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troubled with hysteric fits. But as common practice, by reason of the nauseousness of the smell, has introduced a disuse of pigeons' feathers to make beds, so no experience doth or hath ever given us any example of the reality of the fact.”
Reginald Scot, too, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 170, says: “ I have heard, by credible report, that the wound of a man murthered, renewing bleeding at the presence of a dear friend, or of a mortal enemy. Divers also write that if one pass by a murthered body (though unknown), he shall be stricken with fear, and feel in himself some alteration by nature.” “Three loud and distinct knocks at the bed's head,” says Grose, “of a sick person, or at the bed's head or door of any of his relations, is an omen of his death.”
Among death omens the withering of bay trees was, according to Shakespeare, reckoned one. Thus Richard II. :
“ 'Tis thought the king is dead; we will not stay.
The bay trees in our country are all wither'd.” Upon which Steevens observes, that “some of these prodigies are found in Holinshed : 'In this yeare, in a manner throughout all the realme of England, old bai trees withered,' &c. This was esteemed a bad omen ; for as I learn from Thomas Lupton's Syxt Book of Notable Thinges, 4to. b. l. : Neyther falling sicknes, neyther devyll, wyli infest or hurt one in that place whereas a bay tree is. The Romans calle it the Plant of the Good Angell.”
Lupton, in his third book of Notable Things, 13 (edit. 8vo. 1660, p. 53), says: “If a firr tree be touched, withered, or burned with lightening, it signifies that the master or mistresse thereof shall shortly dye. Servius.” Ibid. book ix. No. 6, we read : “ If the forehead of the sick wax red, and his fa brows fall down, and his nose wax sharp and cold, and his left eye become little, and the corner of his eye run, if he turn to the wall, if his ears be cold, or if he may suffer no brightness, and if his womb fall, if he pull straws or the cloaths of his bed, or if he pick often his nostrils with his fingers, and if he wake much, these are most certain tokens of death.”
Allan Ramsay, in bis Poems, 1721, p. 276, speaking of Edgewell Tree, describes it to be “an oak-tree which grows on the side of a fine spring, nigh the Castle of Dalhousie, very much observed by the country people, who give out, that before any
of the family died, a branch fell from the Edge-well Tree. The
says, p. 7 : “ The superstitious person could wish indeed that his estate might go to his next and best friends after his death, but he had rather leave it to anybody than make his will, for fear lest he should presently die after it.”
A writer in the Athenian Chronicle, vol. i. p. 232, asserts that he “ knew a family never without one cricket before some one dyed out of it; another, that an unknown voice always called the person that was to die ; another, that had something like a wand struck upon the walls; and another, where some bough always falls off a particular tree a little before death.” He adds, inconsistently enough :“But ordinarily such talk is nonsense, and depends more upon fancy than anything else.” In the same work, vol. iii. p. 552, we read of “its being a common thing that, before a king, or some great man, dies, or is beheaded, &c., his picture or image suffers some considerable damage ; as falling from the place where it hung, the string breaking by some strange invisible touch.” In Dr. Heylin's Life of Archbishop Laud, it is stated that “the bishop going into his study, which no one could get into but himself, found his own picture lying all along on its face, which extremely perplexed him, he looking upon it as ominous.”
In the Glossary to the Complaynt of Scotland, 8vo. Edinb., 1801, we find the following observations on the word “ Deithtthraw” (p. 188): “ The Contortions of Death.— These are regarded by the peasants with a species of superstitious horror. To die with a thraw is reckoned an obvious indication of a bad conscience. When a person was secretly murdered, it was formerly believed that, if the corpse were watched with certain mysterious ceremonies, the death-thraws would be reversed on its visage, and it would denounce the perpetrators and circumstances of the murder. The following verse occurs in a ballad, of which I have heard some fragments. A lady is mur
1 In Petri Molinæi Vates, p. 154, we read : “Si visitans ægrum, lapidem inventum per viam attollat, et sub lapide inveniatur vermisse movens, aut formica vivens, faustum omen est, et indicium fore ut æger convalescat, si nihil invenitur, res est conclamata, et certa mors, ut docet Buchardus Decretorum, lib. xix.”
dered by her lover; her seven brothers watch the corpse · it proceeds
''Twas in the middle o' the night
The cock began to craw;
The corpse began to thraw."" Heron, in his Journey through Part of Scotland, 1799, ii. 227, says :
“ Tales of ghosts, brownies, fairies, witches, are the frequent entertainment of a winter's evening among the native peasantry of Kirkcudbrightshire.
It is common among them to fancy that they see the wraiths of persons dying, which will be visible to one and not to others present with bim. Sometimes the good and the bad angel of the person are seen contending in the shape of a white and a black dog. Only the ghosts of wicked persons are supposed to return to visit and disturbtheir old acquaintance. Within these last twenty years, it was hardly possible to meet with any person who had not seen many wraithsand ghosts in the course of his experience.”
“ The wraith, or spectral appearance, of a person shortly to die (we read in the introduction to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, p. clxvi.), is a firm article in the creed of Scottish superstition." Nor is it unknown in our sister kingdom. See the story of the beautiful lady Diana Rich. Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. 89.
“The wraith of a living person,” says Dr. Jamieson, “ does not, as some have supposed, indicate that he shall die soon; although in all cases viewed as a premonition of the disembodied state. The season, in the natural day, at which the spectre makes its appearance, is understood as a certain presage of the time of the person's departure. If seen early in the morning, it forebodes that he shall live long, and even arrive at old age ; if in the evening, it indicates that his death is at hand.” Etymol. Dict. of Scot. Lang. in v. Wraith.
Connected with death omens are the following curious extracts. In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, Firste Precepte, chap. xlii. we read Dives. Is it leful to trust in these fastinges new found, to fle sodeyne dethe? Pauper. It is a grete foly to trust therein :yf men were certayne by suche fastynge that they shuld nat dye sodeynly but have tyme of repentaunce, and to be shrevyne and houselyde, they shulde be the more rechelesse in their lyvynge, and the lesse tale yeve for to doo amys in hope of amendemente in their diyng. More
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 fallyth 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 4b: “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 ap
, pear 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.
and if any
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
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
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; 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 bit), 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 puvrdouara in our language we call canhwyllan cyrph, i. e. corps-candles ; and candles we call them, not that