Lammas isn’t known for thin veils, but, these last few days, they seem tatter-thin to me. Here’s a cautionary tale, both for Witches who sell themselves too cheap and for all who try to cheat Witches.
Ian Duhig’s award-winning poem The Lammas Hireling explores superstition in 20th Century rural Ireland. A farmer hires a casual labourer from a hiring fair and becomes wealthy very quickly. Little does he know that the hireling is in fact a witch, who changes into a hare at full moon. He is awoken one night to the screams of the witch who has been caught in a fox trap.
Staring Cork actors Rosie O'Regan and Geoff Daykin. Screenplay adaptation by Sam Thomas. Music by Macarena Ferrer. Directed by Paul Casey.
Premiered in 2010 at the Zebra Poetry Film festival in Berlin.
Clones Film Festival (in competition), Monaghan – 24th October 2010
Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Night, Cork – 8th November 2010
Foyle Film Festival (in competition), Derry – 27th November 2010
Cork Spring Literary Festival, Metropole Hotel, Cork, February 2011
Corona Cork Film Festival, Gate Cinema Cork – 8th November 2011
Sadho Poetry Film Festival, New Delhi – 12th November 2011
(Plus on tour through eight cities in India during 2012)
StAnza Poetry Festival, Edinburgh – 14th to 18th March 2012
Cork Underground Film Festival – 15th August 2012
This poem is called ‘The Lammas Hireling’. It’s based on a story I heard when I was in Northern Ireland, out for a very late night walk, a local person pointed out a house he told me was where the local witches used to live, and in their tradition witches would change into hares, and when the father was dying, his family was very embarrassed because the father’s body was turning into a hare’s and this bloke told me the story said he attended the funeral and the last thing you could hear was the hare’s paws beating the lid of the coffin as they lowered it into the ground. Hare stories are sort of found all over England and Europe in fact. There’s one rhyme in this that I suppose it might be helpful for people to have pointed out, and that’s the one “to go into the hare gets you muckle sorrow, muckle care”- that’s from the Annals of Pursuit which is a North Country witches’ chant, restored by Robert Graves. “A cow with leather horns” is another name for a hare – if you think about it you’ll see why. The story is: a farmer gets a young man from a hiring fair, which is how labour was engaged well into the last century, and takes him home with him, and finds he’s got more than he bargained for. – See more at: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/lammas-hireling#sthash.u0mS7d7j.dpuf