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Drunkard's Cloak. 



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SIB HENRY ELLIS, K.H., F.R.S., SEC. S.A., &c. 














Fascination of Witches . . 44 

Toad-Stone . . . .50 

y The Sorcerer, or Magician . . 55 



Cucking-Stool . . . .102 
Branks, another punishment for 

scolding women . . : 108 
Drunkard's Cloak . . . 109 
Pilliwinkes, or Pyrewinkes . ib. 
Pillory . . . ' . . ib. 

OMENS 110 

Child's Caul, or Silly How . .114 
Sneezing . . . .119 

Dreams 127 

The Moon . . . .141 
Man in the Moon . . . 153 
Second Sight . . . .155 
Salt Falling, &c. . . . 160 

Shoe Omens . . . .166 
Looking-glass Omens . . . 169 
Tingling of the Ears, &c. .171 

Omens relating to the Cheek, 

Nose, and Mouth . . . 174 
Head Omens . . . .176 
Hand and Finger-Nails . .177 
Candle Omens . . .180 

Omens at the Bars of Grates, 

Purses, and Coffins . . . 183 
The Howling of Dogs . .184 



Cats, Rats, and Mice . . . 187 
Crickets. Flies . . .189 
Robin Redbreast . . . . 191 
Swallows, Martins, Wrens, Lady- 
Bugs, Sparrows, and Tit- 
mouse ..... 193 
Hare, Wolf, or Sow, crossing the 

way, &c 201 

The Owl, &c 206 

Spiders, Snakes, Emmets, &c. . 223 
The Death-Watch . . . 225 

YDeath Omens peculiar to Fami- 
lies 227 

Corpse Candles, &c. . . . 237 
Omens among Sailors . . . 239 
Weather Omens . . .241 

Vegetables 247 

Stumbling . . . .249 
Knives, Scissors, Razors, &c. . 250 
Of Finding or Losing Things . ib. 

Names 251 

Moles 252 

/CHARMS 255 

Saliva, or Spitting . . . 259 
Charm in Odd Numbers . . 263 
Physical Charms . . .269 
Love Charms . . . . 306 
Rural Charms . . . .309 

Characts 319 

Amulets 324 

The Lee-Penny, or Lee-Stone . 327 




DIVINATION .... 329 
Divining Rod . . . . 332 
Divination by Virgilian,Homeric, 

or Bible Lots . . . . 336 
Divination by the Speal, or Blade 

Bone 339 

Divination by the erecting of 

Figures Astrological . ..341 
Chiromancy, or Manual Divina- 
tion by Palmistry, or Lines of 
the Hand .... 348 
Onychomancy, or Onymancy, 
Divination by the Finger- 

Nails 350 

Divination by Sieve and Shears 351 

physiognomy 355 

Divinations by Onions and Fag- 
gots in Advent . . .356 
Divinations by a Green Ivie 

Leaf 357 

Divination by Flowers . . 358 
The Wandering Jew . . . 360 
Barnacles . . . .361 

Haddock 362 

Doree ib. 

The Ass 363 

Dark Lanterns . . . 364 
That Bears form their Cubs into 

shape by licking them . . ib. 
Ostriches Eating and Digesting 

Iron 365 

The Phoenix . . . .366 
Bird of Paradise. Pelican . . ib. 



The Remora, of which the story 
is that it stays Ships under 

Sail 368 

That the Chameleon lives on Air 

only ib. 

The Beaver . . . . ib. 
Mole. Elephant . . . 369 
Ovum Anguinum . . . ib. 
Salamander . . . . 372 
Manna . . . . . ib. 
Tenth Wave and Tenth Egg . ib. 
The Swan Singing before Death 373 
Basilisk, or Cockatrice . .374 

Unicorn 375 

Mandrake ib. 

Rose of Jericho, Glastonbury 

Thorn ib. 

Various Vulgar Errors . .379 


< Neck Verse . . . . 382 
Bishop in the Pan . . . 383 
Dining with Duke Humphrey . 384 
Miller's Thumb . . .387 
Turning Cat in Pan . . . 388 
Putting the Miller's Eye out . 389 
Lying for the Whetstone . . ib. 
To bear the Bell . . .393 
To pluck a Crow, &c. . . . ib. 
Eppirig Stag Hunt . . . 395 
Will with, a Wisp . . . ib. 
Mermaids, Water-Bulls, &c. .411 


. 418 




WAIVING the consideration of the many controversies for- 
merly kept up on this subject, founded on misinterpretation 
of various passages in the sacred writings, it is my purpose 
in the present section to consider witchcraft only as a striking 
article of popular mythology ; which, however, bids fair in 
another century to be entirely forgotten. 

Witchcraft is defined by Reginald Scot, in his Discovery, 
p. 284, to be, "in estimation of the vulgar people, 'a super- 
natural work between a corporal old woman and a spiritual 
devil ;" but, he adds, speaking his own sentiments on the 
subject, " it is, in truth, a cozening art, wherein the name of 
God is abused, prophaned, and blasphemed, and his power 
attributed to a vile creature." Perkins defines witchcraft to be 
" an art serving for the working of wonders by the assistance 
of the Devil, so far as God will permit ;" and Delrio, " an art 
in which, by the power of the contract entered into with the 
Devil, some wonders are wrought which pass the common 
understanding of men." 

Witchcraft, in modern estimation, is a kind of sorcery 
(especially in women), in which it is ridiculously stipoosed 
that an old woman, by entering into a contract with the 
Devil, is enabled in many instances to change the course of 
Nature, to raise winds, perform actions that require more than 
IX in. 1 


human strength, and to afflict those that offend her with the 
sharpest pains. 1 

King James's reason, in his Dsemonology, why there are 
or were twenty women given to witchcraft for one man, is 
curious. "The reason is easy," as this sagacious monarch 
thinks, " for, as that sex is frailer than man is, so is it easier 
to be entrapped in these grosse snares of the Divell, as was 
over well proved to be true by the serpent's deceiving of Eva 
at the beginning, which makes him the homelier with that 
sexe sensine." His majesty, in this work, quaintly calls the 
Devil " God's ape and hangman." 

Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, viii. 
ed. 1/89-90, p. 157, speaking of the laws of the Lombards, 
A.D. 643, tells us: "The ignorance of the Lombards, in the 
state of Paganism or Christianity, gave implicit credit to the 
malice and mischief of witchcraft; but the judges of the 
seventeenth century might have been instructed and con- 
founded by the wisdom of Rotharis, who derides the absurd 
superstition, and protects the wretched victims of popular or 
judicial cruelty." He adds in a note : " See Leges Rotharis, 
No. 379, p. 47. Striga is used as the name of witch. It is 
of the purest classic origin (Herat. Epod. v. 20 ; Petron. 
c. 134) ; and from the words of Petronius (quse Striges co- 
mederunt nervos tuos?) it may be inferred that the prejudice 
was of Italian rather than barbaric extraction." 

Gaule, in his Select Cases of Conscience, touching Witches 
and Witchcrafts, 1646, observes, p. 4: "In everyplace and 
parish, every old woman with a wrinkled face, a furred brow, 
a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeaking voice, a 
scolding tongue, having a rugged coate on her back, a skull- 
cap on her head, a spindle in her hand, a dog or cat by her 
side, is not only suspected but pronounced for a witch. . . . 

1 Witch is derived from the Dutch witchelen, which signifies whinnying 
and neighing like a horse : in a secondary sense, also, to foretell and pro- 
phesy ; because the Germans, as Tacitus informs us, used to divine and 
foretell things to come by the whinnying and neighing of their horses. 
His words are " hinnitu et fremitu" In Glanvil's Sadducismus Tri- 
uraphatus, postcript, p. 12, witch is derived from the verb " to weet," to 
know, i. e. " the knowing woman," answering to the Latin Saga, which 
is of the same import. Wizard he makes to signify the same, with the 
difference only of sex. 


Every new disease, notable accident, miracle of Nature, rarity 
of art, nay, and strange work or just, judgment of God, is 
by them accounted for no other but an act or effect of witch- 
craft." He says, p. 10: "Some say the devill was the first 
witch when he plaied the impostor with our first parents, 
possessing the serpent (as his impe) to their delusion (Gen. iii.) ; 
and it is whispered that our grandame Eve was a little guilty 
of such kind of society." 

Henry, in his History of Great Britain, iv. 543, 4to., speak- 
ing of our manners between A.D. 1399 and 1485, says : 
" There was not a man then in England who entertained the 
least doubt of the reality of sorcery, necromancy, and other 
diabolical arts." 

According to the popular belief on this subject, there are 
three sorts of witches : the first kind can hurt but not help, 
and are with singular propriety called the black witches. 

The second kind, very properly called white ones, have 
gifts directly opposite to those of the former ; they can help, 
but not hurt. By the following lines of Dryden, however, 
the white witch seems to have a strong hankering after mis- 
chief : 

" At least as little honest as he could, 
And like white witches mischievously good." 

Gaule, as cited before, says : " According to the vulgar 
conceit, distinction is usually made between the white and the 
black witch ; the good and the bad witch. The bad witch 
they are wont to call him or her that workes malefice or mis- 
chiefe to the bodies of men or beasts ; the good witch they 
count him or her that helps to reveale, prevent, or remove the 

Cotta, in the Tryall of Witchcraft, p. 60, says : " This kinde 
is not obscure, at this day swarming in this kingdom, whereof 
no man can be ignorant who lusteth to observe the uncon- 
trouled liberty and licence of open and ordinary resort in all 
places unto wise men and wise women, so vulgarly termed for 
their reputed knowledge concerning such deceased persons as 
are supposed to be bewitched." The same author, in his Short 
Discoverie of Unobserved Dangers, 1612, p. 71, says: "The 
mention of witchcraft doth now occasion the remembrance in 
the next place of a sort (company) of practitioners whom our 
custome and country doth call wise men and wise women, re- 


puted a kind of good and honest harmless witches or wizards, 
who by good words, by hallowed herbes, and salves, and other 
superstitious ceremonies, promise to allay and calme divels, 
practices of other witches, and the forces of many diseases." 

Perkins by Pickering, 8vo. Cambr. 1610, p. 256, concludes 
with observing: " It were a thousand times better for the land 
if all witches, but specially the blessing witch, might suffer 
death. Men doe commonly hate and spit at the damnifying 
sorcerer, as unworthie to live among them, whereas they flie 
unto the other in necessitie, they depend upon him as their 
God, and by this meanes thousands are carried away to their 
finall confusion. Death, therefore, is the just and deserved 
portion of the good witch" 

Baxter, in his World of Spirits, p. 184, speaks of those 
men that tell men of things stolen and lost, and that show men 
the face of a thief in a glass, and cause the goods to be 
brought back, who are commonly called white witches. 
"When I lived," he says, "at Dudley, Hodges, at Sedgley, 
two miles off, was long and commonly accounted such a one, 
and when I lived at Kederrainster, one of my neighbours 
affirmed, that, having his yarn stolen, he went to Hodges (ten 
miles off), and he told him that at such an hour he should 
have it brought home again and put in at the window, and so 
it was; and as I remember he showed him the person's face 
in a glass. Yet I do not think that Hodges made any known 
contract with the devil, but thought it an effect of art." 

The third species, as a mixture of white and black, are 
styled the gray witches ; for they can both help and hurt. 

Thus the end and effect of witchcraft seems to be sometimes 
good and sometimes the direct contrary. In the first case the 
sick are healed, thieves are bewrayed, and true men come to 
their goods. In the second, men, women, children, or ani- 
mals, as also grass, trees, or corn, &c., are hurt. 

The Laplanders, says Scheffer, have a cord tied with knots 
for the raising of the wind : they, as Ziegler relates it, tie three 
magical knots in this cord ; wben they untie the first there 
blows a favorable gale of wind ; when the second, a brisker ; 
when the third, the sea and wind grow mighty, stormy, and 
tempestuous. This, he adds, that we have reported concern- 
ing the Laplanders, does not in fact belong to them, but to 
the Finlanders of Norway, because no other writers mention 


it, and because the Laplanders live in an inland country. 
However, the method of selling winds is this : " They deliver 
a small rope with three knots upon it, with this caution, that 
when they loos, the first they shall have a good wind ; if the 
second, a stronger ; if the third such a storm will arise that 
they can neither see how to direct the ship and avoid rocks, 
or so much as stand upon the decks, or handle the tackling." 
The same is admitted by King James in his Deemonology, 
p. 1 17. See also the notes to Macbeth. 

Pomponius Mela, who wrote in the reign of the Emperor 
Claudius (P. Mela, iii. c. 6), mentions a set of priestesses in 
the Island of Sena, or the He des Saints, on the coast of Gaul, 
who were thought to have the quality, like the Laplanders, 
or rather Finlanders, of troubling the sea, and raising the 
winds by their enchantments, being, however, subservient only 
to seafaring people, and only to such of them as come on pur- 
pose to consult them. 

Ranulph Higden, in the Polychronicon, p. 195, tells us 
that the witches in the Isle of Man anciently sold winds to 
mariners, and delivered them in knots tied upon a thread, 
exactly as the Laplanders did. 1 

The following passage is from Scot's Discovery, p. 33 : 
" No one endued with common sense but will deny that the 
elements are obedient to witches and at their commandment, 
or that they may, at their pleasure, send rain, hail, tempests, 
thunder, lightning, when she, being but an old doting woman, 
casteth a flint stone over her left shoulder towards the west, or 
hurleth a little sea-sand up into the element, or wetteth a broom- 
sprig in water, and sprinkleth the same in the air ; or diggeth 
a pit in the earth, and, putting water therein, stirreth it about 
with her finger; or boileth hog's bristles; or layeth sticks 
across upon a bank where never a drop of water is ; or buryeth 
sage till it be rotten : all which things are confessed by 
witches, and affirmed by writers to be the means that witches 
use to move extraordinary tempests and rain." 

" Ignorance," says Osbourne, in his Advice to his Son, 8vo. 
Oxf. 16.36, "reports of witches that they are unable to hurt 

1 The power of confining and bestowing is attributed to Eolus in the 
Odyssey. Calypso, in other places of the same work, is supposed to have 
been able to confer favorable winds. See Gent. Mag. for Jan. 1763, 
xxxiii. 13, with the signature of T. Row [the late Dr. Pegge]. 


till they have received an almes ; which, though ridiculous iu 
itselfe, yet in this sense is verified, that charity seldom goes 
to the' gate but it meets with ingratitude," p. 94. 

Spotiswood, as cited by Andrews, in his Continuation of 
Henry's History of Great Britain, p. 503, says, " In the North" 
(of Britain) there were " matron-like witches and ignorant 
witches." It was to one of the superior sort that Satan, being 
pressed to kill James the Sixth, thus excused himself in 
French, " II est homme de Dieu." 

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, 
says : " If a cow becomes dry, a witch is applied to, who, in- 
spiring her with a fondness for some other calf, makes her 
yield her milk." (Gough's Camden, iii. 659.) He tells us, 
ibid. : " The women who are turned off (by their husbands) 
have recourse to witches, who are supposed to inflict barren- 
ness, impotence, or the most dangerous diseases, on the former 
husband or his new wife." Also, "They account every wo- 
man who fetches fire on May-day a witch, nor will they give 
it to any but sick persons, and that with an imprecation, be- 
lieving she will steal all the butter next summer. On May- 
day they kill all hares they find among their cattle, supposing 
them the old women who have designs on the butter. They 
imagine the butter so stolen may be recovered if they take 
some of the thatch hanging over the door and burn it. 

The mode of becoming a witch, according to Grose, is as 
follows : " A decrepit superannuated old woman is tempted by 
a man in black to sign a contract to become his both soul and 
body. On the conclusion of the agreement 1 he gives her a 
piece of money, and causes her to write her name and make 
her mark on a slip of parchment with her own blood. ome- 
times, also, on this occasion, the witch uses the ceremony of 
putting one hand to the sole of her foot, and the other to the 
crown of her head. On departing, he delivers to her an imp 
or familiar. 2 The familiar, in the shape of a cat or a kitten, 

1 In making these bargains, it is said, there was sometimes a great deal 
of haggling. The sum given to bind the bargain was sometimes a groat, 
at other times half-a-crown. 

2 In Cotgrave's Treasury of Wit and Language, p. 263, we read: 

" Thou art a soldier, 

Followest the great duke, feed'st his victories, 
As witches do their serviceable spirits, 
Even with t'iy prodigal blood." 


a mole, millerfly, or some other insect or animal, at stated 
times of the day, sucks her blood through teats on different 
parts of her body." There is a great variety of the names of 
these imps or familiars. 

"A witch," (as I read in the curious tract entitled, Round 
about our Coal Fire,) " according to my nurse's account, must 
be a haggard old woman, living in a little rotten cottage, 
under a hill, by a wood-side, and must be frequently spinning 
at the door ; she must have a black cat, two or three broom- 
sticks, an imp or two, and two or three diabolical teats to 
suckle her imps. She must be of so dry a nature, that if you 
fling her into a river she will not sink ; so hard then is her 
fate, that, if she is to undergo the trial, if she does not drown, 
she must be burnt, as many have been within the memory of 

The subsequent occurs in Cotgrave's English Treasury of 
Wit and Language, p. 298 : 

" Thus witches 

Possess'd, ev'n in their death deluded, say 
They have been wolves and dogs, and sailed in egge-shels 1 
Over the sea, and rid on fiery dragons, 
Pass'd in the air more than a thousand miles 
All in a night : the enemy of mankind 
So pow'rfull, but false and falshood confident." 

Whitaker, in his History of Whalley, 4to. 1818, p. 216, 
has given from a paper in the Bodleian library (MS. Dodsw. 
vol. Ixi. p. 47) the confession of one of the poor persons in 
Pendle Forest, accused of witchcraft, in 1633, describing mi- 
nutely the manner in which she was made a witch. 

In the Relation of the Swedish Witches, at the end of 
Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus, we are told that " the 
devil gives them a beast about the bigness and shape of a 
young cat, which they call a carrier. Wbat this carrier brings 
they must receive for the devil. These carriers fill themselves 
so full sometimes, that they are forced to spew by the way, 
which spewing is found in several gardens where colworts 
grow, and not far from the houses of those witches. It is of 
a yellow colour like gold, and is called 'butter of witches.' " 

1 The Connoisseur, No. 109, says : " It is a common notion that a 
witch can make a voyage to the East Indies in an egg-shell, or take a 
journey of two or three hundred miles across the country on a broom- 


p. 494. Probably this is the same substance which is called 
in Northumberland, fairy butter. 

In a Discourse of Witchcraft, MS., communicated by 
John Pinkertou, Esq., written by Mr. John Bell, Minister of 
the Gospel at Gladsmuir, 1705, p. 23, on the subject of 
witches' marks, I read as follows: "This mark is sometimes 
like a little teate, sometimes like a blewish spot ; and I my- 
self have seen it in the body of a confessing witch like a 
little powder-mark of a blea (blue) colour, somewhat hard, 
and withal insensible, so as it did not bleed when I pricked it." 

From the News from Scotland, &c., 1591 (a tract which 
will be more fully noticed hereafter), it appears that, having 
tortured in vain a suspected witch with "the pilliwinckes 
upon her fingers, which is a grievous torture, and binding or 
wrenching her head with a cord or rope, which is a most cruel 
torture also, they, upon search, found the enemy's mark to be 
in her forecrag, or forepart of her throat, and then she con- 
fessed all." In another the devil's mark was found upon her 

Dr. Fian was by the king's command consigned on this oc- 
casion " to the horrid torment of the boots," and afterwards 
strangled and burnt on the Castle-hill, Edinburgh, on a Satur- 
day in the end of January, 1591. 

The Sabbath of witches is a meeting to which the sisterhood, 
after having been anointed with certain magical ointments, 
provided by their infernal leader, are supposed to be carried 
through the air on brooms, coul-staves, spits, &c. Butler, in 
his Hudibras, I. iii. 105, has the following on this subject : 

" Or trip it o'er the water quicker 
Than witches when their staves they liquor, 
As some report." 

Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, b. iii. c. i. 
p. 40, speaking of the vulgar opinion of witches flying, ob- 
serves that the devil teacheth them to make ointment of the 
bowels and members of children, whereby they ride in the air 

d accomplish all their desires. After burial they steal them 


bolical illusion, and to be acted only in a dream. And it is 
exposed as such by Oldham (Works, 6th edit. p. 254) : 
" As men in sleep, though motionless they lie, 
Fledg'd by a dream, believe they mount and flye ; 
So witches some enchanted wand bestride, 
And think they through the airy regions ride." 1 

Lord Verulam tells us that " the ointment that witches use 
is reported to be made of the fat of children digged out of 
their graves ; of the juices of smallage, wolfbane, and cinque- 
foil, mingled with the meal of fine wheat ; but I suppose the 
soporiferous medicines are likest to do it, which are henbane, 
hemlock, mandrake, moonshade, or rather nightshade, to- 
bacco, opium, saffron, poplar-leaves, &c." 

There had been about the time of Lord Verulam no small 
stir concerning witchcraft. "Ben Jonson," says Dr. Percy, 
" has left us a witch song which contains an extract from the 
various incantations of classic antiquity. Some learned wise- 
acres had just before busied themselves on this subject, with 
our British Solomon, James the First, at their head. And 
these had so ransacked all writers, ancient and modern, and 
so blended and kneaded together the several superstitions of 
different times and nations, that those of genuine English 
growth could no longer be traced out and distinguished." 

The Witch Song in Macbeth is superior to this of Ben 
Jonson. The metrical incantations in Middleton's Witch are 
also very curious. As the play is not much known, the fol- 
lowing is given as a specimen of his incantations : 
" 1 Witch. Here's the blood of a bat. 
Hec. Put in that, oh put in that. 

2 Witch. Here's libbard's bane. 
Hec. Put in againe. 

1 Witch. The juice of toade, the oile of adder. 

2 Witch. Those will make the yonker madder. 
Hec. Put in : ther's all, and rid the stench. 
Firestone. Nay, here's three ounces of the red-hair'd wench. 
All. Round, around, around," &c. 2 

1 See more authorities in the notes upon Hudibras, III. i. 411-12 ; Grey's 
Notes on Shakespeare, ii. 140. 

2 The witches' caldron is thus described by Olaus Magnus : " Olla 
autem omnium maleficarum commune solet esse instrumentum, quo 
succos, herbas, vermes, et exta decoquant, atque ea venefica dape ignavos 
ad vota alliciunt, et instar bullientis ollae, navium et equitum aut cursorum 
excitant celeritatem." Olai Magni Gent. Septentr. Hist. Brevis. p. 96. 


At these meetings they have feastings, music, and dancing, 
the devil himself condescending to play at them on the pipes 
or cittern. They afterwards proceed at these assemblies to the 
grossest impurities and immoralities, and it may be added 
blasphemies, as the devil sometimes preaches to them a mock 
sermon. Butler has an allusion to something of this kind in 
Hudibras, III. i. 983 : 

" And does but tempt them with her riches 

To use them as the devil does witches ; 

Who takes it for a special grace 

To be their cully for a space, 

That, when the time's expir'd, the drazels 

For ever may become his vassals." 

The Sabbath of the witches is supposed to be held on a 
Saturday ; when the devil is by some said to appear in the 
shape of a goat, about whom several dances and magic cere- 
monies are performed. Before the assembly breaks up, the 
witches are all said to have the honour of saluting Satan's 
posteriors. (See King James's remarks on this subject in his 
Dsemonology.) Satan is reported to have been so much out 
of humour at some of these meetings, that, for his diversion, 
he would beat the witches black and blue with the spits and 
brooms, the vehicles of their transportation, and play them, 
divers other unlucky trick's. There is a Scottish proverb, 
"Ye breed of the witches, ye can do nae good to yoursel." 

They afterwards open graves for the purpose of taking out 
joints of the fingers and toes of dead bodies, with some of 
the winding-sheet, in order to prepare a powder for their 
magical purposes. Here also the devil distributes apples, 
dishes, spoons, or other trifles, to those witches who desire to 
torment any particular person, to whom they must present 
them. Here also, for similar purposes, the devil baptises 
waxen images. King James, in his Dsemonology, book ii. 
chap. 5, tells us that " the devil teacheth how to make pictures 
of wax or clay, that by roasting thereof, the persons that they 
bear the name of may be continually melted or dried away by 
continual sickness." 1 

'See Servius on the 8th Eclogue of Virgil ; Theocritus, Idyl. ii. 22 ; 
Hudibras, part II. canto ii. 1. 351. Ovid says : 

" Devovet absentes, simulachraque cerea figit 

Et miserum tenues in jecur urget acus." Heroid. Ep. vi. 1. 91. 
See also Grafton's Chronicle, p. 587, where it is laid to the charge 
long others) of Roger Bolinbrook, a cunning necromancer, and Margery 


It appears from Strype's Annals of the Reformation, i. 8, 
under anno 1558, that Bishop Jewel, preaching before the 
queen, said : " It may please your grace to understand that 
witches and sorcerers within these few last years are marvel- 
lously increased within your Grace's realm. Your Grace's 
subjects pine away, even unto the death, their colour fadeth, 
their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are 
bereft. I pray God they never practice further than upon the 
subject. . . Tin's," Strype adds, "I make no doubt was the 
occasion of bringing in a bill, the next parliament, for making 
enchantments and witchcraft felony." One of the bishop's 
strong expressions is, " These eyes have seen most evident and 
manifest marks of their wickedness." 1 

Andrews, hi his Continuation of Henry's History of Great 
Britain, 4to. p. 93, tells us, speaking of Ferdinand Earl of 
Derby, who in the reign of Queen Elizabeth died by poison : 
"The credulity of the age attributed his death to witchcraft. 
The disease was odd, and operated as a perpetual emetic ; and 
a waxen image with hair like that of the unfortunate earl, 
found in his chamber, reduced every suspicion to certainty." 2 

Jordane, the cunning witch of Eye, that they, at the request of Eleanor, 
Duchess of Gloucester, had devised an image of wax representing the 
king (Henry the Sixth), which by their sorcery a little and little con- 
sumed ; intending thereby in conclusion to waste and destroy the king's 
person. Shakespeare mentions this, 2 Henry VI. act i. sc. 4. 

1 It appears from the same work, iv. 7, sub anno 1589, that " one Mrs. 
Dier had practised conjuration against the queen, to work some mischief 
to her Majesty ; for which she was brought into question ; and accordingly 
her words and doings were sent to Popham, the queen's attorney, and 
Egerton, her solicitor, by Walsingham, the secretary, and Sir Thomas 
Heneage, her vice-chamberlain, for their judgment, whose opinion was that 
Mrs. Dier was not within the compass of the statute touching witchcraft, 
for that she did no act, and spake certain lewd speeches tending to that 
purpose, but neither set figure nor made pictures." Ibid. ii. 545, sub anno 
1578, Strype says: "Whether it were the effect of magic, or proceeded 
from some natural cause, but the queen was in some part of this year under 
excessive anguish by pains of her teeth, insomuch that she took no rest 
for divers nights, and endured very great torment night and day." 

2 " The wife of Marshal d'Ancre was apprehended, imprisoned, and be- 
headed for a witch, upon a surmise that she had enchanted the queen to 
dote upon her husband ; and they say the young king's picture was found 
in her closet, in virgin wax, with one leg melted away. When asked by 
her judges what spells she had made use of to gain so powerful an as- 
cendency over the queen, she replied, ' That ascendency only which strong 
minds ever gain over weak ones.' " Seward's Anecdotes of some Distin- 
guished Pel sons, &c. iii. 215. 


Blagrave, in his Astrological Practice of Physick, p. 89, 
observes that "the way which the witches usually take lor to 
afflict man or beast in this kind is, as I conceive, done by 
imao-e or model, made in the likeness of that man or beast 
they intend to work mischief upon, and by the subtilty of the 
devil made at such hours and times when it shall work most 
powerfully upon them by thorn, pin, or needle, pricked into 
that limb or member of the body afflicted." This is farther 
illustrated by a passage in one of Daniel's Sonnets : 
" The slie inchanter, when to work his will 
And secret wrong on some forspoken wight, 
Frames waxe, in forme to represent aright 
The poore unwitting wretch he meanes to kill, 
And prickes the image, fram'd by magick's skill, 
Whereby to vexe the partie day and night." 1 

Again, in Diaria, or the Excellent Conceitful Sonnets of 
H. C. (Henry Constable), 1594 : 

" "Witches which some murther do intend 
Doe make a picture and doe shoote at it ; 
And in that part where they the picture hit, 
The parties self doth languish to his end." 

Coles, in his Art of Simpling, p. 66, says that witches "take 
likewise the roots of mandrake, according to some, or as I 
rather suppose the roots of briony, which simple folke take 
for the true mandrake, and make thereof an ugly image, by 
which they represent the person on whom they intend to 
exercise their witchcraft." He tells us, ibid. p. 26 : " Some 
plants have roots with a number of threads, like beards, as 
mandrakes, whereof witches and impostors make an ugly 
image, giving it the form of the face at the top of the root, 
and leave those strings to make a broad beard down to the 

Sometimes witches content themselves with a revenge less 
mortal, causing the objects of their hatred to swallow pins, 
crooked nails, dirt, cinders, and trash of all sorts ; or by dry- 
iiig up their cows and killing their oxen ; or by preventing 
butter from coming in the churn, or beer from working. 
Sometimes, to vex squires, justices, and country parsons, fond 
of hunting, they change themselves into hares, and elude the 
speed of the fleetest dogs. 

Son. 10 ; from Poems and Sonnets annexed to Astrophil aud Stella, 


It was a supposed remedy against witchcraft to put some of 
the bewitched person's water, with a quantity of pins, needles, 
and nails, into a bottle, cork them up, and set them before 
the fire, in order to confine the spirit ; but this sometimes did 
not prove sufficient, as it would often force the cork out with 
aloud noise, like that of a pistol, and cast the contents of the 
bottle to a considerable height. Bewitched persons were said 
to fall frequently into violent fits and to vomit needles, pins, 
stones, nails, stubbs, wool, and straw. See Trusler's Hogarth 
Moralized, art. Medley. 

It is related in the Life of Lord Keeper Guildford, p. 131, 
that, when his lordship was upon the circuit at Taunton Dean, 
he detected an imposture and conspiracy against an old man 
charged with having bewitched a girl about thirteen years of 
age, who, during pretended convulsions, took crooked pins 
into her mouth, and spit them afterwards into bystanders' 
hands. 1 "As the judge went down stairs out of the court, 
an hideous old woman cried ' God bless your worship !' 
'What's the matter, good woman'?' said the judge. 'My 
lord,' said she, 'forty years ago they would have hanged me 
for a witch, and they could not ; and now they would have 
hanged my poor son.' The first circuit his lordship went 
westward, Mr. Justice Rainsford, who had gone former cir- 
cuits there, went with him ; and he said that the year before 
a witch was brought to Salisbury, and tried before him. Sir 
James Long came to his chamber and made a heavy complaint 
of this witch, and said that if she escaped, his estate would 
not be wortli anything, for all the people would go away. 
It happened that the witch was acquitted, and the knight con- 
tinued extremely concerned ; therefore the judge, to save the 
poor gentleman's estate, ordered the woman to be kept in 
gaol, and that the town should allow her 2s. Get. a week, for 
which he was very thankful. The very next assizes he came 
to the judge to desire his lordship would let her come back 

1 Jorden, in his curious Treatise of the Suffocation of the Mother, 1603, 
p. 24, says : " Another policie Marcellus Donatus tells us of, which a phy- 
sition used towardes the Countesse of Mantua, who, being in that disease 
which we call melancholia hypochondriaca, did verily believe that she was 
bewitched, and was cured by conveying of nayles, needles, feathers, and 
such like things into her close-stoole when she took physicke, making 
her believe that they came out of her bodie." 


to the town. And why? They could keep her for one shil- 
ling and sixpence there, and in the gaol she cost them a 
shilling more." p. 130. 

[WITCHCRAFT. Our Wick contemporary gives the following 
recent instance of gross ignorance and credulity : " Not far 
from Louishurgh there lives a girl who, until a few days ago, 
was suspected of being a witch. In order to cure her of the 
witchcraft, a neighbour actually put her into a creed half- 
filled with wood and shavings, and hung her above a fire, 
setting the shavings in a blaze. Fortunately for the child and 
himself she was not injured, and it is said that the gift of 
sorcery has been taken away from her. At all events, the 
intelligent neighbours aver that she is not half so witch-like 
in her appearance since she was singed." Inverness Courier. 
Times, Dec. 8, 1845.] 

In ancient times even the pleasures of the chase were 
checked by the superstitions concerning witchcraft. Thus, 
in Scot's Discovery, p. 152: "That never hunters nor their 
dogs may be bewitched, they cleave an oaken branch, and 
both they and their dogs pass over it." 

Warner, in his Topographical Remarks relating to the 
South-western Parts of Hampshire, 1793, i. 241, mentioning 
Mary Dore, the "parochial witch of Beaulieu," who died 
about half a century since, says : " Her spells were chiefly used 
for purposes of self-extrication in situations of danger ; and I 
have conversed with a rustic whose father had seen the old 
lady convert herself more than once into the form of a hare, 
or cat, when likely to be apprehended in wood-stealing, to 
which she was somewhat addicted." Butler, in his Hudibras, 
II. iii. 149, says, speaking of the witch-finder, that of witches 
some be hanged 

" for putting knavish tricks 

Upon green geese and turkey-chicks, 
Or pigs that suddenly diseas'd 
Of griefs unnat'ral, as he guess'd." 

Henry, in his History of Great Britain, i. 99, mentions 
omponms Mela as describing a Druidical nunnery, which, 
; SHVS, " was situated in an island in the British sea, and con- 
ned nine of these venerable vestals, who pretended that 
-hey could raise storms and tempests by their incantations, 


could cure the most incurable diseases, could transform them- 
selves into all kinds of animals, and foresee future events." 

For another superstitious notion relating to the enchant- 
ment of witchcraft, see Lupton's First Book of Notable 
Things, 1660, p. 20, No. 82. See also Guil. Varignana, and 
Arnoldus de Villa Nova. 

In vexing the parties troubled, witches are visible to them 
only; sometimes such parties act on the defensive against 
them, striking at them with a knife, &c. 

Preventives, according to the popular belief, are scratching 
or pricking a witch ; taking the wall of her in a town or 
street, and the right hand of her in a lane or field ; while 
passing her, by clenching both hands, doubling the thumbs 
beneath the fingers ; and also by saluting her with civil words 
before she speaks ; but no presents of apples, eggs, or other 
things must be received from her on any account. 

It was a part of the system of witchcraft that drawing blood 
from a witch rendered her enchantments ineffectual, as ap- 
pears from the following authorities : In Glanville's Account 
of the Daemon of Tedworth, speaking of a boy that was be- 
witched, he says : " The boy drew towards Jane Brooks, the 
woman who had bewitched him, who was behind her two 
sisters, and put his hand upon her, which his father perceiv- 
ing, immediately scratched her face and drew blood from her. 
The youth then cried out that he was well." Blow at Modern 
Sadducism, 12mo. 1668, p. 148. In the First Part of Shake- 
speare's Henry the Sixth, act i. sc. 5, Talbot says to the 
Pucelle d' Orleans, 

" I'll have a bout with thee ; 

Devil, or devil's dam, I'll conjure thee : 
Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a witch." 

Thus also in Butler's Hudibras : 

" Till drawing blood o' the dames like witches, 
They're forthwith cur'd of their capriches." 

And again, in Cleveland's Rebel Scot : 

" Scots are like witches ; do out whet your pen, 
Scratch till the blood come, they'll not hurt you then." 

This curious doctrine is very fully investigated in Hath- 
away's trial, published in the State Trials. The following 
passage is in Arise Evan's Echo to the Voice from Heaven, 


1652, p. 34 : "I had heard some say that, when a witch had 
power over one to afflict him, if he could but draw one drop 
of the witch's blood, the witch would never after do him. 

The Observer newspaper of March 6, 1 83 1 , copies the follow- 
ing from the newspaper called the Scotsman : " Witchcraft. 
During a thunder-storm last week in Edinburgh, an elderly 
female, who resides near Craigmillar, and who bears the re- 
putation of being uncanny, went to a neighbour's house and 
asked for a piece of coal ; being refused, she said ' they might 
repent that.' The female to whom this was said instantly 
concluded that she was bewitched, and was immediately seized 
with a great tremor. Some days after her husband, while 
under the influence of liquor, taken we presume to inspire 
him with sufficient courage for the task, along with another 
man, went to the house of the old woman, and, with a sharp 
instrument, inflicted a deep wound across her forehead, under 
the impression that scoring her above the breath would destroy 
her evil influence in time coming. The poor woman is so 
severely injured, that the sheriff has deemed it necessary to 
take a precognition of the facts." 

Coles, in his Art of Simpling, p. 67, observes that, "if one 
hang misletoe about their neck, the witches can have no power 
)f him. The roots of angelica doe likewise availe much in 
the same case, if a man carry them about him, as Fuchsius 
saith." In the comparatively modern song of the Laidley 
Worm, in Ritson's Northern Garland, p. 63, we read : 
" The spells were vain ; the hag returnes 

To the queen in sorrowful mood, 
Crying that witches have no power 

Where there is rown-tree wood !" 

he^oulT ^ Hudibra8 ' IL m> 291 ' sa y s of his conjuror that 
" Chase evil spirits away by dint 
Of sickle, horse-shoe, hollow flint." 

W b 3 US ' ln his . Mis cellanies, p. 148, that "it is a 
the Bermudas they used to put ^iron into 


the fire when a witch comes in. Mars is enemy to Saturn." 
He adds, ibid. : " Under the porch of Staninfield Church, in 
Suffolk, I saw a tile with a horseshoe upon it, placed there 
for this purpose, though one would imagine that holy water 
would alone have been sufficient. I am told there are many 
other similar instances." 

Misson, in his Travels in England, p. 192, on the subject of 
the horseshoe nailed on the door, teUs us : "Ay ant sou vent 
remarque un fer de cheval cloiie au seuils des portes (chez les 
gens de petite etoffe) j'ai demande a plusieurs ce que cela 
vouloit dire. On m'a repondu diverses choses differentes, 
mais la plus generale reponse a ete, que ces fers se mettoient 
pour empcher les sorciers d'entrer. Us rient en disant cela, 
mais ils ne le disent pourtant pas tout-a-fait en riant ; car ils 
croyent qu'il y a la dedans, ou du moins qu'il peut y avoir 
quelque vertu secrete ; et s'ils n'avoient pas cette opinion, ils 
ne s'amuseroient pas a clpuer ce fer a leur porte." 

In Gay's fable of the Old Woman and her Cats, the sup- 
posed witch complains as follows : 

" Crowds of boys 

Worry me with eternal noise ; 

Straws laid across my pace retard, 

The horseshoe's nail d (each threshold's guard) ; 

The stunted broom the wenches hide, 

For fear that I should up and ride ; 

They stick with pins my bleeding seat, 

And bid me show my secret teat." 

In Monmouth street, probably the part of London alluded 
to by Aubrey, many horseshoes nailed to the thresholds are 
still to be seen (1797). 1 There is one at the corner of Little 
Queen street, Holborn. 

"That the horse-shooe may never be pul'd from your 
threshold," occurs among the good wishes introduced by 
Holiday in his comedy of the Marriage of the Arts, Sig. E b. 
Nailing of horseshoes seems to have been practised as well to 
keep witches in as to keep them out. See Ramsey's Elmin- 
thologia, p. 76, who speaks of nailing horseshoes on the 
witches' doors and thresholds. Douce' s manuscript notes 

1 The editor of this work, April 26, 1813, counted no less than seven- 
teen horseshoes in Monmouth street, nailed against the steps of doors. 
Five or six are all that now remain, 1841. 

in, 2 


say: "The practice of nailing horseshoes to thresholds re- 
sembles that of driving nails into the walls of cottages among 
the Romans, which they believed to be an antidote against the 
plague: for this purpose L. Manlius, A. U. C. 390, was 
named dictator, to drive the nail. See Lumisden's Remarks 
on the Antiquities of Rome, p. 148. 

[One of the weaknesses of the late Duchess of St. Albans, 
which was displayed by her grace in early life, and one 
which did not fail to operate upon her actions, was that of 
an excessive degree of superstition. To such an extent, 
indeed, was the feeling carried by Mr. Coutts, as well as 
by herself, that they caused two rusty old broken horseshoes 
to be fastened on the highest marble step, by which the house 
at Holly Lodge was entered from the lawn. There are anec- 
dotes of her dreams, often mentioned by herself, and attested 
to this day by those to whom they were related. The fantastic 
interpretation given to those chance visions by two different 
dream-readers both parties have lived to see verified, together 
with their own promised advantage therefrom. One was a 
dream which haunted her with such peculiar vividness for a 
length of time, that her mind was filled with it by day also ; 
and when her dresser, and Anderson, the theatrical coiffeur, 
were preparing her for the theatre, she used to tell them of 
the dream of each preceding night, viz. " that she was tried 
for her life, sentenced to be hanged, and was actually executed." 
The hairdresser, who was considered skilful in the internal 
vagaries of the head, as well as its external decoration, used 
to say it was a fine dream, indicating she was to be a grand 
lady, and to hold her head very high, perhaps to attend the 

The bawds of Amsterdam believed (in 1687) that a horse- 
shoe, which had either been found or stolen, placed on the 
chimney-hearth, would bring good luck to their houses. They 
also believed that horses' dung, dropped before the house, 
and put fresh behind the door, would produce the same effect. 
See Putanisme d' Amsterdam, 12mo. pp. 56-7. 

In Beaumont and Fletcher's play of Women Pleased are 
the following lines : 

" The devil should think of purchasing that egg-shell 
To victual out a witch for the Burmoothes." 

To break the eggshell after the meat is out is a relique of 


superstition thus mentioned in Pliny : " Hue pertinet ovorum, 
ut exsorbuerit quisquo, calices, cochlearumque, protinus frangi 
aut eosdem cochlearibus perforari." Sir Thomas Browne 
tells us that the intent of this was to prevent witchcraft; 1 for 
lest witches should draw or prick their names therein, and 
veneficiously mischief their persons, they broke the shell, as 
Dalecampius has observed. Delrio, in his Disquisit. Magicse, 
lib. vi. c. 2, sect. 1, quaest. 1, has the following passage on 
this subject: "Et si ova comederint, eorum testas, non nisi 
ter cultro perfossas in catinum projiciunt, timentes neglectum 
veneficiis nocendi occasionem prsebere." 

Scot, in his Discovery, p. 157, says: "Men are preserved 
from witchcraft by sprinkling of holy water, receiving con- 
secrated salt, by candles hallowed on Candlemas-day, and by 
green leaves consecrated on Palm Sunday." Coles, in his 
Art of Simpling, p. 67, tells us that "Matthiolus saith 
that herba paris takes away evill done by witchcraft, and 
affirms that he knew it to be true by experience." Heath, 
in his History of the Scilly Islands, p. 120, tells us that 
"some few of the inhabitants imagine (but mostly old women) 
that women with child, and the first-born, are exempted from 
the power of witchcraft." The following occurs in Aubrey's 
Miscellanies, p. 147 : 

" Vervain and dill 
Hinders witches from their will." 

[SUPERSTITION IN THE FENS. A carpenter residing at Ely, 
named Bartingale, being lately taken ill, imagined that a 
woman named Gotobed, whom he had ejected from one of 
his houses, had bewitched him. Some matrons assembled in 
the sick man's chamber agreed that the only way to protect 
him from the sorceries of the witch was to send for the black- 
smith, and have three horseshoes nailed to the door. An 
operation to this effect was performed, much to the anger of 
the supposed witch, who at first complained to the Dean, but 
was laughed at by his reverence. She then rushed in wrath 

1 We read in Persius : 

" Tune nigri Lemures ovoque pericula rupto." Sat. v. 185. 

Among the wild Irish, " to eat an odd egg endangered the death of 
their horse." See Memorable Things noted in the Description of the 
World, p. 112. Ibid. p. 113, we read: "The hoofs of dead horses they 
accounted and held sacred." 


to the sick man's room, and, miraculous to tell, passed the 
Rubicon despite the horseshoes. But this wonder ceased when 
it was discovered that, in order to make the most ot the job, 
Vulcan had substituted donkey's shoes. The patient is now 
happily recovering. Cambridge Advertiser.] 

I find the subsequent in Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, 
p 152 : " To be delivered from witches, they hang m their 
entries 'an herb called pentaphyllon, cinquefoil, also an olive- 
branch; also frankincense, myrrh, valerian, verven, palm, 
antirchmon, &c. j also hay-thorn, otherwise whitethorn, 
gathered on May-day." He tells us, p. 151: "Against 
witches, in some countries, they nail a wolf's head on the 
door. Otherwise they hang scilla (which is either a root, or 
rather in this place garlick) in the roof of the house, to keep 
away witches and spirits ; and so they do alicium also. Item. 
Perfume made of the gall of a black dog, and his blood be- 
smeared on the posts and walls of the house, drive th out of 
the doors both devils and witches. Otherwise : the house 
where herba betonica is sown is free from all mischiefs," &c. 

[A respectable farmer near Helmsley having, within the last 
few months, lost a number of ewes and lambs, besides other 
cattle, imbibed the idea that they were bewitched by some 
poor old woman. He applied to a person called a wise man, 
who pretends to lay these malignant wretches, and who has, 
no doubt, made pretty good inroads upon the farmer's pocket, 
but without having the desired effect. The following are a 
few of the methods they practised. Three small twigs of 
elder wood, in which they cut a small number of notches, 
were concealed beneath a bowl, in the garden, according to 
the instructions of their advisers, who asserted that the 
sorceress would come and remove them, as she would have no 
power as long as they were there. Strict watch was kept 
during the night, but nothing appeared ; yet strange, as they 
relate, on examination next morning, one of the twigs had 
somehow or other escaped from its confinement. The next 
night the twigs were replaced, and a few bold adventurers 
were stationed to watch ; but about midnight they were much 
alarmed by a rustling in the hedge, and a shaking of the trees, 
and made their exit without any further discovery. As soon 
as a calf is dropt, they immediately lacerate the ear by slitting 
it with a knife ; and in passing through the fields it is ridicu- 


Ions to see the young lambs sporting by the side of their 
dams, with a wreath or collar of what is commonly called 
rowan-tree round their necks : but all proves ineffectual, as 
they die thus foolishly ornamented, or perhaps rather dis- 
guised, with the emblem of ignorance." The Yorkshireman, 
A.D. 1846.] 

Various were the modes of trying witches. This was some- 
times done by finding private marks on their bodies ; at others 
by weighing the suspected wretch against the church Bible ; 
by another method she was made to say the Lord's Prayer. 1 
She was sometimes forced to weep, and so detected, as a 
witch can shed no more than three tears, and those only from 
her left eye. 2 Swimming a witch was another kind of popular 
ordeal. By this method she was handled not less indecently 
than cruelly ; for she was stripped naked and cross bound, 
the right thumb to the left toe, and the left thumb to the 
right toe. In this state she was cast into a pond or river, in 
which, if guilty, it was thought impossible for her to sink. 

Among the presumptions whereby witches were condemned, 
what horror will not be excited at reading even a part of the 
following item in Scot's Discovery, p. 15 : "If she have any 
privy mark under her armpit, under her hair, under her lip, 
or *****, it is presumption sufficient for the judge to proceed 
and give sentence of DEATH upon her !!!" By the following 
caution, p. 16, it is ordered that the witch " must come to 
her arreignment backward, to wit, with her tail to the judge's 
face, who must make many crosses at the time of her ap- 
proaching to the bar." King James himself, in his Daemon- 
ology, speaking of the helps that may be used in the trial of 
witches, says, "the one is, the finding of their marke and 
trying the imensibleness thereof." 

Strutt, in his Description of the Ordeals under the Saxons, 
tells us that " the second kind of ordeal, by water, 3 was to 

1 Butler, in his Hudibras, part I. c. iii. 1. 343, alludes to this trial : 

" He that gets her hy heart must say her 
The back way, like a witch's prayer." 

2 King James, in the work already quoted, adding his remarks on this 
mode of trying witches, says : " They cannot even shed tears, though 
women in general are like the crocodile, ready to weep upon every light 

3 For an account of the ancient Ordeal by Cold Water, see Dugd. Orig. 
Juridiciales, p. 87. 


thrust the accused into a deep water, where, if he struggled 
in the least to keep himself on the surface, he was accounted 
guilty ; but if he remained on the top of the water without 
motion he was acquitted with honour. Hence, he observes, 
without doubt, came the long-continued custom of swimming 
people suspected of witchcraft. There are also, he further 
observes, the faint traces of these ancient customs in another 
superstitious method of proving a witch. It was done by 
weighing the suspected party against the church Bible, which 
if they outweighed, they were innocent ; but, on the con- 
trary, if the Bible proved the heaviest, they were instantly 

In the Gent. Mag. for Feb. 1759, xxix. 93, we read : "One 
Susannah Haynokes, an elderly woman, of \Vingrove, near 
Aylesbury, Bucks, was accused by a neighbour for bewitching 
her spinning-wheel, so that she could not make it go round, 
and offered to make oath of it before a magistrate ; on which 
the husband, in order to justify his wife, insisted upon her 
being tried by the church Bible, and that the accuser should 
be present. Accordingly she was conducted to the parish 
church, where she was stripped of all her clothes, to her shift 
and under-coat, and weighed against the Bible ; when, to the 
no small mortification of the accuser, she outweighed it, and 
was honorably acquitted of the charge." 

In the MS. Discourse of Witchcraft, communicated by 
John Pinkerton Esq., written by Mr. John Bell, minister of 
the gospel at Gladsmuir, 1705, p. 22, I read: "Symptoms 
of a witch, particularly the witches' marks, mala fama, inability 
to shed tears, &c., all of them providential discoveries of so 
dark^a crime, and which like avenues lead us to the secret 

King James, in his Daemonology, speaking of this mode of 

trying a witch, i. e. "fleeting on the water," observes that 

it appeares that God hath appointed for a supernatural signe 

of the monstrous impietie of witches, that the water shall 

refuse to receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them 

thereof " Water f baptism ' and wilfull y refused the benefit 

,v f detectin S a wit ch ^re by burning the 
of her house, or by burning any animal supposed to be 
bewitched by her-as a hog or ox : these, it was held, would 


force a witch to confess. There were other modes of trial, 
by the stool, 1 and by shaving off every hair of the witch's 
body. They were also detected by putting hair, parings of 
the nails, and urine of any person bewitched into a stone 
bottle, and hanging it up the chimney. 

In that rare play, the Witch of Edmonton, 1658, p. 39, 
act iv. sc. 1 (Enter Old Banks and two or three Countrymen), 
we read : 

" 0. Banks. My horse this morning runs most piteously 

of the glaunders, whose nose yesternight was as clean as any 

man's here now coming from the barber's ; and this, I'll take 

my death upon't, is long of this jadish witch, mother Sawyer. 

(Enter W. Hamlac, with thatch and a link.) 

Ilaml. Burn the witch, the witch, the witch, the witch. 

Omn. What hast got there ? 

Hand. A. handful of thatch pluck' d off a hovel of hers; 
and they say, when 'tis burning, if she be a witch, she'll come 
running in. 

O. Banks. Fire it, fire it ; I'll stand between thee and home 
for any danger. 

(As that burns, enter the witch.) 

1 Countryman. This thatch is as good as a jury to prove 
she is a witch. 

O. Banks. To prove her one, we no sooner set fire on the 
thatch of her house, but in she came, running as if the divel 
had sent her in a barrel of gunpowder, which trick as surely 
proves her a witch as 

Justice. Come, come ; firing her thatch ? Ridiculous ! 
Take heed, sirs, what you do : unless your proofs come better 
arm'd, instead of turning her into a witch, you'll prove your- 
selves starke fools." 

1 Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida, act ii. sc. 1, says : " Thou stool 
for a witch." And Dr. Grey's Notes (ii. 236) afford us this comment on 
the passage : " In one way of trying a witch, they used to place her upon 
a chair or a stool, with her legs tied cross, that all the weight of her body 
might rest upon her seat, and by that means, after some time, the cir- 
culation of the blood would be much stopped, and her sitting would be as 
painful as the wooden horse ; and she must continue in this pain twenty- 
four hours, without either sleep or meat; and it was no wonder that, 
when they were tired out with such an ungodly trial, they would confess 
themselves many times guilty to free themselves from such torture." See 
Dr. Hutchinson's Historical Essay on Witchcraft, p. 63. 


Old Banks then relates to the justice a most ridiculous in- 
stance of her power : " Having a dun cow tied up in my 
back-side, let me go thither, or but cast mine eye at her, and 
if I should be hanged I cannot chuse, though it be ten times 
in an hour, but run to the cow, and, taking up her tail, kiss 
(saving your worship's reverence) my cow behinde, that the 
whole town of Edmonton has been ready ******* w ^h 
laughing me to scorn." As does a countryman another, p. 58 : 
" I'll be sworn, Mr. Carter, she bewitched Gammer Washbowl's 
sow, to cast her pigs a day before she would have farried ; 
yet they were sent up to London, and sold for as good West- 
minster dog-pigs, at Bartholomew fair, as ever great-belly 'd 
ale-wife longed for." 

Cotta, in his Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers, 
p. 54, tells us : "Neither can I beleeve (I speake it with reve- 
rence unto graver judgements) that the forced coming of men 
or women to the burning of bewitched cattell, or to the burning 
of the dung or urine of such as are bewitched, or floating of 
bodies above the water, or the like, are any trial of a witch." 
Gaule, in his Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches 
and Witchcraft, also (p. 75) mentions " some marks or tokens 
of tryall altogether unwarrantable, as proceeding from igno- 
rance, humour, superstition. Such are 1. The old paganish 
sign, the witch's long eyes. 2. The tradition of the witches 
not weeping. 3. The witches making ill-favoured faces and 
mumbling. 4. To burn the thing bewitched, &c. (I am loth 
to speak out, lest I might teach these in reproving them). 
5. The burning of the thatch of the witch's house, &c. 6. 
The heating of the horseshoe, &c. 7. The scalding water, &c. 
8. The sticking of knives acrosse, &c. 9. The puttin* of 
such and such things under the threshold, and in the bed- 
etraw, &c. 10. The sieve and the sheares, &c. 11. The 
casting the witch into the water with thumbes and toes tied 
across, &c. 12. The tying of knots, &c." 

In A Pleasant Grove of New Fancies, by H. B., 8vo. Lond. 
165/, p. 76, we have 

" A charm to Inng in the witch. 
To house the hag you must do this, 
Commix with meal a little **** 
Of him bewitch'd ; theii forthwith make 
A little wafer, or a cake ; 
And this rarely bak'd will bring 
The old hag in : no surer thing." 


It occurs also among the following experimental rules 
whereby to afflict witches, causing the evil to return back upon 
them, given by Blagrave in his Astrological Practice of Physic, 
1689 : " 1. Oneway is by watching the suspected party when 
they go into their house ; and then presently to take some of 
. her thatch from over the door, or a tile, if the house be tyled : 
if it be thatch, you must wet and sprinkle it over with the 
patient's water, and likewise with white salt ; then let it burn 
or smoke through a trivet or the frame of a skillet : you must 
bury the ashes that way which the suspected witch liveth. 
"Tis best done either at the change, full, or quarters of the 
moon ; or otherwise, when the witch's significator is in square 
or opposition to the moon. But if the witch's house be tiled, 
then take a tile from over the door, heat him red hot, put salt 
into the patient's water, and dash it upon the red-hot tile, 
until it be consumed, and let it smoak through a trivet or 
frame of a skillet as aforesaid. 2. Another way is to get two 
new horseshoes, heat one of them red hot, and quench him 
in the patient's urine ; then immediately nail him on the inside 
of the threshold of the door with three nails, the heel being 
upwards ; then, having the patient's urine, set it over the fire, 
and set a trivet over it ; put into it three horse-nails and a 
little white salt. Then heat the other horseshoe red hot, and 
quench him several times in the urine, and so let it boil and 
waste until all be consumed : do this three times, and let it 
be near the change, full, or quarters of the moon ; or let the 
moon be in square or opposition unto the witch's significator. 
3. Another way is to stop the urine of the patient close up in 
a bottle, and put into it three nails, pins, or needles, with a 
little white salt, keeping the urine always warm. If you ]et 
it remain long in the bottle, it will endanger the witch's life ; 
for I have found by experience that they will be grievously 
tormented, making their water with great difficulty, if any at 
all, and the more if the moon be in Scorpio, in square or 
opposition to his significator, when its done. 4. Another 
way is either at the new, full, or quarters of the moon, but 
more especially when the moon is in square or opposition to 
the planet which doth personate the witch, to let the patient 
blood, and while the blood is warm put a little white salt into 
it, then let it burn and smoak through a trivet. I conceive 
this way doth more afflict the witch than any of the other 


three before mentioned." He adds, that sometimes the 
witches will rather endure the misery of the above torments 
than appear, "by reason country people ofttimes will fall 
upon them, and scratch and abuse them shrewdly." 

I find the following in Articles to be enquired of within the 
Archdeaconry of Yorke, by the Church Wardens and Sworne 
Men, A. D. 163 (any year till 1640), 4to. Lond. b. L: 
" Whether there be any man or woman in your parish that 
useth witchcraft, sorcery, charmes, or unlawfull prayer, or 
invocations in Latine or English, or otherwise, upon any 
Christian body or beast, or any that resorteth to the same for 
counsell or helpe ?" 

Some persons were supposed by the popular belief to have 
the faculty of distinguishing witches. These were called 
witch-finders. Matthew Hopkins, one of the most celebrated 
witch-finders of his day, is supposed to have been alluded to 
by Butler, in the following lines of Hudibras, II. iii. 139 : 

" Has not this present parliament 
A leger to the devil sent, 
Fully empower'd to treat about 
Finding revolted witches out ; 
And has not he, within a year, 
Hang'd threescore of 'em in one shire ? 
Some only for not being drown'd, 
And some for sitting above ground 
Whole days and nights upon their breeches, 
And feeling pain, were hang'd for witches ; 
Who after prov'd himself a witch, 
And made a rod for his own breech." 

The old, the ignorant, and the indigent (says Granger), 
such as could neither plead their own cause nor hire an advo- 
cate, were the miserable victims of this wretch's credulity, 
spleen, and avarice. He pretended to be a great critic in 
special marks, which were only moles, scorbutic spots, or warts, 
which frequently grow large and pendulous in old age, but 
were absurdly supposed to be teats to suckle imps. His ulti- 
mate method of proof was by tying together the thumbs and 
toes of the suspected person, about whose waist was fastened 
a cord, the ends of which were held on the banks of a river, 
by two men, in whose power it was to strain or slacken it. 

The experiment of swimming was at length tried upon 
Hopkins himself, in his own way, and he was, upon the event, 


condemned, and, as it seems, executed, as a wizard. Hopkins 
had hanged, in one year, no less than sixty reputed witches in 
his own county of Essex. See Granger's Biographical History, 
1775, ii. 409. Compare also Dr. Grey's Notes on Hudibras, 
ii. 11, 12, 13, 

In Gardiner's England's Grievance in Kelation to the Coal 
Trade, p. 107, we have an account that, in 1649 and 1650, 
the magistrates of Newcastle-upon-Tyne sent into Scotland to 
agree with a Scotchman, who pretended knowledge to find 
out witches by pricking them with pins. They agreed to 
give him twenty shillings a-piece for all he could condemn, 
and bear his travelling expenses. On his arrival the bellman 
was sent through the town to invite all persons that would 
bring in any complaint against any woman for a witch, that 
she might be sent for and tried by the persons appointed. 
Thirty women were, on this, brought into the town-hall and 
stripped, and then openly had pins thrust into their bodies, 
about twenty-seven of whom he found guilty. His mode was, 
in the sight *of all the people, to lay the body of the person 
suspected naked to the waist, and then he ran a pin into her 
thigh, and then suddenly let her coats fall, demanding whether 
she had nothing of his in her body but did not bleed ; the 
woman, through fright and shame, being amazed, replied little ; 
then he put his hand up her coats and pulled out the pin, 
setting her aside as a guilty person and a child of the devil. 
By this sort of evidence, one wizard and fourteen witches 
were tried and convicted at the assizes, and afterwards exe- 
cuted. Their names are recorded in the parish register of 
St. Andrew's. See Brand's History of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 

Nash, in his History of Worcestershire, ii. 38, tells us that, 
" 14th May, 1660, four persons accused of witchcraft were 
brought from Kidderminster to Worcester Gaol, one Widow 
Robinson, and her two daughters, and a man. The eldest 
daughter was accused of saying that, if they had not been 
taken, the king should never have come to England ; and, 
though he now doth come, yet he shall not live long, but shall 
die as ill a death as they ; and that they would have made corn 
like pepper. Many great charges against them, and little 
proved, they were put to the ducking in the river : they would 
not sink, but swam aloft. The man had five teats, the woman 
three, and the eldest daughter one. When they went to search 


the women none were visible ; one advised to lay them on their 
backs and keep open their mouths, and then they would ap- 
pear ; and so they presently appeared in sight." 

The Doctor adds that "it is not many years since a poor 
woman, who happened to be very ugly, was almost drowned 
in the neighbourhood of Worcester, upon a supposition of 
witchcraft ; and had not Mr. Lygon, a gentleman of singular 
humanity and influence, interfered in her behalf, she would 
certainly have been drowned, upon a presumption that a witch 
could not sink." 

It appears from a Relation printed by Matthews, in Long 
Acre, London, that, in the year 1716, Mrs. Hicks, and her 
daughter, aged nine years, were hanged in Huntingdon for 
witchcraft, for selling their souls to the devil, tormenting and 
destroying their neighbours, by making them vomit pins, 
raising a storm, so that a ship was almost lost, by pulling off 
her stockings, and making a lather of soap. 

By the severe laws once in force against witches, to the 
disgrace of humanity, great numbers of innocent persons, dis- 
tressed with poverty and age, were brought to violent and 
untimely ends. By the 33 Henry VIII. c. viii. the law ad- 
judged all Witchcraft and Sorcery to be felony without benefit 
of clergy. By statute 1 Jac. I. c. xii. it was ordered that all 
persons invoking any evil spirit, or consulting, covenanting 
with, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding any evil 
spirit; or taking up dead bodies from their graves to be used 
in any witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment, or killing 
or otherwise hurting any person by such infernal arts, should 
be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy, and suffer death. 
And if any person should attempt by sorcery to discover hidden 
treasure, or to restore stolen goods, or to provoke unlawful 
love, or to hurt any man or beast, though the same were not 
effected, he or she should suffer imprisonment and pillory for 
the first offence, and death for the second. 

On March 11, 1618, Margaret and Philip Flower, daughters 
of Joane Flower, were executed at Lincoln for the supposed 
crime of bewitching Henry Lord Rosse, eldest son of Francis 
Manners, Earl of Rutland, and causing his death ; also, for 
most barbarously torturing by a strange sickness Francis, 
second son of the said Earl, and Lady Katherine, his daughter; 
and also, for preventing, by their diabolical arts, the said earl 


and his countess from having any more children. They were 
tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir Henry Hobart, Lord 
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Sir Edward Bromley, 
one of the Barons of the Exchequer, and cast by the evidence 
of their own confessions. To effect the death of Lord Henry 
"there was a glove of the said Lord Henry buried in the ground, 
and, as that glove did rot and waste, so did the liver of 
the said lord rot and waste." The spirit employed on the 
occasion, called Rutterkin, appears not to have had the same 
power over the lives of Lord Francis and Lady Katherine. 
Margaret Flower confessed that she had " two familiar spirits 
sucking on her, the one white, the other black-spotted. The 
white sucked under her left breast, the black-spotted," &c. 
When she first entertained them, she promised them her 
soul, and they covenanted to do all things which she com- 
manded them. 

In the Diary of Robert Birrell, preserved in Fragments of 
Scottish History, 4to. Edinb., 1708, are inserted some curious 
memorials of persons suffering death for witchcraft in Scot- 
land. " 1591, 25 of Junii, Euphane M'Kalzen ves brunt for 
vitchcrafte. 1529. The last of Februarii, Richard Grahame 
wes brunt at ye Crosse of Edinburghe, for vitchcrafte and 
sorcery. 1593. The 19 of May, Katherine Muirhead brunt 
for vitchcrafte, quha confest sundrie poynts therof. 1603. 
The 21 of Julii, James Reid brunt for consulting and useing 
with Sathan and witches, and quha wes notably knawin to 
be ane counsellor with witches. 1605. July 24th day, Henrie 
Lowrie brunt on the Castel Hill, for witchcrafte done and 
committed be him in Kyle, in the parochin." The following 
is from the Gent. Mag. for 1775, xlv. 601 : "Nov. 15. Nine 
old women were burnt at Kalisk, in Poland, charged with 
having bewitched and rendered unfruitful the lands belonging 
to a gentleman in that palatinate." For the Manks Statutes 
(Train's History of the Isle of Man, v. ii. p. 167). 

By statute 9 Geo. II. c. v. it was enacted that no pro- 
secution should in future be carried on against any person 
for conjuration, witchcraft, sorcery, or enchantment. How- 
ever, the misdemeanour of persons pretending to use witch- 
craft, tell fortunes, or discover stolen goods by skill in 
the occult sciences, is still deservedly punished with a year's 
imprisonment, and till recently by standing four times in the 


pillory. Thus the Witch Act, a disgrace to the code of Eng- 
lish laws, was not repealed till 1736. 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, v. 240, parish of 
Old Kilpatrick, co. Dumbarton, we read : "The history of the 
Bargarran witches, in the neighbouring parish of Erskine, is 
well known to the curious. That this parish in the dark ages 
partook of the same frenzy, and that innocent persons were 
sacrificed at the shrine of cruelty, bigotry, and superstition, 
cannot be concealed. As late as the end of the last century a 
woman was burnt for witchcraft at Sandyford, near the village, 
and the bones of the unfortunate victim were lately found at 
the place. Ibid. p. 454, parish of Spott, co. East Lothian, Pa- 
rochial Records. "1698 : The Session, after a long examina- 
tion of witnesses, refer the case of Marion Lillie, for impreca- 
tions and supposed witchcraft, to the Presbytery, who refer 
her for trial to the civil magistrate. Said Marion generally 
called the Rigwoody Witch. Oct. 1 705 : Many witches burnt 
on the top of Spott loan." Ibid. vii. 280, parish of East 
Monkland, co. Lanark: "Upon a rising ground there is still to 
be seen an upright granite stone, where, it is said, in former 
times they burnt those imaginary criminals called witches." 
Ibid. viii. 1/7, parish of Newburgh, co. Fife: "Tradition con- 
tinues to preserve the memory of the spot in the lands belong- 
ing to the town of Newburgh, on which more than one un- 
fortunate victim fell a sacrifice to the superstition of former 
times, intent on punishing the crime of witchcraft. The hu- 
mane provisions of the legislature, joined to the superior 
knowledge which has, of late years, pervaded all ranks of men 
in society, bid fair to prevent the return of a frenzy which 
actuated our forefathers universally, and with fatal violence." 
The following is extracted from the Parish Records : " New- 
burgh, Sept. 18, 1653. The minister gave in against Kath'rine 
Key severall poynts that had come to his hearing, which he 
desyred might be put to tryell. 1 . That, being refused milk, 
the kow gave nothing but red blood; and being sent for to 
e the kow, she clapped (stroked) the kow, and said the kow 
be weill,and thereafter the kow becam weiU 2 C4 
Bimilar charge.) 3. That the minister and his wife, having 
ane purpose to take ane child of theirs from the said Kathrine 

* she had m nursing, the child would suck none woman's 
breast, being only one quarter old; but, being brought again 


to the said Kathrine, presently sucked her breast. 4. That, 
thereafter the chyld was spayned (weaned), she came to sie 
the child and wold have the bairne (child) in her arms, and 
thereafter the bairne murned and gratt (weeped sore) in the 
night, and almost the day tyme ; also, that nothing could 
stay her untill she died. Nevertheless, before her coming to 
see her and her embracing of her, took as weill with the spain- 
ing and rested as weill as any bairne could doe. 5. That she 
is of aue evill brutte and fame, and so was her mother before 
her." The event is not recorded. Ibid. ix. 74, parish of 
Erskine, is a reference to Arnot's Collection of Criminal Trials 
for an account of the Bargarran Witches. Ibid. xii. 197, 
parish of Kirriemuir, co. Forfar: "A circular pond, commonly 
called the Witch-pool, was .lately converted into a reservoir 
for the mills on the Gairie ; a much better use than, if we 
may judge from the name, the superstition of our ancestors 
led them to apply it." 

Ibid. xiv. 372, parish of Mid Calder, county of Edinburgh : 
Witches formerly burnt there. The method taken by persons 
employed to keep those who were suspected of witchcraft 
awake, when guarded, was, " to pierce their flesh with pins, 
needles, awls, or other sharp-pointed instruments. To rescue 
them from that oppression which sleep imposed on their al- 
most exhausted nature, they sometimes used irons heated to 
a state of redness." The reference for this is also to Arnot's 
Trials. Ibid, xviii. 57, parish of Kirkaldy, county of Fife, 
it is said : " A man and his wife were burnt here in 1 633, for 
the supposed crime of witchcraft. At that time the belief of 
witchcraft prevailed, and trials and executions on account of 
it were frequent, in all the kingdoms of Europe. It was in 
1634 that the famous Urban Grandier was, at the instigation 
of Cardinal Richelieu, whom he had satirized, tried, and con- 
demned to the stake, for exercising the black art on some 
nuns of Loudun, who were supposed to be possessed. And 
it was much about the same time that the wife of the 
Marechal d'Ancre (see p. 9) was burnt for a witch, at the 
Place de Greve, at Paris." In the Appendix, ibid. p. 653, 
are the particulars of the Kirkaldy witches. The follow- 
ing items of execution expenses are equally shocking and 
curious : 


s. d. 
11 For ten loads of coals to burn them . .368 Scots. 

For a tar-barrel 14 

For towes 060 

For harden to be jumps to them . .0310 
For making of them . . . . 8" &c. &c. 
Ibid. xx. 194, parishes of Dyke and Moy, county of Elgin 
and Forres, it is said : " Where the (parish) boundary crosses 
the heath called the Hardmoor, there lies somewhere a solitary 
spot of classic ground, unheeded here, but much renowned in 
Drury for the Thane of Glammis's interview with the way- 
ward or weird sisters in Macbeth." Ibid. p. 242, parish of 
Collace, county of Perth ; Dunsinnan Castle : " In Macbeth's 
time witchcraft was very prevalent in Scotland, and two of 
the most famous witches in the kingdom lived on each hand 
of Macbeth one at Collace, the other not far from Dunsinuan 
House, at a place called the Cape. Macbeth applied to them 
for advice, and by their counsel built a lofty castle upon the 
top of an adjoining hill, since called Dunsinnan. The moor 
where the witches met, which is in the parish of St. Martin's, 
is yet pointed out by the country people, and there is a stone 
still preserved which is called the Witches' Stone." For an 
account of the witches of Pittanweam, in the county of Fife, 
about the beginning of the last century, see the Edinb. Mag. 
for Oct. 1817, pp. 199-206. 

Mr. Pennant, in his Tour in Scotland, tells us, p. 145, that 
the last instance of the frantic executions for witchcraft, of 
which so much has been already said, in the north of Scotland, 
was in June, 1727, 1 as that in the south was at Paisley in 

_ ' In the Statistical Account of Scotland, parish of Loth, co. Sutherland, 
vi. 321, it is stated that the unhappy woman here alluded to was burnt 
at Dornoch, and that " the common people entertain strong prejudices 
against her relations to this day." From the same work, however, 
xv. 311, it should seem that the persecution of supposed witches is not 
yet entirely laid aside in the Orkneys. The minister of South Ronaldsay 
and Burray, two of those islands, says : " The existence of fairies and 
witches is seriously believed by some, who, in order to protect themselves 
from their attacks, draw imaginary circles, and place knives in the walls 
of houses. The worst consequence of this superstitious belief is, that, 
when a person loses a horse or cow, it sometimes happens that a poor 
woman in the neighbourhood is blamed, and knocked in some part of the 
head, above the breath, until the blood appears. But in these parishes 
there are many decent, honest, and sensible people who laugh at such 
absurdities, and treat them with deserved contempt." 


1696, where, among others, a woman, young and handsome, 
suffered, and with a reply to her inquiring friends worthy a 
Roman matron, being asked why she did not make a better 

F defence on her trial, answered, ' My persecutors have destroyed 
my honour, and my life is not now worth the pains of defend- 
ing.' The last instance of national credulity on this head 
was the story of the witches of Thurso, who, tormenting for 
a long time an honest fellow under the usual form, of cats, at 
last provoked him so, that one night he put them to flight 
with his broad sword, and cut oft the leg of one less nimble 
than the rest : on his taking it up, to his amazement he found 
it belonged to a female of his own species, and next morning 
discovered the owner, an old hag, with only the companion 
leg to this. But these relations of almost obsolete super- 
stitions must never be thought a reflection on this country as 
long as any memory remains of the tragical end of the poor 
people at Tring, who, within a few miles of our capital, in 
1751, fell a sacrifice to the belief of the common people in 
witches ; or of that ridiculous imposture in the capital itself, 
in 1762, of the Cock-lane ghost, which found credit with all 
ranks of people." 

"April 22, 1751 : At Tring, in Hertfordshire, one B d d, 
a publican, giving out that he was bewitched by one Osborne 
and his wife, harmless people above 70, had it cried at several 
market-towns that they were to be tried by ducking this day, 
which occasioned a vast concourse. The parish officers hav- 
ing removed the old couple from the workhouse into the 
church for security, the mob, missing them, broke the work- 
house windows, pulled down the pales, and demolished part 
of the house ; and, seizing the governor, threatened to drown 
him and fire the town, having straw in their hands for the 
purpose. The poor wretches were at length, for public safety, 
delivered up, stripped stark naked by the mob, their thumbs 
tied to their toes, then dragged two miles, and thrown into a 
muddy stream ; after much ducking and ill usage, the old 
woman was thrown quite naked on the bank, almost choked 
with mud, and expired in a few minutes, being kicked and 
beat with sticks, even after she was dead : and the man lies 
dangerously ill of his bruises. To add to the barbarity, they 
put the dead witch (as they called her) in bed with her hus- 
band, and tied them together. The coroner's inquest have 

in. 3 


since brought in their verdict wilful murder against Thomas 
Mason, William Myatt, Richard Grice, Richard Wadley, James 
Proudham, John Sprouting, John May, Adam Curling, Francis 
Meadows, arid twenty others, names unknown. The poor 
man is likewise dead of the cruel treatment he received." 
Gent. Mag. 1751, vol. xxi. p. 186. 

In another part of the same volume, p. 198, the incidents 
of this little narrative are corrected: " Tririg, May 2, 17. r )l. 
A little before the defeat of the Scotch, in the late rebellion, 
the old woman Osborne came to one Butterfield, who then 
kept a dairy at Gubblecot, and begged for some buttermilk, 
but Butterfield told her with great brutality that he had not 
enough for his hogs : this provoked the old woman, who went 
away, telling him that the Pretender would have him and his 
hogs too. Soon afterwards several of Butterfield's calves 
became distempered, upon which some ignorant people, who 
had been told the story of the buttermilk, gave out that they 
were bewitched by old mother Osborne ; and Butterfield him- 
self, who had now left his dairy, and taken the public-house 
by the brook of Gubblecot, having been lately, as he had been 
many years before at times, troubled with fits, mother 
Osborne was said to be the cause : he was persuaded that the 
doctors could do him no good, and was advised to send for 
an old woman out of Northamptonshire, who was famous for 
curing diseases that were produced by witchcraft. This 
sagacious person was accordingly sent for and came ; she 
confirmed the ridiculous opinion that had been propagated of 
Butterfield's disorder, and ordered six men to watch his house 
day and night with staves, pitchforks, and other weapons, at 
the same time hanging something about their necks, which 
she said was a charm that would secure them from being 
bewitched themselves. However, these extraordinary pro- 
ceedings produced no considerable effects, nor drew the atten- 
tion of the place upon them, till seme persons, in order to 
bring a large company together, with a lucrative view, ordered, 
by anonymous letters, that public notice should be given at 
Window, Leighton, and Hempstead, by the crier, that witches 
were to be tried by ducking at Longmarston on the 22d of 
April. The consequences were as above related, except that 
<> person has as yet been committed on the coroner's inquest 
except one Thomas Colley, chimney-sweeper ; but several of 


the ringleaders in the riot are known, some of whom live very 
remote, and no expense or diligence will be spared to bring 
them to justice." It appears, ibid. p. 378, that Thomas 
Colley was executed, and afterward hung in chains, for the 
murder of the above Ruth Osborne. 

Such, it would seem, was the folly and superstition of the 
crowd, that, when they searched the workhouse for the sup- 
posed witch, they looked even into the salt-box, supposing 
she might have concealed herself within less space than would 
contain a cat. The deceased, being dragged into the water, 
and not sinking, Colley went into the pond, and turned her 
over several times with a stick. It appeared that the deceased 
and her husband were wrapped in two different sheets ; but 
her body, being pushed about by Colley, slipped out of the 
sheet, and was exposed naked. In the same volume, p. 269, 
is a minute statement of the Earl of Derby's disorder, who 
was supposed to have died from witchcraft, April 16, 1594. 

In the Gent. Mag. also, for July 1760, vol. xxx. p. 346, 
we read : " Two persons concerned in ducking for witches all 
the poor old women in Glen and Burton Overy, were sentenced 
to stand in the pillory at Leicester." See another instance, 
which happened at Earl Shilton, in Leicestershire, in 1776, 
in the Scots Magazine for that year, xxxviii. 390. 

The following is from the Gent. Mag. for Jan. 1/31, i. 29, 
"Of Credulity in Witchcraft. From Burlington, in Pensil- 
vania, 'tis advised that the owners of several cattle, believing 
them to be bewitched, caused some suspected men and women 
to be taken up, and trials to be made for detecting 'em. 
About three hundred people assembled near the governor's 
house, and a pair of scales being erected, the suspected per- 
sons were each weighed against a large Bible, but all of them 
vastly outweighing it : the accused were then tied head and 
feet together, and put into a river, on supposition that if they 
swam they must be guilty. This they offered to undergo in 
case the accuser should be served in the like manner ; which 
being done, they all swam very buoyant, and cleared the 
accused. A like transaction happened at Frome, in Somerset- 
shire, in September last, published in the Daily Journal, 
Jan. 1 5, relating that a child of one Wheeler being seized 
with strange fits, the mother was advised, by a cunning man, 
to hang a bottle of the child's water, mixed with some of its 


hair, close stop't, over the fire, that the witch would thereupon 
come and break it. It does not mention the success; but a 
poor old woman in the neighbourhood was taken up, and the 
old trial by water-ordeal reviv'd. They dragg'd her, shiv ring 
with an ague, out of her house, set her astride on the pommel 
of a saddle, and carried her about two miles to a millpond, 
stript off her upper cloaths, tied her legs, and with a rope 
about her middle, threw her in, two hundred spectators aiding 
and abetting the riot. They affirm she swam like a cork, 
though forced several times under the water ; and no wonder, 
for, when they strained the line, the ends thereof being held 
on each side of the pond, she must of necessity rise ; but by 
haling and often plunging she drank water enough, and when 
almost spent they poured in brandy to revive her, drew her 
to a stable, threw her on some litter in her wet cloaths, where 
in an hour after she expired. The coroner, upon her inquest, 
could make no discovery of the ringleaders : although above 
forty persons assisted in the fact, yet none of them could be 
persuaded to accuse his neighbour, so that they were able to 
charge only three of them with manslaughter." 

Dr. Zouch, in a note to his edition of Walton's Lives, 1796, 
p. 482, says : " The opinion concerning the reality of witch- 
craft was not exploded even at the end of the seventeenth 
century. The prejudices of popular credulity are not easily 
effaced. Men of learning, either from conviction or some 
other equally powerful motive, adopted the system of Dsemon- 
ology advanced by James I. ; and it was only at a recent period 
that the Legislature repealed the Act made in the first year of 
the reign of that monarch, entitled an Act against Conjuration, 
Witchcraft, and dealing with Evil and Wicked Spirits." 

Lord Verulam's reflections on witches, in the tenth century 
of his Natural History, form a fine contrast to the narrow 
and bigoted ideas of the royal author of the Dsemonology, 
" Men may not too rashly believe the confession of witches, 
nor yet the evidence against them ; for the witches themselves 
are imaginative, and believe oftentimes they do that which 
they do not; and people are credulous in that point, and 
ready to impute accidents and natural operations to witch- 
craft. It is worthy the observing that, both in ancient and 
late times (as in the Thessalian witches, and the meetings of 
witches that have been recorded by so many late confessions), 


the great wonders which they tell, of carrying in the air, 
transforming themselves into other bodies, &c. are still re- 
ported to be wrought, not by incamtations or ceremonies, but 
by ointments and anointing themselves all over. This may 
justly move a man to think that these fables are the effects of 
imagination ; for it is certain that ointments do all (if they 
be laid on anything thick), by stopping of the pores, shut in 
the vapours, and send them to the head extremely. And for 
the particular ingredients of those magical ointments, it is 
like they are opiate and soporiferous : for anointing of the 
forehead, neck, feet, backbone, we know is used for procuring 
dead sleeps. And if any man say that this effect would be 
better done by inward potions, answer may be made that the 
medicines which go to the. ointments are so strong, that if 
they were used inwards they would kill those that use them, 
and therefore they work potently though outwards." 

In the play of the Witch of Edmonton, by Rowley, Dekker, 
Ford, &c. 1658, already quoted, act ii. sc. 1, the witch, 
Elizabeth Sawyer, is introduced gathering sticks, with this 
soliloquy : 

' " Why should the envious world 

Throw all their scandalous malice upon me, 

'Cause I am poor, deform'd, and ignorant, 

And like a bow buckled and bent together 

By some more strong in mischiefs than myself? 

Must I for that be made a common sink 

For all the filth and rubbish of men's tongues 

To fall and run into ? Some call me witch ; 

And, being ignorant of myself, they go 

About to teach me how to be one ; urging 

That my bad tongue (by their bad usage made so) 

Forespeaks their cattle, doth bewitch their corn, 

Themselves, their servants, and their babes at nurse. 

This they enforce upon me, and in part 

Make me to credit it." 

Mr. Warner, in his Topographical Remarks relating to the 
South-western parts of Hampshire, already quoted, says : " It 
would be a curious speculation to trace the origin and progress 
of that mode of thinking among the northern nations which 
gave the faculty of divination to females in ancient ages, and 
the gift of witchgraft to them in more modern times. The 
learned reader will receive great satisfaction in the perusal of 
a dissertation of Keysler, entitled De Mulieribus fatidicis, ad 


calc. Antiq. Select. Septen. p. 3/1. Much information on 
the same subject is also to be had in M. Mallet s Northern 
Antiquities, vol. L; and in the Notes of the Edda, vol. n." 1 

In an account of witchcraft, the cat, who is the sine qua 
non of a witch, deserves particular consideration. If I mis- 
take not, this is a connexion which has cost our domestic 
animal all that persecution with which it is, by idle boys at least, 
incessantly pursued. In ancient times the case was very different. 
These animals were anciently revered as emblems of the moon, 
and among the Egyptians were on that account so highly 
honoured as to receive sacrifices and devotions, and had stately 
temples erected to their honour. 2 It is said that in whatever 
house a cat died, all the family shaved their eyebrows. No 
favorite lap-dog among the moderns had received such 
posthumous honours. Diodorus Siculus relates that a Roman 
happening accidentally to kill a cat, the mob immediately 
gathered about the house where he was, and neither the en- 
treaties of some principal men sent by the king, nor the fear 
of the Romans, with whom the Egyptians were then nego- 
tiating a peace, could save the man's life. 

The following particulars relating to a game in which a cat 
was treated with savage cruelty by our barbarous ancestors, 

1 The curious reader may also consult Andrew's Contin. of Henry's 
Hist, of Great Britain, 4to. 35, 196, 198, 207, 303, 374 ; a Discourse of the 
subtill Practises of Devilles by Witches and Sorcerers, byG. Gyffoid, 4to. 
Lond., 1587 ; a Philosophical Endeavour towards the Defence of the Being 
of Witches and Apparitions, in a letter to the much honoured Robert Hunt, 
Esq., by a member of the Royal Society, 4to. Lond. 1666 ; and an Histo- 
rical Essay concerning witchcraft, by Francis Hutchinson, D.D., 8vo. 
Lond. 1718 ; the second chapter of which contains a chronological table 
of the executions or trials of supposed witches. An account of the New 
England witches will be found in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, vol. 
viii. p. 261. Among foreign publications, De Lamiis et Phitonicis Mulie- 
ribus ad illustrissimum Principem Dominum Sigismundum Archiducem 
Austrie Tractatus dulcherrimus, 4to. [1489] b. I. ; Compendium Male- 
ficarum, 4to. Mediol. 1626 ; Tractatus duo singulares de examine Sagarum 
super Aquam frigidam projectarum, 4to. Franc, et Lips, 1686; and Speci- 
men Juridicum de nefando Lamiarum cum Diabolo Coitu, per J. Hen. 
Pott, 4to. Jenae, 1689. Some curious notes on witchcraft, illustrated by 
authorities from the classics, occur at the end of the 1st, 2d, and 3d acts 
of the Lancashire Witches, a comedy, by Thomas Shadwell, 4to. London, 
1691. See also, Confessions of Witchcraft, in Blackwood's Edinburgh 
Magazine, vol. i. pp. 167, 497, 498. 

2 Compare Savary's Letters, vol. ii. p. 438. 


still or lately retained at Kelso 1 , are extracted from a Par- 
ticular Description of the Town of Kelso, &c., by Ebenezer 
Lazarus, 8vo. Kelso, 1789, p. 144: "There is a society or 
brotherhood in the town of Kelso, which consists of farmers' 
servants, ploughmen, husbandmen, or whip-men, who hold a 
meeting once a-year for the purpose of merriment and divert- 
ing themselves : being all finely dressed out in their best 
clothes, and adorned with great bunches of beautiful ribands 
on the crown of their heads, which hang down over their 
shoulders like so many streamers. By the beating of a drum 
they repair to the market-place, well mounted upon fine horses, 
armed with large clubs and great wooden hammers, about 
eleven o'clock in the forenoon, when they proceeded to a 
common field about half a mile from the town, attended all 
the way with music and' an undisciplined rabble of men, 
women, and children, for the purpose of viewing the merri- 
ment of a cat in barrel, which is highly esteemed by many for 
excellent sport. The generalissimo of this regiment of whip- 
men, who has the honorable style and title of my lord, being 
arrived with the brotherhood at the place of rendezvous, the 
music playing, the drum beating, and their flag waving in the 
air, the poor timorous cat is put into a barrel partly stuffed 
with soot, and then hung up between two high poles, upon a 
cross-beam, below which they ride in succession, one after 
another, besieging poor puss with their large clubs and wooden 
hammers. The barrel, after many a frantic blow, being 
broken, the wretched animal makes her reluctant appearance 
amidst a great concourse of spectators, who seem to enjoy 
much pleasure at the poor animal's shocking figure, and ter- 
minate her life and misery by barbarous cruelty." The 
author, having called the perpetrators of this deed by a name 
no softer than that of the " Savages of Kelso," concludes the 
first act with the following miserable couplet : 

" The cat in the barrel exhibits such a farce 
That he who can relish it is worse than an ass." 

The second act is described as follows : " The cruel brother- 
hood having sacrificed this useful and domestic animal to the 
idol of cruelty, they next gallantly, and with great heroism, 

1 A town only, not in England, being situated on the northern bank 
of the Tweed. 


proceeded with their sport to the destruction of a poor simple 
goose, which is next hung up by the heels, like the worst of 
malefactors, with a convulsed breast, in the most pungent dis- 
tress and struggling for liberty ; when this merciless and pro- 
fligate society, marching in succession, one after another, 
each in his turn takes a barbarous pluck at the head, quite 
regardless of its misery. After the miserable creature has re- 
ceived many a rude twitch, the head is carried away." They 
conclude their sports with a clumsy horse-race. Our author 
has omitted to mention on what day of the year all this was 
done. He says, however, it is now left off. 

In the remarkable account of witches in Scotland (before 
James the First's coming to the crown of England), about 
1591, entitled News from Scotland : the damnable Life and 
Death of Dr. Fian I (printed from the old copy in the 
Gent. Mag. for 1779, xlix. 449), is the following: "Agnis 
Thompson confessed that, at the time when his Majesty was 
in Denmark, she being accompanied with the parties before 
specially named, took a cat and christened it, and afterwards 
bound to each part of that cat the chiefest parts of a dead 
man, and several joints of his body ; and that in the night 
following the said cat was conveyed into the midst of the sea 
by all these witches sailing in their riddles or cieves, as is 
aforesaid, and so left the said cat right before the town of Leith, 
in Scotland ; this done, there did arise such a tempest in the 
sea as a greater hath not been seen ; which tempest was the 
cause of the perishing of a boat or vessel coming over from 
the town of Brunt Island to the town of Leith, wherein were 
sundry jewels and rich gifts, which should have been pre- 
sented to the now Queen of Scotland, at her Majesty's coming 
to Leith. Again it is confessed that the said christened cat 
was the cause that the King's Majesty's ship, at his coming 
forth of Denmark, had a contrary wind to the rest of his ships 
then being in his company ; which thing was most strange 
and true, as the King's Majesty acknowledged." 

One plainly sees in this publication the foundation-stones 
of the royal treatise on Dsemonology ; and it is said " these con- 

1 This Doctor Fian was registrar to the devil, and sundry times 
preached at North Baricke Kirke to a number of notorious witches ; the 
very persons who in this work are said to have pretended to bewitch 
and drown his Majesty in the sea coming from Denmark. 


fessions made the king in a wonderful admiration/' and he 
sent for one Geillis Dtmcane, 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 Baeotics); 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 Pheebi 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 descrip- 
tion of the witch Mause, in the Gentle Shepherd, the fol- 
lowing occurs : 

" And vender's Mause ; 

She and her cat sit becking in her yard." 

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 ; 
And boys against our lives combine, 
Because, 'tis said, your cats have nine." 

The writer of a Journey through the Highlands of Scot- 
land, inserted in the Scots Magazine, Ixiv. 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, speak- 
ing 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 re- 
nowned for killing a monster that had but three lives." The 
Guardian, No. 61, adds : "Whether the unaccountable animo- 
sity against this useful domestic may be any cause of the ge- 
neral 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. I. 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 fa- 
miliar with whom a witch converses sucks her right breast in 
shape of a little dun cat, as smooth as a mole, which when it 

1 Inajeu 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 

Hosted all whole, how you'le fly to it, 
Like widgeons, or like wild geese in full flocks, 

That for his penny each may have his bitte : 
Set out a pageant, whoo'l not thither runne ? 
As twere to whip the cat at Abington" 

In Frost Fair, a very rare topographical print, printed on 
the River Thames in the year 1 740, there is the following re- 
ference : " No. 6, Cat in the Basket Booth." Although it is 
doubtful whether it was used merely as an ale-booth, or in- 
tended 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.] 



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, 
When none that lookes on't but will sweare 'tis gray ?" 

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 be- 
witching eyes, affirming that in Scythia there are women 
called Bithise, 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 
nghteousnesse 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 ge- 
minam habent pupillam, sicut Illyrici, which have double- 
sighted eyes ; so," &c. 

[The following very curious particulars are taken from a 
recent number of the Athenaeum -.Turning the Coal ; a 
Countercharm to the Evil Eye. It is necessary that persons 

1 [Brand has here inserted several quotations respecting the laby in 
the eye, which have nothing to do with the subject. See an explanation 
of this phrase in Hallivvell's Dictionary, p. 129.] 


with the power of an evil eye go through certain forms be- 
fore 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 per- 
son 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 

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 

Martin, in his Description of the Western Islands of Scot- 
land, p. 123, says: "All these islanders, and several thou- 
sands of the neighbouring continent, are of opinion that some 


particular persons have an evil eye, which affects children and 
cattle. This, they say, occasions frequent mischances and 
sometimes death." In the same work, p. 38, speaking of the 
Isle of Harries, he says : " There is variety of nuts, called 
Moll uka Beans, some of which are used as amulets against 
witchcraft or an evil eye, particularly the white one : and, 
upon this account, they are wore about children's necks, and 
if any evil is intended to them, they say the nut changes into 
a black colour. That they did change colour I found true by 
my own observation, but cannot be positive as to the cause of 
it. Malcom Campbell, Steward of Harries, told me, that 
some weeks before my arrival there all his cows gave blood 
instead of milk for several days together: one of the neigh- 
bours told his wife that this must be witchcraft, and it would 
be easy to remove it, if she would but take the white nut, 
called the Virgin Mary's Nut, and lay it in the pail into which 
she was to milk the cows. This advice she presently fol- 
lowed, and, having milked one cow into the pail with the nut 
in it, the milk was all blood, and the nut changed its colour 
into dark brown. She used the nut again, and all the cows 
gave pure good milk, which they ascribe to the virtue of the 
nut. This very nut Mr. Campbell presented me with, and I 
keep it still by me." 

In Heron's Journey through Part of Scotland, ii. 228, we 
read: "Cattle are subject to be injured by what is called an 
evil eye, for some persons are supposed to have naturally a 
blasting power in their eyes, with which they injure whatever 
offends or is hopelessly desired by them. Witches and war- 
locks are also much disposed to wreak their malignity on 
cattle." " Charms," the writer adds, " are the chief reme- 
dies applied for their diseases. I have been, myself, ac- 
quainted wjth an anti-burgher clergyman in these parts, who 
actually procured from a person, who pretended skill in these 
charms, two small pieces of wood, curiously wrought, to be 
kept in his father's cow-house, as a security for the health of 
his cows. It is common to bind into a cow's tail a small 
piece of mountain-ash wood, as a charm against witchcraft. 
Few old women are now suspected of witchcraft ; but many 
tales are told of the conventions of witches in the kirks in 
former times." 

[" Your interesting papers," says a correspondent of the 


Athenaeum, " upon * Folk Lore,' have brought to my recol- 
lection a number of practices common in the west of Scot- 
land. The first is a test for, as a charm to prevent, an ' ill 
e'e.' Any individual ailing not sufficiently for the case to be 
considered serious, but lingering, is deemed to be the object 
of 'an ill e'e,' of some one * that 's no canny.' The following 
operation is then performed : An old sixpence is borrowed 
from some neighbour, without telling the object to which it 
is to be applied ; as much salt as can be lifted upon the six- 
pence is put into a table-spoonful of water, and melted ; the 
sixpence is then put into the solution, and the soles of the 
feet and palms of the hands of the patient are moistened 
three times with the salt water ; it is then tasted three times, 
and the patient afterwards 'scored aboon the breath,' that is, 
by the operator dipping the forefinger into the salt water, 
and drawing it along the brow. When this is done, the con- 
tents of the spoon are thrown behind, and right over the fire, 
the thrower saying at the same time, * Lord preserve us frae 
a' scathe ! ' If recovery follow this, there is no doubt of the 
individual having been under the influence of an evil eye."] 

In Braithwaite's Two Lancashire Lovers, 1640, p. 19, in 
Camillas' s speech to Doriclea, in the Lancashire dialect, he 
tells her, in order to gain her affections, "We han store of 
goodly cattell ; my mother, though shee bee a vixon, shee 
will blenke blithly on you for my cause ; and we will ga to 
the Davvnes and slubber up a sillibub ; and I will looke babies 
in your eyes> and picke sillycornes out of your toes : and wee 
will han a whiskin at every Rush-bearing, a wassel-cup at 
Yule, a seed-cake at Fastens, and a lusty cheese-cake at our 
Sheepe-wash ; and will not aw this done bravely, jantle- 
wornan?" In her answer to this clown's addresses, she ob- 
serves, among other passages, " What know you but I may 
prove untoward ? and that will bring your mother to her 
grave ; make you {pretty babe] put finger ith' eye, and turne 
the doore quite off the hinges." The above romance is said 
to have been founded on a true history : the costume appears 
to be very accurate and appropriate. 

Volney, in his Travels in Egypt and Syria, i. 246, says : 
'* The ignorant mothers of many of the modern Egyptians, 
whose hollow eyes, pale faces, swoln bellies, and meagre ex- 
tremities make them seem as if they had not long to live, be- 


lieve this to be the effect of the evil eye of some envious person, 
who has bewitched them ; and this ancient prejudice is still 
general in Turkey." 

' Nothing," says Mr. Dallaway, in his Account of Con- 
stantinople, 1797, p. 391, "can exceed the superstition of 
the Turks respecting the evil eye of an enemy or infidel. Pas- 
sages from the Koran are painted on the outside of the houses, 
globes of glass are suspended from the ceilings, and a part of 
the superfluous caparison of their horses is designed to attract 
attention and divert a sinister influence." That this super- 
stition was known to the Romans we have the authority of 
Virgil : " Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos." 
Eel. iii. 

The following passage from one of Lord Bacon's works is 
cited in Minor Morals, i. 24 : " It seems some have been so 
curious as to note that the times when the stroke or percussion 
of an envious eye does most hurt are particularly when the 
party envied is beheld in glory and triumph." 

Lupton, in his fourth Book of Notable Things, No. 81 
(edit. 1660, p. 103), says : "The eyes be not only instruments 
of enchantment, but also the voyce and evil tongues of certain 
persons ; for there are found in Africk, as Gellius saith, fami- 
lies of men, that, if they chance exceedingly to praise fair 
trees, pure seeds, goodly children, excellent horses, fair and 
well-liking cattle, soon after they will wither and pine away, 
and so dye ; no cause or hurt known of their withering or 
death. Thereupon the custome came, that when any do 
praise anything, that we should say, God blesse it or keepe 
it. Arist. in Prob. by the report of Mizaldus." 

In Boswell's Life of Johnson, iii. 200, it is observed : " In 
days of superstition they thought that holding the poker be- 
fore the fire would drive away the witch who hindered the 
fire from burning, as it made the sign of the cross." In Scot- 
land they say, " if ye can draw blud aboon the braith," the 
fascinating power of a witch's eyes will cease. 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xv. 258, parish of 
Monzie, shire of Perth, we are told : " The power of an evil 
eye is still believed, although the faith of the people in witch- 
craft is much enfeebled." 

In the same work, xviii. 123, parish of Gargunnock, county 
of Stirling, we read: "The dregs of superstition are still to 


be found. The less informed suspect something like witch- 
craft about poor old women, and are afraid of their evil eye 
among the cattle. If a cow is suddenly taken ill, it is ascribed 
to some extraordinary cause. If a person when called to see 
one does not say, ' I "wish her luck,' there would be a suspicion 
he had some bad design." Ibid. xiv. 526, parish of Auchter- 
house, county of Forfar ; extracts from the parish register : A 
fast to be kept July 9, 1646, for various reasons: among 
them, " 4thly, Because of the pregnant scandal of witches 
and charmers within this part of the land, we are to suppli- 
cate the Lord therefore." The third is singularly curious : 
" Because of the desolate state and cure of several congre- 
gations, which have been starved by dry-beasted ministers 
this long time bygone, and now are wandering like sheep but 
(i. e. without) shepherds, and witnesseth no sense of scant." 
"6 Janaure, 1650: On that day the minister desired the 
session to make search every ane in their own quarter gave 
they knew of any witches or charmers in the paroch, and delate 
them to the next session." "July 18, 1652: Janet Fife 
made her public repentance before the pulpit, for learning M. 
Robertson to charm her child ; and whereas M. Robertson 
should have done the like, it pleased the Lord before that 
time to call upon her by death." Ibid. xix. 354, parish of 
Bendothy, county of Perth : "I have known an instance in 
churning butter, in which the cream, after more than ordi- 
nary labour, cast up only one pound of butter, instead of four, 
which it ought. By standing a while to cool, and having the 
labour repeated over again, it cast up the other three pounds 
of butter." 

" When Kitty kirned, and there nae butter came, 
Ye, Mause, gat a' the wyte." Allan Ramsay. 

In going once to visit the remains of Brinkburne Abbey, in 
Northumberland, I found a reputed witch in a lonely cottage 
by the side of a wood, where the parish had placed her, to save 
expenses and keep her out of the way. On inquiry at a neigh- 
bouring farmhouse, I was told, though I was a long while 
before I could elicit anything from the inhabitants in it con- 
cerning her, that everybody was afraid of her cat, and that 
she herself was thought to have an evil eye, and that it was 
accounted dangerous to meet her in a morning " black-fast- 

in. 4 


The Morning Herald of Friday, Aug. 16, 1839, affords an 
evidence of the belief in the fascination of witches still occa- 
sionally existing in London, in the instance of two lodgers, 
one of whom squinted, and the other, to avert the supposed 
consequences from the defect of the first, considered she could 
only protect herself by spitting in her face three times a day. 


PENNANT, in his Zoology, 1776, iii. 15, speaking of the 
toad, with the Roman fables concerning it, adds : " In after- 
times superstition gave it preternatural powers, and made it a 
principal ingredient in the incantations of nocturnal hags : 

' Toad, that under the cold stone 
Days and nights hast thirty-one 
Swelter'd venom sleeping got, 
Boil thou first i'th' charmed pot.' 

" We know by the poet that this was intended for a design 
of the first consideration, that of raising and bringing before 
the eyes of Macbeth a hateful second sight of the prosperity 
of Banquo's line. This shows the mighty powers attributed 
to this animal by the dealers in the magic art. But the powers 
our poet endues it with are far superior to those that Gesner 
ascribes to it. Shakspeure's witches used it to disturb the 
dead ; Gesner's only to still the living.'' 

Pennant, in the volume already quoted, p. 154, speaking of 
the wolf-fish teeth, observes: "These and the other grinding 
teeth are often found fossil, and in that state called Bufonites, 
or Toad-stones : they were formerly much esteemed for their 
imaginary virtues, and were set in gold, and worn as rings." 

Connected with this is a similar ancient superstition with 
regard to the setites or eagle-stone, concerning which, the 
same author (Zoology, i. 167) tells us: "The ancients be- 
lieved that the pebble commonly called the setites or eagle- 
stone, was found in the eagle's nest, and that the eggs could 
not be hatched without its assistance. Many absurd stories 
have been raised about this fossil." 

The same writer, in his Journey from Chester to London, 


p. 264, speaking of the shrine of St. Alban, which contained 
the reliques of that martyr, " made of beaten gold and silver 
and enriched with gems and sculpture," says : " The gems were 
taken from the treasury, one excepted, which, being of singu- 
lar use to parturient women, was left out. This was no other 
than the famous setites or eagle-stone, in most superstitious 
repute from the days of Pliny (lib. xxxvi. c. 21) to that of 
Abbot Geffry, refounder of the shrine." " We may add here," 
he continues, " another superstition in respect to this animal. 
It was believed by some old writers to have a stone in its 
head, fraught with great virtues, medical and magical. It 
was distinguished by the name of the reptile, and called the 
Toad-stone, Bufonites, Crapaudine, Krottenstein (Boet. de 
Boot de Lap. et Gem. 301, 303) ; but all its fancied powers 
vanished on the discovery of its being nothing but the fossile 
tooth of the sea-wolf, or some other flat-toothed fish, not un- 
frequent in our island, as well as several other countries." 
To this toad-stone Shakespeare alludes in the following beau- 
tiful simile : 

" Sweet are the uses of adversity, 
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous, 
Wears yet a precious jewel in its head." 

Steevens, in his note upon this passage, says that Thomas 
Lupton, in his first Book of Notable Things, bears repeated 
testimony to the virtues of the tode-stone called crapaudina. 
In his seventh book he instructs how to procure it, and after- 
wards tells us : " You shall knowe whether the tode-stone be 
the ryght and perfect stone or not. Holde the stone before a 
tode, so that he may see it ; and, if it be a right and true 
stone, the tode will leape towarde it, and make as though he 
would snatch it. He envieth so much that man should have 
that stone." In Lluellin's Poems, 8vo. Lond. 16/9, p. 85, 
are the following lines on this subject : 

" Now, as the worst things have some things of stead, 
And some toads treasure jewels in their head." 

The author of the Gentle Shepherd (a beautiful pastoral in 
the Scottish dialect, that equals perhaps the Idyllia of Theo- 
critus) has made great use of this superstition. He intro- 
duces a clown telling the powers of a witch in the following 
words : 


11 She can o'ercast the night, and cloud the moon, 
And mak the deils obedient to her crune. 
At midnight hours o'er the kirkyards she raves, 
And howks unchristen'd weans out of their graves ! 
Boils up their livers in a warlock's pow, 
Rins withershins about the hemlock's low ; 
And seven times does her pray'rs backwards pray, 
Till Plotcok comes with lumps of Lapland clay, 
Mixt with the venom of black taids and snakes ; 
Of this unsonsy pictures aft she makes 
Of ony ane she hates ; and gars expire 
With slaw and racking pains afore a fire : 
Stuck fou of prines, the divelish pictures melt ; 
The pain by fowk they represent is felt." 

Afterwards she describes the ridiculous opinions of the 
country people, who never fail to surmise that the commonest 
natural effects are produced from supernatural causes : 

" When last the wind made glaud a roofless barn ; 
When last the burn bore down my mither's yarn ; 
When brawny elf-shot never mair came hame ; 
When Tibby kirnd, and there nae butter came ; 
When Bessy Freetock's chuffy-cheeked wean 
To a fairy turn'd, and could nae stand its lane ; 
When Wattie wander'd ae night thro' the shaw, 
And tint himsel amaist amang the snaw ; 
When Mungo's mare stood still and swat with fright, 
When he brought east the howdy under night ; 
When Bawsy shot to dead upon the green, 
And Sarah tint a snood was nae mair seen ; 
You, Lucky, gat the wyte of aw fell out, 
And ilka ane here dreads you round about," &c. 

The old woman, in the subsequent soliloquy, gives us a 
philosophical account of the people's folly : 

11 Hard luck, alake ! when poverty and eild 
Weeds out of fashion ; and a lanely bield, 
With a sma cast of wiles, should in a twitch, 
Gie ane the hatefu' name, a wrinkled witch. 
This fool imagines, as do mony sic 
That I'm a wretch in compact with auld Nick, 
Because by education I was taught 
To speak and act aboon their common thought." 

This pastoral, unfortunately for its fame, is written in a 
dialect by no means generally understood. Had Mr. Addison 
known, or could he have read this, how fine a subject 


would it have afforded him on which to have displayed his 
inimitable talent for criticism ! 

