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second sight, they mean the power of seeing or the thing
“I do not find it to be true, as it is reported, that to the second sight nothing is presented but phantoms of evil. Good seems to have the same proportion in those visionary scenes as it obtains in real life.
“ That they should often see death is to be expected, because death is an event frequent and important. But they see likewise more pleasing incidents. A gentleman told me that, when he had once gone far from his own island, one of his labouring servants predicted his return, and described the livery of his attendant, which he had never worn at home; and which had been, without any previous design, occasionally given him.
“ It is the common talk of the Lowland Scots, that the notion of the second sight is wearing away with other superstitions; and that its reality is no longer supposed but by the grossest people. How far its prevalence ever extended, or what ground it has lost, I know not. The islanders of all degrees, whether of rank or understanding, universally admit it, except the ministers, who universally. deny it, and are suspected to deny it in consequence of a system, against conviction. One of them honestly told me that he came to Sky with a resolution not to believe it.
“Strong reasons for incredulity will readily occur. This faculty of seeing things out of sight is local, and commonly useless. It is a breach of the common order of things, without any visible reason or perceptible benefit. It is ascribed only to a people very little enlightened ; and among them, for the most part, to the mean and ignorant.
“To the confidence of these objections it may be replied, that, by presuming to determine what is fit and what is beneficial, they presuppose more knowledge of the universal system than man has attained, and therefore depend upon principles too complicated and extensive for our comprehension; and that there can be no security in the consequence, when the premises are not understood : that the second sight is only wonderful because it is rare, for, considered in itself, it involves no more difficulty than dreams, or perhaps than the regular exercises of the cogitative faculty: that a general opinion of communicative impulses, or visionary representations, has prevailed in all ages and all nations; that particular instances have been given, with such evidence as neither Bacon nor Boyle has been able to resist ; that sudden impressions, which the event has verified, have been felt by more than own or publish them : that the second sight of the Hebrides implies only the local frequency of a power which is nowhere totally unknown; and that, where we are unable to decide by antecedent reason, we must be content to yield to the force of testimony.
“By pretension to second sight, no profit was ever sought or gained. It is an involuntary affection, in which neither hope nor fear are known to have any part. Those who profess to feel it do not boast of it as a privilege, nor are considered by others as advantageously distinguished. They have no temptation to feign, and their hearers have no motive to encourage the imposture. To talk with any of these seers is not easy. There is one living in Sky, with whom we would have gladly conversed; but he was very gross and ignorant, and knew no English. The proportion in these countries of the poor to the rich is such, that, if we suppose the quality to be accidental, it can rarely happen to a man of education ; and yet on such men it has sometimes fallen.
"To collect sufficient testimonies for the satisfaction of the public or ourselves would have required more time than we could bestow. There is against it, the seeming analogy of things confusedly seen and little understood ; and for it, the indistinct cry of national persuasion, which may perhaps be resolved at last into prejudice and tradition.” He concludes with observing: “I never could advance my curiosity to conviction ; but came away, at last, only willing to believe.” This question of second sight has also been discussed by Dr. Beattie in his Essays, 8vo. Edinb. 1776, pp. 480-2.
In Macculloch's Western Islands of Scotland, 1819, ii. 32, the author says: “To have circumnavigated the Western Isles without even mentioning the second sight would be unpardonable. No inhabitant of St. Kilda pretended to have been forewarned of our arrival. In fact it has undergone the fate of witchcraft ; ceasing to be believed, it has ceased to exist.”.
Jamieson (Etymolog. Dict. Supplement) defines second sight, a power believed to be possessed by not a few in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, of foreseeing future events,
especially of a disastrous kind, by means of a spectral exhibition to their eyes, of the persons whom these events respect, accompanied with such emblems as denote their fate. He says: “Whether this power was communicated to the inhabitants of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by the northern nations who so long had possession of the latter, I shall not pretend to determine ; but traces of the same wonderful faculty may be found among the Scandinavians. Isl. rammskygn, denotes one who is endowed with the power of seeing spirits : 'qui tali visu præter naturam præditus est, ut spiritus et dæmones videat, opaca etiam visu penetret.' Verel. Ind. The designation is formed from ramm-ur viribus pollens, and skygn videns ; q. powerful in vision."
