Hag at the Churn (The)

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HAG AT THE CHURN. THE (Cailleach 'sa Mhaistrim). AKA and see "Killina Jig (The)," "Maid at the Churn (2) (The)," "Merry Woodsman (The)," "Old Hag at the Churn (The)." Irish, Single Jig. D Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Mallinson): AAB (Sullivan). A highly regarded pipe tune, according to the Bothy Band. Caoimhin Mac Aoidh says a correct translation of the Irish title would be "Hag in the churn." This refers, he maintains, to the folk superstition that witches would inhabit a churn to steal butter. They could not abide this particular tune, however, so it would be played as a ward when the chore of churning butter was done. It was a terrible and telling mark if a woman left the house during this ritual. See also the related "Church Hill (2) (The)."

The original sense of 'hag' was a wizened old woman, and in Scottish and Irish mythology the cailleach was goddess concerned with creation, harvest, the weather and sovereignty [1], who may or may not be malevolent. Nowadays, our associations with 'hag' is to an old, witch-like woman, and some hag-titled tunes occasionally appear with the word 'maid' substituted for 'hag'.

"Maid at the Churn (1) (The)" is a similarly titled (but musically unrelated) reel. Donegal fiddler John Doherty's jig "Old Hag at the Churn" is similar in tonality and mood to "Hag at the Churn" but it is a different tune that is also likewise similar to "Garrett Barry's Jig," named for a 19th century piper (1847-1899) from Inagh, County Clare.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Breathnach (CRÉ II), 1976; No. 43 (appears as "Gan ainm/No title"). Mallinson (100 Enduring), 1995; No. 50, p. 21. Sullivan (Session Tunes), vol. 2; No. 27, p. 11.

Recorded sources: CCF2, Cape Cod Fiddlers - "Concert Collection II" (1999). EFDSS LP 1003, John Doherty - "Peddlar's Pack" (1964, as "Old Hag at the Churn"). Folktrax 074, John Doherty - "Peddlar's Pack" (). Green Linnet SIF 3013, Bothy Band - "Out of the Wind, Into the Sun" (1977)

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Hear fiddler John Doherty's version at the Comhaltas Archive [4]
Hear piper Eamon Lane's version at the Comhaltas Archive [5]




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