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sodeyn deth wyste I nevir that men hadde thanne I wyste theym have that have fastyd suche fastes seven yere about. And was their nevir soo moche sodeyn deth so longe reignynge in this londe as hath be sithe suche fastynge beganne.'
The time of this new fast seems to be pointed out in the following passage: "I see no grounde ne reason whye it shuld be more medeful to fast alle Mondayes in the yere whan the Feeste of oure Lady in Lente fullyth on Monday, thanne to fast in worshyp of her Wednesdaye, Friday, or Saturday."
Our ancient popular death omens are all enumerated in the well-known Historie of Thomas of Reading, 4to. Lond. 1632, previous to his being murdered by his "oasts." Signat. O 4 b: "There is no remedy but he should goe to Colebrooke that night; but by the way he was heavy asleepe, that he could scant keepe himself in the saddle; and when he came neere unto the towne, his nose burst out suddenly a bleeding. Cole, beholding his oast and oastesse earnestly, began to start backe, saying, what aile you to looke so like pale death? good Lord, what have you done, that your hands are thus bloody? What, my hands? said his oast. Why, you may see they are neither bloody nor foule; either your eyes doe greatly dazell, or else fancies of a troubled minde doe delude you. With that the scritch-owle cried piteously, and anon, after, the night-raven sat croking hard by his window. Jesu have mercy upon me, quoth hee, what an ill-favoured cry doe yonder carrion birds make! and therewithal he laid him downe in his bed, from whence he never rose againe."
Watching in the church-porch for death omens (on the eves of St. Mark and St. John Baptist) has been already noticed. The following relation on this subject is found in the Athenian Oracle, vol. iii. p. 515: "On last eve, nine others besides myself went into a church-porch, with an expectation of seeing those who should die that year; but about eleven o'clock I was so afraid that I left them, and all the nine did positively affirm to me that, about an hour after, the church-doors flying open, the minister (who, it seems, was much troubled that night in his sleep), with such as should die that year, did appear in order. Which persons they named to me, and they appeared then all very healthful, but six of them died in six weeks after, in the very same order that they appeared." Perhaps this comes more properly under the head of Divinations than Omens.
CORPSE CANDLES, &c.
CORPSE CANDLES, says Grose, are very common appearances in the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke, and also in some other parts of Wales; they are called candles, from their resemblance, not to the body of the candle, but the fire; because that fire, says the honest Welshman, Mr. Davis, in a letter to Mr. Baxter, doth as much resemble material candle-lights as eggs do eggs; saving that, in their journey, these candles are sometimes visible and sometimes disappeared, especially if any one comes near to them, or in the way to meet them. On these occasions they vanish, but presently appear again behind the observer and hold on their course. If a little candle is seen, of a pale bluish colour, then follows the corpse, either of an abortive, or some infant; if a larger one, then the corpse of some one come to age. If there be seen two, three, or more, of different sizes, some big, some small, then shall so many corpses pass together, and of such ages or degrees. If two candles come from different places, and be seen to meet, the corpses will do the same; and if any of these candles be seen to turn aside, through some by-path leading to the church, the following corpse will be found to take exactly the same way. Sometimes these candles point out the places where persons shall sicken and die. They have also appeared on the bellies of pregnant women previous to their delivery; and predicted the drowning of persons passing a ford. Another kind of fiery apparition peculiar to Wales is, what is called the Tan-we or Tan-wed. This appeareth, says Mr. Davis, to our seeming, in the lower region of the air, straight and long, not much unlike a glaive, mours, or shoots, directly and level (as who should say I'll hit), but far more slowly than falling stars. It lighteneth all the air and ground where it passeth, lasteth three or four miles or more, for aught is known, because no man seeth the rising or beginning of it; and when it falls to the ground, it sparkleth and lighteth all about. These commonly announce the death or decease of freeholders by falling on their lands; and you shall scarce bury any such with us, says Mr. Davis, be he but a lord of a house and garden, but you shall find some one at his burial that hath seen this fire fall on some part of his lands.
[“These pavraoμara in our language we call canhwyllan cyrph, i. e. corps-candles; and candles we call them, not that
we see anything beside the light, but because that light doth as much resemble a material candle-light, as eggs do eggs, saving, that in their journey these candles be modo apparentes, modo disparentes, especially when one comes near them; and if one come in the way against them, unto whom they vanish; but presently appear behind and hold on their course. If it be a little candle pale or bluish, then follows the corps either of an abortive or some infant." Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. 176.
Sacheverell, in his Account of the Isle of Man, p. 15, relates that "Captain Leather, chief magistrate of Belfast, in the year 1690, who had been previously shipwrecked on the coast of Man, assured him that, when he landed after shipwreck, several people told him that he had lost thirteen men, for they had seen so many lights move towards the churchyard, which was exactly the number of the drowned."]
