Pull the Knife and Stick it again
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PULL THE KNIFE AND STICK IT AGAIN (Tarraing agus Sáith Arís). AKA - "Rookery (The)." Irish, Jig. E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Breathnach): AA’BB’ (Harker). Breathnach (1985) suggests the title may be from a County Clare saying, which goes “Pull the knife and stick it again as the Hag of Balla said.” This refers to a black-handled knife which was a charm against fairy-folk. Matt Molloy repeats the story that there once was a witch who used to ambush riders by dropping on them from the treetops. The way to break her spell was to stab her and leave the knife in, and as long as one ignored her pleas to ‘pull it out and stick it in again’, one was safe. It was follow to comply with her request, for once the knife was removed the spell resumed."
The source for the story is from the writing of Eugene O'Curry (b. 1794), author of Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish and Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, a friend and colleague of collector George Petrie () who supplied notes and essays on the subject matter of some of his songs. O'Curry's commentary on the song "Seo hu leo" AKA "Bhean ud thíos (A)," collected by Petrie from the singing of Mary Madden, a poor blind country woman from County Limerick but then resident in Dublin (printed in Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland). O'Curry remarked on the superstitions about changelings and fairy abductions that underline the theme of the song:
The bit of wax candle which her husband was to carry securely in the palm of his hand was – in more modern times – a candle blessed on Candelmass-day, and with which no house in Ireland was unprovided. The black-hafted knife was the only formidable mortal weapon in fairy warfare – a single thrust or stab from it was fatal; but a second rendered the first one harmless.
The tune has been characterized as a jig version of “Castle Kelly."
Source for notated version: flute player Matt Molloy (Ireland) [Breathnach]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker]. Aurora Celtic – “Crows in the Kitchen” (2012).
Printed sources: Breathnach (CRÉ III), 1985; No. 12, p. 7. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 176, p. 55 (appears as “Pull Out the Knife and Stick it in Again”).
Recorded sources: Green Linnet GLCD 3008, “Matt Molloy” (1984). Mulligan Records LUN 004, "Matt Molloy" (1976).