Rowlands, in his Mona Antiqua Restaurata, p. 140, note, tells us : “The magic of the Druids, or one part of it, seems to have remained among the Britons even after their conversion to Christianity, and is called Taish in Scotland ; which is a way of predicting by a sort of vision they call second sight; and I take it to be a relic of Druidism, particularly from a noted story related by Vopiscus, of the Emperor Diocletian, who, when a private soldier in Gallia, on his removing thence, reckoning with his hostess, who was a Druid woman, she told him he was too penurious, and did not bear in him the noble soul of a soldier; on his reply that his pay was small, she, looking steadfastly on him, said that he needed not be so sparing of his money, for after he should kill a boar she confidently pronounced he would be emperor of Rome, which he took as a compliment from her ; but seeing her serious in her affirmation, the words she spoke stuck upon him, and was after much delighted in hunting and killing of boars, often saying, when he saw many made emperors, and his own fortune not much mending, I kill the boars, but 'tis others that eat the flesh. Yet it happen'd that, many years after, one Arrius Aper, father-in-law of the Emperor Numerianus, grasping for the empire, traitorously slew him, for which fact being apprehended by the soldiers and brought before Diocletian, who being then a prime commander in the army, they left the traytor to his disposal, who asking his name, and being told that he was called Aper, i. e. a boar, without further pause he sheathed his sword in his bowels, saying, et hunc aprum cum cæteris, i. e. “Even this boar also to the rest ;' which
done, the soldiers, commending it as a quick, extraordinary act of justice, without further deliberation, saluted him by the name of emperor. I bring this story here in view, as not improper on this hint, nor unuseful to be observed, because it gives fair evidence of the antiquity of the second sight, and withall shows that it descended from the ancient Druids, as being one part of the diabolical magic they are charg'd with; and upon their dispersion into the territories of Denmark and Swedeland, continued there in the most heathenish parts to this day, as is set forth in the story of the late Duncan Campbell.” In the Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, by Collins, I find the following lines on this subject :
“ How they, whose sight such dreary dreams engross,
With their own vision oft astonish'd droop,
They see the gliding ghosts unbodied troop.
Their destin'd glance some fated youth descry,
And rosy health, shall soon lamented die.
Oft have they seen fate give the fatal blow!
The seer, in Sky, shriek'd as the blood did flow,
When headless Charles warm on the scaffold lay !" See on this subject some curious particulars in Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. 187.
In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, iii. 380, the minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of his parishioners, says: “With them the belief of the second sight is general, and the power of an evil eye is commonly credited; and though the faith in witchcraft be much enfeebled, the virtue of abstracting the substance from one milk, and adding to another, is rarely questioned.”
May not the following passage from Waldron's Description of the Isle of Man (Works, folio, p. 139) be referred to this second sight? “The natives of the island tell you that, before any person dies, the procession of the funeral is acted by a sort of beings, which for that end render themselves visible. I know several that have offered to make oath that, as they have been passing the road, one of these funerals has come behind them, and even laid the bier on their shoulders, as though to assist the bearers. One person, who assured me he had been served so, told me that the flesh of his shoulder had been very much bruised, and was black for many weeks after. There are few or pone of them who pretend not to have seen or heard these imaginary obsequies, (for I must not omit that they sing psalms in the same manner as those do who accompany the corpse of a dead friend,) which so little differ from real ones, that they are not to be known till both coffin and mourners are seen to vanish at the church doors. These they take to be a sort of friendly demons; and their business, they say, is to warn people of what is to befall them ; accordingly, they give notice of any stranger's approach by the trampling of horses at the gate of the house where they are to arrive. As difficult as I found it to bring myself to give any faith to this, I have frequently been very much surprised, when, on visiting a friend, I have found the table ready spread, and everything in order to receive me, and been told by the person to whom I went that he had knowledge of my coming, or some other guest by these goodnatured intelligencers. Nay, when obliged to be absent some time from home, my own servants have assured me they were informed by these means of my return, and expected me the very hour I came, though perhaps it was some days before I hoped it myself at my going abroad. That this is fact I am positively convinced by many proofs.”
SALT FALLING, &c. Salt falling towards a person was considered formerly as a very unlucky omen. Something had either already happened to one of the family, or was shortly to befall the persons spilling it.' It denoted also the falling-out of friends.
Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dæmonologie, p. 58, enumerates among
omens, “the falling of salt towards them at the table, or the spilling of wine on their clothes ;” saying
· So Pet. Molinæi Vates, p. 154 : “Si salinum in mensa evertatur, ominosum est."