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thunder remain to be mentioned. It appears from the following passage in Greene's Penelope's Web, 1601, that wearing a bay-leaf was a charm against thunder: "He which weareth the bay-leafe is privileged from the prejudice of thunder." So in the old play of the White Devil, Cornelia says:
"Reach the bays:
I'll tie a garland here about his head,
See also Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, p. 174. In A strange Metamorphosis of Man, transformed into a Wildernesse, deciphered in Characters, 1634, under No. 37, the Bay-tree, it is observed, that it is "so privileged by nature, that even thunder and lightning are here even taxed of partiality, and will not touch him for respect's sake, as a sacred thing." As a simile cited from some old English poet, in Bodenham's Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses, 1600, p. 90, we read:
"As thunder nor fierce lightning harmes the bay,
In Jonsonus Virbius, verses upon Ben Jonson, signed Hen. King, there is an elegant compliment paid to the memory of that poet, in allusion to the superstitious idea of lawrel being a defensative against thunder:
'I see that wreath, which doth the wearer arme
Sheridan, in his Notes on Persius, Sat. ii. v. Bidental, says: "It was a custom whenever a person fell by thunder, there to
1 Bishop of Chichester. Born in 1591. Died 1669. There is an edition of his poems in 1657. Another in 1664, entitled, Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes, and Sonets, 8vo.
2 In a most rare piece, entitled Diogenes in his Singularitie: wherein is comprehended his merrie baighting, fit for all men's benefits: christened by him a Nettle for nice Noses: by T. L. of Lincolne's Inne, gent. 1591, at London, printed by W. Hoskins and John Danter, for John Busbie, 4to. p. 2, b, is the following passage: "You beare the feather of a phonix in your bosome against all wethers and thunders, laurel to escape lightning," &c.
let him lie, and to fence in the place; to sacrifice a sheep and erect an altar there." Edit. 1739, p. 33. The putting a cold iron bar upon the barrels, to preserve the beer from being soured by thunder, has been noticed in a former section. This is particularly practised in Kent and Herefordshire.
Leigh, in his Observations on the First Twelve Cæsars, 1647, p. 63, speaking of Tiberius Cæsar, says: "He feared thunder exceedingly, and when the aire or weather was anything troubled, he ever carried a chaplet or wreath of lawrell about his neck, because that (as Pliny reporteth) is never blasted with lightning." The same author, in his Life of Augustus, p. 40, mentions a similar charm: "He was so much afraid of thunder and lightning, that he ever carried about with him for a preservative remedy a seale's skinne." Here a note adds: "Or of a sea-calfe, which, as Plinie writeth, checketh all lightnings. Tonitrua et fulgura paulo infirmius expavescebat, ut semper et ubique pellem vituli marini circumferret, pro remedio."
I find the following in Natural and Artificial Conclusions, by Thomas Hill, 1670, n. 139: "A natural meanes to preserve your house in safety from thunder and lightening. An ancient author recited (among divers other experiments of nature which he had found out), that if the herb housleek, or syngreen, do grow on the house top, the same house is never stricken with lightning or thunder." It is still common, in many parts of England, to plant the herb houseleek upon the tops of cottage houses. The learned author of the Vulgar Errors (Quincunx, p. 126) mentions this herb, as a supposed defensative, nearly in the same words with Hill.
[In some parts of Oxfordshire it is believed that the last nine drops of tea poured from the teapot, after the guests are served, will cure the heartache.]
Andrews, in his Continuation of Dr. Henry's History, p. 502, note, tells us, from Arnot's Edinburgh, that, "In 1594, the elders of the Scottish church exerted their utmost influence to abolish an irrational custom among the husbandmen, which, with some reason, gave great offence. The farmers were apt to leave a portion of their land untilled and uncropped year after year. This spot was supposed to be dedicated to Satan, and was styled the Good Man's Croft,' viz. the landlord's acre. It seems probable that some pagan
ceremony had given rise to so strange a superstition:" no doubt as a charm or peace offering, that the rest might be fertile.
Professor Playfair, in a letter to Mr. Brand, dated St. Andrews, Jan. 26, 1804, mentioning the superstitions of his neighbourhood, says: "In private breweries, to prevent the interference of the fairies, a live coal is thrown into the vat. A cow's milk no fairy can take away, if a burning coal is conducted across her back and under her belly immediately after her delivery. The same mischievous elves cannot enter into a house at night, if, before bedtime, the lower end of the crook, or iron chain, by which a vessel is suspended over the fire, be raised up a few links."