The subsequent, much to our purpose, is from the Life of 
Lord Keeper Guildford, p. 129: "It is seldom that a poor 
old wretch is brought to trial (for witchcraft) but there is at 
the heels of her a popular rage that does little less than de- 
mand her to be put to death ; and if a judge is so clear and 
open as to declare against that impious vulgar opinion, that 
the devil himself has power to torment and kill innocent 
children, or that he is pleased to divert himself with the good 
people's cheese, butter, pigs, and geese, and the like errors of 
the ignorant and foolish rabble, the countrymen (the triers) 
cry, 'this judge hath no religion, for he doth not believe 
witches,' and so, to show they have some, hang the poor 
wretches/' 1 

A writer in the Gent. Mag. for March, 1736, vi. 137, says : 
" The old woman must, by age, be grown very ugly, her face 
shrivelled, her body doubled, and her voice scarce intelligible : 
hence her form made her a terror to children, who, if they 
were affrighted at the poor creature, were immediately said to 
be bewitched. The mother sends for the parish priest, and 
the priest for a constable. The imperfect pronunciation of 
the old woman, and the paralytic nodding of her head, were 
concluded to be muttering diabolical charms, and using cer- 
tain magical gestures : these were proved upon her at the 
next assizes, and she was burnt or hanged as an enemy to 

From a physical manuscript in quarto, of the date of 1475, 
formerly in the collection of Mr. Herbert, of Cheshunt, now 
in my library, I transcribe the following charm against witch- 
craft : " Here ys a Charme for wyked Wych. In nomine 
Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen. Per Virtutem Do- 
mini sint medicina mei pia Crux J< et passio Christi J. Vul- 
nera quinque Domini sint medicina mei J. Virgo Maria 
mihi succurre, et defende ab omni maligno demonio, et ab 
omni maligno spiritu : Amen. ^a^g^l^a*^ Te- 
tragrammaton. ^ Alpha. J< oo. *J primogenitus, J vita, 
vita. J< sapiencia, J< Virtus, J< Jesus Nazarenus rex judeo- 
rum, >J<fili Domini, miserere mei, Amen. >J< Marcus J< Ma- 

1 See also Pandaemonium, or the Devil's Cloyster ; proving the Exist- 
ence of Witches, &c. 8vo. 1684 ; and Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, ii. 476. 


theus J< Lucas J< Johannes mihi succurrite et defendite, 
Amen. J< Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, hunc N. famtilum 
tuum hoc breve scriptum super se portantem prospere salvet 
dormiendo, vigilando, potando, et precipue sompniando ab 
omni maligno demonic, eciam ab omni maligno spiritu >J<." 

In Scot's Discovery, p. 160, we have "A Special Charm to 
preserve all Cattel from Witchcraft. At Easter, you must 
take certain drops that lie uppermost of the holy paschal 
candle, and make a little wax candle thereof ; and upon some 
Sunday morning rathe, light it, and hold it so as it may drop 
upon and between the horns and ears of the beast, saying, 
' In nomine Patris et Filii,' &c., and burn the beast a 'little 
between the horns on the ears with the same wax ; and that 
which is left thereof, stick it cross-wise about the stable or 
stall, or upon the threshold, or over the door, where the cattle 
use to go in and out : and for all that year your cattle shall 
never be bewitched." 

Pennant teUs us, in his Tour in Scotland, that the farmers 
carefully preserve their cattle against witchcraft by placing 
boughs of mountain-ash and honeysuckle in their cowhouses 
on the 2d of May. They hope to preserve the milk of their 
cows, and their wives from miscarriage, by tying threads about 
them : they bleed the supposed witch to preserve themselves 
from her charms. 

Gaule, as before cited, p. 142, speaking of the preserva- 
tives against witchcraft, mentions, as in use among the Papists, 
' the tolling of a baptized bell, signing with the signe of the 
crosse, sprinkling with holy water, blessing of oyle waxe 
candles, salt, bread, cheese/garments, weapons, &c c^TyS 
bout saints' reliques, with a thousand superstitious fopperies ;" 
then enumerates those which are used by men of all reli- 
' 1 . In seeking to a witch to be holpen against a witch. 
.In using a certain or supposed charme, against an uncer- 
taine or suspected witchcraft. 3. In searching anxiously for 

e Th'r i e Yl lgn T ^f leftb ehinde her in the house under 
ftl* ^?^_ V and to ^ -e to light 

found 1 ? 


and defying the witch out of a carnal security and presump- 
tuous temerity." 1 

The following passage is taken from Stephens's Characters, 
p. 375 : "The torments therefore of hot iron and mercilesse 
scratching nayles be long thought uppon and much threatned 
(by the females) before attempted. Meanetime she tolerates 
defiance thorough the wrathfull spittle of matrons, in stead 
of fuell, or maintenance to her damnable intentions." He 
goes on " Children cannot smile upon her without the hazard 
of a perpetual wry mouth : a very nobleman's request may 
be denied more safely than her petitions for butter, milke, 
and small beere ; and a great ladies or queenes name may be 
lesse doubtfully derided. Her prayers and amen be a charm 
and a curse : her contemplations and soules delight bee other 
men's mischiefe : her portion and sutors be her soule and a 
succubus : her highest adorations beyew-trees, dampish church- 
yards, and a fayre moonlight : her best preservatives be odde 
numbers and niightie Tetragramaton." 


A SORCERER or magician, says Grose, differs from a witch 
in this : a witch derives all her power from a compact with 
the devil : a sorcerer commands him, and the infernal spirits, 
by his skill in powerful charms and invocations : and also 
soothes and entices them by fumigations. For the devils are 
observed to have delicate nostrils, abominating and flying 
some kinds of stinks: witness the flight of the evil spirit 
into the remote parts of Egypt, driven by the smell of a fish's 
liver burned by Tobit. They are also found to be peculiarly 
fond of certain perfumes : insomuch that Lilly informs us 
that, one Evans having raised a spirit at the request of Lord 
Bothwell and Sir Kenelm Digby, and forgotten a suffumiga- 

1 It was an article in the creed of popular superstition concerning 
witches to believe " that, when they are in hold, they must leave their 
DEVIL." See Holiday's old play of the Marriage of the Arts, 4to. 1630, 
signat.^N. 4. " Erapescher qu'un sorcier," says M. Thiers, "ne sorte du 
logis ou il est, en mettant des balais a la porte de ce logis." Traite des 
Superstitions, p. 331. 


lion, the spirit, vexed at the disappointment, snatched him 
out of his circle, and carried him from his house in the Mino- 
ries into a field near Battersea Causeway. 

King James, in his Deenionologia, says : " The art of sor- 
cery consists in divers forms of circles and conjurations rightly 
joined together, few or more in number according to the 
number of persons conjurors (always passing the singular 
number^, according to the qualitie of the circle and form of 
the apparition. Two principal things cannot well in that 
errand be wanted : holy water (whereby the devil mocks the 
Papists), and some present of a living thing unto him. There 
are likewise certain daies and houres that they observe in this 
purpose. These things being all ready and prepared, circles 
are made, triangular, quadrangular, round, double, or single, 
according to the form of the apparition they crave. But to 
speake of the diverse formes of the circles, of the innu- 
merable characters and crosses that are within and without, 
and out-through the same ; of the diverse formes of appa- 
ritions that the craftie spirit illudes them with, and of all 
such particulars in that action, I remit it over to many that 
have busied their heads in describing of the same, as being 
but curious and altogether unprofitable. And this farre only 
I touch, that, when the conjured spirit appeares, which will 
not be while after many circumstances, long prayers and much 
muttering and murmurings of the conjurers, like a papist 
prieste despatching a huntting masse how soone, I say, he 
appeares, if they have missed one jote of all their rites ; or if 
any of their feete once slyd over the circle, through terror of 
this fearful apparition, he paies himself at that time, in his 
owne hand, of that due debt which they ought him and other- 
wise would have delaied longer to have paied him ; I meane, 
he carries them with him, body and soul. 

' If this be not now a just cause to make them weary of 
these formes of conjuration, I leave it to you to judge upon ; 
considering the longsomeness of the labour, the precise keep- 
ing of daies and houres (as I have said), the terribleness of 
the apparition, and the present peril that they stand in in 
missing the least circumstance or freite that they ought to 
observe : and, on the other part, the devill is gkd to moove 
them to a plame and square dealing with them, as I said be- 


" This," Grose observes, " is a pretty accurate description 
of this mode of conjuration, styled the circular method ; but, 
with all due respect to his Majesty's learning, square and tri- 
angular circles are figures not to be found in Euclid or any 
of the common writers on geometry. But perhaps King 
James learnt his mathematics from the same system as Doctor 
Sacheverell, who, in one of his speeches or sermons, made use 
of the following simile : ' They concur like parallel lines, 
meeting in one common centre.' " 

The difference between a conjuror, a witch, and an en- 
chanter, according to Minshew, in his Dictionary, is as fol- 
lows : " The conjurer seemeth by praiers and invocations of 
God's powerful names, to compel the divell to say or doe 
what he commandeth him. .The witch dealeth rather by a 
friendly and voluntarie conference or agreement between him 
and her and the divell or familiar, to have his or her turn 
served, in lieu or stead of blood or other gift offered unto him, 
especially of his or her soule. And both these differ from in- 
chanters or sorcerers, because the former two have personal 
conference with the divell, and the other meddles but with 
medicines and ceremonial formes of words called charmes, 
without apparition." 

Reginald Scot, in his Discourse on Devils and Spirits, p. 
72, tells us that, with regard to conjurors, "The circles by 
which they defend themselves are commonly nine foot in 
breadth, but the eastern magicians must give seven." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 16, speaking of conjurors, 
says : " They always observe the time of the moone before 
they set their figure, and when they have set their figure and 
spread their circle, first exorcise the wine and water which 
they sprinkle on their circle, then mumble in an unknown 
language. Doe they not crosse and exorcise their surplus, 
their silver wand, gowne, cap, and every instrument they use 
about their blacke and damnable art ? Nay, they crosse the 
place whereon they stand, because they thinke the devill hath 
no power to come to it when they have blest it." 

The following passage occurs in A Strange Horse-Race, by 
Thomas Dekker, 1613, signat. D. 3: "He darting an eye 
upon them, able to confound a thousand conjurers in their 
own circles (though with a wet finger they could fetch up a 
little divell)." 


In Osborne's Advice to his Son, 8vo. Oxf. 1656, p. 100, 
speaking of the soldiery, that author says: "They, like the 
spirits of conjurors, do oftentimes teare their ^ masters and 
raisers in pieces, for want of other imployment." l 

I find Lubrican to have been the name of one of these 
spirits thus raised ; in the second part of Dekker's Honest 
Whore, 1630, is the following : 

As for your Irish Lubrican, that spirit 
Whom by 'preposterous charmes thy lust hath raised 
In a wrong circle, him lie damne more blacke 
Then any tyrant's soule." 

A jealous husband is threatening an Irish servant, with 
whom he suspects his wife to have played false. In the 
Witch of Edmonton, 1658, p. 32, Winnifride, as a boy, 

says : 

" I'll be no pander to him ; and if I finde 
Any loose Lubrick 'scapes in him, I'll watch him, 
And, at my return, protest I'll shew you all." 

The old vulgar ceremonies used in raising the devil, such 
as making a circle with chalk, setting an old hat in the centre 
of it, repeating the Lord's Prayer backward, &c. &c., are 
now altogether obsolete, and seem to be forgotten even amongst 
our boys. 

Mason, in his Anatomic of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 86, ridicules 
" Inchanters and charmers they, which by using of certaine 
conceited words, characters, circles, amulets, and such-like 
vaine and wicked trumpery (by God's permission) doe worke 
great marvailes : as namely in causing of sicknesse, as also 
in_ curing diseases in men's bodies. And likewise binding 
some, that they cannot use their naturall powers and facul- 
ties, as we see in night-spells ; insomuch as some of them 
doe take in hand to bind the divell himselfe by their inchant- 
ments." The following spell is from Herrick's Hesperides, 
p. 304 : 

" Holy water come and bring ; 
Cast in salt for seasoning ; 
Set the brush for sprinkling : 

i [D n that old firelock, what a clatter he makes ; curse him, he '11 
never be a conjurer for he wa'nt born dumb." History of Jack Connor. 
1 752, i. 233.] 


Sacred spittle bring ye hither ; 
Meale and it now mix together, 
And a little oyle to either : 

Give the tapers here their light, 
Ring the saints-bell to affright 
Far from hence the evill sprite." 

The subsequent will not be thought an unpleasant com- 
ment on the popular creed concerning spirits and haunted 
houses. It is taken from a scene in Mr. Addison's well- 
known comedy of the Drummer, or the Haunted House : the 
gardener, butler, and coachman of the family, are the dra- 
matis personae. 

" Gardn. Prithee, John, what sort of a creature is a con- 
jurer ? 

Butl. Why he's made much as other men are, if it was not 
for his long grey beard. His beard is at least half a yard 
long ; he's dressed in a strange dark cloke, as black as a coal. 
He has a long white wand in his hand. 

Coachm. I fancy 'tis made out of witch elm. 

Gardn. I warrant you if the ghost appears he '11 whisk 
you that wand before his eyes, and strike you the drum-stick 
out of his hand. 

Butl. No ; the wand, look ye, is to make a circle ; and if 
he once gets the ghost in a circle, then he has him. A circle, 
you must know, is a conjurer's trap. 

Coachm. But what will he do with him when he has him 
there ? 

Butl. Why then he'll overpower him with his learning. 

Gardn. If he can once compass him, and get him in Lob's 
pound, he'll make nothing of him, but speak a few hard 
words to him, and perhaps bind him over to his good beha- 
viour for a thousand years. 

Coachm. Ay, ay, he '11 send him packing to his grave again 
with a flea in his ear, I warrant him. 

Butl. But if the conjurer be but well paid, he'll take pains 
upon the ghost and lay him, look ye, in the Red Sea and 
then he's laid for ever. 

Gardn. Why, John, there must be a power of spirits in 
that same Red Sea. I warrant ye they are as plenty as fish. 
I wish the spirit may not carry off a corner of the house with 


ButL As for that, Peter, you may be sure that the steward 
has made his bargain with the cunning man beforehand, that 
he shall stand to all costs and damages." 

Another itfode of consulting spirits was by the berryl, by 
means of a speculator or seer, who, to have a complete sight, 
ought to be a pure virgin, a youth who had not known woman, 
or at least a person of irreproachable life and purity of man- 
ners. The method of such consultation is this : the conjuror, 
having repeated the necessary charms and adjurations, with 
the Litany, or invocation peculiar to the spirits or angels he 
wishes to call (for every one has his particular form), the 
seer looks into a crystal or berryl, wherein he will see the 
answer, represented either by types or figures : and some- 
times, though very rarely, will hear the angels or spirits 
speak articulately. Their pronunciation is, as Lilly says, like 
the Irish, much in the throat. 

In Lodge's Devils Incarnat of this Age, 1596, in the epistle 
to the reader, are the following quaint allusions to sorcerers 
and magicians : " Buy therefore this Christall, and you shall 
see them in their common appearance : and read these exor- 
cismes advisedly, and you may be sure to conjure them without 
crossings : but if any man long for a familiar for false dice, a 
spirit to tell fortunes, a charme to heale disease, this only 
book can best fit him." Vallancey, in his Collectanea de 
Rebus Hibernicis, No. xiii. 17, says: "In the Highlands of 
Scotland a large chrystal, of a figure somewhat oval, was 
kept by the priests to work charms by ; water poured upon it 
at this day is given to cattle against diseases : these stones 
are now preserved by the oldest and most superstitious in the 
country (Shawe). They were once common in Ireland. I 
am informed the Earl of Tyrone is in possession of a very 
fine one." In Andrews's Continuation of Henry's History of 
Great Britain, p. 388, we read : The conjurations of Dr. 
Dee having induced his familiar spirit to visit a kind of talis- 
man, Kelly (a brother adventurer) was appointed to watch and 
describe his gestures." The dark shining stone used by these 
impostors was in the Strawberry Hill coUection. It appeared 
like a polished piece of cannel coal. To this Butler refers 
when he writes : 

" Kelly did all his feats upon 
The devil's looking-glass, a stone." 


In the Museum Tradescantianum, 1660, p. 42, we find an 
"Indian conjurer's rattle, wherewith he calls up spirits." 

Lilly describes one of these berryls or crystals. It was, 
he says, as large as an orange, set in silver, with a cross at 
the top, and round about engraved the names of the angels 
Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. A delineation of another is en- 
graved in the frontispiece to Aubrey's Miscellanies. This 
mode of inquiry was practised by Dr. Dee, the celebrated 
mathematician. His speculator was named Kelly. From him, 
and others practising this art, we have a long muster-roll of 
the infernal host, their different natures, tempers, and ap- 
pearances. Dr. Reginald Scot has given us a list of some of 
the chiefs of these devils or spirits. These sorcerers, or ma-7 
gicians, do not always employ their art to do mischief ; but, j 
on the contrary, frequently exert it to cure diseases inflicted! 
by witches, to discover thieves, recover stolen goods, to fore-; 
tell future events and the state of absent friends. On this'' 
account they are frequently called White Witches. 

Ady, in his Candle in the Dark, p. 29, speaking of common 
jugglers, that go up and down to play their tricks in fayrs 
and markets, says : " I will speak of one man more excelling 
in that craft than others, that went about in King James his 
time, and long since, who called himself the King's Majesties 
most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was he called, because 
that at the playing of every trick he used to say : ' Hocus 
pocus, 1 tontus, talontus, vade celeriter jubeo,' a darke compo- 

1 Butler, in his Hudibras, has the following : 
" With a sleight 

Convey men's interest, and right, 
From Stiles's pocket into Nokes's 
As easily as hocus pocus." P. iii. c. iii. 1. 713. 

Archbishop Tillotson tells us that "in all probability those common 
juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est 
corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of 
Rome in their trick of transubstantiation, &c." Ser. xxvi. Discourse on 

Vallancey, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. xiii. 93, speak- 
ing of hocus pocus, derives it from the Irish " Coic, an omen, a mystery ; 
and bais, the palm of the hand ; whence is formed coiche-bais, legerde- 
main; Persice, choco-baz ; whence the vulgar English hocus pocus." He 
is noticing the communication in former days between Ireland and the 

" Hiccius doctius is a common term among our modern sleight-of-hand 


sure of words to blinde the eyes of beholders." Butler's de- 
scription, in his Hudibras, of a cunning man or fortune-teller, 
is fraught with a great deal of his usual pleasantry : 
" Quoth Ralph, not far from hence doth dwell 

A cunning man, hight Sidrophel, 

That deals in destiny's dark counsels, 

And sage opinions of the moon sells ; 

To whom all people far and near 

On deep importances repair ; 

When brass and pewter hap to stray, 

And linen slinks out of the way ; 

When geese and pullen are seduc'd, 

And sows of sucking pigs are chows'd ; 

When cattle feel indisposition, 

And need th' opinion of physician ; 

When murrain reigns in hogs or sheep, 

And chickens languish of the pip ; 

When yeast and outward means do fail 

And have no pow'r to work on ale ; 

When butter does refuse to come, 

And love proves cross and humoursome ; 

To him with questions and with urine 

They for discovery flock, or curing." 

Allusions to this character are not uncommon in our old 
plays. In Albumazar, 1 634 : 

" He tells of lost plate, horses, and straye cattell 
Directly, as he had stolne them all himselfe." 

Again, in Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, 4to. Lond. 1636, 
eignat. B. iii. : 

" Fortune-teller, a pretty rogue 
That never saw five shillings in a heape, 
Will take upon him to divine men's fate, 
Yet never knows himselfe shall dy a beggar, 
Or be hang'd up for pilfering table-cloaths, 
Shirts, and smocks, hanged out to dry on hedges." 

In the Character of a Quack-Astrologer, 1673, our wise 
man, "a gipsy of the upper form," is called "a three-penny 

men. The origin of this is probably to be found among the old Roman 
Catholics. When the good people of this island were under their thral- 
dom, their priests were looked up to with the greatest veneration, and 
their presence announced in the assemblies with the terms Hie est doctus ' 
tnc est doctus. ' and this probably is the origin of the modern corruption 


prophet that undertakes the telling of other folks' fortunes, 
meerly to supply the pinching necessities of his own." Ibid. 
signat. B. 3, our cunning man is said to " begin with theft ; 
and to help people to what they have lost, picks their pocket 
afresh : not a ring or a spoon is nim'd away, but payes him 
twelve-pence toll, and the ale-drapers' often-straying tankard 
yields him a constant revenue : for that purpose he maintains 
as strict a correspondence with gilts and lifters as a mounte- 
bank with applauding midwives and recommending nurses : 
and if at any time, to keep up his credit with the rabble, he 
discovers anything, 'tis done by the same occult hermetic 
learning, heretofore profest by the renowned Moll Cut- 

They are still called " Wise Men " in the villages of Durham 
and Northumberland. 

The following was communicated to the editor of the pre- 
sent work by a Yorkshire gentleman, in the year 1819 : "Im- 
postors who feed and live on the superstitions of the lower 
orders are still to be found in Yorkshire. These are called 
'Wise Men,' and are believed to possess the most extraordi- 
nary power in remedying all diseases incidental to the brute 
creation, as well as the human race, to discover lost or stolen 
property, and to foretell future events. One of these wretches^/ 
was a few years ago living at Stokesley, in the North Riding 
of Yorkshire ; his name was John Wrightson, and he called 
himself 'the seventh son of a seventh son/ and professed 
ostensibly the trade of a cow-doctor. To this fellow, people, 
whose education it might have been expected would have 
raised them above such weakness, flocked ; many to ascertain 
the thief, when they had lost any property; pthers for him to 
cure themselves or their cattle of some indescribable com- 
plaint. Another class visited him to know their future for- 
tunes ; and some ,to get him to save them from being balloted 
into the militia ; all of which he professed himself able to ac- 
complish. All the diseases which he was sought to remedy 
be invariably imputed to witchcraft, and although he gave 
drugs which have been known to do good, yet he always en- 
joined some incantation to be observed, without which he de- 
clared they could never be cured ; this was sometimes an act 
of the most wanton barbarity, as that of roasting a game cock 
alive, &c. The charges of this man were always extravagant ; 


and inch was the confidence in his skill and knowledge, that 
he had only to name any person as a witch, and the public 
indignation was sure to be directed against the poor unoffend- 
in* creature for the remainder of her life. An instance of 
the fatal consequences of this superstition occurred within 
my knowledge, about the year 1800. A farmer of the name 
of Hodgson had been robbed of some money. He went to a 
* wise man' to learn the thief, and was directed to some pro- 
cess by which he should discover it. A servant of his, of the 
name of Simpson, who had committed the robbery, fearing 
the discovery by such means, determined to add murder to 
the crime, by killing his master. The better to do this with- 
out detection, he forged a letter as from the * wise man ' to 
Mr. Hodgson, inclosing a quantity of arsenic, which he was 
directed to take on going to bed, and assuring him that in 
the morning he would find his money in the pantry under a 
wooden bowl. Hodgson took the powder, which killed him. 
Simpson was taken up, tried at York Assises, and convicted 
on strong circumstantial evidence. He received sentence of 
death, and when on the scaffold confessed his crime." 

Vallancey, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. xiii. 
10, tells us that in Ireland they are called Tamans. " I 
know," says he, "a farmer's wife in the county of Waterford, 
that lost a parcel of linen. She travelled three days' jour- 
ney to a taman, in the county of Tipperary : he consulted his 
black book, and assured her she would recover the goods. 
The robbery was proclaimed at the chapel, offering a reward, 
and the linen was recovered. It was not the money but the 
taman that recovered it." 

In Strype's edition of Stow's Survey of London, B. i. 
257, we read: "A.D. 1560, a skinner of Southwark was set 
on the pillory with a paper over his head, shewing the cause, 
viz. for sundry practices of great falsehood, and much un- 
truth, and all set forth under the colour of southsayiny" 

Andrews, in his Continuation of Dr. Henry's History of 
Great Britain, p. 194, speaking of the death of the Earl of 
Angus in 1588, tells us, as a proof of the blind superstition of 
the age, " he died (says a venerable author) of sorcery and 
incantation. A wizard, after the physicians had pronounced 
him to be under the power of witchcraft, made offer to cure 
him, saying (as the manner of these wizards is) that he had 


received wrong. But the stout and pious earl declared that 
his life was not so dear unto him as that, for the continuance 
of some years, he would be beholden to any of the devil's 
instruments, and died." 

The following curious passage is from Lodge's Incarnate 
Devils, 1596, p. 13 : " There are many in London now adaies 
that are besotted with this sinne, one of whom I saw on a 
white horse in Fleet street, a tanner knave I never lookt on, 
who with one figure (cast out of a scholler's studie for a ne- 
cessary servant at Bocordo) promised to find any man's oxen 
were they lost, restore any man's goods if they were stolne, 
and win any man love, where or howsoever he settled it, but 
his jugling knacks were quickly discovered." 

In Articles of Inquirie given in Charge by the Bishop of 
Sarum, A.D. 1614, is the following: "67. Item, whether you 
have any conjurers, charmers, calcours, witches, or fortune- 
tellers, who they are, and who do resort unto them for coun- 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xii. 465, in the ac- 
count of the parish of Kirkmichael, county of Banff, we read : 
"Among the branches into which the moss-grown trunk of 
superstition divides itself, may be reckoned witchcraft and 
magic. These, though decayed and withered by time, still 
retain some faint traces of their ancient yerdure. Even at 
present witches are supposed, as of old, to ride on broom- 
sticks through the air. In this country, the 12th of May is 
one of their festivals. On the morning of that day they are 
frequently seen dancing on the surface of the water of Avon, 
brushing the dews of the lawn, and milking cows in their fold. 
Any uncommon sickness is generally attributed to their de- 
moniacal practices. They make fields barren or fertile, raise 
or still whirlwinds, give or take away milk at pleasure. The 
force of their incantations is not to be resisted, and extends 
even to the moon in the midst of her aerial career. It is the 
good fortune, however, of this country to be provided with an 
anti-conjuror that defeats both them and their sable patron in 
their combined efforts. His fame is widely diffused, and 
wherever he goes crescit eundo. If the spouse is jealous of 
her husband, the anti-conjuror is consulted to restore the 
affections of his bewitched heart. If a near connexion lies 
confined to the bed of sickness, it is in vain to expect relief 

in. 5 


without the balsamic medicine of the anti-conjuror. If a per- 
son happens to be deprived of his senses, the deranged cells 
of the brains must be adjusted by the magic charms of the 
anti-conjuror. If a farmer loses his cattle, the houses must 
be purified with water sprinkled by him. In searching for 
the latent mischief, this gentleman never fails to find little 
parcels of heterogeneous ingredients lurking in the walls, con- 
sisting of the legs of mice and the wings of bats ; all the 
work of the witches. Few things seem too arduous for his 
abilities; and though, like Paracelsus, he has not as yet 
boasted of having discovered the philosopher's stone, yet, by 
the power of his occult science, he still attracts a little of 
their gold from the pockets where it lodges, and in this way 
makes a shift to acquire subsistence for himself and family. " 

There is a folio sheet, printed at London, 1561, preserved 
in a collection of Miscellanies in the archives of the Society of 
Antiquaries of London, lettered Miscel. Q. Eliz. No. 7, en- 
titled, " The unfained retractation of Fraunces Cox, which he 
uttered at the pillery in Chepesyde and elsewhere, accordyng 
to the counsels commaundement anno 1561, 25th of June, 
beying accused for the use of certayne sinistral and divelysh 
artes." In this he says that from a child he began "to prac- 
tise the mo^t divelish and supersticious knowledge of necro- 
mancie, and invocations of spirites, and curious astrology. 
He now utterly renounces and forsakes all such divelish scii- 
ences, wherein the name of God is most horribly abused, and 
society or pact with wicked spirits most detestably practised, 
as uecromancie, geomancie, and that curious part of astrology 
wherein is contained the calculating of nativities or castino- O f 
nativities, with all the other magikes." 

[WITCHCRAFT IN GUERNSEY. A little, bent, decrepit dd 
man, apparently between 70 and 80 years of age, named 
John Laine, of Anneville, Vale parish, was placed at the bar 
of the court, under a charge of having practised the art of 
necromancy, and induced many persons in the country pa- 
rishes to believe they were bewitched, or under the influence 

the devil ; and that by boiling herbs to produce a certain 
perfume, not at all grateful to the olfactory nerves of demons 
by the burning of calves' hearts, and the sprinkling of celes- 
tial water, he would drive out of the bodies of the insane all 
visitants from the nether regions, and effectually cure all who 


were ?,fflicted of the devil. It appeared in evidence that the 
accused had the reputation of professing to be a necromancer 
that he had enjoyed it for the last twenty years at least ; 
but of his having actually practised there was no complete 
proof brought before the court, except in relation to a recent 
case, wherein he was called upon to eject a proud devil that 
was supposed to have taken possession of an ignorant farmer, 
who not long since was elevated to the rank of Douzenier, 
and, therefore, legislator of Little Athens the truth being 
that the very dizzy altitude to which he had been raised had 
completely turned the poor man's brains. The court severely 
denounced the conduct of the accused, and openly declared 
that the ignorance and superstition prevailing in the country 
parts of the island those parts, they might have said, which 
claim and exercise the right of legislating for the town and 
among respectable families too, were at once lamentable and 
disgraceful. They, however, would not, merely upon the evi- 
dence before them, either commit Laine for trial, nor yet send 
him to prison, but gave him a sharp reprimand, and forbade 
him, on pain of corporal punishment, ever again to practise 
upon the credulity of the people. Guernsey Star.] 


" A GHOST," according to Grose, " is supposed to be the 
spirit of a person deceased, who is either commissioned to 
return for some especial errand, such as the discovery of a 
murder, to procure restitution of lands or money unjustly 
withheld from an orphan or widow, or, having committed 
some injustice whilst living, cannot rest till that is redressed. 
Sometimes the occasion of spirits revisiting this world is to 
inform their heir in what secret place, or private drawer in an 
old trunk, they had hidden the title deeds of the estate ; or 
where, in troublesome times, they buried their money or 
plate. Sonie ghosts of murdered persons, whose bodies have 
been secretly buried, cannot be at ease till their bones have 
been taken up, and deposited in consecrated ground, with all 
the rites of 'Christian burial. This idea is the remain of a 


very old piece of heathen superstition : the ancients believed 
that Charon was not permitted to ferry over the ghosts of un- 
buried persons, but that they wandered up and down the 
banks of the river Styx for an hundred years, after which 
they were admitted to a passage. This is mentioned by 

' Haec omnis quam cernis, mops inhumataque turba est : 
Portitor ille, Charon ; hi quos vehit unda, sepulti. 
Nee ripas datur horrendas, nee rauca fluents, 
Transportare prius quam sedibus ossa quierunt. 
Centum errant annos, volitantque haec littora circum : 
Turn, demum admissi, stagna exoptata revisunt.' 

" Sometimes ghosts appear in consequence of an agreement 
made, whilst living, with some particular friend, that he who 
first died should appear to the survivor. Glanvil tells us of the 
ghost of a person who had lived but a disorderly kind of life, 
for which it was condemned to wander up and down the earth, 
in the company of evil spirits, till the day of judgment. In 
most of the relations of ghosts they are supposed to be mere 
aerial beings, without substance, and that they can pass through 
walls and other solid bodies at pleasure. A particular instance 
of this is given in Relation the 27th in Glanvil's Collection, 
where one David Hunter, neatherd to the Bishop of Down and 
Connor, was for a long time haunted by the apparition of an 
old woman, whom he was by a secret impulse obliged to fol- 
low whenever she appeared, which he says he did for a con- 
siderable time, even if in bed with his wife : and because his 
wife could not hold him in his bed, she would go too, and 
walk after him till day, though she saw nothing ; but his little 
dog was so well acquainted with the apparition, that he would 
follow it as well as his master. If a tree stood in her walk, 
he observed her always to go through it. Notwithstanding 
this seeming immateriality, this very ghost was not without 
some substance ; for, having performed her errand, she de- 
sired Hunter to lift her from the ground, in the doing of which, 
he says, she felt just like a bag of feathers. We sometimes 
also read of ghosts striking violent blows ; and that, if not 
made way for, they overturn all impediment, like a furious 
whirlwind. Glanvil mentions an instance of this, in Relation 
7th, of a Dutch lieutenant who had the faculty of seeing 
ghosts ; and who, being prevented making way for one which 


he mentioned to some friends as coming towards them, was, 
with his companions, violently thrown down, and sorely 
bruised. We further learn, by Relation 16th, that the hand 
of a ghost is ' as cold as a clod/ 

" The usual time at which ghosts make their appearance is 
midnight, and seldom before it is dark ; though some auda- 
cious spirits have been said to appear even by daylight : but 
of this there are few instances, and those mostly ghosts who 
have been laid, perhaps in the Red Sea (of which more here- 
after), and whose times of confinement were expired : these, 
like felons confined to the lighters, are said to return more 
troublesome and daring than before. No ghosts can appear 
on Christmas Eve ; this Shakspeare has put into the mouth 
of one of his characters in * Hamlet.' 

" Ghosts/' adds Grose, " commonly appear in the same 
dress they usually wore whilst living ; though they are some- 
times clothed all in white ; but that is chiefly the churchyard 
ghosts, who have no particular business, but seem to appear 
pro bono publico, or to scare drunken rustics from tumbling 
over their graves. I cannot learn that ghosts carry tapers in 
their hands, as they are sometimes depicted, though the room 
in which they appear, if without fire or candle, is frequently 
said to be as light as day. Dragging chains is not the fashion 
of English ghosts ; chains and black vestments being chiefly 
the accoutrements of foreign spectres, seen in arbitrary go- 
vernments : dead or alive, English spirits are free. One in- 
stance, however, of an English ghost dressed in black is 
found in the celebrated ballad of 'William and Margaret,' 
in the following lines : 

' And clay-cold was her lily hand 
That held her sable shrowd.' 

This, however, may be considered as a poetical license, 
used, in all likelihood, for the sake of the opposition of lily 
to sable. 

" If, during the time of an apparition, there is a lighted 
candle in the room, it will burn extremely blue : this is so 
universally acknowledged, that many eminent philosophers 
have busied themselves in accounting for it, without once 
doubting the truth of the fact. Dogs, too, have the faculty 
of seeing spirits, as is instanced in David Hunter's relation, 
above quoted ; but in that case they usually show signs of 


terror, by whining and creeping to their master for protection : 
and it is generally supposed that they often see things of this 
nature when their owner cannot ; there being some persons, 
particularly those born on a Christmas eve, who cannot see 

" The coming of a spirit is announced some time before its 
appearance by a variety of loud and dreadful noises ; some- 
times rattling in the old hall like a coach and six, and rumb- 
ling up and down the staircase like the trundling of bowls or 
cannon-balls. At length the door flies open, and the spectre 
stalks slowly up to the bed's foot, and opening the curtains, 
looks steadfastly at the person in bed by whom it is seen ; a 
ghost being very rarely visible to more than one person, al- 
though there are several in company. It is here necessary to 
observe, that it has been universally found by experience, as 
well as affirmed by divers apparitions themselves, that a 
ghost has not the power to speak till it has been first spoken 
to : so that, notwithstanding the urgency of the business on 
which it may come, everything must stand still till the person 
visited can find sufficient courage to speak to it : an event 
that sometimes does not take place for many years. It has 
not been found that female ghosts are more loquacious than 
those of the male sex, both being equally restrained by this 

" The mode of addressing a ghost is by commanding it, in 
the name of the three persons of the Trinity, to tell you who 
it is, and what is its business : this it may be necessary to 
repeat three times ; after which it will, in a low and hollow 
voice, declare its satisfaction at being spoken to, and desire 
the party addressing it not to be afraid, for it will do him no 
harm. This being premised, it commonly enters its narra- 
tive, which being completed, and its requests or commands 
given, with injunctions that they be immediately executed, it 
vanishes away, frequently in a flash of light; in which case, 
some ghosts have been so considerate as to desire the party 
to whom they appeared to shut their eyes. Sometimes its 
departure is attended with delightful music. Durino- the nar- 
-ation of its business, a ghost must by no means be interrupted 
by questions of any kind ; so doing is extremely dangerous : if 
any doubts arise, they must be stated after the spirit has done 
s tale. Questions respecting its state, or the state of any of 


their former acquaintance, are offensive, and not often an- 
swered ; spirits, perhaps, being restrained from divulging the 
secrets of their prison-house. Occasionally spirits will even 
condescend to talk on common occurrences, as is instanced 
by Glanvil in the apparition of Major George Sydenham to 
Captain William Dyke, Relation 10th. 1 

" It is somewhat remarkable that ghosts do not go about 
their business like the persons of this world. In cases of 
murder, a ghost, instead of going to the next justice of the 
peace and laying its information, or to the nearest relation of 
the person murdered, appears to some poor labourer who 
knows none of the parties, draws the curtains of some decrepit 
nurse or alms-woman, or hovers about the place where his 
body is deposited. The same circuitous mode is pursued 
with respect to redressing injured orphans or widows : when 
it seems as if the shortest and most certain way would be to 
go to the person guilty of the injustice, and haunt him con- 
tinually till he be terrified into a restitution. Nor are the 
pointing out lost writings generally managed in a more sum- 
mary way ; the ghost commonly applying to a third person 
ignorant of the whole affair, and a stranger to all concerned. 
But it is presumptuous to scrutinize too far into these mat- 
ters : ghosts have undoubtedly forms and customs peculiar to 

" If, after the first appearance, the persons employed ne- 
glect, or are prevented from, performing the message or bu- 
siness committed to their management, the ghost appears con- 
tinually to them, at first with a discontented, next an angry, 
and at length with a furious countenance, threatening to tear 
them in pieces if the matter is not forthwith executed : some- 
times terrifying them, as in Glanvil' s Relation 26th, by ap- 
pearing in many formidable shapes, and sometimes even 
striking them a violent blow. Of blows given by ghosts 
there are many instances, and some wherein they have been 
followed with an incurable lameness. 

" It should have been observed that ghosts, in delivering 

1 " Wherein the major reproved the captain for suffering a sword he 
nad given him to grow rusty ; saying, ' Captain, captain, this sword did 
not use to he kept after this manner when it was mine.' This attention 
to the state of arms was a remnant of the major's professional duty when 


their commissions, in order to ensure belief, communicate to 
the persons employed some secret, known only to the parties 
concerned and themselves, the relation of which always pro- 
duces the effect intended. The business being completed, 
ghosts appear with a cheerful countenance, saying they shall 
now be at rest, and will never more disturb any one ; and, 
thanking their agents, by way of reward communicate to them 
something relative to themselves, which they will never re- 

" Sometimes ghosts appear, and disturb a house, without 
deigning to give any reason for so doing : with these, the 
shortest and only way is to exorcise l and eject them ; or, as 
the vulgar term is, lay them. For this purpose there must 
be two or three clergymen, and the ceremony must be per- 
formed in Latin ; a language that strikes the most audacious 
ghost with terror. A ghost may be laid for any term less 
than an hundred years, and in any place or body, full or 
empty ; as, a solid oak the pommel of a sword a barrel of 
beer, if a yeoman or simple gentleman or a pipe of wine, if 
an esquire or a justice. But of all places the most common, 
and what a ghost least likes, is the Red Sea ; it being related 
in many instances, that ghosts have most earnestly besought 
the exorcists not to confine them in that place. It is never- 
theless considered as an indisputable fact, that there are an 
infinite number laid there, perhaps from its being a safer 
prison than any other nearer at hand ; though neither history 
nor tradition gives us any instance of ghosts escaping or re- 
turning from this kind of transportation before their time." 2 

1 The following is from Moresini Papatus, p. 7 : " Apud alios turn 
poetas, turn historiographos, de magicis incantationibus, exorcismis, et 
curatione tarn hominum quam belluarum per carmina baud pauca habentur, 
sed horum impietatem omnium superat longe hac in re Papismus, bio enim 

supra Dei potestatem posse carmina, posse exorcismos affirmat ita ut 

nihil sit tarn obstrusum in ccelis quod exorcismis non pateat, nihil tarn 
abditum in inferno quod non eruatur, nihil in terrarum silentio inclusum 
quod non eliciatur, nihil in hominum pectoribus conditum quod non reve- 
letur, nihil ablatum quod non restituatur, et nihil quod habet orbis, sive 
insit, sive non, e quo daemon non ejiciatur." 

2 The learned M6resin traces thus to its origin the popular superstition 
relative to the Coming again, as it is commonlj called, or Walking of 
Spirits : " Animarum ad nos regressus ita est ex Manilio lib. i. Astroiu 
cap. 7, de lacteo circulo : 


From the subsequent passage in Shakespeare the walking of 
spirits seems to have been enjoined by way of penance. The 
ghost speaks thus in " Hamlet : " 

" I am thy father's spirit, 
Doora'd for a certain terra to walk the night ; 
And for the day confin'd to fast in fires 
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature 
Are burnt and purged away." 1 

There is a passage in the Spectator, where he introduces 
the girls in his neighbourhood, and his landlady's daughters, 
telling stories of spirits and apparitions : how they stood, pale 
as ashes, at the foot of a bed, and walked over churchyards by 
moonlight ; of their being conjured to the Red Sea, &c. He 
wittily observes that " one spirit raised another, and, at the 
end of every story, the whole company closed their ranks and 
crowded about the fire," 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xxi. 148, parish 
of Monquihitter, in the additional communications from the 
Rev. A. Johnstone, we read : " In opinion, an amazing altera- 

An major densa stellarum turba corona. 
Contexit flammas, et crasso lumine candet, 
Et fulgore nitet collato clarior orbis. 
An fortes animae, dignataque nomina ccelo 
Corporibus resoluta suis, terrseque remissa. 
Hue migrant ex orbe, suumque habitantia coelum : 
^Ethereos vivunt annos, mundoque fruuntur.' 

" Lege Palingenesiam Pythagoricum apud Ovid, in Metam. et est ob- 
servatum Fabij Pont. Max. disciplina, ut atro die manibus parentare non 
liceret, ne infesti manes fierent. Alex, ab Alex. lib. v. cap. 26. Ha3C 
cum legerent papani, et his alia apud alios similia, voluerunt et suorum 
defunctorum animas ad eos reverti, et nunc certiores facere rerum earum, 
quae turn in ccelis, turn apud inferos geruntur, nunc autem terrere domes- 
ticos insanis artibus : sed quod sint foeminae fcecundae factae his technis 
novit omnis mundus." Papatus, p. 11. 

1 " I know thee well ; I heare the watchfull dogs, 
With hollow howling, tell of thy approach ; 
The lights burne dim, affrighted with thy presence : 
And this distempered and tempestuous night 
Tells me the ayre is troubled with some devill." 

Merry Devil of Edmonton, 4to. 1631. 
" Ghosts never walk till after midnight, if 
I may believe my grannam." 

Beaumont and Fletcher. Lover's Progress, act iv. 


tion has been produced by education and social intercourse. 
Few of the old being able to read, and fewer still to write, 
their minds were clouded by ignorance. The mind being un- 
cultivated, the imagination readily admitted the terrors of 
superstition. The appearance of ghosts and demons too fre- 
quently engrossed the conversation of the young and the old. 
The old man's fold, where the Druid sacrified to the demon 
for his corn and cattle, could not be violated by the plough- 
share. Lucky and unlucky days, dreams, and omens, were 
most religiously attended to, and reputed witches, by their 
spells and their prayers, were artful enough to lay every pa- 
rish under contribution. In short, a system of mythology 
fully as absurd and amusing as the mythology of Homer ob- 
tained general belief. But now ghosts and demons are no 
longer visible. The old man's fold is reduced to tillage. The 
sagacious old woman, who has survived her friends and means, 
is treated with humanity, in spite of the grisly bristles which 
adorn her mouth ; and, in the minds of the young, cultivated 
by education, a steady pursuit of the arts of life has banished 
the chimeras of fancy. Books, trade, manufacture, foreign 
and domestic news, now engross the conversation ; and the 
topic of the day is always warmly, if not ingenuously, dis- 
cussed. From believing too much, many, particularly in the 
higher walks of life, have rushed to the opposite extreme of 
believing too little ; so that, even in this remote corner, scep- 
ticism may but too justly boast of her votaries." 

The following finely written conversation on the subject of 
ghosts, between the servants in Addison's comedy of the 
Drummer, or Haunted House, will be thought much to our 

"Gardener. I marvel, John, how he (the spirit) gets into 
the house when all the gates are shut. 

Butler. Why, look ye, Peter, your spirit will creep you 
into an auger hole. He'll whisk ye through a key-hole, with- 
out so much as justling against one of the wards. 

Coachman. I verily believe I saw him last night in the town- 

Gard. How did he appear ? 

Coachm. Like a white horse. 

Butl. Pho, Robin, I tell ye he has never appeared vet but 
m the shape of the sound of a drum. 


Coachm. This makes one almost afraid of one's own sha- 
dow. As I was walking from the stable t'other night without 
my lanthorn, I fell across a beam, and I thought I had stum- 
bled over a spirit. 

Butl. Thou might' st as well have stumbled over a straw. 
Why a spirit is such a little thing, that I have heard a man, 
who was a great scholar, say, that he'll dance ye a Lancashire 
hornpipe upon the point of a needle. As I sat in the pantry 
last night counting my spoons, the candle methought burnt 
blue, and the spayed bitch looked as if she saw something. 

Gard. Ay, I warrant ye, she hears him many a time and 
often when we don't." 

The Spectator, accounting for the rise and progress of an- 
cient superstition, tells us our forefathers looked upon nature 
with more reverence and horror before the world was en- 
lightened by learning and philosophy, and loved to astonish 
themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, 
charms, and enchantments. There was not a village in Eng- 
land that had not a ghost in it. The churchyards were all 
haunted. Every common had a circle of fairies belonging to 
it, and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had 
not seen a spirit. Hence Gay, 

" Those tales of vulgar sprites 
Which frighten'd boys relate on winter nights, 
How cleanly milkmaids meet the fairy train, 
How headless horses drag the clinking chain : 
Night-roaming ghosts by saucer-eyeballs known, 
The common spectres of each country town." 

Shakespeare's ghosts excel all others. The terrible indeed 
is his forte. How awful is that description of the dead time 
of night the season of their perambulation ! 

" 'Tis now the very witching time of night, 
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out 
Contagion to the world." 

Thus also in Home's Douglas : 

" In such a place as this, at such an hour, 
If ancestry can be in aught believ'd, 
Descending spirits have convers'd with man, 
And told the secrets of the world unknown." 

Gay has left us a pretty tale of an apparition. The golden 
mark being found in bed is indeed after the indelicate manner 


of Swift, but yet is one of those happy strokes that rival the 
felicity of that dash of the sponge which (as Pliny tell us) hit 
off so well the expression pf the froth in Protogenes s dog. 
It is impossible not to envy the author the conception of a 
thought which we know not whether to call more comical or 
more pointedly satirical. 

[The following singular account of an apparition is taken 
from a magazine of the last century : " As I was turning over 
a parcel of old papers some time ago, I discovered an original 
letter from Mr. Caswell, the mathematician, to the learned 
Dr. Bentley, when he was living in Bishop Stillingfleet's fa- 
mily, inclosing an account of an apparition taken from the 
mouth of a clergyman who saw it. In this account there are 
some curious particulars, and I shall therefore copy the whole 
narrative without any omission, except of the name of the 
deceased person who is supposed to have appeared, for reasons 
that will be obvious. 

" ' To the Rev. Mr. Richard Bentley, at my Lord Bishop of 
Worcester's House in Park Street, in Westminster, London. 

" ' Sir, When I was in London, April last, I fully intended 
to have waited upon you again, as I said, but a cold and lame- 
ness seized me next day ; the cold took away my voice, and 
the other my power of walking, so I presently took coach for 
Oxford. I am much your debtor, and in particular for your 
good intentions in relation to Mr. D., though that, as it has 
proved, would not have turned to my advantage. However, 
I am obliged to you upon that and other accounts, and if I 
had opportunity to shew it, you should find how much I am 
your faithful servant. 

" ' I have sent you inclosed a relation of an apparition ; the 
story I had from two persons, who each had it from the author, 
and yet their accounts somewhat varied, and passing through 
more mouths has varied much more ; therefore I got a friend 
to bring me the author at a chamber, where I wrote it down 
from the author's mouth ; after which I read it to him, and 
gave him another copy ; he said he could swear to the truth 
of it, as far as he is concerned. He is the curate of War- 
blington, Batchelour of Arts of Trinity College, in Oxford, 
about six years standing in the University; I hear no ill 
report of his behaviour here. He is now gone to his curacy ; 


he has promised to send up the hands of the tenant and his 
man, who is a smith by trade, and the farmer's men, as far 
as they are concerned. Mr. Brereton, the rector, would have 
him say nothing of the story, for that he can get no tenant, 
though he has offered the house for ten pounds a year less. 
Mr. P. the former incumbent, whom the apparition repre- 
sented, was a man of a very ill report, supposed to have got 
children of his maid, and to have murthered them ; but I ad- 
vised the curate to say nothing himself of this last part of P., 
but leave that to the parishioners, who knew him. Those 
who knew this P. say he had exactly such a gown, and that 
he used to whistle. 

" * Yours, J. CASWELL.' 

" I desire you not to suffer any copy of this to be taken, 
lest some Mercury news-teller should print it, till the curate 
has sent up the testimony of others and self. 

"H. H. Dec. 15, 1695. 

"Narrative. At "Warblington, near Havant, in Hampshire, 
within six miles of Portsmouth, in the parsonage-house dwelt 
Thomas Perce the tenant, with his wife and a child, a man- 
servant, Thomas , and a maid-servant. About the be- 
ginning of August, anno 1695, on a Monday, about nine or ten 
at night, all being gone to bed, except the maid with the 
child, the maid being in the kitchen, and having raked up the 
fire, took a candle in one hand, and the child in the other 
arm, and turning about saw one in a black gown walking 
through the room, and thence out of the door into the orchard. 
Upon this the maid, hasting up stairs, having recovered but 
two steps, cried out ; on which the master and mistress ran 
down, found the candle in her hand, she grasping the child 
about its neck with the other arm. She told them the reason of 
her crying out ; she would not that night tarry in the house, 
but removed to another belonging to one Henry Salter, farmer; 
where she cried out all the night from the terror she was in, 
and she could not- be persuaded to go any more to the house 
upon any terms. 

" On the morrow (i. e. Tuesday), the tenant's wife came to 
me, lodging then at Havant, to desire my advice, and have 
consult with some friends about it ; I told her I thought it was 
a flam, and that they had a mind to abuse Mr. Brereton the 


rector, whose house it was ; she desired me to come up ; I 
told her I would come up and sit up or lie there, as she 
pleased ; for then as to all stories of ghosts and apparitions I 
was an infidel. I went thither and sate up the Tuesday night 
with the tenant and his man-servant. About twelve or one 
o'clock I searched all the rooms in the house to see if any 
body were hid there to impose upon me. At last we came 
into a lumber room, there I smiling told the tenant that was 
with me, that I would call for the apparition, if there was 
any, and oblige him to come. The tenant then seemed to be 
afraid, but I told him I would defend him from harm! and 
then I repeated Barbara celarent Darii, &c., jestingly; on 
this the tenant's countenance changed, so that he was ready 
to drop down with fear. Then I told him I perceived he was 
afraid, and I would prevent its coming, and repeated Baralip- 
ton, &c., then he recovered his spirits pretty well, and we left 
the room and went down into the kitchen, where we were 
before, and sate up there the remaining part of the night, and 
had no manner of disturbance. 

" Thursday night the tenant and I lay together in one room 
and the man in another room, and he saw something walk 
along in a black gowji and place itself against a window, and 
there stood for some time, and then walked off. Friday morn- 
ing the man relating this, I asked him why he did not call 
me, and I told him I thought that was a trick or flaoi ; he 
told me the reason why he did not call me was, that he was not 
able to speak or move. Friday night we lay as before, and 
Saturday night, and had no disturbance either of the nights. 

Sunday night I lay by myself in one room (not that where 
the man saw the apparition), and the tenant and his man in one 
bed in another room ; and betwixt twelve and two the man heard 
something walk in their room at the bed's foot, and whistling 
very well ; at last it came to the bed's side, drew the curtain 
and looked on them ; after some time it moved off; then the 
man called to me, desired me to come, for that there was 
something in the room went about whistling. I asked him 
whether he had any light or could strike one, he told me na; 
1 leapt out of bed, and, not staying to put on my clothes, 
went out of my room and along a gallery to the door, which I 
found locked or bolted ; I desired him to unlock the dobr, for 
that I could not get in ; then he got out of bed and opened the 


door, whichwas near, and went immediately to bed again. I went 
in three or four steps, and, it being a moonshine night, I saw 
the apparition move from the bed side, and clap up against the 
wall that divided their room and mine. I went and stood di- 
rectly against it within my arm's length of it, and asked it, in 
the name of God, what it was, that made it come disturbing of 
us? I stood some time expecting an answer, and receiving 
none, and thinking it might be some fellow hid in the room to 
fright me, I put out my arm to feel it, and my hand seemingly 
went through the body of it, and felt no manner of substance 
till it came to the wall ; then I drew back my hand, and still 
it was in the same place. Till now I had not the least fear, 
and even now had very little ; then I adjured it to tell me 
whaj; it was. When I had said those words, it, keeping its 
back against the wall, moved gently along towards the door. 
I followed it, and it, going out at the door, turned its back 
toward me. It went a little along the gallery. I followed it 
a little into the gallery, and it disappeared, where there was 
no corner for it to turn, and before it came to the end of the 
gallery, where was the stairs. Then I found myself very cold 
from my feet as high as my middle, though I was not in great 
fear. I went into the bed betwixt the tenant and his man, 
and they complained of my being exceeding cold. The te- 
nant's man leaned over his master in the bed, and saw me 
stretch out my hand towards the apparition, and heard me 
speak the words ; the tenant also heard the words. The ap- 
parition seemed to have a morning gown of a darkish colour, 
no hat nor cap, short black hair, a thin meagre visage of a 
pale swarthy colour, seemed to be of about forty-five or fifty 
' years old ; the eyes half shut, the arms hanging down ; the 
hands visible beneath the sleeve ; of a middle stature. I re- 
lated this description to Mr. John Lardner, rector of Havant, 
and to Major Battin of Langstone, in Havant parish ; they 
both said the description agreed very well to Mr. P., a former 
rector of the place, who has been dead above twenty years. 
Upon this the tenant and his wife left the house, which has 
remained void since. 

" The Monday after last Michaelmas-day, a man of Chad- 
son, in Warwickshire, having been at Havant fair, passed 
by the foresaid parsonage-house about nine or ten at night, 
and saw a light in most of the rooms of the house ; his 


pathway being close by the house, he, wondering at the 
light, looked into the kitchen window, and saw only a light, 
but turning himself to go away, he saw the appearance of a 
man in a long gown ; he made haste away ; the apparition 
followed him over a piece of glebe land of several acres, to a 
lane, which he crossed, and over a little meadow, then over 
another lane to some pales, which belong to farmer Henry 
Salter my landlord, near a barn, in which were some of the 
farmer's men and some others. This man went into the barn, 
told them how he was frighted and followed from the par- 
sonage-house by an apparition, which they might see standing 
against the pales, if they went out ; they went out, and saw it 
scratch against the pales, and make a hideous noise ; it stood 
there some time, and then disappeared; their description 
v agreed with what I saw. This last account I had from the 
man himself, whom it followed, and also from the farmer's 

"Tno. WILKINS, Curate of W." 
"Dec. 11, 1695, Oxon."] 

Gay, in imitation of the style of our old Ennius, Chaucer, 
gives us a fine description of one of these haunted houses : 
" Now there spreaden a rumour that everich night 
The rooms ihaunted been by many a sprite, 
The miller avoucheth, and all thereabout 
That they full oft hearen the hellish rout : 
Some saine they hear the gingling of chains, 
And some hath heard the psautries straines, 
At midnight some the heedless horse imeet, 
And some espien a corse in a white sheet, 
And oother things, faye, elfin, and elfe, 
And shapes that fear createn to itself." 

The learned Selden observes, on this occasion, that there 
was never a merry world since the fairies left dancing and the 
parson left conjuring. The opinion of the latter kept thieves l 
in awe, ,aud did as much good in a country as a iustice of 

Bourne, chap, ii., has preserved the form of exorcising a 

J See several curious charms against thieves in Scot's Discovery of 
\J /tchcraft, b u. c. 17, and particularly St. Adelbert's curse against them. 
That celebrated curse in Tristram Shandy, which is an original one, still 
reraammg ^Rochester Cathedral, is nothing to this, which is perhaps the 


haunted house, a truly tedious process, for the expulsion of 
demons, who, it should seem, have not been easily ferreted 
out of their quarters, if one may judge of their unwillingness 
to depart by the prolixity of this removal warrant. 

One smiles at Bourne's zeal in honour of his Protestant 
brethren, at the end of his tenth chapter. The vulgar, he 
says, think them no conjurors, and say none can lay spirits 
but popish priests : he wishes to undeceive them, however, 
and to prove at least negatively that our own clergy know full 
as much of the black art as the others do. 1 

St. Chrysostom is said to have insulted some African con- 
jurors of old with this humiliating and singular observation : 
" Miserable and woful creatures that we are, we cannot so 
much as expel fleas, much less devils." "Obsession of the 
devil is distinguished from possession in this : In possession 
the evil one was said to enter into the body of the man. In 
obsession, without entering into the body of the person, he 
was thought to besiege and torment him without. To be 
lifted up into the air, and afterwards to be thrown down on 
the ground violently, without receiving any hurt ; to speak 
strange languages that the person had never learned ; not to 
be able to come near holy things or the sacraments, but to 
have an aversion to them ; to know and foretel secret things ; 
to perform things that exceed the person's strength ; to say or 
do things that the person would not or durst not say, if he 
were not externally moved to it ; were the antient marks and 
criterions of possessions." Calmet, in Bailey's Dictionary. 

" Various ways," says an essayist in the Gentleman's Maga- 
zine for October, 1732, ii. 1002, "have been proposed by the 
learned for the laying of ghosts. Those of the artificial sort 
are easily quieted. Thus when a fryer, personating an appa- 
rition, haunted the chambers of the late Emperor Josephus, 
the present king, Augustus, then at the Imperial Court, iiuug 
him out of the window, and laid him effectually. The late 
Dr. Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester, and the late Mr. Justice 

1 Upon the subject of exorcising, the following books may be consulted 
with advantage: Fustis Dseraonum, cui adjicitur Flagellum Daemonurn, 
12mo. Venet. 1608 (a prohibited book among the Roman Catholics) : 
and Practica Exorcistarum F. Valerii Polidori Patavini ad Dsemones et 
Maleficia de Christi Fidelibus expellendum : 12mo. Venet. 1606. From 
this last, Bourne's form has been taken. 

in. 6 


Powell, had frequent altercations upon this subject. The 
bishop was a zealous defender of ghosts ; the justice some- 
what sceptical, and distrustful of their being. In a visit the 
bishop one day made his friend, the justice told him, that 
since their last disputation he had had ocular demonstration 
to convince him of the existence of ghosts. ' How,' says the 
bishop, ' what ! ocular demonstration ? I am glad, Mr. Jus- 
tice, you are become a convert ; I beseech you let me know 
the whole story at large.' ' My lord,' answers the justice, 
' as I lay one night in my bed, about the hour of twelve, I was 
wak'd by an uncommon noise, and heard something coming 
up stairs, and stalking directly towards my room. 1 drew 
the curtain, and saw a faint glimmering of light enter my 
chamber.' 'Of a blue colour, no doubt,' says the bishop. 
' Of a pale blue,' answers the justice ; ' the light was fol- 
low'd by a tall, meagre, and stern personage, who seemed about 
seventy, in a long dangling rugg gown, bound round with a 
broad leathern girdle ; his beard thick and grizly : a large fur 
cap on his head, and a long staff in his hand ; his face wrinkled, 
and of a dark sable hue. I was struck with the appearance, 
and felt some unusual shocks ; for you know the old saying 
I made use of in court, when part of the lanthorn upon West- 
minster Hall fell down in the midst of our proceedings, to 
the no small terror of one or two of my brethren : 

' Si fractus illibatur orbis, 
Impavidum ferient ruinse. 

But to go on : it drew near, and stared me full in the face.' 
' And did not you speak to it ? ' interrupted the bishop ; 
' there was money hid or murder committed to be sure.' ' My 
lord, I did speak to it.' 'And what answer, Mr. Justice?' 
' My lord, the answer was (not without a thump of the staff 
and a shake of the lanthorn), that he was the watchman of 
the night, and came to give me notice that he had found the 
street-door open, and that, unless I rose and shut it, I might 
chance to be robbed before break of day.' The judge had no 
sooner ended but the bishop disappeared." The same essay- 
ist (p. 1001) says : "The cheat is begun by nurses with sto- 
ries of bugbears, &c., from whence we are gradually led to 
the traditionary accounts of local ghosts, which, like the genii 
of the ancients, have been reported to haunt certain family 


seats and cities famous for their antiquities and decays. Of 
this sort are the apparitions at Verulam, Silchester, Reculver, 
and Rochester : the daemon of Tidworth, the black dog of 
Winchester, and the bar-guest of York. Hence also suburban 
ghosts, raised by petty printers and pamphleteers. The story 
of Madam Veal has been of singular use to the editors of Dre- 
lincourt on Death." And afterwards ironically observes : 
" When we read of the ghost of Sir George Villiers, of the 
piper of Hammel, the daemon of Moscow, or the German 
Colonel mentioned by Ponti, and see the names of Claren- 
don, Boyle, &c., to these accounts, we find reason for our 
credulity ; till, at last, we are convinced by a whole conclave 
of ghosts met in the works of Glanvil and Moreton." Mr. 
Locke assures us we have as clear an idea of spirit as of 

Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, 172], p. 27, mentions, as 
common in Scotland, the vulgar notion that a ghost will not 
be laid to rest till some priest speak to it, and get account of 
what disturbs it : 

" For well we wat it is his ghaist 
Wow, wad some folk that can do't best, 
Speak til't, and hear what it confest : 
To send a wand'ring saul to rest 

'Tis a good deed 

Amang the dead." 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xiii. 557, parish ol 
Lochcarron, county of Ross, we read : " There is one opinion 
which many of them entertain, and which indeed is not pe- 
culiar to this parish alone, that a popish priest can cast out 
devils and cure madness, and that the Presbyterian clergy 
have no such power. A person might as well advise a mob 
to pay no attention to a merry-andrew as to desire many igno- 
rant people to stay from the (popish) priest." 

Pliny tells us that houses were anciently hallowed against 
evil spirits with brimstone ! This charm has been converted 
by later times into what our satirist, Churchill, in his Pro- 
phecy of Famine, calls " a precious and rare medicine," and 
is now used (but I suppose with greater success) in exorcising 
those of our unfortunate fellow-creatures who feel themselves 
possessed with a certain teaziug fiery spirit, said by the wits 


of the south to be well known, seen, and felt, and very trou- 
blesome in the north. 1 

In the New Catalogue of Vulgar Errors, 1/67, p. 71, I find 
the following : " I look upon our sailors to care as little what 
becomes of themselves as any set of people under the sun, and 
yet no people are so much terrified at the thoughts of an 
apparition. Their sea-songs are full of them ; they firmly 
believe their existence : and honest Jack Tar shall be more 
frightened at a glimmering of the moon upon the tackling of 
the ship, than he would be if a Frenchman was to clap a 
blunderbuss to his head. I was told a story by an officer in the 
navy, which may not be foreign to the purpose. About half 
a dozen of the sailors on board a man-of-war took it into their 
heads that there was a ghost in the ship ; and being asked by 
the captain what reason they had to apprehend any such 
thing, they told him they were sure of it, for they smelt him. 
The captain at first laughed at them, and called them a parcel 
of lubbers, and advised them not to entertain any such silly 
notions as these, but mind their work. It passed on very well 
for a day or two ; but one night, being in another ghost- 
smelling humour, they all came to the captain and told him 
that they were quite certain there was a ghost, and he was 
somewhere behind the small-beer barrels. The captain, quite 
enraged at their folly, was determined they should have some- 
thing to be frightened at in earnest, and so ordered the boat- 
swain's mate to give them all a dozen of lashes with a cat o'- 
nine-tails, by which means the ship was entirely cleared of 

1 In Dr. Jordan's Dedication of his curious treatise of the Suffocation 
of the Mother, 4to. Lond. 1603, to the College of Physicians in London, 
he says : " It behoveth us, as to be zealous in the truth, so to be wise in 
discerning truth from counterfeiting, and naturall causes from supernatural 
power. I doe not deny but there may be both possessions, and obses- 
sions, and witchcraft, &c., and dispossession also through the prayers and 
supplications of God's servants, which is the only meanes left unto us for 
our reliefe in that case. But such examples being verye rare now a-dayes, 
I would in the feare of God advise men to be very circumspect in pro- 
nouncing of a possession; both because the impostures be many, and the 
effects of naturall diseases be strange to such as have not looked tho- 
roughly into them." Baxter, in his World of Spirits, p. 223, observes 
that " devils have a greater game to play invisibly than by apparitions. 
happy world, if they did not do a hundred thousand times more hurt 
by the baits of pleasure, lust, and honour, and by pride, and love of money, 
and sensuality, than they do by witches ! " 


ghosts during the remainder of the voyage. However, when 
the barrels were removed, some time after, they found a dead 
rat, or some such thing, which was concluded by the rest of 
the crew to be the ghost which had been smelt a little before." 
Our author accounts for this philosophically: "A great deal 
may be said in favour of men troubled with the scurvy, the 
concomitants of which disorder are, generally, faintings and 
the hip, and horrors without any ground for them." 

The following was communicated to me by a gentleman, to 
whom it had been related by a sea captain of the port of New- 
castle-npon-Tyne. "His cook," he said, "chanced to die on 
their passage homeward. This honest fellow, having had one 
of his legs a little shorter than the other, used to walk in that 
way which our vulgar idiom calls 'with an up and down.' 
A few nights after his body had been committed to the deep, 
our captain was alarmed by his mate with an account that 
the cook was walking before the ship, and that all hands 
were upon deck to see him. The captain, after an oath or 
two for having been disturbed, ordered them to let him alone, 
and try which, the ship or he, should get first to Newcastle. 
But, turning out, on farther importunity, he honestly con- 
fessed that he had like to have caught the contagion, and on 
seeing something move in a way so similar to that which an 
old friend used, and withal having a cap on so like that which 
he was wont to wear, verily thought there was more in the 
report than he was at first willing to believe. A general panic 
diffused itself. He ordered the ship to be steered towards the 
object, but not a man would move the helm. Compelled to 
do this himself, he found, on a nearer approach, that the ri- 
diculous cause of all their terror was part of a main-top, the 
remains of some wreck, floating before them. Unless he had 
ventured to make this near approach to the supposed ghost, 
the tale of the walking cook had long been in the mouths, 
and excited the fears, of many honest and very brave fellows 
in the Wapping of Newcastle-upon-Tyne." 

Dr. Johnson, in his description of the Buller of Buchan, in 
Scotland, pleasantly tells us : " If I had any malice against a 
walking spirit, instead of laying him in the Red Sea, I would 
condemn him to reside in the Buller of Buchan." 

Spirits that give disturbance by knocking are no novelties. 
Thus I find the following passage in Osborne's Advice to his 


Son, 8vo. Oxf. 1656, p. 36. He is speaking of unhappy 
marriages, which, says he, " must needs render their sleepe 
unquiet, that have one of those cads or familiars still knocking 
over their pillow." 

Could our author have known of the affair in Cock-lane, he 
might have been equally happy in alluding to Miss Fanny's 

Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, p. 227, explains spelly coat 
to be " one of those frightful spectres the ignorant people are 
terrified at, and tell us strange stories of; that they are 
clothed with a coat of shells, which make a horrid rattling ; 
that they'll be sure to destroy one, if he gets not a running 
water between him and it. It dares not meddle with a woman 
with child." 

In the North of England ghost is pronounced "guest." 
The streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne were formerly, according 
to vulgar tradition, haunted by a nightly guest, which ap- 
peared in the shape of a mastiff dog, &c., and terrified such as 
were afraid of shadows. This word is a corruption of the 
Anglo-Saxon gast, spiritus anima. I have heard, when a 
boy, many stories concerning it. The following is in Drake's 
Eboracum, p. 7, Appendix : "Bar-guest of York. I have been 
so frightened with stories of this bar-guest, when I was a child, 
that I cannot help throwing away an etymology upon it. I sup- 
pose it comes from the A.-S. buj?h, a town, and gast, a ghost, 
and so signifies a town sprite. N.B. That gast is in the Belgic 
and Teut. softened into gheest and geyst. Dr. Langwith." 
In Dr. Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, b. i. we read : 

" Hence by night 

The village matron, round the blazing hearth, 
Suspends the infant audience with her tales, 
Breathing astonishment ! of witching rhymes, 
And evil spirits ; of the death-bed call 
To him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd 
The orphan's portion ; of unquiet souls 
Ilis'n from the grave to ease the heavy guilt 
Of deeds in life conceal' d ; of shapes that walk 
At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave 
The torch of hell around the murd'rer's bed. 
At every solemn pause the crowd recoil 
Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd 
With shivering sighs ; till eager for th' event, 
Around the beldame all erect they hang, 
Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell' d." 


[The following letter appeared in a recent number of the 
Athenaeum : 

" Lower Wick, near Worcester. 

"Your correspondent, Mr. Ambrose Merton, in his letter, 
which appeared in p. 886 of the Athenaeum of the 29th of 
August last, in speaking of Derbyshire, says, ' is not the 
neighbourhood of Haddon, or of Hardwicke, or of both, still 
visited by the coach drawn by headless steeds, drived by a 
coachman as headless as themselves? Does not such an 
equipage still haunt the mansion of Parsloes, in Essex?' 
Now, whether those places are still supposed to be so haunted 
I cannot say ; but I well remember that, in my juvenile days, 
old people used to speak of a spectre that formerly appeared 
in the parish of Leigh, in this county, whom they called ' Old 
Coles;' and said that he frequently used, at the dead of 
night, to ride as swift as the wind down that part of the pub- 
lic road between Bransford and Brocamin, called Leigh Walk, 
in a coach drawn by four horses, with fire flying out of their 
nostrils, and that they invariably dashed right over the great 
barn at Leigh Court, and then on into the river Teme. It 
was likewise said that this perturbed spirit was at length laid 
in a neighbouring pool by twelve parsons, at dead of night, 
by the light of an inch of candle ; and as he was not to rise 
again until the candle was quite burnt out, it was therefore 
thrown into the pool, and, to make all sure, the pool was 
filled up 

' And peaceful after slept Old Coles's shade.' 

Now, as this legend belongs to ghost instead of fairy lore, 
and as the scene of action was not in a reputed fairy locality, 
I therefore did not notice it in my little work ' On the Ignis 
Fatuus ; or Will-o'-the-Wisp and the Fairies ;' but it appears 
to be of kin to those mentioned by your correspondent. 

" Upon my lately considering the tenor of this legend, I 
was led to think that ' Old Coles ' must have been a person of 
some quality, and it induced me to look into Nash's History 
of Worcestershire, hoping it might throw some light upon 
the subject. Therein, in his account of Leigh (vol. ii. p. 73), 
the author says : ' This ancient lordship of the abbots of 
Pershore falling by the dissolution of monasteries into the 
king's hands, remained there till Elizabeth's time. The 


tenants of the house and demense, both under the abbot and 
under the king and queen, were the Colles, of which family 
was Mr. Edward (Edmund) Colles, 1 'a grave and learned 
justice of this shire, who purchased the inheritance of this 
manor,' whose son, William Colles, 2 succeeded him; whose 
son and heir, Mr. Edmund Colles, lived in the time of Mr. 
Habingdon, and being loaded with debts (which like a snow- 
ball from Malvern Hill gathered increase), thought fit to sell 
it to Sir Walter Devereux, Bart.' 

" The Colleses were also possessed of the manor of Suckley. 3 
There is a farm called Colles Place (vulgo Coles Place, or Cold 
Place), in Lusley, ' which is mentioned in a ledger of the 
Priory of Malvern, in the reign of Henry III. as belonging to 
the family of Colles.' See Nash, vol. ii. p. 400, which 
adjoins Leigh ; and it shared the same fate, as appears by 
Nash's History, vol. ii. p. 397, as follows : 

" ' The manor of Suckley remained in the name of Hunger- 
ford till it passed, by purchase, from them to Mr. Edmunds 
Colles, of Leigh, in the reign of Elizabeth. He left it to his 
son, Mr. Williams Colles, whose heir, Mr. Edmund Colles, 
sold it to Sir Walter Devereux, knight and baronet.' 

" Now, it is not improbable that the legend may have refer- 
red to the unfortunate Edmund Colles the second son, who 
having lost his patrimony, and perhaps died in distress, his 
spirit may have been supposed to haunt Leigh Court which 
was the seat of his joys in prosperity and the object of his 
regrets in adversity. 


The credulity of our simple and less sceptical forefathers 
peopled every deserted mansion, and "dismantled tower" in 
the three kingdoms with its 

" Spirit of health, or goblin damn'd." 

Few of the well-authenticated legends, rehearsed in the long 
and dreary nights of winter round the firesides of the neigh- 
bouring hamlets, travelled far beyond their immediate loca- 
lities, and now, in the present age, with an increasing popu- 

1 He died 19th December, 1606, aged 76. 

' Died 20th September, 1615. See Nash's account of the family mo- 
iwments in Leigh Church. 

3 This manor includes the hamlets of Alfrick and Llusley. 


lation, which no longer allows the stately dwellings of past 
generations to remain uutenanted, these tales of tradition 
founded on the evil lives or violent deaths of former posses- 
sors are rapidly fading away. We conclude this chapter with 
the following singular legend, widely differing from the ge- 
nerality of the stories usually handed down : 

" The Home of the Spell-bound Giants. There is an apart- 
ment, says Waldron, in the Castle of Rushen, that has never 
been opened in the memory of man. The persons belonging 
to the castle are very cautious in giving any reason for it ; but 
the natives unconnected with the castle, assign this, that there 
is something of enchantment in it. They tell you that the 
castle was at first inhabited with fairies, and afterwards by 
giants, who continued in the possession of it till the days of 
Merlin, who, by the force o'f magic, dislodged the greatest 
part of them, and bound the rest of them in spells, indisso- 
luble, to the end of the world. In proof of this they tell you 
a very odd story : They say there are a great many fine apart- 
ments under ground, exceeding in magnificence any of the 
upper rooms. Several men of more than ordinary courage 
have, in former times, ventured down to explore the secrets 
of this subterranean dwelling-place, but none of them ever 
returned to give an account, of what they saw. It was there- 
fore judged expedient that all the passages to it should be 
continually shut, that no more might suffer by their temerity. 
About some fifty or fifty-five years since, a person possessed 
of uncommon boldness and resolution begged permission to 
visit these dark abodes. He at length obtained his request, 
went down, and returned by the help of a clue of packthread 
which he took with him, which no man before himself had 
ever done, and brought this amazing discovery : ' That after 
having passed through a great number of vaults, he came into a 
long narrow place, which the farther he penetrated, he per- 
ceived that he went more and more on a descent ; till having 
travelled, as near as he could guess, for the space of a mile, 
he began to see a gleam of light, which, though it seemed to 
come from a vast distance, was the most delightful object 
he ever beheld. Having at length arrived at the end of that 
lane of darkness, he perceived a large and magnificent house, 
illuminated with many candles, whence proceeded the light he 
had seen. Having, before he began the expedition, well fortified 


himself with brandy, he had courage enough to knock at the 
door, which, on the third knock, was opened by a servant 
who asked him what he wanted ? I would go as far as I can, 
replied our adventurer ; be so kind therefore as to direct me 
how to accomplish my design, for I see no passage but that 
dark cavern through which 1 came. The servant told him he 
must go through that house ; and accordingly led him through 
a long entry, and out at a back door. He then walked a con- 
siderable way, till be beheld another house more magnificent 
than the first ; and, all the windows being open, he discovered 
innumerable lamps burning in every room. 

" ' Here also he designed to knock, but had the curiosity to 
step on a little bank which commanded a view of a low par- 
lour, and, looking in, he beheld a vast table in the middle of 
the room, and on it extended at full length a man, or rather 
monster, at least fourteen feet long, and ten or twelve round 
the body. This prodigious fabric lay as if sleeping with his 
head upon a bool, with a sword by him, answerable to the 
hand which he supposed made use of it. The sight was more 
terrifying to our traveller than all the dark and dreary man- 
sions through which he had passed. He resolved, therefore, 
not to attempt an entrance into a place inhabited by persons 
of such monstrous stature, and made the best of his way 
back to the other house, where the same servant who recon- 
ducted him informed him that if he had knocked at the se- 
cond door he would have seen company enough, but could 
never have returned. On which he desired to know what 
place it was, and by whom possessed ; the other replied that 
these things were not to be revealed. He then took his leave, 
and by the same dark passage got into the vaults, and soon 
afterwards once more ascended to the light of the sun.' 
Ridiculous as the narrative appears, whoever seems to disbe- 
lieve it, is looked on as a person of weak faith." Description 
of the Isle of Man, London edit., folio, 1731, pp. 98, 100. 



THE gipsies, as it should seem by some striking proofs de- 
rived from their language, l came originally from Hindostan, 
where they are supposed to have been of the lowest class of 
Indians, namely Farias, or, as they are called in Hindostan, 
Suders. They are thought to have migrated about A.D. 1408 
or 1409, when Timur Beg ravaged India for the purpose of 
spreading the Mahometan religion. On this occasion so many 
thousands were made slaves and put to death, that an universal 
panic took place, and a very great number of terrified inha- 
bitants endeavoured to save themselves by flight. As every 
part towards the north and east was beset by the enemy, it is 
most probable that the country below Multan, to the mouth 
of the Indus, was the first asylum and rendezvous of the fu- 
gitive Suders. This is called the country of Zinganen. Here 
they were safe, and remained so till Timur returned from his 
victories on the Ganges. Then it was that they first entirely 
quitted the country, and probably with them a considerable 
number of the natives, which will explain the meaning of their 
original name. By what track they came to us cannot be 
ascertained. If they went straight through the southern 
Persian deserts of Sigistan, Makran, and Kirman, along the 
Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Euphrates, from thence they 
might get, by Bassora, into the great deserts of Arabia, after- 
wards into Arabia Petrsea, and so arrive in Egypt by the 
Isthmus of Suez. They must certainly have been in Egypt 
before they reached us, otherwise it is incomprehensible how 
the report arose that they were Egyptians. 2 

1 See a Dissertation on the Gipsies, being an Historical Inquiry con- 
cerning the manner of Life, (Economy, Customs, and Conditions of these 
People in Europe, and their Origin, written in German by Heinrich Moritz 
Gottlieb Grellman, translated into English by Matthew Raper, Esq., F.R.S. 
and A.S., 4to. Lond. 1787, dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart., P.R.S. 

2 Yet Bellonius, who met great droves of gipsies in Egypt in villages on 
the banks of the Nile, where they were accounted strangers and wanderers 
from foreign parts, as with us, affirms that they are no Egyptians. Ob- 
servat. lib. ii. It seems pretty clear that the first of the gipsies were 
Asiatic, brought hither by the Crusaders, on their return from the holy 
wars, but to these it is objected that there is no trace of them to be found 
in history at that time. Ralph Volaterranus affirms that they first pro- 


It seems to be well proved in this learned work that these 
gipsies came originally from Hindostan. A very copious 
catalogue is given of gipsy and Hindostan words collated, by 
which it appears that every third gipsy word is likewise an 
Hindostan one, or still more, that out of every thirty gipsy 
words eleven or twelve are constantly of Hindostan. This 
agreement will appear remarkably great, if we recollect that 
the above words have only been learned from the gipsies within 
these very few years, consequently after a separation of near 
four complete centuries from Hindostan, their supposed native 
country, among people who talked languages totally different, 
and in which the gipsies themselves conversed ; for under the 
constant and so long continued influx of these languages, their 
own must necessarily have suffered great alteration. 

In this learned work there is a comparison of the gipsies 
with the above caste of Suders : but I lay the greatest stress 
upon those proofs which are deduced from the similarity of 
the languages. In the supplement it is added that Mr. Mars- 
den, whose judgment and knowledge in such matters are much 
to be relied upon, has collected, from the gipsies here, as many 
words as he could get, and that by correspondence from Con- 
stantinople he has procured a collection of words used by the 
Cingaris thereabouts ; and these, together with the words 

by Ludolph in his Historia ^Ethiopica, compared with 
the Hindostan vulgar language, show it to be the same that 
is spoken by the gipsies and in Hindostan. See in the seventh 
volume of the Archseologia, p. 388, Observations on the Lan- 
guage of the gipsies by Mr. Marsden ; and ibid. p. 387, Col- 
lections on the Gipsy Language, by Jacob Bryant, Esq. 

In the above work we read that, in 1418, the gipsies first 
arrived in Switzerland near Zurich and other places, to the 
number, men, women, and children, of fourteen thousand. 
The subsequent passage exhibits a proof of a different ten- 

ceeded, or strolled, from among the Uxi, a people of Persia. Sir Thomas 
Browne cites Polydore Vergil as accounting them originally Syrians : Philip 
Bergoinas as deriving them from Chaldea : ^Eneas Sylvius, as from some 
part of Tartary : Bellonius, as from Wallachia and Bulgaria : and Aven- 
tinus as fetching them from the confines of Hungary. He adds that " they 
have been hanished by most Christian princes. The great Turk at least 
tolerates them near the imperial city : he is said to employ them as spies : 
they were banished as such by the Emperor Charles the Fifth. 


dency. " In a late meeting of the Royal Society of Gottingen, 
Professor Blumenbach laid before the members a second decad 
of the crania of persons of different nations contrasted with 
each other, in the same manner as in the first, and ranged ac- 
cording to the order observed by him in his other works. In 
the first variety was the cranium of a real gipsy, who died in 
prison at Clausenburg, communicated by Dr. Patacki of 
that place. The resemblance between this and that of the 
Egyptian mummy in the first decad was very striking. Both 
differed essentially from the sixty-four crania of other per- 
sons belonging to foreign nations, in the possession of the 
author : a circumstance which, among others, tends to con- 
firm the opinion of Professor Meiners, that the Hindoos, 
from whom Grellman derives the gipsies, came themselves 
originally from Egypt." British Critic. Foreign Catalogue, 
ii. 226. 1 

Harrison, in his Description of England prefixed to IIo- 
linshed's Chronicle, 1587, p. 183, describing the various sorts 
of cheats practised by the voluntary poor, after enumerating 
those who maim or disfigure their bodies by sores, or coun- 
terfeit the guise of labourers or serving men, or mariners 
seeking for ships which they have not lost, to extort charity, 
adds: "It is not yet full three score years since this trade 
began ; but how it hath prospered since that time it is easie 
to judge, for they are now supposed of one sex and another 
to amount unto above ten thousand persons, as I have heard 
reported. Moreover, in counterfeiting the Egyptian royes, 
they have devised a language among themselves which they 
name canting, but others pedlers French, a speach compact 
thirty years since of English and a great number of odd words 
of their own devising, without all order or reason : and yet 
such is it as none but themselves are able to understand. The 
first deviser thereof was hanged by the neck, a just reward no 
doubt for his deceits, and a common end to all of that pro- 

1 See upon the subject of gipsies the following books : Pasquier, Re- 
cherches de la France, p. 392 : Dictionnaire des Origines, v. Bohemiens ; De 
Pauw, Recherches sur les Egyptiens, i. 169; Camerarii Horse Subseciv<e; " 
Gent. Mag. 1783, liii. 1009 ; ibid. 1787, Ivii. 897. Anecdotes of the Fife 
gipsies will be found in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, ii. pp. 282, 523. 
On the gipsies of Hesse Darmstadt, ibid. ii. 409. Other notices concern- 
ing the Scottish gipsies in the same work, i. 43, 65, 66, 154, 167. 


The beggars, it is observable, two or three centuries ago, used 
to proclaim their want by a wooden dish with a moveable 
cover, which they clacked, to show that their vessel was empty. 
This appears from a passage quoted on another occasion by 
Dr. Grey. Dr. Grey's assertion may be supported by the 
following passage in an old comedy called the Family of Love, 


" Can you think I get my living by a bell and a clack-dish ? 
By a bell and a clack-dish ? How's that ? 
Why, begging, Sir," &c. 

And by a stage direction in the second part of King Ed- 
ward IV.' 1619 : " Enter Mrs. Blague, very poorly, begging 
with her basket and a clack-dish" 

Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, p. 286, gives 
this general account of the gipsies : " They are a kind of 
counterfeit Moors, to be found in many parts of Europe, Asia, 
and Africa. They are commonly supposed to have come from 
Egypt, from whence they derive themselves. Munster dis- 
covered, in the letters and pass which they obtained from 
Sigismund the Emperor, that they first came out of Lesser 
Egypt ; that having turned apostates from Christianity and 
relapsed into Pagan rites, some of every family were enjoined 
this penance, to wander about the world. Aventinus tells us, 
that they pretend, for this vagabond course, a judgment of 
God upon their forefathers, who refused to entertain the Vir- 
gin Mary and Jesus, when she fled into their country." 

Blackstone, in his Commentaries, has the following account 
of them : " They are a strange kind of commonwealth among 
themselves of wandering impostors and jugglers, who first 
made their appearance in Germany about the beginning of the 
sixteenth century. Munster, it is true, who is followed and 
relied upon by Spelman, fixes the time of their first appear- 
ance to the year 1417 t 1 but as he owns that the first he ever 
saw were in 1529, it was probably an error of the press for 
1517, especially as other historians inform us, that when Sul- 
tan Selim conquered Egypt, in 1517, several of the natives 
refused to submit to the Turkish yoke, and revolted under 

1 Sir Thomas Browne, ut supra, p. 287, says: " Their first appearance 
was in Germany since the year 1400. Nor were they observed before in 
other parts of Europe, as is deducible from Munste'r, Genebrard, Crant- 
sius, and Ortelius." 


one Zinganeus, whence the Turks call them Zinganees ; but 
being at length surrounded and banished, they agreed to dis- 
perse in small parties all over the world, where their supposed 
skill in the black art gave them an universal reception in that 
age of superstition and credulity. In the compass of a very 
few years they gained such a number of idle proselytes [ (who 
imitated their language and complexion, and betook themselves 
to the same arts of chiromancy, begging and pilfering) that 
they became troublesome and even formidable to most of the 
states of Europe. Hence they were expelled from France in 
the year 1560: and from Spain 1591 : and the government 
of England took the alarm much earlier, for in 1530 they 
are described, stat. 22 Hen. VIII. c. x., as an ' outlandish 
people calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft, nor feat 
of merchandize, who have come into this realm and gone from 
shire to shire, and place to place, in great company, and used 
great, subtle, and crafty means to deceive the people, and also 
have committed many heinous felonies and robberies.' Where- 
fore they are directed to avoid the realm, and not to return 
under pain of imprisonment and forfeiture of their goods and 
chattel!* ; and upon their trials for any felony which they may 
have committed, they shall not be intitled to a jury de medie- 
tate linguae. And afterwards it was enacted by statutes 1 and 
2 Ph. and Mary, c. iv., and 5 Eliz. c. xx., that if any such 
persons shall be imported into the kingdom, the importers 
shall forfeit forty pounds. And if the Egyptians themselves 
remain one month in the kingdom, or if any person, being 
fourteen years old, whether natural-born subject or stranger, 
which hath been seen or found in the fellowship of such 
Egyptians, or which hath disguised him or herself like them, 

1 Spelman's portrait of the gipsy fraternity in his time, which seems to 
have been taken ad vivum, is as follows : " EGYPTIANI. Erronum ira- 
j)ostorumque genus nequissimum : in Continente ortum, sed ad Britannias 
nostras et Europam reliquam pervolaus : nigredine deformes, excoctisole, 
immundi veste, et usu rerum omnium ftedi. Foeminae, cum stratis et par- 
vulis, jumento invehuntur. Literas circumferunt principum, ut innoxius 
illis permittatur transitus. Oriuntur quippe et in nostra et in omni re- 
gione, spurci hujusmodi nebulones, qui sui similes in gymnasium sceleris 
adsciscentes ; vultum, cultum, moresque supradictos silii inducunt. Lin- 
guam (ut exotici magis videautur) fictitiam blaterant, provinciasque vi- 
catim pervagantes, auguriis et furtis, imposturis et technarum millibus 
plebeculam rodunt et illudunt, linguam hanc German! Rotwelch, quasi 
rubrurn Wallicum, id est Barbarismum ; Angli Canting nuncupant." 


shall remain in the same one month at one or several times, 
it is felony without benefit of clergy. And Sir Matthew Hale 
informs us that at one Suffolk assize no less than thirteen 
persons were executed upon these statutes a few years before 
the Restoration. But, to the honour of our national huma- 
nity, there are no instances more modern than this of carry- 
ing these laws into practice." Thus far Biackstone. 

In the Art of Jugling and Legerdemaine," by S. E., 1612, 
is the following account : " These kinde of people about an 
hundred yeares agoe, about the twentieth yeare of King Henry 
the Eight, began to gather an head, at the first heere about 
the southerne parts, and this (as I am informed, and as I can 
gather) was their beginning. Certaine Egiptians banished 
their cuntry (belike not for their good conditions) arrived 
heere in England, who, being excellent in quaint tricks and 
devises, not known heere at that time among us, were esteemed 
and had in great admiration, for what with strangeness of 
their attire and garments, together with their sleights and le- 
gerdemaines, they were spoke of farre and neere, insomuch 
that many of our English loyterers joyned with them, and in 
time learned their craft and cosening. The speach which they 
used was the right Egyptian language, with whome our Eng- 
lishmen conversing with, at last learned their language. These 
people continuing about the cuntry in this fashion, practising 
their cosening art of fast and loose and legerdemaine, pur- 
chased themselves great credit among the cuntry peopie, and 
got much by palmistry and telling of fortunes : insomuch 
they pitifully cosened the poore contry girles, both of money, 
silver spones, and the best of their apparrell, or any good 
thing they could make, onelyto heare their fortunes." "This 
Giles Hather (for so was his name) together with his whore 
Kit Caiot, in short space had following them a pretty traine, 
he terming himself the king of the Egiptians, arid she the 
queene, ryding about the cuntry at their pleasure uncontrolld." 
ile then mentions the statute against them of the 1st and 2d of 
Philip and Mary, on which he observes : "But what a num- 
ber were executed presently upon this statute, you would won- 
der : yet, notwithstanding, all would not prevaile : but still 
they wandred, as before, up and downe, and meeting once in 

a yee-re at a place appointed : sometimes at the Devils A 

111 i j eake in Darbiskire, and otherwhiles at Ketbrooke by Black- 


heath, or elsewhere, as they agreed still at their meeting." 
Speaking of his own time, he adds : " These fellows, seeing 
that no profit comes by wandring, but hazard of their lives, 
do daily decrease and breake off their wonted society, and 
betake themselves, many of them, some to be pedlers, some 
tinkers, some juglers, and some to one kinde of life or other." 

Twiss, in his Travels, gives the following account of them 
in Spain : " They are very numerous about and in Murcia, 
Cordova, Cadiz, and Honda. The race of these vagabonds is 
found in every part of Europe ; the French call them Bohe- 
miens ; the Italians Zingari ; the Germans, Ziegenners ; the 
Dutch, Heydenen (Pagans) ; the Portuguese, Siganos ; and 
the Spaniards, Gitanos ; in Latin, Cingari. Their language, 
which is peculiar to themselves, is everywhere so similar, that 
they are undoubtedly all derived from the same source. They 
began to appear in Europe in the fifteenth century, and are 
probably a mixture of Egyptians and Ethiopians. The men 
are all thieves, and the women libertines. They follow no 
certain trade, and have no fixed religion. They do not enter 
into the order of society, wherein they are only tolerated. It 
is supposed there are upwards of 40,000 of them in Spain, 
great numbers of whom are innkeepers in the villages and 
small towns, and are everywhere fortune-tellers. In Spain 
they are not allowed to possess any lands, or even to serve as 
soldiers. They marry among themselves, stroll in troops 
about the country, and bury their dead under water. They 
are contented if they can procure food by showing feats of 
dexterity, and only pilfer to supply themselves with the trifles 
they want ; so that they never render themselves liable to any 
severer chastisement than whipping for having stolen chickens, 
linen, &c. Most of the men have a smattering of physic and 
surgery, and are skilled in tricks performed by sleight of hand. 
The foregoing account is partly extracted from Le Voyageur 
Fran9ois, xvi., but the assertion that they are all so abandoned 
as that author says is too general." 

In a provincial council held at Tarragona in the year 1591 
there was the following decree against them: "Curandum etiam 
est ut publici Magistratus eos coerceant qui se ^Egyptiacos vel 
Bohemianos vocant, quos vix constat esse Christian os, nisi ex 
eorum relatione ; cum tamen sint mendaces, fures, et decep- 
tores, et aliis sceleribus multi eorum assueti." 

in. 7 


The Gipsies are universally considered in the same light, 
i. e. of cheats and pilferers. Witness the definition of them 
in Dufresne, and the curious etchings of them by Callot. 
"./Egyptiaci," says Dufresiie, "vagi homines, harioli ac fati- 
dici, qui hac et iliac errantes exmanus inspectione futura 
praesagire se fingunt, ut de marsupiis incautorum nummos 
corrogent." The engraver does not represent them in a more 
favorable light than the lexicographer, for, besides his in- 
imitable delineations of their dissolute manner of living, he 
has accompanied his plates with verses which are very far 
from celebrating their honesty. 

Pasquier, in his Recherches de la France, has the follow- 
ing account of them :" On August 1 7, 1427, came to Paris 
twelve Penitents (Penanciers) as they called themselves, viz., 
a duke, an earl, and ten men, all on horseback, and calling 
themselves good Christians. They were of Lower Egypt, and 
gave out that not long before the Christians had subdued 
their country, and obliged them to embrace Christianity, or 
put them to death. Those who were baptized were great 
lords in their own country, and had a king and queen there. 
Some time after their conversion, the Saracens overran their 
country and obliged them to renounce Christianity. When 
the Emperor of Germany, the King of Poland, and other 
Christian princes, heard this, they fell upon them and obliged 
them all, both great and small, to quit their country and go 
to the Pope at Rome, who enjoined them seven years' pe- 
nance to wander over the world without lying in a bed; every 
bishop and abbot to give them once 10 livres tournois, and he 
gave them letters to this purpose, and his blessing. 

" They had been wandering five years when they came to 
Paris. They were lodged by the police out of the city, at 
Chapelle St. Denis. Almost all had their ears bored, and one 
or two silver rings in each, which they said was esteemed an 
ornament in their country. The men were very black, their 
hair curled ; the women remarkably ugly and black, all their 
faces scarred (deplayez), their hair black, like a horse's tail, 
their only habit and old shaggy garment (flossoye) tied over 
their shoulders with a cloth or cord-sash, and under it a poor 
petticoat or shift. In short they were the poorest wretches 

it had ever been seen in France; and, notwithstanding their 
poverty, there were among them women who, by looking into 


people's hands, told their fortunes et meirent contens en plu- 
sieurs manages ; for they said, ' Thy wife has played thee false' 
(Ta femme t'a fait coup), and what was worse, they picked 
people's pockets of their money and got it into their own by 
telling these things by art, magic, or the intervention of the 
devil, or by a certain knack." Thus far Pasquier. It is added 
that they were expelled from France in 1561. 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, ii. 124, parish of 
Eaglesham, county of Renfrew, we read : " There is no ma- 
gistrate nearer than within four miles ; and the place is op- 
pressed with gangs of gipsies, commonly called tinkers, or 
randy-beggars, because there is no body to take the smallest 
account of them." 

In Scotland they seem to, have enjoyed some share of in- 
dulgence; for a writ of privy seal, dated 1594, supports John 
Faw, Lord and Earl of Little Egypt, in the execution of jus- 
tice on his company and folk, conform to the laws of Egypt, 
and in punishing certain persons there named, who rebelled 
against him, left him, robbed him, and refused to return home 
with him. James's subjects are commanded to assist in ap- 
prehending them, and in assisting Faw and his adherents to 
return home. There is a like writ in his favour from Mary 
Queen of Scots, 1553; and in 1554 he obtained a pardon for 
the murder of Nunan Small. 1 So that it appears he had staid 
long in Scotland, and perhaps some time in England, and 
from him this kind of strolling people might receive the name 
of Faw Gang, which they still retain. 

In Lodge's Illustrations of British History, i. 135, is a 
curious letter of the Justices of Durham to the Earl of 
Shrewsbury, Lord President of the Council in the North, 
dated at Duresme, Jan. 19, 1549, concerning the Gipsies and 

'In the Gent. Mag. for Oct. 1785, vol. Iv, p. 765, we read: "In a 
Privy Seal Book at Edinburgh, No. xiv. fol. 59, is this entry : ' Letters of 
Defence and Concurrence to John Fall, Lord and Earl of Little Egypt, 
for assisting him in the execution of Justice upon his Company, conform 
to the laws of Egypt, Feb. 15, 1540.' " These are supposed to have 
been a gang of Gipsies associated together in defiance of the state, under 
Fall as their head or king ; and these the articles of association for their 
internal government, mutual defence, and security, the embroiled and 
infirm state of the Scotch nation at that time not permitting them to re- 
press or restrain a combination of vagrants who had got above the laws 
and erected themselves into a separate community as a set of banditti. 


j' aws : "Pleasyth yo T good Lordship t'understaund, John 
Roland, oon of that sorte of people callinge themsellfes Egip- 
tians, dyd before us accuse Babtist Fawe, Amy Faive, and 
George 'Fawe, Egiptians, that they had counterfeate the kyngs 
ma ties g rea te geale ; wherupon we caused th' above named 
Babtist, Amye, and George to be apprehended by th' officers, 
who, emongst other things, dyd find one wryting with a greate 
seall moche like to the kings ma tie * great seall, which we, 
bothe by the wrytinge, and also by the seall, do suppose to 
be counterfeate and feanyd ; the which seall we do send to 
your L. herwith, by post, for triall of the same. Signifieng 
also to y r L. that we have examynet the said Babtist, Amye, 
and George, upon the said matter ; who doithe afierme and 
saye, with great othes and execracions, that they never dyd 
see the said seall before this tyme, and that they dyd not 
counterfeate it ; and that the said John Roland is their mor- 
tall enemye, and haithe often tymes accused the said Babtist 
before this, and is moch in his debte, as appeareth by ther 
wrytinges rely to be shewed, for the whiche money the said 
John doithe falsly all he can agaynst them, and, as they sup- 
pose, the above named John Roland, or some of his complices, 
haithe put the counterfeate seall emongst there wrytings ; 
with such lyke sayngs. Wherfor we have co'mit all th' above 
named Egiptians to the gaoll of Duresme, to such time as we 
do knowe your L. pleasor in the premises. And thus Al- 
mightie God preserve your good L. in moche honor. At Du- 
resme this 19th of Januarye, 1549." 

There is a well-known Scottish song entitled Johnny Faa, 
the Gypsie Laddie. There is an advertisement in the New- 
castle Courant, July 27, 1754, offering a reward for the ap- 
prehending of John Fall and Margaret his wife, William Fall 
and Jane, otherwise Ann, his wife, &c., " commonly called 
or known by the name of Fawes," &c. Gipsies still continue 
to be called " Faws" in the North of England. According 
to Mr. Halliwell, Dictionary, p. 349, the term appears to be 
now confined to itinerant tinkers, potters, &c. 

Gay, in his Pastorals, speaking of a girl who is slighted by 

^yer, thus describes the Gipsies : 

" Last Friday's eve, when as the sun was set 
I, near yon stile, three sallow Gipsies met ; 


Upon my hand they cast a poring look, 

Bid me beware, and thrice their heads they shook ; 

They said that many crosses I must prove, 

Some in my wordly gain, but most in love. 

Next morn I miss'd three hens and our old cock, 

And, off the hedge, two pinners and a smock." The Ditty. 

The following beautiful lines on the same subject are from 
Prior's Henry and Emma. Henry is personating a Gipsy. 

11 A frantic Gipsy now the house he haunts, 
And in wild phrases speaks dissembled wants : 
With the fond maids in palmistry he deals ; 
They tell the secret first which he reveals : 
Says who shall wed, and who shall be beguil'd, 
What groom shall get, and 'squire maintain the child." 

Rogers, in his Pleasures of Memory, 1. 107, has also de- 
scribed the Gipsy : 

" Down by yon hazel copse, at evening, blaz'd 
The Gipsy fagot. There we stood and gaz'd ; 
Gaz'd on her sun-burnt face with silent awe, 
Hertatter'd mantle, and her hood of straw; 
Her moving lips, her caldron brimming o'er ; 
The drowsy brood that on her back she bore, 
Imps, in the barn with mousing owlet bred, 
From rifled roost at nightly revel fed ; 
Whose dark eyes flash'd thro' locks of blackest shade, 
When in the breeze the distant watch-dog bay'd : 
And heroes fled the Sibyl's mutter'd call, 
Whose elfin prowess scal'd the orchard wall. 
As o'er my palm the silver she drew, 
And trac'd the line of life with searching view, 
How throbb'd my fluttering pulse with hopes and fears 
To learn the colours of my future years !" 

Strype, in his Annals of the Reformation, ii. 611, mentions 
a book written by William Bullein, of Simples and Surgery, 
A.D. 1562, in which the author speaks of "dog-leaches, and 
Egyptians, and Jews : all pretending to the telling of fortunes 
and curing by charms. They (dog-leaches) buy some gross 
stuff, with a box of salve and cases of tools, to set forth their 
slender market withal, &c. Then fall they to palmistry and 
telling of fortunes, daily deceiving the simple. Like unto the 
swarms of vagabonds, Egyptians, and some that call them- 
selves Jews, whose eyes were so sharp as lynx. For they see 
all the people with their knacks, pricks, domifying, and 
figuring, with such like fantasies. Paining that they have 


familiers and glasses, whereby they may find things that be 
lost. And, besides them, are infinite of old doltish witches 
with blessings for the fair and conjuring of cattel." 

Since the repeal of the act against this class of people, 
which, if I mistake not, took place in 1 788, they are said not 
to be so numerous as before ; they still, however, are to be 
met with, and still pretend to understand palmistry and telling 
fortunes, nor do I believe that their notions of meum and 
tuum are one whit less vague than before. Perhaps, in the 
course of time, they will either degenerate into common 
beggars, or be obliged to take to a trade or a business for a 
livelihood. The great increase of knowledge in all ranks of 
people has rendered their pretended arts of divination of little 
benefit to them, at least by no means to procure them 


THE cucking-stool was an engine invented for the punish- 
ment of scolds and unquiet women, by ducking them in the 
water, after having placed them in a stool or chair fixed at the 
end of a long pole, by which they were immerged in some 
muddy or stinking pond. Blount tells us that some think it 
a corruption from ducking-stool, 1 but that others derive it 
from choking-stool. 2 Though of the most remote antiquity, 

1 An essayist in the Gent. Mag. for May, 1732, vol. ii. p. 740, observes 
that " the stools of infamy are the ducking-stool and the stool of repen- 
tance. The first was invented for taming female shrews. The stool of 
repentance is an ecclesiastical engine, of popish extraction, for the punish- 
ment of fornication and other immoralities, whereby the delinquent 
publicly takes shame to himself, and receives a solemn reprimand from the 
minister of the parish." A very curious extract from a MS. in the 
Bodleian Library bearing on this subject may be seen in Halliwell' s 
Dictionary, p. 285. 

2 Blount finds it called " le Goging Stole" in Cod. MS. " de Legibus, 
Statutis, et Consuetudinibus liberi Burgi Villas de Mountgomery a tern- 
pore Hen. 2," fol. 12 b. 

He says it was in use even in our Saxons' time, by whom it was called 
Scealpins-r-tole, and described to be " Cathedra in qua rixosaj mulieres 
sedentes aquis demergebantur." It was a punishment inflicted also 
anciently upon brewers and bakers transgressing the laws. 


it is now, it should seem, totally disused. It was also called 
a tumbrel, a tribuch or trebuchet, and a thew." 2 

Henry, in his History of Great Britain, i. 214, tells us that 
"In Germany, cowards, sluggards, debauchees, and prostitutes, 
were suffocated in mires and bogs,' and adds, "it is not im- 
probable thai these useless members and pests of human so- 
ciety were punished in the same manner in this island ;" 
asking at the same time, in a note, " Is not the ducking-stool 
a relic of this last kind of punishment?" 

In the Promptorum Parvulorum, MS. Harl. 221, Brit. Mus. 
" Esgn, or CUKKYN," is interpreted by stercoriso ; and in the 
Doomsday Survey, in the account of the city of Chester, i. 
262, we read : " Vir sive mulier falsam mensuram in civitate 
faciens deprehensus, iiii. solid, emendab.' Similiter malam 
cervisiam faciens, aut in CATHEDRA ponebatur STERCORIS, aut 
iiii. solid, dab' prepotis." 

Mr. Lysons, in his Environs of London, i. 233, gives us a 
curious extract from the churchwardens' and chamberlains' 
accounts at Kingston-upon-Thames, in the year 1572, which 
contains a bill of expenses 3 for making one of these cucking- 
stools, which, he says, must have been much in use formerly, 
as there are frequent entries of money paid for its repairs. 
He adds, that this arbitrary attempt at laying an embargo 
upon the female tongue has long since been laid aside. It 
was continued, however, at Kingston to a late period, as ap- 
pears from the following paragraph in the London Evening 

1 At a court of the manor of Edgeware, anno 1552, the inhabitants 
\vere presented for not having a tumbrel and cucking-stool. See Lysons's 
Envir. of London, vol. ii. p. 244. This looks as if the punishments were 

2 The following extract from Cowel's Interpreter, in v. THEW, seems 
to prove (with the extract just quoted from Mr. Lysons's Environs of 
London) that there was a difference between a tumbrel and a cucking- 
stool or thew. " Georgius Grey Comes Cantii clamat in manner, de 
Bushton et Ayton punire delinquentes contra Assisam Panis et Cervisiae, 
per tres vices per amerciamenta, et quarta vice pistores per pillorianij bra- 
ciatores per tumbrellam, et rixatrices per thewe, hoc est, ponere eas 
super scabeilum vocat. a cucking-stool. PI. in Itin. apud Cestr. 14 
Henry VII." 

3 " 1572. The making of the cucking-stool . . 8s. Od. 

Iron work for the same . . . .30 
Timber for the same . . . .76 
3 brasses for the same and three wheels . 4 10 


Post April 27 to 30, 1745 : " Last week a woman that keeps 
the Queen's Head alehouse at Kingston, in Surrey, was ordered 
by the court to be ducked for scolding, and was accordingly 
placed in the chair, and ducked in the river Thames, under 
Kingston Bridge, in the presence of 2000 or 3000 people." 

Cole (MS. Brit. Mus. xlii. 285) in his extracts from Mr. 
Tabor's book, among instances of Proceedings in the Vice- 
Chancellor's Court of Cambridge, 1st Eliz., gives: "Jane 
Johnson, adjudged to the duckinge stoole for scoulding, and 
commuted her penance. Katherine Sanders, accused by 
the churchwardens of St. Andrewes for a common scold 
and slanderer of her neighbours, adjudged to the ducking- 

There is an order of the corporation of Shrewsbury, 1669, 
that " A ducking-stool be erected for the punishment of all 
scolds." See the History of the Town, 4to. 1779, p. 172. 
In Harwood's History of Lichfield, p. 383, in the year 1578, 
we find a charge, " For making a cuckstool with appur- 
tenances, 8*." 

