Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

till they have received an almes; which, though ridiculous in itselfe, yet in this sense is verified, that charity seldom goes to the gate but it meets with ingratitude," p. 94.

Spotiswood, as cited by Andrews, in his Continuation of Henry's History of Great Britain, p. 503, says, "In the North" (of Britain) there were "matron-like witches and ignorant witches." It was to one of the superior sort that Satan, being pressed to kill James the Sixth, thus excused himself in French, "Il est homme de Dieu."

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, says: "If a cow becomes dry, a witch is applied to, who, inspiring her with a fondness for some other calf, makes her yield her milk." (Gough's Camden, iii. 659.) He tells us, ibid. "The women who are turned off (by their husbands) have recourse to witches, who are supposed to inflict barrenness, impotence, or the most dangerous diseases, on the former husband or his new wife." Also, "They account every woman who fetches fire on May-day a witch, nor will they give it to any but sick persons, and that with an imprecation, believing she will steal all the butter next summer. On Mayday they kill all hares they find among their cattle, supposing them the old women who have designs on the butter. They imagine the butter so stolen may be recovered if they take some of the thatch hanging over the door and burn it.

The mode of becoming a witch, according to Grose, is as follows: 66 A decrepit superannuated old woman is tempted by a man in black to sign a contract to become his both soul and body. On the conclusion of the agreement' he gives her a piece of money, and causes her to write her name and make her mark on a slip of parchment with her own blood. Sometimes, also, on this occasion, the witch uses the ceremony of putting one hand to the sole of her foot, and the other to the crown of her head. On departing, he delivers to her an imp or familiar.2 The familiar, in the shape of a cat or a kitten,

In making these bargains, it is said, there was sometimes a great deal of haggling. The sum given to bind the bargain was sometimes a groat, at other times half-a-crown.

2 In Cotgrave's Treasury of Wit and Language, p. 263, we read:

"Thou art a soldier,

Followest the great duke, feed'st his victories,
As witches do their serviceable spirits,
Even with thy prodigal blood."

a mole, millerfly, or some other insect or animal, at stated times of the day, sucks her blood through teats on different parts of her body." There is a great variety of the names of these imps or familiars.

"A witch," (as I read in the curious tract entitled, Round about our Coal Fire,) "according to my nurse's account, must be a haggard old woman, living in a little rotten cottage, under a hill, by a wood-side, and must be frequently spinning at the door; she must have a black cat, two or three broomsticks, an imp or two, and two or three diabolical teats to suckle her imps. She must be of so dry a nature, that if you fling her into a river she will not sink; so hard then is her fate, that, if she is to undergo the trial, if she does not drown, she must be burnt, as many have been within the memory of man."

The subsequent occurs in Cotgrave's English Treasury of Wit and Language, p. 298:

"Thus witches

Possess'd, ev'n in their death deluded, say

They have been wolves and dogs, and sailed in egge-shels'
Over the sea, and rid on fiery dragons,

Pass'd in the air more than a thousand miles

All in a night: the enemy of mankind
So pow'rfull, but false and falshood confident."

Whitaker, in his History of Whalley, 4to. 1818, p. 216, has given from a paper in the Bodleian library (MS. Dodsw. vol. Ixi. p. 47) the confession of one of the poor persons in Pendle Forest, accused of witchcraft, in 1633, describing minutely the manner in which she was made a witch.

In the Relation of the Swedish Witches, at the end of Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus, we are told that "the devil gives them a beast about the bigness and shape of a young cat, which they call a carrier. What this carrier brings they must receive for the devil. These carriers fill themselves so full sometimes, that they are forced to spew by the way, which spewing is found in several gardens where colworts grow, and not far from the houses of those witches. It is of a yellow colour like gold, and is called 'butter of witches.'

339

The Connoisseur, No. 109, says: "It is a common notion that a witch can make a voyage to the East Indies in an egg-shell, or take a journey of two or three hundred miles across the country on a broomstick."

p. 494. Probably this is the same substance which is called in Northumberland, fairy butter.

In a Discourse of Witchcraft, MS., communicated by John Pinkerton, Esq., written by Mr. John Bell, Minister of the Gospel at Gladsmuir, 1705, p. 23, on the subject of witches' marks, I read as follows: "This mark is sometimes like a little teate, sometimes like a blewish spot; and I myself have seen it in the body of a confessing witch like a little powder-mark of a blea (blue) colour, somewhat hard, and withal insensible, so as it did not bleed when I pricked it."

From the News from Scotland, &c., 1591 (a tract which will be more fully noticed hereafter), it appears that, having tortured in vain a suspected witch with "the pilliwinckes upon her fingers, which is a grievous torture, and binding or wrenching her head with a cord or rope, which is a most cruel torture also, they, upon search, found the enemy's mark to be in her forecrag, or forepart of her throat, and then she confessed all." In another the devil's mark was found upon her privities.

Dr. Fian was by the king's command consigned on this occasion "to the horrid torment of the boots," and afterwards strangled and burnt on the Castle-hill, Edinburgh, on a Saturday in the end of January, 1591.

