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hymeneal pleasure, as some have fancied.” The above formal account will not be ill contrasted with the following fanciful and witty one of Dean Swift, in his invective against wood. It furnishes us, too, with a charm to avert the omen :
“ A wood worm
The maggot will die, and the sick will recover." Grose tells us that : “ The clicking of a death-watch is an omen of the death of some one in the house wherein it is heard."
Baxter, in his World of Spirits, p. 203, most sensibly observes that: “ There are many things that ignorance causeth multitudes to take for prodigies. I have had many discreet friends that have been affrighted with the noise called a deathwatch, whereas I have since, near three years ago, oft found by trial, that it is a noise made upon paper, by a little, nimble, running worm, just like a louse, but whiter, and quicker; and it is most usually behind a paper pasted to a wall, especially to wainscot; and it is rarely if ever heard but in the heat of summer."' Our author, however, relapses immediately into his honest credulity, adding: “But he who can deny it to be a prodigy, which is recorded by Melchior Adamus, of a great and good man, who had a clock-watch that had layen in a chest many years unused; and when he lay dying, at eleven o'clock, of itself, in that chest, it struck eleven in the hearing of many."
In the British Apollo, 1710, ii. No. 86, is the following query : “Why death-watches, crickets, and weasels do come more common against death than at any other time? A. We look upon
all such things as idle superstitions, for were anything in them, bakers, brewers, in habitants of old houses, &c., were in a melancholy condition.”
To an inquiry, ibid. vol. ii. No. 70, "concerning a death
watch, whether you suppose it to be a living creature," answer is given, “ It is nothing but a little worm in the wood.”
“ How many people have I seen in the most terrible palpitations, for months together, expecting every hour the approach of some calamity, only by a little worm, which breeds in old wainscot, and, endeavouring to eat its way out, makes a noise like the movement of a watch !" Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 61.
DEATH OMENS PECULIAR TO FAMILIES.
GROSE tells us that, besides general notices of death, many families have particular warnings or notices; some by the appearance of a bird, and others by the figure of a tall woman, dressed all in white, who goes shrieking about the house. This apparition is common in Ireland, where it is called Benshea, and the Shrieking Woman.
Pennant says, that many of the great families in Scotland had their demon or genius, who gave them monitions of future events. Thus the family of Rothmurchas had the Bodac au Dun, or the Ghost of the Hill ; Kinclardines, the Spectre of the Bloody Hand. Gartinbeg House was haunted by Bodach Gartin and Tulloch Gorms by Maug Monlach, or the Girl with the Hairy Left Hand. The synod gave frequent orders that inquiry should be made into the truth of this apparition ; and one or two declared that they had seen one that answered the description.
Pennant, in describing the customs of the Highlanders, tells us that in certain places the death of people is supposed to be foretold by the cries and shrieks of Benshi, or the Fairies'
' In the Living Library, 1621, p. 284, we read : “ There bee some princes of Germanie that have particular and apparent presages and tokens, full of noise, before or about the day of their death, as extraordinarie roaring of lions and barking of dogs, fearful noises and bustlings by night in castles, striking of clocks, and tolling of bels at undue times and howres, and other warnings, whereof none could give any reason." Delrio, in his Disquisitiones Magicæ, p. 592, has the following:“ In Bohemia spectrum fæmineum vestitu lugubri apparere solet in arce quadam illustris familiæ, antequam una ex conjugibus dominorum illorum e vita decedat."
Wife, uttered along the very path where the funeral is to pass ; and what in Wales are called Corpse Candles are often imagined to appear and foretell mortality. In the county of Carmartben there is hardly any one that dies, but some one or other sees his light, or candle. There is a similar superstition among the vulgar in Northumberland. They call it seeing the waff of the person whose death it foretells.!
The Glossary to Burns's Scottish Poems describes “ Wraith" to be a spirit, a ghost, an apparition, exactly like a living person, whose appearance is said to forebode the person's approaching death. King James, in his Dæmonology, says, that wraithes appeare
in the shadow of a person newly dead, or to die, to his friends," p. 125.
Wrack, in the Glossary to Gawin Douglas's Virgil, signifies a spirit or ghost. Wapian, too, Anglo-Saxon, is rendered horrere, stupere, fluctuare. In the Glossary to Allan Ramsay's Poems, 4to. 1721, Edinb., the word Waff is explained "wand'ring by itself.”
says Grose, “the exact figures and resemblances of persons then living, often seen, not only by their friends at a distance, but many times by themselves ; of which there are several instances in Aubrey's Miscellanies. These apparitions are called fetches, and in Cumberland swarths ; they most commonly appear to distant friends and relations at the very instant preceding the death of the person whose figure they put on. Sometimes there is a greater interval between the appearance and death."