Misson, in his Travels in England, p. 40, thus describes 
the cucking-stool. It may with justice be observed of this 
author that no popular custom escaped his notice : " Chaise. 
La maniere de punir les femmes querelleuses et debauchees 
est assez plaisante en Angleterre. On attache une chaise a 
bras a 1' extremity de deux especes de solives, longues de douze 
ou quinze pieds et dans un eloignement parallele, en sorte 
que ces deux pieces de bois embrassent, par leur deux bouts 
voisins, la chaise qui est entre deux, et qui y est attachee par 
le cote comme avec un essieu, de telle maniere, qu'elle a du 
Jeu, et qu'elle demeure toujours dans 1'etat naturel et hori- 
sontal auquel une chaise doit etre afin qu'on puisse s'asseoir 
dessus, soit qu'on 1'eleve, soit qu'on 1'abaisse. On dressee 
un poteau sur le bord d'un etang ou d'une rivierre, et sur ce 
poteau on pose, presque en equilibre, la double piece de bois 
a une des extremitez de laquelle la choise se trouve an dessus 
de I'eau. On met la femme dans cette chaise, et on la plonge 
ainsi autant de fois qu'ilaete ordonne, pour rafraichir un peu 
sa chaleur immoderee." See Ozell's Transl. p. 65. 

In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 12mo. Lond. 
1631, p. 182, speaking of a Xantippean, the author says: 
"He (her husband) vowes threfore to bring her in all disgrace 


to the cucldny -stoole ; and she vowes againe to bringe him, 
with all contempt, to the stoole of repentance." 

[The following curious notices of it have not been previously 
quoted : " This month we may safely predict, that the days 
will be short, and the weather cold ; yet not so great a frost 
as that there will be a fair kept on the Thames. Should all 
women be like to patient Grizel, then we might make Christ- 
mas-blocks of all the cucking-stools" Poor Robin, 1693. 

"Since the excellent invention of cucking-stools, to cure 
women of their tongue combates, 999 years : 

" Now if one cucking-stool was for each scold, 
Some towns, I fear, would not their numbers hold ; 
But should all women patient Grizels be, 
Small use for cucking-stools they'd have, I see." 

Poor Robin, 1746.] 

In The New Help to Discourse, 3d edit. 12mo. 1684, p. 
236, we read : " On a ducking-stool. Some gentlemen tra- 
velling, and coming near to a town, saw an old woman spin- 
ning near the ducking-stool; one, to make the company 
merry, asked the good woman what that chair was made for ? 
Said she, you know what it is. Indeed, said he, not I, unless 
it be the chair you use to spin in. No, no, said she, you 
know it to be otherwise : have you not heard that it is the 
cradle your good mother has often layn in ?" 

In Miscellaneous Poems, &c., by Benjamin West, of Weedon 
Beck, Northamptonshire, 8vo. 1780, p. 84, is preserved a 
copy of verses, said to have been written near sixty years 
ago, entitled "The Ducking-stool." The description runs 

" There stands, my friend, in yonder pool, 

An engine call'd a ducking-stool : 

By legal pow'r commanded down, 

The joy and terror of the town, 

If jarring females kindle strife, 

Give language foul, or lug the coif; 

If noisy dames should once begin 

To drive the house with horrid din, 

Away, you cry, you'll grace the stool, 

We'll teach you how your tongue to rule. 

The fair offender fills the seat, 

In sullen pomp, profoundly great. 

Down in the deep the stool descends, 

But here, at first, we miss our ends ; 


She mounts again, and rages more 

Than ever vixen did before. 

So, throwing water on the fire 

Will make it but burn up the higher. 

If so, my friend, pray let her take 

A second turn into the lake, 

And, rather than your patience lose, 

Thrice and again repeat the dose. 

No brawling wives, no furious wenches, 

No fire so hot but water quenches. 

In Prior's skilful lines we see 
For these another recipe : 
A certain lady, we are told, 
(A lady, too, and yet a scold) 
Was very much reliev'd, you'll say, 
By water, yet a different way; 
A mouthful of the same she'd take, 
Sure not to scold, if not to speak." 

A note informs us, " To the honour of the fair sex in the 
neighbourhood of R****y, this machine has been taken down 
(as useless) several years." 

[According to the Chelmsford Chronicle, April 10, 1801 : 
" Last week, a woman notorious, for her vociferation, was in- 
dicted for a common scold, at Kingston ; and the facts being 
fully proved, she was sentenced to receive the old punishment 
of being ducked, which was accordingly executed upon her 
in the Thames by the proper officers, in a chair preserved in 
the town for that purpose ; and as if to prove the justice of 
the court's sentence, on her return from the water's side, she 
fell upon one of her acquaintance, without provocation, with 
tongue, tooth, and nail, and would, had not the officers inter- 
posed, have deserved a second punishment, even before she 
was dry from the first."] 

Borlase, in his Natural History of Cornwall, p. 303, tells 
us : " Among the punishments inflicted in Cornwall, of old 
time, was that of the cocking -stool, a seat of infamy where 
strumpets and scolds, with bare foot and head, were condemned 
to abide the derision of those that passed by, for such time 
as the bailiffs of manors, which had the privilege of such ju- 
risdiction, did appoint." 

Morant, in his History of Essex, i. 3 1 7, speaking of Canuden, 
in the hundred of Rochford, mentions " Cuckingstole Croft, 


as given for the maintenance of a light in this church ; as 
appears by inquisition, 10 Eliz." 

In the Regiam Majestatem, by Sir John Skene, this punish- 
ment occurs as having been used anciently in Scotland : under 
"Burrow Lawes," chap. Ixix., speaking of Browsters, i.e. 
" Wemen quha brewes aill to be sauld," it is said, " gif she 
makes gude ail, that is sufficient. Bot gif she makes evill 
ail, contrair to the use and consuetude of the burgh, and is 
convict thereof, she sail pay ane unlaw of aucht shillinges, or 
sal suffer the justice of the burgh, that is, she sail be put upon 
the cock-stule, and the aill sail be distributed to the pure 

These stools seem to have been in common use when Gay 
wrote his Pastorals ; they are thus described in the Dumps, 
1. 105 : 

" I'll speed me to the pond, where the high stool 
On the long plank hangs o'er the muddy pool, 
That stool, the dread of ev'ry scolding quean," &c. 

["A ducking-stool, a relic of bygone times, and dread of all 
scolding women, has, by direction of the mayor of Ipswich, 
been painted and renovated, and suspended over the staircase 
leading to the council-chamber of the Town Hall, where it 
will remain a striking memento of the customs of our ancient 
' townsfolke.' " Newspaper paragraph, 1843.] 

In his xlviiith vol. (MS. Brit. Mus.) p. 172, Cole says: 
" In my time, when I was a boy, and lived with my grand- 
mother in the great corner house at the bridge foot next to 
Magdalen College, Cambridge, and re-built since by my uncle, 
Mr. Joseph Cock, I remember to have seen a woman ducked 
for scolding. The chair hung by a pulley fastened to a beam 
about the middle of the bridge, in which the woman was con- 
fined, and let down under the water three times, and then 
taken out. The bridge was then of timber, before the present 
stone bridge of one arch was builded. The ducking-stool 
was constantly hanging in its place, and on the back panel 
of it was engraved devils laying hold of scolds, &c. Some 
time after a new chair was erected in the place of the old one, 
having the same devils carved on it, and well painted and or- 
namented. When the new bridge of stone was erected, about 
1754, this was taken away, and I lately saw the carved and 
gilt back of it nailed up by the shop of one Mr. Jackson, a 

108 BKANKS. 

whitesmith in the Butcher Row, behind the town-hall, who 
offered it to me, but I did not know what to do with it. In 
October, 1 776, 1 saw in the old town-hall a third ducking-stool 
of plain oak, with an iron bar before it to confine the person 
in the seat ; but I made no inquiries about it. I mention 
these things as the practice seems now to be totally laid aside.'* 
This was written about 1780. Mr. Cole died in 1782. 

The stool is represented in a cut annexed to the Dumps, 
designed and engraved by Lud. du Guernier. There is a 
wooden cut of one in the frontispiece of the popular penny 
history of the Old Woman of Ratcliff Highway. 

[The best account of the ducking-stool yet published will 
be found in Mr. Wright's Archaeological Album.] 


" TRET have an artifice at Newcastle-under-Lyme and Wal- 
sall," says Dr. Plott, in his History of Staffordshire, p. 389, 
" for correcting of scolds, which it does too, so effectually and 
so very safely, that I look upon it as much to be preferred to the 

being such 

the tongue as not only quite deprives them of speech, but brings, 
shame for the transgression and humility thereupon before 'tis 
taken off : which being put upon the offender by order of the 
magistrate, and fastened with a padlock behind, she is led 
round the town by an officer, to her shame, nor is it taken 
off till after the party begins to show all external signes ima- 
ginable of humiliation and amendment." Dr. Plott, in a cop- 
per-plate annexed, gives a representation of a pair of branks. 
They still preserve a pair in the town court at Newcastle-upon- 
Tyne, where the same custom once prevailed. See Gardiner's 
England's Grievance of the Coal Trade, and Brand's History 
of that Town, ii. 192. 



IT appears from Gardiner's England's Grievance in Rela- 
tion to the Coal Trade, that in the time of the Commonwealth 
the magistrates of Newcastle-upon-Tyne punished scolds with 
the branks (just described), and drunkards by making them 
carry a tub with holes in the sides for the arms to pass through, 
called the Drunkard's Cloak, through the streets of that town. 
See Brand's History of Newcastle, wherein is also given a re- 
presentation of it in a copper-plate, ii. 192. 


THE pilliwinkes have been already noticed as a torture for- 
merly used in Scotland for suspected witches. We have the 
following notice of them in Cowel's Law Interpreter : " PYRE- 
WINKES. Johannes Masham et Thomas Bote de Bury, die 
Lunse proxime ante Festum Apostolorum Symonis et Judse, 
anno regni Henrici Quarti post Conquestum tertio, malitia et 
conspiratione inter eos inde prsehabitis quendam Robertum 
Smyth de Bury ceperunt infra predictam villam, et ipsum 
infra domum dicti Johannis Masham in ferro posuerunt et 
cum cordis ligaverunt, et super pollices ipsius Uoberti quod- 
dam instrumentum vocatum PYREWINKES ita stride et dure 
posuerunt, quod sanguis exivit de digitis illius." Ex Cartular. 
Abbatise Sancti Edmundi. MS. fol. 341. 


ON the subject of this punishment the reader is referred to 
Douce' s Illustrations of Shakspeare, and of Ancient Manners, 
i. 146-150, where several varieties of the method of inflict- 
ing it are graphically represented. One of the oldest names 
of the pillory was Collistrigium, from the stretching out or 
projection of the head through a hole made in the pillory for 
that purpose, or through an iron collar or carcan sometimes 


attached to the pillar itself. In early times, in England, it 
was the punishment most commonly inflicted upon thievish 
millers and bakers. An interesting article upon the history 
of this punishment, and of its abolition, in the different States 
of Europe, will be found in the Penny Cyclopaedia, xviii. 


" L. Paullus Consul iterura, cum ei, bellum ut cum Rege Perse gereret, 
obtigisset ; ut ea ipsa die domum ad vesperum rediit, filiolam suam ter- 
tiam, quse turn erat admodura parva, osculans animum advertit tristiculam : 
quid est, inquit, mea tertia ? quid tristis es ? Mi pater, inquit Persa periit. 
Turn ille arctius puellam complexus, accipio OMEN, inquit, meafilia: erat 
enim mortuus catellus eo nomine." Cic. DE DIVINAT. lib. i. sect. 46. 

THE word Omen is well known to signify a sign, good or 
bad, or a prognostic. It may be defined to be that indication 
of something future, which we get as it were by accident, and 
without our seeking for. 

A superstitious regard to omens seems anciently to have 
made very considerable additions to the common load of hu- 
man infelicity. They are now pretty generally disregarded, 
and we look back with perfect security and indifference on 
those trivial and truly ridiculous accidents which alternately 
afforded matter of joy and sorrow to our ancestors. 1 Omens 

1 Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall, viii. 201, speaking of the wars of the 
Emperor Maurice against the Avars, A.D., 595, tells us that, on setting 
out, " he (the emperor) solicited, without success, a miraculous answer to 
his nocturnal prayers. His mind was confounded by the death of a fa- 
vourite horse, the encounter of a wild boar, a storm of wind and rain, 
and the birth of a monstrous child ; and he forgot that the best of omens 
is to unsheathe our sword in defence of our country. He returned to Con- 
stantinople, and exchanged the thoughts of war for those of devotion." 
Apposite is the following from Joh. Sarisber. de Nugis Curialium, fol. 27 : 
"Rusticanum et forte Ofelli Proverbium est Qui somniis et auguriis 
credit, nunquam fore securum. Ego sententiam et verissimam et fidelis- 
simam puto. Quid enim refert ad consequentiam rerum, si quis semel aut 
amplius sternutaverit ? Quid si oscitaverit ? His mens nugis incauta se- 
ducitur, sed fidelis nequaquam acquiescit." 

OMENS. 1 1 1 

appear to have been so numerous that we must despair of 
ever being able to recover them all : and to evince that in all 
ages men have been self-tormentors, the bad omens fill a cata- 
logue infinitely more extensive than that of the good. 

"Omens and prognostications of things," says Bourne, 
Antiq. Vulg. p. 20, " are still in the mouths of all, though 
only observed by the vulgar. In country places especially 
they are in great repute, and are the directors of several 
actions of life, being looked upon as presages of things future, 
or the determiners of present good or evil." He specifies se- 
veral, and derives them with the greatest probability from the 
heathens, whose observation of these he deduces also from 
the practice of the Jews, with whom it was a custom to ask 
signs. He concludes all such observations at present to be 
sinful and diabolical. The following lines, which have more 
truth than poetry in them, are from Withers's Abuses Stript 
and Whipt, 8vo. Lond. 1613, p. 167: 

" For worthlesse matters some are wondrous sad, 
Whom if I call not vaine I must terme mad. 
If that their noses bleed some certaine drops, 
And then again upon the suddaine stops, 
Or, if the babling foule we call a jay, 
A squirrell, or a hare, but crosse their way, 
Or, if the salt fall towards them at table, 
Or any such like superstitious bable, 
Their mirth is spoil'd, because they hold it true 
That some mischance must thereupon ensue." 

The subsequent, on the same subject, from Dryden and 
Lee's (Edipus, act iv. sc. 1, need no apology for their intro- 
duction : 

" For when we think fate hovers o'er our heads, 
Our apprehensions shoot beyond all bounds, 
Owls, ravens, crickets seem the watch of death ; 
Nature's worst vermin scare her godlike sons ; 
Echoes, the very leavings of a voice, 
Grow babbling ghosts and call us to our graves : 
Each mole-hill thought swells to a huge Olympus, 
While we, fantastic dreamers, heave, and puff, 
And sweat with an imagination's weight ; 
As if, like Atlas, with these mortal shoulders 
We could sustain the burden of the world." 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xiv. 541, parish of 
Forglen, in the county of Banff, we read : " Still some charms 

112 OMENS. 

are secretly used to prevent evil ; and some omens looked to 
by the older people." 1 

Dr. Hickes, in a letter to Dr. Charlett, Master of Univer- 
sity College, Oxford, dated Jan. 23, 1 7^., and preserved in 
the Bodleian Library at Oxford, mentions " the OMENS that 
happened at the coronation of K. James the Second, which," 
says he, " I saw : viz. the tottering of the crown upon his 
head; the broken canopy over it; and the rent flag hanging 
upon the White Tower when I came home from the corona- 
tion. It was torn by the wind at the same time the signal was 
given to the tower that he was crowned. I put no great stress 
upon these omens, but I cannot despise them ; most of them, I 
believe come by chance, but some from superior intellectual 
agents, especially those which regard the fate of kings and 
nations." See the Supplement to Seward's Anecdotes, p. 81. 
Of this unfortunate monarch, his brother, Charles the Second, 
is said to have prophesied as follows, with great success : the 
king said one day to Sir Richard Bulstrode, " I am weary of 
travelling, I am resolved to go abroad no more : but when I 
am dead and gone, I know not what my brother will do ; I 
am much afraid when he comes to the throne he will be obliged 
to travel again." Ibid. p. 51. 

Gay, in his fable of the Farmer's Wife and the Raven, ridi- 
cules, in the following manner, some of our superstitious 
omens : 

" Why are those tears ? why droops your head ? 

Is then your other husband dead ? 

Or does a worse disgrace betide ? 

Hath no one since his death applied ? '< 

Alas ! you know the cause too well. 

The salt is spilt, to me it fell ; 

Then, to contribute to my loss, 

My knife and fork were laid across, 

1 Omens are also noticed by Moulin : " Satan summus fallendi artifex, 
propensione hominum ad scrutanda futura abutitur ad eos ludificandos : 
eosque exagitans falsis ominibus et vanis terriculamentis, aut inani spe 
lactans, multis erroribus implicat. Hujus seductionis species sunt infinitae 
et vanitas inexplicabilis, casum vertens in praesagia et capiens auguria de 
futuris ex bestiis, aquis, oculis, fumo, stellis, fronte, manibus, somniis, vi- 
bratione palpebrae, sortibus, jactis, &c., ad quae praesagia homines bardi 
stupent attoniti : inquisitores futurorum negligentes praesentia." Petri 
Molinai Yates, p. 151. 

OMENS. 113 

On Friday too ! the day I dread 

Would I were safe at home in bed ! 

Last night, (I vow to Heav'n 'tis true,) 

Bounce from the fire a coffin flew. 

Next post some fatal news shall tell ! 

God send my Cornish friends be well ! 

That raven on yon left-hand oak 

(Curse on his ill-betiding croak) 

Bodes me no good. No more she said, 

When poor blind Ball, with stumbling tread, 

Fell prone ; o'erturn'd the pannier lay, 

And her mash'd eggs bestrew'd the way. 

She, sprawling in the yellow road, 

Rail'd, swore, and curst : Thou croaking toad, 

A murrain take thy whoreson throat ! 

I knew misfortune in the note. 

Dame, quoth the raven, spare your oaths, 
Unclench your fist, and wipe your clothes ; 
But why on me those curses thrown ? 
Goody, the fault was all your own ; 
For, had you laid this brittle ware 
On Dun, the old sure-footed mare, 
Though all the ravens of the hundred 
With croaking had your tongue out-thunder'd, 
Sure-footed Dun had kept her legs, 
And you, good woman, sav'd your eggs." 

" Nothing is more contrary to good sense than imagining 
everything we see and hear is a prognostic either of good or 
evil, except it be the belief that nothing is so." Secret Me- 
moirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1/32, 
p. 60. 

Aubrey, in his Remains of Gentilisme, notices several por- 
tents which happened before changes of government in his 
time. At Sir Thomas Trenchard's, at Lichyat in Dorset, on 
the first day of the sitting of the parliament, 1641, while the 
family were at dinner, the sceptre fell out of the king's hand, 
in plaister, in the hall. At his majesty's trial the head of his 
cane fell off. And before Cromwell's death a great whale 
came to Greenwich. He notices, also, the tearing of the 
canopy at James the Second's coronation, in returning from 
the Abbey : adding, ." 'twas of cloth of gold (and my strength 
I am confident could not have rent it), and it was not a windy 

[At Islip, co. Oxon, it is reckoned very unlucky to trans- 
plant parsley.] 

in. 8 

:| 114 


CAULS are little membranes found on some children, en- 
compassing the head, when born. . This is thought a good 
omen to the child itself, and the vulgar opinion is, that who- 
ever obtains it by purchase will be fortunate, and escape dan- 
gers. An instance of great fortune in one born with this 
coif is given by JElius Lampridius, in his History of Diadu- 
menus, who came afterwards to the sovereign dignity of the 
empire. This superstition was very prevalent in the primi- 
tive ages of the church. St. Chrysostom inveighs against it 
in several of his homilies. He is particularly severe against 
one Praetus, a clergyman, who, being desirous of being for- 
tunate, bought such a coif of a midwife. 2 

In France it is proverbial : " etre n6 coiffe'e " is an expres- 
sion 3 signifying that a person is extremely fortunate. This 

1 " In Scotland," says Ruddiman in his Glossary to Douglas's Virgil v. 
How, " the women call a holy or sely How (i.e. holy or fortunate cap or 
hood), a film, or membrane, stretched over the heads of children new born, 
which is nothing else but a part of that which covers the foetus in the 
womb ; and they give out that children so born will be very fortunate." 

2 "Quelques enfans viennent au monde avec une pellicule qui leur 
couvre le teste, que Ton appelle du nom de coeffe, et que 1'on croit estre 
une marque de bonheur. Ce qui a donne lieu au proverbe Francois, selon 
lequel on dit d'un homme heureux, qu'il est ne coeffe. On a vu autrefois 
des avocats assez simples pour s'imaginer que cette coeffe pouvoit beau- 
coup contribuer a les rendre eloquents, pouvou qu'ils la portassent dans 
leur sein. 

" Elius Lampridius en parle dans la vie d'Antonin Diadumene, mais se 
phylactere estant si disproportionne a 1'effet qu'on luy attribue, s'il le pro- 
duisoit, ce ne pourroit estre que par le ministere du demon, qui voudroft 
bien faire de sa fausse eloquence a ceux qu'il coeffe de la sorte." Traite 
des Superstitions, &c., 12mo. Par. 1679, i. 316. 

3 " II est ne coiffe. 

" Cela se dit dun homme heureux, a qui tout rif, a qui les biens viennent 
en dormant, et sans les avoir merites : comme on 1'exprima il y a quelque 
temps dans ce joly rondeau. 

" Coiffe d'un froc bien raffine 
Et revetu d'un doyenne, 
Qui luy raporte de quoy frire, 
fc Frere rene devient messire, 

Et vif comme un determine 

Un prelat riche et fortune 
Sous un bonnet enlumine 
En est, si je 1'ose ainsi dire 


caul, thought medical in diseases, is also esteemed an infal- 
lible preservative against drowning : and, under that idea, is 
frequently advertised for sale in our public papers and pur- 
chased by seamen. Midwives used to sell this membrane to 
advocates, as an especial means of making them eloquent. 
They sold it also for magical uses. Grose says that a person 
possessed of a caul may know the state of health of the party 
who was born with it : if alive and well, it is firm and crisp : 
if dead or sick, relaxed and flaccid. 1 

Sir Thomas Browne thus accounts for this phenomenon. 
" To speak strictly," he says, " the effect is natural, and thus 
to be conceived : the infant hath three teguments, or mem- 
branaceous filmes, which cover it in the womb, i.e. the corion, 
amnios, and allantois ; the corion is the outward membrane, 
wherein are implanted the veins, arteries, and umbilical ves- 

Ce n'est pas que frere rene 

D'aucun merite soit orne, 

Qu'il soit docte, ou qu'il sache ecrire, 

Ni qu'il ait tant le mot pour rire, 

Mais c'est seulement, qu'il est ne 


" Outre les tuniques ordinaires qui envelopent 1'enfant dans le ventre de 
sa mere, il s'en trouve quelquefois uue, qui luy couvre la teste en forme 
de casque, ou de capuchon, si justement et si fortement, qu'en sortant il 
ne la peut rompre, et qu'il naist coiffe. Voyes Riolan, du Laurens, et ies 
autres anatomistes : on croit que les enfans qui naissent de la sorte sont 
heureux, et la superstition attribue a cette coiffure d'etranges vertus. Je 
dis, la superstition et credulite, non pas d'hier, nt d'aujourd' hui, mais des 
les temps des derniers empereurs : car Mius Lampridius, en la vie d'An- 
tonin, surnomme Diadumene, remarque, que cet empereur, qui naquit avec 
une bande, ou peau sur le front, en forme de diademe, et d'ou il prit son 
nom, joiiit d'une perpetuelle felicite durant tout le cours de son regne, et 
de sa vie : et il ajoute, que les sages femmes vendoient bien cher cette 
coiffe aux avocats qui croyoient que la portant sur eux, ils acqueroient une 
force de persuader, a laquelle, les juges et les auditeurs ne pouvoient re- 
sister. Les sorciers mesmes, s'en servoient a diverses sortes de malefices, 
comme il se voit dans les Notes de Balsamon, sur les Conciles ; ou il re- 
porte divers canons, condamnans ceux qui se servoient de cela, soit a 
bonne, soit a mauvaise fin. Voyes M. Saumaise, et, sur tout, Casaubon, 
en leurs Commentaires sur les Ecrivains de 1'Histoire Auguste." 

1 " Guianerius, cap. xxxvi. de JEgritud. Matr. speakes of a silly jealous 
fellowe, that seeing his child newborne included in a kell, thought sure a 
Franciscan that used to come to his house was the father of it, is was so 
like a frier's cowle, and thereupon threatened the frier to kill him." Bur- 
ton's Anat. of Melancholy, 4to. Oxf. 1621, p. 688. 


sels, whereby its nourishment is conveyed ; the allantois, a 
thin coat seated under the corion, wherein are received the 
watery separations conveyed by the urachus, that the acri- 
mony thereof should not offend the skin : the amnios is a 
general investment, containing the sudorous, or thin serosity 
perspirable through the skin. Now about the time when the 
infant breaketh these coverings, it sometimes carrieth with it, 
about the head, apart of the amnios or nearest coat : which, 
saith Spigelius, either proceedeth from the toughness of the 
membrane or weaknesse of the infant that cannot get clear 
thereof, and therefore herein significations are natural and 
concluding upon the infant, but not to be extended unto ma- 
gical signalities, or any other person." 1 

In the north of England, and in Scotland, a midwife is 
called a howdy or howdy wife. I take howdy to be a dimi- 
nutive of how, and to be derived from this almost obsolete 
opinion of old women. I once heard an etymon of howdy 
to the following effect : "How d'ye," midwives^ being great 
gossipers. This is evidently of a piece with Swift's " all eggs 
under the grate." 

I copied the subsequent advertisement from the London 
Morning Post, No. 2138, Saturday, Aug. 21st, 1779: "To 
the gentlemen of the navy, and others going long voyages to 
sea. To be disposed of, a Child's Caul. Enquire at the 
Bartlet Buildings Coffee House in Holborn. N.B. To avoid 
unnecessary trouble the price is twenty guineas." 

I read also an advertisement, similar to the above, in the 
Daily Advertiser, in July 1790. 

In the Times newspaper for February 20th, 1813, the fol- 
lowing advertisement occurred : " A Child's Caul to be sold, 
in the highest perfection. Enquire at No. 2, Church Street, 
Minories. To prevent trouble, price twelve pounds." And, 
in the same newspaper for February 27th, 1813, two adver- 

1 So Levinus Lemnius, in his Occult Miracles of Nature, tells us, lib. ii. 
cap. 8, that if this caul be of a blackish colour it is an omen of ill fortune 
to the child, but if of a reddish one it betokens every thing that is good. He 
observes : " That there is an old opinion, not only prevalent amongst the 
common and ignorant people, but also amongst men of great note, and 
physicians also, how that children born with a caul over their faces are 
born with an omen, or sign of good or bad luck : when as they know not 
that this is common to all, and that the child in the womb was defended 
by three membranes." English Translat. fol. Lond. 1658, p. 105. 


tisements of cauls together : " CAUL. A Child's Caul to be 
sold. Enquire at No. 2, Greystoke Place, Fetter Lane." 
" To persons going to sea. A Child's Caul, in a perfect state, 
to be sold cheap. Apply at 5, Duke Street, Manchester Square, 
where it may be seen." 

[And again, May 8th, 1848, "A Child's Caul. Price six 
guineas. Apply at the bar of the Tower Shades, corner of 
Tower Street. The above article, for which fifteen pounds 
was originally paid, was afloat with its late owner thirty years 
in all the perils of a seaman's life, and the owner died at last 
at the place of his birth."] 

Westori, in his Moral Aphorisms from the Arabic, 8vo. 
Lond. 1801, p. xii., gives the following: "The caul that en- 
folds the birth is the powerful guardian, like the sealring of a 
monarch, for the attainment of the arch of heaven, where, in 
the car of a bright luminary, it is crowned and revolved." As 
a note, he says : " The superstition of the caul comes from 
the East ; there are several words in Arabic for it. It is not 
out of date with us among the people, and we often see 
twenty-five and thirty guineas advertised for one." 

Lampridius, speaking of Diadumenus, says : " Solent deinde 
pueri pileo insigniri naturali, quod obstetrices rapiunt et ad- 
vocatis credulis vendunt, siquidem causidici hoc juvari clicun- 
tur : at iste puer pileum non habuit, sed diadema tenue, sed 
ita forte ut rumpi non potuerit, venis intercedentibus specii 
nervi sagittarii." Douce observes on this : " One is imme- 
diately struck with the affinity of the judge's coif 1 to this 
practice of antiquity. To strengthen this opinion it may be 
added, that, if ancient lawyers availed themselves of this po- 
pular superstition, or fell into it theraseves if they gave great 
sums to win these cauls, is it not very natural to suppose that 
they would feel themselves inclined to wear them?" 

Sir Thomas Browne says : " Thus we read in the Life of 
Antonius, by Spartianus, that children are sometimes born 

1 Dugdale, in his Origines Judiciales, p. 112, says : " In token or signe 
that all justices are thus graduate (i.e. serjeants-at-law), every of them 
always, whilst he sitteth in the king's court, weari-^g a white coif of silk, 
which is the principal and chief insignment of hahit, wherewith serjeants- 
at-law in their creation are decked ; and neither the justice, nor yet the 
serjeant, shall ever put off the quoif, no not in the king's presence, though 
he be in talk with his majesties highness." 


with this natural cap, which midwives were wont to sell to 
credulous lawyers, who held an opinion that it contributed to 
their promotion." 

In the Athenian Oracle, iii. 84, we read : " Some would 
persuade us that such as are born with cauls about their heads 
are not subject to the miseries and calamities of humanity, as 
other persons are to expect all good fortune, even so far as 
to become invulnerable, provided they be always careful to 
carry it about them. Nay, if it should by chance be lost, or 
surreptitiously taken away, the benefit of it would be trans- 
ferred to the party that found it." In Digby's Elvira, act v., 
Don Zancho says : 

" Were we not born with cauls upon our heads ? 
Think'st thou, chicken, to come off twice arow 
Thus rarely from such dangerous adventures ? " 

In Jonson's Alchymist, Face says : 

" Yes and that 
Yo' were born with a cawl o' your head." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, mentions this super- 
stition : " 22. That if a child be borne with a cawle on his 
head he shall be very fortunate." See also upon this subject 
Le Brun in his Superstitions Anciennes et Modernes. 

I am of opinion that the vulgar saying, " Oh, you are a 
lucky man ; you were wrapped up in a part of your mother's 
smock," originated in this superstition. In the Athenian 
Oracle, iii. 84, speaking of this cawl, the authors say: "We 
believe no such correspondences betwixt the actions of hu- 
man life and that shirt'* 

In Willis's Mount Tabor, or Private Exercises of a Penitent 
Sinner, 1639, p. 89 : "Ther was one special remarkable thing 
concerning myself, who being my parents' first son, but their 
second child (they having a daughter before me), when I 
came into the world, my head, face, and foreparts of the body 
were all covered over with a thin kell or skin, wrought like 
an artificial veile ; as also my eldest sonne, being likewise my 
second childe, was borne with the like extraordinary covering : 
our midwives and gossips holding such children as come so 
veiled into the world, to be very fortunate (as they call it), 
there being not one child amongst many hundreds that are so 
borne ; and this to fall out in the same manner both to the 


father and the sonne being much more rare," &c. He goes 
on to make religious reflections thereupon, which are foreign 
to our present purpose. He entitles this chapter, " Concerning 
an extraordinary Veile which covered my Body at my com- 
ming into the World." 

In Advice to a Painter, a poem, printed for J. Davis, 1681, 
4to. (no place), is the following passage, canto ii. p. 2 : 

" Barking bear-ward 
Whom pray'e dont forget to paint with's staff, 

Just at this green bear's tail, 

Watching (as carefull neat-herds do their kine) 
Lest she should eat her nauseous secundine. 
Then draw a hawthorn bush, and let him place 
The heam upon't with faith that the next race 
May females prove." 

With this explanation at p. 13 : " This alludes to a little piece 
of superstition which the country people use, carefully attend- 
ing their calving cows, lest they should eat their after burthen, 
which they commonly throw upon a hawthorn bush, with 
stedfast belief that they shall have a cow-calf the next year 
after." Heam is explained to mean " the same in beasts as 
the secundine or skin that the young is wrapped in." 


SNEEZING has been held ominous from times of the most 
remote antiquity. 1 Eustathrus upon Homer has long ago ob- 
served, that sneezing to the left was unlucky, but prosperous 
to the right. Aristotle has a problem : "Why sneezing from 
noon to midnight was good, but from night to noon unlucky." 
St. Austin tells us that " the ancients were wont to go to bed 
again, if they sneezed while they put on their shoe." 

Xenophon having ended a speech to his soldfers with these 
words : viz. " We have many reasons to hope for preserva- 

1 " She spoke : Telemachus then sneez'd aloud ; 

Constraint, his nostril echo'd through the crowd. 
The smiling queen the happy omen blest : 
So may these impious fall, by fate opprest." 

Odyss. B. xviii. 


tion ; " they were scarce uttered when a soldier sneezed : the 
whole army took the omen, and at once paid adoration to the 
gods. Then Xenophon, resuming his discourse, proceeded : 
" Since, my fellow-soldiers, at the mention of your preserva- 
tion, Jupiter has sent this omen," &c. Cambridge's Scrib- 
leriard, b. iii. note on 1. 199. 1 

In Hormanni Vulgaria we read : " Two or three neses be 
holsom ; one is a shrewd token. Bi'na aut terna sternutatio 
salutaris ; solitaria vero gravis." Hornmannus de Miraculis 
Mortuorum, cap. clxiii., cites Scot, c. 57, for the following 
passage on the subject : " Si duae sternutationes fiant omni 
nocte ab aliquo, et illud continuitur per tres noctes, signo est, 
quod aliquis vel aliqua de domo morietur vel aliud damnum 
domui continget vel maximum Lucrum." 

In Alexander Boss's Appendix to Arcana Microscomi, 
p. 222, we read : " Prometheus was the first that wisht well 
to the sneezer, when the man, which he had made of clay, 
fell into a fit of sternutation, upon the approach of that celestial 
fire which he stole from the sun. This gave original to that 
custome among the Gentiles in saluting the sneezer. They 
used also to worship the head in sternutation, as being a divine 
part and seat of the senses and cogitation." 

When Themistocles sacrificed in his galley before the battle 
of Xeres, and one of the assistants upon the right hand 

1 In the Convivia of G. Pictorius, Basil, 1554, p. 273, is the following 
curious passage relative to sneezing : " Cr. Sed nares mihi pruriunt et ster- 
nutandum est. Ho. Age gratias, nam salva res est et bonum omen. Cr. 
Qui dura ? Ho. Quod uxorem tuam feliciter parituram sternutatio praesa- 
giat. Nam rei, cujus inter sternutandum mentio fit, bonum successurn 
sternutatio significat . maxime si ad symposii fuerit initiuin, quoniam ad 
medium, dirum praenuntiat. Homerus exemplo est, qui Telemacho ster- 
nutante malum procis Penelopes futurum ab Ulysse praedixit ; et Xeno- 
phon, qui dum sternutasset inter concionandum ad milites, totius exer- 
citus se futurum speravit ducem et sic casus dedit. Sed Hyppise quod 
sternutando dens excidisset, futures calamitatis augurium rati sunt. Oen. 
Et alias quoque sternutando habuerunt observationes antiquitus. Nam si 
esset matutina sternutatio, nefanda ominari dicebant et rei incceptandre 
irritos conatus. Si vero meridiana, potissimum a dextris, saluberrimi au- 
spicii et symbolum veritatis et prognosticum quandoque liberationis a 
metu insidiarum. Cr. Hiuc fortassis obrepit ut sternutanti salutem pre- 
camur. Oen. Sic Tiberium Caesarem statuisse fama est, qui sternutationem 
sacram rem arbitratus est et dixit, salute optata, averti omne quod nefan- 
durn aut dirum immineat." 


sneezed, Euphrantides, the soothsayer, presaged the victory of 
the Greeks and the overthrow of the Persians. See Plutarch, 
in his Life of Themistocles. 

The Rabbinical account of sneezing is very singular. It is 
that, " sneezing was a mortal sign even from the first man, 
until it was taken off by the special supplication of Jacob. 
From whence, as a thankful acknowledgment, this salutation 
first began, and was after continued by the expression of 
Tobim Chaiim, or vita bona, by standers by, upon all occasions 
of sneezing." Buxtorf. Lex. Chald. 

The custom of blessing persons when they sneeze has without 
doubt been derived to the Christian world, 1 where it gene- 
rally prevails, from the time of heathenism. 2 Carolus Sigonius, 
in his History of Italy, would deduce it, but most certainly 
erroneously, from a pestilence that happened in the time of 
Gregory the Great, that proved mortal to such as sneezed. 

In the Gent. Mag. for April 1771, are the following re- 
marks on sneezing, from Historical Extracts, transl. from the 
New History of France, begun by Velley, continued by Vil- 
laret, and now finishing by Gamier : " Of Sneezing. The 
year 750 is commonly reckoned the era of the custom of 
saying God bless you, to one who happens to sneeze, It is said 
that, in the time of the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, 

1 " Sternutamenta inter Auguria Plinius (lib. ii. cap. 7) recenset ; et 
cur illud pro numine potiusquam tussis et gravedo habeatur, Aristotles, 
sectione xxxiii. Problematum Qusest. 7, inquirit, addens deinceps Ster- 
nutamentum potissiraum observandum esse, cum rem aliquam exordimur ; 
igitur quia inter omina habitum, ut Dii bone verterent, sternuenti salus 
ab audientibus imprecata est quomodo memorat Petronius de Eumolpo quod 
sternutantem Gitona salverejusserit ; et quidam apud Apuleium, Metamor. 
1. 9, sonum sternutationis accipiens, solito sermone salutem ei, a gud pu- 
tabat profectum imprecatur, et iterate rursum et frequentato saepius. 
Traductus itaque sine dubio ab Ethnicis ad Christianos mos est ; licet 
velint Historic! recentiores, et eos inter Sigonius Historiarum de Regno 
Italia3 libro primo, quod pestilentia anno quingentesimo nonagesimo 
szeviente, cum sternutarent ; Consuetudinem inductam esse, ut sternutan- 
tibus salutem precando, presidium multi repente spiritum emitterent, 
cum qusererent." Bartholini de Causis contemptae a Danis adhuc Genti- 
libus Mortis, lib. iii. c. iii. p. 677. 

2 This custom is universally observed in Portugal. It would be consi- 
dered as a great breach of good manners to omit it. Bishop Hall, in his 
Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, says, 
" And when he neeseth, thinks them not his friends that uncover not." 


the air was filled with such a deleterious influence, that they 
who sneezed immediately expired. On this the devout pontiff 
appointed a form of prayer, and a wish to be said to persons 
sneezing, for averting them from the fatal effects of this ma- 
lignancy. A fable contrived against all the rules of probabi- 
lity, it "being certain that this custom has from time imme- 
morial subsisted in all parts of the known world. According 
to mythology, the first sign of life Prometheus' s artificial man 
gave was by sternutation. This supposed creator is said to 
have stolen a portion of the solar rays ; and filling with them 
a phial, which he had made on purpose, sealed it up herme- 
tically. Pie instantly flies back to his favorite automaton, 
and opening the phial held it close to the statue ; the rays, 
still retaining all their activity, insinuate themselves through 
the pores, and set the factitious man a sneezing. Prometheus, 
transported with the success of his machine, offers up a fer- 
vent prayer, with wishes for the preservation of so singular a 
being. His automaton observed him, remembering his ejacu- 
lations, was very careful, on the like occasions, to offer these 
wishes in behalf of his descendants, who perpetuated it from 
father to son in all their colonies. The Rabbies, speaking of 
this custom, do likewise give it a very ancient date. They say 
that, not long after the creation, God made a general decree 
that every man living should sneeze but once, and that at the 
very instant of his sneezing his soul should depart without 
any previous indisposition. Jacob by no means liked so pre- 
cipitate a way of leaving the world, as being desirous of settling 
his family affairs, and those of his conscience ; he prostrated 
himself before the Lord, wrestled a second time with him, and 
earnestly entreated the favour of being excepted from the 
decree. His prayer was heard, and he sneezed without dying. 
All the princes of the universe, being acquainted with the 
fact, unanimously ordered that, for the future, sneezing should 
be accompanied with thanksgivings for the preservation, and 
wishes for the prolongation, of life. We perceive, even in 
these fictions, the vestiges of tradition and history, which 
place the epocha of this civility long before that of Christia- 
nity. It was accounted very ancient even in the time of 
Aristotle, who, in his Problems, has endeavoured to account 
for it, but knew nothing of its origin. According to him, the 
first men, prepossessed with the ideas concerning the head, as 


the principal seat of the soul, that intelligent substance go- 
verning and animating the whole human system, carried their 
respect to sternutation, as the most manifest and most sensible 
operation of the head. Hence those several forms of compliments 
used on similar occasions amongst Greeks and Romans : Long 
may you live ! May you enjoy health ! Jupiter preserve you /" ] 

There are some superstitions relating to sneezing mentioned 
in the notes to the variorum edition of Minutius Felix, p. 243. 
See also Chevraeana, i. 170, and Beloe's Herodotus, iii. 105. 
Pliny, in addition to what has been already quoted, says that 
to sneeze to the right was deemed fortunate, to the left and 
near a place of burial the reverse. 

The custom has an older era. Apuleius mentions it three 
hundred years before ; as does Pliny 2 also in his problem, 
"cur sternutantes salutantur." Petronius Arbiter too de- 
scribes it. 3 Ccelius Rhodoginus has an example of it among 

1 The following notes on this subject were communicated by the Rev. 
Stephen Weston, B.D., F.S.A. : " Ilfpi K\ij^ovifffiw 7rrap//cui, De Omina- 
tione sternutaria. 

" Sternutationera pro Daemonic habuit Socrates. Tov Trrapjuov Qtov 
rjyovntQa, Aristot. in Problem. TlTapfib^ tie ctiwv, Victoria signum. 
Plutarch in Themist. ut supra ; unde lepide Aristophanes in Equitibus 


'E(c Se^iaQ aTTSTrapde Kara-Kvjwv dvrip' 
Kdyw TrpoatKVffa. ITTTTHQ. v. 635. 

'* Sternutantibus apprecabantur antiqui solenne illud Ztv ooJffov, unde 
Epigr. Ammiani in hominem cum pravo naso, i. e. longissimo. ' When he 
sneezes he never cries God save, because his ear is so far from his nose 
that he cannot hear himself sneeze.' Vid. Rhodig. de Ammiano, 1. xvii. 
c. 11. 'Ov5& Agyei Ztv atiaov, &c. Aristot. Problem, sect, xxxiii. 9. 

" Meridianae Stern utationes faustae matutinae infelices. Plin. 1. 
xxviii. c. 2. de Caus. Sternut. 

Aureus argutum sternuit, omen amor. Propert. 2, 234. 

Odyss. Horn. p. v. 541. psy tTrrapsv ubi vid. Schol. 

Catullus Epigr. 45. Dextram sternuit ad probationem." 

2 It is said that Tiberius, the emperor, otherwise a very sour man, would 
perform this rite most punctually to others, and expect the same from 
others to himself. 

3 Petronius Arbiter, who lived before them both, has these words : 
" Gyton collectione spiritus plenus, ter continuo ita sternutavit ut graba- 
tum concuteret, ad quern motum Eumolpus conversus, salvere Gytona 


the Greeks, in the time of Cyrus the younger ; l and it occurs 
as an omen in the eighteenth Iclyllium of Theocritus. 2 In 
the Greek Anthology it is alluded to in an Epigram. 3 

The custom here noticed was found by our first navigators 
in the remotest parts of Africa and the East. When the King 
of Mesopotamia sneezes, acclamations are made in all parts of 
his dominions. The Siamese wish long life to persons sneezing ; 
for they believe that one of the judges of hell keeps a register 
wherein the duration of men's lives is written, and that, when 
he opens this register and looks upon any particular leaf, all 
those whose names happen to be entered in such leaf never 
fail to sneeze immediately. See the Dictionn. des Origines. 

Hanway, in his Travels into Persia, tells us that sneezing 
is held a happy omen among the Persians, especially when 
repeated often. There is a pretty story on this subject in 
Menagiana, torn. iii. ad finem : 

" Un petit-maitre, apres mauvaise chance, 
Sortoit du jeu la tabatiere en main. 
Uri gueux passoit, qui vient a lui soudain 
Lui demandant 1'aumone avec instance. 
Des deux cotez grande etoit 1'indigence. 
II ne me reste, ami, dit le joueur 
Que du tabac. En vueux tu ? Serviteur, 
Repond le gueux, qui n'etoit pas trop nice, 
Nul besoin n'ai d'eternuer, seigneur, 
Chacun me dit assez, Dieu vous benisse." 

1 When consulting about their retreat, it chanced that one of them 
sneezed, at the noise whereof the rest of the soldiers called upon Jupiter 

2 16. '0\(3i ya/*/3p, ayaQog TIQ siri-TTTaptv tpxop.evy rot 

Eg STrapraj/. 
Thus translated by Creech : 

" O happy bridegroom ! Thee a lucky sneeze 

To Sparta welcom'd." 
So also in the seventh Idyllium, 1. 96. : 

" The Loves sneezed on Smichid." 
Ov dvvarai ry x fl pi npoK\o ri)v plv aTr 
Trig pivog yap tx Tr)v %epa juucporspjjv. 
OvSt Xlya ZEV 2QSON, lav Trrapy. Ov yap dicovti 
Tijs pivoe, TToXu ydp Trig aKoiJQ aTrtx^i. 

Antholog. Gr. ex recens. Brunckii. 8vo. Lips. 1794, ill. 95. 


Sir Thomas Browne, on the authority of Hippocrates, says 
that " sneezing cures the hiccup, is profitable to parturient 
women, in lethargies, apoplexies, catalepsies. It is bad and 
pernicious in diseases of the chest, in the beginning of ca- 
tarrhs, in new and tender conceptions, for then it endangers 

Sneezing being properly a motion of the brain suddenly 
expelling through the nostrils what is offensive to it, it can- 
not but afford some evidence of its vigour, and therefore, 
saith Aristotle, they that hear it TrpoaKvmaii' w$ tepov, honour 
it as something sacred and a sign of sanity in the diviner part, 
and this he illustrates from the practice of physicians, who 
in persons near death use sternutatories (medicines to provoke 
sneezing), when if the faculty arise, and sternutation ensues, 
they conceive hopes of life, and with gratulation receive the 
sign of safety. Thus far Sir Thomas Browne. 

In Langley's Abridgment of Polydore Vergil, fol. 130, it 
it is said : " There was a plague whereby many as they neezed 
dyed sodeynly, werof it grew into a custome that they that 
were present when any man neezed should say, * God helpe 
you.' A like deadly plage was sometyme in yawning, wher- 
ibre menne used to fence themselves with the signe of the 
crosse : bothe which customes we reteyne styl at this day." 

To the inquiry, "Why people say, 'God bless you,' when 
any one sneezes," the British Apollo, ii. No. 10, (fol. Lond. 
1 709,) answers : " Violent sneezing was once an epidemical 
and mortal distemper, from whence the custom specified took 
its rise. In one of Martial's epigrams We find that the Romans 
had the same custom ; and not improbably derived from the 
same reason." The same work, iii. No. 15, adds: "But 
'tis a mistake to think that sneezing is any more a sign of 
recovery now than formerly ; for it is still sometimes a fore- 
runner of dangerous distempers, as catarrhs and epilepsies, 
which have likewise been sometimes epidemical. And this 
is the occasion of the custom of blessing people when they 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers posed and puzzel'd, p. 181, 
with various other vain observations and superstitious omi'na- 
tions thereupon, mentions " the sneezing at meat." In 
HowePs Proverbs, fol. Lond. 1059, the following occurs : 
" He hath sneezed thrice, turn him out of the hospital ;" that 


is, lie will now do well. You need keep him no longer as 
a patient, but may discharge him. In the Rules of Civility, 
1685 (translated from the French), we read, p. 64 : " If his 
lordship chances to sneeze, you are not to bawl out, ' God 
bless you, sir/ but pulling off your hat, bow to him handsomely, 
and make that obsecration to yourself." In the Schcole of 
Slovenrie, or Cato turn'd wrong side outward, translated 
out of Latine into English Verse, to the use of all English 
Christendome except Court and Cittie ; by R. F., Gent., 4to. 
Lond. 1605, p. 6, is the following : 

" When you would sneeze, strait turne yourselfe into your neibour's face : 
As for my part, wherein to sneeze, I know no fitter place ; 
It is an order, when you sneeze good men will pray for you ; 
Marke him that doth so, for I thinke he is your friend most true. 
And that your friend may know who sneezes, and may for you pray, 
Be sure you not forget to sneeze full in his face alway. 
But when thou hear'st another sneeze, although he be thy father, 
Say not God bless him, but Choak up, or some such matter, rather." 

The original of this ironical advice runs thus : 

" Sternutare volens vicino obvertito vultum : 

Quo potius vertas vix reor esse locuia. 
Mas habet ut quidam bene sternutantibus optent, 

Id tibi qui faciat forsan amicus erit. 
Quo sciat ergo suum te sternutasse sodalem, 

Illius ad faciem sit tua versa velim. 
Tu tamen in simili causa bona nulla preceris, 

Vel tua si graviter sternutet ipsa parens." 

The following are found in Robert! Keuchenii Crepundia, 
p. 113: 


" Sternutamentum medici prodesse loquuntur : 
Sterno tamen mentem, critici sic esse loquuntur." 


" Sim vitium, sim morbusve, Salus mihi sufficit : ana 
De mhili prescribe pari medicamine : prosit." 

It is received at this day in the remotest parts of Africa. 
So we read in Codignus, that upon a sneeze of the emperor 
of Monotapha, there passed acclamations through the city. 
And as remarkable an example there is of the same custom in 
the remotest parts of the East, in the Travels of Pinto 

fcir Thomas Browne supposes that the ground of this ancient 

DREAMS. 127 

custom was the opinion the ancients held of sternutation, 
which they generally conceived to be a good sign or a bad, 
and so upon this motion accordingly used a " Salve," or Zev 
awaovy as a gratulation from the one, and a deprecation from 
the other. 


Ovap K Aioc fffri. HOM. 

" Omnia quse sensu volvuntur vota diurno, 

Pectore sopito re'ddit arnica quies. 
Venator defessa toro cum membra reponit, 
Mens tamen ad silvas, et sua lustra redit. 
Judicibus lites, aurigfe somnia currus, 

Vanaque nocturnis meta cavetur equis. 
Me quoque musarum stadium, sub nocte silenti 
Artibus assuetis sollicitare solet." 

Claudiani in lib. iii. de Raptu Proserpinse. Prefat. 

" Dreams are but the rais'd 
Impressions of premeditated things, 
Our serious apprehension left upon 
Our minds, or else th' imaginary shapes 
Of objects proper to the complexion 
Or disposition of our bodies." 
Cotgrave's English Treasury of Wit and Language, p. 263. 

DEEAMS, as the Sacred Writings inform us, have on certain 
occasions been used as the divine mediums of revelation. 
The consideration of them in this view is foreign to our pre- 
sent purpose. The reader, inquisitive on this head, may be 
referred to Amyraldus on Divine Dreams, as translated by 
Ja. Lowde, 8vo. Lond. 1676. Dreams, as connected with our 
present design, may either come under the head of Omens or 
that of Divination. Homer has told us that the dream comes 

1 He adds : " Some finding, depending it, effects to ensue ; others 
ascribing hereto as a cause, what perhaps but casually or inconnexedly 
succeeded ; they might proceed into forms of speeches, felicitating the 
good and deprecating the evil to follow." 

128 DREAMS. 

from Jupiter, and in all ages and every kingdom the idea that 
some knowledge of the future is to be derived from them has 
always composed a very striking article in the creed of popular 
superstitions. 1 

Cornelius Agrippa, in his Vanity of Sciences, p. 105, speak- 
ing of Interpretation of Dreams, says : " To this delusion not 
a few great philosophers have given not a little credit, espe- 
cially Democritus, Aristotle, and his follower, Themistius ; 
Sinesius, also, the Platonic; so far building upon examples of 
dreams, which some accident hath made to be true, that thence 
they endeavour to persuade men that there are no dreams but 
what are real. But as to the causes of dreams, both external 
and internal, they do not all agree in one judgment. For the 
Platonics reckon them among the specific and concrete notions 
of the soul. Avicen makes the cause of dreams to be an ulti- 
mate intelligence moving the moon in the middle of that light 
with which the fancies of men are illuminate while they sleep. 
Aristotle refers the cause thereof to common sense, but placed 
in the fancy. A verroes places the cause in the imagination. De- 
mocritus ascribes it to little images or representatives separated 
from the things themselves ; Albertus, to the superior influ- 
ences which continually flow from the skie through many 
specific mediums. The physicians impute the cause thereof to 
vapours and humours ; others to the affections and cares pre- 
dominant in persons when awake. Others joyn the powers of 
the soul, celestial influences, and images together, all making 
but one cause. Arthemidorus and Daldianus have written of 
the interpretation of dreams; and certain books go about 
under Abraham's name, whom Philo, in his Book of the 
Gyants and of Civil Life, asserts to have been the first prac- 
tiser thereof. Other treatises there are, falsified under the 
names of David and Salomon, wherein are to be read nothing 
but meer dreams concerning dreams. But Marcus Cicero, in 
his Book of Divination, hath given sufficient reasons against 

'A writer in the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1751, vol. xxi. p. 411, wittily 
observes that " dreams have for many ages been esteemed as the noblest 
resources at a dead lift ; the dreams of Homer were held in such esteem 
that they were styled golden dreams ; and among the Grecians we find 
a whole country using no other way for information but going to sleep. 
The Oropians, and all the votaries of Amphiaraus, are proofs of this as- 
sertion, as may be seen in Pausan. Attic." 

DREAMS. 129 

the vanity and folly of those that give credit to dreams, which 
I purposely here omit." 1 

Henry, in his History of Great Britain, vol. iii. p. 575, 
tells us : "We find Peter of Blois, who was one of the most 
learned men of the age in which he flourished, writing an ac- 
count of his dreams to his friend the Bishop of Bath, and 
telling him how anxious he had been about the interpretation 
of them ; and that he had employed for that purpose divina- 
tion by the Psalter. The English, it seems probable, had still 
more superstitious curiosity, and paid greater attention to 
dreams and omens than the Normans ; for, when William 
Rufus was dissuaded from going abroad on the morning of 
that day on which he was killed, because the Abbot of 
Gloucester had dreamed something which portended danger, 
he is said to have made this reply : * Do you imagine that I 
am an Englishman, to be frighted by a dream, or the sneezing 
of an old woman ?' " 

In the Sapho and Phao of Lilly (the play-writer of the 
time of Queen Elizabeth), 4to. Lond. 1584, are some pleasant 
observations on dreams, act iv. sc. 3 : " And can there be no 
trueth in dreams ? Yea, dreams have their trueth. Dreames 
are but dotings, which come either by things we see in the 
day, or meates that we eate, and so the common sense pre- 

1 In Moresini Papatus, p. 162, we read : " Somniandi modus Franciscan- 
orum hinc duxit originem. Antiqui moris fuit oracula et futurorum 
praescientiam quibusdam adhibitis sacris per insomnia dari : qui mos talis 
erat, ut victim as ceederent, mox sacrificio peracto sub pellibus caesarum 
ovium incubantes, somnia captarent, eaque lymphatica insomnia ve- 
rissimos exitus sortiri. Alex, ab Alex. lib. iii. c. 26. Et monachi super 
storea cubant in qua alius frater ecstaticus fuerat somniatus, sacrificat 
missam, preces et jejunia adhibet, inde ut communiter fit de amoribus 
per somnia consulit, redditque responsa pro occurrentibus spectris," &c. 
Bartholinus de Causis contempts a Danis, &c. Mortis, p. 678, says 
" Itaque divinationem ex somniis apud omnes propemodum gentes ex- 
petitam fuisse certissimum, licet quaedam magis pra; aliis ei fuerint de- 
ditae. Septentrionales veteres sagaci somniorum interpretatione pollentes 
fuisse, Arngrirnus annotavit ; in tantum sane eorum fuerunt observantes, 
ut pleraque quae sibi obversabantur, momentosa crecliderint et perfectam 
idcirco ab eis futurorum hauriendam cognitionem." In the same work, 
p. 677 : ' Pronunciante apud Ordericum Vitalem Gulielmo Re-ge dicto 
Rufo, somnia stertentium sibi referri indignante, quod Anglorum ritus 
fuerit, pro sternutatione et somnio vetularum, dimittere iter suum, seu 

in. 9 

130 DREAMS. 

ferring it to be the imaginative. I dreamed," says Ismena. 
" mine eye-tooth was loose, and that I thrust it out with mj 
tongue. It fortelleth," replies Mileta, " the losse of a friend ; 
and I ever thought tliee so full of prattle, that thou wouldest 
thrust out the best friend with thy tatling." 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers posed and puzzel'd, p. 181, 
gives us, among many other vain observations and superstitious 
ominations thereupon " the snorting in sleep," " the 
dreaming of gold, silver, eggs, gardens, weddings, dead men, 
dung," &c. 

The following from Cicero will be thought to contain some 
pleasantry on the subject of dreams : " Cicero, among others, 
relates this : a certain man dreamed that there was an egg hid 
under his bed ; the soothsayer to whom he applied himself for 
the interpretation of the dream told him that in the same 
place where he imagined to see the egg there was treasure 
hid ; whereupon he caused the place to be digged up, and 
there accordingly he found silver, and in the midst of it a good 
quantity of gold, and, to give the interpreter some testimony 
of his acknowledgment, he brought him some pieces of the 
silver which he had found ; but the soothsayer, hoping also 
to have some of the gold, said : ' And will you not give me 
some of the yolk too ?' " Lowde's Amyraldus on Divine 
Dreams, p. 22. 

Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 102, in- 
forms us of " the art and order to be used in digging for 
money, revealed by dreams." " There must be made," says 
he, " upon a hazel wand three crosses, and certain words 
must be said over it, and hereunto must be added certain 
characters and barbarous names. And whilst the treasure is 
a digging, there must be read the psalms De profundis, &c., 
and then a certain prayer ; and if the time of digging be ne- 
glected, the devil will carry all the treasure away." 

The knitting a true-love-knot to see the person one is to 
marry in a dream has been already noticed from the Con- 
noisseur, and some verses on the occasion, similar to those 
already quoted, are preserved in Aubrey's Miscellanies, 
p. 137. 

Gregory, in his Posthuma, Episcopus Puerorum, p. 113, 
mentions a singular superstition : " Some are so superstitiously 
given as upon the night of St. Gregorie's day to have their 

DREAMS. 131 

children asked the question in their sleep, whether they have 
anie minde to book or no ; and if they saie yes, they count it a 
very good presage ; but iff the children answer nothing, or 
nothing to that purpose, they put them over to the plough." 

Every dream, according to Wolfius, takes its rise from some 
sensation, and is continued by the succession of phantasms 
in the mind. His reasons are, that, when we dream, we 
imagine something, or the mind produces phantasms ; but no 
phantasms can arise in the mind without a previous sensa- 
tion. Hence neither can a dream arise without some previous 

Here it may be stated, say Douce' s MS. notes, that, if our 
author meant a previous sensation of the thing dreamt of, it is 
certainly not so. 

Lord Bacon observes that the interpretation of natural 
dreams has been much laboured, but mixed with numerous 
extravagancies, and adds that at present it stands not upon its 
best foundation. It may be observed that in our days, except 
amongst the most ignorant and vulgar, the whole imaginary 
structure has fallen to the ground. 

Physicians seem to be the only persons at present who in- 
terpret dreams. Frightful dreams are perhaps always indica- 
tions of some violent oppression of nature. Hippocrates has 
many curious observations on dreams. Ennius of old has 
made that very sensible remark, that what men studied and 
pondered in the daytime, the same they dreamed on at night. 
I suppose there are few who cannot from their own experience 
assent to the truth of his observation. 

In the Gent. Mag. for Jan. 1799, vol. Ixix. p. 33, are some 
curious rhymes on the subject of dreams, from the Harl. MS. 
541, fol. 228 b: 

" Upon iny ryght syde y may leye, blessid Lady to the y prey 
Ffor the teres that ye lete, upon your swete Sonnys feete ; 
Sende me grace for to slepe, and good dremys for to mete ; 
Slepyng wakyng till morrowe day bee : 
Owre Lorde is the freute, our Ladye is the tree ; 
Blessid be the blossom that sprange lady of the. 
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.'' 

" He that dreams he hath lost a tooth shall lose a friend 
(he has lost one), and he that dreams that a rib is taken 
out of his side shall ere long see the death of his wife." See 

132 DREAMS. 

Lowde's Amyraldus, p. 22. Thus Shylock, in the Merchant 
of Venice, says 

" There is some ill a brewing towards my rest, 
For I did dream of money-bags to-night." 

Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking 
of the superstitious man, observes : "But, if his troubled fancie 
shall second his thoughts with the dreame of a faire garden, 
or greene rushes, or the salutation of a dead friend, he takes 
leave of the world, and sayes he cannot live. . . There is no 
dream of his without an interpretation, without a prediction : 
and, if the event answer not his exposition, he expounds it 
according to the event." In Sir Thomas Overbury's Cha- 
racter of a faire and happy Milkmaid is the following passage : 
" Her dreames are so chaste that she dare tell them ; only a 
Fridaies dream is all her superstition, that she conceales for 
feare of anger." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, No. 13, says, "that if a 
man be drowsie it is a signe of ill lucke. 18. That, if a 
man dreame of egs or fire, he shall heare of anger. 19. That 
to dreame of the devil is good lucke. 20. That to dreame 
of gold is good lucke, but of silver ill." He observes in 
No. 33, in which he will find few of a different opinion, "that 
it is a very ill signe to be melancholy." 

In the Country-mans Counsellor, 12mo. Lond. 1633, p. 
330, by way of dialogue, I find the following to our purpose : 
" Q. What credit or certainty is there to be attributed to 
dreames, and which are held the most portendous and signi- 
ficant ? A. These, as they are observed by experience, and 
set downe by authors. To dreame of eagles flying over our 
heads, to dreame of marriages ; dancing, and banquetting, 
foretells some of our kinsfolkes are departed ; to dreame of 
silver, if thou hast it given to thyselfe, sorrow ; of gold, good 
fortune ; to lose an axle toth or an eye, the death of some 
friend ; to dream of bloody teeth, the death of the dreamer ; 
to weepe in sleepe, joy ; to see one's face in the water, or to 
see the dead, long life ; to handle lead, to see a hare, death ; to 
dream of chickens and birds, ill luck," &c. 

In the twelfth book of a Thousand Notable Things are the 
following interpretations of dreams : " 28. If a woman dream 
she is kindling a fire, it denotes she will be delivered of a male 

DREAMS. 133 

child. To dream you see a stack of corn burnt, signifies 
famine and mortality. If a sick person dreams of a river or 
fountain of clear water, it denotes a recovery. 29. If a young 
man dreams lie draws water out of a well, it signifies he will 
be speedily married. To dream that he has a glass full of 
water given him, signifies marriage. 30. To dream of seeing 
a barn well stored, signifies marriage of a rich wife. 31. If a 
woman dreams of being delivered of a child, yet is not big, it 
is a sign she shall at length be happily brought to bed. If a 
maid dream the same dream, it signifies banquet, joy, and suc- 
ceeding nuptials. 32. To dream of little rain and drops of 
water, is good for plowmen. 33. To dream of being touched 
with lightning, to the unmarried signifies marriage ; but it 
breaks marriages made, and makes friends enemies. 34. To 
dream of having or seeing the forehead of a lion, betokens the 
getting of a male child. 35. To dream of roasted swine's 
flesh, signifies speedy profit. To dream of drinking sweet 
wine, betokens good success in law." Ibid, book vi. 11, we 
read : " To dream that you go over a broken bridge, betokens 
fear ; to have your head cut off for a heinous offence, signifies 
the death of friends ; to make clean the hands, betokens 
trouble ; to see hands filthy and foul, betokens loss and 
danger ; to feed lambs, signifies grief and pain ; to take flies, 
signifies wrong or injury. Mizaldus." Ibid, book v. 33, it 
is stated that, " To dream that eagles fly over your head doth 
betoken evil fortune ; to dream that you see your face in water, 
signifies long life ; to follow bees, betokens gain or profit ; to 
be married, signifies that some of your kinsfolks is dead ; to 
dream that you worship God, signifies gladness ; to look in a 
glass, doth portend some issue, or a child ; to have oil poured 
upon you, signifies joy." Also ibid. 6, "To see monks in 
one's dream, doth portend death or calamity; to see fat oxen, 
betokens plenty of all things ; to lose an eye or a tooth, sig- 
nifies the death of some friend, or of a kinsman, or some 
other evil luck ; to dream to be dumb, foreshews speedy glad- 
ness ; to see oxen plow, betokens gain ; to enter into waters, 
betokens evil. Artemidorus." 

And, in the fourth book, we read : 46. " To kill serpents in 
your dream, signifies victory ; to see sails of ships is evil ; to 
dream that all your teeth are bloody, it signifies the death of 
the dreamer ; but that the teeth are drawn out, signifies the 

134 DREAMS. 

death of another; that birds enter into a house, signifies loss; 
to weep, betokens joy ; to handle money, signifies anger ; to 
see dead horses, signifies a lucky event of things. Artemi- 
dorus." Ibid. 11, it is said : " He that sleepeth in a sheep's 
skin shall see true dreams, or dream of things that be true." 
[The curious reader will not be displeased to possess the 
entire Dictionary of Dreams, which we here extract from a 
North country chap-book, entitled the Royal Dream Book : 

Acorns. To dream of acorns, and that you eat one, denotes you will 
rise gradually to riches and honour. 

Acquaintance. To dream that you fight with them, signifies distraction. 

Altar. To dream you are at the altar kneeling is bad. 

Anchor. To dream of an anchor, part in the water, the other part on 
land, and that a male or female stumbles over it, is a sure sign that 
the male will in time become a sailor, and the female will be married 
to one. 

Ants or Bees. To dream of ants denotes that you will live in a great 
town or city, or in a large family, and that you will be industrious, happy, 
well married, and have a large family. 

Angel. To dream you see an angel or angels is good, to dream you are 
one is better; but to speak with, or call upon them, is of evil signification. 

Anger. To dream you have been provoked to anger, shows that you 
have many powerful enemies. 

Angling. To dream of angling betokens affliction and trouble. 

Apparel. To dream you lose your wearing apparel shows your cha- 
racter will be injured by an enemy. 

Apparitions. To dream you see ghosts, &c., denotes to a certainty 
that people you fancy your enemies, are perhaps your best friends. 

Arrest. To dream that you are arrested, or that you are taken late by a 
constable, signifies want of wit, and that the party dreaming shall love 

Asp. The person that dreams of the asp or adder, is thereby betokened 
to have store of money and rich wives. 

Bathing. To dream you bathe and the water seems clear, shows you 
are sure to prosper every thing will go well with you ; but if the water 
appears muddy, you will be apt to meet with shame and sorrow. 

Ball. To dream that you see persons dance at a ball, or that you are 
engaged in a ball yourself, signifies joy, pleasure, recreation, and in- 

Banquets. To dream of banquets is very good and prosperous, and 
promises great preferment. 

Barn. To dream that you see a barn stored with corn, shows that you 
shall marry well, overthrow your adversaries at law, or grow rich. 

Basin. To dream of a basin, signifies a good maid ; and to dream that 
you eat or drink therein, shows love for the servant-maid. 

Bathing. To dream you bathe in a clear fountain, signifies joy ; but to 
bathe in stinking water, signifies shame. 

DREAMS. 135 

Beans. To dream you are eating beans, signifies you have a rich, in- 
expert, but cruel enemy. 

J3 e ^. To dream you are in bed, and it changes to a green field, and 
you see two doves coming, implies that the dreamer will be married at 
the end of the month. 

Bedside. To dream of sitting by a maid's bedside or talking with her, is 
a sign of marriage, especially if the person dreams he goes between the 
sheets, then it is most certain. 

Beggars. To dream of poor folks or beggars entering into a house, 
and carrying away anything, whether it be given them or they steal it, de- 
notes great adversity. 

Blind. To dream of being blind, threatens the dreamer with want of 

Blind-man's-buff'. To dream that one plays at blind-mind's-buff, sig- 
nifies prosperity, joy, and pleasure. 

Blindness. To dream you are blind, denotes extreme poverty. 

Blackbird. To dream you see and hear a blackbird and thrush singing 
upon the same tree, a female will have two husbands, and a male two wives. 

Boat. For a female to dream she is in a boat, falls in the water, and is 
rescued by a male, shows he will become her husband to a certainty. 

Bonnet. To dream that you have lost a bonnet or shoes, denotes that 
you will quickly get married. 

Bread. To dream of bread is good ; particularly so, if you make and 
bake it yourself. 

Brewing and Baking. To dream of brewing and baking, is a sign of 
an ill housewife, who lies dreaming in bed when she should be at work, 
and doing her business. 

Briars. To dream of being pricked with briars, shows that the person 
dreaming has an ardent desire to something, and that young folks 
dreaming thus are in love, who prick themselves in striving to gather 
their rose. 

Bridge. To dream of crossing a bridge, denotes that the dreamer will 
leave a good situation to seek a better. 

Buildings. To dream of unfinished buildings, signifies a future prospect 
for a dreamer, who must encounter privations for a time, but will to a 
certainty become happy. 

Bullock. If you dream a bullock pursues you, beware of some power- 
ful enemy, particularly if the dreamer is a female. If a cow, a female is 
the enemy. 

Buried. To dream yourself or friend is buried, foretells a serious fit of 

Buying. To dream you buy ail sorts of things which one useth, is 
good ; to buy that which is only for victuals and relief, is good for the 
poor ; but to the rich and wealthy, it signifies expenses and great charge. 
Cage. To dream that a maid lets a bird out of a cage, is a sign she 
will not long hold her modesty, but as soon as she can get a customer 
she will part with her virtue. 

Cakes. To dream one makes them, signifies joy and profit ; that you 
will thrive in all your undertakings. 

136 DREAMS. 

Candle. Ho dream a candle burns bright and clear, denotes a pleasing 
letter from your sweetheart ; but if the candle's blaze gets dull, you will 
be disappointed. 

Cat. If a man dreams of a cat, and he caress her, and she scratches 
him, his sweetheart is a spiteful termagant. If a female dreams of a cat 
that acts similarly, she may rest assured that she has a rival. 

Church. To dream that you are in the church, and that the parson 
and pulpit are in white, and that he preaches a sermon to your taste, 
shows speedy marriage. 

Climbing. To dream you are climbing a tree, and gain the top, shows 
you will rise to preferment, or your love will succeed. 

Clouds. To dream of white clouds, signifies joy and prosperity; black 
clouds, trouble. 

Coach. To dream of a coach drawn by four horses, and that the 
dreamer is delighted with the jaunt, either he or she may expect some- 
thing will transpire to give joy and satisfaction in a month after ; perhaps 
marriage if single. 

Coals. To dream you see dead coals, signifies expedition in business ; 
and to dream you see burning coals, threatens you with shame and reproach. 

Combating. To dream of combating with any one is ill to all men, for 
besides shame he shall have hurt; it also signifies much strife and 

Cradle. Implies that marriage is certain ; therefore we wish the 
dreamer all happiness. 

Cream. To dream that you see cream spilt upon you, signifies the 
infusion of some grace from above. 

Cuckoo. If you dream you hear the cuckoo, your sweetheart will 
prove coquette. 

Cupid li you dream Cupid breaks his dart, your love will change. If 
he breaks his bow, you are likely to die an old maid. 

Dark. To dream of being in the dark, and that he loses his way in riding, 
or in going up a high steeple or high stairs, signifies that they so dreaming 
shall be blinded by some passion, and have much trouble. 

Daggers. To dream of them, denotes the person dreaming to have 
some hot contest with others. 

Dairy. To dream you are in a dairy, skimming the cream off the 
milk, and that your sweetheart partakes of the cream, denotes him in- 
dined to luxury. But if he drinks the milk, it is a sign of frugality. 

Dancing. To dream that you are dancing, and enjoying all the plea- 
sures of hfe in quick succession, denotes grief, poverty, and despair, after 
great enjoyment. 

Death. To dream of death, denotes happiness and long life. 

Devil. To dream of the devil, denotes many troubles. If he appears 
in fire, immediate misfortune will befall you. If he vanishes in smoke, 
expect a returning calm. 

Diffidence. To dream that your sweetheart is sulky and diffident, 
proves his intentions are pure. 

tJt^pT T dream , of ^eing dressed fine and gay and cheerful, shows 
that the dreamer will be blessed with good health? 



Drinking. To dream you drink cold water is good to all ; but hot sig- 
nifieth sickness and hinderance of affairs. 

Farce. To dream you see a farce, denotes good success in business ; 
to see one often denotes damage, because recreation is too often an 
hinderance to business. 

Eating. To dream you see others eating, is a bad omen. But if you 
dream you are asked to eat, and partake of those things which you like 
best, some relief perhaps will follow. 

Earthquake. To dream of an earthquake warns you to be cautious 
and careful. 

Execution. To dream of the execution of offenders and of those dismal 
places where some are ready to be executed, shows that you will suddenly 
be sought after for relief, by some that are in great want. 

Eyes. To dream you lose your eyes, is a very unfavorable omen ; it 
denotes a decay of circumstances, loss of friends, and death of relations ; 
in fact everything unhappy, even the loss of liberty. 

Fairs. To dream of going to fairs threatens the person so dreaming 
with having his pocket picked, which is usually done in such places. 

Fall. If you dream that you fall into the mire, and are covered with 
filth, if a servant, you will lose your character. 

Father-in-law. To dream one sees his father-in-law, either dead or 
alive, is ill. 

Feasting. To dream you are at a feast and cannot enjoy it, shows you 
will have disappointment. To dream your sweetheart enjoys it, a male 
or female friend will deprive you of your favorite. 

Fields. To dream of fields and pleasant places, shows to a man that 
lie will marry a discreet, chaste, and beautiful wife ; and to women it 
betokens a loving and prudent husband, by whom she shall have beautiful 
and prudent children. 

Fighting. To dream of fighting, signifies opposition and contention ; 
and, if the party dreams he is wounded in fighting, it signifies loss of re- 
putation and disgrace. 

Flies. To dream of flies or other vermin, denotes enemies of all sorts. 

Flying. To dream you are flying, is not good ; it denotes the dreamer 
is too presumptuous, and vainly ambitious and romantic. 

Friend. To drearn you see a friend dead, denotes hasty news, and a 
legacy. If the friend is a female, you will be married instanter. 

Garden. To dream you are walking in a garden, and the trees are all 
bare and fruitless, is a very bad omen. It shows that your friends will 
become poor, or that you will lose their friendship. If the garden in its 
bloom is of a very favorable nature, it promises everything to a farmer ; in 
short, prosperity at large. 

Grave. To dream of an open grave, foretells sickness and disap- 

Grapes. To dream of eating grapes at any time, signifies profit ; to 
tread grapes, signifies the overthrow of enemies ; to gather white grapes, 
signifies gain ; but to gather black grapes, signifies damage. 

Guineas. To dream of gold is a good omen ; it denotes success in your 
present undertakings, after experiencing difficulties. 

138 DBEAMS. 

I fair. To dream you comb your hair, and it seem very long and fine, 
shows vou will have many joys of short duration. 

HaLTo dream your hat is torn and dirty, signifies damage and dis- 
honour ; but to dream that you have a hat on that pleases you, denotes 
iov, profit, and success in business. 

'Hatred. To dream of hatred, or of being hated, whether of friends or 
enemies is ill, for one may have need of all the world. 

Heart' s-ease. You will be married well, and live happy, if you dream 
of this innocent flower in bloom. 

Hen and chickens. To dream of a hen and chickens, shows you will 
be married to a widow or widower with many children. 

fjorse. To dream you are mounted on a fine young horse, and that 

you are well dressed, with the horse or mare gaily caparisoned, denotes 
you will marry some rich person, who will make you happy. 

Husbandry. To dream of a plough, denotes success in life, and a good 

f ce . To dream of ice, shows that the person you would wish to be your 
companion for life is cool, of an amiable temper, free from choleric pas- 
sions, and faithful. 

Image. To dream of an image or statue, signifies children. 

King. To dream you see the king and queen, signifies gain, honour, 
and joy. 

Knave. For a man to dream he is a knave, is a sign he will grow rich ; 
but for a man to dream he is concerned with knaves, shows he will have 
many lawsuits. 

Kissing. To dream you are kissing a pretty maid, shows an evil design. 
In love, it shows that your sweetheart, though she loves you, will act more 

Kittens are harmless diverting creatures. To dream of them signifies 
many children. 

Knife. To dream you bestow a knife upon any one, signifies injustice 
and contention. 

Ladder. To dream that you ascend a ladder, signifies honour ; but to 
dream that you descend a ladder betokeneth damage. 

Letter. To dream you send a letter to your sweetheart, or others un- 
sealed, shows secrets will be exposed. 

Lying. To tell a lie in a dream is not good, except by players and jesters 
who practise it. 

Marry. To dream you marry, denotes damage, sickness, melancholy, 
and sometimes death. 

Maids. To dream you obtain a maid, signifies joy ; to dream you take 
away a maid by force, signifies weeping. If a maid dream that she has 
let a bird out of its cage, she ought to be very watchful over herself. 

Money. To dream of losing money is in old folks a sign of short 
life ; in young folks it signifies loss of modesty and honour. 

Music. To dream you hear melodious music, signifies that the party 
dreaming shall suddenly hear some very acceptable news. 

Nosegay. To dream of gathering or making nosegays is unlucky 5 
showing our best hopes shall withet as flowers do in nosegays. 

DREAMS. 139 

Nun. To dream you turn nun, denotes confinement, or it shows you 
will be disappointed by your lover, or crossed by a rival. 

Oven. To dream you see an oven burning hot, signifies joy. 

Pit. To dream you fall into a pit, and cannot get out easily, denotes 
some serious calamity; that your sweetheart is false, and will prefer 

Purse. To dream you find an empty purse, bodes the dreamer is lazy. 

Quarrelling. To dream that you are quarrelling, denotes tbat some 
unexpected news wiJl reach you, and that your sweetheart is about to be 
married to another. 

Rainbow. To dream you see a rainbow in the sky, betokens your 
changing your present state and manner of life ; to dream you see the 
rainbow in the east, is a good omen to the poor and sick, for the former 
will recover their estates, and the latter their health ; if you dream you 
see it in the west, to the rich it is good, to the poor a bad sign ; to dream 
you see a rainbow directly over your head, or near you, signifies a change 
of fortune, and most commonly the death of the dreamer, and ruin of his 
family. Note also, that in your dreams, the rainbow on your right hand 
is good, on the left ill, and you must judge the right and left by the sun. 

Ring. To dream your lover puts a ring on your finger of the wrong 
hand, generally shows he is deceitful, and not to be trusted ; to dream of 
a ring is favorable. 

Riding. To dream of riding in a coach, and that you sit at ease and 
are much pleased therewith, denotes the person to be proud, and will 
spare no cost to gratify their vanity. 

Shipwreck. To dream you suffer shipwreck, the ship being overwhelmed 
or broken, is most dangerous to all, except those who are detained by 
force ; for to whom it signifies release and liberty. 

Silk. To dream you are clothed in silk, signifies honour ; but to dream 
that you trade with a stranger in silk denotes profit and joy. 

Soldiers. To dream that you see soldiers, may prove literally true, or 
that you may very soon see such persons. 

Serpents denote a prison, and the dreamer will encounter many dangers. 

Swimming. To dream of swimming or wading in the water is good, 
so that the head be kept above water. 

Sweetheart. If a man dream of a sweetheart that is absent, and she 
seems to be more fair than usual, it is a sign that she is chaste and con- 
stant ; but if she looks pale, black, or sickly, be assured she hath broke 
her faith, and is become altogether inconstant. 

Thunder. To dream of thunder, signifies afflictions of divers and 
sundry causes ; chiefly to the rich : for the poor it signifies repose. 

Trees. To dream you see trees in blossom, denotes a happy marriage 
with the present object of your affections, and many children, who will 
all do well in life. 

Treasure. To dream you find treasure hid in the earth is evil, whether 
it be little or great. 

Tombs. To dream you are erecting a tomb signifies marriages, weddings, 
and Dirth of children ; but if you dream that the tomb falls to ruin, it 
signifies sickness, and destruction to him and his family. To have a 

140 DREAMS. 

sepulchre or tomb, or to build one, is good for a servant, for he sball have 
one that will survive him ; in short, it is a good dream in general to both 
rich and poor. 

Thieves. To dtfeam of thieves is good or bad, according as the dream 
is circumstanced. 

Water. To dream you are drinking water, denotes great trouble and 
adversity ; to the lover it shows your sweetheart is false, and prefers 
another, and will never marry you. 

Weeping. To dream one weeps and grieves, whether it be for any 
friend departed, or for any other cause, it is joy and mirth for some good 

Wife. If a man dreams he sees his wife married to another, it signi- 
fied) a change of affairs. 

Writing. When dreaming of writing a letter to your sweetheart, if 
you put it in the post, you will have a pleasing return, but to trust it into 
other hands, shows your secrets will be exposed. 

Yarrow. To dream of this weed, which is in general most abundant 
in churchyards, denotes to the married, deaths in the family; and to 
the single that the grim tyrant will deprive them of the first object on 
whom they rest their affections. 

Yellow Flowers predict love mixed with jealousy, and that you will 
have more children to maintain than what justly belong to you. 

Yew Tree. An indication of the funeral of a very aged person, by 
whose death the dreamer will derive some benefit, or a protecting hand 
among the relations of the deceased person. 

Yeast. To dream of yeast denotes that what you next undertake will 
prosper, and that your wife will soon be in the family-way. If a single 
man, your sweetheart's love will increase. To a maiden, her lover will be 
rich, and very like a brewer or baker. To dream that they are knead- 
ing dough with yeast, is a sure sign of being comfortable for life.] 

In a Strange Metamorphosis of Man transformed into a 
Wildernesse, Deciphered in Characters, 1634, under No. 37, 
the Bay Tree, it is observed : " Nor is he altogether free from 
superstition ; for he will make you beleeve that, if you put his 
leaves but under your pillow, you shall be sure to have true 

In the old play of the Vow-Breaker, or the Fair Maid of 
Clifton, 1636, act iii. sc. i., Ursula speaks : "I have heard you 
say that dreames and visions were fabulous ; and yet one time 
I dreamt fowle water ran through the floore, and the next day 
the house was on fire. You us'd to say hobgoblins, fairies, and 
the like, were nothing but our owne affrightments, and yet o' 
my troth, cuz, I once dream'd of a young batchelour, and was 
ridd with a night-mare. But come, so my conscience be 
cleere, I never care how fowle my dreames are." 

THE MOON. 141 

" 'Tis a custom among country girls to put the Bible under 
their pillows at night, with sixpence clapt in the book of Ruth, 
in order to dream of the men destined to be their husbands." 
See Poems by Nobody, 8vo. Lond. 1770, p. 199, note. 

Various are the popular superstitions, or at least the faint 
traces of them, that still are made use of to procure dreams of 
divination, such as fasting St. Agnes' Fast ; laying a piece of 
the first cut of a cheese at a lying-in, called vulgarly in the 
North the groaning cheese, under the pillow, to cause young 
persons to dream of their lovers ; and putting a Bible in the 
like situation, with a sixpence clapped in. the book of Ruth, 
&c. Various also are the interpretations of dreams given by 
old women, but of which the regard is insensibly wearing 

[If you would wish to be revenged on a lover by tormenting 
him with hideous dreams, take a bird's heart and at twelve 
o'clock at night stick it full of pins, and a semblance of him 
will appear before you in great agony. 1 ] 

Strutt, describing the manners of the English, Manners and 
Customs, iii. 180, says :" Writing their name on a paper at 
twelve o'clock, burning the same, then carefully gathering 
up the ashes, and laying them close wrapp'din a paper upon 
a looking-glass, marked with a cross, under their pillows, this 
should make them dream of their love." 


THE Moon, the ancient object of idolatrous worship, has in 
later times composed an article in the creed of popular super- 
stition. The ancient Druids had their superstitious rites at 
the changes of the moon. This planet, as Dr. Johnson tells 
us, has great influence in vulgar philosophy. In his me- 
mory, he observes, it was a precept annually given in one of 

[' Obligingly communicated to the publisher by Mr. Robert Bond, 
of Gloucester, with several other superstitions of that locality, which will 
be found under their respective heads. The one given above is not con- 
fined to the neighbourhood of Gloucester, but is more or less prevalent in 
every county in England.] 

142 THE MOON. 

the English almanacs, to kill hogs when the moon was in- 
creasing, and the bacon would prove the better in boiling. 

In the Husbandman's Practice or Prognostication for ever, 
8vo. Land. 1664, p. 108, we are told to "Kill swine in or 
neer the full of the moon, and flesh will the better prove in 
boiling;" and that (p. Ill), "Kill fat swine for bacon (the 
better to keep their fat in boiling) about the full moon." 
Also (p. 110), "Shear sheep at the moon's increase: fell 
hand timber from the full to the change. Fell frith, copice, 
and fuel at the first quarter. Lib or geld cattle, the moon 
in Aries, Sagittarius, or in Capricorn." 

The following is in Curiosities, or the Cabinet of Nature, 
12mo. Lond. 1637, p. 231: " Q. Wherefore is it that we 
gather those fruits which we desire should be faultlesse in the 
wane of the moone, and gueld cattle more safely in the wane 
than in the increase 1 An. Because in that season bodies have 
lesse humour and heate, by which an innated putrefaction is 
wont to make them faulty and unsound." 

[The influence of the moon over mental and corporeal dis- 
eases, its virtue in all magical rites, its appearances as pre- 
dictive of evil and good, and its power over the weather and 
over many of the minor concerns of life, such as the gather- 
ing of herbs, the killing of animals for the table, and other 
matters of a like nature, were almost universally confided in 
as matters of useful and necessary belief in the sixteenth cen- 
tury ; and it is stated on reasonable authority that the relics 
of this belief are still to be traced among our rural popu- 

Shakespeare has many allusions to these impressions, but 
they have not been quite so fully illustrated by the commenta- 
tors as might have been anticipated from the extent of their 
researches. Perhaps we are in some measure indebted for 
them to the poet's own imagination. He alludes to the moon 
as the " sovereign mistress of true melancholy ;" informs us 
that she makes men insane when " she comes more near to 
the earth than she was wont;" and that, when "pale in her 
anger, rheumatic diseases do abound." Hecate tells the 

" Upon the corner of the moon 

There hangs a vaporous drop profound," 
efficacious in the invocation of spirits. The great dramatist 

THE MOON. 143 

also alludes to its eclipses and sanguine colour as positive 
indications of corning disasters. 

With respect to the passage just cited from Macbeth, it 
may be observed that the moisture of the moon is constantly 
alluded to. In Newton's Directions for Health, 1574, we are 
told that " the moone is ladie of moysture ;" and in Hamlet, 
she is called the moist star. Shakespeare, indeed, in the Mid- 
summer Night's Dream, appears to have imitated a passage to 
this effect in Lydgate's Storie of Thebes, 

" Of Lucina the moone, moist and pale, 
That many showre fro heaven made availe." 

The power of witches over this planet is often mentioned, 
and Prospero describes one " so strong that could control the 
moon." The notion is of great antiquity, and the reader will 
call to mind the clouds of Aristophanes, where Strepsiades 
proposes the hiring of a Thessalian witcli to bring down the 
ttioon, and shut her in a box, that he might thus evade pay- 
ing his debts by the month !] 

The subsequent very singular superstitions respecting the 
moon may be found in the Husbandman's Practice or Prog- 
nostication, above quoted, p. 110: "Good to purge with 
electuaries, the moon in Cancer; with pills, the moon in 
Pisces ; with potions, the moon in Virgo. Good to take vo- 
mits, the moon being in Taurus, Virgo, or the latter part of 
Sagittarius ; to purge the head by sneezing, the moon being 
in Cancer, Leo, or Virgo ; to stop fluxes and rheumes, the 
moone being in Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorne ; to bathe when 
the moone is in Cancer, Libra, Aquarius, or Pisces ; to cut 
the hair off the head or beard when the moon is in Libra, 
Sagittarius, Aquarius, or Pisces. Briefe Observations of Hus- 
bandry : Set, sow seeds, graft, and plant, the moone being 
in Taurus, Virgo, or in Capricorn, and all kind of come in 
Cancer ; graft in March at the moone's increase, she being 
in Taurus or Capricorne." 

Among the preposterous inventions of fancy in ancient 
superstition occurs the moon-calf, an inanimate shapeless mass, 
supposed by Pliny to be engendered of woman only. See his 
Natural History, B. x. c. 64. 

" They forbidde us, when the moone is in a fixed signe, to 
put on a newe garment ; why so ? Because it is lyke tliat it 

144 THE MOON. 

wyll be too longe in wearing, a small fault about this towne, 
where garments seldome last till they be payd for. But theyr 
meaning is, not that the garment shall continue long, in 
respect of any strength or goodnes in the stuffe ; but by the 
duraunce or disease of him, that hath neyther leysure nor li- 
berty to weare it." Defensative against the Poyson of sup- 
posed Prophecies, by the Earl of Northampton, 4to. Lond. 

In Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, under Fe- 
bruary, are the following lines : 

" Sowe peason and beans in the wane of the moone 
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soone : 
That they, with the planet, may rest and rise, 
And flourish with bearing, most plentiful wise." 

On which is the following note in Tusser Redivivus, 8vo. 
Lond. 1744, p. 16: " Planetary influence, especially that of 
the moon, has commonly very much attributed to it in rural 
affairs, perhaps sometimes too much ; however, it must be 
granted the moon is an excellent clock, and, if not the cause 
of many surprising accidents, gives a just indication of them, 
whereof this of peas and beans may be one instance: for 
peas and beans, sown during the increase, do run more to 
hawm and straw, and, during the declension, more to cod, 
according to the common consent of countrymen. And I 
must own I have experienced it, but I will not aver it so that 
it is not liable to exceptions." 

Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Superstition (transl. 
8vo. Lond. 1748), p. 6, speaking of a superstitious man, 
says : " He will not commit his seed to the earth when the 
soil, but when the moon, requires it. He will have his hair 
cut when the moon is either in Leo, that his locks may stare 
like the lion's shag, or in Aries, that they may curl like a 
ram's horn. Whatever he would have to grow, he sets about 
it when she is in her increase ; but for what he would have 
made less, he chooses her wane. When the moon is in Taurus, 
he never can be persuaded to take physic, lest that animal, 
which chews its cud, should make him cast it up again. If 
at any time he has a mind to be admitted into the presence of 
a prince, he will wait till the moon is in conjunction with the 
sun ; for 'tis then the society of an inferior with a superior is 
salutary and successful." 

THE MOON. 145 

In the old play of the Witch of Edmonton, 4to. 1658, p. 14, 
young Banks observes: "When the moon's in the full, then 
wit's in the wane." 

" It is said that to the influence of the moon is owing the 
increase and decrease of the marrow and brain in animals ; 
that she frets away stones, governs the cold and heat, the 
rain and wind. Did we make observations, we should find 
that the temperature of the air hath so little sympathy with 
the new or full moon, that we may count as many months of 
dry as wet weather when the return of the moon was wet, 
and contrariwise ; so true is it, that the changes of the wea- 
ther are subject to no rule obvious to us. 'Twere easy to 
shew that the reason of the thing is directly against the po- 
pular opinion." Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1734, iv. 489, from 

The hornedness of the new moon is still faintly considered 
by the vulgar as an omen with regard to the weather. They 
say, on that occasion, the new moon looks sharp. In Dekker's 
Match me in London, act i., the king says : " My lord, doe you 
see this change i' the moone? sharp homes doe threaten 
windy weather." 

[In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 12mo. Lond. 
1631, p. 1/3, the author, speaking of a Xantippean, says: 
" A burre about the moone is not halfe so certaine a presage of 
a tempest as her brow is of a storme."] 

Dr. Jamieson, in his Etymolog. Dictionary of the Scottish 
Language, v. Mone, says that in Scotland " it is considered 
as an almost infallible presage of bad weather if the moon 
lies sair on her back, or when her horns are pointed towards 
the zenith. It is a similar prognostic when the new moon 
appears with the auld moon in her arms, or, in other words, 
when that part of the moon which is covered with the shadow 
of the earth is seen through it. A brugh, or hazy circle round 
the moon, is accounted a certain prognostic of rain. If the 
circle be wide, and at some distance from the body of that 
luminary, it is believed that the rain will be delayed far some 
time ; if it be close, and as it were adhering to the disc of 
the moon, rain is expected very soon." [One of these su- 
perstitions is thus alluded to in the ballad of Sir Patrick 

in. 10 

; 46 THE MOON. 

" Late, late, yestreen, I saw the new raoone 

Wi' the auld raoone in her arme ; 
And I feir, I feir, my deir master, 
That we will come to harme."] 

Bailey tells us that the common people, in some counties 
of England, are accustomed at the prime of the moon to say : 
" It is a fine moon, God bless her ;" which some imagine to 
proceed from a blind zeal, retained from the ancient Irish, 
who worshipped the moon, or from a custom in Scotland 
(particularly in the Highlands), where the women make a 
courtesy to the new moon ; and some Englishwomen still re- 
tain a touch of this gentilism, who getting up upon, and sit- 
ting astride on, a gate or stile, the first night of the new moon, 
thus invoke its influence 

" All hail to the moon, all hail to thee ! 

I prithee, good moon, declare to rne, 

This night, who my husband shall be." 

The person, says Grose, must presently after go to bed, when 
they will dream of the person destined to be their future hus- 
band or wife. In Yorkshire they kneel on a ground-fast stone. 
Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, gives the following account of 
the superstition : " At the first appearance of the new moon 
after New Year's Day (some say any other new moon is as 
good), go out in the evening and stand over the spars of a 
gate or stile, looking on the moon and say 

All hail to the moon, all hail to thee I 

I prithee, good moon, reveal to me 

This night who my husband (wife) shall be. 

You must presently after go to bed. I knew two gentle- 
Women," says our credulous author, " that did this when they 
were young maids, and they had dreams of those that married 
them." [In Yorkshire, according to the same authority, when 
they practise this expedient, " they kneel on a ground-fast 

Dr. Jamieson has quoted these words as used in Scotland, 
in a different form, from the Rev. J. Nichol's Poems, i. 31, 32 : 
" O, new moon, I hail thee ! 
And gif I'm ere to marry man, 

Or man to marry me, 
His face turn'd this way fasts ye can, 
Let me my true love see 

This blessed night ! " 

THE MOON. 147 

A note adds : " As soon as you see the first new moon of 
the new year, go to a place where you can set your feet upon 
a stone naturally fixed in the earth, and lean your back against 
a tree ; and in that posture hail or address the moon in the 
words of the poem. If ever you are to be married, you will 
then see an apparition exactly resembling the future partner 
of your joys and sorrows." 

[In some parts of the country, even at the present day, it 
is supposed to be unlucky to look at the new moon for the 
first time through a window.] 

In the Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 
8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 62, we read, in the chapter on omens: 
" To see a new moon the first time after her change on the 
right hand, or directly before you, betokens the utmost good 
fortune that month ; as to have her on your left, or behind 
you, so that in turning your head back you happen to see her, 
foreshews the worst : as also they say, to be without gold in 
your pocket at that time is of very bad consequence." 

In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, 
xii., 8vo. Edinb. 1794, p. 457, the minister of Kirkmichael, 
under the head of Superstitions, &c., says : " That fear and 
ignorance incident to a rude state have always been productive 
of opinions, rites, and observances which enlightened reason 
disclaims. But among the vulgar, who have not an oppor- 
tunity of cultivating this faculty, old prejudices, endeared to 
them by the creed of their ancestors, will long continue to 
maintain their influence. It may therefore be easily imagined 
that this country has its due proportion of that superstition 
which generally prevails over the Highlands. Unable to 
account for the cause, they consider the effects of times and 
seasons as certain and infallible. The moon in her increase, 
full growth, and in her wane, are, with them, the emblems of 
a rising, flourishing, and declining fortune. At the last pe- 
riod of her revolution they carefully avoid to engage in any 
business of importance ; but the first and middle they seize 
with avidity, presaging the most auspicious issue to their un- 
dertakings. Poor Martinus Scriblerus never more anxiously 
watched the blowing of the west wind to secure an heir to 
his genius, than the love-sick swain and his nymph for the 
coming of the new moon to be noosed together in matrimony. 
Should the planet happen to be at the height of her splendour 

148 THE MOON. 

when the ceremony is performed, their future life will be a 
scene of festivity, and all its paths strewed over with rose- 
buds of delight. But when her tapering horns are turned 
towards the north, passion becomes frost-bound, and seldom 
thaws till the genial season again approaches. From the 
moon they not only draw prognostications of the weather, 
but, according to their creed, also discover future events. 
There they are dimly pourtrayed, and ingenious illusion never 
fails in the explanation. The veneration paid to this planet, 
and the opinion of its influences, are obvious from the mean- 
ing still affixed to some words of the Gaelic language." 

In Druidic mythology, when the circle of the moon was 
complete, fortune then promised to be the most propitious. 
Agreeably to this idea, rath, which signifies in Gaelic a wheel 
or circle, is transferred to signify fortune. They say " ata 
rath air" he is fortunate. The wane, when the circle is di- 
minishing, and consequently unlucky, they call mi-rath. Of 
one that is unfortunate they say, " ata mi-rath air." 

In the same work, the minister of Portpatrick tell us : "A 
cave in the neighbourhood of Dunskey ought also to be men- 
tioned, on account of the great veneration in which it is held 
by the people. At the change of the moon (which is still 
considered with superstitious reverence) it is usual to bring, 
even from a great distance, infirm persons, and particularly 
rickety children, whom they suppose bewitched, to bathe in 
a stream which pours from the hill, and then dry them in the 
cave ;" and in the parishes of Kirkwall and St. Ola, co. of 
Orkney, " They do not marry but in the waxing of the moon. 
They would think the meat spoiled, were they to kill the 
cattle when that luminary is wanting. . . On going to sea, 
they would reckon themselves in the most imminent danger, 
were they by accident to turn their boat in opposition to the 
sun's course." 

Dr. Jamieson says : " This superstition, with respect to the 
fatal influence of a waning moon, seems to have been general 
in Scotland. In Angus, it is believed that if a child be put 
from the breast during the waning of the moon, it will decay 
nil the time that the moon continues to wane. In Sweden 
great influence is ascribed to the moon, not only as regulating 
the weather, but as influencing the affairs of human life in 
general. The superstitious of our own countrymen, and of 

THE MOON. 149 

the Swedes, on this I'.ead, equally confirm the account given 
by Csesar concerning the ancient Germans, the forefathers of 
both. 'As it was the custom with them/ he says, 'that 
their matrons, by the use of lots and prophecies, should de- 
clare whether they should join in battle or not, they said that 
the Germans could not be victorious if they should engage 
before the new moon.' (Bell. Gall. 1. i. c. 50.) They reck- 
oned new or full moon the most auspicious season for entering 
on any business." The Swedes do not carry this farther than 
they did, for Tacitus assures us that they commenced under- 
takings at the period of full or new moon, considering those 
the most auspicious times. 

A similar superstition prevailed amongst the Irish, for, ac- 
cording to Duchesne, 1 when they saw the new moon, they 
knelt down, recited the Lord's Prayer, at the end of which 
they cried, with a loud voice, " May thou leave us as safe as 
thou hast found us." 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, speaking of 
the Mandingoe tribe of Indians, says : " On the first appear- 
ance of a new moon they view it as newly created, and say a 
short prayer : this seems to be the only visible adoration 
those negroes who are not Mahometans offer to the Deity. 
This prayer is pronounced in a whisper, the person holding 
up his hands before his face; at the conclusion they spit upon 
their hands, and rub them over their faces. They think it 
very unlucky to begin a journey, or any other work of con- 
sequence, in the last quarter of the moon. An eclipse, whe- 
ther of sun or moon, is supposed to be eifected by witchcraft. 
The stars are very little regarded ; and the whole study of 
astronomy they view as dealing in magic .... If they are 
asked for what reason they pray to the new moon, they answer, 
because their fathers did so before them." 

He tells us, in another place : " When the Mahometan Feast 
of Bhamadan was ended, the priests assembled to watch for 
the appearance of the new moon, but the evening being 
cloudy, they were for some time disappointed ; on a sudden, 
this delightful object showed her sharp horns from behind a 
cloud, and was welcomed with the clapping of hands, beating 
of drums, firing of muskets, and other marks of rejoicing." 

1 Histoire d'Angleterre, p. 18. Vallancey offers us testimony to the 
same purpose. 

150 THE MOON. 

Butler, in his Hudibras, part ii. canto iii. I. 239, touches 
on the subject of lunar superstitions ; speaking of his con- 
juror, he tells us : 

" But with the moon was more familiar 

Than e'er was almanac well-wilier ; 

Her secrets understood so clear, 

That some believ'd he had been there ; 

Knew when she was in fittest mood 

For cutting corns or letting blood ; 

When for anointing scabs or itches, 

Or to the bum applying leeches ; 

"When sows and bitches may be spay'd, 

And in what sign best cider's made ; 

Whether the wane be, or increase, 

Best to set garlic or sow pease : 

Who first found out the man i' th' moon, 

That to the ancients was unknown." 

It appears that corns ought to be cut after the moon has 
been at full ; at least, so we are told in the British Apollo, 
fol. Lond. 1710, No. x. : 

" Pray tell your querist if he may 
Rely on what the vulgar say, 
That, when the moon's in her increase, 
// corns be out they'll grow apace; 
But if you always do take care, 
After the full your corns to pare, 
They do insensibly decay, 
And will in time wear quite away : 
If this be true, pray let me know, 
And give the reason why 'tis so : " 

It is answered : 

" The moon no more regards your corns 
Than cits do one another's horns : 
Diversions better Phoebe knows 
Than to consider your gall'd toes." 

M. Stevenson, in the Twelve Moneths, 4to. Lond. 1661, p. 
19, tell us that "horses and mares must be put together in 
the increase of the moone, for foales got in the wane are not 
accounted strong and healthfull." 

In Thomas Lodge's Incarnate Divells, 4to. Lond. 1596, p. 
44, is the following notice of a curious lunar superstition : 
" When the moone appeareth in the spring time, the one 
home spotted, and hidden with a blacke and great cloud, 
from the first day of his apparition to the fourth day after, it 

THE MOON. 151 

is some signe of tempests and troubles in the aire the sommer 

The Rev. Mr. Shaw, in his Account of Elgin and the shire 
of Murray (see the Appendix to Pennant's Tour), informs us 
that at the full moon in March the inhabitants cut withies of 
the misletoe or ivy, make circles of them, keep them all the 
year, and pretend to cure hectics and other troubles by them. 
Dr. Johnson, in his Journey to the Western Islands, tells us, 
they expect better crops of grain by sowing their seed in the 
moon's increase. 

In Barnabe Googe's translation of Naogeorgus's Popish 
Kingdome, 4to. Lond. 1570, fol. 44, we have the following 
lines concerning moon superstitions : 

" No vaine they pearse, nor enter in the bathes at any day, 
Nor pare their nayles, nor from their hed do cut the heare away ; 
They also put no childe to nurse, nor mend with doung their ground, 
Nor medicine do receyve to make their erased bodies sound, 
Nor any other thing they do, but earnestly before 
They marke the moone how she is placed, and standeth evermore." 

[Howell records an old proverb, " so many days old the 
moon is on Michaelmas-day, so many floods after." This 
maxim also occurs in the work of Stevenson, quoted above.] 

Martin, in his Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, 
p. 174, speaking of Skie, says : "The natives are very much 
disposed to observe the influence of the moon on human 
bodies, and for that cause they never dig their peats but in 
the decrease ; for they observe that, if they are cut in the in- 
crease, they continue still moist and never burn clear, nor are 
they without smoak, but the contrary is daily observed of 
peats cut in the increase. They make up their earthen dykes 
in the decrease only, for such as are made at the increase are 
still observed to fall." 

The ancients chiefly regarded the age of the moon in fell- 
ing their timber : their rule was to fell it in the wane, or four 
days after the new moon, or sometimes in the last quarter. 
Pliny advises it to be in the very moment of the change, 
which happening to be in the last day of the winter solstice, 
the timber, he says, will be incorruptible. 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 56, tells us that " St. Au- 
gustine in his Enchiridion, sayth that it is a great offence for 
any man *,o observe the time and course of the moone when 

152 THE MOON. 

they plant any trees or sowe any corne ; for he sayth, none 
puts any trust in them but they that worship them : believ- 
ing there is some divine power in them, according to those 
things they believe concerning the nativities of men." 

In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, 4to. 1602, p. 286, we 
read : " At any eclipse of the moone the Romans would take 
their brazen pots and pannes and beate them, lifting up many 
torches and linckes lighted and firebrandes into the aire, 
thinking by these superstitious meanes to reclaime the moone 
to her light. So the Macedonians were as superstitious as 
the Romanes were at any eclipse of the moone. Nothing 
terrified the Gentils more in their warres than the eclipse of 
the sunne and the moone. There was a lawe in Sparta that 
every ninth yeare the chief magistrates called Ephori would 
choose a bright night without moone-light, in some open 
place, to behold the starres, and if they had seene any star 
shoot or move from one place to another, straight these ephori 
accused their kings that they offended the gods, and thereby 
deposed them from their kingdome. So did Lysander depose 
King Leonidas." 

In Annotations on Medea, &c., Englished by Edward Slier- 
burn, Esq., 8vo. Lond. 1648, p. 105, the author says: "Of 
the beating of kettles, basons, and other brazen vessells, used 
by the ancients when the moone was eclipsed (which they 
did to drowne the charmes of witches, that the moon might 
not heare them, and so be drawne from her spheare as they 
supposed), I shall not need to speake, being a thing so gene- 
rally knowne, a custom continued among the Turks at this 
day : yet I cannot but adde, and wonder at, what Joseph Sca- 
liger, in his annotations upon Manilius, reports out of Bo- 
nincontrius, an ancient commentator upon the same poet ; 
who affirmes that, in a towne of Italy where he lived (within 
these two centuries of yearesj, he saw the same peece of 
Paganisme acted upon the like occasion." 

In the General History of China, done from the French of 
P. Du Halde, 8vo. Lond. 1736, iii. 88, we are told: "The 
very moment the inhabitants perceive the sun or moon begin 
to be darkened, they fall on their knees and beat the ground 
with their forehead; at the same time is heard a dreadful 
rattling of drums and kettle-drums throughout Pekin, accord- 
ing to the persuasion the Chinese formerly had that by this 


noise they assisted the sun or moon, and prevented the cceles- 
tial dragon from devouring such useful planets. Though the 
learned, and people of quality, are quite free from this ancient 
error, and are persuaded that eclipses are owing to a natural 
cause, yet such a prevalence has custom over them, that they 
will not leave their ancient ceremonies : these ceremonies are 
practised in the same manner in all parts of the empire." 

The subsequent passage is in Osborne's Advice to his Son, 
8vo. Oxford, 1656, p. 79: "The Irish or Welch, during 
eclipses, run about beating kettles and pans, thinking their 
clamour and vexations available to the assistance of the higher 

From a passage, Dr. Jamieson says, in one of Dunbar's 
poems, it should appear to have been customary, in former 
times, to swear by the moon : 

" Fra Symon saw it ferd upon this wyse, 
He had greit wounder ; and meris by the mone, 
Freyr Robert has richt weil his devoir done." 

