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The Harvest Old Wife (a Cailleach)

The Harvest Old Wife (a Cailleach)

On the remote Hebridean island of Tiree, in harvest, there was a struggle to escape from being the last done with the shearing, and when tillage in common existed, instances were known of a ridge being left unshorn (no person would claim it) because of it being behind the rest. The fear entertained was that of having the ‘famine of the farm’ (gort a bhaile), in the shape of an imaginary old woman (cailleach), to feed till next harvest.

Much emulation and amusement arose from the fear of this old woman. The first done made a doll of some blades of corn, which was called the ‘old wife,’ and sent it to his nearest neighbour. He in turn, when ready, passed it to another still less expeditious, and the person it last remained with had ‘the old woman’ to keep for that year.”



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