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fessions made the king in a wonderful admiration," and he sent for one Geillis Duncane, who played a reel or dance before the witches, "who upon a small trump, called a Jew's trump, did play the same dance before the King's Majesty, who, in respect of the strangeness of these matters, took great delight to be present at all their examinations.' Who is there so incurious that would not wish to have seen the monarch of Great Britain entertaining himself with a supposed witch's performance on the Jew's-harp?
Warburton, on the passage in Macbeth, "Thrice the brinded cat had mew'd," observes that "a cat, from time immemorial, has been the agent and favourite of witches. This superstitious fancy is pagan and very ancient; and the original, perhaps, this: when Galinthia was changed into a cat by the Fates (says Antonius Liberalis, Metam. c. xxix); by witches (says Pausanius in his Bæotics); Hecate took pity of her and made her her priestess; in which office she continues to this day. Hecate herself too, when Typhon forced all the gods and goddesses to hide themselves in animals, assumed the shape of a cat. So, Ovid: Fele soror Phæbi latuit.'"
Hanway, in his Travels in Persia, i. 177, tell us that "cats are there in great esteem." Mention occurs in Glanvil's "Sadducismus Triumphatus," pp. 304, 306, of the familiars of witches sucking them in the shape of cats. In the description of the witch Mause, in the Gentle Shepherd, the following occurs:
"And yonder's Mause;
In Gay's Fable of "The Old Woman and her Cats," one of these animals is introduced as upbraiding the witch as follows:
""Tis infamy to serve a hag
Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag;
The writer of a Journey through the Highlands of Scotland, inserted in the Scots Magazine, lxiv. 817, describing some of the superstitions of the country, says: "When the goodwife's cat is ill fed, consequently of a lean and meagre appearance, it is readily ascribed to the witches riding on them in the night."
Trusler, in his Hogarth Moralized, p. 134, tells us, speaking of cats, it has been judiciously observed that "the conceit of a cat's having nine lives hath cost at least nine lives in ten of the whole race of them. Scarce a boy in the streets but has in this point outdone even Hercules himself, who was renowned for killing a monster that had but three lives." The Guardian, No. 61, adds: "Whether the unaccountable animosity against this useful domestic may be any cause of the general persecution of owls (who are a sort of feathered cats), or whether it be only an unreasonable pique the moderns have taken to a serious countenance, I shall not determine." The owl was anciently a bird of ill omen, and thence probably has been derived the general detestation of it, as that of the cat has arisen from that useful domestic's having been considered as a particeps criminis in the sorceries of witches. From a little black-letter book, entitled Beware the Cat, 1584, I find it was permitted to a witch "to take on her a catte's body nine times." The following passage occurs in Dekker's Strange Horse-Race, 4to. 1613: "When the grand Helcat had gotten these two furies with nine lives." And in Marston's Dutch Courtezan (Works, 8vo. 1633), we read: "Why then thou hast nine lives like a cat." See on this subject the British Apollo, 1708, vol. ii. No. 1.1
There is a very curious extract from a file of informations taken by some justices against a poor witch, preserved in the Life of the Lord Keeper Guildford, which forcibly satirises the folly of admitting such kind of evidence as was brought against them: "This informant saith he saw a cat leap in at her (the old woman's) window, when it was twilight; and this informant farther saith that he verily believeth the said cat to be the devil, and more saith not." It may be observed upon this evidence, that to affect the poor culprit he could not well have said less.
The ingenious artist Hogarth, in his Medley, represents with great spirit of satire a witch sucked by a cat and flying on a broomstick; it being said, as Trusler remarks, that the familiar with whom a witch converses sucks her right breast in shape of a little dun cat, as smooth as a mole, which when it
In a jeu d'esprit, entitled Les Chats, 8vo. Rotterdam, 1728, there are some very curious particulars relating to these animals, which are detailed with no common degree of learning.
has sucked, the witch is in a kind of trance. See Hogarth Moralized, p. 116.
Steevens, on the passage in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, "If I do, hang me in a bottle, like a cat, and shoot at me," observes that, "in some counties in England, a cat was formerly closed up with a quantity of soot in a wooden bottle (such as that in which shepherds carry their liquor), and was suspended on a line. He who beat out the bottom as he ran under it, and was nimble enough to escape its contents, was regarded as the hero of this inhuman diversion." He cites also some passages that show it was a custom formerly to shoot with arrows "" at a catte in a basket." They prove also that it was the custom to shoot at fictitious as well as real cats. A similar kind of sport seems to be alluded to in the following passage in Braithwaite's Strappado for the Devil, 1615, p. 162:
"If Mother Red-cap chance to have an oxe
Like widgeons, or like wild geese in full flocks,
That for his penny each may have his bitte :
In Frost Fair, a very rare topographical print, printed on the River Thames in the year 1740, there is the following reference: "No. 6, Cat in the Basket Booth." Although it is doubtful whether it was used merely as an ale-booth, or intended to invite company to partake of the barbarous sport, it is equally a proof that Shakespeare's rustic game or play of the Cat and Bottle continued in use long after his days.
