The wall between science and superstition has never been particularly strong in Ireland, where locals put their trust in God but often like to improve their odds with a little bit of paganism.
That’s how belief in folk cures, spells and rituals has persisted from the old times through all the times that followed. Here’s a list of ten cures that have never been known to fail.
Cure for a cold or flu
The moment you start to feel the first gatherings of a powerful cold or flu, make an Irish hot whiskey and – if it doesn’t cure you, you’ll start to feel a great deal better immediately – so maybe that’s it’s secret, if you don’t mind it won’t matter. Many an Irish home swears on this recipe, which works especially well on devastating man flu’s.
1 measure of Jameson’s whiskey
1 scant tablespoon of sugar (honey can be substituted)
6 whole cloves
Method: Cut a slice of lemon and place six whole cloves into the circle. Place in a glass with a scant tablespoon of sugar. Add a good measure of Jameson’s whiskey, then add the hot water and gently stir. Serve this to a poor unfortunate and watch them claw their way back toward life.
Cure for hiccups
The Irish swear that the best cure for hiccups is to the afflicted person a terrific shock. Jumping out from behind a doorway or stealing up behind them and shouting loudly in their ear is sworn by, particularly in the north of the country, where it’s said if the remedy doesn’t always work it will still greatly improve the mood of the person who administers it.
Cure for an upset stomach (and much more)
If you work in an Irish hospital you’ll notice that Lucozade bottles come second only to gaudy flower arrangements in terms of gifts to present to the convalescing. Though not exactly folk cures the Irish turn to these sugary drinks cures with the confidence usually reserved for holy relics.
A glucose based soft drink, Lucozade is a bit like drinking crack cocaine in it’s liquid form. Your brain's neurotransmitters will light up like the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller center with the first sip, suggesting the Irish strongly believe in the power of placebos. Ginger milk (hot milk with a little powdered ginger) is also taken as a cure all drink to settle an upset stomach. But flat 7UP is authoritively sworn by from Malin to Mizen as a particularly powerful tummy settler.
Cure for freckles
I can hear you laughing. Yes, the Irish are fair skinned people but yes they have a remedy for freckles that is also said to work on age spots. Pick a handful of honeysuckle leaves in high summer (they are plentiful in Ireland) and soak the flowers and stems in water overnight. The next morning gently splash on the resulting mixture and just watch what happens.
Cure for a broken heart
The Irish know that not all ailments are physical. Sometimes they’re emotional or spiritual or a bit of all three. When that happens you have to break out the big guns. Some swear by tubs of chocolate ice cream or other indulgences, but why get fat when you can get over him or her?
First of all, acknowledge the power of it. A broken heart is a kind of spell in itself, with the power to literally kill you, if it’s experienced unchecked. It’s in your own interest to fight back, even if you think you’ve no fight left.
To cure a broken heart write down a short prayer of intention, in it describe where you are and where you’d like to be (no looking for rebounds, mind you). After the sun goes down, sit in a quiet place and wait for silence. Ask your guardian angel (we all have them) to come and protect you. Light two simple votive candles. One represents your heartbreak and one represents your heart healing. Let them both burn side by side until they burn out. As they burn quietly say your prayer of intention. Just once is fine; it’s your own prayer. When the candles eventually burn out, thank your guardian angel for protecting you then get up and get on with your life. You don’t need to worry if the spell will work or not, since you have sent it out into the universe where it will be answered. Let the universe do its own work. Trust that it will.
Cure for nightmares
Bluebells, that most common and magical of Irish flowers, are believed to call the fairies when they’re rung. That meant they were sometimes regarded as an unlucky thing to bring into the house. But others turn to them as a first line defense against nightmares – place them in a vase in your bedroom.
Cure for hay fever
The Irish swear that honey that’s produced close to the place where you live – say within a 25-mile radius - has the power to cure your hay fever. Eat a spoonful a day to guard against the sniffles.
Cure for a grave injustice
Though not strictly a cure, the desire for revenge on someone who has unjustly wronged you is a healthy emotion if it does not go on for too long. If you cannot receive justice then you may seek to settle accounts in a more traditional way, by putting an irreversible curse on the one who wronged you. But be warned, when we say irreversible we mean it, so reflect carefully on whether this is the path you really want to take, these spells have no known cure.
Say these spells to the person you want to curse and say these words. Each sentence will deliver a different curse.
- May the snails devour your corpse and the rains rot it. Worse, may the Devil sweep you away, you hairy creature.
- May the seven terriers of hell sit on your breast and bark at your soul.
- May the Devil swallow you sideways.
- May six horse-loads of graveyard clay fall on top of you.
- May the cats eat you.
Cure for swarms of flies
If your kitchen is a magnet for small insects in the summer months the Irish cure is to go outside and find a small wooden block, which you should saw exactly in half. Call one block, Block A and other block, Block B. When a fly lands on Block A come smartly off it with Block B.
Cure for arthritis
The Irish believe that nettle juice – yes, from the stinging plant – that’s harvested on May Day will keep arthritis away. Nettles also make a terrific soup for people who are judged to be too pale or suffering from iron deficiencies.
If you can’t find fresh nettles, have no fear: you can simply wear a ring that’s made of iron on your ring finger and achieve the same result. Remember to wear rubber kitchen gloves when harvesting nettles; otherwise you’ll have another folk cure to go in search of.