[And the practice is mentioned more than once by Shake- 
speare. Our readers will recollect how Juliet reproves her 
lover for availing himself of that mode of testifying his af- 
fection : 

" 0, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, 
That monthly changes in her circled orb, 
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable." 

Yet however inconstant may be that light, who amongst us 
has not felt in all its witchery the truth of the same poet's 
description : 

" How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank ! 
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music 
Creep in our ears : soft stillness and the night 
Become the touches of sweet harmony."] 


THIS is one of the most ancient as well as one of the most 
popular superstitions. It is supposed to have originated in 
the account given in the book of Numbers, xv. 32 et seq , of 


a man punished with death for gathering sticks on the Sab- 

In Bitson's Ancient Songs, 8vo. 1790, p. 34, we read: 
" The man in the moon is represented leaning upon a fork, 
on which he carries a bush of thorn, because it was for ' pyc- 
chynde stake' on a Sunday that he is reported to have been 
thus confined. In the Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter 
Quince, the carpenter, in arranging his dramatis personse for 
the play before the duke, directs that ' One must come in 
with a bush of thorns and a lantern, and say, he comes in to 
disfigure, or to present, the person of moonshine,' which we 
afterwards find done. ' All that I have to say,' concludes the 
performer of this strange part, ' is, to tell you that the lantern 
is the moon ; I, the man in the moon ; this thorn bush, my 
thorn bush ; and this dog, my dog.' And such a character 
appears to have been familiar to the old English stage. Vide 
also Tempest, act ii. sc. 2." 

The man in the moon is thus alluded to in the second part 
of Dekker's Honest Whore, 4to. Lond. 1030, signat. D. 2: 
" Thou art more than the moone, for thou hast neither chang- 
ing quarters, nor a man standing in thy circle with a bush of 

Butler, describing an astrologer, says : 

" He made an instrument to know 
If the moon shine at full or no ; 
That would as soon as e'er she shone, straight 
Whether 'twere day or night demonstrate ; 
Tell what her d'meter fan inch is, 
And prove that she's not made of green cheese. 
It would demonstrate that the man in 
The moon's a sea Mediterranean, 
And that it is no dog nor bitch 
That stands behind him at his breech, 
But a huge Caspian sea, or lake, 
With arms, which men for legs mistake ; 
How large a gulf his tail composes, 
And what a goodly hay his nose is ; 
How many German leagues by th' scale 
Cape Snout's from Promontory Tail." 

A complete collection of the old superstitions connected 
with the man in the moon, with all the ballads on the subject, 
will be found in Halliwell's Introduction to A Midsummer 
Night's Dream, 8vo. 1841. 



I HANK this among omens, as it is an indication of some 
future thing, which the persons to whom it is communicated 
get, as it were, by accident, and without their seeking for, as 
is always the case in divination. Dr. Johnson, who, a few 
years before his death, visited the scene of the declining influ- 
ence of second sight, has superseded every other account of it 
by what he has left us on the subject. "*We should have had 
little claim," says he, "to the praise of curiosity, if we had 
not endeavoured with particular attention to examine the ques- 
tion of the second sight. Of an opinion received for cen- 
turies by a whole nation, and supposed to be confirmed 
through its whole descent by 'a series of successive facts, it is 
desirable that the truth should be established, or the fallacy 

" The second sight is an impression made either by the 
mind upon the eye, or by the eye upon the mind, by which 
things distant or future are perceived and seen as if they were 
present. A man on a journey, far from home, falls from his 
horse ; another, who is perhaps at work about the house, sees 
him bleeding on the ground, commonly with a landscape of 
the place where the accident befalls him. Another seer, driv- 
ing home his cattle, or wandering in idleness, or musing in 
the sunshine, is suddenly surprised by the appearance of a 
bridal ceremony, or funeral procession, and counts the mourn- 
ers or attendants, of whom, if he knows them, he relates the 
names ; if he knows them not, he can describe the dresses. 
Things distant are seen at the instant when they happen. Of 
things future I know not that there is any rule for deter- 
mining the time between the sight and the event. 

" This receptive faculty, for power it cannot be called, is 
neither voluntary nor constant. The appearances have no 
dependence upon choice : they cannot be summoned, de- 
tained, or recalled. The impression is sudden, and the effect 
often painful. By the term second sight seems to be meant 
a mode of seeing superadded to that which nature generally 
bestows. In the Erse it is called taisch; which signifies like- 
wise a spectre or a vision. I know not, nor is it likely that 
the Highlanders ever examined, whether by taisch, used for 


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, be- 
cause 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 super- 
stitions ; 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 con- 
viction. 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, with- 
out 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 bene- 
ficial, they presuppose more knowledge of the universal sys- 
tem than man has attained, and therefore depend upon prin- 
ciples 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 represent*. 


lions, 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 im- 
plies 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 pro- 
fess to feel it do not boast of it as a privilege, nor are con- 
sidered 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 con- 
viction ; 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 unpar- 
donable. 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. Diet. 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 exhi- 
bition 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 inhabi- 
tants 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 fa- 
culty may be found among the Scandinavians. Isl. ramm- 
skyyn, denotes one who is endowed with the power of seeing 
spirits : ' qui tali visu prseter naturam praeditus est, ut spiritus 
et dsemones 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 conver- 
sion 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 affirma- 
tion, 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 appre- 
hended 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 
eum cceteris, 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 
SSwedeland, 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, 

When, o'er the wat'ry strath, or quaggy moss, 

They see the gliding ghosts unbodied troop. 

Or, if in sports, or on the festive green, 

Their destin'd glance some fated youth descry, 

Who now, perhaps, in lusty vigour seen, 
And rosy health, shall soon lamented die. 

To monarchs dear, some hundred miles astray, 
Oft have they seen fate give the fatal hlow ! 
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, be- 
fore 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, 
ss 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 none 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, 1 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 know- 
ledge of my coming, or some other guest by these good- 
natured 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 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. 1 It denoted also the falling-out of friends. 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dsemonologie, p. 58, enume- 
rates among bad omens, " the falling of salt towards them at 
the table, or the spilling of wine on their clothes ;" saying 

1 So Pet. Molinaei Vates, p. 154 : " Si salinum in mensa evertatur, 
ominosum est." 


also, p. 60, " " How common is it for people to account it a 
signe of ill-luck to have the salt-cellar to be overturned, the 
salt falling towards them /" 

The subsequent quotations are from Roberti Keuchenii 
Crepundia, 8vo. Amstel. 1662, p. 215 : 

" Salinum Eversum. 
" Prodige, subverso casu leviore salino, 

Si mal venturum conjicis omen : adest." 


" Deliras insulse ; salem sapientia servat : 
Omen ab ingenio desipiente malum." 

tc Idem. 

" Perde animam temulente, cades ; sic auguror omen ; 
Non est in toto corpore mica salis." 

Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, 1608, 
speaking of the superstitious man, says : "If the salt fall 
towards him he looks pale and red, and is not quiet till one 
of the waiters have poured wine on his lappe." I have been 
at table where this accident happening, it has been thought 
to have been averted by throwing a little of the salt that fell 
over the left shoulder. 

Mr. Pennant, 1 in his Journey from Chester to London, 
p. 31, tells us : " The dread of spilling salt is a known super- 
stition among us and the Germans, being reckoned a presage 
of some future calamity, and particularly that it foreboded 
domestic feuds ; to avert which it is customary to fling some 
salt over the shoulder into the fire, in a manner truly classical : 
" Mollivit aversos Penates, 

Farre pio, saliente mica." Horat. lib. iii. Od. 23. 

Both Greeks and Romans mixed salt with their sacrificial 
cakes ; in their lustrations also they made use of salt and 
water, which gave rise in after-times to the superstition of 
holy water. Stuckius, in his Convivial Antiquities, p. 17, 
tells us that the Muscovites thought that a prince could not 
show a greater mark of affection than by sending to him salt 
from his own table. 

1 The same author, in his Tour in Wales, tells us that " a tune called 
* Gosteg yr Halen, or the Prelude of the Salt,' was always played whenever 
the salt-cellar was placed before King Arthur's knights at his Round 

"I. 11 


Selden, in his notes on the Polyolbion, Song xi., observes 
of salt, that it " was used in all sacrifices by expresse com- 
mand of the true God, the salt of the covenant in Holy Writ, 
the religion of the salt, set first and last taken away, as a sym- 
bole of perpetual friendship, that in Homer Haaai t>' A\os 
Qeioto, he sprinkled it with divine salt, the title of ay v ITIJS, 
the cleanser, given it by Lycophron, you shall see apparent 
and apt testimonie of its having had a most respected and 
divinely honoured name." 

It has been observed by Bailey, on the falling of salt, 1 that 
it proceeds from an ancient opinion that salt was incorrup- 
tible ; it had therefore been made the symbol of friendship ; 
and if it fell, usually, the persons between whom it happened 
thought their friendship would not be of long duration. 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Pozed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
reckons among vain observations and superstitious ominations 
thereupon, " the spilling of the wine, the overturning of the 
salt." He afterwards, in p. 320, tells us : "I have read it 
in an orthodox divine, that he knew a young gentleman who, 
by chance spilling the salt of the table, some that sate with 
him said merrily to him that it was an ill omen, and wish't 
him take heed to himselfe that day : of which the young 
man was so superstitiously credulous, that it would not go 
out of his mind ; and going abroad that day, got a wound, of 
which he died not long after." 

In Melton's Astrologaster, p. 45, this occurs in a " Cata- 
logue of many Superstitious Ceremonies," No. 26, " That it 
is ill-lucke to have the salt-sellar fall towards you." Gayton, 
in his Art of Longevity, 4to. 1659, p. 90, says : 

" I have two friends of either sex, which do 
Eat little salt, or none, yet are friends too, 
Of both which persons I can truly tell, 
They are of patience most invincible, 
Whom out of temper no mischance at all 
Can put no, if towards them the salt should fall! 1 

1 Grose says, on this subject : " To scatter salt, by overturning the ves- 
sel in which it is contained, is very unlucky, and portends quarrelling with 
a friend, or fracture of a bone, sprain, or other bodily misfortune. Indeed 
this may in some measure be averted by throwing a small quantity of it 
over one's head. It is also unlucky to help another person to salt. To 
whom the ill luck is to happen does not seem to be settled." 


In the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1708, i. No. 24, it is 
said : 

" Wee'l tell you the reason 
Why spilling of salt 
Is esteem'd such a fault : 
Because it doth ev'rything season. 

Th' antiques did opine 

'Twas of friendship a sign, 
So serv'd it to guests in decorum ; 

And thought love decay'd 

When the negligent maid 
Let the salt-cellar tumble before them." 

In the Rules of Civility, 12mo. Lond. 1695 (transl. from 
the French), p. 134, we read,: "Some are so exact, they 
think it uncivil to help anybody that sits by them either with 
salt or with brains ; but in my judgment that is but a ridicu- 
lous scruple, and, if your neighbour desires you to furnish 
him, you must either take out some with your knife, and lay 
it upon his plate, or, if they be more than one, present them 
with the salt, that they may furnish themselves," 

Salt was equally used in the sacrifices both by Jews and 
Pagans ; but the use of salt in baptism was taken from the 
Gentile idolatry, and not from the Jewish sacrifices. Salt, as 
an emblem of preservation, was ordered by the law of Moses 
to be strewed on all flesh that was offered in sacrifice. But 
among the Pagans it was not only made use of as an adjunct, 
or necessary concomitant of the sacrifice, but was offered it- 
self as a propitiation. Thus in the Ferialia, or Offerings to 
the Diis Manibus, when no animal was slain : 

" Parva petunt Manes, pietas pro divite grata est 

Munere ; non avidos Styx habet una Deos 
Tegula porrectis satis est velata coronis, 
Et parcae fruges, parvaque mica salis." 

" The Manes' rights expenses small supply, 
Their richest sacrifice is piety. 
With vernal garlands a small tile exalt, 
A little flour and little grain of salt." 

That the flour and salt were both designed as propitiatory 
offerings to redeem them from the vengeance of the Stygian 
or infernal gods, may be proved from a like custom in the 
Lemuria, another festival to the Diis Manibus, where beans 


are flung instead of the flour and salt ; and when flung, the 
person says, 

" His, inquit, redimo, meque, meosque fabis." Fast. lib. v. 

" And with these beans I me and mine redeem." 

" It is plain, therefore, that the salt in the former ceremony 
was offered as a redemption, which property the Papists im- 
piously ascribe to it still ; and the parva mica, a little grain, 
is the very thing put into the child's mouth at present." 
Seward's Conformity between Popery and Paganism, p. 53. 
Ibid. p. 50, we read : " Then he, the priest, exorcises and ex- 
pels the impure spirits from the salt, which stands by him in 
a little silver box ; and, putting a bit of it into the mouth of 
the person to be baptized, he says, ' Receive the salt of wis- 
dom, and may it be a propitiation to thee for eternal life." By 
the following extract from Dekker's Honest Whore, 1635, the 
taking of bread and salt seems to have been used as a form of 
an oath or strong asseveration : 

"Scena 13. 

" He tooJee tread and salt by this light, that he would 
Never open his lips." 

It is also said 

" He damned himself to hel, if he speak on't agein" 

Of the oath of bread and salt, see Blackwood's Edinburgh 
Magazine, i. 236. 

Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man (Works, 
fol. p. 187), says: "No person will go out on any material 
affair without taking some salt in their pockets, much less 
remove from one house to another, marry, put out a child, or 
take one to nurse, without salt being mutually interchanged ; 
nay, though a poor creature be almost famished in the streets, 
he will not accept any food you will give him, unless you join 
salt to the rest of your benevolence." The reason assigned 
by the natives for this is too ridiculous to be transcribed, i. e. 
the account given by a pilgrim of the dissolution of an en- 
chanted palace on the island, occasioned by salt spilled on the 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xvi. 121, parish of 
Killearn, co. Sterling, we read : " Superstition yet continues 


to operate so strongly on some people, that they put a small 
quantity of salt into the first milk of a cow, after calving, 
that is given any person to drink. This is done with a view 
to prevent skaith (harm), if it should happen that the person 
is not canny" 

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, 
says : " In the town when any enter upon a public office, 
women in the streets, and girls from the windows, sprinkle 
them and their attendants with wheat and salt. And before 
the seed is put into the ground, the mistress of the family 
sends salt into the field." Gough's Camden, fol. 1789, iii. 
659. See also Memorable Things noted in the Description of 
the World, p. 112. 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 139, tells us : " Salt 
extracted out of the earth, water, or any mineral, hath these 
properties to foreshew the weather ; for, if well kept, in fair 
weather it will be dry, and apt to dissolve against wet into its 
proper element ; on boards that it hath lain upon, and got 
into the pores of the wood, it will be dry in fair and serene 
weather, but when the air inclines to wet it will dissolve ; and 
that you shall see by the board venting his brackish tears ; 
and salt-sellers will have a dew hang upon them, and those 
made of mettal look dim against rainy weather." 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, tells us : " It 
would appear strange to an European to see a child suck a 
piece of rock salt as if it were sugar ; this is frequent in 
Africa ; but the poorer sort of inhabitants are so rarely in- 
dulged with this precious article, that to say, ' A man eats salt 
with his victuals,' is to say he is a rich man." 

In the order for the house at Denton, by Tho. Lord Fairfax, 
among Croft's Excerpta Antiqua, p. 32, I find, "For the 
chamber let the best fashioned and apparell'd servants attend 
above the salt, the rest below" 

[" If salt fall tow'rds him, he looks pale and red, 
Stares as the house were tumbling on his head, 
Nor can recover breath till that mishap 
Be purg'd by shedding wine into his lap. 

Tate's Characters, 1691, p. 21.] 

Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 95, ob- 
serves that " to recount it good or bad luck when salt or wine 
falleth on the table, or is shed, is altogether vanity and super- 


stition." See also Mason's Anatomy of Sorcery, 4to. Lond. 
1612, p. 90. Melton, in his Astrolagaster, p. 45, No. 27, 
observes that " If the beere fall next a man it is a signe of 
good luck." 1 


THE casual putting the left shoe on the right foot, or the 
right on the left, was thought anciently to be the forerunner of 
some unlucky accident. Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, 
tells us : " He that receiveth a mischance will consider whe- 
ther he put not on his shirt the wrong side outwards, or his 
left shoe on his right foot." Thus Butler, in his Hudibras : 

" Augustus, having b' oversight 
Put on his left shoe 'fore his right, 
Had like to have been slain that day 
By soldiers mutin'yng for pay." 

The authority of Pliny is cited in a note. 2 

Similar to this, says Grose, is putting on one stocking with 
the wrong side outward, without design ; though changing it 
alters the luck. 

A great deal of learning might be adduced on the subject 
of shoe superstitions. 3 For the ancient religious use of the 
shoe, see Stuckius's Convivial Antiquities, p. 228. 

1 " The Lydians, Persians, and Thracians, esteerae not soothsaying by 
birds, hut by powring of wine upon the ground, upon their cloathes, with 
certain superstitious praiers to their gods that their warres should have 
good successe." Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, 4to. 1602, signat. P.P. 

2 The following is in St. Foix, Essais sur Paris, torn. v. p. 145 : " Au- 
guste, cet empereur qui gouverna avec tant de sagesse, et dont leregne fut 
si florissant, restoit immobile et consterne lorsqu'il lui arrivoit par megarde 
de mettre le soulier droit au pied gauche, et le soulier gauche au pied droit." 

3 The following curious passage occurs in Bynaeus on the shoe of the 
Hebrews, lib. ii. : " Solea sive calceo aliquem csedere olim contemptus 
atque contumeliae rem fuisse habitam quod varia scriptorum veterum loca 
ostendunt." " Over Edom will I cast out my shoe," p. 353. As does the 
subsequent, p. 358 : " Apud Arabes calceum sibi detractum in alium ja- 
cere, servandae fidei signum et pignus esse certissiraum." So is the fol- 
lowing to our purpose, ibid. p. 360 : " An mos iste obtinuerit apud Hebraeos 
veteres, ut reges, cum urbem aliquem. obsiderent, calceum in earn proji- 


In the Statistical Account, of Scotland, xiv. 541, parish of 
Forglen, in the county of Banff, we read ;>-" The superstition 
of former times is now much worn out. There remains, how- 
ever, still a little. There are happy and unhappy feet. Thus, 
they wish bridegrooms and brides a happy foot ; and, to pre- 
vent any bad effect, they salute those they meet on the road 
with a kiss. It is hard, however, if any misfortune happens 
when you are passing, that you should be blamed, when 
neither you nor your feet ever thought of the matter. The 
tongue too must be guarded, even when it commends : it had 
more need, one would think, when it discommends. Thus, 
to prevent what is called forespeakiug, they say of a person, 
God save them : of a beast, Lucksairit" 

[Train, in his History of the Isle of Man, ii. 129, says: 
" On the bridegroom leaving his house, it was customary 
to throw an old shoe after him, and in like manner an old shoe 
after the bride on leaving her home to proceed to church, in 
order to ensure good luck to each respectively ; and, if by 
stratagem either of the bride's shoes could be taken off by 
any spectator on her way from church, it had to be ransomed 
by the bridegroom."] 

Leo Modena, speaking of the customs of the present Jews, 
tells us that "some of them observe, in dressing themselves in 
the morning, to put on the right stocking and right shoe 
first, without tying it ; then afterward to put on the left, and 
so to return to the right ; that so they may begin and end 
with the right side, which they account to be the most for- 
tunate." Transl. byChilmead, 8vo. Lond. 1650, p. 17. 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers posed and puzzel'd, p. 181, 
does not leave out, among vain observations and superstitious 
ominations thereupon, the "putting on the hose uneven, or 
a crosse, and the shooe upon the wrong foot; the band 

cerent, in signum pertinacis propositi non solvendae obsidionis, prius- 
quam urbs sit redacta in potestatem, omnino non liquet. De Chirotheca 
quoque non memini me quicquara legisse." Ibid. lib. i. p. 179, I read the 
following : " Balduinus observat veteres, cum calceamenta pedibus indu- 
cerent, eaque pressius adstringerent, si quando corrigiam contingeret 
effringi, malum omen credidisse, adeo ut suscepta negotia desererent, uti 
diserte testatur Cicero in Divinatione, ubi sic ait : ' Quae si suscipiamus, 
pedis offensio nobis et abruptio, corrigise et sternutamenta ertmt obser- 
vanda,' &c.,atque illud omen veteres portendere credidisse, rem susceptain 
baud feliciter progressuram aut sinistro aliquo casu impediendam." 


standing awry ; the going abroad without the girdle on j" 
and "the bursting of the shoe-lachet" In Pet. Molinsei 
"Vates, p. 218, we read: "Sicorrigia calcei fracta est, omi- 
nosum est." 

James Mason, Master of Artes, in the Anatomic of Sorcerie, 
4to. Lond. 1612, p. 90, speaking of "vaine and frivolous de- 
vices, of which sort we have an infinite number also used 
amongst us," enumerates "foredeeming of evill lucke, by 
pulling on the shooe awry." 

It is accounted lucky by the vulgar to throw an old shoe 
after a person when they wish him to succeed in what he is 
going about. There was an old ceremony in Ireland of 
electing a person to any office by throwing an old shoe over 
his head. 1 

Grose, citing Ben Jonson saying " Would I had Kemp's 
shoes to throw after you," observes, perhaps Kemp was a 
man remarkable for his good luck or fortune j throwing an 
old shoe or shoes after any one going on an important business 
is by the vulgar deemed lucky. See instances of this in Reed's 
Old Plays, xii. 434. 

Shenstone, the pastoral poet, somewhere in his works asks 
the following question : " May not the custom of scraping 
when we bow be derived from the ancient custom of throwing 
the shoes backwards on" the feet ?" and in all probability it may 
be answered in the affirmative. 

In Gay ton' s Festivous Notes upon Don Quixote, p. 104, 
is the following passage, which will be thought much to our 
purpose : " An incantation upon the horse, for want of nailing 
his old shoes at the door of his house when he came forth ; 
or because, nor the old woman, nor the barber, nor his niece, 
nor the curate, designed him the security of an old shooe after 

1 See the Idol of the Clownes, p. 19. In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical 
Account of Scotland, vol. x. 8vo. Edinb. 1794, p. 543, parish of Camp- 
belton, in Argyleshire, the following curious anecdote occurs : " We read 
of a king of the Isle of Man sending his shoes to his Majesty of Dublin, 
requiring him to carry them before his people on a high festival, or 
expect his vengeance." This good Dubliniau king discovers a spirit of 
humanity and wisdom rarely found in better times. His subjects urged 
him not to submit to the indignity of bearing the Manksman's shoes. 
I had rather, said he, " not only bear but eat them, than that one pro- 
vmce of Ireland should bear the desolation of war." 


kirn." So in the Workes of John Heywoode, newlie im- 
printed, 1598 : 

" And home agayne hitherward quicke as a bee, 
Now, /or good Incite, cast an olde shooe after mee." 

I find' the following in the Raven's Aim anacke : "But at 
his shutting in of shop could have beene content to have had 
all his neighbours have throwne his olde shooes after him when 
hee went home, in signe of good lucke." In Ben Jonson's 
masque of the Gypsies, 1640, p. 64, we find this superstition 
mentioned : 

3 Gypsie. " Hurle after an old shoe, 

I'le be merry what here I doe." 

See Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune, 
p. 3979, and the Wild Goose. Chace, p. 1648. 


To break a looking-glass is accounted a very unlucky acci- 
dent. Should it be a valuable one this is literally true, which 
is not always the case in similar superstitions. Mirrors were 
formerly used by magicians in their superstitious and diabo- 
lolical operations, 1 and there was an ancient kind of divina- 

1 " Some magicians (being curious to find out by the help of a looking- 
glasse, or a glasse viall full of water, a thiefe that lies hidden) make choyce 
of young maides, or boyes uupolluted, to discerne therein those images or 
sights which a person denied cannot see. Bodin, in the third book of his 
Dsemonomachia, chap. 3, reporteth that in his time there was at Thou- 
louse a certain Portugais, who shewed within a boy's naile things that 
were hidden. And he addeth that God had expressely forbidden that none 
should worship the stone of imagination. His opinion is that this stone of 
imagination or adoration (for so expoundeth he the first verse of the 26th 
chapter of Leviticus, where he speaketh of the idoll, the graven image, 
and the painted stone) was smooth and cleare as a looking-glasse, wherein 
they saw certaine images or sights, of which they enquired after the 
things hidden. In our time conjurers use chrystall, calling the divina- 
tion chrystallomantia, or onycomantia, in the which, after they have 
rubbed one of the nayles of their fingers, or a piece of chrystall, they 
utter I know not what words, and they call a boy that is pure and no way 
corrupted, to see therein that which they require, as the same Bodin doth 
also make mention." Molle's Living Librarie, 1612, p. 2. 


tion by the looking-glass ; l hence, it should seem, has been 
derived the present popular notion. When a looking-glass is 
broken, it is an omen that the party to whom it belongs will 
lose his best friend. See the Greek Scholia on the Nubes of 
Aristophanes, p. 169. Grose tells us that "breaking a look- 
ing-glass betokens a mortality in the family, commonly the 


In the Memoires de Constant, premier valet de chambre de 
1'Empereur, sur la vie privee de Napoleon, 1830, Bonaparte's 
superstition respecting the looking-glass is particularly men- 
tioned : " During one of his campaigns in Italy, he broke the 
glass over Josephine's portrait. He never rested till the 
return of the courier he forthwith despatched to assure himself 
of her safety, so strong was the impression of her death upon 
his mind." 

In a list of superstitious practices preserved in the Lite and 
Character of Harvey the famous Conjurer of Dublin, 1728, 
p. 58, with " fortune-telling, dreams, visions, palmestry, phy- 
siognomy, omens, casting nativities, pasting urine, drawing 
images," there occur also "mirrors." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 138, tells us : " Mettals 
in general, against much wet or rainy weather, will seem to 
have a dew hang upon them, and be much apter to sully or 
foul anything that is rubbed with the mettal ; as you may see 
in pewter dishes against rain, as if they did sweat, leaving a 
smutch upon the table cloaths ; with this Pliny concludes as 
a sign of tempests approaching. 

" Stones against rain will have a dew hang upon them ; 

1 The following occurs in Delrio, Disquisit. Magic, lib. iv. chap. 2, 
quaest 7, sect. 3, p. 594 : " Genus divinationis captoptromanticum : quo 
augures in splendent! cuspide, velut in crystallo vel ungue, futura inspi- 
ciebant." So, also, ibid. p. 576 : " KaroTTTpofiavTEia, quae rerum quae- 
sitarum figuras in speculis exhibet politis : in usu fuit D. Juliano Imper. 
(Spartianus in Juliano)." Consult also Pausanias, Coelius Rhodoginus, 
and Potter's Greek Antiquities, vol. i. p. 350. Potter says : " When divi- 
nation by water was performed with a looking-glass it was called catop- 
tromancy : sometimes they dipped a looking-glass into the water, when 
they desired to know what would become of a sick person : for as he 
looked well or ill in the glass, accordingly they presumed of his future 
condition. Sometimes, also, glasses were used, and the images of what 
should happen, without water." Mr. Donee's manuscript notes add that 
" washing hands in the same water is said to forebode a quarrel." 


but the sweating of stones is from several causes, and some- 
times are signs of much drought. Glasses of all sorts will 
have a dew upon them in moist weather ; glasse-windows will 
also shew a frost, by turning the air that touches them into 
water, and then congealing of it." 

In the Marriage of the Arts, by Barton Holiday, 1630, is the 
following : " I have often heard them say 'tis ill luck to see 
one's face in a glasse by candle-light" 


IN Shakspeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice says : 
"What fire is in mine earsl" which Warburton explains as 
alluding to a proverbial saying of the common people that 
their ears burn when others are talking of them. On which 
Reed observes that the opinion from whence this proverbial 
saying is derived is of great antiquity, being thus mentioned 
by Pliny : "Moreover is not this an opinion generally received 
that when our ears do glow and tingle some there be that in 
our absence doe talke of us ?" Philemon Holland's Transla- 
tion, b. xxviii. p. 297 ; and Browne's Vulgar Errors. Sir 
Thomas Browne says : " When our cheek burns, or ear tingles, 
we usually say somebody is talking of us, a conceit of great 
antiquity, and ranked among superstitious opinions by Pliny. 
He supposes it to have proceeded from the notion of a sig- 
nifying genius, or universal Mercury, that conducted sounds 
to their distant subjects, and taught to hear by touch." 1 The 
following is in Herrick's Hesperides, p. 391 : 

" On himself e : 
One eare tingles ; some there be 
That are snarling now at me ; 
Be they those that Homer bit, 
I will give them thanks for it." 

1 Pliny's words are : " Absentes tinnitu aurium praesentire sermones de 
se receptum est." In Petri Molinaei Vates, p. 218, we read : " Si cui aures 
tinniunt, indicium est alibi de eo sermones fieri." I find the following 
on this in Delrio, Disquisit. Magic, p. 473 : " Quidam sonitum spontaneum 
auris dextra vel sinistrae observant, ut si haec tintinet, inimicum, si ilia, 


Mr. Douce's MS. notes say : " Eight lug, left lug, wilk lug 
lows?'* If the left ear, they talk harm; if the right, good. 
Scottish, J.M.D. Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Super- 
stition, p. 6, speaking of a superstitious man, says : " When 
his right ear tingles, he will be cheerful ; but, if his left, he 
will be sad." 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
has not omitted, in his list of "Vain Observations and Super- 
stitious Ominations thereupon," the tingling of the ear, the 
itching of the eye, the glowing of the cheek, the bleeding of the 
nose, the stammering in the beginning of a speech, the being 
over-merry on a sudden, and to be given to sighing, and to 
know no cause why." 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dsemonologie, or the Character 
of the crying Evils of the present Times, 1650, p. 61, tells 
us : " If their eares tingle, they say it is a signe they have some 
enemies abroad, that doe or are about to speake evill of them : 
so, if their right eye itcheth, then it betokens joy full laughter ; 
and so, from the itching of the nose and elbow, and several! 
affectings of severall parts, they make severall predictions too 
silly to be mentioned, though regarded by them." 

In the third I dy Ilium of Theocritus, the itching of the right 
eye occurs as a lucky omen : 

AXXtrai o^>0a\/iO fj,tv o St%ioQ' apa y' 
Avrav ; 

thus translated by Creech, 1. 37 : 

amicum, nostri putent memoriam turn recolere ; de quo Aristaenetus in 
Epist. amatoria : OVK /3o/ia<roi TO. wra, aovfjitTa ajcpowi/ EJU^VJJ/JJJV, 
nonne auris tibi resonabat quando tui lachrymans recordabar ; et alicui 
hue pertinere videatur illud Lesbyae Vatis a Veronensi conversum, ' Sonitus 
suopte tintinant aures.' Quod ilia di.xe.rat pofiKtve tvS' aicoa ep-oi : et 
apertius incertus quidam, sed antiquus (iuter Catalect. Virg.) : 

' Garrula quid totis resonas mihi noctibus auris 
Nescio quern dicis nunc meminisse inei.' " 

The subsequent occurs in Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 113, "Aurium 
tinnitus : 

" Laudor et adverso, sonat auris, laedor ab ore ; 

Dextra bono tinnit murraure, lasva malo. 
Non inoror hoc, sed inoffensum tamen arceo vulgus ; 
Cur ? scio, me fama nolle loquente loqui." 


" My right eye itches now, and shall I see 
My love?" 1 

Douce preserves the following superstition on measuring 
the neck, extracted from Le Voyageur a Paris, iii. 223 : " Les 
anciennes nourrices, quand 1'usage toit de leur laisser les 
filles jusqu'S, ce qu'on les donnat a un mari, persuadoient a ces 
credules adolescentes que la grosseur du cou etoit de moyen 
d'apprecier leur continence ; et pour cela elles le mesuroient 
chaque matin. Retenue par une telle epreuve, la fille sage 
dut tirer vanite de la mesure ; de la 1'usage des colliers." In 
Petri Molinsei Vates, p. 218, we read: "Si cui riget collum, 
aut cervicis vertebrae sunt obtortse, prsesignificatio est futuri 
suspendii." 2 

To rise on the right side is accounted lucky ; see Beaumont 
and Fletcher's Women Pleased, at the end of act i. So, in 
the old play of What you Will : <c You rise on your right side 
to-day, marry." Marston's Works, 8vo. 1633, signat, R. b. 
And again, in the Dumb Knight, by Lewis Machin, 4to. 1633, 
act iv. sc. 1, Alphonso says : 

" Sure I said my prayers, ris'd on my right side, 
Wash'd hands and eyes, pnt on my girdle last ; 
Sure I met no splea-footed baker, 
No hare did cross me, nor no bearded witch, 
Nor other ominous sign." 

In the old play called the Game at Chesse, 4to. p. 32, we 
read : 

" A sudden fear invades me, a faint trembling 
Under this omen, 

As is oft felt, the panting of a turtle 
Under a streaking hand." 


" That boads good lucke still. 

Signe you shall change state speedily, for that trembling 
Is alwayes the first symptom of a bride." 

In Molinsei Vates, we read : " Si palpebra exiliit, ominosum est," p. 
218. In the Shepherd's Starre, &c., 4to. 1591, a paraphrase upon the 

j.1.:.. J _^ j/i_ - n A? _i . _ -f mi . ! i . *C 





MELTON, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, No. 7, observes, that 
" when the left cheek burnes, it is a signe somebody talks 
well of you ; but if the right cheek burnes, it is a sign of ill." 
Grose says that, when a person's cheek or ear burns, it is a 
sign that some one is then talking of him or her. If it is 
the right cheek or ear, the discourse is to their advantage : if 
the left, to their disadvantage. When the right eye itches, 
the party affected will shortly cry; if the left, they will 

In Eavenscroft's Canterbury Guests, or a Bargain Broken, 
4to. p. 20, we read : " That you should think to deceive me ! 
Why, all the while I was last in your company, my heart 
beat all on that side you stood, and my cheek next you burnt 
and glow'd." 

Itching of the nose. I have frequently heard this symptom 
interpreted into the expectation of seeing a stranger. So in 
Dekker's Honest Whore, Bellefont says : 

" We shall ha guests to day, 
I'll lay my little maidenhead, my nose itcfieth so." 

The reply made by her servant Roger further informs us 
that the biting of fleas was a token of the same kind. In 
Melton's Astrologaster, p. 45, No. 31, it is observed that, 
"when a man's nose itcheth, it is a signe he shall drink 
wine ;" and 32, that " if your lips itch, you shall kisse some- 

Poor Robin, in his Almanac for 1695, thus satirises some 
very indelicate superstitions of his time in blowing the nose : 
" They who, blowing their nose, in the taking away of their 
handkercher look stedfastly upon it, and pry into it, as if 
some pearls had drop'd from them, and that they would safely 
lay them up for fear of losing : 

These men are fools, although the name they hate, 
Each of them a child at man's estate." 

The same writer ridicules the following indelicate fooleries 
then in use, which must surely have been either of Dutch or 


Flemish extraction : " They who, when they make water, go 
streaking the walls with their urine, as if they were framing 
some antic figures, or making some curious delineations ; or 
shall piss in the dust, making I know not what scattering 
angles and circles ; or some chink in a wall, or little hole in 
the ground to be brought in, after two or three admonitions, 
as incurable fools." 

The nose falling a bleeding appears by the following passage 
to have been a sign of love : " Did my nose ever bleed when I 
was in your company ? and, poor wench, just as she spake this, 
to shew her true heart, her nose fell a bleeding." Boulster 
Lectures, 12mo. Lond. 1640, p. 130. 

Launcelot, in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, says : " It 
was not for nothing that my nose fell a bleeding," &c. ; on 
which Steevens observes that, from a passage in Lodge's 
Rosalynde, 1592, it appears that some superstitious belief 
was annexed to the accident of bleeding at the nose : " As 
he stood gazing, his nose on a sudden bled, which made him 
conjecture it was some friend of his." To which Reed adds : 
" Again, in the Duchess of Malfy, 1640, act i. sc. 2 : 

' How superstitiously we mind our evils ! 
The throwing down salt, or crossing of a hare, 
Bleeding at nose, the stumbling of a horse, 
Or singing of a creket, are of power 
To daunt whole man in us.' 

Again, act i. sc. 3 : 'My nose bleeds.' One that was super- 
stitious would count this ominous, when it merely comes by 

In Bodenham's Belvedere, or Garden of the Muses, 1600, 
p. 147, on the subject of/'Feare, Doubt," &c., he gives the 
following simile from sonfe one of our old poets : 

" As suddaine bleeding argues ill ensuing, 
So suddaine ceasing is fell feares renewing." 

Melton's Astrologaster, p. 45, observes : " 8. That when a 
man's nose bleeds but a drop or two, that it is a sign of ill 
lucke. 9. That when a man's nose bleeds one drop, and at 
the left nostril, it is a sign of good lucke, but, on the right, 

Grose says a drop of blood from the nose commonly fore- 
tells death, or a very severe fit of sickness ; three drops are 


still more ominous. 1 Burton, in liis Anatomy of Melancholy, 
edit. 4to. 1621, p. 214, says that " to bleed three drops at 
the nose is an ill omen." 

If, says Grose, in eating, you miss your mouth, and the 
victuals fall, it is very unlucky, and denotes approaching 


GAULE, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 
183, very justly gives the epithets of "vain, superstitious, 
and ridiculous," to the subsequent observations on Heads : 
" That a great head is an omen or a sign of a sluggish fool," 
(this reminds one of the old saying, " Great head and little 
wit") ; " a little head, of a subtile knave; a middle head, 
of a liberal wit ; a round head, of a senseless irrational fellow ; 
a sharp head, of an impudent sot," &c. Our author's re- 
marks, or rather citation of the remarks, upon round heads 
above, seem not to have been over-well timed, for this book 
was printed in 1652, and is dedicated to the Lord General 

There is a vulgar notion that men's hair will sometimes turn 
gray upon a sudden and violent fright, to which Shakespeare 
alludes in a speech of Falstaff to Prince Henry : " Thy fa- 
ther's beard is turned white with the news." See Grey's 
Notes on Shakspeare, i. 338. He adds: " This whimsical 
opinion was humorously bantered by a wag in a coffee-house, 
who, upon hearing a young gentleman giving the same reason 
for the change of his hair from black to grey, observed that 
there was no great matter in it ; and told the company that 

1 I found the following in Robert! Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 214 : 

" Tres stillce sanyuinece. 
" Cur nova stillantes designant funere guttae, 

Fatidicumque trias sanguinis omen habet ? 
Parce superstitio : numero deus impare gaudet, 

Et numero gaudens impare vivit homo." 

" That your nose may never bleed only three drops at a time," is found 
among the omens deprecated in Holiday's Marriage of the Arts, 1636. 


he had a friend who wore a coal-black wig, which was turned 
grey by a fright in an instant." 

By the following passage, a simile in Bodenham's Belve- 
dere, or the Garden of the Muses, 1 600, it should seem that 
our ancestors considered "heaviness" as an omen of some 
impending evil, p. 160 : 

" As heaviness for et els some harme at hand, 
So minds disturb'd presage ensuing ills." 

In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 1 732, 
p. 61, in the chapter of Omens, we read : "Others again, by 
having caught cold, feel a certain noise in their heads, which 
seems to them like the sound of distant bells, and fancy them- 
selves warned of some great misfortune." 1 


SIR THOMAS BROWNE admits that conjectures of prevalent 
humours may be collected from the spots in our nails, but 
rejects the sundry divinations vulgarly raised upon them. 
Melton, in his Astrologaster, giving a catalogue of many su- 
perstitious ceremonies, tells us : "6. That to have yellow 
speckles on the nailesof one's hand is agreate signe of death." 
He observes, ibid. 23, that, "when the palme of the right 
hand itcheth, it is a shrewd sign he shall receive money." 2 
In Reed's Old Plays, vi. 357, we read : 

" When yellow spots do on your hands appear, 
Be certain then you of a corse shall hear." 3 

[The fore-finger of the right hand is considered by the 

1 Grose says, that " a person being suddenly taken with a shivering is 
a sign that some one has just then walked over the spot of their future 
grave. Probably all persons are not subject to this sensation, otherwise 
the inhabitants of those parishes whose burial-grounds lie in the common 
footpath would live in one continued fit of shaking." 

2 In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, 
p. 60, we read in the chapter of omens : " Others have thought them- 
selves secure of receiving money if their hands itched." 

3 " That a yellow death-mould may never appeare upon your hand, or 
any part of your body," occurs among the omens introduced in Barton 
Holiday's TEXNOFAMIA, signat. E b. I suppose by death-mould our 
author means death-mole. 

m. 12 


vulgar to be venomous ; and consequently is never used in 
applying anything to a wound or bruise.] 

To a person asking in the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1708, 
vol. i. No. 17, the cause of little white spots which sometimes 
grow under the nails of the fingers, and why they say they 
are gifts, it is answered : " Those little spots are from white 
glittering particles which are mixed with red in the blood, 
and happen to remain there some time. The reason of their 
being called gifts is as wise an one as those of letters, wind- 
ing-sheets, &c., in a candle." 

Washing hands, says Grose, in the same basin, or with the 
same water, that another person has washed in, is extremely 
unlucky, as the parties will infallibly quarrel. No reason is 
is given for this absurd opinion. 

Burton, in his Melancholy, edit. 1621, p. 214, tells us that 
a black spot appearing on the nails is a bad omen. 

To cut the nails upon a Friday, or a Sunday, is accounted 
unlucky amongst the common people in many places. " The 
set and statary times," says Browne, " of paring nails and cut- 
ting of hair, is thought by many a point of consideration, 
which is perhaps but the continuation of an ancient super- 
stition. To the Romans it was piacular to pare their nails 
upon the Nundinae, observed every ninth day, and was also 
feared by others on certain days of the week, according to 
that of Ausonius, Ungues Mercurio, Barham Jove, Cypride 
Crines." Barton Holiday deprecates the omen, " that you may 
never pare your nailes upon a Friday." In Thomas Lodge's 
"Wit's Miserie and the World's Madnesse ; discovering the 
Devils Incarnat of this Age, 4to. Lond. 1596, he says, speaking 
of Curiositie, p. 12 : "Nor will he paire his nailes on White 
Munday to be fortunate in his love." [ 

In Albumazar, a Comedy, 4to. Lond. 1634, signat. B. 3 b., 
we read : 

" He puls you not a haire, nor paires a naile, 
Nor stirs a foote, without due figuring 
The horoscope." 

The Jews, however, (superstitiously, says Mr. Addison, in 
his Present State of that people, p. 129), pare their nails on a 

1 In the Schola Curiositatis, we read : " Vetant ungues prsescindere aut 
indusiura mutare die Veneris, ne fortunam aut valetudineia in discrimeu 
ponant." Tom. ii. p. 336. 


Gaule, in bis Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 187, 
ridicules the popular belief that "a great thick hand signes 
one not only strong but stout ; a little slender hand, one not 
only weak but timorous ; a long hand and long fingers be- 
token a man not only apt for mechanical artifice, but liberally 
ingenious ; but those short, on the contrary, note a foole, and 
fit for nothing ; an hard brawny hand signes dull and rude ; 
a soft hand, witty but effeminate ; an hairy hand, luxurious ; 
longe joynts signe generous, yet, if they be thick withall, not 
so ingenious ; the often clapping and folding of the hands 
note covetous, and their much moving in speech, loquacious ; 
an ambidexter is noted for ireful, crafty, injurious ; short and 
fat fingers mark a man out for intemperate and silly; but 
long and leane, for witty ; if- his fingers crook upward, that 
shewes him liberal, if downward, niggardly ; long nailes and 
crooked, signe one brutish, ravenous, unchaste ; very short 
nailes, pale, and sharp, show him false, subtile, beguiling; 
and so round nails, libidinous ; but nails broad, plain, thin, 
white, and reddish, are the tokens of a very good wit." 

A moist hand is vulgarly accounted a sign of an amorous 
constitution. The Chief Justice, in the Second Part of King 
Henry the Fourth, enumerates a dry hand among the charac- 
teristics of age and debility. 

I have somewhere read, but I have forgotten my authority, 
that the custom of kissing the hand by way of salutation is 
derived from the manner in which the ancient Persians wor- 
shipped the sun ; which was by first laying their hands upon 
their mouths, and then lifting them up by way of adoration, a 
practice which receives illustration from a passage in the Book 
of Job, a work replete with allusions to ancient manners : 
" If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking 
in brightness ; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or 
my mouth hath kissed my hand." Chap. xxxi. v. 26, 27. 

On the passage in Macbeth 

" By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes,'' 

Steevens observes : " It is a very ancient superstition that all 
sudden pains of the body, and other sensations which could 
not naturally be accounted for, were presages of somewhat 
that was shortly to happen." Hence Mr. Upton has ex- 


plained a passage in the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus : " Timeo 
quod rerum gesserim hie, ita dorsus totus prurit." 

In Dekker's Dead Terme, 1607, signat. D. b., is found the 
following : " What by ting of the thumbs (at each other while 
the company are walking in St. Paul's) to beget quarrels." 
This singular mode of picking a quarrel occurs in Romeo and 
Juliet, act i. sc. 1 ; in Randolph's Muses' Looking-Glass, &c. 

In Lodge's Incarnate Devils, 1596, p. 23, is the following: 
"I see contempt marching forth, giving mee thefico with his 
thombe in his mouth, for concealing him so long from your 
eie-sight." In the Rules of Civility, 1685, p. 44, we read : 
" 'Tis no less disrespectful to bite the nail of your thumb by 
way of scorn and disdain, and, drawing your nail from betwixt 
your teeth, to tell them you value not this what they can do ; 
and the same rudeness may be committed with a fillip." 

Doubling the thumb. Hutchinson, in his History of Northum- 
berland, ii. ad finem, 4, tells us : " Children, to avoid ap- 
proaching danger, are taught to double the thumb within the 
hand. This was much practised whilst the terrors of witch- 
craft remained ; and even in the beginning of the present cen- 
tury much of those unhappy prejudices possessed the minds 
of the vulgar. It was the custom to fold the thumbs of dead 
persons within the hand, to prevent the power of evil spirits 
over the deceased ; the thumb in that position forming the 
similitude of the character in the Hebrew alphabet which is 
commonly used to denote the name of God." 


THE fungous parcels, as Sir Thomas Browne calls them, 
about the wicks of candles are commonly thought to foretell 
strangers. 1 In the north, as well as in other parts of England, 
they are called letters at the candle, as if the forerunners, of 

i The following is from Robert! Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 211 : " Fungi 

" Aeris huraenti crepitans uligine fungus 

Si quid habet flaramis ominis, auster erit." 


some strange news. These, says Browne, with his usual pe- 
dantry of style, which is well atoned for by his good sense 
and learning, " only indicate a moist and pluvious air, which 
hinders the avolation of the light and favillous particles, 
whereupon they settle upon the snast." That candles and 
lights, he observes also, " burn blue and dim at the apparition 
of spirits, may be true, if the ambient air be full of sul- 
phureous spirits, as it happens often in mines." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, says : " 28. That if a 
candle burne blew, it is a signe that there is a spirit in the 
house, or not farre from it." 

A collection of tallow, says Grose, rising up against the 
wick of a candle, is styled a winding-sheet, and deemed an 
omen of death in the family. A spark at the candle, says 
the same author, denotes that the party opposite to it will 
shortly receive a letter. A kind of fungus in the candle, 
observes the same writer, predicts the visit of a stranger from 
that part of the country nearest the object. Others say it 
implies the arrival of a parcel. 

Dr. Goldsmith, in his Vicar of Wakefield, speaking of the 
waking dreams of his hero's daughters, says : " The girls had 
their omens too, they saw rings in the candle." 

Jodrell, in his Illustrations of Euripides, i. 127, tells us, 
from Brodseus, that among the Greeks the votary was sensible 
of the acceptation of his prayer by the manner in which the 
flame darted its ejaculation. If the flame was bright, this 
was an auspicious omen, but it was esteemed the contrary, if 
it corresponded with the description of the sacrifice in the 
Antigone of Sophocles : 

" When, from the victim, lo! the sullen flame 
Aspir'd not ; smother'd in the ashes still 
Lay the moist flesh, and, roll'd in smoke, repell'd 
The rising fire." Franklin, ii. 57. 

Sir Thomas Browne, in his Hydriotaphia, p. 59, speaking 
of the ancients, observes : " That they poured oyle upon the 
pyre was a tolerable practise, while the intention rested in 
facilitating the ascension ; but to place good omens in the 
quick and speedy burning, to sacrifice unto the windes for a 
dispatch in this office, was a low form of superstition." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 120, tells us : "If 


the flame of a candle, lamp, or any other fire, does wave or 
wind itself where there is no sensible or visible cause, expect 
some windy weather. When candles or lamps will not so 
readily kindle as at other times, it is a sign of wet weather 
neer at hand. When candles or lamps do sparkle and rise up 

; th little fumes, or their wicks swell, with things on then 1 
mushrooms, are all signs of ensuing wet weather." 

The innkeepers and owners of brothels at Amsterdam i 
said to account these "fungous parcels" lucky, when the^ 
burn long and brilliant, in which case they suppose them to 
bring customers. But when they soon go out, they imagine 
the customers already under their roofs will presently depart. 
See Putanisme d' Amsterdam, 12mo. 1681, p. 92. They call 
these puffs of the candle " good men." 

The Hon. Mr. Boyle, in his Occasional Reflections upon 
several Subjects, 8vo. Lond. 1665, p. 218, makes his "Medi- 
tation 10th upon a thief in a candle" " which, by its irre- 
gular way of making the flame blaze, melts down a good part 
of the tallow, and will soon spoil the rest, if the remains are 
not rescued by the removal of the thief (as they call it) in the 

In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo, 
Lond. 1732, p. 62, the author says: "I have seen people 
who, after writing a letter, have prognosticated to themselves 
the ill success of it, if by any accident it happened to fall on 
the ground ; others have seemed as impatient, and exclaiming 
against their want of thought, if through haste or forgetful- 
ness they have chanced to hold it before the fire to dry ; but 
the mistake of a word in it is a sure omen that whatever re- 
quests it carries shall be refused." 

" The Irish, when they put out a candle, say, ' May the 
Lord renew, or send us the light of Heaven ! * " Gent. Mag. 
1795, p. 202. 



A FLAKE of soot hanging at the bars of the grate, says 
Grose, denotes the visit of a stranger, 1 like the fungus of the 
candle, from that part of the country nearest the object. Dr. 
Goldsmith, in his Vicar of Wakefield, among the omens of his 
hero's daughters, tells us, " purses bounded from the fire." 
In the north of England, the cinders that bound from the fire 
are carefully examined by old women and children, and ac- 
cording to their respective forms are called either coffins or 
purses ; and consequently thought to be the presages of death 
or wealth : aut Ccesar aut nullus. A coal, says Grose, in the 
shape of a coffin, flying out of the fire to any particular per- 
son, betokens their death not far oif. 

In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, p. 61, is 
the following observation : "The fire also affords a kind of 
divination to these omen-mongers; they see swords, guns, 
castles, churches, prisons, coffins, wedding-rings, bags of 
money, men and women, or whatever they either wish or fear, 
plainly deciphered in the glowing coals." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 120, tells us : "When 
our common fires do burn with a pale flame, they presage 
foul weather. If the fire do make a buzzing noise, it is a sign 
of tempests near at hand. When the fire sparkleth very 
much, it is a sign of rain. If the ashes on the hearth do 
clodder together of themselves, it is a sign of rain. When 
pots are newly taken off the fire, if they sparkle (the soot 
upon them being incensed), it presages rain. When the fire 
scorcheth and burneth more vehemently than it useth to do, 

1 " Me oft has faucy, ludicrous and wild, 

Sooth'd with a waking dream of houses, tow'rs, 

Trees, churches, and strange visages express'd 

In the red cinders, while with poring eye 

I gaz'd, myself creating what I saw. 

Nor less amus'd have I quiescent watch'd 

The sooty films that play upon the bars 

Pendulous, and foreboding in the view 

Of superstition, prophesy iny sl'i'J, 

Though still deceiv'd, some stranger's near approach" 

Cowper's Poems : Winter Evening. 


it is a sign of frosty weather ; but if the living coals do shine 
brighter than commonly at other times, expect then rain. If 
wood, or any other fuel, do crackle and break forth wind 
more than ordinary, it is an evident sign of some tempestuous 
weather neer at hand ; the much and suddain falling of soot 
presages rain." 

Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 271, 
making observations on superstitious persons, says : " If the 
salt fall but towards them, or the fire, then they expect anger : 
and an hundred such-like foolish and groundless conceits." 
In Petri Molinsei Vates, p. 219, we read: "Si flamma ex 
cineribus subito erupit, felicitatis omen est." 

The subsequent childish sport, so elegantly described by 
Cowper, Poems, ed. 1798, i. 272, may not improperly be 
referred to the ancient fire divinations : 

" So when a child, as playful children use, 
Has hurnt to tinder a stale last year's news, 
The flame extinct, he views the roving fire 
There goes my lady, and there goes the squire, 
There goes the parson, oh ! illustrious spark, 
And there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk ! " 


A SUPERSTITIOUS opinion vulgarly prevails that the howl- 
ing of a dog by night in a neighbourhood is the presage of 
death to any that are sick in it. 1 I know not what has given 
rise to this : dogs have been known to stand and howl over 
the bodies of their masters, when they have been murdered, 
or died an accidental or sudden death : taking such note of 

1 The following occurs in Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 113 : " Ca- 
num ululatus. 

" Pracfica nox, aliquam portendunt nubila mortem : 

A cane, praeviso funere disce mori." 

The subsequent, which is found ibid. p. 211, informs us that when dogs 
rolled themselves in the dust it was a sign of wind : " Canis in pulvere 

" Praescla ventorum, se volvit odora canum vis : 
Numine difflatur pulveris instar homo." 


what is past, is an instance of great sensibility in this faithful 
animal, without supposing that it has in the smallest degree 
any prescience of the future. Shakespeare ranks this among 
omens : 

" The owl shriek'd at thy birth ; an evil sign ! 
The night-crow cry'd aboding luckless time ; 
Dogs howl'd, and hideous tempests shook down trees." 

The howling of dogs, says Grose, is a certain sign that 
some one of the family will very shortly die. The following 
passage is in the Merry Devil of Edmonton, 4to. 1631 : 

" I hear the watchful dogs 
"With hollow howling tell of thy approach : " 

and the subsequent is cited in Poole's English Parnassns, 
voce Omens : 

" The air that night was fill'd with dismal groans, 
And people oft awaked with the howls 
Of wolves and fatal dogs." 

So Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 131 : "Dogs tum- 
bling and wallowing themselves much and often upon the 
earth, if their guts rumble and stinke very much, are signs of 
rain or wind for certain." Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers 
Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, inserts in his long list of vain ob- 
servations and superstitious ominations thereupon, " The Dogs 

.Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Deemonologie, p. 60, says : " If 
doggs houle in the night neer an house where somebody is 
sick, 'tis a signe of death." Alexander Ross, in his Appendix 
to Arcana Microcosmi, 8vo. Lond. 1652, p. 218, says : "That 
dogs by their howling portend death and calamities is plaine 
by historic and experience. Julius Obsequens (c. 122) showeth 
that there was an extraordinary howling of dogs before the 
sedition in Rome about the dictatorship of Pompey ; he 
showeth also (c. 127) that before the civil wars between 
Augustus and Antonius, among many other prodigies, there 
was great howling of dogs, near the house of Lepidus the 
Pontifice. Camerarius tells us (c. 73, cent, i.) that some 
German princes have certain tokens and peculiar presages of 
their deaths ; amongst others are the howling of dogs. 
Capitolmus tells us tiiat the dogs by their howling presaged 


the death of Maximinus. Pausanias (in Messe) relates that 
before the destruction of the Messenians, the dogs brake out 
into a more fierce howling than ordinary fitorepy, rfj Kpavyrj 
Xpupevoi : and we read in Fincelius that, in the year 1553, 
some weeks before the overthrow of the Saxons, the dogs in 
Mysiuia flocked together, and used strange howlings in the 
woods and fields. The like howling is observed by Virgil, 
presaging the Roman calamities in the Pharsalick war : 

' Obscaenique canes, importunaeque volucres 
Signa dabant.' 

" So Lucan, to the same purpose : ' Flebile ssevi latravere 
canes ;' and Statius, ' Nocturnique caenurn gemitus.' " 

To one inquiring in the British Apollo, 1708, i. No. 26, 
"Whether the dogs howling may be a fatal prognostic, or no ?" 
it is answered, "we cannot determine, but 'tis probable that 
out of a sense of sorrow for the sickness or absence of his 
master, or the like, that creature may be so disturbed." 

In the Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, we read, p. 76 : 
" I have some little faith in the howling of a dog, when it 
does not proceed from hunger, Wows, or confinement. As 
odd and unaccountable as it msiy seem, those animals scent 
death, even before it seizes a person." 

Douce's Notes say : " It was formerly believed that dogs 
saw the ghosts of deceased persons. In the Odyssey, b. xvi., 
the dogs of Eumseus are described as terrified at the sight of 
Minerva, though she was then invisible to Telemachus. The 
howling of dogs has generally been accounted a sign of ap- 
proaching death." 

Armstrong in his History of the Island of Minorca, p. 158, 
says : "We have so many owls, that we are everywhere enter- 
tained with their note all night long. 

' Solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo 
Visa queri, et longas in fletum ducere noctes. 

Virg. JEn. iv. 1. 462. 

The ass usually joins in the melody, and when the moon is 
about the full, the dog likewise intrudes himself as a performer 
in the concert, making night hideous." 



OMENS were drawn by ancient superstition from the coming 
in and going out of strange cats, as the learned Moresin in- 
forms us. 1 Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, tells us : 
"29. That when the cat washes her face over her eares, wee 
shall have great store of raine." 2 

Lord Westmoreland, in a poem " To a Cat bore me company 
in Confinement," says : 

" scratch but thine ear, 

Then holdly tell what weather's drawing near." 

And we read in Peele's play of the Novice : 

" Ere Gib our cat can lick her eare." 

The cat sneezing appears to have been considered as a lucky 
omen to a bride who was to be married the next day. 3 

In Southey's Travels in Spain, we read : " The old woman 
promised him a fine day to-morrow, because the cat's skin 
looked bright." 

It was a vulgar notion that cats, when hungry, would eat 
coals. In the Tamer tamed, or Woman's Pride, Izamo says 
to Moroso, " I'd learn to eat coals with an hungry cat :" and, 
in Bonduca, the first daughter says, " They are cowards : eat 
coals like compell'd cats." 

Herrick, in his Hesperides, p. 155, mentions, 
" True calendars, as pusses eare 
Wash't o're to tell what change is neare." 

1 " Felium perigrinarum egressum, ingressum. . . Ex felis vel canis 
transcursu qui inauspicati habebantur." Casaubonus, p. 341, ad Theo- 
phrasti Characteres. Fabricii Bibliogr. Antiq. p. 421, edit. 1716. 

2 In Pet Molinaei Vates, p. 155, we read: " Apud Romanes soricis vox 
audita, turbabat comitia. Domitores orbis ex stridore muris pendebant. 
Valerius Maximus, lib. i. cap. 3, haec habet. Occentus soricis auditus, 
Fabio Maximo Dictaturam, Caio Flarninio Magisteriura, equitum depo- 
nendi causam praebuit ;" and again, p. 219, " Homines qui ex salino, aut 
muribus aut cineribus capiunt omina, Deum in scriptura loquentem non 

" Felis sternutans. 

" Crastina nupturae lux est prosperrima sponsae : 
Felix fele bonum sternuit omen amor." 

Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 413. 


Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Ptizzel'd, p. 181, 
ranks " the cats licking themselves," among " Vain Obser- 
vations and Superstitious Ominations thereupon." In Wills- 
ford's Nature's Secrets, &c., 1658, p. 131, speaking of the 
weather's prediction, he says : " Cats coveting the fire more 
than ordinary, or licking their feet and trimming the hair of 
their heads and mustachios, presages rainy weather." 

Mr. Park's Notes in his copy of Bourne and Brand's Popu- 
lar Antiquities, p. 92, say : " Cats sitting with their tails to 
the fire, or washing with their paws behind their ears, are said 
to foretell a change of weather." 

In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 474, we are 
told : "When cats comb themselves (as we speak) 'tis a sign 
of rain ; because the moisture which is in the air before the 
rain, insinuating itself into the fur of this animal, moves her 
to smooth the same and cover her body with it, that so she 
may the less feel the inconvenience of winter ; as, on the con- 
trary, she opens her fur in summer that she may the better 
receive the refreshing of the moist season." It is added, 
" The crying of cats, ospreys, ravens, and other birds, upon 
the tops of houses, in the night-time, are observed by the 
vulgar to pre-signify death to the sick." 

[Sailors, as I am informed on the authority of a naval officer, 
have a great dislike to see the cat, on board ship, unusually 
playful and frolicsome : such an event, they consider, pro- 
gnosticates a storm : and they have a saying on these occa- 
sions, that " the cat has a gale of wind in her tail." There 
may, in this, be something better than mere superstition. The 
fur of the cat is known to be highly electrical ; possibly, there- 
fore the change which takes place in the state of the atmosphere, 
previously to a storm, may have some powerful effect on the 
animal's body, and elate her spirits to a more than usual de- 
gree. The playfulness of the cat, therefore, may perhaps 
be a natural sign of the coming weather, and to be accounted 
for on just and philosophical principles.] 

Rats gnawing the hangings of a room, says Grose, is 
reckoned the forerunner of a death in the family. He men- 
tions also the following to the like purport : " If the neck of 
a child remains flexible for several hours after its decease, it 
portends that some person in that house will die in a short 


Melton,, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, tells us: "24. That it 
s a great signe of ill lucke if rats gnaw a man's cloathes." 

Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 4to. 1621, p. 
214, says : " There is a feare, which is commonly caused by 
prodigies and dismal accidents, which much troubles many of 
us, as if a mouse gnaw our clothes." 1 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says: "Bats or 
flying mice, coming out of their holes quickly after sunset, 
and sporting themselves in the open air, premonstrates fair 
and calm weather." 


IT is a lucky sign to have crickets in the house. 2 Grose 
says it is held extremely unlucky to kill a cricket, perhaps 
from the idea of its being a breach of hospitality, this insect 
taking refuge in houses. Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, 
says: " 17. That it is a signe of death to some in that house 
where crickets have been many yeares, if on a sudden they 

1 Cicero, in ms Second Book on Divination, 27, observes : " Nos autem 
ita leves, atque inconsiderati sumus, ut, si mures corroserint aliquid, 
quorum est opus hoc unum, monstrum putemus ? Ante vero Marsicum 
bellum quod Clypeos Lanuvii mures rosissent, maxumum id portentum 
haruspices esse dixerunt. Quasi vero quicquam intersit, mures, diem 
noctem aliquid rodentes, scuta an cribra corroserint. Nam si ista sequi- 
mur ; quod Platonis Politian nuper apud me mures corroserint, de repub- 
lica debui pertimescere : aut si Epicuri de Voluptate liber corrosus esset, 
putarem Annonam in macello cariorem fore. Cum vestis a soricibus 
roditur, plus timere suspicionem futuri mali, quam praesens damnum do- 
lere. Unde illud eleganter dictum est Catonis, qui cum esset consultus a 
quodaUi, qui sibi erosas esse Caligas diceret a soricibus respondit, non esse 
illud monstrum ; sed vere monstrum habendum fuisse, si sorices a Caligis 
roderentur." Delrio, Disquisit. Magic, p. 473. 

2 . "Ad Grillum. 
" qui meae culinse 

Argutulus choraules, 
Et hospes es canorus 
Quacunque commoreri* 
Felicitatis omen." 

Bourne, Poematia, edit, 1764, p. 133.. 


forsake the chimney." Gay gives the following, in his Pastoral 
Dirge, among the rural prognostications of death : 
" And shrilling crickets in the chimney cry'd." 

So also in Reed's Old Plays : 

" And the strange cricket i' th' oven sings and hops." 

The voice of the cricket, says the Spectator, has struck more 
terror than the roaring of a lion. 

The following line occurs in Dryden's and Lee's (Edipus : 
" Owls, ravens, crickets, seem the watch of death." 

Pliny, in his Natural History (book xxix.), mentions the 
cricket as much esteemed by the ancient magicians ; there is 
no doubt but that our superstitions concerning these little 
domestics have been transmitted to us from his times. 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
mentions, among other vain observations and superstitious omi- 
nations thereupon, "the crickets chirping behind the chimney 
stock, or creeping upon the foot-pace." 

Ramesey says, in his Elminthologia, 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 
2/1 : " Some sort of people, at every turn, upon every accident, 
how are they therewith terrified ! If but a cricket unusually 
appear, or they hear but the clicking of a death-watch, as they 
call it, they, or some one else in the family, shall die." 

In "White's Selborne, p. 255, that writer, speaking of 
crickets, says : "They are the housewife's barometer, fore- 
telling her when it will rain ; and are prognostic sometimes, 
she thinks, of ill or good luck, of the death of a near relation, 
or the approach of an absent lover. By being the constant 
companions of her solitary hours, they naturally become the 
objects of her superstition. . . . Tender insects that live 
abroad either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or 
else doze away the cold uncomfortable months in profound 
slumber: but these residing, as it were, in a torrid zone, are 
always alert and merry : a good Christmas fire is to them like 
the heat of the dog-days. . . . Though they are frequently 
heard by day, yet is their natural time of motion in the 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Daemonologie, 1650, p. 59, 
after saying that, "by the flying and crying of ravens over 
their houses, especially in the dusk of evening, and vviiere one 
is sick, they conclude death," adds, " the same they conclude 


of a cricket crying in a house where there was wont to be 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 135, says: "Flies in 
the spring or sommer season, if they grow busier or blinder 
than at other times, or that they are observed to shroud them- 
selves in warm places, expect then quickly for to follow, either 
hail, cold storms of rain, or very much wet weather ; and if 
those little creatures are noted early in autumn to repair into 
their winter quarters, it presages frosty mornings, cold storms, 
\vith the approach of hoary winter. Atonies or flies swarming 
together, and sporting themselves in the sun-beams is a good 
omen of fair weather." 


THE Guardian, No. 61, speaking of the common notion that 
it is ominous or unlucky to destroy some sorts of birds, as 
swallows and martins, observes that this opinion might pos- 
sibly arise from the confidence these birds seem to put in us by 
building under our roofs ; so that it is a kind of violation of 
the laws of hospitality to murder them. As for robin red- 
breasts in particular, 'tis not improbable they owe their se- 
curity to the old ballad of the Children in the Wood. The 
subsequent stanza of that well-known song places them in a 
point of view not unlikely to conciliate the favour of children: 
" No burial this pretty pair 

Of any man receives, 
Till robin redbreast painfully 

Did cover them with leaves." 

Of the robin redbreast, says Grey on Shakespeare, ii. 226, 
it is commonly said, that if he finds the dead body of any 
rational creature he will cover the face at least, if not the 
whole body, with moss ; an allusion probably to the old 
ballad. The office of covering the dead is likewise ascribed 
to the ruddock or robin, by Drayton, in his poem called 
" The Owl." 

" Cov'ring with moss the dead's unclosed eye, 
The little redbreast teacheth charitie." 

1 See Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 102. 


Thus also in Cymbeline, act iv. sc. 2 : 

" The ruddock would 

With charitable hill (O bill, sore shaming 

Those rich-left heirs that let their fathers lie 

Without a monument!) bring thee all this ; 

Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none, 

To winter-ground thy corse." 

Again in Reed's Old Plays, vi. 358 : 

" Call for the robin redbreast and the wren, 

Since o'er shady groves they hover, 

And with leaves and flow'rs do cover 

The friendless bodies of unburied men." 

An essayist in the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1 735, v. 534, ob- 
serves : "It is well known the ancient Romans relied very 
much upon birds in foretelling events ; and thus the robin 
redbreast hath been the cause of great superstition among the 
common people of England ever since the silly story of the 
Children in the Wood. One great instance of this is their 
readiness to admit him into their houses and feed him on all 
occasions ; though he is certainly as impudent and as mis- 
chievous a little bird as ever flew." 

In Stafford's Niobe dissolved into a Nilus, 12mo. Lond. 
1611, p. 241, it is said: "On her (the nightingale) wakes 
Robin in his redde livorie : who sits as a crowner on the 
murthred man ; and seeing his body naked, plays the sorrie 
tailour to make him a mossy rayment." Thus, in Herrick's 
Hesperides, pp. 49, 126 : 

" Sweet Amarillis, by a spring's 
Soft and soule-melting murmurings, 
Slept : and thus sleeping thither flew 
A robin redbreast ; who at view 
Not seeing her at all to stir, 
Brought leaves and mosse to cover her." 

" To the Nightingale and Robin Redbreast. 

" When I departed am, ring thou my knell, 
Thou pittifnll and pretty Philomel : 
And when I'm laid out for a corse, then be 
Thou sexton (redbreast) for to cover me." 

Pope thus speaks of this bird : 

" The robin redbreast till of late bad rest, 
And children sacred held a martin's nest." 


Thomson, in his Winter, thus mentions the familiarity of 
this bird : 

" One alone, 

The redbreast sacred to the household gods, 
Wisely regardful of th' embroyling sky, 
In joyless fields and thorny thickets leaves, 
His shiv'ring mates, and pays to trusted man 
His annual visit." 

Mr. Park has inserted the following note in his copy of 
Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 92: "There is 
also a popular belief in many country places that it is unlucky 
either to kill or keep robins. This is alluded to in the follow- 
ing lines of a modern poet, which occur in an ode to the 
Robin : 

' For ever from his threshold fly, 

Who, void of honour, once shall try, 

With base inhospitable breast, 

To bar the freedom of his guest ; 

O rather seek the peasant's shed, 

For he will give thee wasted bread, 

And fear some new calamity, 

Should any there spread snares for thee.' 

J. H. Pott's Poems, 8vo. 1780, p. 27." 

[ " Thus 1 would waste, thus end my careless days, 
And robin redbrests, whom men praise 
For pious birds, should, when I die, 
Make both my monument and elegy. 

Cowley's Sylva, 1681, p. 51.] 


IT is held extremely unlucky, says Grose, to kill a cricket, 
a lady-bug, a swallow, martin, robin redbreast, or wren : per- 
haps from the idea of its being a breach of hospitality, all 
these birds and insects alike taking refuge in houses. There 
is a particular distich, he adds, in favour of the robin and 

" A robin and a wren 

Are God Almighty's cock and hen." 
HI. 13 


A note in Mr. Park's copy of Bourne and Brand, p. 92, 
savs : " When a boy, I remember it was said, in consonance 
with the above superstition, that 

" Tom Tit and Jenny Wren 
Were God Almighty's cock and hen : 

and therefore to be held sacred." 

Persons killing any of the above-mentioned birds or insects, 
or destroying their nests will infallibly, within the course of 
the year, break a bone, or meet with some other dreadful mis- 
fortune. On the contrary, it is deemed lucky to have martins 
or swallows build their nests in the eaves of a house, or in 
the chimneys. In Six Pastorals, &c., by George Smith, 
Landscape Painter, at Chichester, in Sussex, 4to. Lond. 1770, 
p. 30, the following occurs : 

" I found a robin's nest within our shed, 
And in the barn a wren has young ones bred. 
I never take away their nest, nor try 
To catch the old ones, lest a friend should die. 
Dick took a wren's nest from his cottage side^ 
And ere a twelvemonth past his mother dy'd !" 

Its being accounted unlucky to destroy swallows is pro- 
bably a pagan relic. We read in JElian that these birds were 
sacred to the penates, or household gods of the ancients, and 
therefore were preserved. They were honoured anciently as the 
nuncios of the spring. The Rhodians are said to have had a 
solemn anniversary song to welcome in the swallow. Anacreon's 
ode to that bird is well known. 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says : " Swallows 
flying low, and touching the water often with their wings, 
presage rain." 

" Sparrows," he adds, " in the morning early, chirping, 
and making more noise than ordinary they use to do, foretells 
rain or wind ; the tit-mouse, cold, if crying pincher." " Birds 
in general that do frequent trees and bushes, if they do fly 
often out, and make quick returns, expect some bad weather 
to follow soon after." 

Alexander Ross, in his appendix to the Arcana Microscomi, 
p. 219, informs us that "in this land, of late years, our pre- 
sent miseries and unnatural wars have been forewarned by 
armies of swallows, martins, and other birds, fighting against 
one another." 


Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
takes notice, among other vain observations and superstitious 
ominations thereupon, "the swallows falling down the 

In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, 1602, p. 285, it is re- 
peated that the swallow is a classical bird of omen. " By 
swallows lighting upon Pirrhus' tents, and lighting upon the 
mast of Mar. Antonius' ship, sayling after Cleopatra to Egipt, 
the soothsayers did prognosticate that Pirrhus should be 
slaine at Argos in Greece, and Mar. Antonius in Egipt." 
" Swallowes," he adds, " followed King Cyrus going with his 
army from Persia to Scythia, as ravens followed Alexander 
the Great at returning from India and going to Babilon ; but 
as the Magi tolde the Persians that Cyrus should die in 
Scythia, so the Chaldean astrologers told the Macedonians 
that Alexander the Great, their king, should die in Babilon, 
without any further warrant but by the above swallowes and 

Colonel Vallancey, in the 13th number of his Collectanea de 
Rebus Hibernicis, p. 97, speaking of the wren, the augur's 
favorite bird, says that " the Druids represented this as the 
king of all birds. The superstitious respect shown to this 
little bird gave offence to our first Christian missionaries, and, 
by their commands, he is still hunted and killed by the pea- 
sants on Christmas Day, and on the following (St. Stephen's 
Day) he is carried about hung by the leg in the centre of two 
hoops crossing each other at right angles, and a procession 
made in every village, of men, women, and children, singing 
an Irish catch, importing him to be the king of all birds. 
Hence the name of this bird in all the European languages 
Greek, Tpo^tAos, /3aat\vs, Trochilus, Basileus ; Rex Avium ; 
Senator; Latin, Regulus ; French, Roytelet, Berichot, but 
why this nation call him Bosuf-de-Dieu I cannot conjecture ; 
Welsh, Bren, King ; Teutonic, Koning Vogel, King Bird ; 
Dutch, Koriije, little King." 

Berchot is rendered in Cotgrave's Dictionary of old French, 
" the little wrenne, our ladies henne." In the livre vii. de la 
Nature des Oyseaux, par P. Belon, fol. Par. 1555, p. 342, we 
read : " Due roytelet. Les Grecs 1'ont anciennement nomme 
Trochylos, Presuis, ou Basileus, et les Latins Trochylus, Se- 
nator, Regulus. II est diversement nomme en Francois ; cai 

196 WRENS, ETC. 

les ims client le Roy Bertauld, lea autres un Berichot, les 
autres un Bceuf-de-Dieu. Aristote tlit que, pour ce qu'il 
est nomme senateur et roy, il a combat contre 1'aigle. Le 
roytelet, de si petite stature, fait nuisance a 1'aigle, qui mais- 
trise touts autres oyseaux." 

[On this subject the following occurs in the Literary Ga- 
zette, in an account of a meeting of the British Archaeological 
Association : " Reference was made to a French dictionary of 
the 1 6th century, as giving * roitelet' (little king), ' roy des 
oiseaux' (king of the birds), and * Roy Bertrand' for this 
bird. Now, roitelet is still the common, indeed the only 
familiar, French name for the wren : and the notion of his 
being a king runs through his appellations in many other lan- 
guages beside. One's first impression, on learning this from 
a search through several dictionaries is, that the royal title 
must have been originally meant for the golden-crested wren, 
to which the names of * Regulus' (Sylvia Regulus, Regulus 
cristatus) and 'roitelet' are now generally confined by n/k- 
turalists, and have arisen from his crest, though several 
other larger and more important birds can boast a similar 
head-gear. The Greeks called both the wren and some kind 
of crested serpent (the cobra de capelho?) ftaaiXluKos (little 
king); while the Spaniards term the former reyezuelo, and the 
latter reyecillo, both diminutives ofrey(king). The Latin 
regulus (the same) seems till recent times to have included all 
kinds of wrens ; and the following names from other tongues 
seem as generally applied : Italian reatino (little king); Swedish 
kungs-fogel (kingVfowl) ; Danish, fugle-konge (fowl-king). 
Moroever, some of the kingly names given to the wren apply 
better to the Troglodytes, or common wren, than to the Re- 
gulus or golden-crest ; such are the German zaun-konig (hedge- 
king), the Italian re di siepe, di macchia (king of the hedge, 
bush), the former being notoriously fond of sticking to his 
hedge, while the latter often sings on the top of a tree ; the 
Dutch winter-koninkje (little winter-king) is applicable to 
both equally, if derived, as seems likely, from their singing in 
the winter. How * the poor little wren, the most diminutive 
of birds,' either achieved this greatness, or came to have it 
thrust upon him, still remains to be explained; the supersti- 
tion, like so many still kept up in Christian countries, pro- 
bably dates from heathen times. Another Danish name for 

WEENS, ETC. 197 

the common wren, Elle-konge (the alder-king), (German, Erl- 
kbnig), arid that for the wag-tail (motacilla alba, a kindred 
bird), Elle-kongens datter (the alder-king's daughter), give 
another glimpse of mythological allusion. The Swedes, I may 
add, also call the willow-wren (motacilla trochilus) sparf- 
kung; the Danes spurre-konge (sparrow -king). With regard 
to the hunting of the wren mentioned at the meeting in 
question as still kept up in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and 
France, it may be added, that in Surrey, and probably else- 
where in England, he is to this day hunted by boys in the 
autumn and winter, but merely ' for amusement and cruelty' 
as my informant worded it, so that there the practice has not 
even the excuse of superstition ; and the poor little * king of 
birds' dies ' unwept, unhonored, and unsung.' It is curious 
that there should exist a very 1 general contrary superstition, 
embodied in well-known nursery-lines, against killing a wren. 
Can this be a relic of the olden pagan notion of his kingly in- 
violability yet struggling with the Christian (?) command for 
his persecution at Christmas? In the child's distich, how- 
ever, the wren is female, which it often is in provincial speech, 
Jenny or Kitty Wren ; while the redbreast is as usual male, 
Robin. Mr. Halliwell gives the English version of the Hunt- 
ing of the Wren in his Nursery Rhymes (2d ed. 1843), at 
page 180; and the Isle of Man Hunting of the Wran at 
page 249."] 

I should suppose the name of " Troglodytes, c'est-a-dire 
entrants es cavernes," from the nature of this bird's nest, 
which Belon thus describes : " La structure du nid de ce roy- 
telet, tel qu'il le fait communement, a la couverture de chaunae, 
qui dedens quelque pertuis de muraille, est compose en forme 
ovale, couvert dessus et dessous, n'y laissant qu'unseul moult 
petit pertuis, par lequel il y peult entrer." 

Pliny says: "Dissident Aquilse et Trochilus, si credimus, 
quoniam rex appellatur avium," edit. Harduin. i. 582, 27. 
He further tells us what a singular office the wren performs in 
Egypt to the crocodile : " Hunc (i. e. crocodilum) saturum 
cibo piscium, et semper esculento ore, in litore somno datum, 
parva avis, quse Trochilos ibi vocantur, rex avium in Italia, in- 
vitat ad hiandum pabuli sui gratia, os primum. ejus assultim 
repurgans, mox dentes, et intus fauces quoque ad hanc scabendi 
dulcedinem quam maxime hiantes." 

198 WEENS, ETC. 

Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, 2d edit. 8vo. p. 45, having 
mentioned the last battle fought in the north of Ireland be- 
tween the Protestants and the Papists, in Glinsuly, in the 
county of Donegal says : " Near the same place a party of the 
Protestants had been surprised sleeping by the Popish Irish, 
were it not for several wrens that just wakened them by 
dancing and pecking on the drums as the enemy were ap- 
proaching. For this reason the wild Irish mortally hate these 
birds to this day, calling them the devil's servants, and killing 
them wherever they can catch them ; they teach their children 
to thrust them full of thorns ; you'll see sometimes on holi- 
days a whole parish running like madmen from hedge to hedge 
a wren-hunting" 

In Sonnini's Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt, translated 
from the French, 4to. Lond. 1800, pp. 11, 12, we have the 
following account of Hunting the Wren : "While I was at La 
Ciotat, near Marseilles, in France, the particulars of a sin- 
gular ceremony were related to me, which takes place every 
year at the beginning of Nivose (the latter end of December) ; 
a numerous body of men, armed with swords arid pistols, set 
off in search of a very small bird which the ancients call 
Troglodytes (Motacella Troglodytes, L. Syst, Nat, edit. 13, 
Anglice the common wren), a denomination retained by Guenau 
de Montbellard, in his Natural History of Birds. When they 
have found it (a thing not difficult, because they always take 
care to have one ready), it is suspended on the middle of a 
pole, which two men carry on their shoulders, as if it were a 
heavy burthen. This whimsical procession parades round the 
town ; the bird is weighed in a great pair of scales, and the 
company then sits down to table and makes merry. The 
name they give to the Troglodytes is not less curious than the 
kind of festival to which it gives occasion. They call it at La 
Ciotat, the Pole-cat, or pere de la becasse (father of the wood- 
cock), on account of the resemblance of its plumage to that 
of the woodcock, supposed by them to be engendered by the 
polecat, which is a great destroyer of birds, but which cer- 
tainly produces none. 

[" Hunting the wren has been a pastime in the Isle of Man 
from time immemorial. In Waldroiv s time it was observed on 
the 24th December, which I have adopted, though for a century 
past it has been observed on St. Stephen's day. This sin- 

WRENS, ETC. 199 

gular ceremony is founded on a tradition, that in former 
times, a fairy, of uncommon beauty, exerted such undue 
influence over the male population, that she, at various times, 
induced by her sweet voice numbers to follow her footsteps, 
till by degrees she led them into the sea, where they perished. 
This barbarous exercise of power had continued for a great 
length of time, till it was apprehended that the island would 
be exhausted of its defenders, when a knight-errant sprung 
up, who discovered some means of countervailing the charms 
used by this syren, and even laid a plot for her destruction, 
which she only escaped at the moment of extreme hazard, by 
taking the form of a wren. But, though she evaded instant an- 
nihilation, a spell was cast upon her by which she was con- 
demned, on every succeeding New Year's day, to reanimate 
the same form with the definitive sentence, that she must ulti- 
mately perish by human hand. In consequence of this well- 
authenticated legend, on the specified anniversary, every man 
and boy in the island (except those who have thrown off the 
trammels of superstition) devote the hours between sunrise 
and sunset to the hope of extirpating the fairy, and woe be 
to the individual birds of this species who show themselves 
on this fatal day to the active enemies of the race ; they are 
pursued, pelted, fired at, and destroyed, without mercy, and 
their feathers preserved with religious care, it being an article 
of belief, that every one of the relics gathered in this laudable 
pursuit is an effectual preservative from shipwreck for one 
year, and that fisherman would be considered as extremely 
foolhardy, who should enter upon his occupation without 
such a safeguard." 1 When the chase ceases, one of the 
little victims is affixed to the top of a long pole with its 
wings extended, and carried in front of the hunters, who 

1 [Mac Taggart makes the following characteristic allusion to this be- 
lief. " CUTTY WRAN. The wren, the nimble little bird ; how quick it 
will peep out of the hole of an old foggy dyke, and catch a passing 
butterfly. Manks herring-fishers dare not go to sea without one of these 
birds taken dead with them, for fear of disasters and storms. Their tra- 
dition is of a sea sprit that hunted the herring tack, attended always by 
storms, and at last it assumed the figure of a wren and flew away. So 
they think when they have a dead wren with them, all is snug. The poor 
bird has a sad life of it in that singular island. When one is seen at any 
time, scores of Manksmen start and hunt it down." Scottish Gallovidian 
Encyclopaedia, p. 157.] 

200 WEENS, ETC. 

march in procession to every house, chanting the following 
rhyme : 

We hunted the wren for Robbin the Bobbin, 
We hunted the wren for Jack of the Can, 
We hunted the wren for Robbin the Bobbin, 
We hunted the wren for every one.' 

" After making the usual circuit and collecting all the money 
they could obtain, they laid the wren on a bier and carried it, in 
procession, to the parish churchyard, where, with a whim- 
sical kind of solemnity, they made a grave, buried it, and 
sung dirges over it in the Manks language, which they called 
her knell. After the obsequies were performed, the company, 
outside the churchyard wall, formed a circle, and danced to 
music which they had provided for the occasion. 

" At present there is no particular day for pursuing the wren ; 
it is captured by boys alone, who follow the old custom, 
principally for amusement. On St. Stephen's day a group 
of boys 1 go from door to door with a wren suspended by the 
legs, in the centre of two hoops, crossing each other at right 
angles, decorated with evergreens and ribands, singing lines 
called Hunt the Wren. 

" If, at the close of this rhyme, they be fortunate enough to 
obtain a small coin, they gave in return a feather of the wren ; 
and before the close of the day, the little bird may sometimes 
be seen hanging almost featherless. The ceremony of the in- 
terment of this bird in the church-yard, at the close of St. 
Stephen's day, has long since been abandoned ; and the sea- 
shore or some waste ground was substituted in its place." 2 ] 

! [In 1842, no less than four sets were observed in the town of Douglas, 
each party blowing a horn.] 

<J [From Train's Isle of Man, a most interesting work, of which we shall 
have more to say under the article Charms.] 



BISHOP HALL, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, so 
often cited, speaks of this superstition when treating of the 
superstitious man, observing that " if but a hare crosse him in 
the way, he returnes." Melton, too, in his Astrologaster, 
p. 45, informs us that "it is very ill lucke to have a hare cross 
one in the highway." Burton, also, in his Anatomy of Melan- 
choly, edit. 4to. 1621, p. 214, observes : "There is a feare 
which is commonly caused by prodigies and dismall accidents, 
which much trouble many of us, as if a hare crosse the way 
at our going forth," &c. The omen of the hare crossing the 
way occurs with others in the old play of the Dumb Knight, by 
Lewis Machin, act iv. sc. 1, in a passage already quoted. It 
is found also in Ellison's Trip to Benwell, Ix. : 

" Nor did we meet, with nimble feet, 

One little fearful lepus, 
That certain sign, as some divine, 
Of fortune bad to keep us." 1 

Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 271, 
speaking of superstitious persons, says : " If an hare do but 
cross their way, they suspect they shall be rob'd or come to 
some mischance forthwith." Mason, in the Anatomic of 
Sorcerie, 1612, p. 85, enumerates among the superstitious 
persons of his age those who prognosticate " some misfortune 
if a hare do crosse a man." 

Sir Thomas Browne tells us : " If a hare cross the high- 
way there are few above three score years that are not per- 

1 Alex, ab Alexandra, lib. v. c, 13, p. 685, has the following passage: 
" Lepus quoque occurrens in via, infortunatum iter praesagit et ominosum." 
In Bebelii Facetiae, edit, 4to. 1516, sig. E iij.,we read : " "Vetus est super* 
stitio et falsa credulitas rusticorum, ut si cui mane lepus transverso itinere 
obvius venerit, malum aliquid illi hoe die portendi. " Gaule, in his 
Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, ranks among vain observa- 
tions and superstitious ominations thereupon, " a hare crossing the way" 
as also " the swine grunting." 


plexed thereat, which, notwithstanding, is but an augurial 
terror, according to that received expression, ' Inauspicatum 
dat iter oblatus lepus.' And the ground of the conceit was 
probably no greater than this, that a fearful animal passing 
by us portended unto us something to be feared ; as, upon the 
like consideration, the meeting of a fox presaged some future 
imposture. These good or bad signs, sometimes succeeding 
according to fears or desires, have left impreasions and ti- 
morous expectations in credulous minds for ever." The su- 
perstitious notion of a hare crossing the road being an ill 
omen is prevalent in Hungary : see Dr. Townson's Travels in 
Hungary. He says : " This superstition is very ancient, and is 
mentioned in a very old Latin treatise called Lagrographie, 
4to. Edinb. 1797." 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dsemonologie, 8vo. Lond. 
1650, p. 60, says : " If an hare, or the like creature, cross the 
way where one is going, it is (they say) a signe of very ill 
luck. In so much as some in company with a woman great 
with childe have, upon the crossing of such creatures, cut or 
torne some of the clothes off that woman with childe, to pre- 
vent (as they imagine) the ill luck that might befall her. I 
know I tell you most true ; and I hope in such a subject as 
this, touching these superstitions, I shall not oifend in 
acquainting you with these particulars." 

The ancient Britons made use of hares for the purpose of 
divination. 1 They were never killed for the table. It is per- 
haps from hence that they have been accounted ominous by 
the vulgar. See Ceesar's Commentaries, p. 89. 

I find the following in a Help to Discourse, 1633, p. 340 : 
"Q. Wherefore hath it anciently beene accounted good lucke, 
if a wolfe crosse our way, but ill luck if a hare crosse it ? A. 
Our ancestors, in times past, as they were merry conceited, so 

1 Borlase, in his Antiq. of Cornwall, p. 135, tells us of" a remarkable 
way of divining related of Boadicea, Queen of the Britons when she had 
harangued her soldiers to spirit them up against the Romans, she opened 
her bosom and let go a hare, which she had there concealed, that the 
augurs might thence proceed to divine. The frighted animal made such 
turnings and windings in her course, as, according to the then rules of 
judging, prognosticated happy success. The joyful multitude made loud 
huzzas ; Boadicea seized the opportunity, approved their ardour, led them 
straight to their enemies, and gained the victory." 


were they witty ; and thence it grew that they held it good 
lucke if a wolf crost the way and was gone without any more 
danger or trouble ; but ill luck, if a hare crost and escaped 
them, that they had not taken her." Lupton, in his third 
book of Notable Things, 1660, p. 52, says: "Plinie reports 
that men in antient times did fasten upon the gates of their 
towns the heads of wolves, thereby to put away witchery, 
sorcery, or enchantment, which many hunters observe or do 
at this day, but to what use they know not." 

Werenfels says, p. 7 : "When the superstitious person goes 
abroad he is not so much afraid of the teeth as the unexpected 
sight of a wolf, lest he should deprive him of his speech." 

Grose tells us : " If going on a journey on business a sow 
cross the road, you will probably meet with a disappointment, 
if not a bodily accident, before you return home. To avert 
this, you must endeavour to prevent her crossing you : and if 
that cannot be done, you must ride round on fresh ground ; if 
the sow is with her litter of pigs, it is lucky, and denotes a 
successful journey." 

According to the following passage in Ellison's Trip to 
Benwell, lix., it should seem that swine appearing in sight, 
in travelling, was an omen of good luck : 

" Neither did here 
In sight appear 

Of swine, foul, dreadful nomen ; 
Which common fame 
Will oft proclaim 

Of luck, dire, wretched omen." 

The following is from Copley's Wits, Fits, and Fancies, 
1614, 4to. : "A plaine country vicar perswaded his parish- 
ioners, in all their troubles and adversities, to call upon God, 
and thus he said : ' There is (dearlie beloved) a certaine fa- 
miliar beast amongst you called a hogge ; see you not how 
toward a storme or tempest it crieth evermore, Ourgh, Ourgh ? 
So must you likewise, in all your eminent troubles and dangers, 
say to yourselves, Lourghd, Lourghd, helpe me.' " 

The meeting of a weasel is a bad omen. See Congreve's 
comedy of Love for Love. In Secret Memoirs of the late 
Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. 1732, p. 60, we read: "I have 
known people who have been put into such terrible appre- 


bensions of death by the squeaking of a weasel, as have been 
very near bringing on them the fate they dreaded." 

In Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, the firste precepte, chap. 
46 : "Some man hadde levyr to mete with a froude or a 
frogye in the way than with a knight or a squier, or with any 
man of religion, or of holy churche, for than they say and 
leve that they shal have gold. For sumtyme after the metyng 
of a frogge or a tode they have resceyved golde wele I wote 
that they resseyve golde of men or of wymen, but nat of frogges 
ne of todes, but it be of the devel in lyknesse of a frogge or 
a tode these labourers, delvers, and dykers, that moost mete 
with frogges and todes, been fulle pore comonly and but men 
paye them their hyre, they have lytel or nought." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, 1658, p. 130, tell us : 
" Beasts eating greedily, and more than they used to do, pre- 
notes foul weather ; and all small cattel, that seeme to rejoyce 
with playing and sporting themselves, foreshews rain. Oxen 
and all kind of neat, if you do at any time observe them to 
hold up their heads, and snuffle in . the air, or lick their 
hooves, or their bodies against the hair, expect then rainy 
weather. Asses or mules, rubbing often their ears, or braying 
much more than usually they are accustomed, presages rain. 
Hogs crying and running unquietly up and down, with hay 
or litter in their mouths, foreshews a storm to be near at hand. 
Moles plying their works, in undermining the earth, foreshews 
rain ; out if they do forsake their trenches and creep above 
ground in summer time, it is a sign of hot weather ; but when 
on a suddain they doe forsake the valleys and low grounds, it 
foreshews a flood neer at hand ; but their coming into med~ 
dows presages fair weather, and for certain no floods. The 
little sable beast (called a. flea), if much thirsting after blood, 
it argues rain. The lamentable croaking of frogs more than 
ordinary does denote rainy weather. Glow-worms, snayles, and 
all such creatures, do appear most against fair weather ; but 
if worms come out of the earth much in the daytime it is a 
presage of wet weather ; but in the summer evenings it fore- 
shews dewy nights, and hot days to follow." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 46, says : "16. That it is a 
very unfortunate thing for a man to meete early in a morning 
an ill-favoured man or woman, a rough-footed hen, a shag-haird 
dog, or a black cat'' 


Shaw, in his History of Moray, tells us that the ancient 
Scots much regarded omens in their expeditions : an armed 
man meeting them was a good omen : l if a woman barefoot 
crossed the road before them, they seized her and fetched 
blood from her forehead : if a deer, fox, hare, or any beast of 
game appeared, and they did not kill it, it was an unlucky 

In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. 
Lond. 1732, p. 61, we read: "Some will defer going abroad, 
though called by business of the greatest consequence, if on 
going out they are met by a person who has the misfortune 
to squint. This turns them immediately back, and, perhaps, 
by delaying till another time what requires an immediate 
despatch, the affair goes wrong, and the omen is indeed ful- 
filled, which, but for the superstition of the observer, would 
have been of no effect." 

We gather from a remarkable book entitled the Schoole- 
master, or Teacher of Table Philosophy, 4to. Lond. 1583, B. 
iv. cap. 8, that in the ages of chivalry it was thought unlucky 
to meet with a priest, if a man were going forth to war or a 
tournament. 2 

The following superstitions among the Malabrians are re- 
lated in Phillips's account of them, 12mo, 1717 : "It is in- 
terpreted as a very bad sign if a blind man, a Bramin, or a 
washerwoman, meets one in the way ; as also when one meets 
a man with an empty panel, or when one sees an oil-mill, or 
if a man meets us with his head uncovered, or when one hears 

1 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 312, mentions 
this superstition : " Meeting of monks is commonly accounted as an ill 
omen, and so much the rather if it be early in the morning: because 
these kind of men live for the most part by the suddain death of men ; as 
vultures do by slaughters." The following occurs in Pet. Molinsei Vates, 
p. 154 : " Si egredienti domo summo mane primus occurrit ./Ethiops, aut 
claudus, ominosum est. . . Ex quibuslibet rebus superstitio captat auguria, 
casum vertens in omen." 

2 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, holds it 
as a vain observation " to bode good or bad luck from the rising up on 
the right or left side ; from lifting the left leg over the threshold, at 
first going out of doors ; from the meeting of a beggar or a priest the 
first in a morning ; the meeting of a virgin or a harlot first ; the running 
in of a child betwixt two friends ; the justling one another at unawares ; 
one treading upon another's toes ; to meet one fasting that is lame, or 
defective in any member ; to wash in the same water after another." 

206 THE OWL. 

a weeping voice, or sees a fox crossing the way, or a dog run- 
ning on his right hand, or when a poor man meets us in our 
way, or when a cat crosses our way : moreover, when any 
earthen-pot maker or widow meets us, we interpret it in the 
worst sense ; when one sprains his foot, falls on his head, or 
is called back ; presently the professors of prognostication are 
consulted, and they turn to the proper chapter for such a 
sign, and give the interpretation of it." 

[" Easy to foretel what sort of summer it would be by the 
position in which the larva of Cicada (Aphrdphora) spumaria 
was found to lie in the froth (cuckoo-spit) in which it is en- 
veloped. If the insect lay with its head upwards, it infalli- 
bly denoted a dry summer ; if downwards, a wet one."] 


"Iran owl," says Bourne, p. 71, " which is reckoned a 
moat abominable and unlucky bird, send forth its hoarse and 
dismal voice, it is an omen of the approach of some terrible 
thing : that some dire calamity and some great misfortune is 
near at hand." This omen occurs in Chaucer : 

" The jelous swan, ayenst hys deth that singeth, 
The oule eke, that of deth the bode bringeth." 

Assembly of Foules, fol. 235. 

It is thus mentioned by Spenser : 

" The rueful strich still wayting on the beere, 
The whistler shril, that whoso heares doth die." 

Pennant, in his Zoology, i. 202, informs us that the ap- 
pearance of the eagle owl in cities was deemed an unlucky 
omen. Rome itself once underwent a lustration, because one 
of them strayed into the Capitol. 1 The ancients held them in 

1 Thus Butler, in his Hudibras, p. ii. canto iii. 1. 707 : 
' The Roman senate, when within 
The city walls an owl was seen, 
Did cause their clergy with lustrations 
(Our synod calls humiliations) 

THE OWL. 207 

the utmost abhorrence, 1 and thought them, like the screech 
owl, the messengers of death. Pliny styles it, " Bubo fune- 
bris et noctis monstrum." 2 Thus also Virgil, in the lines 
already quoted from Armstrong's History of Minorca, in a 
former page. 

In Bartholomseus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, by Berthelet, 
fol. 166, is the following: "Of the oule. Divynours telle 
that they betokyn evyll ; for if the owle be seen in a citie, it 
signifyeth distruccion and waste, as Isidore sayth. The cry- 
enge of the owle by nyght tokeneth deathe, as divinours con- 
jecte and deme." Gaule, in his Mag*astromancers Posed and 
Puzzel'd, p. 181, does not omit, in his Catalogue of vain ob- 
servations and superstitious ominations thereupon : " The 
owles scritching." 

" When screech owls croak upon the chimney tops, 
It's certain then you of a corse shall hear." 

Reed's -Old Plays, vi. 357. 

Alexander Ross informs us, in his appendix to the Arcana 
Microcosmi, p. 218, that Lampridius and Marcellinus, among 
other prodigies which presaged the death of Valentinian, the 

The round-fac'd prodigy t' avert 
From doing town and country hurt." 

" According to the author of the jEneid, the solitary owl foretold the 
tragical end of the unhappy Dido." See Macaulay's St. Kilda, p. 1 76. 

" Suetonius," he tells us, " who took it into his head to relate all the 
imaginary prodigies that preceded the deaths of his twelve Caesars, never 
misses an opportunity so favourable of doing justice to the prophetical 
character of some one bird or other. It is surprising that Tacitus should 
have given into the same folly." 

1 Thus Alex, ab Alexandro, lib. v. c. 13, p. 680 : " Maxime vero abomi- 
natus est bubo, tristis et dira avis, voce funesta et gemitu, qui formi- 
dolosa, dirasque necessitates et magnos moles instare portendit." 

Macaulay, above quoted, p. 171, observes : " On the unmeaning actions 
or idleness of such silly birds ; on their silence, singing, chirping, chatter- 
ing, and croaking ; on their feeding or abstinence ; on their flying to the 
right hand or left was founded an art : which from a low and simple 
beginning grew to an immense height, and gained a surprising degree of 
credit in a deluded world." 

3 The owl is called also, by Pliny, " inauspicata et funebris avis :" by 
Ovid, " dirum mortalibus omen :" by Lucan, " sinister bubo :" and by 
Claudian, " infestus bubo." 

In Petri Molinaei Vates, p. 154, we read : " Si noctua sub noctem au- 
diatur, ominosum est." 

208 THE OWL. 

emperor, mention an owle which sate upon the top of the 
house where he used to bathe, and could not thence be driven 
away with stones. Julius Obsequens (in his Book of Pro- 
digies, c. 85) shewes that a little before the death of Corn- 
modus Antoninus, the emperor, an owle was observed to sit 
upon the top of his chamber, both at Rome and at Lanuvium. 
Xiphilinus, speaking of the prodigies that went before the 
death of Augustus, says, that the owl sung upon the top of 
the Curia. He shews, also, that the Actian war was presig- 
nified by the flying of owls into the Temple of Concord. In 
the year 1542, at Herbipolis, or Wirtzburg, in Franconia, this 
unlucky bird, by his scrieching songs, affrighted the citizens 
a long time together, and immediately followed a great plague, 
war, and other calamities. About twenty years ago I did 
observe that in the house where I lodged, an owl, groaning 
in the window, presaged the death of two eminent persons, 
who died there shortly after." 

In Rowland's More Knaves yet; the Knaves of Spades 
and Diamonds, with new Additions, I find the following ac- 
count of "The Country Cunning Man : " 

" Wise gosling did but hear the scrich owle crie, 
And told his wife, and straight a pigge did die. 
Another time (after that scurvie owle) 
When Ball, his dog, at twelve o'clocke did howle, 
He jogg'd his wife, and ill lucke, Madge did say, 
And fox by morning stole a goose away. 
Besides, he knowes foule weather, raine, or haile, 
Ev'n by the wagging of his dun cowe's taile. 
When any theeves his hens and duckes pursew, 
He knowes it by the candles burning blew. 
Or if a raven cry just o're his head, 
Some in the towne have lost their maidenhead. 
For losse of cattell and for fugitives, 
He'll find out with a sive and rustie knives. 
His good daies are when's chaffer is well sold, 
And bad daies when his wife doth braule and scold." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets,, p. 134, says: "Owls 
whooping after sunset, and in the night, foreshews a fair day 
to ensue ; but if she names herself in French (Huette) expect 
then fickle and unconstant weather, but most usually rain." 

Mason, in the Anatomie of Sorcerie, 4to. Lond. 1612, p. 
85, ridicules the superstition of those persons of his age, that 
are " the markers of the flying or noise of foules : as they 

THE OWL. 209 

which prognosticate death by the croaking of ravens, or the 
hideous crying of owles in the night." Marston, in Antonio 
and Mellida, Works, 1633, says : 

" Tis yet dead night, yet all the earth is cloncht 
In the dull leaden hand of snoring sleepe : 
No breath disturbs the quiet of the aire, 
No spirit moves upon the breast of earth, 
Save howling dogs, night crowes and screeching owles, 
Save meager ghosts, Piero, and blacke thoughts." 

Grey, in his Notes on Shakespeare, ii. 1/5, observes: 
" Romani L. Crasso et C. Marcio Coss. bubone viso lustra- 
bant." See a remarkable account of an owle that disturbed 
Pope John XXIV. at a council held at Rome. Fascic. Rer. 
expetendar. et fugiendar. p. 402. Brown's edit. 

The following is an answer to a query in the Athenian 
Oracle, i. 45 : " Why rats, toads, ravens, screech owls, &c., 
are ominous ; and how they come to foreknow fatal events ? 
Had the querist said unlucky instead of ominous he might 
easily have met with satisfaction : a rat is so, because he de- 
stroys many a good Cheshire cheese, &c. A toad is unlucky, 
because it poisons (later discoveries in natural history deny 
this). As for ravens and screech owls, they are just as un- 
lucky as cats, when about their courtship, because they make 
an ugly noise, which disturbs their neighbourhood. The in- 
stinct of rats leaving an old ship is, because they cannot be 
dry in it, and an old house, because, perhaps, they want vic- 
tuals. A raven is much such a prophet as our conjurors or 
almanack makers, foretelling things after they are come to 
pass : they follow great armies, as vultures, not as foreboding 
battle, but for the dead men, dogs, horses, &c., which (espe- 
cially in a march) must daily be left behind them. But the 
foolish observations made on their croaking before death, &c., 
are for the most part pure humour, and have no grounds 
besides foolish tradition, or a sickly imagination." 

Speaking of the tawny owl, p. 208, Pennant observes : 
" This is what we call the screech owl, to which the folly of 
superstition had given the power of presaging death by its 
cries." The Spectator says that a screech owl at midnight 
has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers. And. as 
Grose tells us, a screech owl flapping its wings against the 
windows of a sick person's chamber, or screeching at them, 

in. 14 

210 THE OWL. 

portends that some one of the family shall shortly die. 
Moresin, in his Papatus, p. 21, mentions among omens the 
hooting of owls in passing : " Bubonum bubulatum in tran- 
situ." Shakespeare, in his Julius Csesar, act i. sc. 6, has the 
following passage : 

" The bird of night did sit 

Ev'n at noon-day upon the market-place 

Routing and shrieking." 

The noise of the owl, as a foretokening of ill, is also men- 
tioned in Six Pastorals, &c., by George Smith, landscape 
painter, at Chichester, in Sussex, 4to. Lond. 1770, p. 33 : 
" Within my cot, where quiet gave me rest, 
Let the dread screech owl build her hated nest, 
And from my window o'er the country send 
Her midnight screams to bode my latter end." 

Pennant, in his Zoology, i. 219, says that "a vulgar 
respect is paid to the raven, as being the bird appointed by 
heaven to feed the prophet Elijah, when he fled from the 
rage of Ahab. [And from the following passage, it would 
seem that the cuckoo was a bird of deadly omen 

" Are you ready ? The fatal cuckoo, on yon spreading tree, 
Hath sounded out your dying knell already." 

Cowley's Love's Riddle, 1681, p. 111.] 

Moresin includes the croaking of ravens among omens. 
" Corvorum crocitatum super tecto," Papatus, p. 21. Gay, 
too, in his pastoral called the Dirge, has noted this omen : 
" The boding raven on her cottage sat, 
And, with hoarse croakings, warn'd us of our fate." 

Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, p. 87, 
speaking of the superstitious man, tells us, " that if he heare 
but a raven croke from the next roofe he makes his will." 
He mentions also a crow crying even or odd. " He listens in 
the morning whether the crow crieth even or odd, and by 
that token presageth the weather." The following lines are 
found in Spenser : 

" The ill-fac'd owle, death's dreadful messenger ; 
The hoarse night raven, trompe of doleful dreere." 

So, in Shakespeare's Othello : 

" it comes o'er my memory 
As doth the raven, o'er the infected house, 
Boding to alL" 


And again, in the Second Part of Anton.o and Mellida ; 

" Now barkes the wolfe against the full cheekt moone, 
Now lyons halfe-clam'd entrals roare for food. 
Now croaks the toad, and night crowes screech aloud, 
Fluttering 'bout casements of departing soules. 
Now gapes the graves, and through their yawnes let loose 
Iraprison'd spirits to revisit earth." 

The following passages from old English poets on this sub- 
ject are found in Poole's English Parnassus, v. Omens. 

" Ravens. 

" Which seldom boding good, 
Croak their black auguries from some dark wood." 

And again : 

" Night jars and ravens, with wide stretched throats, 
From yews aud hollies send their baleful notes 
The om'nous raven with a dismal chear 

Through his hoarse beak of following horror tells, 
Begetting strange imaginary fear, 

With heavy echoes like to passing bells." 

