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Rev. Mr. Patrick Stuart, the minister: "There is a bell," he says, "belonging to the Chapel of St. Fillan, that was in high reputation among the votaries of that saint in old times. It seems to be of some mixed metal. It is about a foot high, and of an oblong form. It usually lay on a gravestone in the churchyard. When mad people were brought to be dipped in the saint's pool, it was necessary to perform certain ceremonies, in which there was a mixture of Druidism and Popery. After remaining all night in the chapel, bound with ropes, the bell was set upon their head with great solemnity. It was the popular opinion that, if stolen, it would extricate itself out of the thief's hands, and return home, ringing all the way. For some years past this bell has been locked up, to prevent its being used for superstitious purposes. It is but justice to the Highlanders to say that the dipping of mad people in St. Fillan's Pool, and using the other ceremonies, was common to them with the Lowlanders."
Sir Walter Scott, in the Notes to Marmion, 1808, p. 31, informs us that "there are in Perthshire several wells and
"The origin of the bell," says Mr. Stuart, "is to be referred to the remote ages of the Celtic churches, whose ministers spoke a dialect of that language. Ara Trode, one of the most ancient Icelandic historians, tells us, in his second chapter, that when the Norwegians first planted a colony in Ireland, about the year 870, Eo tempore erat Islandia silvis concreta, in medio montium et littorum; tum erant hic viri Christiani, quos Norwegi Papas appellant ; et illi peregre profecti sunt, ex eo quod nollent esse hic cum viris ethnicis, et relinquebant post se nolas et baculos: ex illo poterat discerni quod essent viri Christiani.' Nola and bajula both signify hand-bells. See Ducange. Giraldus Cambrensis, who visited Ireland about the end of the twelfth century, speaks thus of these relics of superstition: Hoc non prætereundum puro, quod campanas, bajulas, baculosque sanctorum ex superiore parte recurvos, auro et argento aut ære confectos, tam Hiberniæ et Scotia quam et Givalliæ populus et clerus in magna reverentia habere solet ; ita ut juramenta supra hæc, longe magis quam super Evangelia, et præstare vereantur et perjurare. Ex vi enim quodam occulta, et iis quasi divinitus insita, nec non et vindicta (cujus præcipue sancti illi appetibiles esse videntur) plerumque puniuntur contemptores.' He elsewhere speaks of a bell in Ireland, endowed with the same locomotive powers as that of St. Fillan. Topog. Hiber. 1. iii. c. 33, and 1. ii. c. 23. For, in the eighteenth century, it is curious to meet with things which astonished Giraldus, the most credulous of mortals in the twelfth. St. Fillan is said to have died in 649. In the tenth year of his reign Robert de Bruce granted the church of Killin, in Glendochart, to the abbey of Inchaffray, on condition that one of the canons should officiate in the kirk of Strathfillan.”
springs dedicated to St. Fillan, which are still places of pilgrimage and offerings, even among the Protestants. They are held powerful in cases of madness, and in cases of very late occurrence, lunatics have been left all night bound to the holy stone, in confidence that the saint would cure and unloose them before morning."
In Bale's Interlude concerning the Three Laws of Nature, Moses and Christ, 1562, Idolatry mentions the following physical charms:
"For the coughe take Judas eare,
Thre syppes are fore the hyckocke,
If ye cannot slepe, but slumber,
Unto Saynt Blase and Saynt Blythe.
Ye shall have them at Quene hyth."
Coles, in his Art of Simpling, p. 69, says: "It hath been observed that, if a woman with childe eate quinces much, and coriander seed (the nature of both which is to represse and stay vapours that ascend to the braine), it will make the childe ingenious; and, if the mother, eate much onyons or beanes, or such vaporous food, it endangereth the childe to become lunaticke, or of imperfect memory." Ibid. p. 70: "Boemus relates that in Darien, in America, the women eate an herb when they are great with childe, which makes them to bring forth without paine." Ibid. p. 71: "If a man gather vervaine the first day of the new moon, before sunrising, and drinke the juice thereof, it will make him to avoid lust for seven yeares." Ibid. p. 88: "If asses chaunce to feed much upon hemlock, they will fall so fast asleep that they will seeme to be dead; insomuch that some, thinking them to be dead indeed, have flayed off their skins, yet, after the hemlock had done operating, they have stirred and wakened out of their sleep, to the griefe and amazement of the owners, and to the
laughter of others. Wood night-shade, or bitter sweet, being hung about the neck of cattell that have the staggers, helpeth them."
In Buttes's Dyetts Dry Dinner, 1599, it is asserted that "if one eate three small pomegranate-flowers (they say) for an whole yeare, he shall be safe from all maner of eyesore." As it is, ibid. G 3, that "it hath bene and yet is a thing which superstition hath beleeved, that the body anoynted with the juyce of chicory is very availeable to obtaine the favour of great persons."
"Homer relates how Autolycus's sons staunched Ulysses' blood, flowing from a wound he received in hunting a wild boar, by a charm; the same is observed by Pliny, who adds further, that 'sic Theophrastus ischidiacos sanari, Cato prodidit luxatis membris carmen auxiliari, Marcus Varro podagris.' It was reported by Theophrastus that the hip gout was cured in the same manner; by Cato, that a charm would relieve any member out of joint; and by Marcus Varro, that it would cure the gout in the feet. Chiron, in Pindar, is said to use the same remedy in some distempers, but not in all." See Potter's Greek Antiquities, i. 355.