[A woman dressed in a grotesque and frightful manner was otherwise called a kitch-witch, probably for the sake of a jingle. It was customary, many years ago, at Yarmouth, for women of the lowest order, to go in troops from house to house to levy contributions, at some season of the year, and on some pretence, which nobody now seems to recollect, having men's shirts over their own apparel, and their faces smeared with blood. These hideous beldams have long discontinued their perambulations; but, in memory of them, one of the many rows in that town is called Kitty-witch row.]
FASCINATION OF WITCHES.
There is a vulgar saying in the north, and probably in many other parts, of England, "No one can say black is your eye;" meaning that nobody can justly speak ill of you. It occurs also in a curious quarto tract entitled the Mastive, or Young Whelpe of the Old Dog; Epigrams and Satyrs, Lond., no date. One of these is as follows:
"Doll, in disdaine, doth from her heeles defie
The best that breathes shall tell her black's her eye;
And that it's true she speaks, who can say nay,
I have no doubt but that this expression originated in the popular superstition concerning an evil, that is an enchanting or bewitching, EYE. In confirmation of this I must cite the following passage from Scot's Discovery, p. 291: "Many writers agree with Virgil and Theocritus in the effect of bewitching eyes, affirming that in Scythia there are women called Bithiæ, having two balls, or rather blacks, in the apples of their eyes. These (forsooth) with their angry looks do bewitch and hurt, not only young lambs, but young children." He says, p. 35: "The Irishmen affirm that not only their children, but their cattle, are (as they call it) eye-bitten, when they fall suddenly sick."
In Vox Dei, or the great Duty of Self-Reflection upon a Man's own Wayes, by N. Wanley, M.A. and minister of the Gospel at Beeby, in Leicestershire, 1658, p. 85, the author, speaking of St. Paul's having said that he was, touching the righteousnesse which is in the law, blamelesse, observes upon it, "No man could say (as the proverb hath it) black was his eye." In Browne's Map of the Microcosme, 1642, we read : "As those eyes are accounted bewitching, qui geminam habent pupillam, sicut Illyrici, which have doublesighted eyes; so," &c.
[The following very curious particulars are taken from a recent number of the Athenæum :-Turning the Coal; a Countercharm to the Evil Eye. It is necessary that persons
1 [Brand has here inserted several quotations respecting the baby in the eye, which have nothing to do with the subject. See an explanation of this phrase in Halliwell's Dictionary, p. 129.]
with the power of an evil eye go through certain forms before they can effect their object; and it is supposed that during these forms the evil they wish is seen by them, by some means, before it takes effect upon their victim. One of the simplest of these forms is looking steadfastly in the fire, so that a person seen sitting musing with his eyes fixed upon the fire is looked upon with great suspicion. But if he smokes, and in lighting the pipe puts the head into the fire, and takes a draw while it is there, it is an undeniable sign that there is evil brewing. Now, if any person observe this, and it being a common custom in the country to have a large piece of coal on the fire, the tongs be taken privately, and this coal be turned right over, with the exorcism uttered either privately or aloud, "Lord be wi' us," it throws the imagination of the evil-disposed person into confusion, dispels the vision, and thwarts for the time all evil intentions. Or if an individual who is suspected of having wished evil, or cast an “ill e'e," upon anything, enter the house upon which the evil is, and the coal be turned upon him, as it is termed, that person feels as if the coal was placed upon his heart, and has often been seen to put his hand to his breast, exclaiming, "Oh!" Nay, more; he is unable to move so long as the coal is held down with the tongs,—and has no more power over that house.
Many a tale I have heard of such evil persons being thus caught, and held until they made offers for their release; or more generally, until that never-failing cure, "scoreing aboon the breath," was performed upon them. And this was somewhat serious, as it was performed with some charmed thing, such as a nail from a horseshoe.]
In Adey's Candle in the Dark, p. 104, we read: "Master Scot, in his 'Discovery,' telleth us that our English people in Ireland, whose posterity were lately barbarously cut off, were much given to this idolatry in the queen's time, insomuch that, there being a disease amongst their cattle that grew blinde, being a common disease in that country, they did commonly execute people for it, calling them eye-biting witches."
Martin, in his Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, p. 123, says: "All these islanders, and several thousands of the neighbouring continent, are of opinion that some