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January 11, 2019

Irish Folklore – The Nails

As any witch will know, you take good care of where your hair and nails end up. And with whom. So here’s some advice from the native Irish Folklore tradition on best practices around your own nail care.

Avoid cutting your nails on Sunday. it is thought that whoever does so is followed closely by the Devil the following week. A very old rhyme was made about this :
Cut them on Monday, you cut them for news
Cut them on Tuesday, a new pair of shoes
Cut them on Wednesday, you cut them for wealth
Cut them on Thursday, you cut them for health
Cut them on Friday, a sweetheart you’ll know
Cut them on Saturday, a journey you’ll go
Cut them on Sunday, you cut them for evil
For all the next week, you’ll make friends with the devil.


The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0638, Page 340 https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4428104/4378363

There are a couple more Irish folklore traditions around the nails that I’ve heard of growing up.

  • On ‘Holy Thursday’ (the day before ‘Good Friday’), people don’t clip their fingernails or cut their hair.
  • To keep a child from biting their nails, a piece of soot was put on the fingernails.
  • You should cut the nails off your toes and the nails off your fingers and a bit of your hair the night before November’s Night (Samhain, Hallowe’en) and then leave them under a stone to help to banish your sins. If you believe in sins.
  • They used to say that if you have white spots on your nails you will have to earn your living overseas, and that the number of times you will travel by sea is shown by the number of white dots on your nails.

Any others? Add them in the comments below!

If you’re interested in old Irish mythology, check out our ‘Learn the Lore’ 21 Day Challenge – Free!

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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

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  • I’m trying to trace the poem by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin that refers to an Irish superstition about concealing your fingernails somewhere in your house to force the angels present at the rising of the dead to return your risen body to that house to retrieve those bits of your body. And there, presumably, you would encounter all your family who had similarly tricked God’s angels in a similar way. Can you point me to that poem?
    I once heard Eilean read that poem when she was visiting her mother Eilis Dillon in Santa Barbara, CA.

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