Martin, in his Description of the Western Islands, p. 120, says: "It is a received opinion in these islands, as well as in the neighbouring part of the main land, that women, by a charm, or some other secret way, are able to convey the increase of their neighbour's cows' milk to their own use; and that the milk so charmed doth not produce the ordinary quantity of butter; and the curds made of that milk are so tough, that it cannot be made so firm as the other cheese, and also is much lighter in weight. The butter so taken away and joined to the charmer's butter is evidently discernible by a mark of separation, viz. the diversity of colour; that which is charmed. being paler than the other. If butter, having these marks, be found on a suspected woman, she is presently said to be guilty. To recover this loss they take a little of the rennet from all the suspected persons, and put it into an egg-shell full of milk; and when that from the charmer is mingled with it, it presently curdles, and not before. Some women make use of the root of groundsel as an amulet against such charms, by putting it among the cream." Ibid. p. 166, speaking of Fladda Chuan, Martin says: "There is a chapel in the isle dedicated to St. Columbus. It has an altar in the east end, and, therein, a blue stone of a round form on it, which is always moist. It is an ordinary custom, when any of the fishermen are detained in this isle by contrary winds, to wash the blue stone with water all round, expecting thereby to pro cure a favorable wind. . . And so great is the regard they have for this stone, that they swear decisive oaths upon it." Ibid. p. 109, he says: "It was an ancient custom among the
islanders to hang a he-goat to the boat's mast, hoping thereby to procure a favourable wind."
Martin, p. 262, speaking of Jona, says: "There is a stone erected here, concerning which the credulous natives say, that whoever reaches out his arm along the stone three times, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shall never err in steering the helm of a vessel." Ibid. p. 59, speaking of the island Borera, he says: "There is a stone in the form of a cross, in the row opposite to St. Mary's church, about five foot high: the natives call it the Water-cross, for the ancient inhabitants had a custom of erecting this sort of cross to procure rain, and when they had got enough they laid it flat on the ground; but this custom is now disused." Ibid. p. 225, Arran. He mentions a green stone, much like a globe in figure, about the bigness of a goose egg, which for its intrinsic value has been carefully transmitted to posterity for several ages. "The virtue of it is to remove stitches in the side, by laying it close to the place affected. They say if the patient does not outlive the distemper, the stone removes out of the bed of its own accord, and è contra. The natives use this stone for swearing decisive oaths upon it. The credulous vulgar believe that if this stone is cast among the front of an enemy they will all run away. The custody of it is the peculiar privilege of a family called Clan-Chattons, alias MackIntosh." See other rural charms in Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 208, et seq.
CHARACTS seem to have been charms in the form of inscriptions. See Dugdale's Orig. Jurid. p. 81: "That he use ne hide no charme, ne charecte." So, in Gower, De Confessione Amantis, B. i.:
"With his carrecte would him enchaunt."
In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, printed by Richard Pynson, 1493, among superstitious practices then in use, the following we find censured: "Or use any charmes in gathering of herbes, or hangynge of scrowes aboute man or woman or childe or beest for any seknesse, with any scripture or figures and charects, but if it be pater noster, ave, or the crede, or holy wordes of the Gospel, or of Holy Wryt, for devocion nat for curioustie, and only with the tokene of the holy crosse."
In the Defensative against the Poyson of Supposed Prophecies, 1583, we read: "One of the reysters which served under the Frenche admirall, at the siege of Poictiers, was founde after he was dead to have about his necke a pursse of taffata, and within the same a piece of parchment, full of characters in Hebrew; beside many cycles, semicircles, tryangles, &c. with sundrie shorte cuttes and shreddings of the Psalmes. Deus misereatur nostri, &c.; Angelis suis mandavit de te, &c.; Super aspidem et basiliscum, &c.; as if the prophecies which properly belong to Christe might be wrested to the safeguard and defence of every private man. Lord Northampton cites as his authority, Histor. des Troubles, liv. 8.
In Pilkington's Burnynge of Paule's Church, 1561, 8vo. 1563, we read: "What wicked blindenes is this than, to thinke that wearing prayers written in rolles about with theym, as S. John's Gospell, the length of our Lord, the measure of our Lady, or other like, thei shall die no sodain death, nor be hanged, or yf he be hanged, he shall not die. There is to manye suche, though ye laugh, and beleve it not, and not hard to shewe them with a wet finger." Our author continues to observe that our devotion ought to "stande in depe sighes and groninges, wyth a full consideration of our miserable state and Goddes majestye, in the heart, and not in ynke or paper: not in hangyng written scrolles about the necke, but lamentinge unfeignedlye our synnes from the hart."
Lodge, in his Incarnate Devils, 1596, speaking of curiosity, says: "If you long to know this slave, you shall never take him without a book of characters in his bosome. Promise to bring him to treasure-trove, and he will sell his land for it, but he will be cousened. Bring him but a table of lead, with crosses (and Adonai or Elohim written in it), he thinks it will heal the ague."