Alexander Ross informs us, that "by ravens, both pub- 
lick and private calamities and death have been portended. 
Jovianus Pontanus relates two terrible skirmishes between the 
ravens and the kites in the fields lying between Beneventum 
and Apicium, which prognosticated a great battle that was to 
be fought in those fields. Nicetas speaks of a skirmish be- 
tween the crowes and ravens, presignifying the irruption of 
the Scythians into Thracia. Appendix to Arcana Microcosmi, 
p. 219. He adds, p. 220: "Private men have been fore- 
warned of their death by ravens. I have not only heard and 
read, but have likewise observed divers times. A late example 
I have of a young gentleman, Mr. Draper, my intimate friend, 
who, about five or six years ago, being then in the flower of 
his age, had, on a sudden, one or two ravens in his chamber, 
which had been quarrelling upon the top of the chimney; 
these he apprehended as messengers of his death, and so they 
were ; for he died shortly after. Cicero was forewarned, by 
the noise and fluttering of ravens about him, that his end was 
near. He that employed a raven to be the fee<^r of Elias, 
may employ the same bird as a messenger of death to 
others. We read in histories of a crow in Trajan's time that 
in the Capitoll spoke (in Greek) all things shall be well." 


Macaulay, in his History of St. Kilda, p. 165, tells us; 
"The truly philosophical manner in which the great Latin 
poet has accounted for the joyful croakings of the raven spe- 
cies, upon a favourable chaunge of weather, will in my appre- 
hension (see Georgics, b. i. v. 410, &c.) point out at the 
same time the true natural causes of that spirit of divination, 
with regard to storms of wind, rain, or snow, by which the 
sea-gull, tulmer, cormorant, heron, crow, plover, and other 
birds, are actuated some time before the change comes on." 
He observes, p. 174: "Of inspired birds, ravens were ac- 
counted the most prophetical. Accordingly, in the language 
of that district, to have the foresight of a raven, is to this 
day a proverbial expression, denoting a preternatural sagacity 
in predicting fortuitous events. In Greece and Italy, ravens 
were sacred to Apollo, the great patron of augurs, and were 
called companions and attendants of that god." Ibid, p, 1/6 : 
he says that, "according to some writers, a great number of 
crows fluttered about Cicero's head on the very day he was 
murdered by the ungrateful Popilius Laenas, as if to warn 
him of his approaching fate; and that one of them, after 
having made its way into his chamber, pulled away his very 
bed-clothes, from a solicitude for his safety/' 

Bartholomseus, De Proprietatibus, by Berthelet, 27 Hen. 
VIII. f, 168, says: "And as divinours mene the raven hath a 
maner virtue of meanyng and tokenynge of divination. Am 
therefore among nations^ the raven among foules was halowec 
to Apollo, as Mercius saythe." 

Pennant, in his Zoology, ut supra, p. 220, speaking of th< 
carrion crow, tells us: "Virgil says that its croaking fore 
boded rain. It was also thought a bird of bad omen, espe~ 
cially if it happened to be seen on the left hand : 
' Saepe sinistra cava praedixit ab ilice cornix.' " 

Thus also Butler, in his Hudibras : 

" Is it not om'nous in all countries 
When crows and ravens croak upon trees ? " 

Part ii. canto Hi. 1. 707. 

" If a crow cry,*' says Bourne, p. 70, "it portends some 
evil." In Willsford's Nature's Secrets, p. 133, we read : 
" Ravens and crows, when they do make a hoarse, hollow, 
and sorrowful noise, as if they sobbed, it presages foul wea- 

THE CROW. 213 

ther approaching. Crows flocking together in great com- 
panies, or calling early in the morning with a full and clear 
voice, or at any time of the day gaping against the sun, fore- 
shews hot and dry weather : but if at the brink of ponds 
they do wet their heads, or stalk into the water, or cry much 
towards the evening, are signs of rain. 1 

In the Earl of Northampton's Defensative against the Poy- 
son of supposed Prophesies, 1583, we read: "The flight of 
many crowes upon the left side of the campe made the Ro- 
mans very much afrayde of some badde lucke : as if the 
greate God Jupiter had nothing else to doo (sayd Carneades) 
but to dryve jacke dawes in a flock together." 

Bartholomseus says, f. 168, of the crowe "Divynours tell, 
that she taketh hede of spienges and awaytynges, and teacheth 
and sheweth wayes, and warneth what shal fal. But it is ful 
unleful to beleve, that God sheweth his prevy coun?ayle to 
crowes as Isidore sayth. Among many divynacions divynours 
meane that crowes token reyne with gredynge and cryenge, 
as this verse meane th, 

' Nunc plena comix pluviam vocat improba voce : 
That is to understonde, 

1 Nowe the crowe calleth reyne with an eleynge voyce.' " 

In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 476, we are 
informed that "people prognosticate a great famine or mor- 
tality when great flocks of jays and crows forsake the woods ; 
because these melancholy birds, bearing the characters of 
Saturn, the author of famine and mortality, have a very early 
perception of the bad disposition of that planet." 

In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, p. 60, it 
is said : " Some will defer going abroad, though called by 
business of the greatest consequence, if, happening to look 
out of the window, they see a single crow." Ramesey, in 
his Elminthologia, 1668, p. 271, says: "If a crow fly but 
over the house and croak thrice, how do they fear, they, or 
some one else in the family, shall die 1 " 

"The woodpecker's cry denotes wet. Buzards, or kites, 
when they do soar very high and much to lessening them- 

1 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, inserts 
among vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, " A 
crow lighting on the right hand or the left." 


selves, making many plains to and again, foreshews hot wea- 
ther, and that the lower region of the air is inflamed, which 
for coolnesse makes them ascend." 

In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, first pre- 
cepte, 46th chapter, we read : " Some bileve that yf the kyte 
or the puttock fle ovir the way afore them that they should 
fare wel that daye, for sumtyme they have farewele after that 
they see the puttock. so fleynge ; and soo they falle in wane 
by leve and thanke the puttocke of their welfare and nat God, 
but suche foles take none hede howe often men mete with 
the puttok so fleynge and yet they fare nevir the better : for 
there is no folk that mete so oft with the puttoke so fleynge 
as they that begge their mete from dore to dore. Cranes 
soaring aloft, and quietly in the air, foreshews fair weather ; 
but if they do make much noise, as consulting which way to 
go, it foreshews a storm that's neer at hand. Herons, in the 
evening, flying up and down, as if doubtful where to rest, 
presages some evill approaching weather." 

Nash, in his Christ's Teares oyer Jerusalem, 1613, p. 185, 
speaking of the plague in London, says : " The vulgar me- 
nialty conclude therefore it is like to increase, because a hearn- 
shaw (a whole afternoone together) sate on the top of Saint 
Peter's Church in Cornehill. They talk of an oxe that told 
the bell at Wolwitch, and howe from an oxe he transformed 
himselfe to an old man, and from an old man to an infant, 
and from an infant to a young man. Strange prophetical 
reports (as touching the sicknes) they mutter he gave out, 
when in truth they are nought els but cleanly coined lies, 
which some pleasant sportive wits have devised to gull them 
most grossely." 

Werenfels says, p. 6 : "If the superstitious man has a de- 
sire to know how many years he has to live, he will enquire 
of the cuckoo." See Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 221. 

The chattering of a magpie is ranked by Bourne, p. 71, 
among omens. " It is unlucky," says Grose, " to see first 
one magpie, and then more : but to see two, denotes marriage 
or merriment; three, a successful journey; four, an unex- 
pected piece of good news ; five, you will shortly be in a great 
company." See the verses in Halliwell, ibid. p. 168. 

In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. Pynson, 1493, 
superstitious practices then in use, and 


censured by the author, we find the following: "Divyna- 
ciones by chyterynge of byrdes, or by fleyinge of foules." 

The ancient augurs foretold things to come by the chirping 
or singing of certain birds, the crow, the pye, the chough, 
&c. : hence perhaps the observation, frequent in the mouths 
of old women, that when the pye chatters we shall have 

It is very observable, that, according to Lambarde, in his 
Topographical Dictionary, p. 260, Editha persuaded her hus- 
band to build a monastery at Oseney, near Oxford, upon the 
chattering of pies. Magpies are ranked among omens by 
Shakespeare 1 . Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, 
p. 95, says : " That to prognosticate that guests approach to 
your house, upon the chattering of pies or haggisters (haggis- 
ter in Kent signifies a magpie) is altogether vanity and super- 

In Lancashire, among the vulgar, it is accounted very un- 
lucky to see two magpies (called there pynots, in Northum- 

1 " The raven rook'd her on the chimney's top, 
And chattering pies in dismal discords sung." 

Henry VI. act v. sc. 6. 
Also in Macbeth : 

1 Augurs, and understood relations, have 
By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth 
The secretst man of blood." 

On which Steevens observes : " In Cotgrave's Dictionary a magpie is 
called magatapie." So in the Night Raven, a Satirical Collection, &c. : 
" I neither tattle with jackdaw 
Or maggot-pye on thatch'd house straw." 

Magot-pie is the original name of the bird ; magot being the familiar 
appellation given to pies, as we say Robin to a redbreast, Tom to a tit- 
mouse, Philip to a sparrow, &c. The modern mag is the abbreviation of 
the ancient magot, a word which we had from the French. See Halliwell, 
p. 536. 

In the Supplement to Johnson and Steevens's Shakespeare, 8vo. Lond. 
1780, ii. 706, it is said that the magpie is called, in the west, to this hour, 
a magatipie, and the import of the augury is determined by the number of 
the birds that are seen together : " One for sorrow ; two for mirth ; three 
for a wedding ; four for death." Mr. Park, in a note in his copy of 
Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 88, says that this regulation 
of the magpie omens is found also in Lincolnshire. He adds that the 
prognostic of sorrow is thought to be averted by turning thrice round. 


berland pyanots) together : thus, in Tim Bobbin's Lancashire 
Dialect, 8vo. 1775, p. 31 : "I saigh two rott'n pynots (lion- 
gum) that wur a sign o bad fashin ; for I heard my gronny 
say hoode os leef o seen two owd harries (devils) os two 

The magpie continues to be ominous in Scotland. The 
Glossary to the Complaynt of Scotland, 8vo. Edinb. 1801, v. 
Piett, a magpie, observes that "it is, according to popular 
superstition, a bird of unlucky omen. Many an old woman 
would more willingly see the 'devil, who bodes no more ill 
luck than he brings, than a magpie perching on a neighbour- 
ing tree.'* 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
notices among vain observations, "the pyes chattering about 
the house." 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Daemonologie, 8vo. Lond. 1650, 
speaking of popular superstitions, p. 59, tells us: "By the 
chattering of magpies they know they shall have strangers. 
By the flying and crying of ravens over their houses, especially 
in the dusk evening, and where one is sick, they conclude 
death : the same they conclude by the much crying of owles 
in the night, neer their houses, at such a time." 

Alexander Ross, in his Appendix to the Arcana Microcosm!, 
p. 219, tells us, that "in the time of King Charles the Eighth 
of France, the battle that was fought between the French and 
Britans, in which the Britans were overthrown, was fore- 
shewed by a skirmish between the magpies and jackdaws. 1 

1 The following is from Glossarium Suio-Gothicura, auctore I. Ihre, fol. 
Upsalise, 1769, v. Skata, ii. 565 : " Skata, Pica. Quum illius plurimus in 
auguriis usus fuerit, v. Plinii Hist. Nat. lib. x. 18, interque aves sinis- 
terioris ominis semper locum invenerit, unde etiam videmus, veteris super- 
stitionis tenacem plebem nostram volucrem hanc stabuloriim portis ex- 
pansis alis suspendere, ut, quod ait Apuleius, suo corpore luat illud infor- 
tunium quod aliis portendit : arbitror a scada nocere, A.S. scathian, nomen 
illi inditum fuisse. Vocatur alias Skjura, forte a garritu, ut etiam Latine 
Garrulus nuncupabatur." Such is the opinion of the common people in 
Sweden. The same Glossary, v. Thuesnek, the cry of the lapwing, tells us 
that " in the south and west of Scotland this bird is much detested, though 
not reckoned ominous. As it frequents solitary places, its haunts were fre- 
quently intruded upon by the fugitive Presbyterians, during the persecution 
which they suffered in the disgraceful and tyrannical reigns of Charles the 
Second and James the Second, when they were often discovered by the 
clamours of the lapwing." 

THE DOVE. 217 

[The following extract respecting the dove is taken from 
the old ballad of the Bloody Gardener : 

" As soon as he had clos'd his eyes to rest, 
A milk white dove did hover on his breast ; 
The fluttering wings did beat, which wak'd him from his sleep, 
Then the dove took flight, and he was left. 
To his mother's garden, then, he did repair, 
For to lie, and lament himself there ; 
"When he again the dove did see sitting on a myrtle tree 
With drooping wings, it desolate appear'd. 
' Thou dove, so innocent, why dost thou come ? 
O hast thou lost thy mate, as I have done ? 
That thou dost dog me here, all round the vallies fair.' 
When thus he'd spoke, the dove came quickly down, 
And on the virgin's grave did seem to go, 
Out of its milk-white breast the blood did flow ; 
To the place he did repairj but no true love was there. 
Then frighted to his mother he did go, 
And told her what there did to him appear, 
Saying, ' I fear that you have kill'd my dear ; 
For a dove, I do declare, did all in blood appear, 
And if that she be dead, I'll have my share.' 
His mother hearing what he then did say, 
Told him of the wicked deed straightway ; 
She in distraction run, and told him what she'd done, 
And where the virgin's body lay. 
He nothing more did say, but took a knife, 
Farewell, the joy and pleasure of my life ! ' 
He in the garden flew, and pierc'd his body through, 
'Twas cursed gold that caused all this strife. 
These two lovers in one silent tomb were laid, 
And many a briny tear over them was shed ; 
The gardener, we hear, was apprehended there, 
And now all three are in their silent graves."] 

The quaint author of A strange Metamorphosis of Man 
transformed into a Wildernesse, deciphered in Characters, 
12mo. Lond. 1634, speaking of the goose, says: " She is no 
witch, or astrologer, to divine by the starres, but yet hath a 
shrewd guesse of rainie weather, being as good as an almanack 
to some that beleeve in her." 

We read in Willsford's Nature's Secret's, p. 132, that "the 
offspring or alliance of the capitolian guard, when they do 
make a gaggling in the air more than usual, or seem to fight, 
being over greedy at their meat, expect then cold and winterly 
weather." Also, ibid. p. 134: "Peacocks crying loud and 


shrill for their lost To does proclaim an approaching storm." 
We read in the eleventh book of Notable Things, by Thomas 
Lupton, 8vo. Lond. 1660, No. 10, p. 311, that " the pea- 
cock, by his harsh and loud clamor, prophesies and foretells 
rain, and the oftener they cry, the more rain is signified." 
Theophrastus and Mizaidus are cited : " and Paracelsus saies, 
if a peacock cries more than usual, or out of his time, it fore- 
tells the death of some in that family to whom it doth belong." 
As also, ibid.: "Doves coming later home to their houses 
than they are accustomed to do presages some evil weather 
approaching." So, ibid. p. 133: "Jackdaws, if they come 
late home from foraging, presages some cold or ill weather 
neer at hand, and likewise when they are seen much alone." 
So, ibid. p. 132: "Ducks, mallards, and all water-fowls, 
when they bathe themselves much, prune their feathers, and 
flicker, or clap themselves with their wings, it is a sign of 
rain or wind." The same with " cormorants and gulls." 

[It is reckoned by many a sure sign of death in a house, if 
a white pigeon is observed to settle on the chimney. 

Dotterels. (From a Hampshire correspondent.) Within 
the last few days several strong flights of this highly esteemed 
migratory feathered visitant have been observed in the hilly 
districts around Andover. The shepherds, who are prone to 
study the habits of such birds of passage who visit that ex- 
tensive range of downs called Salisbury Plain (upon which 
latter they may be almost said to spend their lives), hold the 
following trite saying among them, and as they are guided as 
to the management of their flocks, in a great measure, by the 
signs of the seasons, there can be no doubt but that the adage 
carried some weight with it : 

" When dotterel do first appear, it shews that frost is very near ; 
But when that dotterel do go, then you may look for heavy snow."] 

In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, iii. 
478, the minister of Arbirlot, in the county of Forfar, in- 
forms us, " The sea-gulls are considered as ominous. When 
they appear in the fields, a storm from the south-east gene- 
rally follows ; and when the storm begins to abate, they fly 
back to the shore." 

Ibid. i. 32, parish of Holywood, Dumfreisshire : " During 
the whole year the sea-gulls, commonly called in this parish 


sea-maws, occasionally come from the Solway Frith to this 
part of the country ; their arrival seldom fails of being fol- 
lowed by a high wind and heavy rain, from the south-west, 
within twenty-four hours ; and they return to the Frith again 
as soon as the storm begins to abate." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says : " Sea- 
meivs, early in the morning making a gaggling more than ordi- 
nary, foretoken stormy and blustering weather." 

Moresin ranks the unseasonable crowing of the cock among 
omens. As also the sudden fall of hens from the house-top. 1 
These fowl omens are probably derived to us from the Romans, 
at whose superstitions on this account Butler laughs in his 
Hudibras. 2 [The proverb says : 

" If the cock crows on going to bed, 
He's sure to rise with a watery head ;" 

i. e. it is sure to prove rainy the next morning.] 

In Willsford' s Nature's Secrets, Svo. Lond. 1658, p. 132, 
we read : " The vigilant cock, the bird of Mars, the good 
housewife's clock and the Switzer's alarum, if he crows in 
the day time very much, or at sun-setting, or when he is at 
roost at unusual hours, as at nine or ten, expect some change 
of weather, and that suddenly, but from fair to foul, or the 
contrary ; but when the hen crows, good men expect a storm 
within doors and without. If the hens or chickens in the 
morning come late from their roosts (as if they were con- 
strained by hunger) it presages much rainy weather." 

In the British Apollo, fol. 1708, vol. i. No. 64, to a query, 

" When my hens do crow, 
Tell me if it be ominous or no ?" 

1 " Gallorum gallinaceorum cucurritum intempestivum. Gallinarum 
subitum e tecto casum," p. 2. Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and 
Puzzel'd, p. 181, enumerating vain observations and superstitious omina- 
tions thereupon, has not overlooked " the cock's crowing unseasonably." 
2 " A flam more senseless than the roguery 
Of old aruspicy and aug'ry, 
That out of garbages of cattle 
Presag'd th' events of truce or battle ; 
From flight of birds or chickens pecking 
Success of great'st attempts would reckon." 

P. ii. canto iii. 1. 29. 


It is answered : 

" With crowing of your hens \ve will not twit ye, 
Since here they every day crow in the city ; 
Thence thought no omen." 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, has the fol- 
lowing passage : "While journeying on, Johnson, the inter- 
preter, discovered a species of tree for which he had made 
frequent inquiry. He tied a white chicken to the tree by its 
leg to one of the branches, and then said that the journey 
would be prosperous. He said the ceremony was an offering 
or sacrifice to the spirits of the woods, who were a powerful 
race of beings, of a white colour, with long flowing hair.*' 

Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Superstition, p. 7, says, 
speaking of a superstitious man : " When he returns home, 
he will often be in fear, too, lest a cockatrice should be hatched 
from his cock's egg, and kill him with its baneful aspect." 
He had given the following trait of his character before : 
" When he goes out of doors, he fears nothing so much as 
the glance of an envious eye." 

" Mischiefs are like the cockatrice's eye ; 
If they see first, they kill ; if seen, they die." Dryden. 

I recollect nothing at present which seems to have been 
derived into modern superstition from the ancient mode of 
deducing omens from the inside of animals, unless it be that 
concerning the merry thought, thus noticed by the Spectator : 
" I have seen a man in love turn pale and lose his appetite 
from the plucking of a merry thought." 

In the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1/08, i. No. 84, is the 
following query : " For what reason is the bone next the 
breast of a fowl, &c., called the merry thought, and when was 
it first called so 1 A. The original of that name was doubt- 
less from the pleasant fancies that commonly arise upon the 
breaking of that bone, and 'twas then certainly first called so, 
when these merry notions were first started." 

In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, p. 285, we are told : 
" Themistocles was assured of victory over King Xerxes and 
his huge army by crowing of a cocke, going to the battle at 
Artemisium, the day before the battell began, who having 
obtained so great a victory, gave a cocke in his ensigne ever 

-lYj Ibid * We read : " The first Kin of Rome > Romulus, 
builded his kingdom ty flying offowles and soothsaying. So 


Numa Pompilius was chosen second King of Rome by flying 
of fowl es. So Tarquinius Priscus, an eagle tooke his cappe 
from his head and fled up on high to the skies, and after de- 
scended, and let his cappe fall on his head againe, signifying 
thereby that he should be King of Rome." 

Ibid. p. 289: "The Arabians, Carians, Phrygians, and 
Cilicians, do most religiously observe the chirping and flying 
of birds, assuring themselves good or bad events in their 
warres." Ibid. p. 290 : "So superstitious grew the Gentils, 
with such abominable idolatry, that in Persia by a cock, in 
Egypt by a bull, in ^Ethiope by a dog, they tooke soothsaying; 
in Beotia by a beech tree, in Epyre by an oake, in Delos by a 
dragon, in Lycia by a wolfe, in Ammon by a ramme, they 
received their oracles, as their warrant to commence any 
warre, to enter any battell, or to attempt any enterprize." 

The Earl of Northampton's Defensative against the Poison 
of supposed Prophecies, 1583, says: "The Romaines tooke 
the crowing of a cocke for an abode of victory, though no 
philosopher be ignorant that this proceedeth of a gallant lus- 
tinesse uppon the first digestion." 

In Morier's Journey through Persia, 1810, p. 62, we read : 
" Among the superstitions in Persia, that which depends on 
the crowing of a cock is not the least remarkable. If the 
cock crows at a proper hour, they esteem it a good omen ; if 
at an improper season, they kill him. I am told that the 
favorable hours are at nine, both in the morning and in the 
evening, at noon, and at midnight." 

Pennant, in his Zoology, i. 258, speaking of the hoopoe, 
tells us that the country people in Sweden look on the ap- 
pearance of this bird as a presage of war : " Facies armata 
videtur." And formerly the vulgar in our country esteemed 
it a forerunner of some calamity. The same writer, ii. 508, 
tells us : " That the great auk is a bird observed by seamen 
never to wander beyond soundings, and according to its ap- 
pearance they direct their measures, being then assured that 
land is not very remote." Thus the modern sailors pay respect 
to auguries in the same manner as Aristophanes tells us those 
of Greece did above two thousand years ago. See Aves, 

Hpoepti TiffT dtl Tdi opviBdJV ^avTtvo^kv^) -n.tpi TOV 
Nuvi ft?) TrXtif ^t/iwv t'orai' vvvi 7r\(, tctpdog 


Thus translated : 

" From birds in sailing men instructions ta<"\ 
Now lie in port, now sail and profit make." 

Pennant further observes, ibid. p. 554, that the stormy 
petrel presages bad weather, and cautions the seamen of the 
approach of a tempest, by collecting under the sterns of the 
ships. "Halcyon," says Willsford, ut supra, p. 134, "at 
the time of breeding, which is about fourteen days before the 
winter solstice, foreshows a quiet and tranquil time, as it is 
observed about the coast of Sicily, from whence the proverb 
is transported, the Halcyon Days. Pliny." 

Dallaway, in his Constantinople, Ancient and Modern, 
1797, p. 137, speaking of the Bosphorus, says : " Scarcely a 
minute passes but flocks of aquatic birds, resembling swallows, 
may be observed flying in a lengthened train from one sea to 
the other. As they are never known to rest, they are called 
halcyons, and by the French 'ames damne'es.' They are 
superstitiously considered by all the inhabitants." 

In Smith's Travels, 1792, p. 11, it is said: "On sailing 
along the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia, June 9, we saw a 
sea monster, which (or others of the same kind) appeared 
several times the same day, spouting water from its nose to a 
great height. It is called caldelia, and is said to appear fre- 
quently before a storm. A storm came on next morning, 
which continued four days." 

In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, p. 290, we read : 
" Aristaiider the soothsayer, in the battell at Arbela, being 
the last against Darius, was then on horsebacke hard by 
Alexander, apparelled all in white, and a crowne of golde 
upon his head, encouraging Alexander, by the flight of an 
eagle, the victory should be his over Darius. Both the Greekes, 
the Romaines, and the Lacedemonians, had theyr soothsayers 
hard by them in their warres." Bishop Hall, in his Characters 
of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, says : 
" If a bittourn fly over his head by night, he makes his will." 
In Wild's Iter Boreale, p. 19, we read : 

" The peaceful king-fishers are met together 
About the decks, and prophesie calm weather." 



IT is vulgarly thought unlucky to kill spiders. It would 
be ridiculous to suppose that this has been invented to sup- 
port the Scottish proverb, that " dirt bodes luck ; " it is, how- 
ever, certain, that this notion serves, in many instances, among 
the vulgar, as an apology for the laziness of housewives in 
not destroying their cobwebs. It has rather been transmitted 
from the magicians of ancient Rome, by whom, according to 
Pliny's Natural History, presages and prognostications were 
made from their manner of weaving their webs. 1 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 131, tells us: "Spi- 
ders creeg, out of their holes and narrow receptacles against 
wind or rain ; Minerva having made them sensible of an 
approaching storm." He adds.: " The commonwealth of 
emmets, when busied with their eggs, and in ordering their 
state affairs at home, if presages a storm at hand, or some 
foul weather ; but when nature seems to stupifie their little 
bodies, and disposes them to rest, causing them to withdraw 
into their caverns, least their industry should engage them 
by the inconveniency of the season, expect then some foul 
and winterly weather." 

Park has the following note in his copy of Bourne and 
Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 93 : " Small spiders, termed 
money spinners, are held by many to prognosticate good luck, 
if they are not destroyed or injured, or removed from the 
person on whom they are first observed." 

In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, p. 60, in 
the chapter of omens, we read that " Others have thought 
themselves secure of receiving money, if by chance a little 
spider fell upon their cloaths." 

White, in his Natural History of Selborne, p. 191, tells us : 
"The remark that I shall make on the cobweb-like appear- 
ances called gossamer, is, that strange and superstitious as the 
notions about them were formerly, nobody in these days 
doubts but that they are the real production of small spiders, 

1 In Bartholomseus, De Proprietatibus Kerum (printed by Th. Berthelet, 
27th Hen. VIII.), lib. xviii. fol. 314, speaking of Pliny, we read: 
"Also he saythe, spynners (spiders) ben tokens of divynation and of 
knowing what wether shal fal, for oft by weders that shal fal, some spin 
and weve higher or lower. Also he saythe, that multytute of spymiers is 
token of raoche reyne." 


which swarm in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and 
have a power of shooting out webs from their tails, so as to 
render themselves buoyant, and lighter than air." 

Bishop Hall, in. his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speak- 
ing of a superstitious man, says V " If he see a snake unkilled, 
he fears a mischief." 1 

Alexander Ross, in his appendix to the Arcana Microcosrai, 
p. 219, tells us : "I have heard of skirmishes between water 
and land serpents premonstrating future calamities among 

The same author, ibid., tells us: "That the cruel battels 
between the Venetians and Insubrians, and that also between 
the Liegeois and the Burgundians, in which about thirty thou- 
sand men were slain, were presignified by a great combat be- 
tween two swarms of emmets." 

[Pigs. When pigs are taken from the sow, they must be 
drawn backwards, if they are expected to do well : the sow 
will then go to boar before Saturday night. Not to be killed 
when the moon is in the wane, if they are, the bacon when 
cooked, will waste away." LincJ\ 

Gray mentions, among rustic omens, the ivethers-bell, and 
the lambkin ; as also bees : 

" The weather' s-bell 

Before the drooping flock toll'd forth her knell. 
The lambkin, which her wonted tendance bred, 
Drop'd on the plain that fatal instant dead. 
Swarra'd on a rotten stick the bees I spy'd, 
Which erst I saw when Goody Dobson dy'd." 

1 Cicero, in his second book on Divination, 28, observes : " Quidam 
et interpres portentorum non inscite respondisse dicitur ei, qui cum ad 
cum retulisset quasi ostentura, quod anguis domi vectem circumjectus 
fuisset. Turn esset, inquit, ostentum, si anguem vectis circumplicavisset. 
Hoc ille response satis aperte declaravit, nihil habendum esse portentum 
quod fieri posset." He adds, 29 : " C. Gracchus ad M, Pomponium 
scripsit, duobus anguibus domi coraprehensis, haruspices a patre convoca- 
tos. Qui inagis anguibus, quam lacertis, quam muribus ? Quia sunt hsec 
quotidiana, angues non item. Quasi vero referat, quod fieri potest quam 
id saepe fiat ? Ego tamen miror, si emissio feminse anguis mortem ad- 
ferebat Ti. Graccho, emissio autem maris anguis erat mortifera Corneliae, 
cur alteram utram emiserit : nihil enim scribit respondisse haruspices, si 
neuter anguis emissus esset, quid esset futurum. At mors insecuta 
Gracchum est. Causa quidem, credo, aliqua morbi gravioris, non emis- 
sione serpentis: neqne enim tanta est infelicitas haruspicuni, ut ne casu 
quidera unquam fiat, quod futurum illi esse dixerint." 


In Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, under the 
mouth of May, are these lines : 

" Take heed to thy bees, that are ready to swarme, 
The losse thereof now is a crown's worth of harme." 

On which is the following observation in Tusser Redivivus, 
1744, p. 62 : " The tinkling after them with a warming-pan, 
frying-pan, kettle, is of good use to let the neighbours know 
you have a swarm in the air, which you claim wherever it 
lights ; but I believe of very little purpose to the reclaiming of 
the bees, who are thought to delight in no noise but their own." 

Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 168, tells us: 
" The Cornish to this day invoke the spirit Browny, when 
their bees swarm ; and think that their crying Browny, 
Browny, will prevent their returning into their former hive, 
and make them pitch and form a new colony." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says: "Bees, in 
fair weather, not wandering far from their hives, presages the 
approach of some stormy weather. . . . Wasps, hornets, and 
gnats, biting more eagerly than they use to do, is a sign of 
rainy weather." 


WALLIS, in his History of Northumberland, i. 367, gives 
the following account of the insect so called, whose ticking 
has been thought, by ancient superstition, to forebode death 
in a family : " The small scarab called the death-watch (Sca- 
rabseus galeatus pulsator) is frequent among dust and in 
decayed rotten wood, lonely and retired. It is one of the 
smallest of the vagipennia, of a dark brown, with irregular 
light-brown spots, the belly plicated, and the wings under the 
cases pellucid ; like other beetles, the helmet turned up, as 
is supposed for hearing ; the upper lip hard and shining. By 
its regular pulsations, like the ticking of a watch, it some- 
times surprises those that are strangers to its nature and pro- 
perties, who fancy its beating portends a family change, and 
the shortening of the thread of life. Put into a box, it may 
be heard and seen in the act of pulsation, with a small pro- 
boscis, against the side of it, for food more probably than for 

III. 15 


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 

That lies in old wood, like a hare in her form, 
With teeth or with claws it will bite, or will scratch, 
And chambermaids christen this worm a death-watch : 
Because, like a watch, it always cries click : 
Then woe be to those in the house who are sick ; 
For as sure as a gun they will give up the ghost, 
If the maggot cries click, when it scratches the post. 
But a kettle of scalding hot water injected, 
Infallibly cures the timber affected; 
The omen is broken, the danger is over, 
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 

Baxter, in his "World of Spirits, p. 203, most sensibly ob- 
serves 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 death- 
watch, 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, espe- 
cially 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 any- 
thing in them, bakers, brewers, inhabitants of old houses, &c., 
were in a melancholy condition." 

To an inquiry, ibid. vol. ii. No. 70, " concerning a death- 

a sp 



" , whether you suppose it to be a living creature," answer 
blaren, " It is nothing but a little worm in the wood." 
fri flow many people have I seen in the most terrible palpi- 
Kitions, for months together, expecting every hour the ap- 
proach 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. 1/32, p. 61. 



GROSE tells us that, besides general notices of death, i pre- 
families have particular warnings or notices ; some by tbirous 
pearance of a bird, and others by the figure of a tall wdinary 
dressed all in white, who goes shrieking about the hi and 
This apparition is common in Ireland, where it is oVater 
Benshea, and the Shrieking Woman. thout 

Pennant says, that many of the great families in Scotl 
had their demon or genius, who gave them monitions of futdi is 
events. Thus the family of Rothmurchas had the Bodac au* 
Dun, or the Ghost of the Hill ; Kinchardines, 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. 1 

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 Germanic that have particular and apparent presages and 
tokens, full of noise, before or about the day of their death, as extraordi- 
narie 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 Magicse, p. 592, has the following : " In Bohemia 
spectrum foemineum vestitu lugubri apparere solet in arce quadam illustris 
familiae, antequam una ex conjugibus doiuinorum illoruin 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 ima- 
gined to appear and foretell mortality. In the county of 
Carmarthen 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 
waif of the person whose death it foretells. 1 

The Glossary to Burns's Scottish Poems describes " Wraith" 
to be a spirit, a ghost, an apparition, exactly like a living per- 
son, whose appearance is said to forebode the person's ap- 
"oaching death. King James, in his Dsemonology, says, that 
jrraithes appeare in the shadow of a person newly dead, or 
lie, to his friends," p. 125. 

frack, in the Glossary to Gawin Douglas's Virgil, signifies 

irit or ghost, ffiapian, too, Anglo-Saxon, is rendered 

Gro>re f stupere,Jluctuare. In the Glossary to Allan Ramsay's 

omen is, 4to. 1721, Edinb., the word Waff" is explained 

heard.nd'ring by itself." 

BaxThese are," says Grose, " the exact figures and resem- 

serve^ces of persons then living, often seen, not only by their 

n\ulnds at a distance, but many times by themselves ; of which 

frihere 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, " vfh&tfye-token do you see about 

1 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?" 1 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 Deemonology, p. 136, says : " In a se- 
cret 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 pre- 
sence 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 

1 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 ca't 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." 

2 " 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, 
if 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 vestal! 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 whoso- 
ever was there perjured would, within a year after, bee burned 
with the fire of that saint ; and even in our times it is com- 
monly 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 inter- 
rogatories, 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 sup- 
posed to have any way occasioned its death ; where the phe- 
nomenon 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 
is. '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 tryal 
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 reyis mortui ; ac si indignaretur spiritus in adventu 
ejus. qui ejusdem mortis causa esse credebatur, ut videretur 
sanguis clamare adDeum." Edit. 1684, p. 126. 


henry the Sixth's body, Stow says, was brought to Saint 
Paul's in an open coffin, barefaced, where he bled ; thence he 
was carried to the Blackfriers, and there bled. Annals, p. 424. 
This circumstance is alluded to by Shakespeare. 

At Hertford Assizes, 4 Car. I., the following was taken by 
Sir John Maynard, sergeant-at-law, from the deposition of 
the minister of the parish where a murder was committed : 
" That the body being taken out of the grave thirty days after 
the party's death, and lying on the grass, and the four de- 
fendants (suspected of murdering her) being required, each 
of them touched the dead body, whereupon the brow of the 
dead, which before was of a livid and carrion colour, began to 
have a dew, or gentle sweat, arise on it, which increased by 
degrees, till the sweat ran down in drops on the face, the brow 
turn'd to a lively and fresh colour, and the deceased opened 
one of her eyes and shut it again three several times ; she 
likewise thrust out the ring or marriage finger three times, 
and pulled it in again, and the finger dropt blood on the grass." 
The minister of the next parish, who also was present, being 
sworn, gave evidence exactly as above. See Gent. Mag. for 
Sept. 1731, i. 395. 

Mr. Park, in his copy of Bourne and Brand's Popular Anti- 
quities, p. 101, on the prevailing opinion that when a person 
is murdered the corpse will bleed at the approach of the mur- 
derer, has inserted the following note : " This opinion is sar- 
castically alluded to in the following lines of an early English 
epigrammist : 

' Phisition Lanio never will forsake 
His golden patiente while his head doth ake ; 
When he is dead, farewell. He comes not there 
He hath nor cause, nor courage to appear 
He will not looke upon the face of death, 
Nor bring the dead unto her mother earth. 
I will not say, but if he did the deede, 
He must be absent lest the corpse should bleed.' 

Bastard's Chrestoleros, lib. v. ep. 22, ed. 1598." 

One might add to this the very ill-timed jocular remark made 
by one to a physician attending a funeral : " So, doctor, I see 
you are going home with your work." 

In Wits, Fits, and Fancies, 4to. p. 83, is the following : " A 
gentlewoman went to church so concealed, that she thought 


nobody could know her. It chanced that her lover met her, 
and knew her, and spake unto her. Sir (she answered), you 
mistake me ; how know ye me ? All too well (replied the 
gentleman) ; for so soone as I met you, behold my wounds 
fell fresh a bleeding ! Oh, hereof you only are guilty." 

The dead rattle, a particular kind of noise made in re- 
spiring by a person in the extremity of sickness, is still con- 
sidered in the North, as well as in other parts of England, as 
an omen of death. Levinus Lemnius, in his Occult Miracles 
of Nature, lib. ii. ch. 15, is very learned concerning it : " In 
Belgica regione, totoque septentrionalis plagae tractu, mori- 
turi certa argumenta proferunt emigrandi, edito sonitu mur- 
muloso, nee est, qui absque hujusmodi indicio vitam. non finiat. 
Siquidem imminente morte sonum edunt, tanquam aquae 
labentis per salebras, locaque anfractuosa atque incurva, mur- 
mur, aut qualem siphunculi ac fistulse in aquae ductibus soni- 
tum excitant. Cum enim vocalem arteriam occludi contingat, 
spiritus qui confertim erumpere gestit, nactus angustum 
meatum, collapsamque fistulam, gargarismo quodam prodit, 
ac raucum per leevia murmur efficit, scatebrisque arentes de- 
serit artus. Conglomeratus itaque spiritus, spumaque turgida 
commixtus, sonitum excitat, reciprocanti maris sestui assi- 
milem. Quod ipsum in nonnullis etiam fit ob panniculos ac 
membranas in rugas contractas, sic ut spiritus oblique ac- 
sinuoso volumine decurrat. Hi, autem, qui valido sunt vasto- 
que corpore, et qui violenta morte periunt, gravius resonant, 
diutiusque cum morte luctantur, ob humoris copiam ac densos 
crassosque spiritus. lis vero qui extenuate sunt corpore, ac 
lenta morte contabescunt, minus impetuose lenique sonitu 
fertur spiritus, ac sensim placideque extinguuntur, ac quo- 
dammodo obdormiscunt." 

Among the superstitions relative to death may be ranked the 
popular notion that a pillow filled with the feathers of a pigeon 
prevents an easy death. To an inquiry of the British Apollo, 
fol. Lond. 1710, vol. ii. No. 93, " that if anybody be sick and 
lye a dying, if they lie upon pigeons' feathers they will be 
languishing and never die, but be in pain and torment." An- 
swer is given : " This is an old woman's story. But the scent 
of pigeons' feathers is so strong, that they are not fit to make 
beds with, insomuch that the offence of their smell may be said 
(like other strong smells) to revive anybody dying, and if 


troubled with hysteric fits. But as common practice, by reason 
of the nauseousness of the smell, has introduced a disuse of 
pigeons' feathers to make beds, so no experience doth or hath 
ever given us any example of the reality of the fact." 

Reginald Scot, too, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p, 170, 
says : " I have heard, by credible report, that the wound of a 
man murthered, renewing bleeding at the presence of a dear 
friend, or of a mortal enemy. Divers also write that if one pass 
by a murthered body (though unknown), he shall be stricken 
with fear, and feel in himself some alteration by nature." 
"Three loud and distinct knocks at the bed's head," says Grose, 
" of a sick person, or at the bed's head or door of any of his re- 
lations, is an omen of his death." 

Among death omens the withering of bay trees was, ac- 
cording to Shakespeare, reckoned one. Thus Richard II. : 

" 'Tis thought the king is dead ; we will not stay. 
The bay trees in our country are all wither' d." 

Upon which Steevens observes, that " some of these prodigies 
are found in Holinshed : ' In this yeare, in a manner through- 
out all the realme of England, old bai trees withered,' &c. 
This was esteemed a bad omen ; for as I learn from Thomas 
Lupton's Syxt Book of Notable Thinges, 4to. 6. /. : 'Neyther 
falling sicknes, neyther devyll, wyll infest or hurt one in 
that place whereas a bay tree is. The Romans calle it the 
Plant of the Good Angell." 

Lupton, in his third book of Notable Things, 13 (edit. 8vo. 
1660, p. 53), says: " If a firr tree be touched, withered, or 
burned with lightening, it signifies that the master or mis- 
tresse thereof shall shortly dye. Servius." Ibid, book ix. 
No. 6, we read : " If the forehead of the sick wax red, and his 
brows fall down, and his nose wax sharp and cold, and his left 
eye become little, and the corner of his eye run, if he turn to 
the wall, if his ears be cold, or if he may suffer no brightness, 
and if his womb fall, if he pull straws or the cloaths of his 
bed, or if he pick often his nostrils with his fingers, and if he 
wake much, these are most certain tokens of death." 

Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, 1721, p. 276, speaking of Edge- 
well Tree, describes it to be " an oak-tree which grows on the 
side of a fine spring, nigh the Castle of Dalhousie, very much 
observed by the country people, who give out, that before any 


of the family died, a branch fell from the Edge-well Tree. The 
old tree some few years ago fell altogether, but another sprung 
from the same root, which is now tall and flourishing, and 
langbetsae" 1 

Werenfels says, p. 7 : " The superstitious person could wish 
indeed that his estate might go to his next and best friends 
after his death, but he had rather leave it to anybody than 
make his will, for fear lest he should presently die after it." 

A writer in the Athenian Chronicle, vol. i. p. 232, asserts 
that he " knew a family never without one cricket before some 
one dyed out of it ; another, that an unknown voice always 
called the person that was to die ; another, that had something 
like a wand struck upon the walls ; and another, where some 
bough always falls off a particular tree a little before death." 
He adds, inconsistently enough : " But ordinarily such talk is 
nonsense, and depends more upon fancy than anything else." 
In the same work, vol. iii. p. 552, we read of "its being a 
common thing that, before a king, or some great man, dies, or 
is beheaded, &c., his picture or image suffers some considerable 
damage ; as falling from the place where it hung, the string 
breaking by some strange invisible touch." In Dr. Heylin's 
Life of Archbishop Laud, it is stated that " the bishop going 
into his study, which no one could get into but himself, found 
his own picture lying all along on its face, which extremely 
perplexed him, he looking upon it as ominous." 

la the Glossary to the Complaynt of Scotland, 8vo. Edinb., 
1801, we find the following observations on the word " Deitht- 
thraw" (p. 188) : "The Contortions of Death. These are re- 
garded by the peasants with a species of superstitious horror. 
To die with a throw is reckoned an obvious indication of a bad 
conscience. When a person was secretly murdered, it was 
formerly believed that, if the corpse were watched with cer- 
tain mysterious ceremonies, the death -thraws would be reversed 
on its visage, and it would denounce the perpetrators and cir- 
cumstances of the murder. The following verse occurs in a . 
ballad, of which I have heard some fragments. A lady is mur- 

1 In Petri Molinaei Vates, p. 154, we read : " Si visitans aegrum, lapi- 
dem inventum per viara attollat, et sub lapide inveniatur vermis se 
movens, aut formica vivens, faustum omen est, et indicium fore ut aeger 
convalescat, si nihil invenitur, res est conclamata, et certa mors, ut docet 
Buchardus Decretorum, lib. xix." 


dered by her lover ; her seven brothers watch the corpse it 

4 'T was in the middle o' the night 

The cock began to craw ; 
And at the middle o' the night 
The corpse began to thraw.' " 

Heron, in his Journey through Part of Scotland, 1799, ii. 
227, says : " Tales of ghosts, brownies, fairies, witches, are 
the frequent entertainment of a winter's evening among the 
native peasantry of Kirkcudbrightshire. It is common among 
them to fancy that they see the wraiths of persons dying, 
which will be visible to one and not to others present with 
him. Sometimes the good and the bad angel of the person 
are seen contending in the shape of a white and a black dog. 
Only the ghosts of wicked persons are supposed to return to 
visit and disturb their old acquaintance. Within these last twenty 
years, it was hardly possible to meet with any person who had 
not seen many wraithsandghostsin the course of his experience." 

" The wraith, or spectral appearance, of a person shortly to 
die (we read in the introduction to the Minstrelsy of the Scot- 
tish Border, p. clxvi.), is a firm article in the creed of Scottish 
superstition." Nor is it unknown in our sister kingdom. 
See the story of the beautiful lady Diana Rich. Aubrey's 
Miscellanies, p. 89. 

"The wraith of a living person," says Dr. Jamieson, "does 
not, as some have supposed, indicate that he shall die soon ; 
although in all cases viewed as a premonition of the disem- 
bodied state. The season, in the natural day, at which the 
spectre makes its appearance, is understood as a certain pre- 
sage of the time of the person's departure. If seen early in 
the morning, it forebodes that he shall live long, and even ar- 
rive at old age ; if in the evening, it indicates that his death is 
at hand." Etymol. Diet, of Scot. Lang, in v. Wraith. 

Connected with death omens are the following curious ex- 
tracts. In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, Firste 
Precepte, chap. xlii. we read : " Dives. Is it leful to trust in 
these fasting es newfound, to fle sodeyne dethe? Pauper. It 
is a grete foly to trust therein : yf men were certayne by suche 
fastynge that they shuld nat dye sodeynly but have tyme of 
repentaunce, and to be shrevyne and houselyde, they shulde 
be the more rechelesse in their ly vynge, and the lesse tale yeve 
for to doo amys in hope of amendemente in their diyng. More 


sodeyn deth wyste I nevir that men hadde thanne I wyste theym 
have that have fastyd suche fastes seven yere about. And was 
their nevir soo moche sodeyn deth so longe reignynge in this 
londe as hath be sithe suche fastynge beganne." 

The time of this new fast seems to be pointed out in the fol- 
lowing passage : " I see no grounde ne reason whye it shuld be 
more medeful to fast alle Monday es in the yere whan the 
Feeste of oure Lady in Lente fullyth on Monday, thanne to 
fast in worshyp of her Wednesdaye, Friday, or Saturday." 

Our ancient popular death omens are all enumerated in the 
well-known Historic of Thomas of Reading, 4to. Lond. 1632, 
previous to his being murdered by his " oasts." Signat. 
4 b : " There is no remedy but he should goe to Colebrooke 
that night ; but by the way he was heavy asleepe, that he 
could scant keepe himself in the saddle ; and when he came 
neere unto the towne, his nose burst out suddenly a bleeding. 
Cole, beholding his oast and oastesse earnestly, began to 
start backe, saying, what aile you to looke so like pale death ? 
good Lord, what have you done, that your hands are thus 
bloody? What, my hands? said his oast. Why, you may 
see they are neither bloody nor foule ; either your eyes doe 
greatly dazell, or else fancies of a troubled minde doe delude 
you. With that the scritch-owle cried piteously, and anon, 
after, the night-raven sat croking hard by his window. Jesu 
have mercy upon me, quoth hee, what an ill-favoured cry doe 
yonder carrion birds make ! and therewithal he laid him downe 
in his bed, from whence he never rose againe." 

Watching in the church-porch for death omens (on the eves 
of St. Mark and St. John Baptist) has been already noticed. 
The following relation on this subject is found in the Athenian 
Oracle, vol. iii. p. 515 : "On last eve, nine others be- 
sides myself went into a church-porch, with an expectation of 
seeing those who should die that year ; but about eleven o'clock 
I was so afraid that I left them, and all the nine did positively 
affirm to me that, about an hour after, the church-doors flying 
open, the minister (who, it seems, was much troubled that 
night in his sleep), with such as should die that year, didap* 
pear in order. Which persons they named to me, and they 
appeared then all very healthful, but six of them died in six 
weeks after, in the very same order that they appeared." Per- 
haps this comes more properly under the head of Divinations 
than Omens. 



CORPSE CANDLES, says Grose, are very common appear- 
ances in the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke, 
and also in some other parts of Wales ; they are called candles, 
from their resemblance, not to the body of the candle, but the 
fire ; because that fire, says the honest Welshman, Mr. Davis, 
in a letter to Mr. Baxter, doth as much resemble material 
candle-lights as eggs do eggs ; saving that, in their jour- 
ney, these candles are sometimes visible and sometimes dis- 
appeared, especially if any one comes near to them, or in the 
way to meet them. On these occasions they vanish, but pre- 
sently appear again behind the. observer and hold on their 
course. If a little candle is seen, of a pale bluish colour, then 
follows the corpse, either of an abortive, or some infant ; if a 
larger one, then the corpse of some one come to age. If there 
be seen two, three, or more, of different sizes, some big, some 
small, then shall so many corpses pass together, and of such 
ages or degrees. If two candles come from different places, 
and be seen to meet, the corpses will do the same ; and if any 
of these candles be seen to turn aside, through some by-path 
leading to the church, the following corpse will be found to 
take exactly the same way. Sometimes these candles point 
out the places where persons shall sicken and die. They have 
also appeared on the bellies of pregnant women previous to 
their delivery ; and predicted the drowning of persons passing 
a ford. Another kind of fiery apparition peculiar to Wales is, 
what is called the Tan-we or Tan-wed. This appeareth, says 
Mr. Davis, to our seeming, in the lower region of the air, 
straight and long, not much unlike a glaive, mours, or shoots, 
directlyand level(as who should sayl'llhit),but far more slowly 
than falling stars. It lighteneth all the air and ground where it 
passeth, lasteth three or four miles or more, for aught is known, 
because no man seeth the rising or beginning of it ; and when 
it falls to the ground, it sparkleth and lighteth all about. 
These commonly announce the death or decease of freeholders 
by falling on their lands ; and you shall scarce bury any such 
with us, says Mr. Davis, be he but a lord of a house and 
garden, but you shall find some one at his burial that hath 
seen this fire fall on some part of his lands. 

["These ^nu/raV^ara in our language we call canhwyllan 
cyrph, i. e. corps-candles ; and candles we call them, not that 


we see anything beside the light, but because that light doth 
as much resemble a material candle-light, as eggs do eggs, 
saving, that in their journey these candles be modo apparentes, 
modo disparentes, especially when one comes near them ; and 
if one come in the way against them, unto whom they vanish ; 
but presently appear behind and hold on their course. If it 
be a little candle pale or bluish, then follows the corps either 
of an abortive or some infant." Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. 1 76. 

Sacheverell, in his Account of the Isle of Man, p. 15, re- 
lates that "Captain Leather, chief magistrate of Belfast, in the 
year 1690, who had been previously shipwrecked on the coast 
of Man, assured him that, when *he landed after shipwreck, 
several people told him that he had lost thirteen men, for they 
had seen so many lights move towards the churchyard, which 
was exactly the number of the drowned."] 

Sometimes these appearances have been seen by the persons 
whose death they foretold ; two instances of which Mr. Davis 
records as having happened in his own family. For a parti- 
cular relation of the appearance of a fetch-light, or dead-man's 
candle, to a gentleman in Carmarthenshire, see the Athenian 
Oracle, vol. i. pp. 76, 77. See also, ibid. vol. iii. p. 150. 

Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speak- 
ing of the superstitious man, says : " Some wayes he will not 
go, and some he dares not ; either there are bugs, or he faineth 
them. Every lanterne is a ghost, and every noise is of chaines. 
He knowes not why, but his custom is to go a little about, and 
to leave the crosse still on the right hand." 

In the Cambrian Register, 8vo. 1796, p. 431, we read: 
" That, among the lower class of people, there is a general 
belief in the existence of apparitions, is unquestionable ; but 
as to the lighted candle springing up upon the errand of 
love, I believe that no person in Wales has ever before heard 
of it (the author is remarking on Pratt' s Gleaner) ; the tra- 
veller has probably confounded it with a very commonly- 
received opinion, that within the diocese of St. David's, a 
short space before death, a light is seen proceeding from the 
house, and sometimes, as has been asserted, from the very 
bed where the sick person lies, and pursues its way to the 
church where he or she is to be interred, precisely in the same 
track in which the funeral is afterwards to foUow. This light 
ia called canwyll corpt t or the corpse-candle. 



THERE is a very singular marine superstition noted in 
Petronius Arbiter ; it is that no person in a ship must pare his 
nails or cut his hair, except in a storm. 1 Bishop Hall, in his 
Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious 
man, observes that "he will never set to sea but on a Sunday." 
Sailors have various puerile apprehensions of its being ominous 
to whistle on shipboard, to carry a corpse in their vessel, &c. 

Sailors, usually the boldest men alive, are yet frequently the 
very abject slaves of superstitious fear. "Innumerable," says 
Scot on Witchcraft, p. 53, "are the reports of accidents unto 
such as frequent the seas, as fishermen and sailors, who dis- 
course of noises, flashes, shadows, echoes, and other visible 
appearances, nightly seen and heard upon the surface of the 

Andrews, in his Anecdotes, p. 331, says : " Superstition and 
profaneness, those extremes of human conduct, are too often 
found united in the sailor ; and the man who dreads the 
stormy effects of drowning a cat, or of whistling a country- 
dance while he leans over the gunwale, will, too often, wantonly 
defy his Creator by the most daring execrations and the most 
licentious behaviour." He softens, however, the severity of 
this charge by owning " that most assuredly he is thoughtless 
of the faults he commits." 

I find the following in a Helpe to Memory and Discourse, 
12mo. Lond. 1630, p. 56 : " Q. Whether doth a dead body in 
a shippe cause the shippe to sayle slower, and if it doe, what 
is thought to be the reason thereof ? A. The shippe is as in- 
sensible of the living as of the dead ; and as the living make it 
goe the faster, so the dead make it not goe the slower, for the 
dead are no Rhemoras to alter the course of her passage, 
though some there be that thinke so, and that by a kind of 
mournful sympathy." 

" Our sailors," says Dr. Pegge (under the signature of T. 

1 " Audio enim non licere cuiquam mortalium in nave neque ungue* 
neque capillos deponere, nisi quum pelago ventus irascitur." Petron. 369, 
edit. Mich. Hadrianid. And Juvenal, Sat. xii. 1. 81, says : 
" Turn stagnante sinu, gaudent ubi vertice raso 
Garrula securi narrate pericula naut." 


Row), in the Gent. Mag. for January, 1/63, xxxiii. 14, "I am 
told, at this very day, I mean the vulgar sort of them, have a 
strange opinion of the devil's power and agency in stirring up 
winds, and that is the reason they so seldom whistle on ship- 
board, esteeming that to be a mocking, and consequently an 
enraging, of the devil. And it appears now that even Zoroaster 
himself imagined there was an evil spirit, called Vato, that 
could excite violent storms of wind." 

Sir Thomas Browne has the following singular passage : 
"That a kingfisher, hanged by the bill, showeth us what 
quarter the wind is, by an occult and secret propriety, con- 
verting the breast to that point of the horizon from whence the 
wind doth blow, is a received opinion and very strange in- 
troducing natural weathercocks, and extending magnetical 
positions as far as animal natures ; a conceit supported chiefly 
by present practice, yet not made out by reason or experience." 
The common sailors account it very unlucky to lose a water- 
bucket or a mop. To throw a cat overboard, or drown one 
at sea, is the same. Children are deemed lucky to a ship. 
Whistling at sea is supposed to cause increase of wind, and is 
therefore much disliked by seamen, though sometimes they 
themselves practise it when there is a dead calm. 

[Davy Jones. "This same Davy Jones, according to the 
mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the 
evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes 
perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, ship- 
wrecks, and other disasters, to which a seafaring life is ex- 
posed, warning the devoted wretch of death and woe." 
Peregrine Pickle, chap. 13.] 

In Canterbury Guests, or a Bargain Broken, a comedy, by 
Ravenscroft, 4to. p. 24, we read: "My heart begins to leap, 
and play like a porpice before a storm." Pennant says, in 
his Zoology, iii. 67, that " the appearance of the dolphin and 
the porpesse are far from being esteemed favorable omens by 
the seamen, for their boundings, springs, and frolics in the 
water are held to be sure signs of an approaching gale." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 135, tells us: " Por- 
paises, or sea-hogs, when observed to sport and chase one an- 
other about ships, expect then some stormy weather. Dolphins, 
in fair and calm weather, persuing one another as one of their 
waterish pastimes, foreshews wind, and from that part whence 


they fetch their frisks ; but if they play thus when the seas 
are rough and troubled, it is a sign of fair and calm weather 
to ensue. Cuttles, with their many legs, swimming on the 
top of the water, and striving to be above the waves, do pre- 
sage a storm. Sea-urchins thrusting themselves into the mud, 
or striving to cover their bodies with sand, foreshews a storm. 
Cockles, and most shell-fish, are observed against a tempest to 
have gravel sticking hard unto their shells, as a providence of 
nature to stay or poise themselves, and to help weigh them 
down, if raised from the bottome by surges. Fishes in gene- 
ral, both in salt and fresh waters, are observed to sport most, 
and bite more eagerly, against rain than at any other time." 


THE learned Moresin, in his Papatus, reckons among omens 
the hornedness of the moon, the shooting of the stars, and the 
cloudy rising of the sun. 1 Shakespeare, in his Richard II., 
act ii. sc. 4, tells us : 

" Meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven ; 
The pale-fac'd moon looks bloody on the earth, 
And lean-look'd prophets whisper fearful change : 
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings." 

In a Defensative against the Poyson of supposed Prophe- 
cies, by the Earl of Northampton, 1583, we read: "When 
dyvers, uppon greater scrupulosity than cause, went about to 
disswade her Majestye (Queen Elizabeth), lying then at 
Richmonde, from looking on the comet which appeared last ; 
with a courage aunswerable to the greatnesse of her state, 
shee caused the windowe to be sette open, and cast out thys 
worde, jacta est alea, the dyce are throwne, affirming that her 
stedfast hope and confidence was too firmly planted in the 
providence of God to be blasted or affrighted with those 
beames, which either had a ground in nature whereuppon to 
rise, or at least no warrant out of scripture to portend the 

1 " Lunse corniculationera, solis nuhilura ortum, stellarum trajectiones 
in acre." Papatus, p. 21. 

in. 16 


mishappes of princes." He adds : " I can affirm thus much, 
as a present witnesse, by mine owne experience.'* 

There is nothing superstitious in prognostications of weather 
from aches and corns. " Aches and corns," says Lord Verulam, 
" do engrieve (afflict) either towards rain or frost ; the one 
makes the humours to abound more, and the other makes 
them sharper." Thus also Butler, in his Hudibras, p. iii. c. ii. 
1. 405 : 

" As old sinners have all points 

0' th' compass in their bones and joints, 

Can by their pangs and aches find 

All turns and changes of the wind, 

And, better than by Napier's bones, 

Feel in their own the age of moons." 

Googe, in his translation of Naogeorgus' s Popish Kingdome, 
fol. 44, has the following passage on Sky Omens : 
" Beside they give attentive eare to blinde astronomars, 
About th' aspects in every howre of sundrie shining stars ; 
And underneath what planet every man is borne and bred, 
What good or evill fortune doth hang over every hed. 
Hereby they thinke assuredly to know what shall befall, 
As men that have no perfite fayth nor trust in God at all ; 
But thinke that everything is wrought and wholly guided here, 
By mooving of the planets, and the whirling of the speare." 

In the Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 
1732, pp. 61-2, we read: "There are others, who from the 
clouds calculate the incidents that are to befal them, and see 
men on horseback, mountains, ships, forests, and a thousand 
other fine things in the air." 

In the following passage from Gay's first Pastoral are some 
curious rural omens of the weather : 

" We learnt to read the skies, 
To know when hail will fall, or winds arise. 
He taught us erst the heifer's tail to view, 
When stuck aloft, that show'rs would straight ensue ; 
He first that useful secret did explain, 
Why pricking corns foretold the gath'ring rain ; 
When swallows fleet soar high and sport in air, 
He told us that the welkin would be clear." 

Thus also in the Trivia of the same poet, similar omens oc- 
cur for those who live in towns : 

' But when the swinging signs your ears offend 
With creaking noise, then rainy floods impend ; 
Soon shall the kennels swell with rapid streams 


On hosier's poles depending stockings tied 
Flag with the slacken'd gale from side to side ; 
Church monuments foretel the changing air ; 
Then Niobe dissolves into a tear, 
And sweats with secret grief; you'll hear the sounds 
Of whistling winds, ere kennels break their bounds ; 
Ungrateful odours common shores diffuse, 
And dropping vaults distil unwholesome dews, 
Ere the tiles rattle with the smoking show'r," &c. 

In the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1708, i. No. 51, is said: 

" A learned case I now propound, 
Pray give an answer as profound ; 
'Tis why a cow, about half an hour 
Before there comes a hasty shower, 
Does clap her tail against the hedge ?" 

In Tottenham Court, a comedy, 4to. Lond. 1638, p. 21, we 
read : " I am sure I have foretold weather from the turning 
up of my cowe's tayle." 

[The following curious lines respecting the hedgehog occur 
in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1733 : 

" Observe which way the hedge-hog builds her nest, 
To front the north or south, or east or west ; 
For if 'tis true that common people say, 
The wind will blow the quite contrary way : 
If by some secret art the hedge-hogs know, 
So long before, which way the winds will blow, 
She has an art which many a person lacks, 
That thinks himself fit to make almanacks."] 

From the following simile given by Bodenham, in hi? 
Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses, p. 153, it should seem 
that our ancestors held somehow or other the hedgehog to be 
a prognosticator of the weather. Edit. 8vo. Lond. 1600 : 
" As hedge-hogs doe fore- see ensuing stormes, 
So wise men are for fortune still prepared." 

The following simile is found in Bishop Hall's Virgidemia- 
rum, 12mo. 1598, p. 85 : 

" So lookes he like a marble toward rayne." 

In the Husbandman's Practice, or Prognostication for Ever, 
8vo. Lond. 1664, p. 137, I find the following omens of rain : 
" Ducks and drakes shaking and fluttering their wings when 
they rise young horses rubbing their backs against the ground 
'-sheep bleating, playing, or skipping wantonly swine being 


seen to carry bottles of hay or straw to any place and hide 
them oxen licking themselves against the hair the sparkling 
of a lamp or candle the falling of soot down a chimney 
more than ordinary; -frogs croaking swallows flying low," 
&c. &c. 

I find the following in the Curiosities or the Cabinet of 
Nature, 1637, p. 262 : " Q. Why is a storme said to followe 
presently when a company of hogges runne crying home ? 
A. Some say that a hog is most dull and of a melancholy 
nature ; and so by reason doth foresee the raine that cometh ; 
and in time of raine, indeed I have observed that most cattell 
doe pricke up their eares : as for example an asse will, when 
he perceiveth a storme of raine or hail doth follow." In 
Dekker's Match me in London, act iv. we read : 

" Beasts licking 'gainst the hayre 
Foreshew some storme, and I fore-see some snare." 

Thus also in Smart's Hop-garden, b. ii. 1. 105, p. 127: 

" And oft, alas ! the long-experienc'd wights 
(Oh ! could they too prevent them !) storms foresee, 
For as the storm rides on the rising clouds, 
Fly the fleet wild-geese far away, or else 
The heifer toward the zenith rears her head, 
And with expanded nostrils snuffs the air ; 
The swallows, too, their airy circuits weave, 
And, screaming, skim the brook ; and fen-bred frogs 
Forth from their hoarse throats their old grutch recite ; 
Or from her earthly coverlets the ant 
Heaves her huge legs along the narrow way ; 
Or bends Thaumantia's variegated bow 
Athwart the cope of heav'n ; or sable crows 
Obstreperous of wing, in crowds combine." 

" Next hark 

How the curst raven, with her harmless voice, 
Invokes the rain, and croaking to herself, 
Struts on some spacious solitary shore. 
Nor want thy servants and thy wife at home 
Signs to presage the show'r ; for in the hall 
Sheds Niobe her precious tears, and warns 
Beneath thy leaden tubes to fix the vase, 
And catch the falling dew-drops, which supply 
Soft water and salubrious, far the best > 

To soak thy hops, and brew thy generous beer." 

Coles, in his Introduction to the Knowledge of Plants, 


p. 38, says : " If the down flyeth off coifs-foot, dandelyon, 
and thistles, when there is no winde, it is a signe of rain." 1 

On thunder-superstitions our testimonies are as numerous 
as those of rain. Leonard Digges, gentleman, in his rare 
work entitled A Prognostication Everlasting of ryght good 
Effecte," &c. 4to. Lond. 1556, fol. 6 b, tells us: "Thunders 
in the morning signifie wynde ; about noone, rayne ; in the 
evening, great tempest. Sommewryte (their ground I see not) 
that Sondayes thundre shoulde brynge the death of learned 
men, judges, and others ; Mondaye's thundre, the death of 
women ; Tuesdaye's thundre, plentie of graine ; Wednesday's 
thundre, the deathe of harlottes, and other blodshede ; Thurs- 
day's thundre, plentie of shepe and corne ; Fridaie's thundre, 
the slaughter of a great, man, and other horrible murders; 
Saturday e's thundre, a general! pestilent plague and great 

Among Extraordinarie Tokens for the Knowledge of Wea- 
ther, he adds : " Some have observed evil weather to folow 
when watry foules leave the sea, desiring lande ; the foules of 
the lande flying hyghe : the crying of fowles about waters, 
making a great noyse with their wynges ; also the sees swell- 
yng with uncustomed waves ; if beastes eate gredely ; if they 
lycke their hooves ; if they sodaynlye move here and there, 
makyng a noyse, brethyng* up the ayre with open nostrels, 
rayne foloweth. Also the busy heving of monies : the apper- 
ing or coming out of wormes ; hennes resorting to the perche 
or reste, covered with dust, declare rayne. The ample work- 
ing of the spinnar in the ayre ; the ant busied with her egges; 
the bees in fayre weather not farre wandryng ; the continuall 
pratyng of the crowe, chiefly twyse or thryse quycke calling, 
shew tempest. Whan the crowe or raven gapeth against the 
sunne, in summer, heate foloweth. If they busy themselfes 
in proyning or washyng, and that in wynter, loke for raine. 
The uncustomed noise of pultry, the noise of swine, of pecokes, 

1 In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xiii. 557, parish of Lochcarron, 
co. Ross, we read : " Everything almost is reckoned a sign of rain. It 
there be a warm or hot day, we shall soon have rain ; if a crow begin to 
chatter, she is calling for rain ; if the clouds be heavy, or if there be a 
mist upon the top of the hills, we shall see rain. In a word, a Highlander 
may make anything a sign of rain, and there is no danger he shall fail in 
his prognostication." 


declare the same. The swalowe flying and beating the water, 
the chirping of the sparow in the morning, signifie rayne. 
Raine sodainly dried up : woody coveringes strayter than of 
custome ; belles harde further than commonly ; the wallow- 
yng of dogges ; the alteration of the cocke crowing ; all de- 
clare rainy weather. I leave these, wanting the good grounde 
of the rest. If the learned be desyrefull of the to forsayd, 
let them reade grave Virgil, primo Georgicorum, At Bor, &c." 

In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, 4to. 1602, p. 286, we 
read : " The Thracians, when it thunders, take their bowes 
and arrowes, and shoote up to the cloudes against the thun- 
der, imagining by their shooting to drive the thunders away. 
Cabrias, the generall of Athens, being ready to strike a battel 
on sea, it suddenly lightened, which so terrified the sol- 
diers that they were unwilling to fight, until Cabrias said that 
now the time is to fight, when Jupiter hirnselfe, with his 
lightening, doth shewe he is ready to go before us. So 
Epaminondas, at his going to battell it suddenly lightened 
that it so amazed his souldiers that Epaminondas comforted 
them and saide, ' Lumen hoc numina ostendunt,' by these 
lightenings the Gods shew us that we shall have victories." 
Ibid. p. 287 : " In Rome, the dictator, the consul, the praetor, 
and other magistrates, were to be removed from their offices, 
if the soothsayer sawe any occasion by lightning, thunder- 
ing, by removing of starres, by flying of fowles, by intrailes 
of beasts, by eclipse of the sun and moon." Ibid. p. 288, 
we read : *' Pau. jEmilius, consul and generall of the 
Romanes in Macedonia, at what time he sacrific'd unto the 
gods in the city of Amphipolis, it lightned, whereby he was 
perswaded it pretended the overthrow of the kingdom of 
Macedonia, and his great victory and tryumph of the same at 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 113, says : "Thunder 
and lightning in winter in hot countryes is usual, and hath 
the same effects ; but in those northern climates it is held 
ominous, portending factions, tumults, and bloody wars, and 
a thing seldome seen, according to the old adigy, * Winter's 
thunder is the sommer's wonder.' " 

Massey, in his notes on Ovid's Fasti, p. 90, says: ""The 
left-hand thunder was accounted a happy omen by the 
Romans, but by the Greeks and barbarians it was thought 


otherwise ; so inconsistent are superstitious observations." 
See Tully, de Divinatione, lib. ii. cap. 39. 

Lord Northampton, in the Defensative against the Poyson 
of supposed Prophecies, 1583, tells us : "It chaunceth some- 
times to thunder about that time and season of the yeare when 
swannes hatch their young ; and yet no doubt it is a paradox 
of simple men to thinke that a swaune cannot hatch without 
a cracke of thunder.' 1 

In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, x. 
14, parish of Wick, co. Caithness, the minister, speaking of 
the swans which periodically visit the lakes there, says : " They 
are remarkable prognosticates of the weather, and much re- 
lied on as such by the farmer." 

In the Cambrian Register, 1796, p. 430, we read: "It 
cannot be denied that the Welsh have much superstition 
amongst them, though it is wearing off very fast. But the 
instance adduced here (by the Gleaner), that of their predict- 
ing a storm by the roaring of the sea, is a curious kind of 
proof of their superstition. Their predictions, if they may 
be so called, are commonly justified by the event ; and may, 
I apprehend, be accounted for from causes as natural as the 
forebodings of shepherds ; for which they have rules and 
data as well known to themselves, and, perhaps, as little liable 
to error, as any of those established by the more enlightened 
philosophers of the present day." 


WiLLSFORi), in his Nature's Secrets, p. 136, tells us that 
" Trefoile, or claver-grasse, against stormy and tempestuous 
weather will seem rough, and the leaves of it stare and rise 
up, as if it were afraid of an assault. Tezils, or fuller's thistle, 
being gathered and hanged up in the house, where the air 
may come freely to it, upon the alteration of cold and windy 
weather, will grow smoother, and against rain will close up 
his prickles. Heliotropes and marigolds do not only presage 
stormy weather by closing or contracting together their leaves, 
but turn towards the sun's rays all the day, and in the evening 
shut up shop. Pine-apples, hanging up in the house, where 
they freely may enjoy the air, will close themselves agains't 


wet and cold weather, and open against hot and dry times. 
The leaves of trees and plants in general will shake and 
tremble against a tempest more than ordinary. All tender 
buds, blossoms, and delicate flowers, against the incursion of 
a storm, do contract and withdraw themselves within their 
husks and leaves, whereby each may preserve itself from the 
injury of the weather." 

He says, ibid. p. 144 : "Leaves in the wind, or down float- 
ing upon the water, are signs of tempests. In autumn (some 
say), in the gall, or oak-apple, one of these three things will 
be found (if cut in pieces) : a flie, denoting want ; a worm, 
plenty; but, if a spider, mortality." He tells us, ibid., that 
" the broom having plenty of blossoms, or the walnut tree, is 
a sign of a fruitful year of corn." That "great store of nuts 
and almonds presage a plentiful year of corn, especially fil- 
berds. When roses and violets flourish in autumn, it is an 
evil sign of an insuing plague the year following, or some 
pestiferous disease." 

Lupton, in his third Book of Notable Things (edit. 8vo. 
1660, p. 52), No. 7, says: "If you take an oak-apple from 
an oak tree, and upon the same you shall find a little worm 
therein, which if it doth flye away it signifies wars; if it 
creeps, it betokens scarceness of corn ; if it run about, then 
it foreshews the plague. This is the countryman's astrology, 
which they have long observed for truth. Mizaldus." He 
says, ibid., 25 : " The leaves of an elm tree or of a peach tree, 
falling before their time, do foreshew or betoken a murrain or 
death of cattle. Cardanus." 

In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 4/6 : " The 
fly in the oak-apple is explained as denoting war ; the spider, 
pestilence; the small worm, plenty." 1 

[' The following, communicated by Mr. R. Bond, of Gloucester, was 
received too late for insertion under its proper heading in Vol. I. : "A 
circumstance which occurred in my presence on Saturday evening last 
(the 31st of March), brought to my recollection a superstitious notion 
which I have often heard repeated. A lady (in the common acceptation 
of the term) requested of a seedsman that she might be then furnished 
with various flower-seeds, 'for,' she added, 'I must not omit sowing 
them to-morrow.' ' May I inquire,' exclaimed the astonished shopman, ' if 
there is any particular reason for your making choice of that day ?' ' Yes,' 
was the answer ; ' it is because to-morrow is Palm Sunday, and the ad- 
vantage to be derived from sowing on that day is, that the flowers will 
be sure to come double.' "] 



WE gather, from Congreve's Love for Love, where, in the 
character of Old Foresight, he so forcibly and wittily satirises 
superstition, that to stumble in going down stairs is held to 
be a bad omen. From him, as well as from the Spectator, we 
gather, that sometimes " a rusty nail, or a crooked pin, shoots 
up into prodigies !" 

Cicero, in his second book, De Divinatione, 40, observes : 
" QUEC si sascipiamus, pedis offemio nobis, et abruptio corrigise 
et sternutamenta erunt observanda." In Pet. Molinsei Vates, 
p. 218, we read : " Si quis in limine impegit, ominosum est." 

" That you may never stumble at your going out in the 
morning," is found among the omens deprecated in Barton 
Holiday's Marriage of the Arts, 4to. 

Poor Robin, in his Almanack for 1695, thus ridicules the 
superstitious charms to avert ill luck in stumbling : " All 
those who, walking the streets, stumble at a stick or stone, 
and when they are past it turn back again to spurn or kick 
the stone they stumbled at, are liable to turn students in 
Goatam college ; and, upon admittance, to have a coat put 
upon him, with a cap, a bauble, and other ornaments belong- 
ing to his degree." 

" It is lucky," says Grose, " to tumble up stairs." Pro- 
bably this is a jocular observation, meaning it was lucky the 
party did not tumble down stairs. Melton, in his Astrolo- 
gaster, p. 45, says : "10. That if a man stumbles in a morn- 
ing as soon as he comes out of dores, it is a signe of ill lucke." 
He adds : "30. That if a horse stumble on the highway, it 
is a signe of ill lucke." Bishop Hall, in his Characters of 
Vertues and Vices, under the head of the Superstitious Man, 
observes, that " if he stumbled at the threshold, he feares a 
mischief." Stumbling at a grave was anciently reckoned 
ominous ; thus Shakespeare : 

" How oft to-night 
Have my old feet stumbled at graves !" 

In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 1631, speaking 
of a yealous (jealous) neighbour, the author says: "His 
earth-reverting body (according to his mind) is to be buried 


in some cell, roach, or vault, and in no open space, lest 
passengers (belike) might stumble on his grave." 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
omits not, in his very full catalogue of vain observations and 
superstitious ominations thereupon, "the stumbling at first 
going about an enterprise." 


IT is unlucky, says Grose, to lay one's knife and fork cross- 
wise ; crosses and misfortunes are likely to follow. Melton, 
in his Astrologaster, p. 45, in his catalogue of many supersti- 
tious ceremonies, observes : "25. That it is naught for any 
man to give a pair of knives to his sweetheart, for feare it 
cuts away all love that is betweene them." Thus Gay, in his 
second Pastoral of "The Shepherd's Week :" 

" But woe is me ! such presents luckless prove, 
For knives, they tell me, always sever love !" 

It is, says Grose, unlucky to present a knife, scissors, 
razor, or any sharp or cutting instrument, to one's mistress 
or friend, as they are apt to cut love and friendship. To 
avoid the ill effects of this, a pin, a farthing, or some trilling 
recompense, must be taken in return. To find a knife or 
razor denotes ill luck and disappointment to the party. 

The following is found in Delrio, Disquisit. Magic., p. 494, 
from Beezius : " Item ne alf, vel mar equitet mulierem in 
puerperio jacentem, vel ne infans rapiatur (a strigibus) debet 
poni cultellus vel corrigia super lectum." 


MELTON, in his Astrologaster, p. 46, says : "11. That if a 
man, walking in the fields, finde any foure-leaved grasse, he 
shall, in a small while after, finde some good thing." He tells 
us, ibid. : "15. That it is naught for a man or woman to lose 

NAMES. 251 

their hose garter." As also, ibid. : " 14. That it is a sign of 
ill lucke to finde money." 

Greene, in his Art of Conny-Catching, signat. B, tells us, 
"'Tis ill lucke to keepe found money." Therefore it must be 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dsemonologie, or the Character 
of the Crying Evils of the Present Times, &c., 8vo. Lond. 
1650, p. 60, tells us : " How frequent is it with people (espe- 
cially of the more ignorant sort, which makes the things more 
suspected) to think and say (as Master Perkins relates), if 
they finde some pieces of iron, it is prediction of good lucke 
to the finders ! If they find a piece of silver, it is a foretoken 
of ill lucke to them." 

Mason, in his Anatomic of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 90, enume- 
rating our superstitions, mentions, as an omen of good luck, 
" If drinke be spilled upon a man ; or if he find old iron." 
Hence it is accounted a lucky omen to find a horseshoe. 

Boyle, in his Occasional Reflections, 1665, p. 217, says: 
" The common people of this country have a tradition that 
'tis a lucky thing to find a horse-shoe. And, though 'twas to 
make myself merry with this fond conceit of the superstitious 
vulgar, I stooped to take this up." 

There is a popular custom of crying out " Halves !" on 
seeing another pick up anything which he has found, and 
this exclamation entitles the person who makes it to one half 
of the value. This is alluded to as follows in Dr. John 
Savage's Horace to Scseva imitated, 1730, p. 32 : 
" And he who sees you stoop to th' ground, 
Cries, Halves ! to ev'rything you've found." 

The well-known trick of dropping the ring is founded on 
this custom. See further in Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 257. 


AMONG the Greeks it was an ancient custom to refer mis- 
fortunes to the signification of proper names. The Scholiast 
upon Sophocles, as cited by Jodrell in his Euripides, ii. 349, 
&c. observes, that this ludicrous custom of analysing the 

252 MOLES. 

proper names of persons, and deriving ominous inferences from 
their different significations in their state of analysis, appears 
to have prevailed among the Grecian poets of the first repu- 
tation. Shakespeare, he adds, was much addicted to it. He 
instances Richard II., act ii. sc. 1 : " How is't with aged 

In an alphabetical explanation of hard words, at the end 
of the Academy of Pleasure, 1658, an anagram is defined to 
be " a divination by names, called by the ancients Onomantia. 
The Greeks referre this invention to Lycophron, who was 
one of those they called the Seven Starres, or Pleiades ; after- 
wards (as witnesses Eustachius) there were divers Greek wits 
that disported themselves herein, as he which turned Atlas, for 
his heavy burthen in supporting heaven, into Tolas, that is, 
wretched. Some will maintain that each man's fortune is 
written in his name, which they call anagramatism, or metra- 
gramatism ; poetical liberty will not blush to use e for se, 
v for w, s for z. That amorous youth did very queintly sure 
(resolving a mysterious expression of his love to Rose Hill), 
when in the border of a painted cloth he caused to be painted, 
as rudely as he had devised grossly, a rose, a hill, an eye, a 
loaf, and a well, that is, if you spell it, '/ love Rose Hill 
well.' " 


IN the Husbandman's Practice, or Prognostication for Ever, 
as Teacheth Albert, Alkind, Haly, and Ptolemy, 8vo. Lond. 
1658, p. 153, there is a considerable waste of words to show 
what moles in several parts of the body denote, almost too 
ridiculous to be transcribed. Some of the first are as follow : 
" If the man shall have a mole on the place right against the 
heart, doth denote him undoubtedly to be wicked. If a mole 
shall be seen either on the man's or woman's belly, doth de- 
monstrate that he or she be a great feeder, glutton. If a 
mole, in either the man or woman, shall appear on the place 
right against the spleen, doth signify that he or she shall be 
much passionated, and oftentimes sick." As all the remain- 

MOLES. 253 

ing ones are equally absurd with the above specimens, I shall 
not trouble the reader with any more of them. 

Misson, in his Travels in England, translated by Ozell, ob- 
serves, p. 358, that " when Englishmen, i. e. the common 
people, have warts or moles on their faces, they are very care- 
ful of the great hairs that grow out of those excrescences ; 
and several have told me they look upon those hairs as tokens 
of good luck." 

In the Claim, Pedigree, and Proceedings of James Percy 
(the trunk-maker), who claimed the earldom of Northumber- 
land in 1680, folio, signat. D, occurs the following passage: 
"When you first came to me, I shewed you a mold like a half 
moon upon my body (born into the world with it), as hath 
been the like on some of the Percy's formerly. Now search 
William Percy, and see if God hath marked him so ; surely 
God did foresee the troubles, although the law takes no no- 
tice : but God makes a true decision, even as he was pleased 
to make Esau hairy and Jacob smooth." It is almost super- 
fluous to observe, that the parliament paid no regard to this 
divine signature, as James called it, for he did not succeed to 
the earldom of Northumberland. 

The following on this most ridiculous subject is preserved 
in the twelfth book of a Thousand Notable Things : "9. A 
mole on the feet and hands shews there are others on the 
testes, and denotes many children. 10. Moles on the arm 
and shoulder denote great wisdom ; on the left, debate and 
contention. Moles near the armhole, riches and honour. A 
mole on the neck commonly denotes one near the stomack, 
which denotes strength. 1 1 . A mole on the neck and throat 
denotes riches and health. A mole on the chin, another near 
the heart and signifies riches. 12. A mole on the lip, another 
on the testes, and signifies good stomacks and great talkers. 

13. A mole on the right side of the forehead is a sign of great 
riches both to men and women ; and on the other side, the 
quite contrary. Moles on the right ear of men or women de- 
note riches and honour ; and on the left, the quite contrary. 

14. A mole between the eye-brow and edge of the eye-lid, 
there will be another between the navel and the secrets. 15. A 
red mole on the nose of a man or woman, there will be ano- 
ther on the most secret parts, and sometimes on the ribs, and 
denotes great lechery. Moles on the ankles or feet signify 

254 MOLES. 

modesty in men, and courage in women. 16. A mole or moles 
on the belly denote great eaters. A mole on or about the 
knees signifies riches and virtue ; if on a woman's left knee, 
many children. A mole on the left side of the heart denotes 
very'ill qualities. A mole on the breast denotes poverty. A 
mole on the thighs denotes great poverty and infelicity." 

[The following more complete account of the subject is ex- 
tracted from the Greenwich Fortune-Teller, a popular chap- 
book : 

" A mole against the heart undoubtedly denotes wickedness. 

A mole on the belly signifies a glutton. 

A mole on the bottom of the belly signifies weakness. 

A mole on the knee signifies obtaining a comely, wealthy wife. 

If a woman have a mole on her right knee, she will be honest and vir- 
tuous ; if on the left, she will have many children. 

If a man hath a mole athwart his nose he will be a traveller. 

A mole on a woman's nose, signifies she will travel on foot through 
divers countries. 

A mole on a man's throat shows that he will become rich. 

If a woman have a mole on the lower jaw, it signifies she shall lead her 
life in sorrow and pain of body. 

A mole in the midst of the forehead, near the hair, denotes a discour- 
teous, cruel mind, and of unpleasant discourse ; if it is of honey colour, 
will be beloved ; if red, sullen and furious ; if black, inexpert and waver- 
ing ; if raised more like a wart, very fortunate ! But if a woman, shows 
her to be a slut ; and if in her forehead black, treacherous, consents to 
evil and murder. 

A mole on the right side, about the middle of the forehead, declares a 
man to abound in benefits by friendship of great men ; will be loaded 
with command, esteemed, and honoured ; the paler the colour the greater 
the honour ; if red, he is loved by the clergy ; if black, let him beware 
of the resentment of great men ; if warty, it increaseth good fortune. A 
woman having this shall be fortunate in all her actions ; but if black, be- 
ware of her tongue. 

A mole on the left side of the forehead, near the hair, predicts misery 
and abundance of tribulations to a man, by means of his own misconduct 
if honey-coloured or red, his sorrows are lessened ; but if black, unfortu- 
nate in every undertaking. 

A mole on the left side of the forehead, about the midway, threatens a 
man with persecutions from his superiors ; if of a honey colour, he pro- 
digally wastes his estate ; if red, will become poor ; if black, let him be- 
ware of the wrath or malice of great men : if a woman, it threatens 
sorrow by the perfidy of some men ; if black, she will partake of the 
extremity of misery. 

A mole on the left side of the forehead, a little above the temple, if it 
appear red, he has excellent wit and understanding ; if black, in danger 
of being branded for his falsehoods ; if he has a wart his fate is mitigated. 

CHARMS. 255 

To a woman it shows justification of innocence, though not deserved ; if 
black, malignity, and it represents every evil. 

A mole on any part of the lip, signifies a great eater, or a glutton, much 
beloved, and very amorous. 

A mole on the chin signifies riches. 

A mole on the ear signifies riches and respect. 

A mole on the neck promises riches. 

A mole on the right breast threatens poverty. 

A mole near the bottom of the nostrils is lucky. 

A mole on the left side of the belly denotes affliction. 

A mole on the right foot denotes wisdom. 

A mole on the left foot denotes dangerous rash actions. 

A mole on the eyebrow means speedy marriage and a good husband. 

A mole on the wrist, or between that and the fingers' ends, shows an 
ingenious mind. 

If many moles happen between the elbow and the wrist, they foretell 
many crosses towards the middle of life, which will end in prosperity and 

A mole near the side of the chin, shows an amiable disposition, indus- 
trious, and successful in all your transactions."] 


THE following notice of charms occurs in Barnaby Googe's 
translation of Naogeorgus's Popish Kingdom, f. 57 : 

" Besides, for charmes and sorceries, in all things they excell, 
Both Dardan and the witches foule, that by Meeotis dwell. 
The reason is, that yet to trust in God they have no skill, 
Nor will commit themselves unto th' Almightie father's will. 
If any woman brought abed, amongst them haps to lie, 
Then every place, euchaunter lyke, they dense and purifie, 
For feare of sprightes, least harme she take, or caried cleane away, 
Be. stolne from thence, as though she than in greatest daunger lay ; 
When as hir travailes overpast, and ended well hir paine, 
With rest and sleepe she seekes to get her strength decayde againe. 
The like in travailes hard they use, and manages as well, 
And eke in all things that they buy, and every thing they sell. 
About these Catholikes necks and hands are always hanging charmes, 
That serve against all miseries, and all unhappie harmes ; 
Amongst the which the threatning writ of Michael maketh one, 
And also the beginning of the Gospell of Saint John : 
But these alone they do not trust, but with the same they have 
Theyr barbrous wordes and crosses drawne, with bloud, or painted brave. 

256 .CHARMS. 

They swordes enchaunt, and horses strong, and flesh of men they make 

So harde and tough, that they ne care what blowes or cuttes they take; 

And, using necromancie thus, themselves they safely keepe 

From bowes or guns, and from the wolves their cattel, lambes, and sheepe: 

No journey also they doe take, but charmes they with them beare ; 

Besides, in glistering glasses fayre, or else in christall cleare, 

They sprightes enclose ; and as to prophets true, so to the same 

They go, if any thing be stolne, or any taken lame, 

And when theyr kine doe give no milke, or hurt, or bitten sore, 

Or any other harme that to these wretches happens more." 

In Bale's Interlude concerning Nature, Moses, and Christ, 
1562, Idolatry is described with the following qualities : 

" Mennes fortunes she can tell; 
She can by sayinge her Ave Marye, 
And by other charmes of sorcerye, 
Ease men of the toth ake by and bye ; 
Yea, and fatche the Devyll from Hell." 

And ibid. Sig. C 2, the same personage says : 

" With holy oyle and water 
I can so cloyne and clatter, 
That I can at the latter 

Many sutelties contryve : 
I can worke wyles in battell, 
If I but ones do spattle 
I can make corne and cattle 

That they shall never thryve. 

When ale is in the fat, 

If the bruar please me nat, 

The cast shall fall down flat, 

And never have any strength : 
No man shall tonne nor bake, 
Nor meate in season make, 
If I agaynst him take, 

But lose his labour at length. 

Theyr wells I can up drye, 
Cause trees and herbes to dye, 
And slee all pulterye, 

Whereas men doth me move : 
I can make stoles to daunce 
And earthen pottes to praunce, 
That none shall them enhaunce, 

And do but cast rny ^love. 

CHARMS. 257 

I have charmes for the ploughe, 
And also for the cowghe ; 
She shall gyve mylke ynowghe 

So long as I am pleased. 
Apace the myll shall go, 
So shall the credle do, 
And the musterde querne also, 

No man therwyth dyseased." 

Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, i. 286, says : 
"When the minds of men are haunted with dreams of charms 
and enchantments, they are apt to fancy that the most com- 
mon occurrences in nature are the effects of magical arts." 

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, 
tells us : " They think women have charms divided and dis- 
tributed among them ; and to them persons apply according 
to their several disorders, and they constantly begin and end 
the charm with Pater Noster and Ave Maria." See Gough's 
edition of the Britannia, 1789, iii. 668. 

Mason, in the Anatomic of Sorcerie, 4to. Lond. 1612, p. 62, 
says : " The word charm is derived of the Latin word carmen, 
the letter h being put in." 

Avicen, to prove that there are charms, affirms that all ma- 
terial substances are subject to the human soul, properly 
disposed and exalted above matter. Diet. Cur. p. 144. 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xvi. 122, parish of 
Killearn, co. Stirling, we read: "A certain quantity of cow- 
dung is forced into the mouth of a calf immediately after it 
is calved, or at least before it receives any meat ; owing to 
this, the vulgar believe that witches and fairies can have no 
power ever after to injure the calf. But these and suchlike 
superstitious customs are every day more and more losing their 

Sir Thomas Browne tells us, that to sit crosslegged, or 
with our fingers pectinated or shut together, is accounted bad, 
and friends will persuade us from it. The same conceit reli- 
giously possessed the ancients, as is observable from Pliny : 
" Poplites alternis genibus imponere nefas olim ;" and also 
from Athenseus that it was an old venificious practice ; and 
Juno is made in this posture to hinder the delivery of Alcmsena. 
See Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 95. Mr. 
Park, in his copy of that work, has inserted the following 
note: "To sit crosslegged I have always understood was in- 

ni. 17 

258 CHARMS. 

tended to produce good or fortunate consequences. Hence it 
was employed as a charm at school by one boy who wished 
well for another, in order to deprecate some punishment which 
both might tremble to have incurred the infliction of. At a 
card-table I have also caught some superstitious players sitting 
crosslegged with a view of bringing good luck." 

In the Athenian Oracle, ii. 424, a charm is defined to be "a 
form of words or letters, repeated or written, whereby strange 
things are pretended to be done, beyond the ordinary power 
of Nature." 

Andrews, in his continuation of Dr. Henry's History of 
Great Britain, p. 383, quoting Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, 
says : " The stories which our facetious author relates of ridi- 
culous charms, which by help of credulity operated wonders, 
are extremely laughable. In one of them a poor woman is 
commemorated who cured all diseases by muttering a certain 
form of words over the party afflicted ; for which service she 
always received one penny and a loaf of bread. At length, 
terrified by menaces of flames both in this world and the next, 
she owned that her whole conjuration consisted in these po- 
tent lines, which she always repeated in a low voice near the 
head of her patient : 

" Thy loaf in my hand, 

And thy penny in my purse, 
Thou art never the better 
And I am never the worse." 

In the Works of John Heiwood, newlie imprinted, 1598, I 
find the following charm : 

" I claw'd her hy the backe in way of a charme, 
To do me not the more good, but the lesse harme." 

[The following is extracted from Henslowe's Diary, in the 
library of Dulwich College, temp. Elizabeth : 

" To know wher a thinge is that is stolen .-Take vergine 
waxe and write upon yt * Jasper + Melchisor + Balthasar +/ 
and put yt under his head to whome the good partayneth, and 
he shall knowe in his sleape wher the thinge is become." See 
a curious collection of rural charms in Haiti well's Popular 
Rhymes, pp. 206-14. 



SPITTLE, among the ancients, was esteemed a charm against 
all kinds of fascination : so Theocritus 

Toidoe fj,v6i%oi<?a, rpig tig kov tiTTvae. KoXirov 

" Thrice on my breast I spit to guard me safe 
From fascinating charms." 1 

" See how old beldams expiations make : 
To atone the gods the bantling up they take ; 
His lips are wet with lustral spittle ; thus 
They think to make the gods propitious." 

" This custom of nurses lustrating the children by spittle," 
says Seward, in his Conformity between Popery and Pagan- 
ism, p. 54, "was one of the ceremonies used on the Dies 
Nominalis, the day the child was named ; so that there can 
be no doubt of the Papists deriving this custom from the 
heathen nurses and grandmothers. They have indeed christ- 
ened it, as it were, by flinging in some scriptural expressions ; 
but then they have carried it to a more filthy extravagance, 
by daubing it on the nostrils of adults as well as of children." 

Plutarch and Macrobius make the days of lustration of 

1 So Potter, in his Greek Antiquities, i. 346, tells us that among the 
Greeks " it was customary to spit three times into their bosoms at the 
sight of a madman, or one troubled with an epilepsy." He refers to this 
passage of Theocritus, Idyll, xx. v. 11, for illustration. This, he adds, 
they did in defiance, as it were, of the omen ; for spitting was a sign of 
the greatest contempt and aversion : whence, TTTVUV, i. e. to spit, is put 
for KaraQpovtlv, &v ovdtvi Xoyi&iv, i. e. to contemn, as the scholiast of 
Sophocles observes upon these words, in Antigone, v. 666. 
'AXXd TTTVffas uaei Sva^tvrj. 
Spit on him as an enemy. 

See also Potter, i. 358. Delrio, in his Disquisit. Magic, p. 391, men- 
tions that some think the following passage in Albius Tibullus, lib. i. 
Eleg. 2, is to be referred to this : 

" Hunc puer, hunc juvenis, tuba circumstetit arcta, 
Despuit in molles, et sibi quisque sinus." 

\nd thus Persius upon the custom of nurses spitting upon children : 
" Ecce avia, aut metuens divum matertera, cunis, 
Exemit puerum, frontetnque atque uda labella 
Infami digito, et lustralibus ante salivis 
Expiat, urentes oculos inhibere perita." Sat. ii. 1. 31. 


infants thus : " The eighth day for girls, and the ninth for 
boys. Gregory Nazianzen calls this festival Ovnfj.aaTT][>ia, be- 
cause upon one of those days the child was named. The old 
grandmother or aunt moved round in a circle, and rubbed the 
child's forehead with spittle, and that with her middle finger, 
to preserve it from witchcraft. It is to this foolish custom 
St. Athanasius alludes, when he calls the heresy of Montanus 
and Priscilla ypawv Ttr-uapura." Sheridan's Persius, 2d 
edit. p. 34, note. 

It is related by the Arabians that when Hassan, the grand- 
son of Mahomet, wan born, he spit in his mouth. See Ockley's 
History of the Saracens, ii. 84. Park, in his Travels into the 
Interior of Africa, speaking of the Mandingoes, says: "A 
child is named when it is seven or eight days old. The cere- 
mony commences by shaving the infant's head. The priest, 
after a prayer, in which he solicits the blessing of God upon 
the child and all the company, whispers a few sentences in 
the child's ear, and spits three times in Ms face, after which, 
pronouncing his name aloud, he returns the child to his 

Spitting, according to Pliny, was superstitiously observed 
in averting witchcraft and in giving a shrewder blow to an 
enemy. Hence seems to be derived the custom our bruisers 
have of spitting in their hands before they begin their bar- 
barous diversion, unless it was originally done for luck's sake. 
Several other vestiges of this superstition, relative to fasting 
spittle, 1 mentioned also by Pliny, may yet be placed among 
our vulgar customs. 

Levinus Lemnius tells us : " Divers experiments show what 
power and quality there is in man's fasting spittle, when he 
hath neither eat nor drunk before the use of it : for it cures 
all tetters, itch, scabs, pushes, and creeping sores ; and if 
venemous little beasts have fastened on any part of the body, 
as hornets, beetles, toads, spiders, and such like, that by their 
venome cause tumours and great pains and inflammations, do 
but rub the places with fasting spittle, and all those effects 
will be gone and discussed. Since the qualities and effects of 
spittle come from the humours, (for out of them is it drawn 
by the faculty of nature, as fire draws distilled water from 

" Fascinationes saliva jejuna repelli, veteri superstitione creditum est." 
Alex, ab Alexandro. 


hearbs), the reason may be easily understood why spittle 
should do such strange things, and destroy some creatures." 
Secret Miracles of Nature, English Transl. fol. Lond. 1658, 
p. 164. 

Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, p. 152, leaves it 
undecided whether the fasting spittle of man be poison unto 
snakes and vipers, as experience hath made us doubt. In 
Browne's Map of the Microcosme, 1642, speaking of lust, the 
author says : " Fewell also must bee withdrawne from this 
fire, fasting spittle must kill this serpent." 

The boys in the north of England have a custom amongst 
themselves of spitting their faith (or, as they call it in the 
northern dialect, " their saul," i. e. soul), when required to 
make asseverations in matters which they think of conse- 

In combinations of the colliers, &c., about Newcastle-upon- 
Tyne, for the purpose of raising their wages, they are said to 
spit upon a stone together, by way of cementing their con- 
federacy. Hence the popular saying, when persons are of 
the same party, or agree in sentiments, that "they spit upon 
the same stone." The following is in Plaine Percevall the 
Peace Maker of England, 4to. : " Nay, no further, Martin, 
thou maist spit in that hole, for I'll come no more there." 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, has the fol- 
lowing passage : " They had not travelled far before the 
attendants insisted upon stopping, to prepare a saphie or 
charm, to ensure a good journey : this was done by muttering 
a few sentences, and spitting upon a stone which was laid upon 
the ground. The same ceremony was repeated three times, 
after which the negroes proceeded with the greatest con- 

In the Life of a Satirical Puppy called Nim, 1657, p. 35, I 
find the following passage : " One of his guardians (being 
fortified with an old charm) marches cross-legged, spitting 
three times, east, south, west ; and afterwards prefers his 
vallor to a catechising office. In the name of God, quoth he, 
what art thou ? whence dost thou come ? &c., seeing some- 
thing that he supposed to be a ghost." 

Fishwomen generally spit upon their handsel, i. e. the first 
money they take, for good luck. Grose mentions this as a 
common practice among the lower class of hucksters, pedlars, 


and dealers in fruit or fish, on receiving the price of the first 
goods they sell. 

It is still customary in the west of England, when the con- 
ditions of a bargain are agreed upon, for the parties to ratify 
it by joining their hands, and at the same time for the pur- 
chaser to give an earnest. 

Of the handsel, Misson, in his Travels in England, p. 192, 
observes as follows : " Une espece de pourvoyeuse me disoit 
1'autre jour, que les boucheres de Londres, les femmes qui 
apportent de la volaille au marche, du beurre, des ceufs, &c., 
et toutes sortes des gens, font un cas particulier de 1' argent 
qu'ils recoivent de la premiere vente qu'ils font. Us le baisent 
en le recevant, crachent dessus, et le mettent dans une poche 
apart." Thus translated by Ozell, p. 130: "A woman that 
goes much to market told me t'other day that the butcher- 
women of London, those that sell fowls, butter, eggs, &c., 
and in general most tradespeople, have a particular esteem 
for what they call a handsel; that is to say, the first money 
they receive in a morning ; they kiss it, spit upon it, and put 
it in a pocket by itself." 

Lemon explains handsel, in his Dictionary, "The first 
money received at market, which many superstitious people 
will spit on, either to render it tenacious that it may remain 
with them, and not vanish away like a fairy gift, or else to 
render it propitious and lucky, that it may draw more money 
to it." This word is explained in all its senses in Halliwell's 
Dictionary, p. 433, where may be seen a very curious extract 
from MS. Harl. 1/01, on the subject. 

In Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, b. i. p. 129, there is an 
account of the difficulty a blacksmith has to shoe " a stub- 
borne nagge of Galloway : " 

" Or unback'd jennet, or a Flaunders mare, 
That at the forge stand snuffing of the ayre ; 
The swarty smith spits in his buckhorne fist 
And bids his man bring out the five-fold twist," &c. 

The following is in Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 137 : 
"To heal the king or queen's evil, or any other soreness in 
the throat, first touch the place with the hand of one that 
died an untimely death : otherwise let a virgin fasting lay her 
hand on the sore, and say Apollo denyeth that the heat of 
the plague can increase where a naked virgin quencheth it ; 


and spet three times upon it." Scot, p. 152, prescribes the 
subsequent charm against witchcraft : " To unbewitch the be- 
witched, you must spit in the pot where you have made water. 
Otherwise spit into the shoe of your right foot before you put 
it on ; and that Vairus saith is good and wholesome to do 
before you go into any dangerous place." Spitting in the 
right shoe is in Mons. Oufle, p. 282, notes. 

Delrio, in his Disquisitiones Magicae, lib. vi. c. 2, sect. 1, 
qusest. 1, mentions the following, which with great pro- 
priety he calls : " Excogitata nugasissimae superstitiones de 
iis qui crines pectinando evulsos non nisi ter consputos adji- 
ciunt;" i. e. that upon those hairs which come out of the 
head in combing they spit thrice before they throw them 
away. This is mentioned also in the History of Mons. Oufle, 
p. 282, notes. 

Grose tells us of a singular superstition in the army, where 
we shall hope it is not without its use. " Cagg, to cagg" 
says he, " is a military term used by the private soldiers, sig- 
nifying a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a 
certain time, or, as the term is, till their cagg is out ; which 
vow is commonly observed with the strictest exactness. Ex. 
' I have cagged myself for six months. Excuse me this time, 
and I will cagg myself for a year.' This term is also used in 
the same sense among the common people in Scotland, where 
it is performed with divers ceremonies." Vallancey, in his 
Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. x. p. 490, tells us: 
" That cag is an old English word for fasting, or abstaining 
from meat or drink." 


IN setting a hen, says Grose, the good women hold it an 
indispensable rule to put an odd number of eggs. All sorts 
of remedies are directed to be taken three, seven, or nine 
times. Salutes with cannon consist of an odd number. A 
royal salute is thrice seven, or twenty-one guns. [The reader 
will recollect that Falstalf, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, 
v. 1, is entrapped a third time in the hope of there being 
luck or divinity in odd numbers.] 


This predilection for odd numbers is very ancient, and is 
mentioned by Virgil in his eighth Eclogue, where many spells 
and charms, still practised, are recorded ; l but, notwithstand- 
ing these opinions in favour of odd numbers, the number 
thirteen is considered as extremely ominous, it being held that, 
when thirteen persons meet in a room, one of them will die 
within a year. 

A person under the signature of Camilla, in the Gent. Mag. 
for August 1796, Ixvi. 683, suggests that "the ancient popu- 
lar superstition that it is unlucky to make one in a company 
of thirteen persons may probably have arisen from the Paschal 
Supper. We can none of us forget what succeeded that re- 
past, and that thirteen persons were present at it." 2 

Fuller, in his Mixt Contemplations on these Times, part ii. 
8vo. 1660, p. 53, says: " A covetous courtier complained to 
King Edward the Sixt of Christ Colledge in Cambridge, that 
it was a superstitious foundation, consisting of a master and 
twelve fellowes, in imitation of Christ and his twelve apostles. 

1 " Numero Deus impare gaudet. Aut quemcumque superorum, juxta 
Pythagoreos, qui ternarium numerum perfectum summo Deo assignant, a 
quo initium, et medium, et finis est : aut revera Hecaten dicit, cujus triplex 
potestas esse perhibetur : unde est tria virginis ora Dianee. Quamvis 
omnium prope Deorum potestas triplici signo ostendatur, ut Jovis trifidum 
fulmen, Neptuni tridens, Plutonis canis triceps. Apollo idem sol, idem 
liber, vel quod omnia ternario numero continentur, ut Parcae, Furiae, Her- 
cules etiam trinoctio conceptus. Musae ternae : aut impari quemadmo- 
dumcumque : nam septem chordae, septem planetae, septem dies nominibus 
Deorum, septem stellae in septentrione, et multa his similia: et impaf 
numerus immortalis, quia dividi integer non potest, par numerus mortalis, 
quia dividi potest ; licet Varro dicat Pythagoreos putare imparem nume- 
rum habere finem, parem esse infinitum ; ideo medendi causa multarumque 
rerum impares nmneros servari." Servius in P. Virgil. Eclog. viii. ed. 
varior. In Censorinus De Die Natali, 8vo. Cantab. 1695, p. 121, is the 
following passage : " Ea superstitione que impar numerus plenus et magis 
faustus habebatur." On which is this note, p. 124 : " Vid. Servium ad 
illud Virgilii Eclog. viii. ' Numero Deus impare gaudet.' Macrob. lib. i. 
Satnrnal. cap. xiii. Solin. cap. iii." In Ravenscroft's comedy of Mama- 
mouchi, or the Citizen turn'd Gentleman, 1675, p. 32, Trickmore, habited 
as a physician, says : " Let the number of his bleedings and purgations be 
odd, numero Deus impare gaudet." 

2 So Petri Molinaei Vates, p. 219 : " Si in convivio sunt tredecim con- 
vivae, creditur intra annum aliquem de istis moriturum ; totidem enim per- 
sonae accumbebant mensae, quando Christus celebravit eucharistiam pridie 
quam mortuus est. Sic inter superstitiosos trigesimus numerus ominosus 
est, quia Christus triginta denariis venditus est." 


He advised the king also to take away one or two fellowships, 
so to discompose that superstitious number. ' Oh no,' said 
the king, ' I have a better way than that to mar their conceit, 
I will add a thirteenth fellowship unto them ;' which he did 
accordingly, and so it remaineth unto this day." 

In the Gent. Mag. for July 1796, Ixvi. 573, is an account 
of a dinner-party consisting of thirteen, and of a maiden lady's 
observation, that, as none of her married friends were likely 
to make an addition to the number, she was sure that one of 
the company would die within the twelvemonth. Another 
writer in the same journal for 1/98, Ixviii. 423, says: "The 
superstition that, where a company of persons amount to 
thirteen, one of them will die within the twelvemonth after- 
wards, seems to have been founded on the calculation adhered 
to by the insurance-offices, which presume that, out of thir- 
teen people taken indiscriminately, one will die within a year." 
Insurance-offices, however, are not of such remote antiquity. 

Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man, Works, 
1731, p. 104, speaking of a crypt, or souterrain chapel, near 
Peel Castle, says : " Within it are thirteen pillars, on which 
the whole chapel is supported. They have a superstition that 
whatsoever stranger goes to see this cavern out of curiosity, 
and omits to count the pillars, shall do something to occasion 
being confined there." 

