceremony with his next neighbour. Part of the lake was enclosed as a well. Here a man made the figure of a cross on a particular stone in the wall, and then sold the slate to any who cared to buy such a memorial of their visit. Those having sores or other infirmities crowded into the well, and as quickly as they came out their place was taken by others. Bottles containing some water of the well were also for sale. Drunken men and depraved women mingled with the pilgrims, "and a confused uproar of prayers and oaths, of sanctity and blasphemy, sounded in the same instant on the ear." Along the shore were booths and tents, in which food and drink were sold. Almost every tent had its piper, and dancing was general. Things quietened towards midnight, but "the dancing, drinking, roaring, and singing were, in some degree, kept up during the night." The principal building on the main island is a rudely formed circular wall, having in its thickness nine arched recesses or cells, called chapels, each devoted to a particular saint, with a plain flagstone altar in each.

In the centre of this enclosure was a wooden pole, the remains of a large cross. Hundreds of votive rags and bandages are nailed against it, and also the spancels of cattle that have been driven through the lake as a preservative from murrain.* Such, in brief, is Crofton Croker's account of the place and festival from which the votive rag-branch and prayer-stick has come.

The votive rags are a common feature in connection with various holy wells in Ireland. At Tobar Mhic Duach, co. Galway, there was a niche on the lefthand side of the well, and in this the pilgrims placed "a few worthless rags, brass pins, and the like." At the holy well of St. Senanus at Castle Connel, near Limerick, Mr. H. D. Inglis in 1834 saw hundreds of little wooden vessels, the offerings of those who had come to drink, while "the trees that overshadowed the well were entirely covered with shreds of all colours-bits and clippings of gowns and handkerchiefs and petticoats-remembrances, also, of those who had drank."+ Philip Dixon Hardy mentions that Croagh Patrick, co. Mayo, where the patron saint is said to have performed his miracle of driving the venomous creatures into the sea, is a favourite place of pilgrimage. In one part is a well to which the blind and lame resort and pray to be cured. At Augherwall is another well, which could be used for the injury of an enemy. The method was to take a piece of flag known as St. Columbkill's slate and turn it upside down, then returning home to fast fifteen days, taking only bread and water once in each twenty-four hours. This was expected to ensure the death of the person fasted against.‡ Another

* Croker: Researches in South of Ireland. London, 1824. pp. 274 et seq. Inglis: Ireland in 1834, i. 318.

The famous cursing well at Llanelian, near Abergele, is another example of the invocation of evil by means of offerings at a well.

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