Old lady on the door of her cottage

The Frith – Divination from Augury

by Scott

I have discussed the Frith – Gaelic divination charm practice before but omitted the augury signs which i have included below. Scottish folks had many ways of finding things outside of the second sight. One of these techniques is called the Frith. Frith translates in gaelic “to find”. Macaplpine describes it as “an incantation to find whether people at a great distance or at sea be in life.” The place the objects we see in the person casting the “vision” let us know the outcome or fate of the one we seek.

The Frith is religious in character and is given over to the Virgin Mary in the lore that we have. It is called in Uist, Frith a rinn Moire dha Mac­ “the Frith that Mary made for her Son.” According to Holy Writ, Joseph and the Virgin Mary went with the child Jesus, when he was twelve years old, to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. When they fulfilled the days of the feast, they returned, but the child Jesus tarried behind them in Jerusalem, and they knew it not. The account of their three days’ anxious search for him is varrated in the Bible, and our Highland poetess, Sileas na Ceapaich,captures its well in a poem entitled Laoidh na Maighdinn.

Mary used the Frith to find Jesus we are told. Whether or not this is related to older characters and practice is unknown in Scotland.

Instructions for the Frith – Gaelic divination charm

The mode of making the Frith is as follows: (you can hear an audio version of this charm here

In the Morning the Beannaichear dhut, a Mhoire, is said thusly:

Beannaichear dhut, a Mhoire,
Tha thu Ian dhe na grasan ;
Tha ‘n Tigheama maille riut;
‘S beannuichte thu measg nam ban ;
‘S beannaichte toradh do bhronn-Iosa.
A Naomh Mhoire-‘Mhathair Dhe­
Guidh air ar son-ne, na peacaich,
A nis agus aig uair ar bais-Amen.

After repeating the Ave, the person proceeds with closed eyes to the door, On reaching the maide-buinn, or door-step, he opens his eyes, and if he sees the Cross (Crois Chriosda), although it were only made with two straws lying across each other, it is a good sign that all will be well. On getting outside, he proceeds round the house sunwise (deiseal), repeating the following Incantation:-

Dia romham;
Moire am dheaghaidh
‘S am Mac a thug Righ nan Dul
‘S a chairich Brighde na glaic.
Mis’ air do shlios, a Dhia,
Is Dia na’m luirg.
Mac Moire, a’s Righ nan Dul,
A shoillseachadh gach ni dheth so,
Le a ghras, mu’m choinneamh.

Translation:

God before me ;
The Virgin Mary after me ;
And the Son sent by the King of the Elements ;
And whom St Bridget took in her arms.
I am on thy land [ side?], O God !
And God on my footsteps ;
May the Son of Mary, King of the Elements,
Reveal the meaning of each of these things,
Before me through his grace.

If looking for a particular person a different incantation would be used :

Tha mise falbh air srath Chriosd:
Dia romham, Dia am dheighidh,
A’s Dia am’ luirg.
A Fhrith a rinn Moire dha ‘Mac,
A sheid Brighde troimh a glaic,
Mar a fhuair ise fios firinneach,
Gun fhios breige,
Mise dh’ fhaicinn samhla ‘s coltas N.N.

Translation:

I go forth on the track of Christ­
God before me, God behind me,
And God on my footsteps.
The Frith that Mary made for her Son,
Which Bridget blew through her palm ;
And as she got a true response,
Without a false one,
May I behold the likeness and similitude of N.N

The Incantation finished, the person looks forth over the country and performs the Frith/augury. Sometimes this could be done by placing your hand into tube shape and looking through it like a telescope. The auguries or omens which meet the eye represent the fate of the man or animal for whom the Frith, is being made-whether the absent one, about whom nothing is known, is in life, and well; or whether the sick man or beast, at home will recover from his ailment.

Reading the Augury in the Gaelic divination charm

Below is a list of objects with their significance. This list is compiled from the Mackenzie manuscripts:

A man coming towards you.. An excellent sign.
A cock looking towards you. Also an excellent sign.
A man standing…… . . . . . . . . . . Sign of a sick man recovering and casting off illness
A man lying down…………. Sickness ; continued illness.
A beast lying down ………… Ominous-sickness; continued ill­ness and sickness, death
A beast rising up .. .. .. … . .. .. . Sign of a man recovering and throwing off all illness
A bird on the wing………… A good sign.
A bird on the wing coming to you  …………………. Sign of a letter coming.
A woman seen standing …… A bad sign-such as death, or some untoward event-( Am bas, no ni rosadach air chor-eigin )
A woman seen passing or returning .. . .. . . . …. . . . .. Not so bad.
A woman with red hair …… Not lucky.
A woman with fair hair (falt ban) ……………Not lucky
A woman with black hair (falt duh) ………… lucky
A woman with brown hair (falt donn)….. luckiest
Fowls without a cock in their midst………………….. Not a good sign.
Stoueohat (Clachran) ……… Untoward (rosadach)-
A lark ………… a good sign
A dove…………a good sign
A crow or a raven ……………a bad sign; death
A sparrow (glaiseun) …………not lucky – but blessed (it tells the death of a child)
A wild duck ……………………A good sign
Ducks (tunnagan) ……………Good. For sailors especially meaning safety from drowning
A dog ……………………….Good luck
A cat ……………………….Good for Mackintoshes only. To others it is considered rosadach, or untoward. The cat is regarded as evil, as shown by the fact that witches are believed to assume this form.
A pig ……………Good for campbell’s. For others indifferent when facing you: bad with its back towards you.
A calf or lamb …………..Lucky with its face towards you, good with its side facing you.
A horse ……………..Lucky
A brown horse …………..is the best
A chestnut or red horse ……….. a bad sign, death

Further to this we have colours of horse representing different things.

Brown horse …..land
Grey Horse ……The ocean
Chestnut Horse ….The graveyard
Black Horse ……Sorrow

For those living at the time this would make absolute sense. However, in our modern times I’m not sure how often we would see a brown horse going past our door. Though we would see different coloured cars I suppose.

 

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