Visiting Faith Healers for ‘Getting the Cure’ was – and still is – a big thing in Ireland.
There’s copious amounts of folklore around herbs, faith healing, and various other remedies in the Irish tradition, but if you didn’t grow up here you might be surprised to learn that Irish people still believe.
I’m 40 years old now, and I can honestly say that every time a family member has been seriously sick, from warts to cancer to mystery ailments – has been taken to a faith healer, or been given a traditional folk cure in some form.
(Ok, warts maybe don’t count as ‘seriously sick’… unless you’re a young teenager and your hands are covered in them. Then talk to me about what’s serious or not.)
Lets look at an example of the lore around Irish Faith Healers and Folk Cures:
There are various kinds of home-cures.
It is mostly old people that has these cures and some of those cures, are often better than the cure a doctor could give you.
Edward Gormley of Esker has the cure of the strain. The cure consists of a piece of thread which Mr. Gormley gives to the person, who wants the cure made, before giving the person the piece of thread, he holds it in his hands and says certain prayers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He makes this cure between sunrise and sunset.
There are several other people in this locality who has the cure of the strain as well as Mr. Gormley, James Quinn of Clontumpher has the cure of the thorn. The cure consists of different kinds of mixtures, all mixed together along with certain kinds of prayers, which Mr. Quinn says over the mixture this mixture is to be put on the spot, where the thorn, is supposed to be, and after a couple of days the thorn will come out.
Paddy Callaghan of Esker has the cure of the warts, any person who has warts on their hands or feet, can get them cured easy. Mr. Callaghan makes the cure on Tuesday and Thursday evening before sunset. He rubs his hands on the wart and while rubbing says certain kinds of prayers, he then tells you to rub washing-soda on the wart every evening and morning and in about a fortnight or so the wart disappears.
Edward Gormley (Esker), has the cure of the heartache also. Rose Tynan (Esker), has the cure of the burn.
When Edward Gormleys Father was dying he left him (his son) the cure of the strain. And when Edward Gormley dies, he can leave the cure to any of his sons he likes.
John Quinn Drumlish makes the cure of the ring worm.
Some people often gets the cure of the hoopen-cough. It is very peculiar cure and it is very hard got. If a child in any house has the hoopen cough and if two people gets married of the same name, during the time that the child is bad.
The cure is for some person to steal a piece of cake that was left after the bride’s breakfast and give it to the child to eat, it is said that the cure is no good unless the bread is stolen with out the Bride or groom or anybody at the breakfast knowing it. Nobody is to see the bread a stealing or know about it, except the person who is stealing it, and the people in the house where the child is sick.
Some people has great belief in this cure and more people have no belief in it at all. Long ago the old people would be very angry with any one who would say they would not believe in it. Some people say that when a child has the hoopen-cough the best cure is, is to keep giving it butter and sugar, that it is by far the best cure.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0760, Page 236
Image and data © National Folklore Collection, UCD. https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5009172/4994159
Do you believe in Faith Healers?
It works, whether you do or not. Maybe that’s due to a placebo effect – the Faith Healers could trigger the body’s healing mechanism. Maybe it’s a genuine Irish magic, that we haven’t figured a way to quantify or explain through our scientific methodology. Yet.
However you feel about it, the laying on of hands by Faith Healers with ‘the Cure’ has been shown, throughout the centuries, to end a lot of suffering.
And sure, if you’re suffering, or a loved one is… why wouldn’t ya give it a go?