Sometimes these appearances have been seen by the persons whose death they foretold; two instances of which Mr. Davis records as having happened in his own family. For a particular relation of the appearance of a fetch-light, or dead-man's candle, to a gentleman in Carmarthenshire, see the Athenian Oracle, vol. i. pp. 76, 77. See also, ibid. vol. iii. p. 150.
Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, says: "Some wayes he will not go, and some he dares not; either there are bugs, or he faineth them. Every lanterne is a ghost, and every noise is of chaines. He knowes not why, but his custom is to go a little about, and to leave the crosse still on the right hand."
In the Cambrian Register, 8vo. 1796, p. 431, we read: "That, among the lower class of people, there is a general belief in the existence of apparitions, is unquestionable; but as to the lighted candle springing up upon the errand of love, I believe that no person in Wales has ever before heard of it (the author is remarking on Pratt's Gleaner); the traveller has probably confounded it with a very commonlyreceived opinion, that within the diocese of St. David's, a short space before death, a light is seen proceeding from the house, and sometimes, as has been asserted, from the very bed where the sick person lies, and pursues its way to the church where he or she is to be interred, precisely in the same track in which the funeral is afterwards to follow. This light is called canwyll corpt, or the corpse-candle.
OMENS AMONG SAILORS.
THERE is a very singular marine superstition noted in Petronius Arbiter; it is that no person in a ship must pare his nails or cut his hair, except in a storm. Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, observes that "he will never set to sea but on a Sunday." Sailors have various puerile apprehensions of its being ominous to whistle on shipboard, to carry a corpse in their vessel, &c.
Sailors, usually the boldest men alive, are yet frequently the very abject slaves of superstitious fear. "Innumerable," says Scot on Witchcraft, p. 53, "are the reports of accidents unto such as frequent the seas, as fishermen and sailors, who discourse of noises, flashes, shadows, echoes, and other visible appearances, nightly seen and heard upon the surface of the
Andrews, in his Anecdotes, p. 331, says: "Superstition and profaneness, those extremes of human conduct, are too often found united in the sailor; and the man who dreads the stormy effects of drowning a cat, or of whistling a countrydance while he leans over the gunwale, will, too often, wantonly defy his Creator by the most daring execrations and the most licentious behaviour." He softens, however, the severity of this charge by owning "that most assuredly he is thoughtless of the faults he commits."
I find the following in a Helpe to Memory and Discourse, 12mo. Lond. 1630, p. 56: “Q. Whether doth a dead body in a shippe cause the shippe to sayle slower, and if it doe, what is thought to be the reason thereof?-A. The shippe is as insensible of the living as of the dead; and as the living make it goe the faster, so the dead make it not goe the slower, for the dead are no Rhemoras to alter the course of her passage, though some there be that thinke so, and that by a kind of mournful sympathy."
"Our sailors," says Dr. Pegge (under the signature of T.
"Audio enim non licere cuiquam mortalium in nave neque ungues neque capillos deponere, nisi quum pelago ventus irascitur." Petron. 369, edit. Mich. Hadrianid. And Juvenal, Sat. xii. 1. 81, says:
"Tum stagnante sinu, gaudent ubi vertice raso
Row), in the Gent. Mag. for January, 1763, xxxiii. 14, "I am told, at this very day, I mean the vulgar sort of them, have a strange opinion of the devil's power and agency in stirring up winds, and that is the reason they so seldom whistle on shipboard, esteeming that to be a mocking, and consequently an enraging, of the devil. And it appears now that even Zoroaster himself imagined there was an evil spirit, called Vato, that could excite violent storms of wind."
Sir Thomas Browne has the following singular passage: "That a kingfisher, hanged by the bill, showeth us what quarter the wind is, by an occult and secret propriety, converting the breast to that point of the horizon from whence the wind doth blow, is a received opinion and very strange-introducing natural weathercocks, and extending magnetical positions as far as animal natures; a conceit supported chiefly by present practice, yet not made out by reason or experience.'
The common sailors account it very unlucky to lose a waterbucket or a mop. To throw a cat overboard, or drown one at sea, is the same. Children are deemed lucky to a ship. Whistling at sea is supposed to cause increase of wind, and is therefore much disliked by seamen, though sometimes they themselves practise it when there is a dead calm.
[Davy Jones."This same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, shipwrecks, and other disasters, to which a seafaring life is exposed, warning the devoted wretch of death and woe."Peregrine Pickle, chap. 13.]
In Canterbury Guests, or a Bargain Broken, a comedy, by Ravenscroft, 4to. p. 24, we read: "My heart begins to leap, and play like a porpice before a storm." Pennant says, in his Zoology, iii. 67, that "the appearance of the dolphin and the porpesse are far from being esteemed favorable omens by the seamen, for their boundings, springs, and frolics in the water are held to be sure signs of an approaching gale.”
Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 135, tells us: “Porpaises, or sea-hogs, when observed to sport and chase one another about ships, expect then some stormy weather. Dolphins, in fair and calm weather, persuing one another as one of their waterish pastimes, foreshews wind, and from that part whence