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may see the course of the darkening smoke of the fire used in this unhallowed incantation."-JOSEPH TRAIN.]'
"For warts," says Sir Thomas Browne, "we rub our hands before the moon, and commit any maculated part to the touch of the dead." Old women were always famous for curing warts; they were so in Lucian's time.
Grose says: "To cure warts, steal a piece of beef from a butcher's shop and rub your warts with it; then throw it down the necessary-house, or bury it; and as the beef rots, your warts will decay." See more superstitions relating to warts in Turner on the Diseases of the Skin, and in La Forest, L'Art de soigner les Pieds, p. 75.
[Devonshire cure for warts.-Take a piece of twine, tie in it as many knots as you have warts, touch each wart with a knot, and then throw the twine behind your back into some place where it may soon decay-a pond or a hole in the earth; but tell no one what you have done. When the twine is decayed your warts will disappear without any pain or trouble, being in fact charmed away!]
I extracted the following from a newspaper, 1777: "After he (Dr. Dodd) had hung about ten minutes, a very decently dressed young woman went up to the gallows, in order to have a wen in her face stroked by the doctor's hand; it being a received opinion among the vulgar that it is a certain cure for such a disorder. The executioner, having untied the doctor's hand, stroked the part affected several times therewith."
I remember once to have seen, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, after a person executed had been cut down, men climb up upon the gallows and contend for that part of the rope which remained, and which they wished to preserve for some lucky
[For this most singular instance of superstition, the publisher is indebted to the kindness of his friend Dr. Train, whose well-directed and untiring energy in the pursuit of legendary lore has been recorded in several of the pages of Sir Walter Scott.
The Publisher avails himself of this occasion to acknowledge the interest Dr. Train has taken in this edition of Brand, and to thank him for several interesting contributions, as well as for permission to make extracts from his valuable History of the Isle of Man.']
purpose or other. I have lately made the important discovery that it is reckoned a cure for the headache.
Grose says, that "a dead man's hand is supposed to have the quality of dispelling tumours, such as wens, or swelled glands, by striking with it, nine times, the place affected. It seems as if the hand of a person dying a violent death was deemed particularly efficacious; as it very frequently happens that nurses bring children to be stroked with the hands of executed criminals, even whilst they are hanging on the gallows. A halter, wherewith any one has been hanged, if tied about the head, will cure the headache. Moss growing on a human skull, if dried, powdered, and taken as snuff, will cure the headache.
"The chips or cuttings of a gibbet, or gallows, on which one or more persons have been executed or exposed, if worn next the skin, or round the neck in a bag, will cure the ague, or prevent it."
I saw, a few years ago, some dust, in which blood was absorbed, taken, for the purpose of charming away some disease or other, from off the scaffold on the beheading of one of the rebel lords in 1746.
In the Life of Nicholas Mooney, a notorious highwayman, executed at Bristol, April 24th, 1752, with other malefactors, we read, p. 30: "After the cart drew away, the hangman very deservedly had his head broke for endeavouring to pull off Mooney's shoes; and a fellow had like to have been killed in mounting the gallows, to take away the ropes that were left after the malefactors were cut down. A young woman came fifteen miles for the sake of the rope from Mooney's neck, which was given to her; it being by many apprehended that the halter of an executed person will charm away the ague, and perform many other cures."
In the Times newspaper of August 26, 1819, in an account of the execution of a Jew, named Abraham Abrahams, on Penenden Heath (copied from the Maidstone Gazette), we read: "After the body had hung some time, several persons applied for permission to rub the hand of the deceased over their wens, which by the vulgar is stupidly believed to be a cure for those troublesome swellings: but the Jews in attendance told them they could not suffer the body to be touched by any but their own people, it being contrary to their customs."
[The newspapers of April, 1845, in an account of the execution of Crowley, the murderer, contains a curious notice of the still prevalent superstition: "Warwick, Friday.—-At least five thousand persons of the lowest of the low were mustered on this occasion to witness the dying moments of the unhappy culprit. . . As is usual in such cases (to their shame be it spoken) a number of females were present, and scarcely had the soul of the deceased taken its farewell flight from its earthly tabernacle, than the scaffold was crowded by members of the gentler sex' afflicted with wens in the neck, with white swellings in the knees, &c., upon whose afflictions the cold clammy hand of the sufferer was passed to and fro, for the benefit of his executioner."]
