The Horned Women
RICH woman sat up late one night carding and preparing wool while all
the family and servants were asleep. Suddenly a knock was given at the
door, and a voice called- "Open!open!"
"Who is there?" said the woman of the house.
"I am the Witch of the One Horn," was answered.
mistress, supposing that one of her neighbors had called and required
assistance, opened the door, and a woman entered, having in her hand a
pair of wool carders, and bearing a horn on her forehead, as if growing
there. She sat down by the fire in silence, and began to card the wool
with violent haste. Suddenly she paused and! said aloud: "Where are
the women? They delay too long."
Then a second knock came to the door, and a voice called as before- "Open!open!"
mistress felt herself constrained to rise and open to the call, and
immediately a second witch entered, having two horns on her forehead,
and in her hand a wheel for spinning wool.
"Give me place, she said; "I am the Witch of the Two Horns," and she began to spin as quick as lightning.
so the knocks went on, and the call was heard, and the witches entered,
until at last twelve woman sat round the fire--first with One horn, the
last with twelve horns. And they carded the thread, and turned their
spinning wheels, and wound and wove, all singing together an ancient
rhyme, but no word did they speak to the mistress of the house.
Strange to hear, and frightful to look upon were these twelve woman,
with their horns and their wheels; and the mistress felt near to death,
and she tried to rise that she might call for help, but she could not
more, nor could she utter a word or a cry, for the spell of the witches
was upon her.
Then one of them called to her in Irish and said-
"Rise, woman, and make us a cake."
the mistress searched for a vessel to bring water from the well that
she might mix the meal and make the cake, but she could find none. And
they said to her-
"Take a sieve and bring water in it."
she took the sieve and went to the well; but the wate poured from it,
and she could fetch none for the cake, and she sat down by the well and
wept. Then a voice came by her and said-
"Take yellow clay and moss and bind them together and plaster the sieve so that it will hold."
This she did, and the sieve held the water for the cake. And the voice said again-
and when thou comest to the north angle of the house, cry aloud three
times and say, "The mountain of the Fenian women and the sky over it is
all on fire."
And she did so.
the witches inside heard the call, a great and terrible cry before from
their lips and they rushed "forth with wild lamentations and shrieks,
and fled away to Slieve-namon, where was their chief abode. But the
Spirit of the Well bade the mistress of the house to enter her home
again the enchantments of the witches if they returned again.
first, to break their spells, she sprinkled the water in which she had
washed her child's feet (the feet-water) outside the door on teh
threshold; secondly, she took the cake which the witches had made in
her absence, of meal mixed with the blood drawn from the sleeping
family. And she broke the cake in bits, and placed a bit in the mouth
of each sleeper, and they were restored; and she took the cloth they
had woven and placed it half in and half out of the chest with the
padlock; and lastly, she secured the door with a great cross-beam
fastened in the jambs, so that they could not enter. And having done
these things she waited.
Not long were the witches in coming back, and they raged and called for vengenance.
"Open!Open!" they screamed. "Open, feet-water!"
"I cannot," said the feet-water, "I am scattered on the ground and my path is down to the Lough."
"Open, open, wood and tree and beam!" they cried to the door.
"I cannot, said the door, "for the beam is fixed in the jambs arid I have no power to move."
"Open, open, cake that we have made and mingled with blood, " they cried again.
"I cannot," said the cake, "for I am broken and bruised, and my blood is on the lips of the sleeping children."
the witches rushed through the air with great cries, and fled back to
Slieve-namon, uttering strange curses on the Spirit of the Well, who
had wished their ruin; but the woman and the house were left in peace,
and a mantle dropped by one of the witches in her flight was kept hung
up by the mistress as a sign of the night's awful contest; and this
mantle was in possession of the same family from generation to
generation for five hundred years after.