Mr. W. J. Knowles, M.R.I.A., secretary for county Antrim to the Council of the present Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, states that he knew instances where the posessor of a few flint implements refused to part with them, as he found it more profitable to hire them out to neighbours, for the purpose of curing cattle, than it would be to sell them. Theis writer also remarks that, in reference to the employment of flint arrow-heads and spear-heads in curing cattle, he received recently an account from an aged man, who lives not far from Ballymena, of how the ceremony of cattle-curing was carried on in his young days:-From Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland' by W.G. Wood-Martin (1902).
"He had a neighbour, a very respectable farmer, who was a cow-doctor, and who had a considerable number of beautiful flint arrow-heads, by means of which he effected cures in the case of cattle which were ill. This cow-doctor invariably found that the animal was either 'elf-shot' or 'dinted,' or it might be suffering from both troubles. When 'elf-shot,' I suspect the arrow had pierced the hide; and when 'dinted,' I imagine there was only an indentation, which the doctor could feel as easily as the holes. When he was called in to see a cow which was ill, he would feel the hide all over, and find, or pretend to find, holes or indentations, and would call on anyone present to feel them. He would then assure the owner that he would very soon cure the cow. My informant told me that the man's usual expression when he found the holes was, in his own local language, 'Begor, we hae found the boy noo,' meaning that he had found the cause of the beast's ailment. Some gruel would now have to be prepared, into which he would put a few of his arrow-heads, a piece of silver, usually a sixpence, and he would also add some sooty matter which he had previously scraped from the bottom of the pot. When all had been boiled well together, and was ready for use, he would take a mouthful and blow it into the animal's ears, another mouthful and blow it over her back, and then he would give the remainder to the cow to drink, and would go away, assuring the owner that she would soon be better. I understand he was generally successful in effecting cures, and was held in high estimation as a cow-doctor. My informant said he was often sent for by Lord Mountcashel's agent, when he lived in Galgorm Castle, to prescribe for cattle which were ill. There must, however, have been sceptics in those days, as I am told that the poor cow-doctor was often jocularly asked to examine a cow that was in perfectly good health, and that there was considerable merriment when he pronounced her to be both 'elf-shot' and 'dinted'. "
An interesting section follows about the market in passing off faked arrow-heads as the real thing.
Posted by Rhiannon
4th December 2012ce
Edited 4th December 2012ce