Douce's MS. Notes say: "It is usual with many persons about Exeter, who are affected with agues, to visit at dead of night the nearest cross-road five different times, and there bury a new-laid egg. The visit is paid about an hour before the cold fit is expected; and they are persuaded that with the egg they shall bury the ague. If the experiment fail (and the agitation it occasions may often render it successful) they attribute it to some unlucky accident that may have befallen them on the way. In the execution of this matter they observe the strictest silence, taking care not to speak to any one whom they may happen to meet." See Gent. Mag. for 1787, p. 719. I shall here note another remedy against the ague mentioned as above, viz. by breaking a salted cake of bran,' and giving it
In a most curious and rare book, entitled a Werke for Householders, &c., by a professed brother of Syon, Richard Whitforde, 8vo. Lond. 1537, signat. C, mention is made of a charm then in use, as follows: "The charmer taketh a pece of whyt brede, and sayth over that breade the Pater Noster, and maketh a crosse upon the breade; then doth he ley that pece of breade unto the toth that aketh, or unto any sore; tournynge the crosse unto the sore or dysease, and so is the persone healed." Whitforde inveighs against this as "evill and damnable."
to a dog when the fit comes on, by which means they suppose the malady to be transferred from them to the animal.1
King James, in his Dæmonology, p. 100, enumerates thus: "Such kinde of charmes as, commonly, daft wives use for healing forspoken goods (by goods he means here cattle), for preserving them from evil eyes, by knitting roun-trees, or sundriest kind of herbes, to the haire or tailes of the goodes; by curing the worme; by stemming of blood; by healing of horse crookes; by turning of the riddle; or doing of such like innumerable things by words, without applying anything meete to the part offended, as mediciners doe; or else by staying married folkes to have naturally adoe with other, by knitting so many knots upon a point at the time of their marriage."
[Among popular superstitions a large class relate to diseases and their cures. The newspapers often furnish evidence of melancholy consequences resulting from such. I remember at present only one case of the kind occurring within my own experience, which I consider worth repeating, it being attended in the instance to which I allude, and also in several others, with surprisingly beneficial effects. It was a cure for jaundice, practised by an old Highland woman, and, although most probably not unknown in the Highlands, I am not aware of any instance occurring in the lowlands of Scotland. The old woman called upon her patients early in the morning, with an expression of considerable solemnity and significance in her countenance, walked with them to the banks of a river in the neighbourhood, to a particular tree, where various incantations and rites were performed, amidst numerous formulas and mutterings, which might even have afforded materials for an incantation to Shakespeare. The patient was marched round the tree backwards and forwards, and branches were taken therefrom and thrown into the river, with mutterings, to the effect, I believe, of so perish the disease; and in almost every instance, strange to say, it took its departure from that hour. This occurred in the north country (in a limited sphere, not extending beyond a neighbourhood of the poorer
In Pope's Memoirs of P. P., Clerk of the Parish, Works, vol. vi. p. 246, is the following: "The next chapter relates how he discovered a thief with a Bible and key, and experimented verses of the psalms that had cured agues."
class) about the year 1822, and the old woman might have been then from sixty to seventy years of age.]
I find the following charms in the History of Monsieur Oufle, p. 99: "Dew cakes with honey were given to those who entered Trophonius' cave, to free them from any mischiefs from the phantoms which should appear. Le Loyer of Spectres, p. 136. Bulbianus says that, where purslain is laid in the bed, those in it will not be disturbed by any vision that night. Albertus Magnus, Admirable Secrets, 1. ii. c. 142. A diamond fastened to the left arm, so as to touch the skin, prevents all nocturnal fears. Cardan de Subtilitate, 1. 7. To expel phantoms and rid people of folly, take the precious stone chrysolite, set in gold, and let them wear it about 'em. Albertus Magnus, Admirable Secrets, 1. ii. c. 100. According to Pliny, 1. xxxiv. c. 15, the ancients believed that a nail drawn out of a sepulchre and placed on the threshold of the bedchamber door would drive away phantoms and visions which terrified people in the night. Le Loyer, p. 326. Herbam urticam tenens in manu cum millefolio, securus est ab omni metu, et ab omni phantasmate. Trinum Magicum, p. 169." As also, ibid. p. 281: Ostanes the magician prescribed the dipping of our feet, in the morning, in human urine, as a preservative against charms, Le Loyer, p. 830.
In Berkshire there is a popular superstition that a ring made from a piece of silver collected at the communion is a cure for convulsions and fits of every kind. It should seem that that collected on Easter Sunday is peculiarly efficacious. Gent. Mag. for May 1794, lxiv. 433; also July 1794, p. 648. Ibid. p. 598, a curious ring superstition by way of charm is recorded. That silver ring will cure fits, which is made of five sixpences, collected from five different bachelors, to be conveyed by the hand of a bachelor to a smith that is a bachelor. None of the persons who give the sixpences are to know for what purpose, or to whom they gave them.
One may trace the same crafty motive for this superstition as in the money given upon touching for the king's evil. also Gent. Mag. for 1794, p. 889, where it is stated that in Devonshire there is a similar custom: the materials, however, are different; the ring must be made of three nails, or screws, [Obligingly communicated to the publisher by an anonymous correspondent at Edinburgh.]