Today I was reading an article that was interesting in light of the recent
discussions about Christianity vs. paganism in Gaelic culture -- until this
century there was still a good deal of folk belief and superstition among
very rural and illiterate people, and even until the present day some of it
persists. One of the beliefs is in the power of "buidseachd", which is any
evil activity aimed at harming others through magic. Gairm frequently carries
eyewitness accounts of ghosts, beasties, etc., and at least twenty or thirty
years ago there were stories about "buidseachd" as well. One of the worries
was that practitioners of this art used love-charms to win the affections of
others, or that they stole the milk from cows; they were supposed to be able
to do anything short of raising the dead, but were evidently not very
Here are a couple of accounts:
"Chuala mi sgeulachd eile bho "I heard another account from
sheann duine c̣ir ann an Tiridhe, an honest old man in Tiree,
mu thàillear a chaidh gu tigh about a tailor who went to a house
buitsich, agus dh'iarr e oirre, where a woman was practicing
mar dearbhadh air a comasan, "buidseachd", and he asked her
an t-slabhraidh a bhleoghainn for proof of her powers that she
dha; chaidh a' chailleach gu get milk from a chain for him;
gńomh, agus shil am bainne o'n the old woman went to work, and
chromaig ach cha robh an tàillear the milk poured out from the hook
sàsaichte, agus dh'iarr e air [of the chain], but the tailor
a' chaillich cumail a' dol; rinn was not satisfied, and he asked
ise sin agus bhleoghainn i an her to keep going; she did, and
t-iarrunn gus an tàinig an fhuil. she milked the iron until blood
Thog an tàillear air dhachaidh came out. The tailor went home
làn dhearbhte mu cumhachdan na fully convinced of her powers and
caillich agus is e a dh'fhaodadh well he might, for when he went
oir nuair a sheall e anns a' into his byre his saw that his
bhàthaich, bha a' bhó ghlas aige grey cow was dead on the floor...
marbh air an ùrlar....
"Bha duine c̣ir, do'm b'ainm "There was a man by the name of
Mac Shiomain, a' c̣mhnadh ann an Mac Shiomain, living in the place
àite ris an abradh iad "Glac- they call "Glac-nan-Smiar" in
nan-Smiar" ann an Tiridhe, agus Tiree, and I heard my father say
chuala mi m'athair ag ràdh gum you could get from him the hair
faigheadh thu aige-san ronag- of a seal calf, and if this was
gaoiside agus nam biodh an ronag bound around the handle of a
seo ceangailte mu làimh a' chumain- milking pail no "buidseachd"
bhainne cha bhiodh e an comas na could take the milk away."
buitsich toradh a' bhainne a
thoirt air falbh."
As is usual in these cases it was generally women who were suspected of
the craft, tho' they didn't necessarily have to be old. However, the man
relating the above stories related "buidseachd" to demonic possession and
implied that men (in his word, "amadain" -- foolish men) were no less prone
to yield to it, in theory at least.