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The Horned Women

from the Jacobs Collection circa 1877

Once in Ireland on a large farm in the Lower Shannon there lived a prosperous farmer with his family and his servants.Late one night his wife, not being able to sleep, set down to sew and as she was sewing away a knock came to the door.

"Open the door." a voice called out ,to which the wife replied "Who is there?". The voice answered back "I am the witch of one horn." .Curious the wife opened the door and in came a woman who on her forehead had one large horn and in her hand a pair of wool carders.The horned woman sat herself down and began to card her wool and asked aloud. "Where be my sisters they tarry too long?".

Not five minutes had passed when there was another knock at the door and obliged to answer it the wife opened the door. From the doorway came another old woman with two horns coming from her forehead. "I am the witch of two horns." the woman said upon entering she had in her hand a spinning wheel and sat down to spin as fast as the wind.

All in the course of an hour another knock would come upon the door and with each knock came another witch and each had one horn more than the one before until the last one came with thirteen horns on her brow.

The witches all wove and sang in an ancient tounge until the first to enter commanded the wife to bake them all cake a cake that will be baked in the blood of her family. The wife was under the spell of these dark fairies and had to comply.

The wife was beset with grief but searched for a bucket so that she could draw water for the cake. Her sad expression became one of relief when she could find no bucket for water and no water meant no cake and no cake meant her family would be spared.

However the witches told her to take a sieve and draw water in it but when she came to the well and tried the water poured from it. The wife didn't know what to do and sobbed but from the well a voice called out "Take yellow clay and moss and bind them together so that the sieve will hold." the wife did so and the voice continued "Go back to the house and when you approach the north angle of the house cry out three times,The mountain of the Fenian women and the sky above it is all on fire!"

The wife did as the voice said and right away the witches flew from the house screaming in terror toward Slievenamon and once they were gone the spirit of the well came to the wife and told her "Quickly now we must prepare your house for their return."

The spirit commanded the wife to take the water she bathed her youngest child's feet in and pour it on the threshold of the doors of the house.Next she had to take the meal that was made with the blood of the family and place a bit of the meal in each family member's mouth once she did this the whole family was restored to health again.Finally she took the cloth that the witches wove and placed it half in and half out of her knitting chest and locked the chest shut.

The spirit of the well left for the witches were returning  and the wife locked the door shut with the beam in place and locked it tight.

The witches were enraged that the woman had duped them and demanded that the door open but the door was fastened shut and they could not cross the feet water spread across the threshold even if they could get the door to open.

The horned women screamed curses at the spirit of the well but it served them naught for the sun was soon to rise and they knew that their time was short.

The wife kept the cloth the witches wove and hung it beside the door as a reminder to watch who she let into the house.

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