The seventh son of a seventh son is accounted an infal- 
, lible doctor. Lupton, in his second book of Notable Things, 
edit. 1600, p. 25, No. 2, says: "It is manifest, by expe- 
rience, that the seventh male child, by just order (never a 
girle or wench being born between), doth heal only with 
touching (through a natural gift) the king's evil : which is a 
special gift of God, given to kings and queens, as daily expe- 
rience doth witnesse." 1 

1 We read in the Traite des Superstitions, &c., par M. Jean Baptiste 
Thiers, 12mo. 1679, i. 436-7 : " Plusieurs croyent qu'en France les sep- 
tiemes gardens, nez de legitimes manages, sans que la suitte des sept ait, 
este interrompue par la naissance d'aucune fille, peuvent aussi guerir des 
fievres tierces, des fievres quartes, et raesme des ecrouelles, apres avoir 
jeune trois ou neuf jours avant que de toucher les malades. Mais ils font 
trop de fond sur le nombre septenaire, en attribuant au septieme garcon, 
preferablement a tous autres, une puissance qu'il y a autant de raison 
d'attribiier au sixieme ou au huitieme, sur le nombre de trois, et sur celuy 
de neuf, pour ne pas s'engager dans la superstition. Joint que de trois 


So, in a MS. in the Cotton Library, marked Julius, F. vi., 
relating to superstitions in the lordship of Gisborough in 
Cleveland, in Yorkshire : " The seventh son of a seventh son 
is born a physician ; having an intuitive knowledge of the 
art of curing all disorders, and sometimes the faculty of per- 
forming wonderful cures by touching only." A friend, writing 
in 1819, says: "It is a very general superstition in York- 
shire, that, if any woman has seven boys in succession, the 
last should be bred to the profession of medicine, in which 
he would be sure of being successful." 

In a manuscript on Witchcraft, by John Bell, a Scottish 
minister, 1705, which has been already quoted more than 
once, I find the following passage, p. 48: "Are there not 
some who cure by observing number ? After the example of 
Balaam, who used magiam geometricam, Numb, xxiii. 4 : 
* Build me here seven altars, and prepare me seven oxen and 
seven rams,' &c. There are some witches who enjoin the sick 
to dip their shirt seven times in south-running water. Elisha 
sends Naarnan to wash in Jordan seven times. Elijah, on the 
top of Carmel, sends his servant seven times to look out for rain. 
When Jericho was taken they compassed the city seven times." 

Smith, in his MS. Life of William Marques Berkeley, 
Berkeley MSS. ii. 562, tells us he was born A.D. 1426, and 
observes : " This Lord William closeth the second septenary 
number from Harding the Dane, as much diifering from his 
last ancestors, as the Lord Thomas, the first septenary lord, did 
from his six former forefathers. I will not be superstitiously 
opinionated of the misteries of numbers, though it bee of 
longe standing amongst many learned men ; neither will I po- 

que je connois de ces septiemes gar9ons, il y en a deux qui ne guerissent 
de rien, et que le troisieme m'a avoiie de bonne foy qu'il avoit en autrefois 
la reputation de guerir de quantite des maux, quoique en effet il n'ait 
jamais guery d'aucun. C'est pourquoy Monsieur du Laurent a grande 
raison de rejetter ce pretendu pouvoir, et de le mettre au rang des fables, 
en ce qui concerne la guerison des ecroiielles. ' Commentitia sunt,' dit il, 
' quae vulgus narrat omnes qui septimi nati sunt, nulla interveniente sorore 
in tota ditione Regis Franciae curare struraas in nomine Domini et Sancti 
Marculfi, si ternis aut novenis diebus jejuni contigerint ; quasi, ait 
Paschalius, sic hoc vestigium divinum legis Salicae excludentis feminas.' " 
The following occurs in Delrio's Disquisit. Magic, lib. i. c. 3, qu. 4, p. 26 : 
" Tale curationis donum ; sed a febribus tantum sanandi, habere putantur 
in Flandria, quotquot nati sunt ipso die parasceues et quotquot, nullo 
foemineo foetu intercedente, septimi masculi legitimo thoro sunt uati." 


sitively affirm that the number of six is fatall to weomen, and 
the numbers of seaven and nine of men ; or, that those num- 
bers have (as many have written), magnum in tota rerum 
natura potestatem, great power in kingdoms and comon- 
wealths, in families, ages, of bodies, sickness, health, wealth 9 
losse, &c. : or with Seneca and others ; septimus quisque 
annus, &c. Each seaventh year is remarkable with men, as 
the sixth is with weoraen. Or, as divines teach ; that in the 
numbers of seaven there is a misticall perfection which our 
understandinge cannot attaine unto ; and that nature herself 
is observant of this number." His marginal references are as 
follow : " Philo the Jewe de Legis Alleg. lib. i. ; Hipocrates ; 
Bodin de Republica, lib. iv. cap. 2 ; see the Practize of Piety, 
fol. 418, 419; Censorinus de Die Natali, cap. 12; Seneca; 
Varro in Gellius, lib. iii. ; Bucholcer, Jerom in Amos, 5." 

Levinus Lemnius observes, English Transl. 1658, p. 142: 
" Augustus Caesar, as Gellius saith, was glad and hoped that 
he was to live long, because he had passed his sixty-third year. 
For olde men seldome passe that year but they are in danger 
of their lives, and I have observed in the Low Countries 
almost infinite examples thereof. Now there are two years, 
the seventh and ninth, that commonly bring great changes in 
a man's life and great dangers ; wherefore sixty- three, that 
containes both these numbers multiplied together, comes not 
without heaps of dangers, for nine times seven, or seven 
times nine, are sixty-three. And thereupon that is called 
the climactericall year, because, beginning from seven, it doth 
as it were by steps finish a man's life." He adds : " From 
this observation of years there hath been a long custome in 
many countries, that the lord of the manor makes new agree- 
ments with his tenant every seventh yeare." 

Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Superstition, p. 7, 
speaking of a superstitious man, says : " Upon passing the 
climacterick year, he is as much rejoiced as if he had escaped 
out of the paws of death. When he is sick, he will never 
swallow the pills he is ordered to take in equal number." 

In Richard Flecknoe's ^Enigmatical Characters, being rather 
a new Work than a new Impression of the old, 1665, p. 109, 
he describes " One who troubles herself with everything," as 
follows : " She is perpetually haunted with a panic fear of 
* Oh what will become of us ! ' &c. ; and the stories of appa- 


ritions in the air, and prognostics of extraordinary to happen 
in the year sixty-six (when perhaps 'tis nothing but the ex- 
traordinary gingle of numbers), makes her almost out of 
her wits agen." Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and 
Puzzel'd, p. 181, classes with vain observations and super- 
stitious ominations thereupon, " to collect or predict men's 
manners and fortunes by their names, or the anagram upon 
the name, or the allusion to the name, or the numbers in the 
name," &c. 

There is a little history extant of the unfortunate reigns of 
William II., Henry II., Edward II., Richard II., Charles II., 
and James II., 12mo. Lond. 1689, entitled Numerus In- 
faustus, &c. In the preface, speaking of Heyliri's Fatal Ob- 
servation of the Letter H., Geography, p. 225, the author 
says : " A sudden conceit darted into my thoughts (from the 
remeaibrance of former reading), that such kings of England 
as were the second of any name proved very unfortunate 
princes ;" and he proceeds, in confirmation of this hypothesis, 
to write the lives of the above kings. 

Vallancey, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, ii. 12, 
13, note, tells us: "In unenlightened times we find persons 
of the brightest characters tainted with superstition. St. 
Irenseus says, ' there must be four gospels and no more, from 
the four winds and four corners of the earth ;' and St. Austin, 
to prove that Christ was to have twelve apostles, uses a very 
singular argument, for, says he, ' the gospel was to be 
preached in the four corners of the world in the name of the 
Trinity, and three times four makes twelve.' " 

In the MS. of Mr. John Bell, from which an extract is 
given above, communicated to me by Mr. Pinkerton, I find 
the following : 2. Guard against devilish charms for men or 
beasts. There are many sorceries practised in our day, against 
which I would on this occasion bear my testimony, and do 
therefore seriously ask you, what is it you mean by your ob- 
servation of times and seasons as lucky or unlucky ? What 
mean you by your many spells, verses, words, so often re- 
peated, said fasting, or going backward ? How mean you tc 
have success by carrying about with you certain herbs, plants, 
and branches of trees ? Why is it, that, fearing certain events, 
you do use such superstitious means to prevent them, by 
laying bits of timber at doors, carrying a Bible meerly for a 


charm, without any farther use of it? What intend ye by 
opposing witchcraft to witchcraft, in such sort that, when ye 
suppose one to be bewitched, ye endeavour his relief by 
burnings, bottles, horseshoes, and such like magical cere- 
monies ? How think ye to have secrets revealed unto you, 
your doubts resolved, and your minds informed, by turning 
a sieve or a key ? or to discover by basons and glasses how 
you shall be related before you die ? Or do you think to 
escape the guilt of sorcery, who let your Bible fall open on 
purpose to determine what the state of your souls is by the 
first word ye light upon ? " 


BISHOP Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speak- 
ing of the superstitious man, observes, that " old wives and 
starres are his counsellors : his night-spell is his guard, and 
charms his physicians. 1 He wears Paracelsian characters for 
the toothache ; and a little hallowed wax is his antidote for 
all evils." 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, gives a catalogue of 
many superstitious ceremonies, &c., the second of which is, 
" That toothaches, agues, cramps, and fevers, and many other 
diseases, may be healed by mumbling a few strange words 
over the head of the diseased. 

Grose says the word Abacadalara, 2 written as under, and 
worn about the neck, will cure an ague : 

1 Among the ancient Druids " the generality of diseases were attempted 
to be cured by charms and incantations." See Vallancey's Collectanea de 
Rebus Hibernicis, ii. 247. 

2 It should be Abracadabra. On the subject of amulets much in- 
formation may be obtained from an Academical Dissertation, published in 
1710, at Halle, in Saxony, by Mart. Fr. Blumles. Abracadabra is curiously 
illustrated in p. 19, accompanied by two or three etymologies of the word. 


He observes that "certain herbs, stones, and other substances, 
I as also particular words written on parchment, as a charm, 
1 have the property of preserving men from wounds in the 

1 midst of a battle or engagement. This was so universally 
credited, that an oath was administered to persons going to 
fight a legal duel, * that they had ne charm, ue herb of virtue.' 
The power of rendering themselves invulnerable is still be-, 
lieved by the Germans : it is performed by divers charms and 
ceremonies ; and so firm is their belief of its efficacy, that 
they will rather attribute any hurt they may receive, after its 
performance, to some omission in the performance than defect 
^L- in its virtue." 

I find the following in Lord Northampton's Defensative 
against the Poyson of supposed Prophecies, 1583, "What 
godly reason can any man alyve alledge why Mother Joane 
of Stowe, speaking these wordes, and neyther more nor lesse, 

' Our Lord was the fyrst man 
That ever thorne prick't upon : 
It never blysted nor it never belted, 
And I pray God, nor this not may,' 

should cure either beastes, or men and women, from dis- 


Thomas Lodge, in his Incarnate Divels, 1596, p. 12, thus 
glances at the superstitious creed with respect to charms : 
"Bring him but a table of lead, with crosses (and *Adonai,' 
or * Elohim,' written in it), he thinks it will heal the ague." 
In the same work, speaking of lying, p. 35 : " He will tell 
you that a league from Poitiers, neere to Crontelles, there is 
a familie, that, by a speciall grace from the father to the 
sonne, can heale the byting of mad dogs : and that there is 
another companie and sorte of people called Sauveurs, that 
have Saint Catherine's wheele in the pallate of their mouthes, 
that can heale the stinging of serpents." 1 

1 Numerous charms and incantations occur in the Harleian Manuscript, 
No. 273, " Charme pur sang estauncher," " Charme pour dolour de playe," 
" Charme pur fievre," fol. 112, b. " Charme pur festre, e pur cancre, e 
per gute. Gallice," fol. 213. " Carmen sive incantatio pro fcemina par- 
turiente," ibid. " Ut oves capias, incantatio." " Ut sorides, &c., non 
noceant garbas," fol. 215. " Hec est conjuracio contra mures quse nas- 
cuntur in horreo, et ne destruant bladum ; et contra volucrcs et venues 
terra ne destruant segetes," fol. 215, b. 


The subsequent charms are from a MS. quarto of the date 
of 1475, formerly in the collection of the late Mr. Herbert, 
now in my library : 

"A charme to staunch blood. Jesus that was in Bethleem 
born, and baptyzed was in the flumen Jordane, as stente the 
water at hys comyng, so stente the blood of thys man N. thy 
servvaunt, thorow the vertu of thy holy name ^ Jesu ^ and 
of thy cosyn swete Sent Jon. And sey thys charme fyve 
tymes with fyve pater nosters, in the worschep of the fyve 

" For fever. Wryt thys wordys on a lorell lefJ< Ysmael 
JYsmaelJ<adjuro vos per angelum ut soporetur iste homo N. 
and ley thys lef under hys head that he wete not thereof, and 
let hym ete letuse oft and drynk ip'e seed smal grounden in 
a morter, and temper yt witn ale." 

" A charme to draw out yren de quarell. Longius Miles 
Ebreus percussit latus Domini nostri Jesu Christi ; sanguis 
exuit etiam latus ; ad se traxit lanceaJ<tetragramatonJ<Messyas 
J<Sother EmanuelJ<SabaothJ<AdonayJ<Unde sicut verba ista 
fuerunt verba Christi, sic exeat ferrum istud sive quarellum 
ab isto Christiano. Amen. And sey thys charme five tymes 
in the worschip of the fyve woundys of Chryst." 

In that rare work, entitled the Burnynge of St. Paule's 
Church in London, 1561, 8vo. 1563, b. we read: "They be 
superstitious that put holinesse in St. Ay at he's Letters for 
burninge houses, thorne bushes ' for lightnings, &c." Also, 
signat. G 1, a, we find " Charmes, as S. Agathe's Letters for 
burning of houses." 

[The following charms, which seem to have enjoyed con- 
siderable repute in the neighbourhood of Gloucester, have 
been kindly forwarded to the publisher by Mr. Robert Bond, 
of Gloucester : 

" For a canker." 2 0, canker, I do come to tell and to let 

1 In the Statistical Account of Scotland, iii. 609, parish of Newparish : 
" There is a quick thorn, of a very antique appearance, for which the 
people have a superstitious veneration. They have a mortal dread to lop 
off or cut any part of it, and affirm, with a religious horror, that some 
persons, who had the temerity to hurt it, were afterwards severely punished 
for their sacrilege." 

2 The canker is a painful affection of the lips very prevalent amongst 


tliee know whereas not to be, and if thou do not soon be gone, 
some other course I will take with thee. 

/ "For a swell or thorn. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and 
they crowned him with nails and thorns, which neither blisted 
/ nor swelled, so may not this, through our blessed Jesus. 
/ Amen. (See p. 270.) 

" For a burn or >cald. Mary Miles has burnt her child with 
a spark of fire. Out fire, in frost, in the name of the Father, 
Son, and Holy Ghost." 

The charm required is to be repeated nine times, and the 
charmer each time to make a movement (in the form of a 
cross), with his third finger, over the part affected.] 1 

Martin, in his Description of the Western Islands, p. 248, 
speaking of the isle of Collonsay, says that, in confidence of 
curing the patient by it, the inhabitants had an ancient cus- 
tom of fanning the face of the sick with the leaves of the 

There is a vulgar superstition still remaining in Devonshire 
and Cornwall, that any person who rides on a piebald horse 
can cure the chincough. [Contriving to get a woman, who 
on her marriage did not change her surname, to give the child 
a piece of bread and butter, or other edible, in a morning be- 
fore the child has broken its fast, is said to be an infallible 
remedy ! The matter, however, must be so managed, that the 
woman give it voluntarily, or quasi voluntarily; for those 
who believe in the absurdity generally contrive for some 
neighbour to hint to the party that a child will be carried over 

1 [The original document, of which the above is a literal copy, wasfebout 
forty years since presented to a gentleman (well known to me) by a per- 
son who had received many marks of kindness from him, and to evince 
his gratitude for the same, he resolved on transferring to him the gift he 
so highly prized, to wit, the power of healing those several maladies by a 
repetition of the incantation, and otherwise conforming to the specified 
directions. The recipient, on his part, imagined he had an invaluable 
boon conferred upon him, and hundreds were the persons who flocked to 
him to solicit an exercise of his miraculous gift, amongst whom were 
young and old, rich and poor ; sometimes persons entreating it for them- 
selves, sometimes parents entreating it for their children ; and, strange as 
it may appear, I have known an instance of a surgeon having sent his 
child to be charmed for the canker. The possessor of the charms dying 
in 1837, they immediately fell into disuse; for the son, on whom they 
devolved, doubting their efficacy, gave them to me, thinking I might wish 
to preserve them as a curiosity."] 


some morning to her for the purpose. Some hold the opinion 
that the intended remedy will be powerless, unless the child 
be carried over a river, or brook, to the woman's residence ! !] 

Aubrey gives the following receipt to cure an ague. Gather 
cinquefoil in a good aspect of % to the D , and let the 
moone be in the mid-heaven, if you can, and take ***** of 
the powder of it in white wine. If it be not thus gathered 
according to the rules of astrology, it hath little or no virtue 
in it. See his Miscellanies, p. 144, where there follow other 
superstitious cures for the thrush, the toothache, the jaundice, 
bleeding, &c. 

In the Muses Threnodie, p. 213, we read that "Many are 
the instances, even to this day, of charms practised among 
the vulgar, especially in the Highlands, attended with forms 
of prayer. In the Miscellaneous MS. cited before, written by 
Baillie Dundee, among several medicinal receipts I find an 
exorcism against all kinds of worms in the body, in the name 
of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be repeated three 
mornings, as a certain remedy. The poor women who were 
prosecuted for witchcraft administered herbs and exorcized 
their sick patients." 

The Pool of Strathfillan (or St. Fillan) has been already 
noticed, under the head of Wells and Fountains. In Sin- 
clair's Statistical Account of Scotland, v. 84, the minister of 
Logierait, in Perthshire, speaking of superstitious opinions 
and practices in the parish, says: "Recourse is often had to 
charms for the cure of diseases of horses and cows, no less 
than in the human species. In the case of various diseases, 
a pilgrimage is performed to a place called Strathfillan, forty 
miles distant from Logierait, where the patient bathes in a 
certain pool, and performs some other rites in a chapel which 
stands near. It is chiefly in the case of madness, however, 
that the pilgrimage to Strathfillan is believed to be salutary. 
The unfortunate person is first bathed in the pool, then left 
for a night bound in the chapel, and, if found loose in the 
morning, is expected to recover. There is a disease called 
Glacach by the Highlanders, which, as it affects the chest and 
lungs, is evidently of a consumptive nature. It is called the 
Macdonalds' disease, " because there are particular tribes of 
Macdonalds who are believed to cure it with the charm of 
their touch, and the use of a certain set of words. There 

in. 18 


must be no fee given of any kind. Their faith in the touch 
of a Macdonald is very great." Ibid. iii. 379. The minister 
of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of the super- 
stitions of the parish, says : " There are none of the common 
calamities or distressful accidents incident to man or beast 
but hath had its particular charm or incantation : they are 
generally made up of a group of unconnected words, and an 
irregular address to the deity, or to some one of the saints. 
The desire of health, and the power of superstition, recon- 
ciled many to the use of them ; nor are they, as yet, among 
the lower class, wholly fallen into disuse. Credulity and 
ignorance are congenial ; every country hath its vulgar errors ; 
; opinions early imbibed and cherished for generations are dif- 
ficult to be eradicated." Ibid. i. 507: "The minister of 
Meigle parish, having informed us that in the churchyard of 
Meigle are the remains of the grand sepulchral monument of 
Van era, called also Vanera, Wanor, and Guinevar, the British 
Helena," adds : "The fabulous Boece records a tradition pre- 
vailing in his time, viz. that if a young woman should walk 
over the grave of Vanora, she shall entail on herself perpetual 

Brand, in his Description of Orkney, pp. 61, 62, tells us, 
as has been already mentioned, that when the beasts, as oxen, 
sheep, horses, &c., are sick, they sprinkle them with a water 
made up by them, which they call Fore- spoken Water. They 
have a charm also whereby they try if persons be in a decay, 
or not, and if they will die thereof, which they call Casting 
of the Heart. " Several other charms also they have, about 
their marriage, when their cow is calving, when churning 
their milk, or when brewing, or when their children are sick, 
by taking them to a smith (without premonishing him) who 
hath had a smith to his father, and a smith to his grand- 
father. . . . They have a charm whereby they stop excessive 
bleeding in any, whatever way they come by it, whether by 
or without external violence. The name of the patient being 
sent to the charmer, he saith over some words (which I heard), 
upon which the blood instantly stoppeth, though the bleeding 
patient were at the greatest distance from the charmer. Yea, 
upon the saying of these words, the blood will stop in the 
bleeding throats of oxen or sheep, to the astonishment of 
spectators. Which account we had from the ministers of the 


["That the inhabitants of the south of Scotland were for- 
merly exceedingly superstitious is well known, but that which 
I am about to relate is of a darker shade of benighted cre-e \ 
dulity than has I think taken place elsewhere in this country,' f 
so near the middle of the nineteenth century. 

" A highly respectable yeoman, who occupies an extensive 
farm in the parish of Buittle, near Castle Douglas, Kirkcud- 
brightshire, not more than two years since, submitting to the' l 
advice of his medical attendant, permitted one of his arms, 
\ which was diseased, to be amputated, and though the opera- - 
tion was skilfully performed, his health recovered very slowly. > 
A few weeks after the amputated limb had been consigned to 
the family burial-place, a cannie old woman in the neighbour- 
hood, being consulted as to the cause of the decline of the 
farmer's health, recommended that his arm should be forth- 
with raised from the grave, and boiled till the flesh could be 
separated freely from the bones, and that a certain bone of 
one of the fingers of the hand should be taken from the 
others, which if worn by the former owner, either in his vest 
pocket, or sewn into his dress, on the same side from which 
the limb was cut, all pain or disease would be thereby soon 
dispelled, and robust health return to the suffering individual. 

"Two neighbours, on hearing this advice, volunteered to 
superintend the resuscitation and boiling of the arm in ques- 
tion, and without delay proceeded with the sexton to the 
parish churchyard, where a strong peat fire was soon kindled, 
and a large pot, full of water, placed over the flame. So sooi* 
as the limb was raised out the grave, it was plunged into the 
scalding water in the pot, and allowed to remain there, till by 
boiling, the occult joint was easily separated from the rest. 

"The grave-digger in this instance takes praise to himself 
for having returned to the grave all the remaining bones, 
flesh, and extract, as carefully as if it had been a common 

" Subsequently the unfortunate yeoman informed the writer 
of this brief memorandum, that although he had kept the old 
knucklebone carefully in his vest pocket, as foolishly directed, 
for a considerable time, he was not sensible of any beneficial 
efi'ect received by his so doing. 

" In the eastern corner of the ivy, covered walls of the 
ruin of the old parish church of Buittle, the curious visitor 


may see the course of the darkening smoke of the fire used 
in this unhallowed incantation." JOSEPH TRAIN. ] l 

s * "For warts," says Sir Thomas Browne, "we rub our hands 
'before the moon, and commit any maculated part to the touch 
of the dead." Old women were always famous for curing 
warts ; they were so in Lucian's time. 

Grose says : " To cure warts, steal a piece of beef from a 
butcher's shop and rub your warts with it; then throw it 
down the necessary-house, or bury it ; and as the beef rots, 
your warts will decay." See more superstitions relating to 
warts in Turner on the Diseases of the Skin, and in La 
Forest, L'Art de soigner les Pieds, p. 75. 

[Devonshire cure for warts. Take a piece of twine, tie in 
it as many knots as you have warts, touch each wart with a 
knot, and then throw the twine behind your back into some 
place where it may soon decay a pond or a hole in the earth ; 
but tell no one what you have done. When the twine is de- 
cayed your warts will disappear without any pain or trouble, 
being in fact charmed away !] 

I extracted the following from a newspaper, 1777: "After 

he (Dr. Dodd) had hung about ten minutes, a very decently 

dressed young woman went up to the gallows, in order to have 

i wen in her face stroked by the doctor's hand ; it being a 

eceived opinion among the vulgar that it is a certain cure 

or such a disorder. The executioner, having untied the 

lector's hand, stroked the part affected several times there- 


I remember once to have seen, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, after 
i person executed had been cut down, men climb up upon 
:he gallows and contend for that part of the rope which re- 
nained, and which they wished to preserve for some lucky 

1 [For this most singular instance of superstition, the publisher is in- 
debted to the kindness of his friend Dr. Train, whose well-directed and 
antiring energy in the pursuit of legendary lore has been recorded in 
several of the pages of Sir Walter Scott. 

The Publisher avails himself of this occasion to acknowledge the in- 
terest Dr. Train has taken in this edition of Brand, and to thank him for 
several interesting contributions, as well as for permission to make ex- 
tracts from his valuable ' History of the Isle of Man.'] 


purpose or other. I have lately made the important discovery 
that it is reckoned a cure for the headache. 

Grose says, that " a dead man's hand is supposed to have 
the quality of dispelling tumours, such as wens, or swelled 
glands, by striking with it, nine times, the place affected. It 
seems as if the hand of a person dying a violent death was 
deemed particularly efficacious ; as it very frequently happens 
that nurses bring children to be stroked with the hands of 
executed criminals, even whilst they are hanging on the gal- 
lows. A halter, wherewith any one has been hanged, if tied 
about the head, will cure the headache. Moss growing on a 
human skull, if dried, powdered, and taken as snuff, will cure 
the headache. 

" The chips or cuttings of a gibbet, or gallows, on which 
one or more persons have been executed or exposed, if worn 
next the skin, or round the neck in a bag, will cure the ague, 
or prevent it." 

I saw, a few years ago, some dust, in which blood was ab- 
sorbed, taken, for the purpose of charming away some disease 
or other, from off the scaffold on the beheading of one of the 
rebel lords in 1746. 

In the Life of Nicholas Mooney, a notorious highwayman, 
executed at Bristol, April 24th, 1752, with other malefactors, 
we read, p. 30: "After the cart drew away, the hangman 
very deservedly had his head broke for endeavouring to pull 
off Mooney's shoes ; and a fellow had like to have been killed 
in mounting the gallows, to take away the ropes that were 
left after the malefactors were cut down. A young woman 
came fifteen miles for the sake of the rope from Mooney's 
neck, which was given to her ; it being by many apprehended 
that the halter of an executed person will charm away the 
ague, and perform many other cures." 

In the Times newspaper of August 26, 1819, in an account 
of the execution of a Jew, named Abraham Abrahams, on 
Penenden Heath (copied from the Maidstone Gazette), we 
read : " After the body had hung some time, several persons 
applied for permission to rub the hand of the deceased over 
their wens, which by the vulgar is stupidly believed to be a 
cure for those troublesome swellings : but the Jews in attend- 
ance told them they could not suffer the body to be touched 
by any but their own people, it being contrary to their customs." 


[The newspapers of April, 1845, in an account of the exe- 
cution of Crowley, the murderer, contains a curious notice of 
the still prevalent superstition : " Warwick, Friday. At least 
five thousand persons of the lowest of the low were mustered 
on this occasion to witness the dying moments of the un- 
happy culprit. . . As is usual in such cases (to their shame 
be it spoken) a number of females were present, and scarcely 
had the soul of the deceased taken its farewell flight from its 
earthly tabernacle, than the scaffold was crowded by members 
of the 'gentler sex' afflicted with wens in the neck, with 
white swellings in the knees, &c., upon whose afflictions the 
cold clammy hand of the suiferer was passed to and fro, for 
the benefit of his executioner."] 

Grose has preserved a foreign piece of superstition, firmly 
believed in many parts of France, Germany, and Spain. He 
calls it, " Of the hand of glory, which is made use of by 
housebreakers to enter into houses at night without fear of 
opposition. I acknowledge that I never tried the secret of 
the hand of glory, but I have thrice assisted at the definitive 
judgment of certain criminals, who under the torture con- 
fessed having used it. Being asked what it was, how they 
procured it, and what were its uses and properties ? they 
answered, first, that the use of the hand of glory was to stu- 
pify those to whom it was presented, and to render them 
motionless, insomuch that they could not stir any more 
than if they were dead ; secondly, that it was the hand of a 
hanged man ; and, thirdly, that it must be prepared in the 
manner following : Take the hand, right or left, of a person 
hanged and exposed on the highway ; wrap it up in a piece of 
a shroud or winding-sheet, in which let it be well squeezed, 
to get out any small quantity of blood that may have remained 
in it : then put it into an earthen vessel, with zimat, saltpetre, 
salt, and long pepper, the whole well powdered ; leave it 
fifteen days in that vessel ; afterwards take it out, and expose 
it to the noontide sun in the dog-days, till it is thoroughly 
dry ; and if the sun is not sufficient, put it into an oven heated 
with fern and vervain : then compose a kind of candle with 
the fat of a hanged man, virgin wax, and sisame of Lapland. 
The hand of glory is used as a candlestick to hold this candle 
when lighted. Its properties are, that, wheresoever any one 
goes with this dreadful instrument, the persons to whom it is 


presented will be deprived of all power of motion. On being 
asked if there was no remedy, or antidote, to counteract this 
charm, they said the hand of glory would cease to take effect, 
and thieves could not make use of it, if the threshold of the 
door of the house, and .other places by which they might 
enter, were anointed with an unguent composed of the gall of 
a black cat, the fat of a white hen, and the blood of a screech- 
owl ; which mixture must necessarily be prepared during the 
dog-days." Grose observes, that this account (literally trans- 
lated from the French of Les Secrets du Petit Albert* 12mo. 
Lion, 1751, p. 110) and the mode of preparation appear to 
have been given by a judge. In the latter there is a striking 
resemblance to the charm in Macbeth. 

The following paragraph in the Observer newspaper of 
January 16th, 1831, shows that the hand of glory is not un- 
known as a supposed physical charm in Ireland : " On the 
night of the 3d instant, some Irish thieves attempted to com- 
mit a robbery on the estate of Mr. Napper, of Lough-screw, 
county Meath. They entered the house armed with a dead 
man's hand, with a lighted candle in it, believing in the super- 
stitious notion that a candle placed in a dead man's hand will 
not be seen by any but those by whom it is used ; and also 
that, if a candle in a dead hand be introduced into a house, it 
will prevent those who may be asleep from awaking. The 
inmates, however, were alarmed, and the robbers fled, leaving 
the hand behind them." 

The author of the Vulgar Errors tells us, that hollow stones 
are hung up in stables to prevent the nightmare, or ephialtes. 
They are called in the north of England holy stones. Aubrey, 
in his Miscellanies, p. 147, says : "To hinder the nightmare, 
they hang in a string a flint with a hole in it (naturally) by 
the manger : but, best of all, they say, hung about their 
necks, and a flint will do it that hath not a hole in it. It is 
to prevent the nightmare, viz. the hag, from riding their 
horses, who will sometimes sweat at night. The flint thus 
hung does hinder it." 

The ephialtes, or nightmare, 1 is called by the common 

1 The following is from the Glossarium Suio-Goth. of Prof. Ihre, ii 
135 : " Mara, Incubus, Ephialtes, Angl. Nightmare. Nympham aliquam 
cui hoc nomen fuerit, pro Dea cultam esse a septentrionalibus narrat 
Wastovius in viti aquilonia, nescio quo auctore. De vocis origine multi 


people witch-riding. This is in fact an old Gothic or Scan- 
dinavian superstition. Mara, from whence our nightmare is 
derived, was, in the Runic theology, a spectre of the night, 
which seized men in their sleep, and suddenly deprived them 
of speech and motion. See Warton's first Dissert. Pref. to 
Hist. Engl. Poet. A great deal of curious learning upon the 
nightmare, or nacht-mare, as it is called in German, may be 
seen in Keysler's Antiquitates Selectse Septentrionales, p. 497 
et seq. 

A writer in the Athenian Oracle, i. 293, thus accounts na- 
turally for the nightmare : " "Pis effected by vapours from 
crude and undigested concoctions, heat of blood, as after hard 
drinking, and several other ways." Grose says : " A stone 
with a hole in it, hung at the bed's head, will prevent the 
nightmare ; it is therefore called a hag-stone, from that dis- 
order, which is occasioned by a hag or witch sitting on the 
stomach of the party afflicted. It also prevents witches riding 
horses ; for which purpose it is often tied to a stable-key." 

[Astonishing credulity. The following circumstances have 
been related to us by a parishioner of Sowerby, near Thirsk, 
as having recently occurred at that place : " A boy, diseased, 
was recommended by some village crone to have recourse to 
an alleged remedy, which has actually, in the enlightened days 
of the nineteenth century, been put in force. He was to ob- 
tain thirty pennies from thirty different persons, without telling 
them why or wherefore the sum was asked, after receiving 
them to get them exchanged for a half-crown of sacrament 
money, which was to be fashioned into a ring and worn by 
the patient. The pennies were obtained, but the half-crown 
was wanting, the incumbents of Sowerby and Thirsk very 
properly declined taking any part in such a gross superstition. 
However, another reverend gentleman was more pliable, and 
a ring was formed (or professed to be so) from the half-crown, 

multa tradunt, sed quae specie pleraque carent. Armorice mor notat 
somnum brevem et crebro turbatum, mori somnum ejusmodi capere (v. 
Pelletier in Diet. Britannique) quae hue apprime facere videntur. Alias 
observavit Schilterus, more pro diabolo vel malo daemone apud veteres 
Alemannos usurpari. Marlock, plica, quae saepe capillos horainum con- 
torquet. Verisimile est, credidisse superstitiosam vetustatem, istiusmodi 
plicas incubi insultibus esse adscribendas. Richey 1. c. a Mdhre, equa, 
nominis rationem petit, quum equorum caudse similem in modum ssepe 
complicatas sint." 


and worn by the boy. We have not heard of the result, 
which is not at all wonderful, considering the extreme impro- 
bability of there being any result at all. We talk of the dark 
ages, of alchemy and sorcery, but really, on hearing such 
narrations as these, one begins to doubt whether we are much 
more enlightened in this our day." Yorkshireman, 1846-7. 
A similar instance, which occurred about fourteen years 
since, has been furnished to the publisher by Mr. R. Bond, of 
Gloucester : " The epilepsy had enervated the mental facul- 
ties of an individual moving in a respectable sphere, in such 
a degree as to partially incapacitate him from directing his j 
own affairs, and numerous were the recipes, the gratuitous '.. 
offerings of friends, that were ineffectually resorted to by him. / 
At length, however, he was told of 'what would certainly be 
an infallible cure, for in no instance had it failed ;' it was 
to personally collect thirty pence, from as many respectable 
matrons, and to deliver them into the hands of a silversmith, 
who in consideration thereof would supply him with a ring, 
wrought out of half-a-crown, which he was to wear on one of 
his fingers, and the complaint would immediately forsake him ! 
This advice he followed, and for three or four years the ring 
ornamented (if I may so express it) his fifth, or little finger, 
notwithstanding the frequent relapses he experienced during 
that time were sufficient to convince a less ardent mind than 
his, that the fits were proofs against its influence. Finally, 
whilst suffering from a last visitation of that distressing ma- 
lady, he expired, though wearing the ring thus exemplifying 
a striking memento of the absurdity of the means he had had 
recourse to."] 1 

A stone not altogether unsimilar was the turquoise. " The 
turkeys," says Fenton, in his Secrete Wonders of Nature, 4to. 
1569, b. 1. p. 51, b, "doth move when there is any peril pre- 
pared to him that weareth it." 

The turquoise (by Nicols in his Lapidary) is likewise said 
to take away all enmity, and to reconcile man and wife. Other 
superstitious qualities are imputed to it, all of which were 
either monitory or preservative to the wearer. 

Holinshed, speaking of the death of King John, says : " And 
when the king suspected them (the pears) to be poisoned 
indeed, by reason that such precious stones as he had about 
1 See also vol. i. pages 150-1. 


him cast forth a certain sweat, as it were bewraeing the 
poison," &c. 

The (Rtites, or eagle stone, has been more than once men- 
tioned as a charm of singular use to parturient women. 
Levinus Lemnius says: " It makes women that are slippery 
able to conceive, being bound to the wrist of the left arm, by 
which from the heart toward the ring finger, next to the 
little finger, an artery runs ; and if all the time the woman is 
great with child this jewel be worn on those parts, it strengthens 
the child, and there is no fear of abortion or miscarrying." 
English Transl. fol. 1658, p. 270. Ibid. p. 391 : " So coral, 
piony, misseltoe, drive away the falling sicknesse, either hung 
about the neck or drank with wine. . . Rosemary purgeth 
houses, and a branch of this hung at the entrance of houses 
drives away devills and contagions of the plague ; as also 
ricinus, commonly called palma christi, because the leaves are 
like a hand opened wide. . . Corall bound to the neck takes 
off turbulent dreams and allays the nightly fears of children. 
Other jewels drive away hobgoblins, witches, nightmares, and 
other evill spirits, if we will believe the monuments of the 
ancients." This superstition is treated with great pleasantry 
in Lluellin's Poems, 1679, p. 36 : 

" Some the night-mare hath prest 

With that weight on their hrest, 
No returnes of their breath can passe, 

But to us the tale is addle, 

We can take off her saddle, 
And turn out the night-mare to grasse." 

The following is the ingenious emendation of the reading in 
a passage in King Lear, act ii. sc. 5, by Dr. Farmer : 
" Saint Withold footed thrice the oles, 

He met the night-mare and her nine foles." 

Oles is a provincial corruption of wolds, or olds. " That 
your stables may bee alwaies free from the queene of the gob- 
lins," is deprecated in Holiday's Marriage of the Arts, 4to. 
Herrick has the following in his Hesperides, p. 336, a charm 
for stables : 

" Hang up hooks and shears to scare 
Hence the hag that rides the mare 
Till they be all over wet 
With the mire and the sweat ; 
This observ'd, the manes shall be 
Of your horses all knot free." 


In the collection entitled Sylva, or the Wood, 1786, p. 130, 
two or three curious instances of rustic vulgar charms are 
found : such as wearing a sprig of elder in the breeches 
pocket, to prevent what is called losing leather in riding ; and 
curing a lame pig by boring a little hole in his ear, and put- 
ting a small peg into it. So Coles, in his Art of Simpling, 
1656, p. 68 : " It hath been credibly reported to me from se- 
verall hands, that if a man take an elder stick, and cut it on 
both sides so that he preserve the joynt, and put it in his pocket 
when he rides a journey, he shall never gall." In Richard 
Flecknoe's Diarium, 1658, p. 65, he mentions : 

" How alder-stick in pocket carried 
By horsemen who on highway feared, 
His breech should nere be'gajl'd or wearied, 
Although he rid on trotting horse, 

Or cow, or cowl-staff, which was worse : < 

It had, he said, such vertuous force, 
Where vertue oft from Judas came, 
(Who hang'd himself upon the same, 1 
For which, in sooth, he was to blame,) 
Or 't had some other magic force, 
To harden breech, or soften horse, 
I leave 't to th' learned to discourse." 

1 It is said in Gerrard's Herbal, (Johnson's edition, p. 1428): "That the 
Arbor Judce is thought to be that whereon Judas hanged himself, and not 
upon the elder-tree, as it is vulgarly said." I am clear that the mushrooms 
or excrescences of the elder-tree, called Auricula Judce in Latin, and com- 
monly rendered " Jews' eares," ought to be translated Judas' ears, from 
the popular superstition above mentioned. Coles, in his Adam in Eden, 
speaking of " Jewes eares," says : " It is called, in Latine, Fungus Sam- 
bucinum and Auricula Judse : some having supposed the elder-tree to be 
that whereon Judas hanged himself, and that, ever since, these mush- 
roomes, like unto eares, have grown thereon, which I will not persuade 
you to believe." See also his Introduction to the Knowledge of Plants, 
p. 40. In Paradoxical Assertions and Philosophical Problems, by R. H., 
1669, Second Part, p. 2, is a silly question : " Why Jews are said to stink 
naturally ? Is it because the Jews' ears grow on stinking elder (which tree 
that fox-headed Judas was falsly supposed to have hanged himself on), 
and so that natural stink hath been entailed on them and their posteri- 
ties as it were ex traduce ?" In the epilogue to Lilly's Alexander and 
Campaspe, written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a passage is found 
which implies that elder was given at that time as a token of disgrace : 
" Laurel for a garland, or ealder for a disgrace." Coles, in his Introduc- 
tion to the Knowledge of Plants, p. 63, tells us : " That parsley was be- 


In Blagrave's Supplement to Culpepper's English Physician 
1674, p. 62 : " It is reported that, if you gently strike a horse 
that cannot stale with a stick of this elder, and bind some of 
the leaves to his belly, it will make him stale presently. It 
is also said, and some persons of good credit have told me 
(but I never made any experiment of it), that if one ride with 
two little sticks of elder in his pockets, he shall not fret nor 
gaul, let the horse go never so hard." The first of these su- 
perstitions is again mentioned in Coles' s Adam in Eden. 

In the Athenian Oracle, iii. 545, is the following relation : 
" A friend of mine, being lately upon the road a horseback, 
was extreamly incommoded by loss of leather ; which coming 
to the knowledge of one of his fellow travellers, he over-per- 
suaded him to put two elder sticks into his pocket, which not 
only eased him of his pain, but secured the remaining portion 
of posteriours, not yet excoriated, throughout the rest of his 

In An Hue and Crie after Cromwell, 4to. Nol-nod, 1649, 
p. 4, we read : 

" Cooke, the recorder, have an elder-tree^ 
And steel a slip to reward treacherie." 

There is a vulgar prejudice that "if boys be beaten with an 
elder stick, it hinders their growth." In the Anatomie of the 
Elder, translated from the Latin of Dr. Martin Blochwich, and 
dedicated to Alexander Pennycuick, of New Hall, late chirur- 
gion-general to the auxiliary Scotch army, by C. de Iryngio, 
at the camp in Athol, June 30, 1651, 1655, p. 211, is the fol- 
lowing : " The common people keep as a great secret in 
curing wounds, the leaves of the elder which they have ga- 
thered the last day of April ; which to disappoint the charms 
of witches, they had affixed to their dores and windows." At 
p. 207, ibid, there is mentioned an amulet against erysipelas, 
made of the elder on which the sunn never shined. If the 
piece betwixt the two knots be hung about the patient's neck, 
it is much commended. Some cut it in little pieces, and sew 

stowed upon those that overcame in the Grecian games, in token of vic- 
tory." So also Bartholomaeus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, lib. xvii. fol, 
249 : De apio. Somtyme victours had garlondes of it, as Isydore sayth, 
lib. xvii., Hercules made him fyrste garlondes of this herbe." I find'the 
following in Green's second part of Conny-catching : " Would in a 
braverie weare parsley in his hat." 


it in a knot in a piece of a man's shirt, which seems super- 
stitious." Two instances of its success are recorded. 1 At 
p. 52, ibid. : " There is likewise set down" against the epi- 
lepsia, "a singular amulet, made of the elder growing on a 
sallow. If, in the month of October, a little before the full 
moon, you pluck a twig of the elder, and cut the cane that is 
betwixt two of its knees, or knots, in nine pieces, and these 
pieces, being bound in a piece of linnen, be in a thread so 
hung about the neck that they touch the spoon of the heart, 
or the sword-formed cartilage ; and that they may stay more 
firmly in that place, they are to be bound thereon with a 
linnen or silken roller wrapped about the body, till the thred 
break of itself. The thred being broken, an*d the roller re- 
moved, the amulet is not at all to be touched with bare hands, 
but it ought to be taken hold on by some instrument and 
buried in a place that nobody may touch it." Ibid. p. 54, 
we are told : " Some hang a cross made of the elder and sal- 
low, mutually inwrapping one another, about the children's 

" The boneshave, a word perhaps nowhere used or under- 
stood in Devonshire but in the neighbourhood of Exmoor, 
means the sciatica ; and the Exmorians, when affected there- 
with, use the following charm to be freed from it : the pa- 
tient must lie upon his back on the bank of the river or brook 
of water, with a straight staff by his side, between him and 
the water ; and must have the following words repeated over 
him, viz.: 

' Boneshave right, 

Boneshave straight, 

As the water runs by the stave 

Good for honeshave.' 

They are not to be persuaded but that this ridiculous form of 
words seldom fails to give them a perfect cure." See Exmoor 
Scolding, p. 8, n. 

In a receipt in Vicarie's Treasure of Anatomy, 1641, p. 234, 
the subsequent most curious ingredient, and which must have 

1 Lupton, in his fifth book of Notabk Things, edit. 1660, p. 182, says : 
" Make powder of the flowers of elder, gathered on a Midsummer-day, 
being before well-dryed, and use a spoonfull thereof in a good draught of 
borage water, morning and evening, first and last, for the space of a month, 
and it will make you seem young a great while." 


been introduced into the materia medica as a charm, occurs : 
"Five spoonfuls of knave child urine of an innocent.' ' 
Knave child is evidently for male child, and innocent means 
a harmless idiot. 

Shaw, in his History of the Province of Moray, in Scotland, 
p. 248, gives the following account of some physical charms 
still used there. In hectic and consumptive diseases they 
pare the nails of the fingers and toes of the patient, put these 
parings into a rag cut from his clothes, then wave their hand 
with the rag thrice round his head, crying Deas soil, after 
which they bury the rag in some unknown place. He tells 
us he has seen this done ; and Pliny, in his Natural History, 
mentions it as practised by the magicians or Druids of his 

When a contagious disease enters among cattle, the fire is 
extinguished in some villages round ; then they force fire with 
a wheel, or by rubbing a piece of dry wood upon another, and 
therewith burn juniper in the stalls of the cattle, that the 
smoke may purify the air about them ; they likewise boil ju- 
niper in water, which they sprinkle upon the cattle : this 
done, the fires in the houses are rekindled from the forced fire. 
All this, he tells, he has seen done, and it is, no doubt, a Druid 

The ancient Britons, says Pennant, in his Zoology, iii. 31, 
had a strange superstition in respect of the viper, and of which 
there still remains in Wales a strong tradition. The account 
Pliny gives of it, lib xxix. c. 12, we find thus translated by 
Mason in his Caractacus. The person speaking is a Druid : 

" The potent adder-stone 
Gender d 'fore th' autumnal raoon : 
When in undulating twine 
The foaming snakes prolific join; 
When they hiss, and when "they bear 
Their wondrous egg aloof in air ; 
Thence, before to earth it fall, 
The Druid, in his hallow'd pall, 
Receives the prize, 
And instant flies, 
Follow'd by th' envenom'd brood 
Till he cross the crystal flood." 

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, 
tells us, thrt "to prevent kites from stealing their chickens. 


they hang up in the house the shells in which the chickens 
were hatched." See Gough's edit, of Camden, 1789, iii. 659. 
See also Memorable Things, noted in the Description of the 
World, p. 112, where it is added : " To spit upon cattel, they 
held it good against witchery." 

This wondrous egg seems to be nothing more than a bead 
of glass, used by the Druids as a charm to impose on the 
vulgar, whom they taught to believe that the possessor would 
be fortunate in all his attempts, and that it would give him 
the favour of the great. Our modern Druidesses, he adds, 
give much the same account of the ovum anguinum, (/lain 
neidr, as the Welsh call it, or the adder gem, as the Roman 
philosopher does, but seem not to have so exalted an opinion 
of its powers, using it only to assist children in cutting their 
teeth, or to cure the chincough, or to drive away an ague. 
Pie gives a plate of these beads, made of glass of a very rich 
blue colour, some of which are plain and others streaked. 

In the Diary of Elias Ashmole, i 1th April, 1 681, is preserved 
the following curious incident : " I took early in the morning 
a good dose of elixir, and hung three spiders about my neck, 
and they drove my ague away. Deo gratias !" Ashmole was 
a judicial astrologer, and the patron of the renowned Mr. 
Lilly. Par nobile fratrum. 

Grose tells us that if a tree of any kind is split, and weak, 
rickety, or ruptured children drawn through it, and afterwards 
the tree is bound together, so as to make it unite ; as the tree 
heals and grows together, so will the child acquire strength. 
Sir John Cullum, who saw this operation twice performed, thus 
describes it : " For this purpose a young ash was each time 
selected, and split longitudinally, about five feet ; the fissure 
was kept wide open by my gardener, whilst the friend of the 
child, having first stripped him naked, passed him thrice 
through it, almost head foremost. As soon as the operation 
was performed, the wounded tree was bound up with a pack- 
thread ; and as the bark healed the child was to recover. The 
first of the young patients was to be cured of the rickets, the 
second of a rupture." This is a very ancient and extensive 
piece of superstition. 

[" Cure for the Hooping-cough / A party from this city, 
being on a visit to a friend who lived at a village about four 
miles distant, had occasion to go into the cottage of a poor 


woman, who had a child afflicted with the hooping-cough. 
In reply to some inquiries as to her treatment of the child, 
the mother pointed to its neck, on which was a string fastened, 
having nine knots tied in it. The poor woman stated that it 
was the stay-lace of the child's godmother, which, if applied 
exactly in that manner round about the neck, would be sure 
to charm away the most troublesome cough ! Thus it may be 
seen that, with all the educational efforts of the present day, 
the monster Superstition still lurks here and there in his caves 
and secret places." Worcester Journal, 1845. 

" Superstition in the nineteenth century. A few days since 
an unusual circumstance was observed at Pillgwenlly, which 
caused no small degree of astonishment to one or two enlight- 
ened beholders. A patient ass stood near a house, and a 
family of not much more rational animals were grouped around 
it. A father was passing his little son under the donkey, and 
lifting him over its back, a certain number of times, with as 
much solemnity and precision as if engaged in the perform- 
ance of a sacred duty. This done, the father took a piece of 
bread, cut from an untasted loaf, which he offered the animal 
to bite at. Nothing loath, the Jerusalem pony laid hold of 
the bread with his teeth, and instantly the father severed the 
outer portion of the slice from that in the donkey's mouth. 
He next clipped off some hairs from the neck of the animal, 
which he cut up into minute particles, and then mixed them 
with the bread which he had crumbled. This very tasty food 
was then offered to the boy who had been passed round the 
donkey so mysteriously, and the little fellow having eaten 
thereof, the donkey was removed by his owners. The father, 
his son, and other members of his family were moving off, 
when a bystander inquired what all these 'goings on' had 
been adopted for ? The father stared at the ignorance of the 
inquirer, and then, in a half contemptuous, half condescend- 
ing tone, informed him that 'it was to cure his poor son's 
hooping-cough, to be sure !' Extraordinary as this may ap- 
pear, in days when the schoolmaster is so much in request, it 
is nevertheless true." Monmouthshire Merlin. 

It is believed in Surrey that the hooping-cough can be cured 
by mounting the patient on a black ass, saddled and bridled, 
with trappings of white linen and red riband, and by leading 
him nine times round an oak tree. A man named Sprat ac- 


t:ially performed these ceremonies on Sunday week, at Roe- 
hampton, in the hope of curing his child. 

[The following is still practised in the neighbourhood of 
Gloucester : " If a child has the hooping-cough, cut off some 
of the hair of its head, roll it up in butter, and throw it to a 
dog, upon whose swallowing it all symptoms of coughing in 
the child will at once cease, and manifest themselves in the 
dog."] 1 

In the Gent. Mag. for October 1804, p. 909, is given an 
engraving of an ash tree, growing by the side of Shirley- 
street (the road leading from Hockly House to Birmingham), 
at the edge of Shirley Heath, in Solihull parish. The upper 
part of a gap formed by the chizzel has closed, but the lower 
remains open. The tree is healthy and flourishing.. Thomas 
Chillingworth, son of the owner of an adjoining farm, now 
about thirty-four years of age, was, when an infant of a year 
old, passed through a similar tree, now perfectly sound, 
which he preserves with so much care that he will not suffer a 
single branch to be touched, for it is believed the life of the 
patient depends on the life of the tree ; and the moment that 
is cut down, be the patient ever so distant, the rupture returns, 
and a mortification ensues. It is not, however, uncommon 
for persons to survive for a time the felling of the tree. In one 
case the rupture suddenly returned, and mortification fol- 
lowed. These trees are left to close of themselves, or are closed 
with nails. The woodcutters very frequently meet with the 
latter. One felled on Bunnan's farm was found full of nails. 
This belief is so prevalent in this part of the country, that 
instances of trees that have been employed in the cure are very 
common. The like notions obtain credit in some parts of 
Essex. In a previous part of the same volume, p. 516, it is 
stated that this ash tree stands " close to the cottage of Henry 
Rowe, whose infant son, Thomas Rowe, was drawn through 
the trunk or body of it in the year 1791, to cure him of a 
rupture, the tree being then split open for the purpose of 
passing the child through it. The boy is now thirteen years 
and six months old; I have this day, June 10, 1804, seen the 
ash tree, and Thomas Rowe, as well as his father Henry Rowe, 
from whom I have received the above account ; and he super- 

1 Communicated by Mr. Robert Bond, of Gloucester. 
III. 19 


stitiously believes that his son Thomas was cured of the rup- 
ture by being drawn through the cleft in the said ash tree, 
and by nothing else." 

The writer first quoted, in p. 909, refers to the vulgar opi- 
nion " concerning the power of ash trees to repel other ma- 
ladies or evils, such as shrew-mice, the stopping one of which 
animals alive into a hole bored in an ash is imagined an in- 
fallible preventive of their ravages in lands." 

["In the north riding of Yorkshire, the even-ash is employed 
as a charm in the following manner : A young woman de- 
sirous of ascertaining who her husband will be, pulls an even- 
ash privately from the tree, repeating at the moment these 

' Even-ash, even-ash, I pluck thee, 
This night my own true love to see ; 
Neither in his rick nor in his rare, 
But in the clothes he does every day wear.' 

The twig is placed under her pillow at night, and the future 
husband, of course, makes his appearance in her dreams. (See 
further on this subject in Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 222.) 
The following lines are current in Wiltshire : 

' An even-ash, or a four-leaved clover, 
You'll see your true love before the day's over.' 

It was told to me in my childhood by my nurse, who never, 
I think, forgot it when we passed by an ash tree or through 
a clover-field. How well 1 remember the masses of moving 
leaves, up into which I have gazed with her until I was giddy ! 

" Mr. Lover's beautiful song has made us all acquainted with 
the Irish superstition about the 'Four-leaved Shamrock' 

"It may not be uninteresting to many of your readers to learn 
that, in the year 1833, I witnessed, at Shaugh, on the borders 
of Dartmoor, the actual ceremony of drawing a child through 
a cleft ash tree for the cure of rickets. The tree, which was 
a young one, was not split through its whole length, a large 
knife was inserted about a foot from the ground, and the tree 
cut through for a length of about three feet. This incision 
being thus made, two men drew the parts forcibly asunder 
until there was room enough to draw the child through, whir 


was done by the mother three times. This however, as I re- 
member, was not alone considered effective ; it was necessary 
that the child should be washed for three successive mornings 
in the dew from the leaves of the ' charmed tree.' Something 
similar to this is required in Cornwall, before the ceremony 
of drawing a child through the 'holed stones' is thought to 
be of any virtue. It is not difficult to understand that the 
exposure of the infant to the genial influences of the morning 
air, and the washing which is also required, may in some cases 
give rise to an improved condition in the health of the child, 
which has been, no doubt, often attributed to the influence 
of the ash tree and the holed stone. 

" The Ash a cure for Ague. Speaking one day to an old 
woman, a native of Worcestershire, respecting your articles 
on Folk Lore, she furnished me with the following infallible 
recipe for the cure of ague : ' Of course you know what a 
maiden ash tree is. Well, if you are troubled with the ague, 
you go to a grafter of trees, and tell him your complaint 
(every grafter notices the first branch of a maiden ash). 
You must not give him any money, or there will be no cure. 
You go home, and in your absence the grafter cuts the first 
branch.' Upon this I asked her, " How long it was before 
the patient felt any relief?' 'Relief!' said the old lady; 
' why he is cured that instant that the branch is cut from t u ; 

' S 

"A friend in Wiltshire reminds me of some lines regard anc j 
the ash. It was once the practice, and in some obscure pla^ple 
may be so now, to pluck the leaf in every case where the It, ne 
lets were of equal number, and to say an ' l> 

< Even-ash, I thee do pluck, ac hes of 

Hoping thus to meet good luck, 
If no luck I get from thee, scien - 

I shall wish I'd left thee on the tree.' )cess 


My friend further remarks : ' This indicates traditionary reve r ; 
rence for the ash among the trees of the forest.' The miseltoe 
is often found on the ash."' Athenaeum.] 

White, in the Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, 

informs us, p. 202, that "in a farmyard near the middle of 

this village stands, at this day, a row of pollard-ashes, which, 

v the seams and long cicatrices down their sides, manifestly 



show that in former times they have been cleft asunder. 
These trees, when young and flexible, were severed and held 
open by wedges, while ruptured children, stripped naked, 
were pushed through the apertures, under a persuasion that, 
by such a process, the poor babes would be cured of their in- 
firmity. As soon as the operation was over, the tree, in the 
suffering part, was plastered with loam, and carefully swathed 
up. If the parts coalesced and soldered together, as usually 
fell out where the feat was performed with any adroitness at 
all, the party was cured ; but where the cleft continued to 
gape, the operation, it was supposed, would prove ineffectual. 
Having occasion to enlarge my garden not long since, I cut 
down two or three such trees, one of which did not grow to- 
gether. We have several persons now living in the village, 
who, in their childhood, were supposed to be healed by this 
superstitious ceremony, derived down perhaps from our Saxon 
ancestors, who practised it before their conversion to Chris- 
tianity. At the south corner of the plestor, or area, near the 
church, there stood, about twenty years ago, a very old, gro- 
tesque, hollow pollard-ash, which for ages had been looked on 
with no small veneration as a shrew-ash. Now a shrew-ash is 
an ash whose twigs or branches, when gently applied to the 
limbs of cattle, will immediately relieve the pains which a 
beast suffers from the running of a shrew-mouse over the part 
T Tected ; for it is supposed that a shrew-mouse is of so baneful 
T ,id deleterious a nature, that wherever it creeps over a beast, 
? it horse, cow, or sheep, the suffering animal is afflicted 
1 c ith cruel anguish, and threatened with the loss of the use of 
a ^ limb. Against this accident, to which they were continu- 
, pliable, our provident forefathers always kept a shrew-ash 
. , e ^and, which, when once medicated, would maintain its 
^ <t ~ue for ever. A shrew-ash was made thus [for a similar 
, ,actice see Plott's Staffordshire] : Into the body of the tree 
^ deep hole was bored with an auger, and a poor devoted 
shrew-mouse was thrust in alive, and plugged in, no doubt, 
with several quaint incantations long since forgotten. As the 
ceremonies necessary for such a consecration are no longer 
understood, all succession is at an end, and no such tree is 
known to subsist in the manor or hundred. As to that on 
the plestor, 'the late vicar stubb'd and burnt it,' when he wa 
way-warden, regardless of the remonstrances of the by-stand^* 


who interceded in vain for its preservation, urging its power 
and efficacy, and alleging that it had been 

' Religione patrura multos servata per annos.' "' 

Creeping through Tolraen, or perforated stones, was a 
Druidical ceremony, and is practised in the East Indies. 
Borlase mentions a stone in the parish of Harden through 
which many persons have crept for pains in their backs and 
limbs, and many children have been drawn for the rickets. 2 
In the North, children are drawn through a hole cut in the 
groaning cheese, on the day they are christened. 

1 The following illustration of the barbarous practice of inclosing field- 
mice was received by Mr. Brand, in a letter from Robt. Studley Vidal, 
Esq., of Cornborough, near Bidefor,d, a gentleman to whom he was much 
indebted for incidental information on the local customs of Devonshire, 
dated May 9, 1806: 

" An usage of the superstitious kind has just come under my notice, and 
which, as the pen is in my hand, I will shortly describe, though I rather 
think it is not peculiar to these parts. A neighbour of mine, on examining 
his sheep the other day, found that one of them had entirely lost the use 
of its hinder parts. On seeing it I expressed an opinion that the animal 
must have received a blow across the back, or some other sort of violence 
which had injured the spinal marrow, and thus rendered it paralytic ; but 
I was soon given to understand that my remarks only served to prove how 
little I knew of country affairs, for that the affection of the sheep was no- 
thing uncommon, and that the cause of it was well known, namely, a 
mouse having crept over its back. I could not but smile at the idea ; 
which my instructor considering as a mark of incredulity, he proceeded 
very gravely to inform me that I should be convinced of the truth of what 
he said by the means which he. would use to restore the animal, and 
which were never known to fail. He accordingly despatched his people 
here and there in quest of a field-mouse ; and, having procured one, he 
told me that he should carry it to a particular tree at some distance, and, 
inclosing it within a hollow in the trunk, leave it there to perish. He 
further informed me that he should bring back some of the branches of 
the tree with him, for the purpose of their being drawn now and then 
across the sheep's back ; and concluded by assuring me, with a very scien- 
tific look, that I should soon be convinced of the efficacy of this process, 
for that, as soon as the poor devoted mouse had yielded up his life a prey 
to famine, the sheep would be restored to its former strength and vigour. 
1 can, however, state with certainty, that the sheep was not at all benefited 
by this mysterious sacrifice of the mouse. The tree, I find, is of the sort 
called witch-elm, or witch-hazel." 

2 Two brass pins, he adds, were carefully laid across each other on the 
top edge of this stone, for oracular purposes. See Nat. Hist, of Cornwall, 
p. 179. 


In the catalogue of stone superstitions we must not omit to 
mention London Stone, and the stone in Westminster Abbey, 
brought from Scotland by King Edward the First, which 
Monsieur Jorevin saw, and thus describes: "Jacob's Stone, 
whereon he rested bis head when he had the vision of the 
angels ascending and descending from heaven to earth on a 
long ladder. This stone is like marble, of a blueish colour, it 
may be about a foot and a half in breadth, and is inclosed in 
a chair, on which the kings of England are seated at their 
coronation ; wherefore, to do honour to strangers who come to 
see it, they cause them to sit down on it." Antiq. Reper- 
tory, ii. 32. 

" London Stone," says Mr. King, in his Munimenta An- 
tiqua, 1799, i. 117, "preserved with such reverential care 
through so many ages, and now having its top incased within 
another stone, in Cannon street, was plainly deemed a record 
of the highest antiquity, of some still more important kind, 
though we are at present unacquainted with the original in- 
tent and purport for which it was placed. It is fixed, at 
present, close under the south wall of St. S within' s church, 
but was formerly a little nearer the channel facing the same 
place ; which seems to prove its having had some more an- 
cient and peculiar designation than that of having been a 
Roman milliary, even if it ever were used for that purpose 
afterwards. It was fixed deep in the ground, and is men- 
tioned so early as the time of Ethelstan, King of the West 
Saxons, without any particular reference to its having been 
considered as a Roman milliary stone. There are some curious 
observations with regard to this stone, in the Gentleman's 
Magazine, xlii. 126. See also Pennant's London, p. 4, and the 
Parentalia, p. 265, in which it appears that Sir Christopher 
Wren, in consequence of the depth and largeness of its founda- 
tion, was convinced that it must have been some more con- 
siderable monument than a mere milliary stone." 

In Pasquill and Marforius, 4to. Lond. 1589, we read" Setup 
this bill at London Stone. Let it be doone sollemnly with 
drum and trumpet, and looke you advance my cullours on the 
top of the steeple right over against it." Also : " If it please 
them, these dark winter nights, to sticke uppe their papers 
uppon London Stone." 

Of the Stone of Scone, Mr. King observes (Munimenta An- 


tiqua, i. 118): " The famous Stone of Scone, formerly in 
Scotland, on which the kings of England and Scotland are 
still crowned, though now removed to Westminster, and in- 
closed in a chair of wood, is yet well known to have been an 
ancient stone of record and most solemn designation, even long 
before it was first placed at Scone. 

Buchanan tells us it formerly stood in Argyleshire, and that 
King Kenneth, in the ninth century, transferred it from thence 
to Scone, and inclosed it in a wooden chair. It was believed 
by some to have been that which Jacob used for a pillow, and 
to have travelled into Scotland from Ireland and from Spain. 
But whatever may be thought of such a monkish tradition, it 
is clear enough that before the time of Kenneth, that is, before 
the year 834, it had been placed simply and plainly, as a stone 
of great import and of great notoriety, in Argyleshire ; and 
on account of the reverence paid to it was removed by Kenneth. 

It would not be just to omit mentioning that a curious in- 
vestigation of the history of this stone may be seen in the 
Gentleman's Magazine, li. 452, lii. 23. 

Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 138, tells us : 
"Another relic of these Druid fancies and incantations is 
doubtless the custom of sleeping on stones, on a particular 
night, in order to be cured of lameness." He observes (Na- 
tural History of Cornwall, p. 302) : " A very singular manner 
of curing madness, mentioned by Carew, p. 123, in the 
parish of Altarnun to place the disordered in mind on the 
brink of a square pool, filled with water from St. Nun's Well. 
The patient, having no intimation of what was intended, was, 
by a sudden blow on the breast, tumbled into the pool, where 
he was tossed up and down by some persons of superior 
strength, till, being quite debilitated, his fury forsook him ; 
he was then carried to church, and certain masses sung over 
him. The Cornish call this immersion Boossenning, from Beuzi 
or Bidhyzi, in the Cornu-British and Armoric, signifying to 
dip or drown." In the second volume of the present work an 
account of the superstitions practised at the pool of St. Fillan 
has been already given from Heron's Journey. Some further 
particulars have also been noticed in this volume, and others 
more immediately to our present purpose are here given from 
Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, xvii. 377, 
in the account of Killin parish, county of Perth, given by the 


Rev. Mr. Patrick Stuart, the minister : "There is R 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 cere- 
monies, 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, 1 was common 
to them with the Lowlanders." 

Sir Walter Scott, in the Notes to Marmion, 1808, p. 31, in- 
forms us that "there are in Perthshire several wells and 

1 " The origin of the hell," says Mr. Stuart, " is to be referred to the re- 
mote 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 ; turn erant hie viri Christiani, quos Nor- 
wegi Papas appellant ; et illi peregre profecti sunt, ex eo quod nollent esse 
hie cum viris ethnicis, et relinquehant post se nolas et haculos : 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 super- 
stition : ' Hoc non praetereundum puro, quod campanas, bajulas, baculnsque 
sanctorum ex superiore parte recurvos, auro et argento aut sere confectos, 
tarn Hibernue et Scotise quam et Givalliae populus et clerus in magna re- 
verentia habere solet ; ita ut juramenta supra hfec, longe magis quam super 
Evangelia, et prsestare vereantur et perjurare. Ex vi enim quodam occulta, 
et iis quasi divinitus insita, nee non et vindicta (cujus praecipue 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 con- 
dition that one of the canons should officiate in tlie kirk of Strathfillan." 


springs dedicated to St. Fillan, which are still places of pil- 
grimage 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 phy- 
sical charms : 

" For the coughe take Judas eare, 
With the parynge of a peare, 
And drynke them without feare, 

If ye will have remedy: 
Thre syppes are fore the hyckocke, 
And six more fpr the chyckocke ; 
Thus, my pretty pyckocke, 

Recover by and by. 
If ye cannot slepe, but slumber, 
Geve otes unto Saynt Uncumber, 
And beanes in a certen number 

Unto Saynt Blase and Saynt Blythe. 
Give ouyons to Saynt Cutlake, 
And garlycke to Saynt Cyryake, 
If ye wyli shurne the heade ake ; 
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 lu- 
naticke, 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 in- 
deed, 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 

" 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 pro- 
didit 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 
anew-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, 1 and giving it 

1 In a most curious and rare book, entitled a Werke for Householders, 
&c., by a professed brother of Syon, Kichard 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, hy which means they suppose 
the malady to be transferred from them to the animal. 1 

King James, in his Dsernonology, 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 hai're 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 

[Among popular superstitions a large class relate to 
diseases and their cures. The newspapers often furnish evi- 
dence of melancholy consequences resulting from such. I re- 
member 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 incan- 
tations 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 mutter- 
ings, 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 

1 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.] 1 

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 Spec- 
tres, 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, pre- 
vents 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. Trinurn 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, Ixiv. 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. See 
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, 

1 [Obligingly communicated to the publisher by an anonymous corre- 
spondent at Edinburgh.] 


which have been used to fasten a coffin, and must be dug out 
of the churchyard. 

Lupton, in his second book of Notable Things, 1660, p. 40, 
says : " Three nails made in the vigil of the Nativity of ISt. John 
Baptist, called Midsommer Eve, and driven in so deep that 
they cannot be seen, in the place where the party doth fall 
that hath the falling sicknesse, and naming the said partie's 
name while it is doing, doth drive away the disease quite. 
Mizaldus." He says in the same page, " the root of vervain 
hanged at the neck of such as have the king's evil, it brings a 
marvellous and unhoped help." 

The late Rev. George Ashby says : " Squire Morley of Essex 
used to say a prayer which he hoped would do no harm 
when he hung a bit of vervain-root from a scrophulous person's 
neck. My aunt Freeman had a very high opinion of a baked 
toad in a silk bag, hung round the neck. For live toads thus 
used, see Pennant's British Zoology. 5 ' 

Boorde, in his Introduction to Knowledge, speaking of Eng- 
land, says : " The kynges of Englande doth halowe every yere 
crampe rynges, the which rynges worne on one's fynger doth 
helpe them whych hath the crampe." 1 

From the Minute Book of the Society of Antiquaries of 
London, Nov. 12, 1772, I learn that "Dr. Morell communi- 
cated from a gentleman who was present as a visitor (Mr. 
Penneck), the following extract of a letter, copied from the 
Harleian Manuscripts, which shews the great prevalence of 
superstition in those days, even among the most exalted cha- 
racters, with regard to the prevention or cure of diseases by 
charms only. The letter is from Lord Chancellor Hatton to 
Sir Thomas Smith, dated Sept. 1 1th, 158 , and relates to an 
epidemical disorder, at that time very alarming. The extract 
runs thus : ' I am likewise bold to recommend my most humble 
duty to our dear mistress (Queen Elizabeth) by this letter and 
ring, which hath the virtue to expell infectious airs, and is (as 
it telletli me) to be worn betwixt the sweet duggs, the chaste 
nest of pure constancy. I trust, sir, when the virtue is known, 
it shall not be refused for the value.' " Also, March 11, 1773 : 

1 Mr. Douce's MS. Notes say : " Rings made from coffin-hinges are sup- 
posed to prevent the cramp. See Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. 
v. Scower. The ceremonies of blessing cramp-rings on Good Friday will 
be found in Wdldcon's Literary Museum." 


" Mr. Wright presented an engraving from a sardonyx, which 
formerly belonged to the monastery of St. Albans ; the use of 
it, we are told, was to procure easy births to labouring women, 
bv being laid, in the time of travail, inter mammas. A transcript 
of the MS. describing it will be inserted in Latin, and ex- 
plained in English, in the History of St. Albans, intended to 
be published by Mr. Wright." 

["The curing of the king's evil by the touch of the king 
does much puzzle our philosophers ; for whether our kings 
were of the House of York or Lancaster, it did the cure, i. e. 
for the most part. It is true indeed at the touching there are 
prayers read, but perhaps neither the king attends them nor 
his chaplains. In Somersetshire, it is confidently reported 
that some were cured of the king's evil, by the touch of the 
Duke of Monmouth. The Lord Chancellor Bacon saith : * That 
imagination is next kin to miracle-working faith.'" Aubrey's 
Miscellanies, p. 130.] 

Boorde, in his Breviary of Health, fol. 80 b, among the re- 
medies of the king's evil, has the following : " For this matter, 
let every man make frendes to the kynges majestic, for it 
doth perteyne to a kynge to helpe this infirmitie by the grace 
of God, the which is geven to a kynge anoynted. But foras- 
much as some men doth judge divers tymes a fystle or a French 
pocke to be the kynge' s evyll, in such matters itbehoveth not 
a kynge to medle withall." 

Touching for the evil continued in France at least till 1657. 
The Publick Intelligencer, January 5 to 12, 1657, says : "The 
other day the king touched a great number of people that 
were sick of the evill, in the great gallerie at the Louvre." 1 

In Bulwer's Chirologia, 1644, p. 149, we read : "This mi- 
raculous imposition of the hand in curing the disease called 
the struma, which, from the constant effect of that sovereign 
salve, is called the king's evil, his sacred majesty that now is 
hath practised with as good successe as any of his royal pro- 
genitours." We now, without the smallest clanger of incurring 
the suspicion of disloyalty, can safely pronounce that the royal 
touch for the king's evil is to be referred to the head of phy- 
sical charms, evincing that no order of men escaped the 
ancient contagion of superstition. 

1 The best and most interesting particulars respecting the king's evil 
will be found in Mr. PettigreW's work on Medical Superstitions, Svo. 


Barrington, in his Observations on our Ancient Statutes, 
p. 107, tells us of an old man who was witness in a cause, and 
averred that when Queen Anne was at Oxford, she touched 
him whilst a child for the evil. Mr. Barrington, when he had 
finished his evidence, "asked him whether he was really 
cured. Upon which he answered, with a significant smile, that 
he believed himself never to have had a complaint that de- 
served to be considered as the evil, but that his parents were 
poor, and had no objection to the bit of gold." This accounts 
well for the great resort of patients and supposed miraculous 
cures on this occasion. 

This now-exploded royal gift is thus described by Shake- 
speare in Macbeth : 

" strangely visited people, 

All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye, 

The mere despair of surgery, he cures ; 

Hanging a golden stamp about their necks, 

Put on with holy prayers." 

In the Gent. Mag. for 1751, xxi. 415, we read: "The 
solemn words, 'I touch, but God healeth,' 1 were those our 
former kings always pronounced when they touched for the 
evil ; but this was never done but in the presence of a bishop 
or priest, who introduced the patient to the royal presence for 
that salutary intention. Then also, a form of prayer for the 
divine blessing was used, and the Icing hung a small piece of 
silver about the person's neck, which he was required to wear 
during his life." For a proclamation concerning the cure of 
the king's evil, see Rushworth's Collections, Part II. i. 47. The 

1 In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xiv. 210, parishes of Kilfynichen 
and Kilviceuen, co. of Argyll, we read : " A man in I. of the name of Mr. 
Innis, touches for the king's evil. He is the seventh son ; and it is firmly 
believed in the country that he has this gift of curing. He touches or 
rubs over the sore with his hand, two Thursdays and two Sundays suc- 
cessively, in the name of the Trinity, and says, ' It is God that cures.' He 
asks nothing for his trouble. It is believed if he did, there would be no 
cure. He is often sent for out of the country ; and, though he asks no- 
thing, yet the patients, or their friends, make him presents. He is per- 
fectly illiterate, and says he does not know how the cure is effected, but 
that God is pleased to work it in consequence of his touch." The same sup- 
posed quality of curing the king's evil by touch in a seventh male child, has 
been before noticed among the charms in Odd Numbers. See an account 
of Mr. Valentine Greatrakes' stroking for different disorders, in the Gent. 
Mag. for Jan. 1779, xlix.22. 


small piece of silver noticed in the quotation from Gent. Mag. 
appears erroneous : " As often as the king putteth the angel 
about their necks, repeat these words : ' That light was the 
true light which lighteth every man into the world.' After 
this the Lord's Prayer is said, and another prayer on the be- 
half of the diseased, that they, receiving health, may give 
thanks to God," &c. 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, vii. 560, parishes of 
Kirkwall and St. Ola, we read : " In the time of sickness or 
danger, they often make vows to this or the other favourite 
saint, at whose church or chapel in the place they lodge a 
piece of money, as a reward for their protection ; and they 
imagine that if any person steals or carries off that money, he 
will instantly fall into the same danger from which they, by 
their pious offering, had been so lately delivered." 

Camden, in his Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, 
says : " If they never give fire out of their houses to their 
neighbours, they fancy their horses will live the longer and be 
more healthy. If the owners of horses eat eggs, they must 
take care to eat an even number, otherwise some mischief will 
betide the horses. Grooms are not allowed eggs, and the 
riders are obliged to wash their hands after eating them 
When ahorse dies, his feet and legs are hung up in the house, 
and even the hoofs are accounted sacred. It is by no means 
allowable to praise a horse or any other animal, unless you 
say ' God save him,' or spit upon him. If any mischance be- 
falls the horse in three days after, they find out the person 
who commended him, that lie may whisper the Lord's Prayer 
in his right ear. They believe some men's eyes have a power 
of bewitching horses ; and then they send for certain old 
women, who by muttering short prayers restore them to 
health. Their horses' feet are subject to a worm, which, gra- 
dually creeping upwards, produces others of its own species, 
and corrupts the body. Against this worm they call in a 
witch, who must come to the horse two Mondays and one 
Thursday, and breathe upon the place where the worm lodges, 
and after repeating a charm the horse recovers. This charm 
they will, for a sum of money, teach to many people, after 
first swearing them never to disclose it." 

In Dr. Jorden's Briefe Discourse of a Disease called the 
Suffocation of the Mother, 4to. 1C03, p. 24, we have the fol- 


owing on the subject of physical charms : " If we cannot 
moderate these perturbations of the minde, by reason and per- 
swasions, or by alluring their (the patients) mindes another 
way, we may politikely confirme them in their fantasies, that 
wee may the better fasten some cure upon them ; as Constan- 
tinus Affriccanus (if it be his booke which is inserted among 
Galen's works, de Incantatiorie, Adjuratione, &c.) affirmeth, 
and practised with good successe, upon one who was impotens 
ad venerem, and thought himself bewitched therewith, by 
reading unto him a foolish medicine out of Cleopatra, made 
with a crowe's gall and oyle : whereof the patient tooke so great 
conceit that, upon the use of it, he presently recovered his 
strength and abilitie againe. The like opinion is to bee helde 
of all those superstitious remedies which have crept into our 
profession, of charmes, exorcismes, constellations, characters, 
periapts, amulets, incense, holie-water, clouts crossed and folded 
superstitiously, repeating of a certaine number and forme of 
prayers or Ave Maries, offering to certaine saints, ******* 
through the wedding ring, and a hundred such like toyes and 
gambols ; which when they prevaile in the cure of diseases, it 
is not for any supernatural! vertue in them, either from God 
or the divell [although perhaps the divell may have a colla- 
terall intent or worke therein, namely, to drawe us unto su- 
perstition], but by reason of the confident perswasion which 
melancholike and passionate people may have in them ; ac- 
cording to the saying of Avicen, that the confidence of the 
patient in the meanes used is oftentimes more available to cure 
diseases than all other remedies whatsoever." 

In Osbourne's Advice to a Son, also, 1656, p. 125, we read : 
" Be not therefore hasty to register all you understand not in 
the black calendar of hell, as some have done the weapon 
salve, passing by the cure of the king's evill altogether, as im- 
probable to sense ; lest you resemble the pope, who anathema- 
tized the Bishop of Saltzburge for maintaining Antipodes ; or 
the Consistory for decreeing against the probable opinion of 
the earth's motion." 

Werenfels, p. 8, says : " If the superstitious person be 
wounded by any chance, he applies the salve, not to the 
wound, but, what is more eifectual, to the weapon by which he 
received it. By a new kind of art, he will transplant his dis- 
ease, like a scion, and graft it into what tree he pleases. The 

in. 20 


fever he will not drive away by medicines, but what is a more 
certain remedy, having paired his nails, and tied them to a 
cray-fish, he will turn his back, and, as Deucalion did the 
stones from which a new progeny of men arose, throw them 
behind him into the next river." 

In Warner's Topographical Remarks relating to the South- 
western Parts of Hampshire, 1793, ii. 131, speaking of the 
old register of Christchurch, that author tells us : " The same 
register affords, also, several very curious receipts, or modes 
of cure, in some singular cases of indisposition : they are 
apparently of the beginning of the seventeenth century, and 
couched in the uncouth phraseology of that time. I forbear, 
however to insert them, from motives of delicacy." 


SOME years ago, says the Connoisseur, No. 56, there was 
publicly advertised among the other extraordinary medicines 
whose wonderful qualities are daily related in the last page 
of a newspaper, a most efficacious love powder, by which a 
despairing lover might create affection in the bosom of the 
most cruel mistress. Lovers, indeed, have always been fond 
of enchantment. Shakespeare has represented Othello as 
accused of winning his Desdemona " by conjuration and 
mighty magic;" 1 and Theocritus and Virgil have both intro- 
duced women into their pastorals, using charms and incanta- 

1 " Thou hast practis'd on her with foul charms ; 
Abus'd her delicate youth with drugs, or minerals 
That waken motion." Act i. sc. 2. 

Again, sc. 3 ; 

" She is abus'd, stol'n from me, and corrupted 

By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks." 
And again : 

" I therefore vouch again, 

That with some mixtures powerful o'er the blood, 
Or with some dram conjur'd to this effect, 
He wrought upon her." 


tions to recover the affections of their sweethearts. Thus 
also, in Gay's Shepherd's Week : 

" Strait to the 'pothecary's shop I went, 
And in love powder all my money spent ; 
Behap what will, next Sunday after prayers, 
When to the alehouse Lubberkin repairs, 
These golden flies into his mug I'll throw, 
And soon the swain with fervent love shall glow." 

Newton, in his Tryall of a Man's owne Selfe, 1602, p. 116, 
inquires, under Breaches of the Seventh Commandment, 
"Whether by any secret sleight, or cunning, as drinkes, 
drugges, medicines, charmed potions, amatorious philters, 
figures, characters, or any such like paltering instruments, 
devises, or practices, thou has.t gone about to procure others 
to doate for love of thee." 

Dr. Ferrand, in his Love Melancholy, 1640, p. 176, tells 
us : " We have sometimes among our silly wenches some 
that, out of a foolish curiosity they have, must needs be 
putting in practice some of those feats that they have received 
by tradition from their mother, perhaps, or nurse, and so, 
not thinking forsooth to doe any harme, as they hope, they 
paganize it to their own damnation. For it is most certain 
that botanomancy, which is done by the noise or crackling that 
kneeholme, box, or bay-leaves make when they are crushed 
betwixt one's hands, or cast into the fire, was of old in use 
among the Pagans, who were wont to bruise poppy flowres 
betwixt their hands, by this means thinking to know their 
loves ; and for this cause Theocritus cals this hearb TqXtp/Xov, 
quasi A*7\t</>Aoi>, as if we should say tel-love" In the same 
work, p. 310, Dr. Ferrand, speaking of the ancient love 
charmes, characters, amulets, or such like periapses, says, 
they are " such as no Christian physitian ought to use ; not- 
withstanding that the common people doe to this day too 
superstitiously believe and put in practice many of these pa- 
ganish devices." 

In the Character of a Quack Astrologer, 1673, we are told : 
" He trapparis a young heiress to run away with a footman, 
by pers wading a young girl 'tis her destiny ; and sells the 
old and ugly philtres and love-powder to procure them sweet- 

An early instance of the use of love powder may be read in 


one of the chapters of Froissart's Chronicle, in his account of 
Gaston Phrebus, Count of Foix, whose son Gaston received a 
bag of powder from his uncle, Charles the Bad, with direction 
to sprinkle a small quantity over anything which his father 
might eat, the effect of which would be to restore his father's 
affection for Gaston' s mother, who was at that time parted 
from her husband, and resident at Charles the Bad's court, 
Charles the Bad intended to have poisoned Gaston. Werenfels, 
p. 6, says : " Whenever the superstitious person is in love, 
he will complain that tempting powder has been given him." 

The unfortunate Miss Blandy, who was executed many 
years ago for poisoning her father, persisted to the last in' 
affirming that she thought the powder which her villainous 
lover, Cranston, sent her to administer to him was a love pow- 
der, which was to conciliate her father's affection to the cap- 
tain. She met her death with this asseveration ; and I pre- 
sume that those who have considered the wonderful power of 
superstition, added to the fascination of love, will be half per- 
suaded to believe that she did not go out of the world with a 
lie in her mouth. Her dying request, too, to be buried close 
to her father, appears to me a corroborating proof that though 
she was certainly the cause of his premature death, and un- 
derwent the judgment of the law for the same, (which can 
take no cognizance for such excuses for so horrid a crime as 

garricide,) yet she was not, in the blackest sense of the word, 
is wilful murderess. 

Andrews in his Continuation of Dr. Henry's History of Great 
Britain, 4to. p. 178, speaking of the profligate Bothwell, says, 
in a note : " It seems strange that an author so respectable 
as Mr. Guthrie should allow any credit to the asseverations 
in a will in which the testator affirms, ' that as he had from 
his youth addicted himself much to the art of enchantment at 
Paris and elsewhere, he had bewitched the queen (Mary) to 
fall in love with him.' " 

In the Comical Pilgrim's Pilgrimage into Ireland, 1723, 
p. 97, we read : " They often used philtres. The spark that'f 
resolved to sacrifice his youth and vigour on a damsel, whose 
coyness will not accept of his love oblations, he threads a 
needle with the hair of her head, and then running it through 
the most fleshy part of a dead man, as the brawn of the 
arms, thigh, or the calf of the leg, the charm has that virtue 


in it, as to make her run mad for him whom she so lately 

The following is copied from the Gent. Mag. for Jan. 1731, 
i. 30 : "A man at a village near Mortagne, in France, had 
been long ill of a distemper which puzzled the physicians : 
his wife believed he was bewitched, and consulted a pretended 
conjurer, who shewed her the wizard (her husband's uncle) 
in a glass of water, and told her that, to oblige him to with- 
draw the charm, they must beat him and burn the soles of 
his feet. On her return she sent for the uncle, and with the 
assistance of her relations beat him unmercifully, and burnt 
the soles of his feet and the crown of his head in such a man- 
ner that in two days after he died. The woman and her ac- 
complices were seized. She owned the fact, and said, that if 
it was to do again, she would do it. This happened in De- 
cember last." In the same Magazine, for August, 1731, p. 
358, we read, that "the TourneUe condemned the woman to 
be hanged" for the above fact, but that "great interest was 
making to get her sentence commuted, the fact proceeding 
from conjugal affection" 

In the comedy entitled the Mock Marriage, 1696, some 
love charms occur to cause a person to dream of his lover. 
" Hide some dazy-roots under your pillow, and hang your 
shoes out of the window." The following is found in 
Herrick's Hesperides, p. 245 : " A charme, or an allay, for 
love : 

'If so be a toad be laid 
In a sheep-skin newly flaid, 
And that ty'd to man, 'twill sever 
Him and his affections ever.' " 

See other curious love-charms in Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, 
pp. 215-20. 


SIR THOMAS BROWNE, in his Quincunx artificially consi- 
dered, p. 1 1 1, mentions a rural charm against dodder, tetter, 
and strangling weeds, by placing a chalked tile at the four 
corners, and one in the middle of the fields, which, though 
ridiculous in the intention, was rational in the contrivance, 


and a good way to diffuse the magic through all parts of the 
area. The following rural charms are found in a collection 
entitled, Wit a sporting in 9, pleasant Grove of New Fancies, 
8vo. Lond. 1657, p. 78. They also occur in Herrick's Hes- 
perides, p. 383 : 

" This Tie tell ye by the way, 

Maidens, when ye leavens lay, 

Crosse your dow, and your dispatch 

Will be better for your batch." 

" In the morning when ye rise, 
Wash your hands and cleanse your eyes. 
Next be sure ye have a care 
To disperse the water farre : 
For as farre as that doth light, 
So farre keeps the evil spright." 

" If ye feare to be affrighted, 
When ye are (by) chance benighted ; 
In your pocket, for a trust, 
Carrie nothing but a crust ; 
For that holie piece of bread 
Charmes the danger and the dread." 

Some older charms, however, are to be found in Bale's In- 
terlude concerning the Laws of Nature, Moses, and Christ, 
4to. 1562. Idolatry says : 

" With blessynges of Saynt Germayne 
I wyll me so determyne, 
That neyther fox nor vermyne 

Shall do my chyckens harme. 
For your gese seke Saynt Legearde, 
And for your duckes Saynt Leonarde, 
For horse take Moyses yearde, 

There is no better charme. 
Take me a napkyn folte 
With the byas of a bolte 
For the healyng of a colte 

No better thynge can be : 
For lampes and for bottes 
Take me Saynt Wilfride's knottes 
And holy Saynt Thomas lottes, 
On my lyfe I warrande ye. 

1 The superstition of holding the poker before the fire to drive away 
the witch has been already noticed. Whatever may be the reason, it is a 
certain fact that setting up a poker before a fire has a wonderful effect in 
causing it to burn. 


A dram of a shepe's tyrdle, 
And good Saynt Frances gyrdle, 
With the hamlet of a hyrdle, 

Are wholsom for the pyppe : 
Besydes these charmes afore, 
I have feates many more 
That kepe styll in store, 

Whom no we I over hyppe." 1 

[In the west of England we have a version of the charm 
for a prick by a thorn, given in the Athenaeum : 
" Christ was of a virgin born, 
And he was pricked by a thorn ; 
And it did neither bell nor swell, 
As I trust in Jesus this never will." 

The following is a common charm for the cramp, in both 
Devonshire and Cornwall : 

" Cramp, be thou painless ! 
As our Lady was sinless 
When she bare Jesus." 

And for a scald or burn, I have been told this, although the 
act of telling destroys the charm : 

" There came three angels out of the west, 
One brought fire, and two brought frost : 
Out fire, and in frost, 
In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 

Another version is in HalliwelPs Popular Ehymes, p. 211. 

I send you a charm which the old women in Wiltshire vow 
to be very efficacious. When I came home from bird's-nest- 
ing, with my hands, and sometimes my face, well studded 
with thorns, they were extracted with a needle, and the finger 
passed over the wound with these words : 

" Unto the Virgin Mary our Saviour was born, 
And on his head he wore the crown of thorn ; 
If you believe this true and mind it well, 
This hurt will never fester, nor yet swell." 

The following charm and prayer is used at this day in 

1 In the Athenian Oracle, i. 158, is preserved the following charm to 
stop bleeding at the nose, and all other hemorrhages in the country : 
" In the blood of Adam sin was taken, 
In the blood of Christ it was all to shaken, 
And by the same bleed I do the charge, 
That the blood of run no langer at large." 


Westmoreland. It is taught by mothers, as well as nurses, 
to young children ; and is repeated by them on retiring to 

rest : 

" Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 
God bless the bed that I lie on ; 
If anything appear to me, 
Sweet Christ arise and comfort me. 

Four corners to this bed, 

Six angels round me spread ; 

Two to pray, two to wake, 

Two to guard me till daybreak. 
And blessed guardian angels keep 
Me safe from dangers while 1 sleep. 

I lay me down upon my side, 

And pray the Lord to be my guide ; 

And if I die before I wake, 

I pray the Lord my soul to take." 

Sometimes this variation is heard : 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 
Bless the bed that I lie on ; 
All the four corners round about, 
When I get in, when I get out."] 

Ady, in his Candle in the Dark, 1655, p. 58, says : " It ap- 
peareth still among common silly country people, how they 
nad learned charms by tradition from popish times, for curing 
cattle, men, women, and children ; for churning of butter, 
for baking their bread, and many other occasions ; one or two 
whereof I will rehearse only, for brevity. An old woman in 
Essex, who was living in my time, she had lived also in Queen 
Marie's time, had learned thence many popish charms, one 
whereof was this : every night when she lay down to sleep she 
charmed her bed, saying 

' Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 
The bed be blest that I lie on :' 

and this would she repeat three times, reposing great confi- 
dence therein, because (she said) she had been taught it, when 
she was a young maid, by the churchmen of those times. 

" Another old woman came into an house at a time whenas 
the maid was churning of butter, and having laboured long 
and could not make her butter come, the old woman told the 
maid what was wont to be done when she was a maid, and 
also in her mother's young time, that if it happened their 


butter would not coine readily, they used a charm to be said 
over it, whilst yet it was in beating, and it would come 
straightways, and that was this : 

' Come, butter, come, 
Come, butter, come : 
Peter stands at the gate, 
Waiting for a butter'd cake ; 
Come, butter, come.' 

This, said the old woman, being said three times, will make 
your butter come, fbr it was taught my mother by a learned 
churchman in Queen Marie's days, whenas churchmen had 
more cunning, and could teach the people many a trick that 
our ministers now a days know not." 

In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 1631, the witty 
anonymous author, in his description of a ballad-monger, has 
the fbllowing : " His ballads, cashiered the city, must now 
ride poast for the country ; where they are no lesse admired 
than a gyant in a pageant : till at last they grow so common 
there too, as every poore milk -maid can chant and chirpe it 
under her cow, which she useth as an harmeless charme to 
make her let downe her milk." Grose tells us that " a slunk 
or abortive calf, buried in the highway, over which cattle fre- 
quently pass, will greatly prevent that misfortune happening 
to cows. This is commonly practised in Suffolk." 

Lupton, in his third book of Notable Things (ed. 1660, 
p. 53), 12, says: " Mousear, any manner of way ministered 
to horses, brings this help unto them, that they cannot be 
hurt whiles the smith is shooing of them ; therefore it is called 
of many Herba clavorum, the herb of nails." Mizaldus. 

The well-known interjection used by the country people to 
their horses when yoked to a cart, &c. has been already no- 
ticed in the former volume of this work. Carew, in his 
Survey of Cornwall, p. 24, tells us : " Each oxe hath his se- 
veral name, upon which the drivers call aloud, both to direct 
and give them courage as they are at worke." 

Coles, in his Art of Simpling, p. 68, says : " It is said that 
if a handful of arsmart be put under the saddle, upon a tired 
horse's back, it will make him travaile fresh and lustily ;" 
and " If a footman take mugwort and put it into his shoes in 
the morning, he may goe forty miles before noon, and not be 
weary," p. 70. " The seed of fleabane strewed between the 


sheets causeth chastity," p. 71. "If one that hath eaten 
comin doe but breathe on a painted face the colour will vanish 
away straight. . . The seeds of docks tyed to the left arme of 
a woman do helpe barrennesse," p. 70. "All kinde of docks 
have this property, that what flesh, or meat, is sod therewith, 
though it be never so old, hard, or tough, it will become ten- 
der and meet to be eaten. . . . Calamint will recover stinking 
meat, if it be laid amongst it whilst it is raw. The often 
smelling to basil breedeth a scorpion in the brain," p. 69. 
" That the root of male-piony dryed, tied to the neck, doth 
help the incubus, which we call the mare," p. 68. "That if 
maids will take wilde tansey, and lay it to soake in butter- 
milke nine dayes, and wash their faces therewith, it will make 
them looke very faire." 

The same author, in his Adam in Eden, p. 561, tells us: 
" It is said, yea, and believed by many, that moonvjort will 
open the locks wherewith dwelling-houses are made fast, if it 
be put into the key-hole ; as also that it will loosen the locks, 
fetters, and shoes from those horses' feet that goe on the 
places where it groweth; and of this opinion was Master 
Culpeper, who, though he railed against superstition in others, 
yet had enough of it himselfe, as may appear by his story of 
the Earl of Essex his horses, which being drawn up in a 
body, many of them lost their shoes upon White Downe in 
Devonshire, near Tiverton, because moonwort grows upon 
heaths." Turner, in his British Physician, 8vo. Lond. 1687, 
p. 209, is confident that though moonwort "be the moon's 
herb, yet it is neither smith, farrier, nor picklock." Withers, 
in allusion to the supposed virtues of the moonwort, in the 
introduction to his Abuses Stript and Whipt, 1622, says : 
" There is an herb, some say, whose vertue's such 
It in the pasture, only with a touch, 
Unshooes the new-shod steed." 

[Round-dock, the common mallow, malva sylvestris, called 
round-dock from the roundness of its leaves. Chaucer has 
the following expression, which has a good deal puzzled the 
glossarists : 

" But canst thou playin raket to and fro, 
Nettle in, docke out, now this, now that, Pandare ?" 

The round-dock leaves are used at this day as a remedy, or 
supposed remedy or charm, for the sting of a nettle, by being 


rubbed on the stung part ; and the rubbing is accompanied, 
by the more superstitious, with the following words : 

" In dock, out nettle, 
Nettle have a stingd me" 

That is, Go in dock, go out nettle. Now, to play Nettle in 
dock out, is to make use of such expedients as shall drive 
away or remove some precious evil. 

" For women have such different fits, 
Would fright a man out of his wits ; 
Sighing, singing, freezing, frying, 
Laughing, weeping, singing, crying, 
Now powting like a shower of rain, 
And then clears up and laughs again. 
Her passions are of different mettle, 
Like children's play, in dock out nettle ; 
Always changing like the weather, 
Not in a mind two hours together : 
Thus at a distance keeps the man, 
As long as possibly she can ; 
And when her triumph all is past, 
The game being up she's caught at last." 

Poor Robin, 1732.] 

Among tree-superstitions must be ranked what Armstrong 
says in his History of Minorca, p. 191 : "The vine excepted, 
the Minorquins never prune a tree, thinking it irreligious in 
some degree to presume to direct its growth ; and if you ex- 
press your wonder that they forbear this useful practice, and 
inform them of the advantages that attend it in other coun- 
tries, their answer is ever ready : God knows best how a tree 
should grow." 

Rue was hung about the neck as an amulet against witch- 
craft in Aristotle's time. " Rutam fascini amuletum esse 
tradit Aristoteles," Wierii de Praestigiis Deemonum, lib. v. 
cap. xxi. col. 584. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, act iv. sc. 7, has 
this passage : " There's rue for you and here's some for me. 
We may call it herb of grace on Sundays." Rue was called 
herb of grace by the country people, and probably for the 
reason assigned *by Mr. Warburton, that it was used on Sun- 
days by the Romanists in their exorcisms. See Grey's Notes 
on Shakespeare, ii. 301. 

Thunder-superstitions have been in part considered under 
Omens. The charms and superstitious preservatives against 


thunder remain to be mentioned. It appears from the follow- 
ing 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, 
'Twill keep my boy from lightning." 

See also Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, p. 174. 
In A strange Metamorphosis of Man, transformed into a Wil- 
dernesse, 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 par- 
tiality, 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, 
So no extremitie hath power on fame." 

In Jonsonus Virbius, verses upon Ben Jonson, signed Hen. 
King, 1 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 
' 'Gainst the quick stroakes of thunder, is no charme 
To keepe off death's pale dart : for (Jonson) then 
Thou had'st been number'd still with living men ; 
Time's sythe had fear'd thy lawrell to invade, 
Nor thee this subject of our sorrow made." 2 

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 phos- 
nix 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 Caesars, 1647, 
p. 63, speaking of Tiberius Csesar, 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 scale's skinne" Here a note adds : 
" Or of a sea-calfe, which, as Plinie writeth, checketh all light- 
nings. Tonitrua et fulgura paulo infirmius expavescebat, 
ut semper et ubique pellem vituli marini circumferret, pro 

I find the following in Natural and Artificial Conclusions, 
by Thomas Hill, 16/0, n. 139: "A natural meanes to pre- 
serve 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 husband- 
men, 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 

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 con- 
ducted 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 in- 
crease of their neighbour's cows' milk to their own use ; and 
that the milk so charmed doth not produce the ordinary quan- 
tity 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 Chuau, 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 nays: "It was an ancient custom among the 


islanders to hang a lie-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 an- 
cient 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 in- 
trinsic 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 e 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 pe- 
culiar privilege of a family called Clan-Chattons, alias Mack- 
intosh." See other rural charms in Halliwell's Popular 
Rhymes, p. 208, et seq. 


CHARACTS seem to have been charms in the form of in- 
scriptions. See Dugdale's Orig. Jurid. p. 81 : "That he use 
ne hide no charme, ne charecte." So, in Gower, De Confes- 
sion e Amantis, B. i. : 

" With his carrecte would him enchaunt." 
Again, B. vi. fol. 140 : 

" Through his carectes and figures." 
Again : 

" And his carecte as he was tawght 
He rad." 


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 gather- 
ing 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 Prophe- 
cies, 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 dete, &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 sc rolles about the necke, but lament- 
iiige 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." 


The following "charm, or protection," was "found in a 
linen purse of Jackson, the murderer and smuggler, who died 
(a Roman Catholic) in Chichester gaol, Feb. 1749. He was 
struck with such horror on being measured for his irons, that 
he soon afterwards expired. 

' Ye three holy kings, 
Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar, 
Pray for us, now, and the hour of death.' 

" These papers have touched the three heads of the holy 
kings at Cologne. They are to preserve travellers from accidents 
on the road, head-achs, falling sickness, fevers, witchcraft, all 
kinds of mischief, and sudden death." See Gent. Mag. for 
Feb. 1749, xix. 88. 

In a curious and very rare itract, entitled Beware of Pick- 
purses, or a Caveat for Sick Folkes to take heede of Unlearned 
Physitians and Unskilfull Chyrurgians, 1605, p. 10, is the 
following passage : " Others, that they may colourably and 
cunningly hide their grosse ignorance, when they know not 
the cause of the disease, referre it unto charmes, witchcraft, 
magnifical incantations, and sorcerie, vainly, and with a brazen 
forehead, affirming that there is no way to help them but by 
characters, circles, figure-castings, exorcismes, conjurations, 
and other impious and godlesse meanes. Others set to sale, 
at a great price, certaine amulets of gold and silver, stamped 
under an appropriate and selected constellation of the planets, 
with some magical character, shamelessly boasting that they 
will cure all diseases, and worke I know not what other won- 
ders." The author, p. 42, concludes with the very sensible 
observation of " a great learned clarke in our land, who, in a 
daungerous sicknesse, being moved by some friends to use an 
unlettered empiricke, ' Nay,' quoth he, ' I have lived all my 
life by the booke, and I will now (God willing) likewise dye by 
the booke.' " 

Blagrave, ia his Astrological Practice ot Physick, p. 135, 
prescribes a cure of agues by a certain writing which the pa- 
tient weareth, as follows : " When Jesus went up to the cross 
to be crucified, the Jews asked him saying, ' Art thou afraid ? 
or hast thou the ague ?' Jesus answered, and said, ' I am not 
afraid, neither have I the ague. All those which bear the name 
of Jesus about them shall not be afraid, nor yet have the ague.' 
Amen, sweet Jesus, amen ! sweet Jehovah, amen." He adds : 

ill. 21 


" I have known many who have been cured of the ague by 
this writing only worn about them ; and I had the receipt 
from one whose daughter was cured thereby, who had the 
ague upon her two years." To this charact, then, may be 
given, on the joint authority of the old woman and our doc- 
tor, probatum est. 

Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 1668, p. 259, says: "Neither 
doth fansie only cause, but also as easily cure diseases ; as I 
may justly refer all magical and jugling cures thereunto, 
performed, as is thought by saints, images, relicts, holy waters, 
shrines, avemarys, crucifixes, benedictions, charms, characters, 
sigils of the planets and of the signs, inverted words, &c. ; 
and therefore all such cures are rather to be ascribed to the 
force of the imagination, than any virtue in them, or their 
rings, amulets, lamens, &c." 

In the Character of a Quack Astrologer, 1673, we are told : 
" He offers, for five pieces, to give you home with you a talis- 
man against flies ; a sigil to make you fortunate at gaming ; 
and a spell that shall as certainly preserve you from being 
rob'd for the future ; a sympathetical powder for the violent 
pains of the tooth-ach." 

Cotta, in his Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers 
of severall sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisers of 
Physicke in England, 1612, p. 50, very sensibly observes: 
" If there be any good or use unto the health by spels, they 
have that prerogative by accident, and by the power and ver- 
tue of fancie. If fancie then be the foundation whereupon 
buildeth the good of spels, spels must needs be as fancies are, 
uncertaine and vaine : so must also, by consequent, be their 
use and helpe, and no lesse all they that trust unto them." 
He elsewhere says : " How can religion or reason suffer men 
that are not voyd of both, to give such impious credit unto 
an unsignificant and senselesse mumbling of idle words con- 
trary to reason, without president of any truly wise or learned, 
and justly suspected of all sensible men ?" citing " Fernel. de 
abd. rer. Causis : Scripta, verba, annuli, caracteres, signa, 
nihil valent ad profligandos morbos, si nulla superior potestas 
divina vel magica accesserit." 

Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man (Works, 
folio, p. 175), mentions a charect, a copy of an inscription 
found under a cross (which was carefully preserved and car- 


ried to the vicar, who wrote copies of it and dispersed them 
over the island). "They tell you," says he, "that they are 
of such wonderful virtue to such as wear them, that on what- 
ever business they go, they are certain of success. They also 
defend from witchcraft, evil tongues, and all efforts of the 
devil or his agents ; and that a woman wearing one of them 
in her bosom while she is pregnant, shall by no accident what- 
ever lose the fruit of her womb. I have frequently rode* by 
the stone under which they say the original paper was found, 
but it would now be looked on as the worst sacrilege to make 
any attempt to move it from the place." He gives also the 
tenor of the inscription : " Fear God, obey the priesthood, 
and do by your neighbour as you would have him to do to 

Andrews, in his Continuation of Dr. Henry's History, 
p. 502, tells us, from Arnot's History of Edinburgh, that 
" On all the old houses still existing in Edinburgh there are 
remains of talismanic or cabalistical characters, which the su- 
perstition of earlier ages had caused to be engraven on their 
fronts. These were generally composed of some text of 
Scripture, of the name of God, or, perhaps of an emblematic 
representation of the Resurrection." 

"It is recorded in divers authors, that in the image of 
Diana, which was worshipped at Ephesus, there were certain 
obscure words or sentences not agreeing together, nor depend- 
ing one upon another ; much like unto riddles written upon 
the feete, girdle, and crowne of the said Diana ; the which, if 
a man did use, having written them out, and carrying them 
about him, hee should have good lucke in all his businesses ; 
and hereof sprung the proverbe Ephesee literce, where one 
useth anything which bringeth good successe." Mason's 
Anatomic of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 90. Ibid. p. 91, our author 
mentions the superstition of " curing diseases with certaine 
words or characters." 

Cotta, in his Short Discoverie, &c. p. 49, inserts "a merrie 
historic of an approved famous spell for sore eyes. By many 
honest testimonies, it was a long time worne as a jewel! about 
many necks, written in paper, and inclosed in silke, never 
failing to do soveraigne good when all other helps were help- 
lesse. No sight might dare to reade or open. At length a 
curious mind, while the patient slept, by stealth ripped open 


the mystical cover, and found the powerful characters Latin : 
* Diabolus effodiat tibi oculos, impleat foraraini stercoribus.' " 
Nash, in his Notes on Hudibras, says : " Cato recommends the 
following as a charm against sprains : ' Haut, haut, hista pista, 
vista.' " 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, speaking of 
" certain charms or amulets called Saphies, which the negroes 
constantly wear about them," says : " These saphies are prayers 
or sentences from the Koran, which the Mahometan priests 
write on scraps of paper and sell to the natives, who suppose 
them to possess extraordinary virtues. Some wear them to 
guard against the attack of snakes and alligators ; on such an. 
occasion, the saphie is inclosed in a snake or alligator's skin, 
and tied round the ankle. Others have recourse to them in 
time of war, to protect their persons from hostile attacks ; 
but the general use of these amulets is to prevent or cure 
bodily diseases, to preserve from hunger and thirst, and to 
conciliate the favour of superior powers." He informs us, in 
another place, that his landlord requested him to give him a 
lock of his hair to make a saphie, as he said he had been told 
it would give to the possessor all the knowledge of white men. 
Another person desired him to write a saphie ; Mr. Park fur- 
nished him with one containing the Lord's Prayer. He gave 
away several others. 


