PULLOUGH, Ireland — For two hours on Sunday mornings, they come to the pub with all that ails them. A small boy with a rash. A farmer with ringworm. A man with a throat infection.
They are here to see Joe Gallagher, who owns this canary yellow pub, nestled alongside a canal in the tiny Irish village of Pullough in County Offaly.
They believe that as the seventh son of his family, he holds a cure.
“I’m at this all my life,” said Mr. Gallagher, 75, as he took a deep drag on his cigarette. As he explained how he does the cure — by laying his hands on the affected area, doing the sign of the cross and reciting some prayers — he breathed out ribbons of smoke that swirled around his face.
Mr. Gallagher is just one of hundreds of men and women across Ireland who are healers, or have “the cure,” an approach to health care that interweaves home remedies with mysticism, superstition, religion and a sprinkle of magic.
It’s part of a belief in folk medicine, curing charms and faith healers that is still a way of life for many in Ireland, if a fading one.
Some who are believed to have the cure are seventh sons, like Mr. Gallagher, a birth order long thought to bestow special powers.
Others are keepers of family customs that range from rituals, prayers and charms to herbal tinctures, offered up as treatments for everything from burns and sprains to rashes and coughs.
Since his childhood, people have sought out Mr. Gallagher. “I think you must have the belief,” he said, acknowledging that the process doesn’t always work. “I wouldn’t say that I can do miracles.”