Grose has preserved a foreign piece of superstition, firmly believed in many parts of France, Germany, and Spain. He calls it, "Of the hand of glory, which is made use of by housebreakers to enter into houses at night without fear of opposition. I acknowledge that I never tried the secret of the hand of glory, but I have thrice assisted at the definitive judgment of certain criminals, who under the torture confessed having used it. Being asked what it was, how they procured it, and what were its uses and properties? they answered, first, that the use of the hand of glory was to stupify those to whom it was presented, and to render them motionless, insomuch that they could not stir any more than if they were dead; secondly, that it was the hand of a hanged man; and, thirdly, that it must be prepared in the manner following:-Take the hand, right or left, of a person hanged and exposed on the highway; wrap it up in a piece of a shroud or winding-sheet, in which let it be well squeezed, to get out any small quantity of blood that may have remained in it: then put it into an earthen vessel, with zimat, saltpetre, salt, and long pepper, the whole well powdered; leave it fifteen days in that vessel; afterwards take it out, and expose it to the noontide sun in the dog-days, til it is thoroughly dry; and if the sun is not sufficient, put it into an oven heated with fern and vervain: then compose a kind of candle with the fat of a hanged man, virgin wax, and sisame of Lapland. The hand of glory is used as a candlestick to hold this candle when lighted. Its properties are, that, wheresoever any one goes with this dreadful instrument, the persons to whom it is
presented will be deprived of all power of motion. On being asked if there was no remedy, or antidote, to counteract this charm, they said the hand of glory would cease to take effect, and thieves could not make use of it, if the threshold of the door of the house, and other places by which they might enter, were anointed with an unguent composed of the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hn, and the blood of a screechowl; which mixture must necessarily be prepared during the dog-days." Grose observes, that this account (literally translated from the French of Les Secrets du Petit Albert, 12mo. Lion, 1751, p. 110) and the mode of preparation appear to have been given by a judge. In the latter there is a striking resemblance to the charm in Macbeth.
The following paragraph in the Observer newspaper of January 16th, 1831, shows that the hand of glory is not unknown as a supposed physical charm in Ireland: "On the night of the 3d instant, some Irish thieves attempted to commit a robbery on the estate of Mr. Napper, of Lough-screw, county Meath. They entered the house armed with a dead man's hand, with a lighted candle in it, believing in the superstitious notion that a candle placed in a dead man's hand will not be seen by any but those by whom it is used; and also that, if a candle in a dead hand be introduced into a house, it will prevent those who may be asleep from awaking. The inmates, however, were alarmed, and the robbers fled, leaving the hand behind them."
The author of the Vulgar Errors tells us, that hollow stones are hung up in stables to prevent the nightmare, or ephialtes. They are called in the north of England holy stones. Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, p. 147, says: "To hinder the nightmare, they hang in a string a flint with a hole in it (naturally) by the manger: but, best of all, they say, hung about their necks, and a flint will do it that hath not a hole in it. It is to prevent the nightmare, viz. the hag, from riding their horses, who will sometimes sweat at night. The flint thus hung does hinder it.”
The ephialtes, or nightmare,' is called by the common
The following is from the Glossarium Suio-Goth. of Prof. Ihre, ii 135: "Mara, Incubus, Ephialtes, Angl. Nightmare. Nympham aliquam cui hoc nomen fuerit, pro Dea cultam esse a septentrionalibus narrat Wastovius in viti aquilonia, nescio quo auctore. De vocis origine multi
people witch-riding. This is in fact an old Gothic or Scandinavian superstition. Mara, from whence our nightmare is derived, was, in the Runic theology, a spectre of the night, which seized men in their sleep, and suddenly deprived them of speech and motion. See Warton's first Dissert. Pref. to Hist. Engl. Poet. A great deal of curious learning upon the nightmare, or nacht-mare, as it is called in German, may be seen in Keysler's Antiquitates Selectæ Septentrionales, p. 497
A writer in the Athenian Oracle, i. 293, thus accounts naturally for the nightmare: ""Tis effected by vapours from crude and undigested concoctions, heat of blood, as after hard drinking, and several other ways." Grose says: "A stone with a hole in it, hung at the bed's head, will prevent the nightmare; it is therefore called a hag-stone, from that disorder, which is occasioned by a hag or witch sitting on the stomach of the party afflicted. It also prevents witches riding horses; for which purpose it is often tied to a stable-key."
[Astonishing credulity.-The following circumstances have been related to us by a parishioner of Sowerby, near Thirsk, as having recently occurred at that place: "A boy, diseased, was recommended by some village crone to have recourse to an alleged remedy, which has actually, in the enlightened days of the nineteenth century, been put in force. He was to obtain thirty pennies from thirty different persons, without telling them why or wherefore the sum was asked, after receiving them to get them exchanged for a half-crown of sacrament money, which was to be fashioned into a ring and worn by the patient. The pennies were obtained, but the half-crown was wanting, the incumbents of Sowerby and Thirsk very properly declined taking any part in such a gross superstition. However, another reverend gentleman was more pliable, and a ring was formed (or professed to be so) from the half-crown, multa tradunt, sed quæ specie pleraque carent. Armorice mor notat somnum brevem et crebro turbatum, mori somnum ejusmodi capere (v. Pelletier in Dict. Britannique) quæ huc apprimé facere videntur. Alias observavit Schilterus, more pro diabolo vel malo dæmone apud veteres Alemannos usurpari. Marlock, plica, quæ sæpe capillos hominum contorquet. Verisimile est, credidisse superstitiosam vetustatem, istiusmodi plicas incubi insultibus esse adscribendas. Richey 1. c. a Mähre, equa, nominis rationem petit, quum equorum caudæ similem in modum sæpe complicatæ sint."