BURTON, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, p. 4/6, has 
the following passage on this subject : " Amulets, and things 
to be borne about, I find prescribed, taxed by some, approved 
by others : looke for them in Mizaldus, Porta, Albertus, &c. 
A ring made of the hoof of an asse's right fore-foot carried 
about, &c. I say with Renodeus, they are not altogether to 
be rejected. Piony doth help epilepsies. Pretious stones 
most diseases. A wolf's dung carried about helps the cholick. 
A spider, an ague> &c. Such medicines are to be exploded 
that consist of words, characters, spells, and charms, which 
can do no good at all, but out of a strong conceit, as Pompo- 


nathis proves, or the divel's policy, that is the first founder 
and teacher of them." 

Dr. Herring, in his Preservatives against the Pestilence, 
1625, has the following: "Perceiving many in this citie to 
weare about their necks, upon the region of the heart, cer- 
taine placents, or amulets (as preservatives against the pesti- 
lence), confected of arsenicke, my opinion is that they are so 
farre from effecting any good in that kinde, as a preservative, 
that they are very dangerous and hurtfull, if not pernitious, 
to those that weare them." 

Bourne, chap, xviii. cites a passage of Bingham, from St. 
Austin, on these superstitious observations. " To this kind," 
says he, " belong all ligatures and remedies, which the schools 
of physitians reject and condemn ; whether in inchantments 
or in certain marks, which' they call characters, or in some 
other things which are to be hanged and bound about the 
body, and kept in a dancing posture. Such are ear-rings 
hanged upon the tip of each ear, and rings made of an os- 
triche's bones for the finger ; or, when you are told, in a fit 
of convulsions, or shortness of breath, to hold your left thumb 
with your right hand." 

I remember it was a custom in the North of England for 
boys that swam, to wear an eel's skin about their naked leg 
to prevent the cramp. Armstrong in his History of Minorca, 
p. 212, says : "I have seen an old woman placed on a bier, 
dressed like a Franciscan monk, and so conducted by the good 
brothers of that order, with singing and the tinkling of the 
hand-bell to their church." This superstition was observed by 
Milton in his travels through Roman Catholic countries ; for 
when describing the Paradise of Fools, he does not forget to 
mention those 

" Who, to be sure of Paradise, 
Dying, put on the weeds of Dominick, 
Or in Franciscan think to pass disguised." 

Par. Lost, b. iii. 

That this practice was not unknown in our own country at 
an earlier period will be seen by the following extract from the 
Berkeley Manuscripts, by Smith, i. 117: " It is recorded 
that on the 13th of May, 1220 (4th Hen. Ill), died Robert 
the second Lord Berkeley, set 5 * 55, or thereabouts, and was 
buried in the north isle of the church of the monastery of St. 


Augustines (Bristol) over against the high altar, in a monck's 
cowle, an usual fashion for great peeres in those tymes, 
esteemed as an amulet, or defensative to the soule, and as a 
scala coeli, a ladder of life eternal." 1 In Douce' s Illustrations 
of Shakespeare, and of Ancient Manners, i. 493, are wood- 
engravings of several Roman amulets ; these were intended 
against fascination in general, but more particularly against 
that of the evil eye. Such, he observes, p. 497> are still used 
in Spain by women and children, precisely in the same man- 
ner as formerly among the Romans. 

Lupton, in his fourth book of Notable Things (edit. 8vo. 
1660, p. 92), 41, says: "A piece of a child's navell string, 
borne in a ring, is good against the falling sickness, the pain 
of the head, and the collick. Miz." 

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, speaking of 
a Mahometan Negro, who, with the ceremonial part of that 
religion, retained all his ancient superstition, says that "i < 
the midst of a dark wood he made a sign for the company t> 
stop, and, taking hold of an hollow piece of bamboo that 
hung as an amulet round his neck, whistled very loud three 
times ; this, he said, was to ascertain what success would at- 
tend the journey. He then dismounted, laid his spear across 
the road, and having said a short number of prayers, concluded 
with three loud whistles ; after which he listened for some 
time, as if in expectation of an answer, and, receiving none, 
said the company might proceed without fear, as there was no 

1 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 192, inquires 
" whether pericepts, amulets, prsefiscinals, phylacteries, niceteries, ligatures, 
suspensions, charms, and spells, had ever been used, applyed, or carryed 
about, but for magick and astrologie ? Their supposed efficacy (in curing 
diseases and preventing of perils) being taught from their fabrication, 
configuration, and confection, under such and such sydereal aspects, con- 
junctions, constellations." His preceding observations upon alchemy are 
too pointed and sensible not to be retained : " Whether alchymie (that 
enticing yet nice harlot) had made so many fooles and beggars, had she 
not clothed or painted herself with such astrological phrases and magical 
practises ? But I let this kitchen magick or chimney astrology passe. 
The sweltering drudges and smoaky scullions of it (if they may not bring 
in new fuel to the fire) are soon taught (by their past observed folly) to 
connate their own late repentance. But if they will obstinately persist, 
in hope to sell their smoak, let others beware how they buy it too dear." 



[THE Lee-penny, or Lee-stone, is a curious piece of antiquity 
belonging to the family of Lee in Scotland. 

It is a stone, of a dark red colour and triangular shape, and 
its size about half an inch on each side. It is set in a piece 
of silver coin, which, though much defaced, by some letters 
still remaining, it is supposed to be a shilling of Edward the 
First, the cross being very plain, as it is on his shillings. It 
has been, by tradition, in the Lee family since the year 1320 ; 
that is, a little after the death of King Robert Bruce, who 
having ordered his heart to be carried to the Holy Land, there 
to be buried, one of the noble family of Douglas was sent 
with it, and it is said got the crowned heart in his arms from 
that circumstance ; but the person who carried the heart was 
Simon Locard of Lee, who just about this time borrowed a 
large sum of money from Sir William de Lindsay, a prior of 
Ayr, for which he granted a bond of annuity of ten pounds 
of silver, during the life of the said Sir William de Lindsay, 
out of his lands of Lee and Cartland. The original bond, 
dated 1323, and witnessed by the principal nobility of the 
country, is still remaining among the family papers. 

As this was a great sum in those days, it is thought it was 
borrowed for that expedition ; and from his being the person 
who carried the royal heart, he changed his name to Lockheart, 
as it is sometimes spelt, or Lockhart, and got a heart within a 
lock for part of his arms, with the motto Corda serata pando. 
This Simon Lockhart having taken prisoner a Saracen prince 
or chief, his wife came to ransom him, and on counting out 
the money or jewels, this stone fell out of her purse, which 
she hastily snatched up ; which Simon Lockhart observing, 
insisted to have it, else he would not give up his prisoner. 
Upon this the lady gave it him, and told him its many virtues, 
viz. that it cured all diseases in cattle, and the bite of a mad 
dog both in man and beast. It is used by dipping the stone 
in water, which is given to the diseased cattle to drink ; and 
the person who has been bit, and the wound or part in- 
fected, is washed with the water. There are no words used 
in the dipping of the stone, nor any money taken by the ser- 
vants, without incurring the owner's displeasure. Many are 


the cures said to be performed by it ; and people come from 
all parts of Scotland, and even as far up in England as York- 
shire, to get the water in which the stone is dipped, to give 
their cattle, when ill of the murrain especially, and black leg. 
A great many years ago, a complaint was made to the eccle- 
siastical courts, against the Laird of Lee, then Sir James 
Lockhart, for using witchcraft. It is said, when the plague 
was last at Newcastle, the inhabitants sent for the Lee-penny, 
and gave a bond for a large sum in trust for the loan ; and 
that they thought it did so much good, that they offered to 
pay the money, and keep the Lee-penny ; but the gentleman 
would not part with it. A copy of this bond is very well at- 
tested to have been among the family papers, but supposed to 
have been spoiled along with many more valuable ones, about 
fifty years ago, by rain getting into the charter-room, during 
a long minority, and no family residing at Lee. 

The most remarkable cure performed upon any person, was 
that of Lady Baird, of Sauchton Hall, near Edinburgh ; who 
having been bit by a mad dog, was come the length of 
hydrophobia ; upon which, having sent to beg the Lee-penny 
might be sent to her house, she used it for some weeks, 
drinking and bathing in the water it was dipped in, and was 
quite recovered. This happened above eighty years ago ; but 
it is very well attested, having been told by the lady of the 
then Laird of Lee, and who died within these thirty years. 
She also told, that her husband, Mr. Lockhart, and she were 
entertained at Sauchton Hall, by Sir Robert Baird and his 
lady, for several days, in the most sumptuous manner, on 
account of the lady's recovery, and in gratitude for the loan 
of the Lee-penny so long, as it was never allowed to be carried 
from the house of Lee. 

N.B. It was tried by a lapidary, and found to be a stone ; 
but of what kind he could not tell.] 


" Tu ne quaesieris scire (netas) quern mihi, quern tibi 
Finem dederint Leuconpe ; nee Babylonios 
Tentaris nuraeros." Hor Carm. lib. i. Od. 11. 

Since 'tis impiety to pry 

Into the rolls of destiny, 

Heed not the secrets they impart 

Who study the divining art. 

DIVINATIONS differ from omens in this, that the omen is an 
indication of something that is to come to pass, which happens 
to a person, as it were by accident, without his seeking for it ; 
whereas divination is the obtaining of a knowledge of some- 
thing future, by some endeavour of his own, or means which 
he himself designedly makes use of for that end. 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 165, 
enumerates as follows the several species of divination : 
" Stareomancy, or divining by the elements ; Aeromancy, or 
divining by the ayr ; Pyromancy, by fire ; Hydromancy, by 
water ; Geomancy, by earth ; Theamancy, pretending to divine 
by the revelation of the Spirit, and by the Scriptures, or word 
of God ; Doemonomancy, by the suggestions of evill daemons 
or devils ; Idolomancy, by idolls, images, figures ; Psychomancy, 
by men's souls, affections, wills, religious or morail disposi- 
tions ; Antinopomancy, by the entrails of men, women, and 
children ; Theriomancy, by beasts ; Ornithomancy, by birds ; 
Ichthyomancy, by fishes ; Botanomancy, by herbs ; Lithomancy, 
by stones ; Cleromancy, by lotts ; Oniromancy, by dreams : 
Onomatomancy, by names ; Arithmancy, by numbers ; Loya- 
rithmancy, by Ibgarithmes ; Sternomancy, from the breast to 
the belly ; Gastromancy, by the sound of, or signes upon the 
belly ; Omphelomancy, by the navel ; Chiromancy, by the 
hands ; Ptsdomancy, by the feet ; Onychomancy, by the nayles ; 
Cephaleonomancy, by brayling of an asses head ; Tuphramancy, 
by ashes ; Capnomancy, by smoak ; Livanomancy, by burning 
of frankincense ; Carramancy, by melting of wax ; Lecano- 
mancy, by a basin of water ; Catoxtromancy^ by looking- 
glasses ; Chartomancy, by writing in papers (this is retained 
in choosing Valentines, &c.); Macharomancy, by knives or 
swords ; Chrystallomancy, by glasses ; Dactalomancy, by rings ; 
Coseinomancy, by sieves ; Axinomancy, by gawes ; Cattabo* 


mancy, by vessels of brasse or other metall ; Roadomancy, by 
starres; Spatalamancy, by skins, bones, excrements; Scyo- 
mancy, by shadows ; Astragalomancy, by dice ; Oinomancy, by 
wine ; Sycomancy, by figgs ; Typomancy, by the coagulation 
of cheese ; Alphifomancy, by meal, flower, or branne ; Critho- 
mancy, by grain or corn ; Alectromancy , by cocks or pullen ; 
Gyromancy, by rounds or circles ; Lampadomancy, by candles 
and lamps ; and in one word for all, Nagomancy, or Necro- 
mancy, by inspecting, consulting, and divining by, with, or 
from the dead." In Holiday's Marriage of the Arts, 4to., is 
introduced a species of divination not in the above ample list 
of them, entitled Anthropomancie. 

There were among the ancients divinations by water, fire, 
earth, air ; by the flight of birds, by lots, by dreams, by the 
wind, &c. I suppose the following species of divination must 
be considered as a vestige of the ancient hydromancy. An 
essayist in the Gent. Mag. for Marcfy, 1731, i. 110, introduces 
"a person surprising a lady and her company in close cabal 
over their coffee ; the rest very intent upon one, who by her 
dress and intelligence he guessed was a tire-woman ; to which 
she added the secret of divining by coffee-grounds ; she was 
then in full inspiration, aud with much solemnity observing 
the atoms round the cup ; on one hand sat a widow, on the 
other a married lady, both attentive to the predictions to be 
given of their future fate. The lady (his acquaintance), though 
marryed, was no less earnest in contemplating her cup than 
the other two. They assured him that every cast of the cup 
is a picture of all one's life to come; and every transaction and 
circumstance is delineated with the exactest certainty." From 
the Weekly Register, March 20, No. xc. The same practice 
is noticed in the Connoisseur, No. 56, where a girl is repre- 
sented divining to find out of what rank her husband shall 
be : " I have seen him several times in coffee-grounds, with a 
*\vord by his side ; and he was once at the bottom of a tea- 
cup in a coach and six, with two footmen behind it." 

To the divination 1 by water also must be referred the fol- 
lowing passage in a list of superstitious practices preserved in 
the Life of Harvey, the famous Conjurer of Dublin, 8vo, Dubl. 
1/28, p. 58 : " Immersion of wooden bowls in water, sinking 

1 See a prodigious variety of these divinations, alphabetically enumerated 
and explained, in Fabricii Bibliographia Antiquaria, cap. xxi. Consult 
also Potter's Greek Antiq. vol. i. pp. 348 et seq. 


incharmed and inchanted amulets under water, or burying 
them under a stone in a grave in a churchyard." 

Among love divinations may be reckoned the dumb- cake, so 
called because it was to be made without speaking, and after- 
wards the parties were to go backwards up the stairs to bed, and 
put the cake under their pillows, when they were to dream of 
their lovers. See Strutt's Manners and Customs, iii. 180. 

["Dumb-cake. A species of dreaming-bread, prepared by 
unmarried females, with ingredients traditionally suggested in 
witching doggerel. When baked, it is cut into three divisions : 
a part of each to be eaten, and the remainder to be put under 
the pillow. When the clock strikes twelve, each votary must 
go to bed backwards, and keep a profound silence, whatever 
may appear. Indeed, should a word be uttered, either during 
the process or before falling asleep, the charm is broken, and 
some direful calamity may be dreaded. Those who are to be 
married, or are full of hope, fancy they see visions of their 
future partners hurrying after them ; while they who are to 
live and die old maids are not very sanguine of obtaining their 
errand, seeing nothing at all."] 

We read the following in the Gent. Mag. for September, 
1734, iv. 488, from Bayle : "There's no prescribing against 
truth from universal tradition, or the general consent of man- 
kind ; because, so we must receive all the superstitions the 
Roman people borrowed from the Tuscans, in the matter of 
augury, prodigy, and all the pagan impertinencies in the 
point of divination as incontestible truths." 

John of Salisbury enumerates no fewer than thirteen dif- 
ferent kinds of diviners of fortune-tellers, who (in his time) 
pretended to foretell future events, some by one means and 
some by another. De Nugis Curialium, lib. i. c. 12, p. 36. 
Divination by arroivs, says Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall, 
x. 345, is ancient, and famous in the East. 

The following compendious new way of magical divination, 
which we find so humorously described in Butler's Hudibras, 
as follows, is affirmed by M. Le Blanc, in his Travels, to be 
used in the East Indies : 

" Your modern Indian magician 
Makes but a hole in th' earth to pisse in, 
And straight resolves all questions by't, 
And seldom fails to be i' th' right." 



DIVINATION by the rod or wand is mentioned in the pro- 
phecy of Ezekiel. Hosea, too, reproaches the Jews as being in- 
fected with the like superstition; "My people ask counsel at 
their stocks, and their staff" declareth unto them." Chap. iv. 
12. Not only the Chaldeans used rods for divination, but 
almost every nation which has pretended to that science has 
practised the same method. Herodotus mentions it as a custom 
of the Alani, and Tacitus of the old Germans. See Cam- 
bridge's Scribleriad, book v. note on line 21. 

I find the following on this subject in Bartholini Causse 
contemptee a Danis Mortis, p. 6/6 : " Virgis salignis divinasse 
Scythas, indicat libro quarto Herodotus, eamque fuisse illis 
traditam a majoribus divinationem. Et de Alanis, Scytharum 
gente, idem memorat Ammianus Marcellinus : ' futura miro 
prsesagiunt modo : nam rectiores virgas vimineas colligentes, 
easque cum ineantamentis quibusdam secretis praestituto tern- 
pore diseernentes, aperte quid portendatur norunt.' " 

In the manuscript Discourse on Witchcraft, 1705, written 
by Mr. John Bell, p. 41, I find the following account from 
Theophylact on the subject of rabdomanteia, or rod divination : 
" They set up two staffs, and having whispered some verses and 
incantations, the staffs fell by the operation of daemons. Then 
they considered which way each of them fell, forward or back- 
ward, to the right or left hand, and agreeably gave responses, 
having made use of the fall of their staffs for their signs." 

Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, tells us, ii. 550, 
that "after the Anglo-Saxons and Danes embraced the Chris- 
tian religion, the clergy were commanded by the canons to 
preach very frequently against diviners, sorcerers, auguries, 
omens, charms, incantations, and all the filth of the wicked 
and dotages of the Gentiles." He cites Johnson's Eccles. 
Canons, A.D. 747, c. 3. 

The following is from Epigrams, &c., by S. Sheppard, Lond. 
1651, lib. vi., Epigr.l. p. 141, " Virgula divina : 
" Some sorcerers do boast they have a rod, 

Gather'd with vowes and sacrifice, 
And (borne about) will strangely nod 

To hidden treasure where it lies ; 
Mankind is (sure) that rod divine, 
For to the wealthiest (ever) they incline." 


[The earliest means made use of by the miners for the dis- 
covery of the lode was the divining rod, so late as three years 
ago the process has been tried. The method of procedure was 
to cut the twig of an hazel or apple tree, of twelve months' 
growth, into a forked shape, and to hold this by both hands 
in a peculiar way, walking across the land until the twig 
bent, which was taken as an indication of the locality of a 
lode. The person who generally practises this divination boasts 
himself to be the seventh son of a seventh son. The twig of 
hazel bends in his hands to the conviction of the miners that 
ore is present ; but then the peculiar manner in which the 
twig is held, bringing muscular action to bear upon it, accounts 
for its gradual deflection, and the circumstance of the strata 
walked over always containing ore gives a further credit to the 
process of divination.] 

The vulgar notion, still prevalent in the north of England, 
of the hazel's tendency to a vein of lead ore, seam or stratum 
of coal, &c., seems to be a vestige of this rod divination. 

The virgula divina> or baculus divinatorius, is a forked 
branch in the form of a Y, cut off an hazel stick, by means 
whereof people have pretended to discover mines, springs, &c., 
underground. The method of using it is this : the person 
who bears it, walking very slowly over the places where he 
suspects mines or springs may be, the effluvia exhaling from 
the metals, or vapour from the water impregnating the wood, 
makes it dip, or incline, which is the sign of a discovery. 

In the Living Library, or Historicall Meditations, fol. 1621, 
p. 283, we read: "No man can tell why forked sticks of hazill 
(rather than sticks of other trees growing upon the very same 
places) are fit to shew the places where the veines of gold and 
silver are. The sticke bending itselfe in the places, at the 
bottome where the same veines are." See Lilly's History of 
his Life and Times, p. 32, for a curious experiment (which he 
confesses however to have failed) to discover hidden treasure 
by the hazel rod. 

In the Gent. Mag. for February 1752, xxii. 77, we read: 
" M. Linnaeus, when he was upon his voyage to Scania, hear- 
ing his secretary highly extol the virtues of his divining wand, 
was willing to convince him of its insufficiency, and for that 
purpose concealed a purse of one hundred ducats under a 
ranunculus, which grew by itself in a meadow, and bid the 


secretary find it if he could. The wand discovered nothing, 
and M. Linnaeus' s mark was soon trampled down by the com- 
pany who were present ; so that when M. Linnaeus went to 
finish the experiment by fetching the gold himself, he was 
utterly at a loss where to seek it. The man with the wand 
assisted him, and pronounced that he could not lie the way 
they were going, but quite the contrary : so pursued the di- 
rection of his wand, and actually dug out the gold. M. Lin- 
naeus adds, that such another experiment would be sufficient 
to make a proselyte of him." We read, in the same work for 
Nov. 1751, xxi. 507 : " So early as Agricola the divining rod 
was in much request, and has obtained great credit for its dis- 
covery where to dig for metals and springs of water : for some 
years past its reputation has been on the decline, but lately it 
has been revived with great success by an ingenious gentleman, 
who, from numerous experiments, hath good reason to believe 
its effects to be more than imagination. He says, that hazel 
and willow rods, he has by experience found, will actually 
answer with all persons in a good state of health, if they are 
used with moderation and at some distance of time, and after 
meals, when the operator is in good spirits. The hazel, 
willow, and elm are all attracted by springs of water ; some per- 
sons have the virtue intermittently ; the rod, in their hands, 
will attract one half hour, and repel the next. The rod is at- 
tracted by all metals, coals, amber, and lime-stone, but with 
different degrees of strength. The best rods are those from the 
hazel, or nut tree, as they are pliant and tough, and cut in the 
winter months. A shoot that terminates equally forked is to 
be met with, two single ones, of a length and size, maybe tied 
together with a thread, and will answer as well as the other." 

In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 234, we read, 
that " the experiment of a hazel's tendency to a vein of lead 
ore is limited to St. John Baptist's Eve, and that with an hazel 
of that same year's growth." 

There is a treatise in French, entitled La Physique occulte, 
ou Traite de la Baguette divinatoire, et de son utilite pour la 
d^couverte des Sources d'Eau des Minieres, deTresors cachez, 
des Voleurs, et des Meurtriers fugitifs ; par M. L. L. de Val- 
lemont, pretre et docteur en theologie, 1 2mo. Amsterdam, 1693, 
464 pages. 

At the end of Henry Alan's edition of Cicero's treatises De 


Divinatione, and De Fato, 1839, will be found " Catalogus 
auctorum de divinatione ac fato, de oraculis, de somniis, de 
astrologia, de dsemonibus, de magia, id genus aliis." 

With the divining rod seems connected a lusus natune of 
ash tree bough, resembling the litui of the Roman augurs and 
the Christian pastoral staff, which still obtains a place, if not 
on this account I know not why, in the catalogue of popular 
superstitions. Seven or eight years ago I remember to have 
seen one of these, which I thought extremely beautiful and 
curious, in the house of an old woman at Beeralston, in De- 
vonshire, of whom I would most gladly have purchased it ; 
but she declined parting with it on any account, thinking it 
would be unlucky to do so. Mr. Gostling, in the Antiquarian 
Repertory, ii. ] 64, has some observations on this subject. He 
thinks the lituus or staff, with the crook at one end, which 
the augurs of old carried as badges of their profession, and 
instruments in the superstitious exercise of it, was not made 
of metal, but of the substance above mentioned. Whether, 
says he, to call it a work of art, or nature, may be doubted ; 
some were probably of the former kind ; others, Hogarth, in 
his Analysis of Beauty, calls lusus naturae, found in plants of 
different sorts, and in one of the plates of that work, gives a 
specimen of a very elegant one, a branch of ash. I should 
rather, continues he, style it a distemper, or distortion of na- 
ture ; for it seems the effect of a wound by some insect, which 
piercing to the heart of the plant with its proboscis, poisons 
that, while the bark remains uninjured, and proceeds in its 
growth, but formed into various stripes, flatness, and curves, 
for want of the support which nature designed it. The beauty 
some of these arrive at might well consecrate them to the 
mysterious fopperies of heathenism, and their rarity occasion 
imitations of them by art. The pastoral staff of the church of 
Rome seems to have been formed from the vegetable litui, 1 
though the general idea is, I know, that it is an imitation of 
the shepherd's crook. The engravings given in the Anti- 
quarian Repertory are of carved branches of the ash. 

1 Moresin, in his Papatus, p. 126, says : " Pedum episcopale est litms 
augurum, de quo Livius, i." 



THIS is a species of divination performed by opening the 
works of Virgil, &c., and remarking the lines which shall be 
covered with your thumb the instant the leaves are opened ; 
by which, if they can be interpreted in any respect to relate 
to you, they are accounted prophetic. This custom appears 
to have been of very ancient date, and was tried with Homer's 
poem as well as Virgil's. They who applied to this kind of 
oracle were said to try the sortes Homericce, or sortes Vir- 

King Charles the First is said to have tried this method of 
learning his fate, 1 and to have found the oracle but too cer- 
tain. 1 have subjoined the lines from Virgil as printed in 
Dry den's Miscellanies, vol. vi. 

" But vex'd with rebels and a stubborn race, 

His country banish'd, and his son's embrace, 

Some foreign prince for fruitless succours try, 

And see his friends ingloriously die ; 

Nor, when he shall to faithless terms submit, 

His throne enjoy, nor comfortable light, 

But, immature, a shameful death receive, 

And in the ground th' unbury'd body leave." 2 

1 Dr. Welwood says that King Charles the First and Lord Falkland, being 
in the Bodleian Library, made this experiment of their future fortunes, 
and met with passages equally ominous to each. Aubrey, however, in his 
manuscript on the Remains of Gentilism, tells the story of consulting the 
Virgilian lots differently. He says : " In December, 1648, King Charles 
the First being in great trouble, and prisoner at Carisbrooke, or to be 
brought to London to his tryal, Charles, Prince of Wales, being then at 
Paris, aud in profound sorrow for his father, Mr. Abraham Cowley went 
to wayte on him. His Highnesse asked him whether he would play at 
cards, to divert his sad thoughts. Mr. Cowley replied he did not care to 
play at cards, but if his Highness pleased they would use sortes Viryiliancs 
(Mr. Cowley always had a Virgil in his pocket); the Prince liked the pro- 
posal, and pricked a pin in the fourth book of the jneid, &c. The 
Prince understood not Latin well, and desired Mr. Cowley to translate the 
verses, which he did admirably well." 

2 "At belloaudacis populi vexatus et armis, 
Finibus extorris, complexu avulsus luli, 
Auxilium imploret, videatque indigna suorum 
Funera ; nee, cum se sub leges pacis iniquae 
Tradiderit ; regno aut optata luce fruatur ; 
Sed cadat ante diem : mediaque inhumatus arena." 

<Eneid., lib. iv. 1. 615. 


Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, suspects that great poet 
to have been tinctured with this superstition, and to have con- 
sulted the Virgilian lots on the great occasion of the Scottish 
treaty, and that he gave credit to the answer of the oracle. 

Dr. Ferrand, in his Love Melancholy, 1640, p. 177, men- 
tions the " kinde of divination by the opening of a booke at all 
adventures; and this was called the Valentinian chance, and 
by some sortes Virgilianoe ; of which the Emperor Adrian was 
wont to make very much use." He adds, " I shall omit 
to speak here of astragalomancy, that was done with huckle 
bones ; ceromancy, and all other such like fooleries." 

Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dsemonologie, 1650, p. 81, 
says : " For sorcery, properly so called, viz. divination by lotts, 
it is too much apparent how it abounds. For lusory lots, the 
state groans under the losse'by them, to the ruine of many 
men and families ; as the churches lament under the sins by 
them ; and for other lots, by sieves, books, &c., they abound, 
as witchery, &c., abounds/' Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, 
1721, p. 81, has these lines : 

" Waes me, for baith I canna get, 
To ane by law we're stented ; 
Then I'll draw cutts, and take my fate, 
And be with ane contented." 

In the Glossary, he explains " cuffs, lots. These cuts are 
usually made of straws unequally cut, which one hides between 
his finger and thumb, while another draws his fate." 

JodrelL, in his Illustrations of Euripides, i. 174, informs us 
that a similar practice prevailed among the Hebrews, by whom 
it was called bath-kol. 

The superstitious among the ancient Christians practised 
a similar kind of divination by opening the Old and New 
Testament. See Gibbon's Decline and Fall, yu 333. He is 
speaking of Clovis, A.D. 507, who, marching 1 " from Paris, as 
he proceeded with decent reverence through the, holy diocese 
of Tours, consulted the shrine of St. Martin, the sanctuary 
and oracle of Gaul. His messengers were instructed to re- 
mark the words of the psalm which should happen to be 
chanted at the precise moment when they entered the church. 
These words most fortunately expressed the valour and victory 
of the champions of heaven, and the application was easily 
transferred to the new Joshua, the new Gideon, who went 

in. 22 


forth to battle against the enemies of the Lord. He adds : 
" This mode of divination, by accepting as an omen the first 
sacred words which in particular circumstances should be 
presented to the eye or ear, was derived from the Pagans, and 
the Psalter or Bible was substituted to the poems of Homer 
and Virgil. From the fourth to the fourteenth century, these 
sortes sanctorum, as they are styled, were repeatedly con- 
demned by the decrees of councils, and repeatedly practised 
by kings, bishops, and saints. See a curious dissertation of 
the Abbe de Resnel, in the M6moires de 1' Academic, xix. 287 

It appears from Eccho to the Voice from Heaven, 1652, 
p. 227, that the fanatic Arise Evans, in the time of the Com- 
monwealth, used this species of divination by the Bible. It 
appears also, from Lord Berkeley's Historical Applications, 
8vo. Lond. 1670, p. 90, that the good earl, being sick and under 
some dejection of spirit, had recourse to this then prevailing 
superstition. His words are : " I being sick and under 
some dejection of spirit, opening my Bible to see what place 
I could first light upon, which might administer comfort to 
me, casually I fixed upon the sixth of Hosea : the three first 
verses are these. I am willing to decline superstition upon 
all occasions, yet think myself obliged to make this use of 
such a providential place of Scripture : 1st. By hearty repent- 
ing me of my sins past : 2dly. By sincere reformation for the 
time to come." 

In Willis's Mount Tabor, pp. 199, 200, we read: "As I 
was to passe through the roome where my little grand childe 
was set by her grandmother to read her morning's chapter, 
the ninth of Matthew's gospell, just as I came in she was 
uttering these words in the second verse, * Jesus said to the 
sicke of the palsie, sonne, be of good comfort, thy sinnes 
are forgiven thee,' which words sorting so fitly with my case, 
whose whole left side is taken with that kind of disease, I 
stood at a stand at the uttering of them, and could not but 
conceive some joy and comfort in those blessed words, though 
by the childe's reading, as if the Lord by her had spoken 
them to myselfe, a paralytick and a sinner, as that sicke man 
was," &c. This may be called a Bible omen. 



MR. PENNANT gives an account of another sort of divina- 
tion used in Scotland, called sleina-nachd, or reading the 
speal bone, or the blade-bone of a shoulder of mutton, well 
scraped. (Mr. Shaw says picked ; no iron must touch it.) 
See Tacitus's Annals, xiv. When Lord Loudon, he says, 
was obliged to retreat before the rebels to the isle of Skie, a 
common soldier, on the very moment the battle of Culloden 
was decided, proclaimed the victory at that distance, pretend- 
ing to have discovered the event by looking through the bone. 
Tour in Scotland, 1769, p. 155. See also Pennant's Tour to 
the Hebrides, p. 282, for another instance of the use of the 
speal bone. The word speal'is evidently derived from the 
French espaule, humerus. Dray ton, in his Polyolbion, song 
v. mentions : 

" A divination strange the Dutch-made English have 
Appropriate to that place (as though some power it gave) 
By th' shoulder of a ram from off the right side par'd, 
Which usually they boile, the spade-bone being bar'd, 
Which when the wizard takes, and gazing therupon 
Things long to come foreshowes, as things done lone agone." 

He alludes to a colony of Flemings planted about Pem- 
brokeshire. Selden, in a note on this passage, tells us : 
" Under Henry the Second, one William Mangunel, a gentle- 
man of those parts, finding by his skill of prediction that his 
wife had played false with him, and conceived by his own 
nephew, formally dresses the shoulder-bone of one of his own 
rammes, and sitting at dinner (pretending it to be taken out 
of his neighbour's flocke) requests his wife (equalling him in 
these divinations) to give her judgement. She curiously ob- 
serves, and at last with great laughter casts it from her. 
The gentleman importuning her reason of so vehement an 
affection, receives answer of her, that his wife, out of whose 
flocke that ramme was taken, had by incestuous copulation 
with her husband's nephew fraughted herself with a young 
one. Lay all together and judge, gentlewomen, the sequell of 
this crosse accident. But why she could not as well divine 
of whose flocke it was, as the other secret, when I have more 
skill in osteomantie, I will tell you." He refers to Girald. 


Itin. i. cap. 11. Hanway, in his Travels into Persia, vol. i. 
p. 177, tells us, that in that country too they have a kind 
of divination by the bone of a sheep. 

In Caxton's Description of England, at the end of the 
Scholemaster of St. Alban's Chronicle, 1500, we read: " It 
semeth of these men a grete wonder that in a boon of a 
wethers ryght sholder whan the fleshe is soden awaye and not 
rosted, they knowe what have be done, is done, and shall be 
done, as it were by spyryte of prophecye and a wonderful 
crafte. They telle what is done in ferre countries, tokenes of 
peas or of warre, the state of the royame, sleynge of men, and 
spousebreche, such thynges theye declare certayne of tokenes 
and sygnes that is in suche a sholder bone." Camden, in his 
Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish, says : " They look 
through the blade-bone of a sheep, and if they see any spot 
in it darker than ordinary, foretell that somebody will be 
buried out of the house. Gough's Camden, 1789, iii. 659. 

There is a rustic species of divination by bachelors' but- 
tons, a plant so called. There was an ancient custom, says 
Grey, in his Notes upon Shakespeare, i. 108, amongst the 
country fellows, of trying whether they should succeed with 
their mistresses by carrying the batch ellour's buttons, a plant 
of this Lychnis kind, whose flowers resemble also a button in 
form, in their pockets ; and they judged of their good or bad 
success by their growing or not growing there. In Greene's 
Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 4to. Lond. 1620, batchelors* 
buttons are described as having been worn also by the young 
women, and that too under their aprons. "Thereby I saw 
the batchelors' buttons, whose virtue is to make wanton maid- 
ens weepe when they have worne it forty weekes under their 
aprons, for a favour." 1 

Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 133, says, that 
" the Druids, besides the ominous appearances of the entrails, 
had several ways of divining. They divined by augury, that 
is, from the observations they made on the voices, flying, 
eating, mirth or sadness, health or sickness of birds." 

' " Gerraanos veteres ex hinnitu etfremitu equorum cepisse auguria, nee 
ulli auspicio majorem fidem adhibitam, testatur Tacitus, lib. de Moribus 
Gerraanorum." Pet. Molinaei Vates, p. 218. 



IN Lilly's History of his Life and Times, there is a curious 
experiment of this sort made, it should seem, by the desire of 
Charles the First, to know in what quarter of the nation he 
might be most safe, after he should have effected his escape, 
and not be discovered until himself pleased. Madame Whore- 
wood was deputed to receive Lilly's judgment. He seems to 
have had high fees, for he owns he got on this occasion twenty 
pieces of gold. Dr. Johnson probably alluded to this fact in 
his Lives of the Poets. Speaking of Hudibras, he says : 
" Astrology, against which so much of this satire is directed, 
was not more the folly of the Puritans than of others. It had 
at that time a very extensive dominion. Its predictions raised 
hopes and fears in minds which ought to have rejected it 
with contempt. In hazardous undertakings care was taken 
to begin under the influence of a propitious planet ; and when 
the king was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an astrologer was 
consulted what hour would be found most favourable to an 

By the Nauticum Astrologicum, directing Merchants, Ma- 
riners, Captains of Ships, Ensurers, &c. how (by God's bless- 
ing) they may escape divers dangers which commonly hap- 
pen in the Ocean, the posthumous work of John Gadbury, 
1710, it appears that figures were often erected concerning 
the voyages of ships from London to Newcastle, &c. In 
p. 123, the predictor tells us his answer was verified ; the 
ship, though not lost, had been in great danger thereof, 
having unhappily run agroui>d at Newcastle, sprung a shroud, 
and wholly lost her keel. At p. 93, there is a figure given of 
a ship that set sail from London towards Newcastle, Aug. 27, 
11 p.m. 1669. This proved a fortunate voyage. " As, in- 
deed," saith our author, "under so auspicious a position of 
heaven it had been strange if she had missed so to have done ; 
for herein you see Jupiter in the ascendant in sextile aspect 
of the sun ; and the moon, who is lady of the horoscope, and 
governess of the hour in which she weighed anchor, is apply- 
ing ad trinum Veneris. She returned to London again very 
well laden, in three weeks' time, to the great content as well 
as advantage of the owner." 


Henry, in his History of Great Britain, iii. 575, speaking 
of astrology, tells us : " Nor did this passion for penetrating 
into futurity prevail only among the common people, but also 
among persons of the highest ranke and greatest learning. 
All our kings, and many of our earls and great barons, had 
their astrologers, who resided in their families, and were 
consulted by them in all undertakings of great importance." 1 
The great man, he observes, ibid. chap. iv. p. 403, kept these 
" to cast the horoscopes of his children, discover the success 
of his designs, and the public events that were to happen. . . 
Their predictions," he adds, "were couched in very general 
and artful terms." In another part of his history, however, 
Dr. Henry says : " Astrology, though ridiculous and delusive 
in itself, hath been the best friend of the excellent and useful 
science of astronomy." 

Zouch, in his edition of Walton's Lives, 1796, p. 131, note, 
says, mentioning Queen Mary's reign : " Judicial astrology 
was much in use long after this time. Its predictions were 
received with reverential awe ; and men even of the most en- 
lightened understandings were inclined to believe that the 
conjunctions and oppositions of the planets had no little in- 
fluence in the affairs of the world. Even the excellent Joseph 
Mede disdained not to apply himself to the study of astro- 
logy." Astrology is ridiculed in a masterly manner in Shake- 
speare's King Lear, act i. sc. 8. 

Mason, in his Anatomic of Sorcerie, 4to. Lond. 1612, p. 
91, mentions in his list of the prevailing superstitions, "erect- 
ing of a figure to tell of stolne goods." In the Dialogue of 
Dives and Pauper, printed by Pynson, A.D. 1493, among su- 
perstitious practises then in use and censured, we meet with 
the following : " Or take hede to the judicial of astronomy 
or dyvyne a mans lyf or deth by nombres and by the spere 
of Pyctagorus, or make any dyvyning therby, or by songuary 
or sompnarye, the boke of dremes, or by the boke that is 
clepid the Apostles lottis." The severe author adds : " And 

'"Of this, "he says, "we meet with a very curious example, in the ac- 
count given by Matthew Paris of the marriage of Frederick, Emperor of 
Germany, and Isabella, sister of Henry III., A.D. 1235. ' Nocte vero prima 
qua concubuit imperator cum ea, noluit earn carnaliter cognoscere, donee 
competens hora ab astrologis ei nunciaretur.' M. Paris, p. 285, ad ann. 
1235." See Henry, vol. iv. p. 577. 


alle that use any maner of wichecraft or any misbileve, that 
alle suche forsaken the feyth of holy churche and their Crist- 
endome, and bicome Goddes enmyes, and greve God full 
grevously, and falle into dampnacion withouten ende, but 
they amende theym the soner." 

Cornelius Agrippa, in his Vanity of Sciences, p. 98, exposes 
astrology as the mother of heresy, and adds : "Besides this 
same fortune-telling astrology, not only the best of moral 
philosophers explode, but also, Moses, Isaias, Job, Jeremiah, 
and all the other prophets of the ancient law ; and among the 
Catholic writers, St. Austin condemns it to be utterly expelled 
and banished out of the territories of Christianity. St. 
Hierome argues the same to be a kind of idolatry. Basil 
and Cyprian laugh at it as most contemptible. Chrysostome, 
Eusebius, and Lactantius utterly condemn it. Gregory, 
Ambrose, and Severianus inveigh against it. The Council 
of Toledo utterly abandon and prohibit it. In the synod of 
Martinus, and by Gregory the Younger, and Alexander the 
Third, it was anathematized and punished by the civil laws of 
the emperors. Among the ancient Romans it was prohibited 
by Tiberius, Vitellius, Dioclesian, Constantin, Gratian, Valen- 
tinian, and Theodosius, ejected also, and punished. By Justi- 
nian made a capital crime, as may appear in his Codex." 
He pleasantly observes of astrologers, that "undertaking to 
tell all people most obscure and hidden secrets abroad, they 
at the same know not what happens in their own houses and 
in their own chambers. Even such an astrologer as More 
laught at them in his epigram : 

' The stars, ethereal bard, to thee shine clear, 
And all our future fates thou mak'st appear. 
But that thy wife is common all men know, 
Yet what all see, there's not a star doth show. 
Saturn is blinde,or some long journey gone, 
Not able to discern an infant from a stone. 
The moon is fair, and as she's fair she's chaste, 
And wont behold thy wife so leudly embract, 
Europa Jove, Mars Venus, she Mars courts, 
With Daphne Sol, with Hirce Hermes sports. 
Thus while the stars their wanton love pursue, 
No wonder, cuckold, they'll not tell thee true.' " 

Strype, in his Annals of the Reformation, ii. 16, sub. ann. 
1570, says : "And because the welfare of the nation did so 


much depend upon the queen's marriage, it seems were em- 
ployed secretly by calculating her nativity, to enquire into 
her marriage. For which art even Secretary Cecil himself 
had some opinion. I have met among his papers with such 
a judgment made, written all with his own hand." 

Lodge, in his Incarnate Devils, 1596, p. 12, thus glances 
at the superstitious follower of the planetary houses : "And 
he is so busie in finding out the houses of the planets, that at 
last he is either faiue to house himselfe in an hospitall, or 
take up his inne in a prison." At p. 1 1 also, is the following : 
" His name is Curiositie, who not content with the studies of 
profite and the practise of commendable sciences, setteth his 
mind wholie on astrologie, negromancie, and magicke. This 
divel prefers an Ephimerides before a Bible ; and his Ptolemey 
and Hali before Ambrose, golden Chrisostome, or S. Augustine: 
promise him a familiar, and he will take a flie in a box for 
good paiment. . . He will shew you the devill in a christal, 
calculate the nativitie of his gelding, talke of nothing but gold 
and silver, elixir, calcination, augmentation, citrination, com- 
mentation ; and swearing to enrich the world in a month, he 
is not able to buy himself a new cloake in a whole year. 
Such a divell I knewe in my daies, that having sold all his 
land in England to the benefite of the coosener, went to 
Andwerpe with protestation to enrich Monsieur the king's bro- 
ther of France, le feu Roy Harie I meane ; and missing his 
purpose, died miserably in spight at Hermes in Flushing." 
Ibid. p. 95, speaking of desperation, Lodge says : " He per- 
suades the merchant not to traffique, because it is given him 
in his nativity to have losse by sea ; and not to lend, least he 
never receive again." Hall, in his Virgidemiarum, book ii. 
sat. 7, says : 

' Thou damned mock-art, and thou brainsick tale 

Of old astrologie" 

" Some doting gossip 'mongst the Chaldee wives 
Did to the credulous world the first derive ; 
And superstition nurs'd thee ever sence, 
And publisht in profounder arts pretence : 
That now, who pares his nailes, or libs his swine 
But he must first take counsell of the signe." 
In a Map of the Microcosme, by H. Browne, 1642, we 
read : " Surely all astrologers are Erra Pater's disciples, and 
the divers professors, telling their opinions in spurious senig- 


matical doubtful tearmes, like the oracle at Delphos. What 
a blind dotage and shameless impudence is in these men, who 
pretend to know more than saints and angels. Can they 
read other men's fates by those glorious characters thestarres, 
being ignorant of their owne ? Qui sibi nescius, cui prsescius ? 
Thracias the soothsayer, in the nine years drought of Egypt, 
came to Busiris the tyrant, and told him that Jupiter's wrath 
might bee expiated by sacrificing the blood of a stranger : the 
tyrant asked him whether he was a stranger : he told him he 

' Thou, quoth Busiris, shalt that stranger bee. 
Whose blood shall wet our soyle by destinie.' 

" If all were served so, we should have none that would 
relye so confidently on the falshood of their ephemerides, and 
in some manner shake off all divine providence, making them- 
selves equal to God, between whom and man the greatest dif- 
ference is taken away, if man should foreknow future events." 

Fuller, in his Good Thoughts in Bad Times, 1669, p. 37, 
has this passage : " Lord, hereafter I will admire Thee more 
and fear astrologers lesse : not affrighted with their doleful 
predictions of dearth and drought, collected from the col- 
lections of the planets. Must the earth of necessity be sad, 
because some ill-natured star is sullen ? As if the grass could 
not grow without asking it leave. Whereas thy power, which 
made herbs before the stars, can preserve them without their 
propitious, yea, against their malignant aspects." 

In the Character of a Quack Astrologer, 1673, we are told : 
" First, he gravely inquires the business, and by subtle ques- 
tions pumps out certain particulars which he treasures up in 
his memory ; next, he consults his old rusty clock, which has 
got a trick of lying as fast as its master, and amuses you for 
a quarter of an hour, with scrawling out the all-revealing 
figure, and placing the planets in their respective pues ; all 
which being dispatched, you must lay down your money on 
his book, as you do the wedding fees to the parson at the 
delivery of the ring ; for 'tis a fundamental axiome in his art, 
that, without crossing his hand with silver, no scheme can be 
radical : then he begins to tell you back your own tale in 
other language, and you take that for divination which is but 
repetition." Also, signat. B. 3: "His groundlesse guesses 
he calls resolves, and compels the stars (like knights o'th* 


post) to depose things they know no more than the man iW 
moon : as if hell were accessory to all the cheating tricks hell 
inspires him with." Also, in the last page: "He impairs 
God's universal monarchy, by making the stars sole keepers 
of the liberties of the sublunary world ; and, not content they 
should domineer over naturals, will needs promote their ty- 
ranny in things artificial too, asserting that all manufactures 
receive good or ill fortunes and qualities from some particular 
radix, and therefore elects a time for stuing of pruins, and 
chuses a pisspot by its horoscope. Nothing pusles him more 
than fatal necessity : he is loth to deny it, yet dares not jus- 
tify it, and therefore prudently banishes it his theory, but 
hugs it in his practice, yet knows not how to avoid the horns 
of that excellent dilemma propounded by a most ingenious 
modern poet : 

' If fate be not, how shall we aught foresee ? 
Or how shall we avoid it, if it be ? 
If by free-will in our own paths we move, 
How are we bounded by decrees above ? " 

Werenfels, in his Dissertation upon Superstition, p. 6, says, 
speaking of a superstitious man : " He will be more afraid of 
the constellation-fires, than the flame of his next neighbour's 
house. He will not open a vein till he has asked leave of the 
planets. He will avoid the sea whenever Mars is in the 
middle of Heaven, lest that warrior god should stir up pirates 
against him. In Taurus he will plant his trees, that this sign, 
which the astrologers are pleased to call fix'd, may fasten 
them deeper in the earth. . . He will make use of no herbs 
but such as are gathered in the planetary hour. Against any 
sort of misfortune he will arm himself with a ring, to which 
he has fixed the benevolent aspect of the stars, and the lucky 
hour that was just at the instant flying away, but which, by a 
wonderful nimbleness, he has seized and detained." 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, 
asks : " Where is the source and root of the superstition of 
vain observation, and the more superstitious ominations there- 
upon to be found, save in those arts and speculations that 
teach to observe creatures, images, figures, signes, and acci- 
dents, for constellational, and (as they call them) second 
stars ; and so to ominate and presage upon them, either as 
touching themselves or others? As, namely, to observe iayes 


for lucky or unlucky, either to travail, sail, fight, build, marry, 
plant, sow, buy, sell, or begin any businesse in." 

In Sir Aston Cokain's Poems, 8vo. Lond. 1658, is the fol- 
lowing quip for astrologers : " 70. To astrologers. 
1 Your industry to you the art hath given 
To have great knowledge in th' outside of Heaven : 
Beware lest you ahuse that art, and sin, 
And therefore never visit it within.' " 

" Astrology," says the Courtier's Calling, &c. by a person 
of honour, 1675, p. 242, "imagines to read in the constel- 
lations, as in a large book, every thing that shall come to pass 
here below ; and figuring to itself admirable rencounters from 
the aspects and conjunctions of the planets, it draws from 
thence consequences as remote from truth as the stars them- 
selves are from the earth. I confess, I have ever esteemed 
this science vain and ridiculous : for, indeed, it must either 
be true or false : if true, that which it predicts is infallible 
and inevitable, and consequently unuseful to be foreknown. 
But, if it is false, as it may easily be evinced to be, would not 
a man of sense be blamed to apply his minde to, and lose his 
time in, the study thereof? It ought to be the occupation of 
a shallow braine, that feeds itself with chimerical fancies, or 
of an imposter who makes a mystery of every thing which he 
understands not, for to deceive women and credulous people." 
In the Athenian Oracle, iii. 149, we read: "Astra regunt 
homines, sed regit astra Deus, is a maxim held by all astro- 

Sheridan, in his notes on Persius, 2d edit. 1739, p. 79, 
says : " To give some little notion of the ancients concerning 
horoscopes. The ascendant was understood by them to be 
that part of Heaven which arises in the east the moment of 
the child's birth. This containing thirty degrees was called 
the first home. In this point the astrologers observed the 
position of the celestial constellations, the planets, and the 
fixed stars, placing the planets and the signs of the zodiack 
in a figure which they divided into twelve houses, represent- 
ing the whole circumference of heaven. The first was angulus 
orientis, (by some called the horoscope,) shewing the form 
and complexion of the child then born ; and likewise the rest 
had their several significations, too tedious to be inserted here, 
because of no use in the least. The heathen astrologers, in 


casting nativities, held, that every man's genius was the com- 
panion of his horoscope, and that the horoscope was tem- 
pered by it : hence proceeded that union of minds and friend- 
ship which was observed among some. This appears from 
Plutarch in his life of Anthony, concerning the genii of 
Anthony and C. Octavius. Those who have the curiosity of 
being farther informed in these astrological traditions, let 
them consult Ptolemy, Alcabitius, Albo Hali, Guido Bonat, 

Dallaway in his Tour to Constantinople, p. 390, tells us 
that astrology is a favorite folly with the Turks. " Ulugh- 
bey," he says, " amongst very numerous treatises, is most 
esteemed. He remarks the 13th, 14th, and 15th of each 
month as the most fortunate ; the Ruz-nameh has likewise its 
three unlucky days, to which little attention is paid by the 
better sort. The sultan retains his chief astrologer, who is 
consulted by the council on state emergencies. When the 
treaty of peace was signed at Kainargi in 1774, he was di- 
rected to name the hour most propitious for that ceremony. 
The vizier's court swarms with such imposters. It was as- 
serted that they foretold the great fire at Constantinople in 
1782. There was likewise an insurrection of the Janissaries 
which they did not foretel, but their credit was saved by the 
same word bearing two interpretations of insurrection and 
fire. It may now be considered rather as a state expedient 
to consult the astrologer, that the enthusiasm of the army 
may be fed, and subordination maintained by the prognostica- 
tion of victory." 



IN Indagine's Book of Palmestry and Physiognomy, trans- 
lated by Fabian Withers, 1656, there is a great waste of words 
on this ridiculous subject. The lines in the palm of the 
hand are distinguished by formal names, such as the table 
line, or line of fortune, the line of life or of the heart, the 
middle natural line, the line of the liver or stomach, &c. &c. 


&c., the triangle, the quadrangle. The thumb, too, and 
fingers, have their "hills" given them, from the tops of 
which these manual diviners pretended that they had a pros- 
pect of futurity. The reader will smile at the name and not 
very delicate etymon of it, given in this work to the little 
finger. It is called the ear-finger, because it is commonly 
used to make clean the ears. This does no great uonour to 
the delicacy of our ancestors. 

Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 188, 
exposes the folly of palmistry, which tells us, " that the lines 
spreading at the bottom joynt of the thumb signe contentions ; 
the line above the middle of the thumbe, if it meet round- 
about, portends a hanging destiny; many lines transverse 
upon the last joynt of the fore-finger, note riches by heir- 
dome ; and right lines there are a note of a jovial nature ; 
lines in the points of the middle finger (like a gridiron) note 
a melancholy wit, and unhappy ; if the signe on the little 
finger be conspicuous, they note a good witt and eloquent, 
but the contrary, if obscure. Equal lines upon the first joynt 
of the ring-finger are marks of an happy wit." To strike 
another's palm is the habit of expression of those who plight 
their troth, buy, sell, covenant, &c. "He that would see the 
vigour of this gesture in puris naturalibus must repaire to the 
horse-cirque or sheep-pens in Smithfield, where those crafty 
olympique merchants will take you for no chapman, unlesse 
you strike them with good lucke and smite them earneste in the 
palme" See Bulwer's Chirologia, pp. 93, 105. 

Agrippa, in his Vanity of Sciences, p. 101, speaking of 
chiromancy, says that it " fancies seven mountains in the palm 
of a man's hand, according to the number of the seven pla- 
nets ; and by the lines which are there to be seen, judges 
of the complection, condition, and fortune of the person ; 
imagining the harmonious disposition of the lines to be, as it 
were, certaine cselestial characters stampt upon us by God 
and nature, and which, as Job saith, God imprinted or put in 
the hands of men, that so every one might know his works ; 
though it be plain that the divine author doth not there treat 
of vain chiromancy, but of the liberty of the will." He gives 
a catalogue of great names of such authors as have written on 
this science falsely so called, but observes that " none of them 
have been able to make any further progress than conjecture, 


and observation of experience. Now that there is no certainty 
in these conjectures and observations, is manifest from thence, 
because they are figments grounded upon the will ; and about 
which the masters thereof of equal learning and authority do 
very much differ." 

Mason, in his Anatomic of Sorcery, 1612, p. 90, speaks of 
" vaine and frivolous devices, of which sort we have an in- 
finite number also used amongst us, as namely in palmestry, 
where men's fortunes are told by looking on the palmes of 
the hande." 

Newton, in his Tryall of a Man's owne Selfe, 1692, p. 145, 
under breaches of the eighth commandment, inquires whe- 
ther the governors of the commonwealth "have suffered 
palmesters, fortune-tellers, stage-players, sawce-boxes, enter- 
luders, puppit players, loyterers, vagabonds, land-leapers, and 
such like cozening rnake-shifts, to practise their cogging tricks 
and rogish trades within the circuite of his authoritie, and to 
deceive the simple people with their vile forgerie and palterie." 
By "governors of the commonwealth" here, it should seem, 
he means justices of the peace. 

Dr. Ferrand, in his Love's Melancholy, 1640, p. 173, tells 
us that " this art of chiromancy hath been so strangely in- 
fected with superstition, deceit, cheating, and (if durst say so) 
with magic also, that the canonists, and of late years Pope 
Sixtus Quintus, have been constrained utterly to condemn it. 
So that now no man professeth publickely this cheating art, 
but theeves, rogues, and beggarly rascals; which are now 
every where knowne by the name of Bohemians, Egyptians, 
and Caramaras ; and first came into these parts of Europe 
about the year 1417, as G. Dupreau, Albertus Krantz, and 
Polydore Vergil report." 



THERE was anciently a species of divination called onycho- 
mancy, or onymancy, performed by the nails of an unpolluted 
boy. Vestiges of this are still retained. Sir Thomas Browne, 


as has been already noticed, admits that conjectures of pre- 
valent humours may be collected from the spots in our nails, 
but rejects the sundry divinations vulgarly raised upon them : 
such as that spots on the top of the nails signify things past, 
in the middle things present, and, at the bottom, events to 
come. That white specks presage our felicity, blue ones our 
misfortunes : that those in the nail of the thumb have sig- 
nifications of honour ; of the fore-finger, riches. 


BUTLER mentions this in his Hudibras. p. ii. canto iii. 
1. 569 : 

" Th' oracle of sieve and shears, > 
That turns as certain as the spheres." 

In the Athenian Oracle, ii. 309, the divination by sieve and 
shears is called " the trick of the Sieve and Scissors, the 
coskiomancy of the ancients, as old as Theocritus." Theo- 
critus' s words are 

EITTE /ecu 'Aypoiw ra\a9ia, KoaKivopavriQ, 

'A TTpav TroioAoyevffa, 7rapaij8ari, ovvtK lya> fikv 

Tiv o\og tyKEifiaf TV de fjitv Xoyov ovd&va Troiy. 

Thus translated by Creech : 

" To Agrio, too, I made the same demand, 
A cunning woman she, I cross'd her hand : 
She turn'd the sieve and sheers, and told me true, 
That I should love, but not be lov'd by you." 

'This," says Potter, in his Greek Antiquities, i. 352, "they 
called KoaKtvo/jLavreia : it was generally practised to discover 
thieves, or others suspected of any crime, in this manner : 
they tied a thread to the sieve, by which it was upheld, or 
else placed a pair of sheers, which they held up by two fingers ; 
then prayed to the gods to direct and assist them ; after that, 
they repeated the names of the persons under suspicion, and 
he, at whose name the sieve whirled round, or moved, was 
thought to have committed the fact. Another sort of divi- 
nation was commonly practised upon the same account, which 
was called 'Afryctairem." At the end of the works of 


Henry Cornelius Agrippa, I)e Occulta Philosophia, 1567, 
p. 472, is a good representation, from an iron plate, of the 
mode of performing this species of divination by sieve and 
shears. The title of this part is : " De speciebus Magise 
Cseremonialis, quam Goetiam vocant, Epitome per Georgium 
Pictorium Villinganum, Doctorem Medicum, nuperrime con- 
scripta." " De Coscinomantia, cap. xxi. Hue enim cosci- 
nomantia scribenda veuit, quse, deemone urgente, per cribrum 
divinationem suscitari docet, quis rei patratse author sit, quis 
hoc commiserit furtum, quis hoc dederit vulnus, aut quicquid 
tale fuerit. Cribrum enim inter duorum astantium medios 
digitos, per forcipem suspendunt, ac dejeratione facta per sex 
verba, nee sibi ipsis, nee aliis intellecta, quae sunt dies mies 
jeschet benedoftet, dovvina eniteaus, daemonem in hoc com- 
pellum ut reo nominato (nam omnes suspectos nominare 
oportet) confestim circum agatur, sed per obliquum instru- 
mentum e forcipe pendens, ut reum prodat: Iconem hie 
ponimus. Annis abactis plus minus triginta, ter hujus divi- 
nationis genere sum ipse usus ubi semper pro voto aleam 
cecidisse comperi. Hanc divinationem caeteris arbitrabantur 
veriorem, sicut etiam Erasmus scribit in proverbio, ' Cribro 
divinare.' " This occurs in Delrio, Disquisit. Magic, lib. iv. 
edit. fol. Lugd. 1612, p. 245: " Est Ko^tvo/uavre/a, quae 
usurpata veteribus (unde etadagium ' Cribro divinare,'} cribrum 
imponebatur forcipi, forcipem binis digitis comprehendebant 
et elevabant, et prsemissis verbis conceptis subjiciebant nomina 
eorum, de quibus suspicabantur eos furtum vel aliud occul- 
tum crimen patrasse : reum vero judicabant ilium, quo nomi- 
nato, cribrum tremebat, nutabat, movebatur, vel convertebatur, 
quasi qui digitis forcipem tenebat arbitratu suo cribrum mo- 
vere non potuerit." 

In the directions for performing divination by " coscino- 
mancie, or turning of a sieve," introduced in Holiday's Mar- 
riage of the Arts, 4to., the shears are to be fastened, and the 
side held up with the middle finger, then a mystical form of 
words said, then name those that are suspected to have been 
the thieves, and at whose name the sieve turns, he or she is 
guilty. This mode of divination is mentioned there also as 
being more general, and practised to tell who or who shall get 
such a person for their spouse or husband. Mason, in the 
Anatomic of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 91, enumerates, among the 


then prevailing superstitions, "Turning of a sieve to show who 
hath bewitched one" 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, gives a catalogue of 
many superstitious ceremonies, in the first whereof this oc- 
curs : " That if any thing be lost amongst a company of ser- 
vants, with the trick of the sive and sheers it may be found 
out againe, and who stole it." Grose tells us that, to dis- 
cover a thief by the sieve and shears, you must stick the 
points of the shears in the wood of the sieve, and let two 
persons support it, balanced upright, with their two fingers ; 
then read a certain chapter in the Bible, and afterwards ask 
St. Peter and St. Paul, if A or B is the thief, naming all the 
persons you suspect. On naming the real thief, the sieve 
will turn suddenly round about. 

Reginald Scot, in his Discovery, p. 286, tells us that 
" Popish priests, as the Chaldeans used the divination by 
sieve and sheers for the detection of theft, do practise with a 
psalter and key fastened upon the forty-ninth psalm, to dis- 
cover a thief ; and when the names of the suspected persons 
are orderly put into the pipe of the key, at the reading of 
these words of the psalm, * If thou sawest a thief thou didst 
consent unto him,' the book will wagg and fall out of the 
fingers of them that hold it, and he whose name remaineth 
in the key must be the thief." I must here observe that Scot 
has mistaken the psalm : it is the fiftieth, and not the forty- 
ninth, in which the passage which he has cited is found. 

Lodge, in his Incarnate Devils, 1596, p. 12, glancing at 
the superstitions of his age, under the prosopopoeia of cu- 
riosity, tells us, "if he lose any thing, he hath readie a sieve 
and a key." 

" At the Thames Police, on Wednesday, Eleanor Blucher, a 
tall muscular native of Prussia, and said to be distantly re- 
lated to the late Marshal Blucher, was charged with an as- 
sault on Mary White. Both live in the same court, in Rad- 
cliff, and Mrs. White, having lost several articles from the 
yard, suspected defendant. She and her neighbours, after a 
consultation, agreed to have recourse to the key and Bible to 
discover, the thief. They placed the street-door key on the 
fiftieth psalm, closed the sacred volume, and fastened it very 
tightly with the garter of a female. The Bible and key were 
then suspended to a nail; the prisoners name was then 

in. 23 


repeated three times by one of the women, while another 
recited the following words : 

1 If it turns to thee, thou art the thief, 
And we all are free.' 

The incantation being concluded, the key turned, or the 
woman thought it did, and it was unanimously agreed upon 
that the prisoner was the thief, and it was accordingly given 
out in the neighbourhood that she had stolen two pair of in- 
expressibles belonging to Mrs. White's husband. The pri- 
soner hearing of this, proceeded to Mrs. White's house, and 
severely beat her. Mr. Ballantine expressed his surprise at 
the above nonsense. Mr. F. Wegener, vestry-clerk of St. 
John's, Wapping, said he discovered his servant trying the 
faith of her sweetheart, now at sea, by turning the key in the 
Bible at the midnight hour, a few weeks ago. Mr. Ballan- 
tine said he should have the key turned on the prisoner with- 
out the Bible, and ordered her to be locked up until some 
person would come forward and become responsible for her 
future good behaviour." Observer, June 10, 1832. 

In the Athenian Oracle, i. 425, divination by a Bible and 
key is thus described : " A Bible having a key fastened in the 
middle, and being held between the two forefingers of two 
persons, will turn round after some words said : as, if one 
desires to find out a thief, a certain verse taken out of a 
psalm is to be repeated, and those who are suspected nomi- 
nated, and if they are guilty, the book and key will turn, 
else not.'* 

Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, tells us : " That a 
man may know what's a clocke only by a ring and a silver 
beaker." This seems equally probable with what we read of 
Hudibras : 

" And wisely tell what hour o' th' day 
The clocke does strike by algebra." 



IN Indagine's book of Palmistry and Physiognomy, trans- 
lated by Fabian Withers, 1656, are recorded sundry divina- 
tions, too absurd to be transcribed (I refer the modern de- 
votees of Lavater to the work itself,) on " upright brows ; 
brows hanging over ; playing with the bries ; narrow fore- 
heads ; faces plain and flat ; lean faces ; sad faces ; sharp 
noses ; ape-like noses ; thick nostrils ; slender and thin lips ; 
big mouths," &c. Some faint vestiges of these fooleries may 
still be traced in our villages, in the observations of rustic old 
women. To this head may be referred the observation some- 
where to be met with, I think in one of our dramatic pieces, 
on a rascally-looking fellow: "There's Tyburn in his face, 
without benefit of clergy." 

Agrippa, in his Vanity of Arts and Sciences, p. 100, ob- 
serves that "physiognomy taking nature for her guide, 
upon an inspection, and well observing the outward parts 
of the body, presumes to conjecture, by probable tokens, at 
the qualities of the mind and fortune of the person ; making 
one man to be Saturnal, another a Jovist, this man to be born 
under Mars, another under Sol, some under Venus, some 
under Mercury, some under Luna ; and, from the habits of 
the body, collects their horoscopes, gliding, by little and little, 
from affections to astrological causes, upon which foundations 
they erect what idle structures they themselves please : " and 
adds, concerning metoposcopie, a species of physiognomy, 
metroposcopie, to know all things from the sole observation 
of the forehead, prying even into the very beginnings, pro- 
gress, and end of a man's life, with a most acute judgement 

1 On this face or look divination I find the following passage in 3ar- 
tholinus on the Causes of Contempt of Death amongst the Heathen Danes, 
p. 683 : ' Ex facie, seu fronte, ut de praedictione ex manuum inspec- 
tione nihil dicam, contingendorum alteri casuum notitiam hauriebant. De 
qua ex partium corporis consideratione oriunda divinatione sic commen- 
tatur in secundum librum Saxonis Brynolfias Svenonius : ' Quasi non 
falleret hoc argumentum de vultu conjectandi, sic illo veteres, loco non 
uno, confidentur invenio usos : et praeter Hniamenta, atque cuticulae tinc- 
turam, aliud nescio quid spirituale in vultu notasse, quod nos etiamnum 
Svip, genium vocitanms ? ' " 


and learned experience ; making herself to be like a foster- 
child of astrology." 1 

" Physiognomy," says Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers 
Posed and Puzzel'd, 1. 2, " following from the inspection of 
the whole body, presumeth it can by probable signs attain to 
know what are the affections of body and mind, and what a 
man's fortune shall be ; so far forth as it pronounces him 
Saturnal or Jovial ; and him Martial or Solar ; another Vene- 
rial, Mercurial, or Lunar; and collecting their horoscopes 
from the habitude of the body, and from affections transcend- 
ing, as they say, by little and little, unto causes, namely, as- 
trological ; out of which they afterwards trifle as they list. 
Metoposcopy, out of a sagacious ingenie and learned expe- 
rience, boasts herself to foresent all the beginnings, the pro- 
gresses, and the ends of men, out of the sole inspection of 
the forehead ; making herself also to be the pupil of astro- 
logie. He concludes : " We need no other reason to impugn 
the error of all these arts, than this self-same, namely, that 
they are void of all reason." 



BURTON, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. 1660, p. 538, 
speaks of " cromnysmantia," a kind of divination with onions 
laid on the altar at Christmas Eve, practised by girls, to know 
when they shall be married, and how many husbands they 
shall have. This appears also to have been a German cus- 

1 The following, on the presaging of the mind, occurs in Bartholinus, 
p. 681 : " Sed rara erat ex ostensis atque prodigiis quae infrequentia acci- 
debant, divinatio : ilia coramunior quse prsesagientis animi debebatur 
sagacitati. Tullius his verbis in primo de divinatione libro contendit : 
' Inest igitur in animis praesagitio extrinsecus injecta, atque inclusa divi- 
nitus.' " He had before observed : " Neque enim illud verbura temere 
consuetude approbavisset, si ea res nulla esset omnino. Praesagibat ani- 
mus, frustra me ire, quum exirem domo. Sagire enim, sentire acute est : 
ex quo sagse anus, quia multa scire volunt : et sagaces dicti canes. Is 
igitur, qui ante sagit, quam oblata res est, dicitur preesagire, id est, futura 
ante sentire.'' 


torn. We have the following notice of it in Barnabe Googe's 
translation of Naogeorgus's Popish Kingdom e, f. 44 : 

" In these same dayes young wanton gyrles, that meete for marriage be, 
Doe search to know the names of them that shall their husbandes bee. 
Four onyons, five, or eight, they take, and make in every one 
Such names as they do fancie most, and best do think upon. 
Thus neere the chimney them they set, and that same onyon then 
That firste doth sproute, doth surely beare the name of their good man. 
Their husbande's nature eke they seeke to know, and all his guise, 
Whenas the sunne hath hid himselfe, and left the starrie skies, 
Unto some wood-stacke do they go, and while they there do stande, 
Eche one drawes out a faggot-sticke, the next that comes to hande, 
Which if it streight and even be, and have no knots at all, 
A gentle husband then they thinke shall surely to them fall. 
But if it fowle and crooked be,, and knottie here and theare, 
A crabbed churlish husband then they earnestly do feare. 
These things the wicked Papists beare," &c. 

In a Quartron of Reasons of Catholike Religion, by Tho. 
Hill, 1600, p. 86, "with the Introduction of the Protestant 
Faith," he says, " were introduced your gallegascones, your 
scabilonians, your St. Thomas onions, your ruffees, your cuf- 
fees, and a thousand such new devised Luciferian trinckets." 
In a Dialogue between Mistris Macquerella, a suburb bawd, 
Mrs. Scolopendra a noted curtezan, and Mr. Pimpinello an 
usher, 1650, p. 4, is the following passage: " Macq. Some 
convenient well scituated stall (wherein to sit and sell time, 
rue, and rosemary, apples, garlike, and Saint Thomas onyons) 
will be a fit place for me to practice pennance in." 


LUPTON, in his Tenth Book of Notable Things, 1660, p. 
300, No. 87, says : " Lay a green ivie-leaf in a dish, or other 
vessel of fair water, either for yourselfe or any other, on New- 
year's even, at night, and cover the water in the said vessel, 
and set it in a sure or safe place, until Twelfe-even nexte after 
(which will be the 5th day of January), and then take the 
said ivie-leafe out of the said water, and mark well if the said 


leafe be fair and green as it was before, for then you, or the 
party for whom you lay it into the water, will be whole and 
sound, and safe from any sicknesse all the next yeare follow- 
ing. But if you find any black spots thereon, then you, or 
the parties for whome you laid it into the water, will be sicke 
the same yeare following. And if the spots be on the upper 
part of the leafe towards the stalke, then the sicknesse or 
paine will be in the head, or in the neck, or thereabout. And 
if it be spotted nigh the midst of the leaf, then the sicknesse 
will be about the stomach or heart. And likewise judge, 
that the disease or grief will be in that part of the body, ac- 
cording as you see the black spots under the same in the 
leafe, accounting the spots in the nether or sharp end of the 
leafe to signifie the paines or diseases in the feet. And if the 
leafe be spotted all over, then it signifies that you, or the 
parties, shall die that yeare following. You may prove this 
for many or few, at one time, by putting them in water, for 
everie one a leaf of green ivie (so that every leafe be dated or 
marked to whom it doth belong) . This was credibly told me 
to be very certain." 


IN a most rare tract in my possession, dated April 23d, 
1591, entitled the Shepherd's Starre, by Thomas Bradshaw, 
We find a paraphrase upon the third of the Canticles of Theo- 
critus, dialoguewise. Amaryllis, Corydon, Tityrus. Corydon 
says : " There is a custome amongst us swaynes in Crotona, 
(an auncient towne in Italy, on that side where Sicilia bor- 
dereth), to elect by our divination lordes and ladies, with the 
leaf of the flower Telephilon, which being laide before the fier 
leapeth unto them whom it loveth, and skippeth from them 
whom it hateth. Tityrus and I, in experience of our lott, 
whose happe it should be to injoye your love, insteade of 
Telephilon we burned mistletoe and boxe for our divination, 
and unto me, Amaryllis, you fled, and chose rather to turne 
to an unworthy shepherd than to burn like an unworthy 
lover." Signat. G. 2. " Lately I asked counsell of Agrseo, 


a prophetesse, how to know Amaryllis should ever love mee : 
shee taught mee to take Telephilon, a kinde of leafe that pep- 
per beareth, so called of A^Ae^iXov, because it foresheweth 
love, and to clap the leaves in the palme of my hand. If 
they yeelded a great sound, then surely shee should love me 
greatly ; if a little sound, then little love. But either I was 
deafe, being senceles through love, or else no sound at all 
was heard, and so Agrseo the divinatrix tolde me a true rule. 
Now I preferre my garlande made in sorrowful hast, of which 
the flowers, some signifying death and some mourning, but 
none belonging to marriage, do manifest that Amaryllis hath 
no respect of meane men." He had before said " I will go 
gather a coronet, and will weave and infolde it with the 
knottes of truest love, with greene laurell, Apollo's scepter, 
which shall betoken her wisdom, and with the myrtle, faire 
Venus poesie, which shall shewe her beautie. And with 
amaranthus, Diana's herbe, whereby bloud is stenched, so 
may shee imitate the herbe, and have remorse/' 

Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 91, speaking of 
the Druids, says : " They were excessively fond of the ver- 
vaine : they used it in casting lots, and foretelling events. 
It was to be gathered at the rise of the dog-star." 

The following singular passage is in Green's Quip for an 
Upstart Courtier, 1620: "Questioning," says he, "why these 
women were so cholericke, he pointed to a bush of nettles : 
Marry, quoth he, they have severally watered this bush, and 
the virtue of them is to force a woman that has done so to 
be as peevish for a whole day, and as waspish, as if she had 
been stung in the brow with a hornet." Perhaps the origin 
of this well-known superstitious observation must be referred 
to a curious method of detecting the loss of female honour 
noticed in Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions, by Thomas 
Hill, 1650, art. 79. 

[In the north of England, children used to run round a 
cherry tree, singing, 

' Cuckoo, cherry tree, 
Come down and tell me 
How many years I have to live, 

each on shaking the tree successively, and obtaining the divi- 
nation of the length of his life by counting the number of 
cherries which fall.] 


Herrick, in his Hesperides, p. 40, has the following 
nation by a daffadill : 

When a daffadill I see, 
Hanging down her head t'wards me, 
Guesse I may what I must be : 
First, I shall decline my head ; 
Secondly, I shall be dead ; 
Lastly, safely buried." 


THIS is a vulgar error of considerable antiquity. Dr. Percy 
tells us that it obtained full credit in this part of the world 
before the year 1228, as we learn from Matthew Paris. In 
that year it seems there came an Armenian archbishop into 
England to visit the shrines and reliques preserved in our 
churches ; who being entertained at the monastery of St. 
Albans was asked several questions relating to his country, 
&c. Among the rest a monk, who sat near him, inquired 
" if he had ever seen or heard of the famous person named 
Joseph, who was so much talked of, who was present at our 
Lord's crucifixion and conversed with him, and who was still 
alive in confirmation of the Christian faith." The archbishop 
answered, that the fact was true ; and afterwards one of his 
train, who was well known to a servant of the abbot's, inter- 
preting his master's words, told them in French, that his lord 
knew the person they spoke of very well ; that he dined at 
his table but a little while before he left the east ; that he 
had been Pontius Pilate's porter, by name Cartaphilus : who, 
when they were dragging Jesus out of the door of the judge- 
ment hall, struck him with his fist on the back, saying, " Go 
faster, Jesus, go faster ; why dost thou linger ? " Upon which 
Jesus looked at him with a frown, and said, " I, indeed, am 
going ; but thou shalt tarry till I come." Soon after he was 
converted and baptized by the name of Joseph. He lives for 
ever, but at the end of every hundred years falls into an in- 
curable illness, and at length into a fit of ecstasy, out of which, 
when he recovers, he returns to the same state of youth he 
was in when Jesus suffered, being then about thirty years o 


age. He remembers all the circumstances of the death and 
resurrection of Christ, the saints that arose with him, the 
composing of the Apostle's creed, their preaching and disper- 
sion ; and is himself a very grave and holy person. This is 
the substance of Matthew Paris' s account, who was himself a 
monk of St. Albans, arid was living at the time when this 
Armenian archbishop made the above relation. Since his 
time several impostors have appeared at intervals under the 
name and character of the Wandering Jew. See Calmet's 
Dictionary of the Bible ; and the Turkish Spy, vol. ii. b. iii. 
lett. 1. 

I remember to have seen one of these impostors some years 
ago in the north of England who made a very hermit-like 
appearance, and went up and down the streets of Newcastle 
with a long train of boys at his heels, muttering, " Poor John 
alone, alone! poor John alone!" 1 I thought he pronounced 
his name in a manner singularly plaintive. 


IT seems hardly credible in this enlightened age that so 
gross an error in natural history could so long have prevailed, 
as that the barnacle, a well-known kind of shell-fish, which is 
found sticking on the bottoms of ships, should, when broken 
off, become a species of goose. Old writers, of the first 
credit in other respects, have fallen into this mistaken and 
ridiculous notion; and we find no less an authority than 
Holinshed gravely declaring that with his own eyes he saw 
the feathers of these barnacles " hang out of the shell at 
least two inches." It were unnecessary to add that so pal- 
pable an error merits no serious confutation. Steevens has 
favoured us with some curious extracts on this head. The 
first is from Hall's Virgidemiarum, lib. iv. Sat. 2 : 
" The Scottish barnacle, if I might choose, 
That of a worme doth waxe a winged goose." 

Otherwise " Poor Jew alone." But Sir William Musgrave, Bart., had 
a portrait of him inscribed " Poor Joe alone ! " This corresponds with 
his name in the above account. 


So -likewise Marston, in his Malecontent, 1604 : 

" Like your Scotch barnacle, now a block, 

Instantly a worm, and presently a great goose." 

" There are," says Gerard, in his Herbal, edit. 1597, p. 1391, 
" in the north parts of Scotland certaine trees, whereon do 
grow shellfishes, &c. &c., which falling into the water, do be- 
come fowls, whom we call barnacles; in the north of England, 
brant geese; and in Lancashire, tree geese, &c." 


PENNANT tells us in his Zoology, iii. 182, edit. 1776, that 
" on each side beyond the gills of a hadock is a large black 
spot. Superstition assigns this mark to the impression St. 
Peter left with his finger and thumb when he took the tribute 
out of the mouth of a fish of this species, which has been 
continued to the whole race of hadocks ever since that 

' But superstitious haddock, which appear 
With marks of Rome, St. Peter's finger here. 

" Haddock has spots on either side, which are said to be 
marks of St. Peter's fingers, when he catched that fish for the 
tribute." Metellus his Dialogues, &c., 8vo. Lond. 1693, 

p. 57: 

" superstitious dainty, Peter's fish, 
How com'st thou here to make so godly dish ?" 


THE same author, ibid. p. 221, informs us, that "super- 
stition hath made the doree rival to the hadock for the honour 
of having been the fish out of whose mouth St. Peter took 
the tribute-money, leaving on its sides those incontestible 
proofs of the identity of the fish, the marks of his finger and 

Is is rather difficult at this time to determine on which part 

THE ASS. 363 

to decide the dispute ; for the doree likewise asserts an origin 
of its spots of a similar nature, but of a much earlier date 
than the former. St. Christopher, 1 in wading through an 
arm of the sea, having caught a fish of this kind en passant, 
as an eternal memorial of .the fact left the impression on its 
sides to be transmitted to all posterity. 


THERE is a superstition remaining among the vulgar con- 
cerning the ass, that the marks on the shoulders of that useful 
and much-injured animal were given to it as memorials that 
our Saviour rode upon an ass. "The asse," says Sir Thomas 
Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, p. 282, "having a peculiar 
mark of a crosse made by a black list down his back, and 
another athwart or at right angles down his shoulders, com- 
mon opinion ascribes this figure unto a peculiar signation ; 
since that beast had the honour to bear our Saviour on his 

A friend of the editor, writing to him in 1819, says: 
" There is a superstition in the North Riding of Yorkshire, 
that the streak across the shoulders of the ass was in conse- 
quence of Balaam's striking it, and as a reproof to him and 
memento of his conduct." 

[" The popular belief as to the origin of the mark across the 
back of the ass is mentioned by Sir Thomas Browne, in his 
Vulgar Errors, and, from whatever cause it may have arisen, 
it is certain that the hairs taken from the part of the animal 
so marked, are held in high estimation as a cure for the 
hooping-cough. In this metropolis, at least so lately as 1842, 
an elderly lady advised a friend who had a child dangerously 
ill with that complaint, to procure three such hairs, and hang 
them round the neck of the sufferer in a muslin bag. It was 
added, that the animal from whom the hairs are taken for 
this purpose is never worth anything afterwards, and, conse- 
quently, great difficulty would be experienced in procuring 

1 His history is in his name, Xpivrcxpopoc;, being said to have carried 
our Saviour, when a child, over an arm of the sea. 


them ; and, further, that it was essential to the success of the 
charm, that the sex of the animal, from whom the hairs were 
to be procured, should be the contrary to that of the party to 
be cured by them." Athenaeum.] 


BARRINGTON, in his Observations on the Ancient Statutes, 
p. 154, note, speaking of the curfew, observes that there is a 
general vulgar error, that it is not lawful to go about with a 
dark lantern. All popular errors, he adds, have some founda- 
tion; and the regulation of the curfew may possibly have 
been the occasion of this. But ibid. p. 474, Barrington de- 
rives this notion from Guy Fawkes's dark lantern in the Gun- 
powder Plot. 


" IN natural history, I shall here gainsay that gross opinion, 
that the whelps of bears are, at first littering, without all form 
or fashion, and nothing but a little congealed blood, or lump 
of flesh, which afterwards the dam shapeth by licking, yet is 
the truth most evidently otherwise, as by the eye-witness of 
Joachimus Rheticus, Gesner, and others, it hath been proved. 
And herein, as in many other fabulous narrations of this na- 
ture (in which experience checks report) may be justly put 
that of Lucretius, 

' Quid nobis certius ipsis 

Sensibus esse potest ? qui vera ac falsa notemus ?' 

What can more certain be than sense 

Discerning truth from false pretence ?"' 

Sir Thomas Browne places this among his Vulgar Errors ; 
but Alexander Ross, in his Refutation of Dr. Browne's Vulgar 

1 A Brief Natural History, &c., with Refutations of Vulgar Errours, by 
Eugenius Philalethes, 8vo. Lond. 1669, p. 87. 


Errors, at the end of his Arcana Microcosm!, 1652, p. 115, 
affirms that "the bears send forth their young ones deformed 
and unshaped to the sight, by reason of the thick membran 
in which they are wrapt, which also is covered over with so 
mucous and flegmatick matter, which the dam contracts in 
the winter time, lying in hollow caves, without motion, that to 
the eye it looks like an unformed lump. This mucosity is 
licked away by the dam, and the membran broken ; and so 
that which before seemed to be informed, appears now in its 
right shape. This is all that the ancients meant, as appears 
by Aristotle (Animal, lib. vi. c. 31), who says that, in some 
manner, the young bear is for a while rude and without shape." 


ALEXANDER Ross, in the work just quoted, p. 141, says: 
"But Dr. Browne denies this for these reasons (book iii. 
c. 22) : because Aristotle and Oppian are silent in this singu- 
larity. 2. Pliny speaketh of its wonderful digestion. 3. 
JElian mentions not iron. 4. Leo Africanus speaks diminu- 
tively. 5. Fernelius extenuates it, and Riolanus denies it. 
6. Albertus Magnus refutes it. 7. Aldrovandus saw an os- 
trich swallow iron, which excluded it again undigested. Ana. 
Aristotle's, Oppian' s, and Julian's silence are of no force ; for 
arguments taken from a negative authority were never held of 
any validity. Many things are omitted by them which yet 
are true. It is sufficient that we have eye-witnesses to confirm 
this truth. As for Pliny, he saith plainly that it concocteth 
whatsoever it eateth. Now the doctor acknowledgeth it eats 
iron ; ergo, according to Pliny, it concocts iron. Africanus 
tells us that it devours iron. And Fernelius is so far from 
extenuating the matter, that he plainly affirms it, and shows 
that this concoction is performed by the nature of its whole 
essence. As for Riolanus, his denial without ground we re- 
gard not. Albertus Magnus speaks not of iron, but of stones 
which it swallows, and excludes again without nutriment. 
As for Aldrovandus, I deny not but he might see one ostrich 
which excluded his iron undigested ; but one swallow makes 



SIB THOMAS BROWNE tells us : " That there is but one 
phoenix in the world, which after many hundred years burns 
herself, and from the ashes thereof riseth up another, is a 
conceit not new or altogether popular, but of great antiquity ; 
not only delivered by humane authors, but frequently expressed 
by holy writers ; by Cyril, Epiphanius, and others, by Ambrose 
in his Hexameron, and Tertullian in his poem de Judicio Do- 
mini, and in his excellent tract de Resurrectione Carnis, 
all which notwithstanding we cannot presume the existence of 
this animal, nor dare we affirm there is any phoenix in nature. 
For first there wants herein the definitive confirmator and test 
of things uncertain, that is, the sense of man. For though 
many writers have much enlarged thereon, there is not any 
ocular describer, or such as presumeth to confirm it upon 
aspection ; and therefore Herodotus, that led the story unto 
the Greeks, plainly saith, he never attained the sight of any, 
but only the picture." The learned author proceeds to make 
Herodotus himself confess that the account seems to him im- 
probable ; as also Tacitus and Pliny expressing very strong 
doubts on the subject. Some, he says, refer to some other 
rare bird, the bird of paradise, &c. He finds the passage in 
the Psalms, "Vir Justus ut phoenix florebat," a mistake arising 
from the Greek word phcenix, which signifies also a palm tree. 
By the same equivoque he explains the passage in Job where 
it is mentioned. In a word, the unity, long fife, and genera- 
tion of this ideal bird are all against the existence of it. 


IN a curious little book, entitled, A short Relation of the 
River Nile, 1673, edited by the Royal Society, at p. 27, we 
read : " The unicorn is the most celebrated among beasts, as 
among birds are the phoenix, the pellican, and the bird of 
paradise ; with which the world is better acquainted by the 
fancies of preachers and poets, than with their native soyle. 
Little knowledge is of any of them ; for some of them, no- 


tiling but the received report of their being in nature. It 
deserves reflection, that the industry and indefatigable labour 
of men in the discovery of things concealed can yet give no 
account where the phoenix and bird of paradise are bred. 
Some would have Arabia the country of the phoenix, yet are 
Arabians without any knowledge of it, and leave the discovery 
to the work of time. The bird of paradise is found dead 
with her bill fixed in the ground, in an island joyning to the 
Maluccos, not far from Macaca ; whence it comes thither, un- 
known, though great diligence hath been imployed in the 
search, but without success. One of .them dead came to my 
hands. I have seen many. The tayl is worn by children for 
a penashe, the feathers fine and subtile as a very thin cloud. 
The body not fleshy, resembling that of a thrush. The many 
and long feathers (of a pale invivid colour, nearer white than 
ash colour) which cover it, make it of great beauty. Report 
says of these birds, that they alwaies fly, from their birth to 
their death, not discovered to have any feet. They live by 
flyes they catch in the ayr, where, their diet being slender, 
they take some little repose. They fly very high, and come 
falling down with their wings displayed. As to their genera- 
tion, Nature is said to have made a hole in the back of the 
male, where the female laies her eggs, hatcheth her young, 
and feeds them till they are able to fly : great trouble and 
affection of the parent ! I set down what I have heard. This 
is certainly the bird so lively drawn in our maps. The pelican 
hath better credit (called by Quevedo the self-disciplining 
bird), and hath been discovered in the land of Angola, where 
some were taken. I have seen two. Some will have a scar 
in the breast, from a wound of her own making there, to feed 
(as is reported) her young with her own bloud, an action 
which ordinarily suggests devout fancies. So much of birds." 
In a Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 93, 
we read, there is a vulgar error, " that the pelican turneth her 
beak against her brest and therewith pierceth it till the blood 
gush out, wherewith she nourisheth her young ; whereas a 
pelican hath a beak broad and flat, much like the slice of 
apothecaries and chirurgeons, wherewith they spread their 
plaisters, no way fit to pierce, as Laurentius Gubertus, coun- 
sellor and physitian to Henry the Fourth of France, in bis 
book of Popular Errors, hath observed." 




SIR THOMAS BROWNE doubts whether the story of the re- 
mora be not unreasonably amplified. But Alexander Ross, in 
his Refutation of the Doctor's Vulgar Errors, in his Arcana 
Microcosmi, cites Scaliger as saying that this is as possible 
as for the loadstone to draw iron : for neither the resting of 
the one, nor moving of the other, proceeds from an apparent 
but an occult virtue ; for as in the one there is an hid prin- 
ciple of motion, so there is in the other a secret principle of 


ALEXANDER Ross, in his Refutation of Sir Thomas Browne's 
Vulgar Errors, asserts this to be true. However, the Doctor 
writes to the contrary for the following reasons : " 1 . The 
testimonies both of ancient and modern writers, except a few, 
and the witnesses of some yet living, who have kept camelions 
a long time, and never saw them feed but on air. 2. To 
what end hath Nature given it such large lungs beyond its 
proportion ? Sure not for refrigeration ; lesse lungs would 
serve for this use, seeing their heat is weak : it must be then 
for nutrition. 3. There is so little blood in it, that we may 
easily see it doth not feed on solid meat. 4. To what end 
should it continually gape more than other animals, but that 
it stands more in need of air than they, for nutrition as well 
as generation ? 5. He that kept the camelion which I saw, 
never perceived it to void excrements backwards : an argument 
it had no solid food." 


" THAT the bever being hunted and in danger to be taken 
biteth off his stones, knowing that for them his life only is 
sought, and so often escapeth : hence some have derived his 


name, castor, a castrando seipsum ; and upon this supposition, 
the Egyptians in their hieroglyphicks, when they will signiiie 
a man that hurteth himself, they picture a bever biting off his 
own stones, though Alciat, in his Emblems, turnes it to a con- 
trary purpose, teaching us by that example to give away our 
purse to theeves, rather than our lives, and by our wealth to 
redeem our danger. But this relation touching the bever is 
undoubtedly false, as both by sense and experience and the 
testimony of Dioscorides, lib. iii. cap. 13, is manifested. 
First, because their stones are very small, and so placed in 
their bodies as are a bore's ; and therefore impossible for the 
bever himself to touch or come by them : and, secondly, they 
cleave so fast unto their back, that they cannot be taken away 
but the beast must of necessity lose his life ; and consequently 
most ridiculous is their narration who likewise affirm that 
when he is hunted, having formerly bitten off his stones, he 
standeth upright and sheweth the hunters that he hath none 
for them, and therefore his death cannot profit them, by means 
wherof they are averted and seek for another." Brief Natural 
History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 89. 


IN the Brief Natural History just quoted, p. 89, we are 
told : " That the mole hath no eyes, nor the elephant knees, 
are two well-known vulgar errors : both which, notwithstand- 
ing, by daily and manifest experience are found to be untrue." 


THE ovum anguinum, or Druid's egg, has been already no- 
ticed among the physical charms. The reputed history of its 
formation has been reserved for insertion among the Vulgar 
Errors. " Near Aberfraw, in the Isle of Anglesey," says Mr. 
Gough, in his Camden, edit. 1789, ii. 571, " are frequently 
found the Glain Naidr, or Druid glass rings (Hist, of Angle- 
sey, p. 41). Of these the vulgar opinion in Cornwall and 

in* 24 


most parts of Wales is, that they are produced through all 
Cornwall by snakes joining their heads together and hissing, 
which forms a kind of bubble like a ring about the head of 
one of them, which the rest, by continual hissing, blow on 
till it comes off at the tail, when it immediately hardens and 
resembles a glass ring. Whoever found it was to prosper in 
all his undertakings. These rings are called glain nadroedh, 
or gemmae anguinee. Glune in Irish signifies glass. In Mon- 
mouthshire they are called maen magi, and corruptly glaim 
for glain. They are small glass annulets, commonly about 
half as wide as our finger rings, but much thicker, usually of 
a green colour, though some are blue, and others curiously 
waved with blue, red, and white. Mr. Lluyd had seen two 
or three earthen rings of this kind, but glazed with blue, and 
adorned with transverse strokes or furrows on the outside. 
The smallest of them might be supposed to have been glass 
beads worn for ornaments by the Romans, because some quan- 
tities of them, with several amber beads, had been lately dis- 
covered in a stone pit near Garrord, in Berkshire, where they 
also dig up Roman coins, skeletons, and pieces of arms and 
armour. But it may be objected, that a battle being fought 
there between the Romans and Britons, as appears by the 
bones and arms, these glass beads might as probably belong 
to the latter. And, indeed, it seems very likely that these 
snake-stones, as we call them, were used as charms or amulets 
among our Druids of Britain on the same occasion as the 
snake-eggs ] among the Gaulish Druids. 

1 The following is Pliny's description of the snake-egg, a poetical 
version of part of which has been quoted in p. 148, from Mason's 
Caractacus : " Praeterea est ovorum genus in magna Galliarum fama, 
omissum Graecis. Angues innuraeri aestate convoluti, salivis faucium cor. 
porumque spumis artifici complexu gloraerantur, anguinum appellatur. 
Druidae sibilis id dicunt in sublime jactari, sagoque oportere intercipi, ne 
tellurem attingat. Profugere raptorem equo : serpentes enim insequi, 
donee arceantur amnis alicujus interventu. Experimentum ejus esse, si 
contra aquas fluitet vel auro vinctum. Atque, ut est magorum solertia 
occultandis fraudibus sagax, certa luna capiendum censent, tanquam con- 
gruere operationem earn serpentium, humani sit arbitrii. Vidi equidem 
ovum mali orbiculati modici magnitudine, crusta cartilaginis, velut 
acetabulis brachiorum polypi crefms, msigne Druidis. Ad victorias 
litium, ac regum aditus, mire laudatur : tant vanitatis, ut habentem id 
in lite in sinu equitem Romanum e Vecontiis, a Divo Claudio principe in- 
teremptum non ob aliud sciam." Edit. Harduin, lib. xxix. 12. 


"Thus," continues Mr. Lluyd, "we find it very evident 
that the opinion of the vulgar concerning the generation of 
these adder-beads, or snake-stones, is no other than a relic of 
the superstition or perhaps imposture of the Druids ; but 
whether what we call snake-stones be the very same amulets 
that the British Druids made use of, or whether this fabulous 
origin was ascribed formerly to the same thing and in after 
times applied to these glass beads, I shall not undertake to 
determine. As for Pliny's ovum anguinum, it can be no 
other than a shell (marine or fossil) of the kind we call echinus 
marinus, whereof one sort, though not the same he describes, 
is found at this day in most parts of Wales. Dr. Borlase, 
who had penetrated more deeply into the Druidical monu- 
ments in this kingdom than any writer before or since, ob- 
serves that instead of the natural anguinum, which must have 
been very rare, artificial rings of stone, glass, and sometimes 
baked clay, were substituted as of equal validity." 

The Doctor adds, from Mr. Lluyd's letter, March 10, 1701, 
at the end of Rowland's Mona Antiqua, p. 342, that " the 
Cornish retain variety of charms, and have still, towards the 
Land's End, the amulets of maen magal and glain-neider, 
which latter they call a melprev (or milprev, i. e. a thousand 
worms), and have a charm for the snake to make it, when 
they have found one asleep, and stuck a hazel wand in the 
centre of her spirse." 

The opinion of the Cornish, Dr. Borlase continues, is 
somewhat differently given us by Mr. Carew. " The country- 
people have a persuasion that the snakes here breathing upon 
a hazel wand, produce a stone ring of blue colour, in which 
there appears the yellow figure of a snake, and that beasts 
bit and envenomed, being given some water to drink wherein 
this stone has been infused, will perfectly recover of the 

These beads are not unfrequently found in barrows (see 
Stukeley's Abury, p. 44) ; or occasionally with skeletons, 
whose nation and age are not ascertained. Bishop Gibson 
engraved three : one, of earth enamelled with blue, found near 
Dol Gelhe in Merionethshire ; a second, of green glass, found 
at Aberfraw ; and a third, found near Maes y Pandy, co. Me- 



"THERE is a vulgar error," says the author of the Brief 
Natural History, p. 91, "that a salamander lives in the fire. 
Yet both Galen and Dioscorides refute this opinion ; and 
TVIathiolus, in his Commentaries upon Dioscorides, a very fa- 
mous physician, affirms of them, that by casting of many a 
salamander into the fire for tryal he found it false. The same 
experiment is likewise avouched by Joubertus." 1 


PEACHAM, in his Truth of our Times, 1638, p. 174, tells 
us : " There are many that believe and affirm the manna 
which is sold in the shoppes of our apothecaries to be of the 
same which fell from heaven, and wherewith the Israelites 
were fedde." He then proceeds to give reasons why this 
cannot be. See also Browne's Vulgar Errors, fol, edit. p. 


SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us, " that fluctus decumanus, 
or the tenth wave, is greater or more dangerous than any 
other, some no doubt will be offended if we deny ; and hereby 
we shall seem to contradict antiquity : for, answerable unto 
the literal and common acceptation, the same is averred by 
many writers, and plainly described by Ovid : 

' Qui venit hie fiuctus, fluctus supereminet omnes 
Posterior nono est, undecimoque prior.' 

Which, notwithstanding, is evidently false ; nor can it be 

1 " Should a glass-house fire be kept up, without extinction, for a longer 
term than seven years, there is no doubt but that a salamander would b^ 
generated in the cinders. This very rational idea is much more generally 
credited than wise men would readily believe." Anecdotes, &c., Ancient 
and Modern, by James Petit Andrews, p. 359. 


made out by observation either upon the shore or the ocean, 
as we have with diligence explored in both. And surely in 
vain we expect a regularity in the waves of the sea, or in the 
particular motions thereof, as we may in its general recipro- 
cations, whose causes are constant and effects therefore cor- 
respondent. Whereas its fluctuations are but motions sub- 
servient, which winds, storms, shores, shelves, and every in- 
terjacency irregulates. Of affinity hereto is that conceit of 
ovum decumanum, so called because the tenth egg is bigger 
than any other, according to the reason alledged by Festus, 
' decumana ova dicuntur, quiaovum decimum majus nascitur.' 
For the honour we bear unto the clergy, we cannot but wish 
this true ; but herein will be found no more verity than the 
other." He adds, " the conceit is numeral." 


IT is said " that swans, a little before their death, sing most 
sweetly, of which, notwithstanding, Pliny, Hist. x. 23, thus 
speaks : * Olorum morte narratur flebilis cantus, falso ut ar- 
bitror aliquot experimentis.' Swans are said to sing sweetly 
before their death, but falsely, as I take it, being led so to 
think by some experiments. 

" And Scaliger, Exercitat. 23, to the like purpose: 'De 
cygni vero cantu suavissimo quern cum mendaciorum parente 
Greecia jactare ausus es, ad Luciani Tribunal, apud quern 
aliquid novi dicas, statuo te.' Touching the sweet singing of 
the swan, which with Greece, the mother of lies, you dare to 
publish, I cite you to Lucian's Tribunal, there to set abroach 
some new stuff. And JElian, lib. x. c. 14 : 'Cantandi studio- 
sos esse jam communi sermone pervulgatum est. Ego, vero, 
cygnum nunquam audivi canere, fortasse neque alius.' That 
swans are skilful in singing is now rife in every man's mouth, 
but, for myself, I never heard them sing, and perchance no 
man else." Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes, 
p. 88. 



SIR THOMAS BROWNE informs that the generation of a 
basilisk is supposed to proceed from a cock's egg hatched 
under a toad or serpent a conceit which he observes is as 
monstrous as the brood itself. This learned writer accounts, 
or rather endeavours to account, for its killing at a distance. 
" It killeth at a distance it poisoneth by the eye, and by 
priority of vision. Now that deleterious it maybe at some 
distance, and destructive without corporal contaction, what 
uncertainty soever there be in the effect, there is no high im- 
probability in the relation. For, if plagues or pestilential 
atomes have been conveyed in the air from different regions : 
if men at a distance have infected each other : if the shadowes 
of some trees be noxious : if torpedoes deliver their opium at 
a distance, and stupifie beyond themselves : we cannot rea- 
sonably deny that there may proceed from subtiller seeds 
more agile emanations, which contemn those laws, and invade 
at distance unexpected. Thus it is not impossible what is 
affirmed of this animal : the visible rayes of their eyes carry- 
ing forth the subtilest portion of their poison, which received 
by the eye of man or beast, infecteth first the brain, and is 
from thence communicated unto the heart." He adds : " Our 
basilisk is generally described with legs, wings, a serpentine 
and winding taile, and a crist or comb somewhat like a cock. 
But the basilisk of elder times was a proper kind of serpent, 
not above three palmes long, as some account, and differenced 
from other serpents by advancing his head and some white 
marks or coronary spots upon the crown, as all authentic 
writers have delivered." 

In Andrews's Anecdotes, p. 359, is given, from "a folio 
book of some price," a receipt " how to make a basiliske." 
It is too ridiculous to merit a place even in a collection of 
vulgar errors 



THE original word rem, translated unicorn in our version 
of the book of Job, xxxix. 9, is by Jerome or Hierome, Mon- 
tanus, and Aquila rendered rhinoceros ; in the Septuagint, 
monoceros, which is nothing more than " one horn." I have 
no doubt but that the rhinoceros is the real unicorn of anti- 
quity. The fabulous animal of heraldry so called, is nothing 
more than a horse with the horn of the pristis or sword fish 
stuck in his forehead. 


IT is a vulgar error " that the mandrakes represent the 
parts and shape of a man ; yet Mathiolus, in his Commentary 
upon Dioscorides, affirms of them, " Radices porro mandra- 
gorae humanam effigiem representare, ut vulgo creditur, fabu- 
losam est : that the roots of the mandrake represent the shape 
of a man, as is commonly believed, is fabulous, calling them 
cheating knaves and quacksalvers that carry them about to 
be sold, therewith to deceive barren women." Brief Natural 
History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 92. 


SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us : "The rose of Jericho, that 
flourishes every year just about Christmas Eve, is famous in 
Christian reports. Bellonius tells us it is only a monastical 
imposture. There is a peculiarity in this plant ; though it be 
dry, yet, on imbibing moisture, it dilates its leaves and ex- 
plicates its flowers, contracted, and seemingly dried up, which 
is to be effected not only in the plant yet growing, but also in 
some measure may be effected in that which is brought exsuc- 
cous and dry unto us ; which quality being observed, the 
subtlety of contrivers did commonly play this shew upon the 
eve of our Saviour's Nativity ; when by drying the plant again. 


it closed the next day, referring unto the opening and closing 
of the womb of Mary. Suitable to this relation is the thorn 
of Glastonbury, ad perhaps the daughter thereof. Strange 
effects are naturally taken for miracles by weaker heads, and 
artificially improved to that apprehension by wiser. Certainly 
many precocious trees, and such as spring in the winter, may 
be found in England. Most trees sprout in the fall of the 
leaf, or autumn, and if not kept back by cold and outward 
causes, would leaf about the solstice. Now if it happen that 
any be so strongly constituted as to make this good against 
the power of winter, they may produce their leaves or 
blossoms at that season, and perform that in some singles 
which is observable in whole kinds : as in ivy, which blossoms 
and bears at least twice a year, and once in the winter ; as also 
in furze, which flowereth in that season." 

Walsingham has the following passage, Historia Brevis, 1574, 
p. 119. Anno 1336. " In multis locis Angliee salices in Ja- 
nuario flores protulerunt, rosis in quantitate et colore persi- 

I have no doubt but that the early blossoming of the 
Glastonbury thorn was owing to a natural cause. It is men- 
tioned by Gerard and Parkinson in their Herbals. Camden 
also notices it. Ashmole tells us that he had often heard it 
spoken of, " and by some who have seen it whilst it flourished 
at Glastonbury." He adds : " Upon St. Stephen's day, anno 
1672, Mr. Stainsby (an ingenious inquirer after things worthy 
memorial) brought me a branch of hawthorne having green 
leaves, faire buds, and full flowers, all thick and very beautifull, 
and (which is more notable) many of the hawes and berries 
upon it red and plump, some of which branch is yet preserved 
in the plant booke of my collection. This he had from a 
hawthorne tree now growing at Sir Lancelote Lake's house, 
near Edgworth, in Middlesex, concerning which, falling after 
into the company of the said knight, 7th July, 1673, he told 
me that the tree, whence this branch was plucked, grew from a 
slip taken from the Glastonbury thorn about sixty years since, 
which is now a bigg tree, and flowers every winter about 
Christmas. E. Ashmole." See the Appendix to Hearne's An- 
tiquities of Glastonbury, p. 303. 

A pleasant writer in the World, No. 10 (already quoted in 
this worlr), has the following irony on the alteration of the 


style in 1 752. The paper is dated March the 8th, 1 753. " It 
is well known that the correction of the calendar was enacted 
by Pope Gregory the Thirteenth, and that the reformed churches 
have, with a proper spirit of opposition, adhered to the old 
calculation of the Emperor Julius Caesar, who was by no means 
a Papist. Near two years ago the Popish calendar was brought 
in (I hope by persons well affected). Certain it is that the 
Glastonbury thorn has preserved its inflexibility, and observed 
its old anniversary. Many thousand spectators visited it on 
the parliamentary Christmas Day not a bud was to be seen! 
on the true Nativity it was covered with blossoms. One 
must be an infidel indeed to spurn at such authority." 

The following is from the Gent. Mag. for January, 1/53, 
xxiii. 49, dated Quainton . in Buckinghamshire, Dec. 24: 
"Above two thousand people came here this night with Ian- 
thorns and candles, to view a black thorn which grows in this 
neighbourhood, and which was remembered (this year only) 
to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, that it always 
budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went 
all off at night ; but the people finding no appearance of a bud, 
'twas agreed by all that Dec. 25th, N.S., could not be the 
right Christmas Day, and accordingly refused going to church, 
and treating their friends on that day as usual ; at length the 
affair became so serious, that the ministers of the neighbour- 
ing villages, in order to appease the people, thought it prudent 
to give notice, that the old Christmas Day should be kept holy 
as before. Glastonbury. A vast concourse of people attended 
the noted thorns on Christmas Eve, new style ; but to their 
great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, 
which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the 
Christmas Day, old style, when it bio wed as usual." 

" Millar, in his Dictionary, observes on this Glastonbury 
thorn, that the fabulous story of its budding on Christmas Day 
in the morning, flowering at noon, and decaying at night, is 
now with great reason disbelieved ; for, although it may some- 
times happen that there may be some bunches of flowers open 
on the day, yet for the most part it is later in the year before 
they appear ; but this in a great measure depends on the 
mildness of the season." 

Collinson, in his History of Somersetshire, ii. 265, speaking 
of Glastonbury, says : " South-west from the town is Wearyail 


Hill, an eminence so called (if we will believe the monkish 
writers) from St. Joseph and his companions sitting down 
here, all weary with their journey. Here St. Joseph struck 
his stick into the earth, which, although a dry hawthorn staff, 
thenceforth grew and constantly budded on Christmas Day. 
It had two trunks or bodies till the time of Queen Elizabeth, 
when a puritan exterminated one, and left the other, which 
wt.s of the size of a common man, to be viewed in wonder by 
strangers ; and the blossoms thereof wove esteemed such cu- 
riosities by people of all nations, that the Bristol merchants 
made a traffick of them, and exported them into foreign parts. 
In the great rebellion, during the time of King Charles I., 
the remaining trunk of this tree was also cut down ; but other 
trees from its branches are still growing in many gardens of 
Glastonbury and in the different nurseries of this kingdom. It 
is probable that the monks of Glastonbury procured this tree 
from Palestine, where abundance of the same sort grew, and 
flower about the same time. Where this thorn grew is said 
to have been a nunnery dedicated to St. Peter, without the 
pale of Weriel Park, belonging to the abbey. It is strange 
to say how much this tree was sought after by the credulous ; 
and though a common thorn, Queen Anne, King James, and 
many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of 
monkish superstition have ceased, gave large sums of money 
for small cuttings from the original." 

