Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A Charm for a Cataract

In one of his very last fieldwork notebooks that are known to survive, Alexander Carmichael was still noting down charms, a genre that is rightly famous for and also one that had fascinated him since he began to collect them in earnest around thirty years previously. One such example, Eòlas a’ Ghulmain (‘Cataract Charm’) was taken down, on 8 September 1909, from the recitation of Isabell[a] Chisholm née MacKenzie (c. 1845–1932) from Melvaig in Ross and Cromarty:

The Gulmum grows like
a scale of herring.
An t-Eolas Gulmain
I take up water draw[n] the
fiar over the eye thee times
after dipping in the water
uisg as a chaochain stream
let I place this in a bottle
and dip the grass in it and
then draw the grass over the
eyeball three times


A white Glob[e] comes upon the
eye.

Carmichael also provides a text along with a translation of the charm said to have been used while the above process was being conducted:

Togam boiseag burn
An ainm nùmh Athar,
An ainm nùmh Mic,
An ainn nùmh Sprioraid,
An ainm nùmh Tiùra
Shuthain chùmha ghlic.


Cinnteach gun dean rium
An rud is dùth domh iarraidh,
An rud ta riair an ruin,
An rud ta dèanamh pianaidh,
An rud is fiù a dhèanamh
Dh’an Triana chùmha cheart.


I am lifting a palmful of water
In the holy name of Father,
In the holy name of Son,
In the holy name of Spirit,
In the holy name of the Three
Everlasting, kindly, wise.

Certain that They will do to me
The thing that it becomes me to ask,
The thing that accords with Their mind,
The thing that is causing pain,
The thing that is worthy to de done
Of the Trinity kindly and just:


References:
CW117, fol. 21v.
Carmina Gadelica iv, pp. 223–25.
Image: Cataract

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]