Superstitions in Co. Mayo

In bygone days Irish people were very religious but also very superstitious.

Since the pagan and early Christian times, superstitions and beliefs were handed down from a generation to another. Called "Pisreogs" they were a sort of spells or warnings to foretell good and bad luck or keep off evil and misfortune.

In Aughagower and along the West Coast of Ireland some of them are still alive and some people observe them unconsciously in daily life.

Here are some of the most popular ones :

  • Itch on the left hand meant to receive money on that day if you split on it, itch on the right hand meant to get money out that day.

  • Itchy nose indicated a quarrel with someone; a right itchy ear meant someone was saying something rude about you, but licking your thumb and forefinger and then rubbing your ear made him bite his tongues.

  • Ringing in the right ear indicated the death of a man while ringing in the left ear the one of a woman.

  • A cross made into the bread before baking it and a little prayer protected against choking and hunger.

  • After milking a cow, the milker had to dip his thumb into the milk and make the sign of the cross on the cow’s rump.

Luck was a significant matter, and many superstitions arose around it.

  • Early in the morning, it was good luck to see a lamb with the sunlight on its face.

  • It was bad luck for a farmer if the firstborn lamb was black.

  • Shaving on Sunday or having a bath on New Year Day brought bad luck and the break of a friendship.

  • It was thought bad luck to cut the fingernails of a baby before the child turns one year old otherwise he will become a thief.

  • Birds dropping felling on a person was a very good luck sign, meaning also money was on the way.

  • Breaking a mirror brought the bad luck of seven years.

  • Green was a very unlucky colour, a hot burning sensation into the ears went with the words: "Green for grief!”

Churning milk was an essential chore done on a regular basis in farmhouses.

No man could light his pipe from the fire while churning and visitors to the house had to take a turn on the churn otherwise the butter will be spoiled or "taken".

It was believed that sneezing stopped the heart’s beats, but saying “God Bless You” it restarted again.

On Achill Island, there also were many superstitions.

A cock crowing and a dog barking at the same time meant sudden death.

It was believed that a bird, entering a house, brought in the death, but plucking three feathers from its tail and burned them could counteract this sign.

According to local lore the “fetch”, or ghost, of the drowned people would haunt the place where their bodies washed ashore. Because of this superstition, the body of a person drowned at sea was placed in specific locations.

Throwing at sea the clothes belonging to a drowned person would help to find his body more easily.