Taylor, the Water Poet, in his Wandering to see the Wonders 
of the West, 4to. 1649, p. 6, speaking of the thorn of Glaston- 
bury, tells us that, during the great rebellion, " the soldiers, 
being over zealous, did cut it downe in pure devotion ; but a 
vintner dwelling in the towne did save a great slip or branch 
of it, and placed or set it in his garden ; and he with others 
did tell me that the same doth likewise bloome on the 25th 
day of December yearly. I saw the sayd branch, and it was 
ten foote high, greene and flourishing : I did take a dead 
sprigge from it, wherewith I made two or three tobacco stop- 
pers, which I brought to London." 

[" Nay, that miraculous thorn at Glassenbury, which was 
wont to celebrate the festival of Christ's Nativity, by putting 
forth its leaves and flowers, was cut in pieces by these militia 
men, that it might no longer preach unto men the birthday of 
their Saviour." Symmons's Vindication of Charles I., 1648.] 



BARRINGTON, in his Observations on our Antient Statutes, 
p. 474, says, it is supposed to be penal to open a coal mine, or to 
kill a crow, within five miles of London ; as also to shoot with a 
wind-gun. As to the wind-gun, he takes that to arise from a 
statute of Henry VII. , prohibiting the use of a cross-bow. 

To these vulgar errors may be added the supposing that the 
king signs the death-warrant (as it is called) for the execu- 
tion of a criminal : as also that there is a statute which obliges 
the owners of asses to crop their ears, lest the length of them 
should frighten the horses which they meet on the road. 

In the Gentleman's Magazine for September 1734, iv. 489, 
we have the following from Bayle : " There is nothing strange 
in errors becoming universal, considering how little men con- 
sult their reason. What multitudes believe, one after another, 
that a man weighs more fasting than full ; that a sheepskin 
drum bursts at the beat of a wolfskin drum ; that young vipers 
destroy the old females when they come to the birth, 1 and 
strike the male dead at the imtant of their conception, with 
many other truths of equal validity !" 

To these vulgar errors, adds Barrington, ut supra, p. 475, 
may be added perhaps the notion, that a woman's marrying a 
man under the gallows will save him from the execution. This 
probably arose from a wife having brought an appeal against 
the murderer of her husband, who afterwards repenting the pro- 
secution of her lover, not only forgave the offence, but was 
willing to marry the appellee. 

In Warning for Servants, or the Case of Margaret Clark, 
lately executed for firing her Master's House in South wark, 
1680, p. 31, we read : "Since this poor maid was executed, 
there has been a false and malicious story published concern- 
ing her in the True Domestick Intelligence of Tuesday, the 30th 
of March : < Kingstone, March the 21 . There was omitted in the 
Protestant Domestick Intelligence in relating the last words and 
confession of Mary Clark (so he falsely calls her), who was 
executed for firing the house of M. De La Noy, dyer in 
Southwark : viz. that at her execution there was a fellow who 

1 Scaliger asserts the falsity of this from his own experience and ob- 


designed to marry her under the gallows (according to the 
antient laudable custome), but she, being in hopes of a re- 
prieve, seemed unwilling ; but when the rope was about her 
neck, she cryed she was willing, and then the fellow's friends 
disswaded him from marrying her ; and so she lost her hus- 
band and her life together.' There is added : ' We know of no 
such custome allowed by law, that any man's offering at a 
place of execution to marry a woman condemned shall save 
her/' 1 

Barrington, ut supra, p. 474, supposes that an exemption 
granted to surgeons from serving on juries is the foundation 
of the vulgar error, that a surgeon or butcher (from the bar- 
barity of their business) may be challenged as jurors. It is 
difficult, he adds, to account for many of the prevailing vulgar 
errors with regard to what is supposed to be law. Such are 
that the body of a debtor may be taken in execution after his 
death, which, however, was practised in Prussia before Fre- 
derick the Great abolished it by his Code. Other vulgar 
errors are, that the old statutes have prohibited the planting 
of vineyards, or the use of sawing mills, relating to which I 
cannot find any statute ; they are however established in Scot- 
land, to the very great advantage both of the proprietor and 
the country. 

An ingenious correspondent, to whom I have not only this 
obligation, suggests two additional vulgar errors. When a 
man designs to marry a woman who is in debt, if he take her 
from the hands of the priest, clothed only in her shift, it is 
supposed that he will not be liable to Tier engagements. The 
second is, that there was no land-tax before the reign of 
William the Third." 2 

1 I may likewise add to these, that any one may be put into the Crown 
Office for no cause whatsoever, or the most trifling injury. It is also a 
very prevailing error, that those who are born at sea belong to Stepney 

2 The following legend, intended to honour the Virgin Mother, is given 
in a Short Relation of the River Nile, &c., 12mo. Loud. 1672, p. 87. 
The writer says : " Eating some dates with an old man, but a credulous 
Christian, he said, ' that the letter remained upon the stone of a date 
for a remembrance that our blessed lady, the Virgin, with her divine babe 
in her arms, resting herself at the foot of a palm tree, (which inclined 
her branches and offered a cluster of dates to her Creatour,) our lady 
plucked some of the dates, and eating them, satisfied with the taste and 


There is a vulgar error that the hare is one year a male and 
the other a female. This deserves no serious consideration. 

That a wolf, if he see a man first, suddenly strikes him dumb. 
To the relators of this Scaliger wishes as many blows as at 
different times he had seen wolves without losing his voice. 
This is well answered. 

That men are sometimes transformed into wolves, and again 
from wolves into men. Of this vulgar error, which is as old 
as Pliny's time, that author exposes the falsehood. 

That there is a nation of pigmies not about two or three feet 
high, and that they solemnly set themselves in battle array to 
fight against the cranes. Strabo thought this a fiction ; and 
our age, which has fully discovered all the wonders of the 
world, as fully declares it -to be one. The race of giants too 
seems to have followed the fate of the pigmies ; and yet what 
shall we say to the accounts of Patagonia 1 

A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1771, xli. 
251, refutes the following errors : asserting "that the scorpion 
does not sting itself when surrounded by fire, and that its sting 
is not even venomous ; that the tarantula is not poisonous, 
and that music has no particular effects on persons bitten by 
it, more than on those stung by a wasp ; that the lizard is 
not friendly to man in particular, much less does it awaken 
him on the approach of a serpent ; that the remora has no 
such power as to retard the sailing of a ship by sticking itself 
to its bottom ; that the stroke of the cramp-fish is not oc- 
casioned by a muscle ; that the salamander does not live in 
fire, nor is it capable of bearing more heat than other animals ; 
that the bite of the spider is not venomous, that it is found 
in Ireland too plentifully, that he has no dislike to fixing its 
web on Irish oak, and that it has no antipathy to the toad ; 
that the porcupine does not shoot out his quills for annoying 
his enemy ; he only sheds them annually, as other feathered 
animals do ; that the jackall, commonly called the lion's pro- 
vider, has no connexion at all with the lion," &c. 

["After milking, the dairy-maid's hands must be washed 
forthwith, or the cows will be dried. To eat cheese, or any- 
thing that has been nibbled by mice, gives a sore-throat." 1 

flavour, cried out in amazement, Oh ! how sweet they are ! This exchu 
mation engraved the letter 0, the first word of her speech, upon the date, 
stone, which, being very hard, better preserved it.' " 



IN a curious book in ray collection, already frequently 
quoted, entitled Whimzies, or*a New Cast of Characters, 1631, 
p. 69, in the character of a jaylor is the following passage : 
" If any of his more happy prisoners be admitted to his clergy, 
and by helpe of a compassionate prompter hacke out his 
necke verse, hee has a cold iron in store, if he be hot ; but a 
hot iron, if hee be cold. If his pulse (I meane his purse) bee hot, 
his fist may cry fizze, but want his impression ; but if his pulse 

wound with his tongue, that may bring a man to his necke 

This verse has derived its name of neck verse from the cir- 
cumstance of the prisoner's saving his neck, that is, his life, by 
repeating it. In the British Apollo, vol. iii. fol. Lond. 1710, 
No. 72, is the following query : 

" Q. Apollo, prepare ; I'll make you to stare ; 

For I'll put you to your neck verse : 
Howe'er you harangue, you'll certainly hang, 

Except you the matter rehearse : 
And that is to tell, (and pray do it well, 

Without any banter I charge ye) 
Why the neck verse is said, and when it was made 

The benefit of the clergy ? 
" A. When Popery long since, with tenets of nonsense 

And ignorance fill'd all the land, 
And Latin alone to churchmen was known, 

And the reading a legible hand : 
This privilege then, to save learned men, 

Was granted 'em by Holy Church, 
While villains whose crimes were lesser nine times 

Were certainly left in the lurch. 
If a monk had been taken for stealing of bacon, 

For burglary, murder, or rape, 
If he could but rehearse (well prompt) his neck verse. 

He never could fail to escape. 
When the world grew more wise, and with open eyes 

Were able to see through the mist, 
Twas thought just to save a laity-knave 
As well as a rascally priest." 


Sir Walter Scott notices the neck verse as a cant term for- 
merly used by the marauders on the Border : 

" Letter nor line know I never a one, 
Wert my neck verse at Hairibee." 

Lay of the Last Minstrel, c. i. 24. 

A note says : " Hairibee, the place of executing the Border 
marauders at Carlisle. The neck verse is the beginning of the 
ffty-first Psalm, ' Miserere mei,' &c., anciently read by cri- 
minals claiming the benefit of clergy." 


IN Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, under the 
month of April, are the following lines : 

" Blesse Cisley (good mistress), that bushop doth ban, 
For burning the milke of hir cheese to the pan." 

On which is the following note in Tusser Redivivus, 1744, 
p. 53 : " When the bishop passed by (in former times) every 
one ran out to partake of his blessing, which he plentifully 
bestowed as he went along ; and those who left their milk 
upon the fire might find it burnt to the pan when they came 
back, and perhaps ban or curse the bishop as the occasion of 
it, as much or more than he had blessed them ; hence it is 
likely it grew into a custom to curse the bishop when any 
such disaster happened, for which our author would have the 
mistress bless, Anglice correct, her servant, both for her ne- 
gligence and unmannerliness." 

To an inquiry in the British Apollo, vol. i. fol. Lond. 1708, 
No. 1, Supernumerary for the month of April, "Why, when 
anything is burnt to, it is said the bishop's foot has been in it ?" 
it is answered : "We presume 'tis a proverb that took its ori- 
ginal from those unhappy times when every thing that went 
wrong was thought to have been spoiled by the bishops." 

Grose, in his Provincial Glossary, in verbo, says : " The 
bishop has set his foot in it, a saying in the North used foi 


milk that is burnt to in boiling. Formerly, in days of super- 
stition, whenever a bishop passed through a town or village, 
all the inhabitants ran out in order to receive his blessing; this 
frequently caused the milk on the fire to be left till burnt to 
the vessel, and gave origin to the above allusion." 

It has been suggested, with greater propriety, to the editor, 
that "bishops were in Tusser's time much in the habit of 
burning heretics. The allusion is to the episcopal disposition 
to burn." This is corroborated by a singular passage in 
Tyndale's Obedyence of a Chrysten Man, 4to., printed at 
Malborowe, in the lande of Hesse, byHansLuft, 1528. In 
fol. 109, the author says : "When a thynge speadeth not well 
we borrow speach and saye the byshope hath blessed it, because 
that nothyng speadeth well that they medyll wythall. If the 
podech be burned to, or the meate ouer rosted, we saye the 
byshope hath put his fote in the potte, or the byshope hath 
playd the coke, because the bishopes burn who they lust, and 
whosoever displeaseth them" This quotation, which has been 
frequently printed, was first given by Jamieson. 


THE meaning of the common expression "to dine with 
Duke Humphrey," applied to persons who, being unable either 
to procure a dinner by their own money or from the favour 
of their friends, walk about and loiter during dinner time, has, 
after many unsuccessful attempts, been at last satisfactorily 
explained. It appears that in the ancient church of St. Paul, 
in London, to which, in the earlier part of the day, many per- 
sons used to resort for exercise, to hear news, &c., one of the 
aisles was called Duke Humphrey's Walk ; not that there ever 
was in reality a cenotaph there to the duke's memory, who, 
every one knows, was buried at St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, 
but because, says Stow, ignorant people mistook the fair mo- 
nument of Sir John Beauchampe, son to Guy, and brother tc 
Thomas, Earl of Warwick, who died in 1358, and which was 
in the south side of the body of St. Paul's chtirch, for that of 


Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. 1 Abundance of passages in 
the works of our old writers tend to confirm this explana- 

Gayton, in his Art of Longevity, 4to. Lond. 1659, p. 1, 
says : 

" Wherefore we do amand Duke Humphrey's guest, 
For their provision truly is o' th' least : 
A dog doth fare much better with his bones 
Than those whose table, meat, and drink are stones." 

Speaking of the monument in St. Paul's of Owen, the epi- 
grammatist, he says : 

" He was set up with such a peaking face 
As if to the Humphfeyans h'had been saying grace." 

Thus, in Dekker's Gul's Hornbooke, 1609, in the chapter 
" How a gallant should behave himself in Powles Walkes," 
we read : " By this I imagine you have walkd your belly ful, 
and therefore being weary or (which is rather, I believe) being 
most gentlemanlike hungry, it is fit that as I brought you unto 
the duke, so (because he follows the fashion of great men in 
keeping no house, and that therefore you must go seeke your 
dinner) suffer me to take you by the hand and leade you unto 
an ordinary." Thus we find in Harvey's Letters and Sonnets, 
1592 : "To seeke his dinner in Poules with Duke Humphrey, 
to licke dishes, to be a beggar." Thus, too, in Nash's Return 
of the Knight of the Post, 1606, "In the end comming into 

1 So Sandford, Genealog. Hist. p. 317. On this mistake the following 
dialogue in Elyot's Fruits of the French, part ii. p. 165, and which seems 
to throw some light on the disputed origin of the saying in the title, was 
founded : 

41 What ancient monument is this ? 

It is, as some say, of Duke Humphrie of Gloucester, 

Who is buried here. 

They say that he hath commonly his lieftenant 

Here in'Paules, to know if there be 

Any newes from Fraunce or other strange 


'Tis true, my friend ; and also he hath 

His steward, who inviteth the bringers of 

These news to take the paines to dine with 

His grace." 
III. 25 


Ponies to behold the old duke and his guests." Thus, too, 
Hall, in his Virgidemiarum, b. iii. sat. / : 

"Tis Ruffio ; trow'st thou were he din'd to-day ? 

In sooth I saw him sit with Duke Humfray : 

Many good welcoms and much gratis cheere 

Keeps hee for everie stragling cavaliere ; 

An open house, haunted with great resort," &c. 

And, in a Wonderful, Straunge, and Miraculous Prognosti- 
cation for the year 1591, by Nash, we read : " Sundry fellows 
in their silkes shall be appointed to keepe Duke Humfrye 
company in Poules, because they know not where to get their 
dinners abroad." 1 

In another of Dekker's Tracts, in small quarto, entitled 
the Dead Tearme, or Westminster's Speech to London, 1607, 
St. Paul's steeple is introduced as describing the company 
walking in the body of the church, and, among other things, 
says : "What layinge of heads is there together and sifting of 
the brains, still and anon, as it growes towardes eleven of the 
clocke (even amongst those that wear guilt rapiers by their 
sides), where for that noone they may shift from Duke Humfrey, 
and bee furnished with a dinner at some meaner man's table !" 
And afterwards observes : " What byting of the thumbs to 
beget quarrels !" adding that, " at one time, in one and the 
same ranke, yea, foote by foote, and elbow by elbow, shall 
.you see walking the knight, the gull, the gallant, the upstart, 
the gentleman, the clowne, the captaine, the appel-squire, the 
lawyer, the usurer, the citizen, the bankerout, the scholler, the 
beggar, the doctor, the ideot, the ruffian, the cheater, the pu- 
ritan, the cut-throat, the hye men, the low men, the true man, 
and the thiefe ; of all trades and professions some, of all coun- 
tryes some. Thus whilest Devotion kneeles at her prayers, doth 
Profanation walke under her nose in contempt of religion." 

In Vox Graculi, 1623, p. 54, is the following passage under 
the month of February : "To the ninth of this month, it will 
be as good dining well in a matted chamber, as dialoguing 
with Duke Humphrey in Paule's." 

In the Burnynge of Paule's Church in London, 1561, 8vo. 
1563, the then well-known profanations of St. Paul's church 

1 [" Now let me tell you, it's better dining with a farmer upon such 
like cheer, than it is to dine with Duke Humphrey." Poor Robin 



are thus enumerated : " The south alley for usury and poperye, 
the north for simony, and the horse "faire in the middest for 
all kind of bargains, metinges, brawlinges, murthers, con- 
spiracies, and the font for ordinary paimentes of money, are 
so well knowen to all menne as the beggar knowes his dishe." 
In the very curious Roman Catholic book, entitled the Life 
of the Reverend Father Bennet, of Canfilde, 8vo. 1 623, p. 1 1, is 
the following passage: "Theyre (the Protestants') Sundayes and 
feastes, how are they neglected, when on these dayes there 
are more idle persons walking up and downe the streetes and 
in St. Paule's church (which is made a walking and talking 
place) then there is on others !" 


IN the old play styled the Vow-breaker, or the Fayre Maid 
of Clifton, by William Sampson, 1636, Miles, a miller, is in- 
troduced, saying : " Fellow Bateman, farwell, commend me to 
my old windmill at Rudington. Oh the mooter dish, the 
miller's thumbe, and the maide behinde the hopper !" In 
Chaucer, the miller is thus described : 

" Well couth he steale come and told it thrise, 
And yet he had a thombe of gold par de. 
A white coate and a blew hode weared he." &c. 

Tyrwhitt observes on this passage : " If the allusion be, as 
is most probable, to the old proverb, ' Every honest miller has 
a thumb of gold,' this passage may mean, that our miller, not- 
withanding his thefts, was an honest miller, i. e. as honest as 
his brethren." Among Ray's Proverbial Phrases relating to 
several Trades, occurs the following : " It is good to be sure. 
Toll it again, quoth the miller." Edit. 8vo. 1768, p 71 .. Ibid, 
p. 136, "An honest miller hath a golden thumb." Ibid. p. 
167, "Put a miller, a weaver, and a tailor in a bag, and shake 
them, the first that comes out will be a thief." 

I suspect " the miller's thumb" to have been the name of the 
strickle used in measuring corn, the instrument with which 
corn is made level and struck off in measuring; in Latin 
called "radius," which Ainsworth renders "a stricklace or 


stricke, which they use in measuring of corn." Perhaps this 
strickle had a rim of gold, to show it was standard ; true, and 
not fraudulent. 1 

In Randle Holme's Academy of Armory and Blazon, p. 337, 
we read : " The strickler is a thing that goes along with the 
measure, which is a straight board with a staffe fixed in the 
side, to draw over corn in measureing, that it exceed not the 
height of the measure. Which measureing is termed wood 
and wood" 2 


DR. PEGGE, in the Gent. Mag., xxiv. 67, supposes turning 
" cat in pan" a corruption of turning cate, the old word for 
cake, in pan. See also p. 212 of the same volume : " When 
the lower side is made brown in the frying-pan, the cake is 
turned the other side downwards ;" and again, ibid. vol. liii. 
p. 928. In the Workes of John Heiwood, newlie imprinted, 
1598, the following line : 

" Thus may ye see to turne the cat in the pan.' 1 

See also Gent. Mag. for 1812, Ixxxii. 228, 308, 429, 627. 

1 In Ainsworth's Dictionary, " a miller's thumb [the fish] is rendered 
capita, cephalus fluvialis" Capito is explained, ibid. " Qui magno est 
capite, unde et piscis ita dictus, [1] ajolthead, [2] also a kind of cod- 
fish, a pollard." In Cotgrave's French Dictionary, " a miller's thumb," 
the fish, is rendered " cabot, teste d'asne, musnier." 

2 Shaw, in his History of Staffordshire, vol. ii. pt. i., p. 20, speaking of 
some provincialisms of the south of Staffordshire, respecting measures, 
quantities, &c. Sec., says : " Strike is now the same thing with bushel, 
though formerly two strikes were reckoned to a bushel ; for the old custom 
having been to measure up grain in a half-bushel measure, each time of 
striking off was deemed a strike, and thus two strikes made one bushel ; 
but this is now become obsolete, bushel measures being in use ; or if a 
half-bushel be used, it is deemed a half-strike ; at present, therefore, strike 
and bushel are synonymous terms. The grosser articles are heaped, but 
grain is stricken off with the strait edge of a strip of board, called a strick- 
less ; this level measure of grain is here provinciallv termed strike and 



IN the Gent. Mag. for November, 1783, liii. 926, the in- 
quiry after the meaning of the expression " putting the miller's 
eye out," when too much liquid is put to any dry or powdery 
substance, is answered by another query : " One merit of flour, 
or any powdered substance, being dryness, is it not a reflec- 
tion on, or injury to, a miller, or vender of such substances, 
when they are debased or moistened by any heterogeneous 
mixture ?" 


IN Stow's Chronicle (edit. Howes, fol. Lond. 1631, p. 604) 
we read that in the month of September 1550, "Grig, a 
poulter of Surrey, taken among the people for a prophet, in 
curing of divers diseases by words and prayers, and saying he 
would take no money, &c., was by commandement of the 
Earle of Warwick, and other of the councell, set on a scaffold, 
in the towne of Croydon in Surrey, with a paper on his 
breast, wherein was written his deceiptfull and hypocriticall 
dealings. And after that, on the 8 of September set on the 
pillorie in Southwarke, being then our Lady faire there kept ; 
and the maior of London, with his brethren the aldermen, 
riding thorow the faire, the said Grig asked them and all the 
citizens forgivenesse. Thus much for Grig. Of the like 
counterfeit physitian have I noted in the summary of my 
Chronicles, anno 1382, to be set on horse-backe, his face to 
the horse-taile, the same taile in his hand as a bridle, a cholar 
of jordans about his necke, a whetstone on his breast, and so 
led through the city of London, with ringing of basons, and 

In Lupton's Too Good to be True, 1580, p. 80 (by way 
of dialogue between Omen and Siuqila, i. e. Nemo and Aliquis, 
concerning Mauqsun, i. e. Nusquam, but meaning England), 
is the following passage : " Merry and pleasant lyes we take 
rather for a sport than for a sin. Lying with us is so loved 
and allowed, that there are many tymes gamings and prises 
therefore purposely, to encourage one to outlye another. Omen. 


And what shall he gaine that gets the victorie in lying? 
Siuqila. He shall have a silver whetstone for his labour. Omen. 
Surely if one be worthy to have a whetstone of silver for telling 
of lyes, then one is worthy to have a whetstone of gold for 
telling of truth ; truly methinks a whip of whitleather were 
more meetefor alyar than a whetstone of silver, Siuqila. In 
my judgment he was eyther a notable lyar, or loved lying 
better than St. Paule did, that devised suehe a rewarde for 
suche an evil desert. I marvel what moved him, that the 
lewdest lyar shoulde have a silver whetstone for his labour. 
Omen. I knowe not, unlesse he thoughts he was worthy for his 
lying to goe always with a blunte knife, whereby he should not 
be able to cutte his meate : and that he shoulde have no other 
whetstone wherewyth to sharp his knife, but the same of 
sylver which he haddewonne with lying. Siuqila. What his 
fond fancie was therein I know not ; but I wishe that every 
such lyar hadde rather a sharp knife, and no meate, than to 
have meate enough with a blunt-edged knife, intill they left 
their lying." 

Perhaps our author, in another passage of his work, p. 94, 
speaking of chesse, hints at a better reason than the above for 
making a whetstone the prize in this singular contest : his 
words are, "Gentlemen, to solace their wearied mindes by 
honest pastimes, playe at chesse, the astronomer's game and 
the philosopher's game, which whettes thyr wittes, recreates 
theyr minds, and hurts no body in the meane season." The 
essence of a lie is well known to be an intention to deceive. 
The prize-fighters in this contest have no such intention 
their aim is only who can raise the loudest laugh . 

In a Ful and Round Answer to N. D., alias Robert Parsons 
the Noddie his foolish and rude Warne-word, 1604, by 
Matthew Sutcliffe, p. 310, "A List of Robert Parsons his Lies, 
Fooleries, and Abuses," we read: "And for his witnesses he 
citeth jEneas Sylvius, Dubravius, Genebrard, Surius, Claudius 
de Sanctes, and a rabble of other lying rascals, not worth a 
cockle-shell. What then doth he deserve, but a crown of foxe 
tailes, counter pointed with whetstones, for his labour?" In 
Dekker's Seven Deadlie Sinns of London, 4to. 1606, it is said : 
"The chariot then that lying is drawne in, is made al of 

In Plaine Percevall the Peace-Maker of England is the fol- 


lowing passage : " He put those lies into print unlawfully, 
which he coin'd in hugger-mugger : and others opposite to his 
humour will have their lies lie open manifestly, if it be but to 
shew that they dare put in for the whetstone, and make as lowd 
lies as Martin the forman." In Faultes Faults, and Nothing 
else but Faultes, by Barnabie Rich, 1606, p. 13, the author, 
speaking of lying and slandering, says : " Most execrable 
creatures, whose depraving tongues are more persing than the 
point of a sword, and are whetted still with scandalous and 
lying reports." 

In Vaughari's Golden Grove, also 1608, b. i. chap. 32, "Of 
Lies," is the following passage: "Papists, assure yourselves 
that for all your falsehoods and lies you shall, at the last, in 
recompence have nought ,els save the whetstone." So, in 
Walter Costelow's Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell united, 
8vo. 1655, p. 92 : "Of a like nature was one heard, praying 
in the pulpit for a reformation, in those over-active times, 
dispairingly say, ' How can we hope for it to God's glory, 
when there is not one in our universities or cathedrals but 
what are factors for that whore of Babylon T Sure he was 
never there ? he was so ignorant ; mistake me not, I mean the 
university : if otherwise, give him the whetstone, having thus 
preached for it" Among Ray's Proverbial Phrases, 8vo. 
Lond. 1768, p. 70, we have the following : " A Her. He de- 
serves the whetstone" There are two allusions to something 
of this kind in the common version of the Psalms. Ps. lii. 
2: "Thy tongue like a sharp razor, working deceitfully." 
Ps. Ixiv. 3 : "Who whet their tongue like a sword." 

In the library of Mr. Douce is preserved a Pake of Knaves, 
i. e. a pack of bad characters, certainly out of Hollar's school, 
if not engraved by his own burin, consisting of eighteen in 
number. This appears to have been the first, and most fully 
illustrates the whetstone as an emblem of lying. The last line 
of the inscription attempts to account for its having been so : 
" An edge must needs be set on every lie." 

In an extract from the Berkeley the Society 
of Antiquaries of London, Thursday, June 4th, 1801, in an 
account of a sanctuary man at Westminster, who had behaved 
himself with great treachery and falsehood, it is stated on his 
detection that (vol. ii.p. 568), "upon his own confession, the 


abbot decreed him to bee had to an open place in the sanc- 
tuary of punishment and reproofe, and made him to bee ar- 
rayed in papires painted with signes of untroth, seditione, and 
doublenesse, and was made to goe before the procession in 
that array, and afterwards soe set him in the stocks that the 
people might behold him." 

The curious tract entitled a Ful and Round Answer to N. D., 
alias Robert Parsons, already quoted, furnishes a notice of 
some other modes of punishing liars. P. 280 : " For this 
worthy place therefore thus falsely alledged, this worthlesse 
fellow is worthy to have a paper clapped to his head for a 
falxary." Ibid. p. 223: "While he continued in Bailiol 
Colledge, one Stancliffe, his fellow-burser did charge him with 
forgery, and with such favour he departed, that no man 
seemed desirous he should remaine in the colledge any longer. 
I thinke he may remember that he was rung with belles out of 
the house, which was either a signe of triumph, or else of his 
dismall departure out of the world." Ibid. p. 279: "Would 
not this fellow then have a garland of peacocke" s feathers for 
his notorious cogging, and for his presumption in falsely alledg- 
ing and belying the fathers?" Ibid. p. 250.* "I will here 
bestow on him a crowne of fox tayles, and make him king of 
al renegate traitors ; and doubt not, if he come into England, 
but to see him crowned at Tiburne, and his quarters enstalled 
at Newgate and Moorgate." Ibid. p. 355 : "And so for his 
pride I give Parsons a crowne of peacocke' s feathers, and leave 
him to be enstalled kard-foole at Tyburne." 

Mr. Punshon informed me that, among the colliers at New- 
castle there is a custom of giving a pin to a person in company, 
by way of hinting to him that he \sjibbing. If another pit- 
man outlies him, he in turn delivers the pin to him. No duels 
ensue on the occasion. 

" Take my cap" appears to have been formerly a taunt for 
a liar. In a Trip through the Town, 8vo. p. 17, we read : 
" A Yorkshire wench was indicted at the Old Bailey for fe- 
loniously stealing from her mistress a dozen of round-eared 
laced caps, of a very considerable value. The creature pleaded 
not guilty, insisting very strenuously that she had her mis- 
tress's express orders for what she had done. The prosecutrix 
being called upon by the court to answer this allegation, said : 
* Mary, thou wast always a most abominable lyar* 'Yery 


true, madam, replies the hussey, ' for whenever I told a round 
lye, you was so good as to bid me take your cap.' The 
court fell into a violent fit of laughter, and the jury acquitted 
the prisoner." 


A WRITER in the Gent. Mag. i. 515, says : "A bell was the 
common prize : a little golden bell was the reward of victory in 
1607 at the races near York; whence came the proverb for 
successe of any kind, 'To bear the bell.' In Ray's Collection 
of English Proverbs we find ' to bear away the bell,' which 
seems to be the more genuine reading," A writer, ibid. li. 25, 
inquires " If the proverb ' Bearing away the bell ' does not 
mean carrying or winning the fair lady (belle)." In Dudley 
Lord North's Forest of Varieties, p. 175, we read : 

u Jockey and his horse were by their master sent 

To put in for the bell 

Thus right, and each to other fitted well, 
They are to run, and cannot misse the bell." 

In Paradoxical Assertions and Philosophical Problems, by 
R. H., 1664, p. 4, speaking of women, the author says: 
" Whoever bears the bell away, yet they will ever carry the 


IN the second part of Dekker's Honest Whore, 1630, 1 find 
the following passage : "We'll pull that old crow my father." 
The subsequent occurs in the Workes of John Heiwood, 1598 : 
" He loveth well sheep's flesh, that wets bis bred in the wull. 
If he leave it not, we have a crow to pull." 

A jealous wife is speaking concerning certain liberties which 
her husband is always taking with her maid. In Howell's 
Proverbs, fol. London, 1659, p. 2, we read: "I have a goose 
to pluck with you : viz. I have something to complain of." 

A writer in the Gent. Mag. li. 367, inquires after the origin 
of the phrase " I found everything at sixes and sevens, as the 
old woman left her house." 


Dr. Pegge, in the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1767, xxxvii. 442, 
derives the word dab, in the phrase of " a dab at such or such 
a thing," as a vulgar corruption of the Latin adeptus; "acute 
man," in like manner, from the Latin acutus ; and the word 
spice, when meaning a jot, bit, small portion, or least mixture 
(as " there is no spice of evil in perfect goodness"), from the 
French word espece : thus Caxton, in his Mirrour of the World, 
cap. i., ' God's bounte is all pure without ony espece of 
evyll." The French espece is derived from the Latin species. 
A writer under the signature of G. S., in the same work 
for March 1775, xxv. 115, says : "Spick and span new is an 
expression, the meaning of which is obvious, though the words 
want explanation : and which, I presume, are a corruption of 
the Italian spiccata della spanna, snatched from the hand ; 
opus ablatum incude ; or, according to another expression of 
our own, fresh from the mint; in all which the same idea is 
conveyed by a different metaphor. Our language abounds 
with Italicisms." 

He adds : *' There is another expression much used by the 
vulgar, wherein the sense and words are equally obscure : An't 
please the pigs. Pigs is most assuredly a corruption of pyx, 
the vessel in which the host is kept in Roman Catholic coun- 
tries. The expression, therefore, means no more than Deo 
volente ; or, as it is translated into modern English by coach- 
men and carriers, God willing" 

So the phrase corporal oath is supposed to have been de- 
rived "not from the touching the New Testament, or the 
bodily act of kissing it, but from the ancient use of touching 
the corporate or cloth which covered the consecrated elements." 
In Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, iii. ,'380, the 
minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of his 
parish, says : " This parish, like some of the Western Isles, 
hath its characteristical expressions : the Leabharfein of Sky, 
i. e. by the book itself, meaning the Bible ; the Danish Mhoirc 
of Lewes, i. e. by the great sabbath ; and the Ider of Apple- 
cross, i. e. by St. Iderius ; are so characteristical of the natives 
of these several places, that, when talking the Gaelic language, 
they can, with few exceptions, be easily distinguished in any 
part of the globe. They are the remnants of Popish oaths, 
which, having lost their original meaning, are now used merely 
as expletives in conversation." 



[' ON Monday last Epping Forest was enlivened, according to 
ancient custom, with the celebrated stag hunt. The road from 
Whitechapel to the Bald-faced Stag, on the Forest, was covered 
with Cockney sportsmen, chiefly dressed in the costume of the 
chace, viz. scarlet frock, black jockey cap, new boots, and 
buckskin breeches. By ten o'clock the assemblage of civic 
hunters, mounted on all sorts and shapes, could not fall short 
of 1200. There were numberless Dianas also of the chace, 
from Rotherhithe, the Minories, &c., some in riding habits, 
mounted on titups, and others by the sides of their mothers, in 
gigs, tax-carts, and other vehicles appropriate to the sports of 
the field. The Saffron Waldon stag-hounds made their joyful 
appearance about half after ten, but without any of the Mel- 
lishes or Bosanquets, who were more knowing sportsmen, 
than to risque either themselves, or their horses, in so des- 
perate a burst ! The huntsman having capped their half- 
crowns, the horn blew just before twelve, as a signal for the 
old fat one-eyed stag (kept for the day) being enlarged from 
the cart. He made a bound of several yards, over the heads of 
some pedestrians, at first starting when such a clatter com- 
menced, as the days of Nimrod never knew. Some of the 
scarlet jackets were sprawling in the high road a few minutes 
after starting so that a lamentable return of maimed ! miss- 
ing ! thrown ! and thrown-out ! may naturally be supposed." 
Chelmsford Chron., 15th April, 1805.] 


THIS phenomenon is called Will or Kitty with a wisp, or Jack 
with a lantern. To these vulgar names of it may be added, 
Kit of the canstick (i. e. candlestick), for so it is called by 
Reginald Scot, p. 85. 

[And it was also termed Peg-a-lantern, as in the following 

extract : 

" I should indeed as soon expect 
That Peg-a-lantern would direct 
Me straightway home on misty night 
As wand'ring stars, quite out of sight! 


Peffff's dancing light does oft betray 
And lead her followers astray ; 
Just so 'tis with our weather-wise 
(Who fill a column full of lies)." 

Poor Robin, 1777.] 

Wisp, in the name of this phenomenon, implies a little 
twist of straw, a kind of straw torch. Thus Junius in verbo : 
" Frisiis * wispien,' etiamnum est ardentes straminis fascicules 
in altum tollere." These names have undoubtedly been de- 
rived from its appearance, as if Will, Jack, or Kit, some 
country-fellows, were going about with lighted straw torches 
in their hands." 

Wisp properly signifies a little twist of straw, for the pur- 
pose of easing the head under the pressure of some heavy 
burthen. In the vulgar dialect of Newcastle-upon-Tyne it has 
been corrupted into weeze. It means also a handful of straw- 
folded up a little, to wipe anything with. Thus, in the Vi- 
sion of Piers Plowman : 

" And wish'd it had been wiped with a wisp of firses." Pass. v. 

In the old play of the Vow-breaker, or the Fayre Maid of 
Clifton, 163G, act ii. sc. 1, we read : "Ghosts, hobgoblins, 
Will with a wisp, or Dicke a Tuesday." 

"It is called ignis fatuus, or foolish fire," says Bio unt, "be- 
cause it only fear eth fools. Hence it is, when men are led 
away with some idle fancy or conceit, we use to say an ignis 
fatuus hath done it." 

" A wandering fire, 

Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night 
Condenses, and the cold environs round, 
Kindled through agitation to a flame, 
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends 
Hovering and blazing with delusive light, 
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wand'rer from his way 
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool. 
There swallow'd up and lost from succour far." 

Milton's Par. Lost, b. ix. 1. 634. 

" How Will a' wisp misleads night -faring clowns 
O'er hills, and sinking bogs, and pathlesss downs." Gay. 

This appearance, called in Latin ignis fatuus, has long com- 
posed an article in the Catalogue of Popular Superstitions. 
Clowns, however, are not the only persons who have been 


misled by it, fof, as the subsequent account of it will evince, 
it has hitherto eluded the most diligent pursuit of our writers 
of natural history. The phenomenon is said to be chiefly seen 
in summer nights, frequenting meadows, marshes, and other 
moist places. It is often found also flying along rivers and 
hedges, as if it met there with a stream of air to direct it. 

The expression in Shakespeare's Tempest, act iv. sc. 1, 
" played the Jack with us," is explained by Johnson, " he has 
played Jack with a lantern, he has led us about like an ignis 
fatuus, by which travellers are decoyed into the mire." 

"Milton's Frier's Lantern in L' Allegro is the Jack and 
Lantern," says Warton, "which led people in the night 
into marshes and waters ;" the poet's account of the philo- 
sophy of this superstition has'been already quoted in the first 
"notto. This appearance has anciently been called elf-fire; 
thus, in the title-page of a curious old tract, called Ignis 
Fatuus, or the Elf-fire of Purgatorie, 4to. 1625, 57 pages. In 
Warwickshire, Mob-led (pronounced mob-led) signifies led 
astray by a Will o' the wisp. 

It had the title also of Gyl burnt tayle, or Gillion a burnt 
taile. So in Gay ton's Festivous Notes upon Don Quixot, 
1654, p. 268 : " An ignis fatuus, an exhalation and Gillion a 
burnt, taile, or Will with the wispe." Also, in p. 97 : " Will 
with the wispe, or Gyl burnt tayle" 

It is called also a Sylham lamp. Thus, in Gough's Camden, 
vol. ii. p. 90, Suffolk : " In the low grounds at Sylham, just 
by Wingfield, in Suffolk, are the ignes fatui, commonly called 
Sylham lamps, the terror and destruction of travellers, and 
even of the inhabitants, who are frequently misled by them." 
Reginald Scot, p. 85, before he mentions "Kit with the can- 
stick," has the word " Sylens," which, I have no doubt, is a 
corruption of the above Sylham. 

In a very rare tract in my collection, entitled a Personall 
Treaty with his Majesty and the two honourable Houses to 
be speedily holden, who knowes where ? At no place, or 
when? Can ye tell? 31 July, printed in the yeare 1648, 
4to., we read, p. 81: "No, it may be conjectured that some 
ignis fatuus, or a fire-drake, some William with a wispe, or 
some gloworme illumination, did inlighten and guide 
them," &c. 

Blount defines it to be a certain viscous substance, reflecting 


light in the dark, evaporated out of a fat earth, and flying in 
the air. It commonly haunts churchyards, privies, and fens, 
because it is begotten out of fatness ; it flies about rivers, 
hedges, &c., because in those places there is a certain flux of 
air. It follows one that follows it, because the air does so. 

One of the popular attributes of the ignis fatuus, as has been 
already noticed, is the love of mischief in leading men astray 
in dark nights, which, in Dray ton's Nymphidia, is given to the 
fairy Puck : 

" Of purpose to deceive us : 
And leading us makes us to stray 
Long winter nights out of the way, 
And when we stick in mire or clay, 
He doth with laughter leave us." 

Hentzner, in his Travels in England, A.D. 1598, tells us, 
that returning from Canterbury to Dover, " there were a 
great many Jack-w'-a-lanthorns, so that we were quite seized 
with horror and amazement." Strawberry Hill edition, 1757, 
p. 101. 

The author of the Comical Pilgrim's Pilgrimage into Ire- 
land, 1723, p. 92, says: "An ignis fatuus the silly people 
deem to be a soul broke out of purgatory ; " and, in a Won- 
derful History of all the storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, &c. 
&c., and lights that lead people out of their way in the night, 
&c., 8vc. Lond. 1/04, p. 75, we are told of these " lights usually 
seen in churchyards and moorish places," that in supersti- 
tious times " the Popish clergy perswaded the ignorant people 
they were souls come out of purgatory all in flame, to move 
the people to pray for their entire deliverance ; by which they 
gulled them of much money to say mass for them, every one 
thinking it might be the soul of his or her deceased re- 

In the account of the surprising preservation and happy 
deliverance of the three women buried thirty-seven days in 
the ruins of a stable, by a heavy fall of snow from the moun- 
tains, at the village of Bergemoletto, in Italy, 1755, by Ignazio 
Somis, physician to his Sardinian Majesty, it is stated, p. 114 
of the English translation, published in 1768, 8vo., that on 
the melting of the snow, &c., when the unhappy prisoners 
" seemed for the first time to perceive some glimpse of light, 
the appearance of it scared Anne and Margaret to the last 


degree, as they took it for a forerunner of death, and thought 
it was occasioned by the dead bodies : for it is a common 
opinion with the peasants, that those wandering wildfires 
which one frequently sees in the open country are a sure 
presage of death to the persons constantly attended by them, 
wbichever way they turn themselves, and they accordingly 
call them death-fires. 

The ignis fatuus is not, it should seem, confined to the 
land ; sailors often meet with it at sea. With them the ap- 
pearance is ominous, and if in stormy weather a single one is 
seen flitting about the masts, yards, or sails, it is thought to 
indicate certain shipwreck : but if there are two of them, the 
crew hail them with shouts of joy, and argue from them that 
a calm will very shortly ensue/ 3 

Burton, in his Melancholy (p. 1, s. ii. p. 30, edit. 1632), 
says, that " the spirits of fire, in form of fire-drakes and 
blazing stars, sit on ship masts, &c." Hence the passage in 
Shakespeare's Tempest : 

" On the top masts, 
The yards, and bowsprits, would I flame distinctly." 

We find the subsequent passage in Hakluyt's Voyages, 
1598: "I do remember that in the great and boysterous 
storme of this foule weather, in the night there came upon the 
top of our main yard and main mast a certaine little light, 
much like unto the light of a little candle, which the Spaniards 
call the cuerpo santo. 1 This light continued aboord our ship 
about three houres, flying from maste to maste, and from top 

1 To an inquiry after the occasion of " a vapour which by mariners is 
called a corpo zanto, usually accompanying a storm, " in the British 
Apollo, vol. Hi. (fol. Lond. 1710), No. 94, there is the following answer; 
" A. Whenever this meteor is seen, it is an argument that the tempest 
which it accompanied was caused by a sulphureous spirit, rarifying and 
violently moving the clouds. For the cause of the fire is a sulphureous 
and bituminous matter, driven downwards by the impetuous motion of 
the air, and kindled by much agitation. Sometimes there are several of 
these seen in the same tempest, wandering about in various motions, as 
other ignes fatui do, though sometimes they appear to rest upon the sails 
or masts of the ship ; but for the most part they leap upwards and down- 
wards without any intermission, making a flame like the faint burning of 
a candle. If five of them are seen near together, they are called by the 
Portuguese cora de nostra senhora, and are looked upon as a sure sign 
that the storm is almost over." 


to top ; and sometimes it would be in two or three places at 

The following is much to our purpose : " Experimento sane 
didicerunt nautse quod in magnis tempestatibus conspiciantur 
saepius flammulse quaedam velis navium insidentes, aut hue 
illuc tremulse volitnutes : has si geminae appareant, sedatum 
Neptuuum portendunt ; sin aliter, certa et imminentia nau- 
fragia prseuunciant. " From a curious, though mutilated 
MS. written by the learned John Gregory, called, in Wood's 
Athense, " Observations in loca quaedam excerpta ex Johannis 
Malaise," &c., in the possession of the Rev. Mr. Wrighte, 

In Erasmus's Dialogue, entitled Naufragium, the following 
account of a marine ignis fatuus occurs : " Nox erat sublus- 
tris et in summo malo stabat quidam e nautis in Galea, cir- 
cumspectans, si quam terram viderat : huic coepit adsistere 
sphaera qusedam ignea : id nautis tristissimum ostentum est, 
si quando solitarius ignis est ; felix, cum gemini. Hoc ves- 
tustas credidit Castorem et Pollucem. Mox globus igneus 
delapsus per funes devolvit sese usque ad nauclerum : ubi 
paullisper commoratus, volvit se per margines totius navis : 
inde per medios foros dilapsus evanuit. Fori sunt tabulata 
navis, ac veluti tectum, sub meridiem ccepit magis ac magis 
incrudescere tempestas." 

In the Scottish Encyclopaedia, v. Lights, we read : " Dr. 
Shaw tells us that in thick hazy weather he has observed 
those luminous appearances which at sea skip about the masts 
and yards of ships, and which the sailors call corpusanse, 1 
which is a corruption of the Spanish cuerpo santo." 

In the same work, under Meteor, we are told : " Pliny, in 
his second book of Natural History, calls these appearances 
stars ; and tells us that they settled not only upon the masts 
and other parts of ships, but also upon men's heads. Two 
of these lights forebode good weather and a prosperous voy- 
age ; and drive away the single one, which wears a threaten- 
ing aspect. This the sailors call Helen, but the two they call 

1 A friend of the editor, towards the latter end of October 1813, coming 
from Guernsey to Southampton in the packet, saw one of these appearances 
on the spindle of the vane at the mast-head, in a gale of wind, near the 
Needles. The captain of the vessel, in the English sailor's style, upon 
his inquiring concerning it, called it a complaisance. 


Castor and Pollux, and invoke them as gods. 1 These lights 
do sometimes about the evening rest on men's heads, and are 
a great and good omen." 2 

" These appearances are called by the French and Spaniards 
inhabiting the coasts of the Mediterranean, St. Helme's or St. 
Telme's fires; by the Italians the fires of St. Peter and St. 
Nicholas, and are frequently taken notice of by the writers of 
voyages." 3 

1 Tn Thomas Heyrick's Submarine Voyage, 4to, Camb. 1691, p. 2, we 

" For lo ! a suddain storm did rend the air ; 

The sullen Heaven, curling in frowns its brow, 
Did dire presaging omens show ; 
Ill-boding Helena atone was there." 

2 Mr. Wrighte's MS. has the following also : " Hoc certum satis, cum 
ejusmodi faculae ardentes olim insidissent super capita Castoris et Pollucis 
ad expeditionem Argonauticam, exinde dioscuri in Deos indigites relati et 
tanquam, solida et sola maris nurnina ab omnibus navigantibus summa in 
veneratione habiti, cumque procellis suborientibus tempestas immineat, 
astraque ilia ab olim ominosa antennis incubent, Castorem et Pollucem in 
auxillium adesse nemo dubitat." Hence Gregory adds, that through the 
superstition of ancient sailors the signs of Castor and Pollux were placed 
on the prows of ships. 

So, in a Wonderful History of all the Storms, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, 
&c.,8vo., Lond. 1704, p. 82, there occurs the following account "of fiery 
impressions that appear mostly at sea, called by mariners Castor and Pollux; 
when thin clammy vapours, arising from the salt water and ugly slime, 
hover over the sea. they, by the motion in the winds and hot blasts, are 
often fired ; these impressions will oftentimes cleave to the masts and ropes 
of ships, by reason of their clamminess and glutinous substance, and the 
mariners by experience find that when but one flame appears it is the 
forerunner of a storm ; but when two are seen near together, they betoken 
faire weather and good lucke in a voyage. The naturall cause why these 
may foretell fair or foul weather is, that one flame alone may forewarn a 
tempest, forasmuch as the matter being joyn'd and not dissolved, so it is 
like that the matter of the tempest, which never wanteth, as wind and 
clouds, is still together, and not dissipate, so it is likely a storm is en- 
gendering ; but two flames appearing together denote that the exhalation 
is divided, which is very thick, and so the thick matter of the tempest is 
dissolved and scattered abroad, by the same cause that the flame is di- 
vided ; therefore no violent storm can ensue, but rather a calm is promised." 

3 In Cotgrave we read : " Feu d'Helene, Feu S. Herine, St. Helen's or 
St. Herme's Fire ; a meteor that often appears at sea : looke furole." 
" Furole, a little blaze of fire appearing by night on the tops of souldiers' 
lances, or at sea on the sayle yards, where it whirles, and leapes in a mo- 

in. 26 


Thus in Greene in Conceipt, &c. 4to. Lond. 1598, p. 27 : 
" As when a wave-bruis'd barke, long tost by the windes in a tempest, 
Straies on a forraine coast, in danger still to be swallow'd, 
After a world of feares, with a winter of horrible objects 
The shipman's solace, faier Ledas twinnes at an instant 
Signesofa calme are seen, and scene, are shrilly saluted." 

A species of this phenomenon, known in Buckinghamshire 
by the name of "the Wat," 1 is said also to haunt prisons. 
The night before the arrival of the judges at the assizes it 
makes its appearance like a little flame, and by every felon to 
whom it becomes visible is accounted a most fatal omen. The 
moment the unhappy wretch sees this, he thinks that all is 
over with him, and resigns himself to the gallows. 
[" Some call him Robin Good-fellow, 

Hob goblin, or mad Crisp, 
And some againe doe tearme him oft 

by name of Will the Wispe : ; 

But call him by what name you list, 

I have studied on my pillow, 
I think the best name he deserves 
is Robin the Good-fellow." 

The Merry Puck, n.d.] 

ment from one place to another. Some mariners call it St. Herme's Fire ; 
if it come double, 'tis held a signe of good lucke, if single otherwise." 

Among the apothegmes at the end of Herbert's Remains, 12rao. Lond. 
1652, p. 194, is the following : " After a great fight there came to the camp 
of Gonsalvo, the great captain, a gentleman, proudly horsed and armed. 
Diego de Mendoza asked the great captain, Who's this ? who answered, 
' Tis St. Ermyn, that never appears but after a storm." 

1 " Audivi saepius a Buckingamiensibus meis tale quid (tyaivoftivH) nebu- 
lonibus desperatis accidens ad regium carcerem Ailesburiensem,ubi nocte 
praeeunte judicis adventum, prodigiosa quaedam flammula apparere solet in 
carcere, illis omnibus fatalis a quibus visitur. Unusquisque enim ex in- 
carceratis cui contigit hanc flammulam (quern vocant the Waf] conspexisse, 
actum est de illo ; nihilque in posterum expectat praeter patibulum. Non 
adeo sum infeliciter peritus ut haec ex propria experientia affirmare ausim ; 
at ex oppidanis ipsis diligenter didici ; iisque hominibus fide dignis." Gre- 
gory's MS. in Mr. Wrighte's possession. In this curious work, the ignis 
fatuus is thus explained : " Hujusmodi flammulas philosophi ad meteora 
traducunt, causantes exhalationem adinfimam aeris regionem elevatam, ibi- 
que per antiperistasin accensam (garatum leges) quae dum ascendere nititur, 
frigore mediae regionis depellitur, et apparet quasi saltans loca decliviora 
quaerens, unde et ad aquas sequentem ducit, saepe etiam in magnis tempesta- 
tibus aut velis aifigitur aut praecedit vel sequitur. Meteorol. fol. 50. Stel- 
lulas istas sic a philosophis fabrefactas, ne non sibi aliisve quid altum sapere 
videantur, vocaverunt ignes fatuos" 


Some have thought the ignis fatuus to arise from a viscous 
exhalation, which being kindled in the air, reflects a sort of 
thin flame in the dark without any sensible heat. I know 
not whether the learned reader will think himself much edified 
with the following account of the ignis fatuus in a curious old 
book, entitled a Helpe to Discourse, 12mo. Lond. 1633, in 
question and answer : " Q. What fire is that that sometimes 
followes and sometimes flyeth away ? A. An ignis fatuus, or 
a walking fire (one whereof keepes his station this time near 
Windsor), the pace of which is caused principally by the 
motion of the ayre enforcing it." 

Should this be considered as not very satisfactory, what 
will be thought of the subsequent explanation from a very 
rare book, entitled Curiosities, or the Cabinet of Nature, 
1637, p. 79, which, too, is in question and answer? " Q. 
What is the cause of the ignis fatuus, that either goes before 
or follows a man in the night ? A. It is caused of a great 
and well-compacted exhalation, and, being kindled, it stands 
in the aire, and by the man's motion the ayre is moved, and 
the fire by the ayre, and so goes before or follows a man ; and 
these kind of fires or meteors are bred near execution places, 
or churchyards, or great kitchens, where viscous and slimy 
matters and vapours abound in great quantity." 

Willsford, in his Nature's Secret's, 1658, p. 56, says: 
" The bwest meteor in the air is the burning candle, or, as 
some call it, ignis fatuus. This is a hot and moist vapour 
which, striving to ascend, is repulsed by the- cold, and fiered 
by antiperistasis, moves close by the earth, carried along with 
the vapours that feed it, keeping in low or moist places. The 
light is of an exceeding pale colour, very unwholesome to 
meet withal, by reason of the evil vapours it attracts unto it, 
which nourishes the pallid flame, and will often ascend (as 
those exhalations do), and as suddainly fall again, from whence 
the name is derived." He adds, p. 120 : "These pallid fires 
appear but at some times of the year, and that in certain 
places ; and in those parts where they are most usual, they 
are not commonly seen, but as forerunners of sultry heat in 
sonvmer, and wet in the winter : they are usually observed to 
appear in open weather." 

The following elegant simile, founded on this popular super- 
stition of the ignis fatuus conducting its followers into dan- 


gerous situations, is taken from the Times Anatomized in 
severall Characters, by T. F., 1647, Character 24th, "A Novice 
Preacher;" of whom the author says: "No wonder that in- 
stead of shining lights they prove foolish fires, to lead their 
focks into a maze of errours, in which they wander, not having 
the clue of learning or judgment to guide them out." 

Sir Isaac Newton calls it a vapour shining without heat, and 
says that there is the same difference between this vapour and 
flame, as between rotten wood shining without heat, and 
burning coals of fire. Some have supposed, among whom 
were Mr. Francis Willoughby and Mr. Ray, that the ignis 
fatuus is nothing more than some nocturnal flying insect. In 
favour of this hypothesis, we are informed that the ignes fatui 
give proof, as it were of sense by avoiding objects ; that they 
often go in a direction contrary to the wind ; that they often 
seem extinct, and then shine again ; that their passing along 
a few feet above the ground or surface of the water agrees 
with the motion of some insect in quest of prey, as does also 
their settling on a sudden, as well as their rising again imme- 
diately. Some, indeed, have affirmed that ignes fatui are 
never seen but in salt marshes, or other boggy places. On 
the other hand, it is proved that they have been seen flying 
over fields, heaths, and other dry places. 

The appearance commonly called a falling star, or more 
properly "a fallen star," has, by a late writer been referred 
to the half-digested food of the winter gull, or some other bird 
of that kind. 

Dr. Charlton's description of this in his Paradoxes has, 
perhaps, the quaintest thought on it that can be found in any 
language: "It is," says he, "the excrement blown from the 
nostrils of some rheumatic planet falling upon plains and 
sheep pastures, of an obscure red or brown tawny ; in con- 
sistence like a jelly, and so trembling if touched," &c. 

Widely different are the sentiments of Pennant, in his Zoo- 
logy, ii. 538 ; on this subject, speaking of the winter gull, 
he says : " That it frequents, during winter, the moist meadows 
in the inland parts of England, remote from the sea. The 
gelatinous substance known by the name of star-shot, or star- 
jelly, owes its origin to this bird, or some of the kind ; being 
nothing but the half-digested remains of earthworms, on 
which these birds feed, and often discharge from their sto- 


machs." He refers to Morton's Natural History of Northamp- 

In a very rare book, entitled Peripateticall Institutions in 
the way of that eminent person and excellent philosopher Sir 
Kenelm Digby, &c., by Thomas White, 1656, at p. 148, 
speaking of the matter of falling starres, the author says : 
" Amongst ourselves, when any such matter is found in the 
fields, the very countreymen cry it fell from heav'n and the 
starres, and, as I remember, call it the spittle of the starres" 
He tells us, ibid. : "An ignis fatuus has been found fallen down 
in a slippery viscous substance full of white spots." He 
defines " ignes fatui (or Wills o' the wisp) to be a certain 
viscous substance, reflecting light in the dark, evaporated out 
of a fat earth and flying in the aire. They commonly haunt 
churchyards, privies, and fens, because they are begotten out 
of fatnesse. They follow one that flies them, and fly one that 
follows them; because the aire does so. They stay upon 
military ensigns and spears, because such are apt to stop, and 
tenacious of them. In the summer, and hot regions, they are 
more frequent, because the good concoction produces fatnesse." 

In the Statistical Account of Scotland, xix. 351, parish of 
Bendothey, Perthshire, we read : " The substance called shot 
stars is nothing else than frosted potatoes. A night of hard 
frost in the end of autumn, in which those meteors called 
falling stars are seen, reduces the potato to the consistence of 
a jelly, or soft pulp, having no resemblance to a potato, ex- 
cept when parts of the skin of the potato adhere below un- 
dissolyed. This pulp remains soft and fluid, when all things 
else in nature are consolidated by frost ; for which reason it 
is greedily taken up by crows and other fowls, when no other 
sustenance is to be had, so that it is often found by man in 
the actual circumstance of having fallen from above, having 
its parts scattered and dispersed by the fall, according to the 
law of falling bodies. This has given rise to the name and 
vulgar opinion concerning it." 

Merian has given us an account of the famous Indian 
lanthorn fly, published among her Insects at Surinam. " It 
has a hood or bladder on its head, which gives a light like a 
lanthorn in the night, but by daylight is clear and transparent, 
curiously adorned with stripes of red or green colour. Writing 
of tolerable large character may be read by the light of it 


at night. It is said that the creature can either dilate or con- 
tract the hood or bladder over its head at pleasure, and that 
when taken it hides all its light, which only when at liberty 
it affords plentifully." 

We gather from Boreman's second volume of his Descrip- 
tion of a great variety of Animals, Vegetables, &c. &c., that 
a respectable person in Hertfordshire, presuming upon the 
knowledge of the grounds about his house, was tempted one 
dark night to follow one of these lights, which he saw flying 
over a piece of fallow ground. It led him over a ploughed 
field, flying and twisting about from place to place sometimes 
it would suddenly disappear, and as suddenly appear again. 
It once made directly to a hedge when it came near it mounted 
over, and he lost sight of it after a full hour's chase. On his 
return home he saw it again, but was already too much fatigued 
to think of renewing the pursuit. 

At Astley, seven miles from Worcester, three gentlemen saw 
one of these appearances in a garden, about nine o'clock in a 
dark night. At first they imagined it to be some country 
fellow with a lantern, till approaching within about six yards, 
it suddenly disappeared. It became visible again in a dry 
field, thirty or forty yards oif. It disappeared as suddenly a 
second time, and was seen again a hundred yards off. Whether 
it passed over the hedge, or went through it, could not be ob- 
served, for it disappeared as it passed from field to field. At 
another time, when one approached within ten or twelve yards, 
it seemed to pack off as in a fright. 

Hutchinson, in his History of Cumberland, i. 552, speak- 
ing, in the parish of Whitbeck, of a lake on the estate of R. 
Gibson, at Barfield, he observes : " Here and in the adjoining 
morasses is much of that inflammable air which forms the 
lucid vapour vulgarly called Will with the wisp, frequently 
seen in the summer evenings." 

In the Rusticse Nundinse, in Woodward's Poems, 8vo. Oxf. 
1730, p. 139, we read: 

" Saepe autem, dum tecta petunt, vestigia fallit 
Materia pingui exoriens erraticus ignis ; 
(Quern densant tenebrae, circumdant frigora, donee 
Sfepe agitando rapit spatiosam in fomite flammam). 
Ille per aerios fallaci lumine campos 
Cursitat, erroresque vagos seducit in altum 
Nocte silente lacum, alit sparsas per prata paludes." 


Another account of the ignis fattms occurs in Fawkes's 
Poems, p. 174, by the Rev. R. Oakeley, M.A., Fellow of 
Jesus College, Cambridge : 

" Aspice ! cum rebus nox abstulit atra colorem, 
Fusus ad irriguas ripas micat igneus humor, 
Habilitate vigens et eundo flumina verrit 
Summa levis, liquidisque sororibus oscula libat. 

Jam varies meditans excursus ocyus Euro 
Ardet abire fuga per inane volatile lumen. 
Stare loco nescit, saliensque per omnia puncto, 
Temporis itque redditque vagans sine corpore vita. 

Hinc saepe obscaenos iterat dum noctua cantus, 
Nigrantes inter tenebras prope limina divum 
Tristibus insultat lux importuna sepulchris. 
^Egros hue gressus si forte advertat anus qua? 
* Igneolos cernit lemures, simulachraque mille 
Horret inops animi, stolidi figmenta timoris. 
Jamque adeo late fabellam spargit anilem 
Fama volans, trepidat mentes ignobile vulgus. 
Scilicet hie animse tenues, defunctaque vita 
Corpora subsiliunt obscura nocte per umbram. 

Quin et mille dolos volvens sub pectore flamma 
Avia pervolitat, quam caeca nocte viator 
Deprensus sectatur ovans ; quid cogitet ignis 
Nescius heu ! Fax ante volans per opaca locorum 
Errabunda regit vestigia, perfida tandem 
Deserit immersum stagno squalenti colonum 
Eructantem iras, hirsutaque colla madentem" 

The ignis fatuus is said to have been observed to stand still 
as well as to move, and sometimes seemed fixed on the surface 
of the water. In Italy two kinds of these lights are said to 
have been discovered, one in the mountains, the other in the 
plains ; they are called by the common people Cularsi, because 
they look upon them as birds, the belly and other parts of 
which are resplendent like the pyraustae, or fire-flies. Bradley 
supposed the Will with a wisp to be no more than a group 
of small enlightened insects. Dr. Derham, on the other 
hand, thought this phenomenon was composed of fired 

The Scottish Encyclopaedia (voce Ignis fatuus} defines it 
to be "a kind of light, supposed to be of an electric na- 


ture, ' appearing frequently in mines, marshy places, and near 
stagnating waters." 2 

So in the ode on the " Popular Superstitions of the High- 
lands of Scotland :" 

" Ah, homely swains ! your homeward steps ne'er lose ; 
Let not dank Will mislead you on the heath ; 
Dancing in murky night o'er fen and lake, 
He glows to draw you downward to your death, 
In his bewitch'd, low, marshy, willow brake. 
What though far off, from some dark dell espied, 
His glimmering mazes cheer th' excursive sight, 
Yet turn, ye wand'rers, turn your steps aside, 
Nor trust the guidance of that faithless light." p. 15. 

The late Sir Joseph Banks could never, after the most labo- 
rious investigation on this head, satisfy himself, and doubted 
entirely, in frequent conversations, the existence of the phe- 
nomenon. Having summoned such respectable witnesses, and 
found their depositions so diametrically opposed to each other, 
we shall neither presume to sum up the evidence, nor pro- 
nounce sentence in the cause under consideration. We must 
leave the decision of the controversy to future discoveries in 
natural history, or the more successful investigations of suc- 
ceeding times. 

There is sometimes an appearance of light or fire upon the 
manes of horses, or men's hair ; these (in Latin, flammte lam~ 
bentes), I know not why, are called " haygs" Blount, in 
verbo, says : " Haggs are said to be made of sweat or some 
other vapour issuing out of the head ; a not unusual sight 
among us when we ride by night in summer time. They are 

It is with great deference to the opinion of modern philosophers that 
I make the observation, but I cannot help suspecting that what our plain 
forefathers, in the unenlightened ages, attributed to supernatural agency, 
to elves and fairies, as being otherwise unable to account for or explain 
it, it is at present the fashion to ascribe to I know not what " electric 
fluid;" or to huddle it up, as in this instance, under the vague idea of 
something " of an electric nature." 

2 The account adds : " It was formerly thought, and is still by the su- 
perstitious believed, to have something ominous in its nature, and to 
presage death and other misfortunes. There have been instances of people 
being decoyed by these lights into marshy places, where they have pe- 
rished ; whence the names of ignis fatuus, Will with a wisp, and Jack 
with a lanthorn, as if this appearance was an evil spirit which took delight 
in doing mischief of that kind." 


extinguished like flames by shaking the horses' manes, but I 
believe rather it is only a vapour reflecting light, but fat o.nd 
sturdy, compacted about the manes of horses, or men's hair." 
See also White's Peripateticall Institutions, p. 149, whence 
Blount has had his account. 

In a rare work by Thomas Hyll, entitled A Contemplation 
of Mysteries, 12mo., are the following passages : " Of the fire 
cleaving and hanging on the paries of men and beastes. This 
impression for troth is prodigious without any phisicke cause 
expressing the same, whenas the flame or fire compasseth about 
anye person's heade. And this straunge wonder and sight 
doth signifie the royal assaultes of mightie monarchies, and 
kinges, the governementes of the emperie, and other matters 
worthie memorie, of which the phisicke causes sufficient can 
not be demonstrated. Seeing, then, such fyers or lightes are, 
as they wer, counterfets or figures of matters to come, it suf- 
ficiently appeareth that those not rashely do appeare or showe 
but by God's holy will and pleasure sent, that they may sig- 
nifie some rare matter to men. This light doth Virgill write 
of in the seconde booke of JSneados, of Ascanius, which 
had a like flame burning without harme on his heade. Also 
Livius in his first book, and Valerius Maximus, reporte of 
Tullius Servius, a childe, who sleeping on bedde, such a flame 
appeared on his heade and burned rounde aboute the heade 
without harme, to the wonder of the beholders : which sight 
pronounced after his ripe age, the coming unto royall estate." 

" What is to be thought of the flame of fyre which cleaveth 
to the heares of the heade, and to the heares of beastes. Ex- 
perience witnesseth, that the fyre to cleave manye times to the 
heads and eares of beastes, and often times also to the heades 
and shoulders of men ryding and going on foote. For the 
exhalations dispearsed by the ayre cleave to the heares of 
horses, and garments of men, which of the lightnesse doe so 
ascend, and by the heate kindled. Also this is often caused 
when men and other beastes by a vehement and swift motion 
wax very hote, that the sweate, fattie and clammye, is sent 
forth, which kindled yeldeth this forme. And the like manner 
in all places (as afore uttered), as eyther in moyst and clam- 
mie places and marishes, in church-yards, cloysters, kitchins, 
under galosses, valleys , and other places where many deade 
bodies are laide, doe such burning lightes often appeare. The 


reason is, in that these places in the earth continually breatheth 
forth fatte fumes, grosse and clammy, which come forth of 
dead bodyes ; and when the fume doth thus continually issue 
forth, then is the same kindled by the labouring heate, or by 
the smiting togither, even as out of two flint stones smitten 
togither fyre is gotten. To conclude, it appeareth that such 
fyres are scene in moyst kitchins, sinckes, or guttours, and 
where the orfall of beastes killed are throwne, or in such 
places most commonly are woont to be scene. Such fyres 
cleaving, doe marveylously amase the fearfull. Yet not all 
fires which are seene in the night are perfite fiers, in that 
many have a kinde without a substaunce and heate, as those 
which are the delusions of the devill, well knowne to be the 
prince of the world, and flyeth about in the ayre." 

So in a curious book entitled A Wonderful History of all 
the Storms, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, 1704, p. 79, occurs the 
following account " of flames that appear upon the haires of 
men and beasts, their cause. These are sometimes clammy 
exhalations scattered in the air in small parts, which, in the 
night, by the resistance of the cold, are kindled, by cleaving 
to horses' ears and men's heads and shoulders, riding or walk- 
ing ; and that they cleave to hair or garments, it is by the 
same reason the dew cleaves to them, they being dry and at- 
tractive, and so more proper to receive them. Another kind 
of these flames are when the bodies of men and beasts are 
chafed and heated, they send forth a clammy sweat, which in 
like manner kindles, as is seen by sparkles of fire that fly 
about when a black horse is very hard curryed in the dark, or 
as the blue fire on the shells of oysters, caused by the nitrous 

Livy reports, as has been already noted, of Servius Tullius, 
" that sleeping, when a child, his hair seemed to be all on a 
flame, yet it did him no harm ; he also tells us of one Marius, 
a knight of Rome, who as he was making an oration to his 
soldiers in Spain with such vehemency as heated him, his head* 
appeared to them all in a flame, though himself was not aware 
of it." 

By the subsequent description, also from Blount, the fire- 
drake should seem to be a distinct appearance from the ignis 
fatuus : " There is a fire sometimes seen flying in the night, 
like a dragon : it is called a fire-drake. Common people think 


it a spirit that keeps some treasure hid ; but philosophers 
affirm it to be a great unequal exhalation inflamed between 
two clouds, the one hot, the other cold (which is the reason 
that it also smokes), the middle part whereof, according to 
the proportion of the hot cloud, being greater than the rest, 
makes it seem like a belly, and both ends like a head and 
tail." I suppose our author, when he says the above is like 
a dragon, refers to the common graphic descriptions of that 
imaginary creature. 1 It should seem that Blount only copied 
the above from Bullokar's Expositor, 8vo. 

" A fire-drake," says Steevens, " is both a serpent, an- 
ciently called a brenning-drake or dipsas, and a name formerly 
given to a Will o' the wisp, or ignis fatuus. So in Dray ton's 
Nymphidia : 

' By the hissing of the snake, 
The rustling of the fire-drake.' " 

Again, in Caesar and Pompey, a tragedy, by Chapman, 


" So have I scene a fire-drake glide along 
Before a dying man, to point his grave, 
And in it stick and hide." 

Again, in Albertus Wallenstein, 1640 : 

" Your wild irregular lust, which, like those fire-drakes 
Misguiding nighted travellers, will lead you 
Forth from the fair path," &c. 


[THE natives of the Isle of Man say that, many centuries 
before the Christian era, the island was inhabited by fairies, 
and that all business was carried on in a supernatural man- 
ner. They affirm that a blue mist continually hung over the 
land, and prevented mariners, who passed in ships that way, 

1 White, in his Peripateticall Institutions, p. 156, calls the fiery dragon 
" a weaker kind of lightning. Its livid colour and its falling without 
noise and slowly, demonstrate a great mixture of watry exhalation in it. 
. . . 'Tis sufficient for its shape, that it has some resemblance of a 

not the expresse figure." 

2 From Train's Account of the Isle of Man, vol. ii. 


from even suspecting that there was an island so near at 
hand, till a few fishermen, by stress of weather, were stranded 
on the shore. As they were preparing to kindle a fire on 
the beach, they were astounded by a fearful noise issuing 
from the dark cloud which concealed the island from their 
view. When the first spark of fire fell into their tinder-box, 
the fog began to move up the side of the mountain, closely 
followed by a revolving object, closely resembling three legs 
of men joined together at the upper part of the thighs, and 
spread out so as to resemble the spokes of a wheel hence 
the arms of the island. 

Collins, the poet, in a note to his Ode to Liberty, gives a 
different version of this story. "There is," says he, "a tra- 
dition in the Isle of Man, that a mermaid having become 
enamoured of a young man of extraordinary beauty, took an 
opportunity of meeting him one day as he walked on the 
shore, and opened her mind to him ; but her proposal being 
received with much coldness, occasioned by his horror and 
surprise at her appearance, was so misconstrued by the sea- 
lady, that in revenge for his treatment of her, she punished 
the whole island by covering it with mist, so that all who 
attempted to carry on any commerce with it, either never 
arrived there, or were, upon a sudden, wrecked upon its cliffs, 
till the incantatory spell or pishag, as the Manks say, was 
broken by the fishermen stranded there, by whom notice was 
given to the people of their country, who sent ships in order 
to make a further discovery. On their landing, they had a 
fierce encounter with the little people, and having got the 
better of them, possessed themselves of Castle Rushen, and, 
by degrees, of the whole island." 

Waldron tells another story of a mermaid, in the words of 
a native fisherman, whom he happened to meet at Port Iron. 
" During the time that Oliver Cromwell usurped the govern- 
ment of England, few ships resorted to this island, which 
gave the mermen and mermaids frequent opportunities of 
visiting the shore, where, on moonlight nights, they have 
been seen combing their hair ; but as soon as they saw any 
one coming near them, they jumped into the water, and were 
soon out of sight. Some people who lived near the shore 
spread nets, and watched at a convenient distance for their 
approach, but only one was taken, which proved to be a fe- 


male. Nothing/' continued my author, "could be more 
lovely ; above the waist it resembled a fine young woman, 
but below that all was fish with fins, and a spreading tail. 
She was carried to a house and used very tenderly ; but, al- 
though they set before her the best of provisions, she could 
not be prevailed on to eat or drink, neither could they get a 
word from her, although they knew these creatures had the 
gift of speech. They kept her three days, but perceiving 
that she began to look very ill by fasting so long, and fearing 
some calamity would befall the island if they kept her till she 
died, they opened the door, on perceiving which she raised 
herself on her tail from the place where she was lying, and 
glided with incredible swiftness to the sea-side. Her keeper 
followed at a distance, and saw her plunge into the water, 
where she was met by a great number of her own species, 
one of whom asked her what she had observed among the 
people on the earth. * Nothing,' answered she; 'but they 
are so ignorant as to throw away the very water they have 
boiled their eggs in.' " 

The tarroo-ushtey, or water-bull, it appears, was formerly a 
regular visitant of the Isle of Man. Waldron says : " A 
neighbour of mine who kept cattle, had his fields very much 
infested with this animal, by which he had lost several cows ; 
he therefore placed a man continually to watch, who bring- 
ing him word one day that a strange bull was among the 
cows, he doubted not but it was the water-bull, and having 
called a good number of lusty men to his assistance, who 
were all armed with great poles, pitchforks, and other weapons 
proper to defend themselves, and be the death of this dan- 
gerous enemy, they went to the place where they were told 
he was, and ran altogether at him ; but he was too nimble for 
their pursuit, and after tiring them over mountains and rocks, 
and a great space of stony ground, he took a river and avoided 
any further chase, by diving down into it, though every now 
and then he would show his head above water, as if to mock 
their skill." 

The belief in this imaginary animal is not yet become 
extinct. Only a few years ago, the farmer of Slieu Mayll, in 
the parish of Onchan, was, on a Sunday evening, returning 
home from a place of worship, when at the garee of Slegaby, 
a wild-looking animal, with large eyes sparkling like fire, 


crossed the road before him, and went flapping away. This 
he knew to be a tarroo-ushtey, for his father had seen one at 
nearly the same place, over the back of this animal he broke 
his walking-stick, so lazy was it to get out of his way. This 
man's brother had also seen a tarroo-ushtey, at Lhanjaghyn, in 
the same neighbourhood. When proceeding to the fold, very 
early one morning in the month of June, to let the cattle out 
to feed before the heat of the day came on, he saw a water- 
bull standing outside the fold ; when the bull that was within 
with the cattle perceived him, he instantly broke through the 
fence and ran at him, roaring and tearing up the ground with 
his feet, but the tarroo-ushtey scampered away, seeming quite 
unconcerned, and leaping over an adjoining precipice, plunged 
into deep water, and after swimming about a little, evidently 
amusing himself, he gave a loud bellow and disappeared. 

The ylashtin is a water-horse, that formerly, like the tarroo- 
ushtey, left his native element to associate with land animals 
of the same class, and might frequently be seen playing gam- 
bols in the mountains among the native ponies, to whom the 
glashtin is said at one time to have been warmly attached, 
but since the breed of the native horses has been crossed with 
those of other countries, he has wholly deserted them. 

The dooinney-oie, or nightman, of the former Manks pea- 
santry, seems to have been somewhat akin to the benshee of 
the Scots and Irish, who were reverenced as the tutelar de- 
mons of certain families, as it appeared only to give mo- 
nitions of future events to particular persons. A manuscript 
account of Manks Superstitions says : " The voice of the 
dooinney-oie was sometimes very dismal when heard at night 
on the mountains, something like h-o-w-l-a-a, or h-o-w-a-a. 
When his lamentation in winter was heard, on the coast, 
being a sure prediction of an approaching tempest, it was so 
awful that even the brute creation trembled at the sound. 
Perhaps the propensities of this creature more nearly resem- 
bled those of the daoine-shie, or men of peace of the Scottish 
Highlanders, who, according to popular fancy, " sometimes 
held intercourse with mistresses of mortal race, and were in- 
consolable when their suits were rejected." 

Another cherished phantasm of Manks superstition is the 
phynnodderee. This creature of the imagination is represented 
as being a fallen fairy, who was banished from fairy land by 


the elfin-king for having paid his addresses to a pretty Manks 
maid, who lived in a bower beneath the blue tree of Glen 
Aldyn, and for deserting the fairy court during the harvest 
moon, to dance in the merry glen of Rushen. He is doomed 
to remain in the Isle of Man till the end of time, transformed 
into a wild satyr-like figure, covered with long shaggy hair 
like a he-goat, and was thence called the phynnodderee, or 
hairy one. 

The Manks phynnodderee is seemingly analogous to the 
swart-alfar of the Edda, somewhat resembles the lubber 
fiend of Milton, and possesses several of the attributes of 
the Scottish brownie. 

" His was the wizard hand that toil'd 

At midnight's witching hour, 
That gather'd the sheep from the coming storm 

Ere the shepherd saw it lour, 
Yet ask'd no fee save a scatter'd sheaf 

From the peasant's garner'd hoard, 
Or cream-bowl pressed by a virgin lip, 

To be left in the household board." 

The phynnodderee also cut down and gathered in meadow 
grass, which would have been injured if aUowed to remain 
exposed to the coming storm. On one occasion a farmer 
having expressed his displeasure with the spirit for not having 
cut his grass close enough to the ground, the hairy one in 
the following year allowed the dissatisfied farmer to cut it 
down himself, but went after him, stubbing up the roots so 
fast, that it was with difficulty the farmer escaped having his 
legs cut off by the angry sprite. 

For several years afterwards no person could be found to 
mow the meadow, until a fearless soldier from one of the gar- 
risons at length undertook the task. He commenced in the 
centre of the field, and by cutting round, as if on the edge of 
a circle, keeping one eye on the progress of the scythe, while 
the other 

" Was turned round with prudent care, 
Lest phynnodderee catched him unaware," 

he succeeded in finishing his task unmolested. This field, 
situate in the parish of Marown, hard by the ruins of the old 
church of St. Trinian's, is, from the circumstance just re- 
lated, still called the Round Meadow. 


The following is one of the many stories related by the 
Manks peasantry as indicative of the prodigious strength of 
the phynnodderee. A gentleman having resolved to build a 
large house and offices on his property, a little above the 
base of Snafield mountain, at a place called Sholt-e-will, 
caused the requisite quantity of stones to be quarried on the 
beach ; but one immense block of white stone, which he was 
very desirous to have for a particular part of the intended 
building, could not be moved from the spot, resisting the 
united strength of all the men in the parish. To the utter 
astonishment, however, of all, not only this rock, but like- 
wise the whole of the quarried stones, consisting of more 
than a hundred cart-loads, were in one night conveyed from 
the shore to the site of the intended oastead by the indefatigable 
phynnodderee, and in confirmation of this wonderful feat, 
the white stone is yet pointed out to the curious visitor. 

The gentleman for whom this very acceptable piece of work 
was performed, wishing to remunerate the naked phynnod- 
deree, caused a few articles of clothing to be laid down for 
him in his usual haunt. The hairy one, on perceiving the 
habiliments, lifted them up one by one, thus expressing his 
feelings in Manks : 

" Cap for the head, alas, poor head ; 

Coat for the back, alas, poor back ; 

Breeches for the breech, alas, poor breech ; 

If these be all thine, thine cannot be the merry glen of Rushen." 

Having repeated these words, be departed with a melan- 
choly wail, and now 

" You may hear his voice on the desert hill, 
When the mountain winds have power ; 
"Tis a wild lament for his buried love, 
And his long lost fairy bower." 

Many of the old people lament the disappearance of the 
phynnodderee ; for they say, " There has not been a merry 
world since he lost his ground."] 





["Ix was the custom among all warlike nations to give 
names to their swords ; but the ancient Britons took a parti- 
cular pride in adorning their swords, and making them polished 
handles of the teeth of sea-animals, &c. ; and their warlike 
disposition and love of the sword was such, that it was the 
custom for the mother of every male child to put the first 
victuals into the child's mouth on the point of his father's 
sword, and, with the food, to give her first blessing or wish to 
him, that he might die no other death than that of the sword. 
Nay, this nation, by long struggling in defence of their coun- 
try, had got to such an enthusiastic pitch of warlike madness, 
that I have read in an ancient British MS., then at Hengurt, 
that it was customary, when a man grew very old and infirm 
among them, to desire his children or next relatives to pull 
him out of bed and kill him, lest the enemy might have the 
pleasure of that office, or that he should die cowardly and 
sordidly, and not by the sword." From Eoberts' Cambrian 
Popular Antiquities.] 

in. 27 



Abbas Stultorum, i, 504. 

Abbe de Liesse, i, 504. 

Abbe de la Malgouve/ne, i, 504. 

Abbot of Misrule, i, 500. 

Abbot of Unreason in Scotland, i, 504. 

Aberdeen, St. Nicholas the patron 

saint of, i, 364. 
Aberedwy, S. Wales, large yew trees 

at. ii, 298. 
Abmgton, co. Surrey, morris dancers 

of, i, 252. 
Abingdon, co. Berks, custom after 

the election of a Mayor at, i, 355. 
Abracadabra, iii, 269. 
Aches and corns, prognostications 

from, iii, 242. 
Acinetinda, ii, 410. 
Addison, Joseph, plans a barring out 

at Lichfield school, i, 443. 
Adelm's bell, St., at Malmesbury 

Abbey, ii, 217. 
" Adieu panniers, vendanges sont 

faites," ii, 98. 
Adrian, Emperor, made use of trie 

Sortes Virgilianae, iii, 337. 
Adriatic, espousal of the, by the 

Doge of Venhe, i, 209. 
Adveut, divination by onions and 
faggots, practised in, iii, 3c6. 
love divinaticns practised up- 
on the Continent in, i, 59. 
' jEgyptiaci," days so called, i, 39 ; 

ii, 47. 

JElian, St., i, 360. 

jEtites, or Eagle stone, iii, 50. 

superstitiously used at child 

birth, ii, 67. 

used as a charm, iii, 50. 

Affiancing custom at Baniseribe, in 

Africa, ii, 92. 

Africa, wedding customs in, ii, 152. 
" Afternoon Musicke," ii, 159. 
Agatha, St., i, 359-60-4. 
Agathe's letters, St., iii, 271. 
Agnan, or Tignan, St., i, 365. 
AGNES' DAY, or EVE, ST., i, 34-8 : 

iii, 141. 

account of, from Naogeorgus, 

i, 36. 

charm for the ague, on, i, 38 

divinations on, i, 36-7. 

Agreement-bottle at marriages in Ire- 
land, ii, 138. 

Agues, superstitious cures for, iii, 

charm for, on St. Agnes' Eve, 

i, 38. 

Aguilaneuf, Aguilanleu, i, 458. 
Abe, in Provence, celebration of the 

Feast of Corpus Christ! at, i, 43. 
Alba Fortunata, Prince of, the titles 

of one of the Lords of Misrule, 

i, 498. 

Alban's Abbey, St., sardonyx at,iii, 302 
Albans. St., Duchess of, excessive 

superstition of, iii, 18, 



Alcala, Midsummer Eve festivities at, 

i, 317. 

Ale, festival so called, etymology of, 
i, 279. 

clerk's, i, 180, 279. 

synonymous with yule, i, 475. 
Ale-feasts, various denominations of, 

i, 278-9. 


Alehouses, tobacco in, ii, 362-6. 
Alexandre, Roman d', MS., i, 76. 

account of the games, &c., 

preserved in the margin of 
the, ii, 387 

Alfred, King, law of, concerning holi- 
days, i, 177. 

Alholde, or Gobelyn, i, 9. 
Alkibla, work so entitled, on wor- 
shipping towards the East, ii, 
ALL FOOLS DAY, i, 131-41. 

Bairnsla foaks annual, i, 133. 

etymology of, i, 136-9. 

humorous Jewish origin of, 

i, 138. 

notice of, in the 'Spectator,' 

i, 132, - 

observed like St. Valentine's 

Day in some parts of North 
America, i, 141. 

Poor Robin's Almanack, 1738, 

i, 133. 
Poor Robin's description of 

the fooleries of, i, 132-3. 
All Fours, ii, 450. 
Allhallow, or All Saints I _y, custom 

of ringing bells on, i, 

poor people in Staffordshire 

go a souling on, i, 393. 
ALLHALLOW EVEN, i, 377-96. 

sowing of hempseed on, i, 


celebration of, in Ireland, i, 


customs in Scotland on, i, 380. 

ringing of bells on, i, 394-5. 

dumb cake on, i, 387. 

ALL-HID, ii, 391. 

All Saints Eve, fires on, i, 388-9. 

Almshouses, few in number before 

the Reformation, i, 282. 
Alnwick, co. Northumberland, free- 
dom of, i, 194. 

custom of playing football at 
the castle of, on Shrove 
Tuesday, i, 92. 
ALTAR, BOWING towards the, ii, 

Altarnum, co. Cornwall, St. Nun's 

well at, iii, 295. 
Altars in Papal Rome placed towards 

the East, ii, 319. 
Amaranthus strewed on tombs by the 

Greeks, ii, 255. 
Ambarvalia, i, 202. 
Ambassador, game of, ii, 391. 
Amersden, co. Oxford, funeral custom 

at, ii, 248. 
Amoreux, le Prince d', annually 

chosen in France before Lent, 

i, 65. 
Amphidromia, feast of, at Athens, 

ii, 78. 
Amsterdam, bawds of, believed a 

horseshoe to bring good luck to 

their houses, iii, 18. 
AMULETS, iii, 324-6. 

Molluka beans used as, iii, 46. 

ANDREW, ST., i, 360-4-5. 
ANDREW'S DAY, ST., i, 414-15. 

sheep's heads borne in pro- 

cession before the Scots in 
London on, i, 415. 
Angel, given by our kings when 

touching for the evil, iii, 303. 
Angels, guardian, opinions concern- 
ing, i, 367. 

Anglo-Norman Christmas carol, i, 481. 
Anglo-Saxons, marriage customs of 
the, ii, 158, 160, 175. 

burial customs of the, ii, 239. 

Angus, Earl of, supposed to have 

died of sorcery and incan- 
tation, A.D. 1588, iii, 64. 
Angus, superstitions in, relating to the 
moon, iii, 148. 



\ngus and Lothian, sport of cat and 

dog used in, ii, 406. 
Ant, an omen of weather, iii, 244. 
Antelucinum, nocturnal vigil in the 

Church of Rome so called, ii, 


Anthony, St., i, 356-8-60-4-5. 
Anthony's Pigs, St., i, 358. 
" Anthropomancia," iii, 330. 
Apostle spoons, ii, 83. 
Apparition, Gay's Tale of the, iii, 75. 

story of an, iii, 76, 80. 

APPARITIONS, iii, 67, 90. 

account of, at the parsonage- 

house, Warblington, iii, 77. 
Applecross, co. of Ross, superstitions 

at, iii, 274. 
Apple-howling, i, 9. 
Apple-kernels and parings, love divi- 
nations with, i, 385. 
Apple-trees, christening of, on the eve 
of Twelfth Day, 
i, 29. 

on St. Swithin'sDay, 

i, 342. 

Apples, new, blessed upon St. James's 
Day, i, 346. 

spells'by, i, 356-76-7-82. 

sport of catching at, i,377-96. 

on Allhallow Eve, 

i, 396. 

Apprentices, Shrove Tuesday, the par- 
ticular holiday of, i, 88. 

box of, at Christmas, i, 494. 

APRIL, ceremonies on the 1st of, i, 


thoughts on, in 'The World,' 

No. X, i, 134. 

prevalent among the Swedes, 

i, 139. 

held in esteem among the al- 
chemists, i, 141. 

celebrated in India, i, 140. 

gowks, i, 139. 

verses on, i, 132-3-7. 

four last days of, observed in 
honour of the goddess Flora, 
i, 228. 

April, borrowed days of, ii, 4T-4. 

fools, custom of making, re- 

ferred to the rape of the 
Sabines, i, 137. 

popular sayings on the month 

of, i, 196. 

Aquisgrana, St. Mary of, i, 365. 

Aram, Eugene, his account of the 
Mell Supper, ii, 27. 

" Aratrum circumducere," the draw- 
ing a plough about, mentioned in 
Lindenbrogius's Codex Legum an- 
tiquarum, i, 511. 

Arbiter bibendi, i, 26. 

Arbor Juda3, iii, 283. 

ARCHERY, ii, 391. 

Arga, i. e. cuckold, ii, 196. 

Armstrong, Archibald, King Charles 
the First's jester, or fool, i, 265. 

Arnold, St., i, 360. 

Arrows, divination by, iii, 331. 

Arsmart used as a charm, iii, 313. 

Arthel dinner, ii, 238. 

Arthur, game of, ii, 393. 

ARVALS, or ARVILS, funeral enter- 
tainments so called, ii, 237. 

Arvel bread, etymology of, ii, 238. 

Arundel, chequer in the arms of the 
Earl of, ii, 354. 

Ascension Day, custom of hailing 
the lamb on, i, 197 

perambulations on, i, 198. 

inhabitants of Nantwich sing 

a hymn of thanksgiving on, 
for the blessing of the 
Brine, i, 200. 

account of, in Googe's Trans- 

lation of Naogeorgus, i, 

the Doge of Venice weds the 

Adriatic on, i, 209. 

smock-race on, in the north 

of England, i, 210. 
Ascension Even, payments for bread 

and drink on, i, 205. 
Ash-heapes, i, 3. 

Ash, the, a cure for ague, iii, 291. 
Ashen faggot, the, i, 470. 

INDEX. 421 

Ash tree, operation performed with 
the, to cure rickety or ruptured 
children, iii, 291-2. 
ASH WEDNESDAY, i, 94, 102. 

in some places called Pulver 
Wednesday, i, 95. 

Naogeorgus's account of, i, 97. 

fool-plough and sword-dance 

used on, upon the Conti- 
nent, i, 97, 508. 

custom on, used in Germany, 

i, 98. 

how distinguished by the pea- 

santry of France, i, 100. 

custom of interring the car- 

nival on, at Marseilles, i,l 00. 
Ashes, ceremonies of blessing and 

giving, on Ash Wednesday, i, 9'6. 
Ashill, co. Somerset, yew trees at, 

ii, 266. 
Ashmole, Elias, hangs spiders about 

his neck to cure the ague, iii, 287. 
Asp, the best arrows made of, ii , 257. 
Ass, vulgar error relating to the, 

iii, 363. 
Ass of wood drawn on Palm Sunday, 

i, 124. 
Asses or mules, omens of weather, 

iii, 244. 
Assize, maiden, white gloves given at 

a, ii, 125. 

i. 349. 
Aston, near Birmingham, Christmas 

custom at the house of Sir 

Holt, Bart., i, 472. 
Astrology, remarks on, iii, 341-8. 
Athenians, sacred ploughings of the, 
i, 510. 

cock-fighting practised by the, 

ii, 59, 60. 
Athens, Apollo and Minerva preside 

over, i, 365. 
Atkinson, Margaret, funeral feast of, 

A.D. 1544, ii, 239. 
Attica, old inhabitants of, buried 

looking towards the east, ii, 318. 
Augsburg, St. Huiderich or Ulric, 

the patron saint of, i, 364. 

AUGUST, GULE OF, commonly catted 

LAMMAS DAY, i, 347-9. 
" Au Guy 1'an neuf," i, 458. 
AUK, GREAT, augury by the, iii, 221. 
Auld Ane,a name for the Devil, ii, 520. 
Avoch, co. Ross, custom of penny 
weddings retained at, ii, 148. 

funeral customs at, ii, 272. 

Aurengzebe, reckons Friday to be un- 
lucky, ii, 50. 

Auricula Judae, iii, 283. 
Avril, Poisson d', i, 139. 
Austria, St. Colman and St. Leopold, 

the patron saints of, i, 365. 
Autumnal fire, kindled in North 

Wales on Allhallow Eve, i, 389. 
Auxerre, 1'Abbe de Liesse at, i, 504. 
" A you a hinny," song of, i, 487. 
Ayrshire, Beltan in, on St. Peter's 
day, i, 337. 

creeling in, ii, 98. 

Baal, Beal, or Bealin, remains of the 

worship of, i, 228, 304. 
Baal, or Bael fyr, i, 300. 
Babies of the eyes, iii, 47. 
Bacchus, verses in praise of, made by 

the Eton boys on Shrove Monday, 

i, 62. 
Bacon, Dunmow flitch of, ii, 177. 

similar custom at Whiche- 

novre in Staffordshire, ii, 
Baculus divinatorius," iii, 332. 

Bairin-breac, the name of a cake made 
in Ireland on St. Bridget's Eve, 
i, 345. 

Baldock, custom at, on Shrove Tues- 
day, i, 82. 

Ball, play at the, on Shrove Tuesday, 
described by Fitzstephen, i, 70. 

Ballikinrain, co. Stirling, yew trees 
at, ii, 264. 

Ball money at weddings, ii, 1 56. 

Balmano, St. John's well at, ii, 382. 

BALOON, GAME OF, ii, 394. 

Balow, etymology of, i, 487. 

Baltein, i, 225. 

Banbury, mop or statute fair at,ii,455. 



Bandothy, co. Perth, harvest customs 
at, ii, 27. 

Banners, spurs, &c. hung over the 
tombs of knights, ii, 308. 

Bannock, St. Michael's, i, 372. 

Baniseribe, in Africa, affiancing cus- 
tom at, ii, 92. 

Baptism, superstitions relating to, in 
Scotland, ii, 78-9. 

in North Wales, relating 

to water after baptism, 

ii, 375. 

Baptizing of bells, ii, 214-15. 
Barbara, St., i, 359-60. 
BARBERS' SIGNS, ii, 358-61. 

forfeits, ii, 361. 

shop, Gay's description of a, 

ii, 359. 

Bargarran witches, iii, 30. 
Barguest of York, iii, 86. 
" Barla-bracks about the stacks," 

ii, 394. 

BARLEY-BREAK, i, 180 ; ii, 394-6. 
Barnabas, St., few churches dedicated 

to, ii, 2. 

tempests said to be frequent 

on the day of, ii, 49. 
BARNABAS DAY, ST., i, 293-4. 

court for the forest of Engle- 

wood kept on, i, 245. 

origin of the proverb of 

" Barnaby Bright," i, 294. 

prognostication concerning, 

ii, 49. 

Barnacles, iii, 361-2. 
Barrenness, foreign charms against, 

enumerated by Bale, ii, 69. 
Barring-out in schools, i, 441. 
BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY, St., i, 351. 

custom on, at CroylandAbbey, 

of giving little knives,i,351. 
Bartholomew baby, ii, 464. 

fair, ii, 463. 

Barvas, in the Isle of Lewis, custom 
at, on the 1st of May, i, 226. 

Basil, smelling of, iii, 314. 


Basle, prohibition in the Synod of, 
against the Feast of Fools, i, 427. 

Basoche, Roy de, i, 24. 

Bassett, ii, 450. 

Bassianus and Geta, first cause of 

their contention, ii, 60. 
Bachelors' buttons, divination by, 

iii, 340. 

Bath Kol, iii, 337. 

Bats, superstition concerning, iii, 189. 
Battle Edge, the place of Cuthred's 

victory over Ethelbald, king of 

Mercia, i, 320. 
Batt's carving-knives, i, 486. 
Bavaria, St. Wolfgang and St. Mary 

Atingana, the patron saints of 

i, 365. 

Bavo, St., i, 364. 
Baxter, Richard, his account of the 

well at Oundle, ii, 369. 
Bay-leaves, houses decked with, at 
Christmas, i, 520. 

worn against thunder, iii, 316. 

Bay trees, withering of, a death 

omen, iii, 233. 

Bays used at weddings, ii, 119, 120. 
Bead of glass, Druid's, called the 

ovum anguinum, iii, 287, 369 
Beaker, ii, 330. 
Bean-king, i, 498. 

Beans, choice of a king and queen 
by, i, 26-7. 

on Midlent Sunday, i, 114. 

Erasmus's remarks on the re- 

ligious use of, i, 115. 

eating of, in Lent, allegorized, 

i, 115. 

Molluka, used as charms, 

iii, 46. 
BEAR-BAITING, ii, 396. 

a Christmas sport, ii, 396. 

BEARING THE BELL, iii, 393. 
Bearne, or barn bishop, i, 423. 
BEARS, vulgar error relating to the 

cubs of, iii, 364. 
Beasts eating greedily, an omen of 

bad weather, iii, 245. 
BEAVER, vulgar error concerning the, 

iii, 368. 
Beaulieu, Mary Dore, the parochial 

witch of, iii, 14. 



"" Beccho," Italian word, ii, 187. 
Becket, St. Thomas, archbishop,!, 359. 
establishes the observance of 

Trinity Sunday in England, 

i, 284. 
the hall of his house strewed 

every day with green rushes, 

ii, 3i3. 
Bed, bridal, anciently blessed, ii, 175. 

ancient charm for the, iii, 312. 

Bed's head, knocking at the, iii, 233. 
Bede's well, at Jarrow, co. Northum- 
berland, ii, 383. 

Bedfordshire, harvest Jack and Gill 
in, ii, 24. 

Bedwen, the, i, 237. 

Beech, at Midsummer, i, 307. 

Beehives, custom of covering "with 
black crape, on the death of 
the master or mistress, ii, 

superstitious practice of turn- 

ing, when the corpse of the 

owner is removed for burial, 

ii, 301. 
Bees, superstitions relating to, ii, 

301-2, iii; 225. 

Besom placed at the topmast-head 
of a ship or boat to be sold, ii, 352. 
Beggar-my-neighbour, ii, 396. 
Bell, the patron of the Babylonians, 

i, 365. 

to bear the, i 71 ; iii, 393. 

passing, ii, 202-20. 

capon, ii, 210. 

St. Adelm's, ii, 217. 

mot, ii, 219. 

curfew, ii, 220. 

pancake, i, 82-9, ii; 220. 

ringing, bequests for, ii, 225. 

Belle Savage Inn, sign of the, ii, 


Bells, ringing of, on New Year's Eve 
in London, i, 14. 

on Allhallows Day, i, 


when women were in la- 
bour, ii, 70. 

at marriages, ii, 160. 

Bells, ringing of, against thunder, 
ii, 217. 

on the arrival of emppiors. 

bishops, &c. at places 
under their own juris- 
diction, ii, 218. 

to ease the pain of the 

dead, ii, 219. 

funeral or dead peal, ii, 


invention of, ii, 212-13. 

baptizing of, ii, 214-15. 

custom of rejoicing with, ii, 


Jews use trumpets for, ii, 213. 

ceremony of blessing or con- 

secrating, ii, 215. 

christened in honour of St. 

AVenefride, ii, 215. 

given to churches by St. 

Dunstan, ii, 216. 

great objects of superstition, 

ii, 216. 

monkish rhymes on the offices 

of, ii, 216. 

lines on, from Googe's trans- 

lation of Naogeorgus, ii, 

Belly-blind, ii, 397. 

Beltan, on St. Peter's Day, in Ayr- 
shire, i. 337. 

Beltein, or Baltein Day, a name used 
in Perthshire for the first day of 
May, i, 226. 

Bel-teing, celebration of, in Cumber- 
land, i, 318. 

Bealtine, La, i, 228. 

Benedict, St., i, 360-1. 

" Benedictio Pomorum in die Sancti 
Jacobi," i, 346. 

Benediction posset, ii, 173. 

Benshea, or" the shrieking woman, 
death omen, iii, 227. 

Berger, le jeu de, et de la Bergere, 
i, 255. 

" Berisch," ii, 295. 

Berkeley, Maurice, fourth Lord, pre- 
parations for the funeral feast of, 
ii, 239. 



Berkeley, Robert, second Lord, bu- 
ried in a monk's cowl, iii, 325. 

Berking nunnery, co. Essex, custom 
at, on St. Ethelburgh's Day, i, 

Berkshire, ring superstition in, iii, 

Berlin, the ringing of bells at, against 
tempests, forbidden, ii, 218. 

Berners, Lord, writes to Cardinal 
Wolsey for cramp-rings, i, 151. 

Beryl, or crystal, used by sorcerers, 
iii, 60. 

Bessy, one of the characters of the 
sword-dance, i, 513. 


difference between the be- 

trothing ceremony and that 
of marriage pointed out, 
ii, 96. 

Beverage, ii, 333. 

Biberidge, ii, 333. 

Bible, superstitious practice of open- 
ing, on New Year's Day, 
i, 20. 

church, weighing of witches 

against the, iii, 22. 

put at night under the pillows 

of country girls, iii, 141. 

fanning the face of the sick 

with the leaves of the, 
iii, 272. 

and key, divination by the, 

iii, 299, 353-4. 
Bid or bidder ale, ii, 90. 
Biddenden cakes, i, 166. 
BIDDING to weddings, Welsh practice 

of, ii, 146, 147. 
Billet, or tip-cat, game of, on Shrove 

Tuesday, i, 91. 
Billiards, ii, 354. 
Birch tree, used for May-poles, i, 237. 

bowes, against Midsummer, i, 


poles, used anciently as signs 

for alehouses, ii, 353. 
Birds begin to couple on St. Valen- 
tine's Day, i, 53. 

divinations by, iii, 191. 

Birdsney, i, 75. 

Birk at Yule E'en, bare as the, a 
Scottish proverb, i, 467. 

BIRKIE, ii, 396. 

Birmingham, St. Bartholomew's cha- 
pel in, not placed due east and 
west, ii, 324. 

BISHOP IN THE PAN, iii, 383. 

Bishop's Stortford, co. Herts, custom 
at, on Old Michaelmas Day, i, 

Bishop's well at Tottenham, co. Mid- 
dlesex, ii, 369. 

Bittern, iii, 222. 

" Black is your eye," the saying of, 
iii, 44, 45. 

NERALS, ii, 281. 

Black puddings, i, 400. 

Monday, i, 454. 

Jack, ii, 337. 

lad, shooting the, ii, 441. 

witches, iii, 3. 

Blacks of the eyes, iii, 44-5. 
BLADE-BONE, divination by the, iii, 


Blaise or Blaze, St., i, 360-5. 
Blandy, Miss, dying declaration of, 

iii, 308. 
BLAZE'S DAY, ST., i, 51-3. 

Minshew refers Hoc-tide 

to, i, 190. 
Bleeding at the nose, iii, 229. 

of murdered persons at the 

presence of the murderer, 
iii, 229-30. 

charm for, iii, 311. 

Blenheim House, representation of 

a cock at, i, 78. 
Blessing fire, i, 306. 

witch, the, iii, 4. 

Blind-hoc, ii, 397. 

harie, ii, 397. 

kuhe, ii, 397. 
BLINDMAN'S BUFF, ii, 397. 
Biocksberg, May customs on the 

mountain of, i, 228. 
Blood, drawing of, from witches, iii, 
15, 16. 



u Blood without groats," proverb of 

i, 400. 

Bloody-bones, ii, 516. 
Bloody Gardener, old ballad of the 

iii, 217. 

BLOW POINT, ii, 398. 
Blue coats, formerly worn by peopl 
of fashion on St. George's 
Day, i, 192. 

clue, spell by the, on Allhallow 

Even, i, 381. 

balls, pawnbrokers, ii, 356. 
Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, sends 

a hare from her bosom as an omen 

iii, 202. 
Boards used instead of bells by the 

Turks, ii, 214. 
Boar's-head, served up at Christmas, 
i, 484-5-6. 

carol at bringing it in, i, 485. 

Boats, sprinkling of fishermen's, to 

make them prosper, i, 394. 
Bogleboe explained, ii, 515. 
Boh, the name of a Gothic general, 

used to frighten children, ii, 515. 
Bohemia, St. Winceslaus, the patron 
saint of, i, 365. 

death-omens peculiar to cer- 

tain families of, iii, 227. 
Boleyn, Anne, wore yellow mourning 
for Catherine of Arragon, ii, 283. 
Bombards, ii, 336. 
Bonefires, i, 299. 

origin and etymology of, i, 300. 

on Midsummer Eve, i, 306. 

canon against, on new moons, 

i, 308. 

Boneshave, iii, 285. 

Books, by way of funeral tokens, for- 
merly given away at burials in 
England, ii, 244. 

Booksellers' shops, how formerly 
adorned on St. Bartholomew's 
Day, i, 351. 

Boon of shearers, ii, 33. 

Boossenning, iii, 295. 

Borrowstowness, co. of Linlithgow, 
custom at, at the burials of poor 
people, ii, 210. 


ii, 41-4. 
Boscobel, Dr. Stukeley's account of 

the Royal Oak at, i, 275. 
Botanomancy, iii, 307. 
Bough, green, of a tree, fastened 
against houses by the Irish on May 
Day, i, 227. 

Boughs, hallowed on Midsummer 

Day, hung at the stall door where 

cattle stand, to prevent witches, 

i, 335. 

Boulogne, St. Martin the patron 

saint of, i, 364. 
" Bounce buckram," proverb of, i, 

Bow bells, bequest for the ringing of, 

ii, 224. 

Bowed money given as a token of 
affection from one relation to ano- 
ther, ii, 94. 

THE CHURCH, ii, 317. 
Bows and bowyers, statutes relating 

to, ii, 260. 
Box garlands on St. Barnabas' Day, 

i, 293. 

tree, confounded with the palm, 
i, 120. 

sprigs of, substituted for palm 

on Palm Sunday, 118, 
used at funerals, ii, 253. 

BOXING, ii, 398-9. 
Boy's bailiff, the, i, 284. 
Joy-Bishop, custom of electing a, 
i, 422-5. 

traces of the history of the, as 

early as 867 or 870, i, 421. 

one says vespers before King 

Edward I, i, 422. 

ceremony of the, practised in 

various cathedrals and other 
churches in England, i, 

show of, abrogated by a pro- 

clamation in 1542. i 

426 INDEX. 

Boy-Bishop, restored under Queen 
Mary, i, 429. 

notices of the, in the statutes 

of Salisbury and York ca- 
thedrals, i, 423. 

inventory of the robes and 

ornaments of the, in the 
Northumberland Household 
Book, i, 423. 

extracts from various inven- 

tories concerning, i 424. 

service of the, set to music, i, 


acquittance by, given to the 

receiver of his subsidy, i, 428. 

put down again by Queen 

Elizabeth, i, 430. 

practice of electing one sub- 

sisted in common grammar- 
schools, i, 430. 

elected at Eton School, on St. 

Hugh's Day, i, 431. 

Bracara, council of, forbade Chris- 
tians to decorate their houses with 
bay-leaves and green boughs, i, 519. 

Braggot, i, 112. 

BRANKS, iii, 108. 

Braughing, co. Herts, kitchen furni- 
ture kept at, for wedding enter- 
tainments, ii, 145. 

Bread, loaf of, baked on Good Friday, 
i, 155. 

physical charms by, iii, 298. 

Bread baked on Al