In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xxi. 148, parish of Monquhitter, we read, under the head of Opinion: “The fye gave due warning by certain signs of approaching mortality.” Again, p. 149:“ The fye has withdrawn his warning.”. Ibid. p. 150: Some observing to an old woman, when in the 99th year of her age, that in the course of nature she could not long survive—“Aye,” said the good old woman, with pointed indignation, "what fye-token do you see about
“ These are,
'I conjecture this northern vulgar word to be a corruption of whiff, a sudden and vehement blast, which Davies thinks is derived from the Welsh chwyth, halitus, anhelitus, flatus. See Lye's Junius's Etymolog. in verbo. The spirit is supposed to glide swiftly by. Thus, in the Glossary of Lancashire words and phrases, “wrapt by” is explained " went swiftly by." See a View of the Lancashire Dialect, 8vo. March 1763.
me?”! In the same work, iii. 380, the minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of the superstitions of that parish, says: “ The ghosts of the dying, called tasks, are said to be heard, their cry being a repetition of the moans of the sick. Some assume the sagacity of distinguishing the voice of their departed friends. The corpse follows the track led by the tasks to the place of interment; and the early or late completion of the prediction is made to depend on the period of the night at which the task is heard."
King James, in his Dæmonology, p. 136, says: “In a secret murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if the blood were crying to heaven for revenge of the murtherer."2
In Five Philosophical Questions answered, 4to. London, 1653, is the following :- Why dead bodies bleed in the presence of their murtherers ?” “Good antiquity was so desirous to know the truth, that as often as naturall and ordinary proofes failed them, they had recourse to supernatural and extraordinary wayes. Such, among the Jewes, was the Water of Jealousie, of which an adulteresse could not drink without
' In the same volume and page of the Statistical Account of Scotland, is another anecdote, which shows with what indifference death is sometimes contemplated. " James Mackie, by trade, a wright, was asked by a neighbour for what purpose some fine deal that he observed in his barn. • It is timber for my coffin,' quoth James. Sure,' replies the neighbour, * you mean not to make your own coffin ;' you have neither resolution nor ability for the task.' Hoot away, man !' says James, 'if I were once begun, I'll soon cat by hand. The hand, but not the heart, failed him, and he left the task of making it to a younger operator."
This calls to my remembrance what certainly happened in a village in the county of Durham, where it is the etiquette for a person not to go out of the house till the burial of a near relation. An honest simple country. man, whose wife lay a corpse in his house, was seen walking slowly up the village. A neighbour ran to him, and asked, "Where, in heaven, John, are you going?” “To the joiner's shop,” said poor John, “ to see them make my wife's coffin ; it will be a little diversion for me.”
3" Who can alleage," says the author of the Living Librarie, &c., fol. Lond. 1621, p. 283, “ any certaine and firme reason why the blood runnes out of the wounds of a man murdred, long after the murder committed, is the murderer be brought before the dead bodie? Galeotus Martius, Jeronymus Maggius, Marsilius Ficinus, Valleriola, Joubert, and others, have offered to say something thereof." The same author immediately asks also: Who (I pray you) can shew why, if a desperate bodie hang himselfe, suddenly there arise tempests and whirlewinds in the aire ?"
discovering her guiltinesse, it making her burst. Such was the triall of the sieve, in which the vestall nun, not guilty of unchastity, as she was accused to be, did carry water of Tiber without spilling any. Such were the oathes upon St. Anthonies arme, of so great reverence, that it was believed that whosoever was there perjured would, within a year after, bee burned with the fire of that saint ; and even in our times it is commonly reckoned that none lives above a yeare after they have incurred the excommunication of St. Geneviefe. And because nothing is so hidden from justice as murder, they use not only torments of the body, but also the torture of the soule, to which its passions doe deliver it over, of which feare discovering itselfe more than the rest, the judges have forgotten nothing that may make the suspected person fearfull; for besides their interrogatories, confronting him with witnesses, sterne lookes, and bringing before him the instruments of torture, as if they were ready to make him feele them, they persuade him that a carkase bleeds in the presence of his murtherers, because dead bodies, being removed, doe often bleed, and then he whose conscience is tainted with the synteresis of the fact, is troubled in such sort, that, by his mouth or gesture, he often bewrayes his owne guiltinesse, as not having his first motions in his owne power."
See, in the Athenian Oracle, i. 106, a particular relation of a corpse falling a bleeding at the approach of a person supposed to have any way occasioned its death ; where the phenomenon is thus accounted for : “The blood is congealed in the body for two or three days, and then becomes liquid again, in its tendency to corruption. The air being heated by many persons coming about the body, is same thing to it as motion
'Tis observed that dead bodies will bleed in a concourse of people when murderers are absent, as well as present, yet legislators have thought fit to authorise it, and use this trval as an argument, at least, to frighten, though ’tis no conclusive one to condemn them.” See more to the same purpose, p. 193.
That this has been a very old superstition in England may be learned from Matthew Paris, who states that, after Henry the Second's death, at Chinon, his son Richard came to view the body. "Quo superveniente, confestim erupit sanguis ex naribus regis mortui ; ac si indignaretur spiritus in adventu ejus, qui ejusdem mortis causa esse credebatur, ut videretur sanguis clamare ad Deum.” Edit. 1684, p. 126.