The Sabbath of witches is a meeting to which the sisterhood, after having been anointed with certain magical ointments, provided by their infernal leader, are supposed to be carried through the air on brooms, coul-staves, spits, &c. Butler, in his Hudibras, I. iii. 105, has the following on this subject:

"Or trip it o'er the water quicker

Than witches when their staves they liquor,
As some report."

Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, b. iii. c. i. p. 40, speaking of the vulgar opinion of witches flying, observes that "the devil teacheth them to make ointment of the bowels and members of children, whereby they ride in the air and accomplish all their desires. After burial they steal them out of their graves and seeth them in a cauldron, till the flesh be made potable, of which they make an ointment, by which they ride in the air." Wierus exposes the folly of this opinion in his book De Præstigiis Dæmonum, proving it to be a dia

bolical illusion, and to be acted only in a dream. And it is exposed as such by Oldham (Works, 6th edit. p. 254):

"As men in sleep, though motionless they lie,
Fledg'd by a dream, believe they mount and flye;
So witches some enchanted wand bestride,

And think they through the airy regions ride."

Lord Verulam tells us that "the ointment that witches use is reported to be made of the fat of children digged out of their graves; of the juices of smallage, wolfbane, and cinquefoil, mingled with the meal of fine wheat; but I suppose the soporiferous medicines are likest to do it, which are henbane, hemlock, mandrake, moonshade, or rather nightshade, tobacco, opium, saffron, poplar-leaves, &c."

There had been about the time of Lord Verulam no small stir concerning witchcraft. "Ben Jonson," says Dr. Percy, "has left us a witch song which contains an extract from the various incantations of classic antiquity. Some learned wiseacres had just before busied themselves on this subject, with our British Solomon, James the First, at their head. And these had so ransacked all writers, ancient and modern, and so blended and kneaded together the several superstitions of different times and nations, that those of genuine English growth could no longer be traced out and distinguished.'

The Witch Song in Macbeth is superior to this of Ben Jonson. The metrical incantations in Middleton's Witch are

also very curious. As the play is not much known, the following is given as a specimen of his incantations :

"1 Witch.
Hec.

2 Witch.

Hec.

1 Witch.

2 Witch.

Hec.

Here's the blood of a bat.
Put in that, oh put in that.
Here's libbard's bane.

Put in againe.

The juice of toade, the oile of adder.
Those will make the yonker madder.
Put in ther's all, and rid the stench.

Firestone. Nay, here's three ounces of the red-hair'd wench.
All.
Round, around, around," &c.2

'See more authorities in the notes upon Hudibras, III. i. 411-12; Grey's Notes on Shakespeare, ii. 140.

* The witches' caldron is thus described by Olaus Magnus: "Olla autem omnium maleficarum commune solet esse instrumentum, quo succos, herbas, vermes, et exta decoquant, atque ea venefica dape ignavos ad vota alliciunt, et instar bullientis ollæ, navium et equitum aut cursorum excitant celeritatem." Olai Magni Gent. Septentr. Hist. Brevis. p. 96.

At these meetings they have feastings, music, and dancing, the devil himself condescending to play at them on the pipes or cittern. They afterwards proceed at these assemblies to the grossest impurities and immoralities, and it may be added blasphemies, as the devil sometimes preaches to them a mock sermon. Butler has an allusion to something of this kind in Hudibras, III. i. 983:

"And does but tempt them with her riches
To use them as the devil does witches;
Who takes it for a special grace

To be their cully for a space,

That, when the time's expir'd, the drazels
For ever may become his vassals."

The Sabbath of the witches is supposed to be held on a Saturday; when the devil is by some said to appear in the shape of a goat, about whom several dances and magic ceremonies are performed. Before the assembly breaks up, the witches are all said to have the honour of saluting Satan's posteriors. (See King James's remarks on this subject in his Dæmonology.) Satan is reported to have been so much out of humour at some of these meetings, that, for his diversion, he would beat the witches black and blue with the spits and brooms, the vehicles of their transportation, and play them divers other unlucky tricks. There is a Scottish proverb, "Ye breed of the witches, ye can do nae good to yoursel."

They afterwards open graves for the purpose of taking out joints of the fingers and toes of dead bodies, with some of the winding-sheet, in order to prepare a powder for their magical purposes. Here also the devil distributes apples, dishes, spoons, or other trifles, to those witches who desire to torment any particular person, to whom they must present them. Here also, for similar purposes, the devil baptises waxen images. King James, in his Demonology, book ii. chap. 5, tells us that "the devil teacheth how to make pictures of wax or clay, that by roasting thereof, the persons that they bear the name of may be continually melted or dried away by continual sickness."

See Servius on the 8th Eclogue of Virgil; Theocritus, Idyl. ii. 22; Hudibras, part II. canto ii. 1. 351. Ovid says:

"Devovet absentes, simulachraque cerea figit

Et miserum tenues in jecur urget acus." Heroid. Ep. vi. 1. 91. See also Grafton's Chronicle, p. 587, where it is laid to the charge (among others) of Roger Bolinbrook, a cunning necromancer, and Margery

« VorigeDoorgaan »