folk folk charms Folk Magic

Snaim – The three knot charm

The weave, the weft and wool are part of our Scottish Heritage. It’s no wonder the use of wool made it into our folk magic heritage. The use of using three knots on a thread for the purpose against the evil eye was called a Snaim – the three-knot charm. (Compare Snaim with the words snaidhm, a knot, also meaning a marriage and snaidhm ne péiste which literally translate as knot of the worm and also a knotted charm for curing folks and cattle.

These were used by folk practitioners and country folk to cure all manner of ills. Often it was folk with Eolas – Knowledge – who used them to help others in their community.

We have tales passed down to us about men of good looks being struck and taking ill because of the evil eye, or cows being struck sick from jealousy. The women, in this case, asked a few questions as part of the diagnosis such as the speed of how fast he became ill and I can imagine other questions. Then proceeded with the charm.

Instructions

The room must be quiet and particularly with only the client and the worker in the room.

Take a ball of red three ply wool and wind it about the points of your thumb, mid finger and ring finger taking care to hold the thread whilst winding it between the thumb and mid finger of your right hand. Care must be taken to make sure that the fore finger doesn’t touch the wool at any point from either hand.

Having wound it in this way, open the burl and take a small smoldering stick (the type of wood isn’t mentioned but one might assume it would be Juniper, Cedar or Rowan wood) and pass it three times through the circle made of the wool which remains as it is wound on your left hand.

‘Roan tree and red thread

Will drive the witches aa wud.’ 

Once this is done you go through a lengthy incantation as you tie a knot in the wool. This and the winding would then be repeated three times[i].

Sadly, this incantation hasn’t been recorded only the actions but see below for an example of one from the Carmina Gadelica.

Snaim - Scottish Three Knot Charm - picture from original text
Snaim – Scottish Three Knot Charm – picture from original text

Once this has been completed take the yarn from your fingers and starting at the crown of the head rub it around from the top of the head all the way down the body. One would assume this would be deosil or sun wise motions.

In the notes[ii] I’m referring to there was a noise at the door in which the folk practitioner replied “you there, I know you!” and then put the knotted charm three times over the fire saying “An gala’s easlainnte chuirinn air mulach an teine – I put the disease and sickness on the top of the fire”. I assume this is the correct phrase to use at the close. On the third time of doing this rather than leave the charm in the fire the practitioner knotted it around the young man’s neck.

The thread is always tied somewhere it won’t be seen but always touching the skin.

The Gaelic charm I have taken from the Carmina Gadelica about the evil eye follows. I can imagine there were many of these, each with their own regional variations. You can use the one below to suit it to your own style if you want. There are others in the Carmina too.

EOLAS A BHEUM SHULA

EXORCISM OF THE EYE

 

SALTRAIM air an t-suil,

Mar a shaltrais lach air luin,

Mar a shaltrais eal air burn,

Mar a shaltrais each air uir,

Mar a shaltrais earc air iuc,

Mar a shaltrais feachd nan dul,

Mar a shaltrais feachd nan dul.

 

Ta neart gaoith agam air,

Ta neart fraoich agam air,

Ta neart teine agam air,

Ta neart torruinn agam air,

Ta neart dealain agam air,

Ta neart gaillinn agam air,

Ta neart gile agam air,

Ta neart greine agam air,

Ta neart nan reul agam air,

Ta neart nan speur agam air,

Ta neart nan neamh

Is nan ce agam air,

Neart nan neamh

Is nan ce agam air.

 

Trian air na clacha glasa dheth,

Trian air na beanna casa dheth,

Trian air na h-easa brasa dheth,

 

Trian air na liana maiseach dheth,

’S trian air a mhuir mhoir shalach,

’S i fein asair is fearr gu ghiulan,

A mhuir mhor shalach,

Asair is fearr gu ghiulan.

 

An ainm Tri nan Dul,

An ainm nan Tri Numh,

An ainm nan uile Run,

Agus nan Cursa comhla.

 

 

I TRAMPLE upon the eye,

As tramples the duck upon the lake,

As tramples the swan upon the water,

As tramples the horse upon the plain,

As tramples the cow upon the ‘iuc,’

As tramples the host of the elements,

As tramples the host of the elements.

 

Power of wind I have over it,

Power of wrath I have over it,

Power of fire I have over it,

Power of thunder I have over it,

Power of lightning I have over it,

Power of storms I have over it,

Power of moon I have over it,

Power of sun I have over it,

Power of stars I have over it,

Power of firmament I have over it,

Power of the heavens

And of the worlds I have over it,

Power of the heavens

And of the worlds I have over it.

 

A portion of it upon the grey stones, [third

A portion of it upon the steep hills,

A portion of it upon the fast falls,

 

A portion of it upon the fair meads,

And a portion upon the great salt sea,

She herself is the best instrument to carry it,

The great salt sea,

The best instrument to carry it.

 

In name of the Three of Life,

In name of the Sacred Three,

In name of all the Secret Ones,

And of the Powers together[iii].

 

 

References

[i] The astute will notice that the numbers are 3+3+3 here adding up to 9 a significant number in Folk Magic practice

[ii] Maclagan, (1895) Notes on folklore Objects Collected in Argylshire.

[iii] Alexander Carmicheal  (1900) Carmina Gadelica, Vol 2 pg 46 &47.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *