[From Train's History, 1845]
Attachment of the Manks to ancient CustomsThe hair halter Riot Fabulous Story of the Discovery of the IslandMermaids on land Freaks of the Tarroo Ushtey of Lhanjaghyn The Sea-Glashtin Wail of the Doinney OieThe last Phynnodderee Some Peculiarities of the Manks Fairies Spectral Illusions The Lhiannan-shee of Ballafletcher Hom Mooar, the Fairy Fiddler Occult Infections Seer Teare, the Fairy Doctor Mystical Properties of the Cross-bone of the Bollans Head The Chasms at Spanish Head Sorcery and WitchcraftFascination of an Evil EyeSubmarine City The Second SightEnchanted Palace Death of the Dark Smith Machbhuin.
MANY of the rites, observances, and popular notions, adverted to in this chapter, have undoubtedly descended from very remote times, but, like the remains of ancient statuary, most of them appear to have been so mutilated, or parts of them so awkwardly transposed, in their descent, as to veil the causes that gave rise to them, even from the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, who have done much to perpetuate these remnants of antiquity for
" Manksmen love their native vales,
Island songs, and Island tales."
On admission to office, every member of the governors council and of the house of keys is required to make oath " that he will use his best endeavours to maintain and defend the ancient laws and customs of the Island with the prerogatives thereof." 1A circumstance occurred about the end of last century, which is here mentioned to show the extreme acuteness of the people in observing any departure from an established practice and how prone they are to resist any attempt so made.
A malefactor, who had been condemned to suffer the extreme penalty of the law, was taken from Castle Rushen to the place of execution, where a great concourse of people were assembled, from all parts of the Island, to witness a spectacle of rare occurrence. By an old customary law, it was ordained, that a person convicted of felony should be hanged by the neck in a hair rope ; 2 but in the case alluded to, one of the Constituted authorities had given orders privately, that a hempen halter should be substituted in its stead, as being more suitable for the purpose. The innovation was discovered by some of the spectators just as the convict was suspended from the fatal tree. The populace instantly became so infuriated at the introduction of a custom so entirely English, that not only had they well nigh killed the executioner for not publicly resisting such an infringement of the ancient Statute, but, also, having cut down the felon in the agonies of death, they even, after some lapse of time, again hung up the dead body in a hair halter, amid the patriotic acclamation of Mannagh vow cliaghtey, cliaghtey, nee cliaghtey coe. In English, " If custom is not indulged with custom, custom will mourn or weep." This has always been a kind of war-cry among the populace when their rulers have anywise attempted to deviate from an ancient custom.
The natives say, that many Centuries before the Christian era, the Island was inhabited by fairies, and that all business was carried on in a supernatural manner. They affirm, that a blue mist continually hung over the land, and prevented mariners who passed in ships that way, 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.3 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 tradition 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 pishay, 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 government 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 female. 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, although 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.", 4
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 bringing him word one day that a strange bull was among the cows, he doubted not but it was the waterbull, 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 he the death of this dangerous enemy; they went to the place where they were told he was, and run 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."5
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 waterbull 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.6
The glashtin 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 gambols 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.7
The dooinney-oie or nightman, of the former Manks peasantry, seems to have been somewhat akin to the benshee of the Scots and Irish,8 who were reverenced as the tutelar demons of certain families, as it appeared only to give monitions of future events to particular persons. The MS. of Manks Superstitions before referred to 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 resembled 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 inconsolable when their suits were rejected."9
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 re-hollys vooar yn ouyr, or 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,10 somewhat resembles the lubber fiend of Milton,11 and possesses several of the attributes of the Scottish brownie.12
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 gamer'd hoard,
Or cream-bowl pressed by a virgin-lip
To be left in the household board.13
The phynnodderee also cut down and gathered" in meadow-grass, which would have been injured if allowed 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 garrisons, 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 yiarn foldyragh or 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 related, still called yn cheance rhunt, or 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 Sholl-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 likewise the whole of the quarried stones, consisting of more than an hundred cart-loads, were in one night conveyed from the shore to the site of the intended instead by the indefatigable phynnodderee, and in confirmation of this wonderful feat, the white stone is yet pointed out to the curious visitor.14
The gentleman for whom this very acceptable piece of work was performed, wishing to remunerate the naked phynnodderee, 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 :
Bayrn da'n choine, dy doogh dan choine,
Cooat da'n dreeym, dy doogh da'n dreeym,
Breechyn da'n toyn, dy doogh da'n toyn,
Agh my she lhiat ooiley, shob cha nee lhiat Glen reagh Rushen.
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, he departed with a melancholy 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." 15
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."
Doctor Langhorne 16 is of opinion that the Isle of Man is the only place in the world where. one would have the chance of meeting with a fairy, for on a fine summer evening they are frequently seen by brooks and waterfalls, and on the tops of the highest mountains, dressed in green.
Merry elves their morris dancing
To aerial minstrelsey;
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,
Trip it deft and merrily." 17
The fascinating power of the fairy minstrelsey must be great to verify the following anecdote related by Waldron. " An English gentleman informed me, that having to swim on horseback across Douglas river when the tide was high, and when about the middle of the swollen water, he heard such fine symphony that he thought nothing human ever came up to it. The horse was no less sensible of the harmony than himself, and, notwithstanding the current of the tide, kept in an immovable posture all the time it lasted, which he said could not be less than three quarters of an hour. He who before laughed at all the stories told of fairies, now became a convert."18
The following fairy tale, related by Lord Teignmouth, is of recent date :-" The Manks," says he, " retain many superstitious notions common to the other branches of the Celtic family. My guide mentioned an instance of a troop of fairies having appeared, about six years before that time, to a man of Laxey, who, being somewhat intoxicated, forthwith began to abuse them, but they wreaked their vengeance on him by piercing his skin with a shower of gravel. The catastrophe did not terminate here : his only horse died next morning, his cow died also, and in six weeks he was himself a corpse! He also assured me that persons, walking in the neighbourhood of a church. yard, sometimes found themselves entangled in a crowd which suddenly vanished-a sign that foreboded a funeral. He said also that a light issuing from a churchyard indicated a marriage."19
In such veneration were the fairies held by the simplehearted peasantry, that on a stormy night every person went sooner to bed that the " good people," as they called them, might get in to enjoy the comforts of the house.20
During the re-hollys vooar yn ouyr, or "great harvest moonlight," the fairies are considered to be always abroad, and many stories are related of their excursions throughout the Island, and particularly of their merry-makings in Glentrammon.
Spectral illusions were formerly common throughout the Western Isles. "In Skye, a woman repeatedly beheld another resembling herself walking at no great distance, and in changes of apparel like her own. A young woman in Lewis constantly beheld the back of her own image 21 before her, in going into the open air." A young sailor, returning from a long voyage, was put on shore at Douglas to visit a sister at Kirk Merloch. As he passed over a mountain on his route, he heard the trampling of horses and the sound of a huntsman's horn. Instantly thirteen persons, all gallantly mounted and dressed in green, rode quickly past. He saw them again and again, and heard the sound of the horn die slowly away in the distance. When he told his sister what he had seen, she clapped her hands for joy that he had arrived in safety, adding "those you saw were fairies, and it is fortunate they did not take you away."22
In these nightly hunting excursions, the fairies did not content themselves with the Manks horses to be found on the mountains, but made use of the English and Irish cattle, brought by gentlemen to the Island. Nothing was more common than to find these poor animals in the morning, tired almost to death, when their owners thought them safe in their stalls. A gentleman, of Ballafletcher, assured Mr. Waldron that he had three or four of his best horses killed in these nocturnal journeys.23 The tricks of these mischievous elves, however, must have been counteracted by a kind of good spirit, who appears to have been highly venerated at Ballafletcher, from a testimony which has reached our times.
The estate of Ballafletcher, on which stands the parish church of Braddan, now called Kirby, was long in the possession of a family named Fletcher. Colonel Wilks, the late proprietor of this estate, had in his possession an antique crystal goblet, resembling those old fashioned wine glasses still to be met with in the store of the curious housewife. This goblet was presented to him by an old lady, a connection of the family of Fletcher, the former proprietor of the estate. It is larger than a common bell-shaped tumbler, and is ornamented with carved sprigs and white lines. It is supposed to have been dedicated to the Ihiannan-shee, or " peaceful spirit," of Ballafletcher by the former owners of the estate, and to have been held in great esteem, being only used once a year, at Christmas, when the lord of the manor drank a bumper from it to the Ihiannan-shee of his " hearth and domain." This was treating the familiar spirits with greater respect than was usually done, they being often considered troublesome and dangerous. To break this fragile memorial would have been deemed a great misfortune to the family and displeasing to the spirit of peace. Colonel Wilks, honouring and respecting the fancies of olden times, caused it to be encased in a strong oaken box, mounted with silver : and in all probability, the old lady donor was glad at having got it safe out of her hands.24
The cup of the lhiannan-shee is not the only relic of fairy superstition in the Island. The interior of the fairy hill of Rushen, as the natives supposed, was formerly the palace of the fairy king, and many a tale was told of the midnight revels there of the fairy court of Mona. In some of these tales of wonder yet related by the upland peasantry, the fame of a glashtin musician called Hom Mooar has reached our times, who had by the melody of his music, decoyed many a wandering wight into the hallowed precincts, from which few ever returned. One of Hom Mooars achievements is thus related by Waldron: A farmer belonging to the parish of Malew returning homeward from Peel, was benighted in the intervening mountains and lost his way : after wandering, he knew not where, he was insensibly led by the sound of sweet music into a large hall, where were a great number of little people sitting round a table, eating and drinking in a very jovial manner. Among them were some faces whom he thought he had formerly seen ; but forbore taking any notice of them, or they of him, till the little people offering him drink, one of them, whose features seemed not unknown to him, plucked him by the coat and forbade him, whatever he did, to taste anything he saw before him; for if you do, added he, you will be as I am and return no more to your family. The poor man was much affrighted, but resolved to obey the injunction : accordingly a large silver cup, filled with some sort of liquor, being put into his hand, he found an opportunity to throw what it contained to the ground. On which the music ceased, and all the company instantly disappeared, leaving the cup in his hand. He returned home and communicated to the minister of the parish all that had happened, and asked his advice how he should dispose of the cup ; to which the parson replied, he could not do better than devote it to the service of the church : and this very cup, they tell me, is that which is now used for the consecrated wine in Kirk Malew.25
The Manks women are all spinsters : many of them regulate their work by some fancied control or interest, they think the fairies take in their operations.26 For this reason, they will not spin on Saturday evening, as they deem it displeasing to the elfin race.27 At every baking and churning a small bit of dough and a bit of butter was stuck on the wall for the " good people.28 And great ceremony was formerly observed by ploughmen ; before breaking the soil, they washed the plough with chamber-lee, as a sure preventive of all malignant influence against the undertaking.29
Predictive dreams, in all ages, and in every nation, have formed a prominent article in the creed of popular superstition. "Among the Grecians, we find a whole country using no other way for information than going to sleep."30 The English appear to have paid greater attention to dreams 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 frightened by a dream or by the sneezing of an old woman?"31 It was under the superstitious impression of a dream that Magnus Barelegs left Norway to spread fire and famine over the Western Isles and to plunder the Isle of Man.32 From that early period to the present time, the Manks appear to have entertained a belief in predictive dreams. In the autumn of 1838, Norris Bridson, of Castletown, having, one evening, spread a new fishing net, which was in the process of tanning, on the ground at a place called the claddagh, retired shortly afterwards to rest. About midnight, he dreamed that a rich neighbour of his was about to steal the net, upon which, leaping out of bed, he hurried away half naked to the claddagh, where he actually found the individual, pointed out in his dream, carrying away the net on his back.33
If a person wishes to purchase an animal, but will not give the price demanded, the disposer lifts earth from the print made by the persons right foot on the ground, where he stood at the time of his striving to drive the bargain,34 and rubs the animal all over with it, to prevent the effects of what is termed by the Islanders " overlooking ;" in illustration of which my Manks correspondent says :Mr. Karran, the late captain of the parish of Marown, had a fine colt, to which a person in Baldwin took a particular fancy, and was very anxious to purchase it, though Mr. Karran had no intention of parting with the animal. On the evening of the last refusal, the colt became suddenly ill ; and although every possible means were resorted to for its recovery, it continued to grow worse. On the third day a friend accidentally called at Mr. K.s house, and on being told the circumstance thus related of the colt, undertook the cure of it. He immediately started off for Baldwin, in the hope of meeting the person whose evil-eye had infected it ; he did so ; and when the person with the evil-eye had passed Mr. Karrans friend, the latter gathered the dust of the road out of his footsteps, and returned with it in his pocket-handkerchief. On rubbing the colt all over with the dust, it presently partook of food, and rapidly recovered, to the surprise of the proprietor and many of his neighbours.35
Occult infection was denounced in the ancient Manks statutes and ordinances,36 as well as in the acts of the Scottish parliament, in all the forms,3 particularly detailed in the Darker Superstitions of Scotland.37
Several years ago, Mr. Corlett, of Ballamona, in Kirk Braddan, sold a calf to a butcher of Douglas : but Mrs. Corlett, not being aware of the circumstance, sold the same calf again to another person of the same profession, who, upon concluding the bargain, paid the price agreed on, then took away the calf and killed it. As soon as Ballamona 38 discovered the mistake made by his wife, he called on the butcher to whom he had sold the calf, and after explaining the circumstance, offered to refund not only the sum which that butcher had paid for it, but the price which Mrs. Corlett had received from the other man, a sum considerably more ; this the butcher not only refused, but with characteristic proneness to litigation, instituted an action at law against Mr. Corlett, for the unlawful disposal of his property.
Although this contest did not seem to extend to the old superstitious assertion, that if people differ about the right of possessing any animal, not only that beast but the whole stock of which it formed a part, ceased to thrive. This happened to be exactly the case with Mr. Corletts cattle during the continuance of the lawsuit. The mother of the disputed calf ceased to give milk, and became hidebound, as did all the rest of the cows of the bowing, as if by contagion. This led to the belief that the whole were bewitched, and consequently labouring under the effects of sympathetic influence.39 " Nor were the cattle," says my informant, " cured till Mr. Corlett obtained a servant-maid from the north end of the Island, (where antidotes to witchcraft are thoroughly understood) who was so well skilled in the doctrine of sympathy, that she could take a mote out of any persons eye, though at, the distance of many miles from the afflicted person, and, who, by the action of the knife on the cutting of the herbs to be applied to the cure of any animal, could tell the extent of the disease by which that animal was afflicted."
When a beast dies from the supposed effect of witchcraft, the carcase is generally burnt by the proprietor, at the highway side, and the first person that passes that way after the fire is kindled, is recognised as the witch or wizard. A case of this kind took place in the early part of the year 1843, near the Union Mills, in the parish of Braddan, and was strongly commented on by the public press of the Island at the time, as an instance of the rankest superstition that could be resorted to in the present day.
Though a Wesleyan preacher, named Corjaig, affirmed some years ago, that he witnessed the departure of all the fairies of the Island, from the bay of Douglas, in empty rum puncheons, and that he saw them scudding away before the wind as far as the eye could reach in the direction of Jamaica, and though no person has dared to affirm positively that he has since seen even one of these elves, yet fairy doctors still continue to be employed in the Island.40 At Ballayochie, eye-biting in every stage, whether in man or beast, was cured by one of these empirics down to a very recent period. At Ballasalla, lives, at present 41 a very extensive dealer in propitiatory charms and in antidotes to occult infection, but the most noted of whom at present is Mr. Teare,42 of Ballawhane, in the parish of Andreas. When the prescriptions of other practitioners fail in producing the desired effect, this famous person is applied to. The messenger that is despatched to him on such occasions is neither to eat nor to drink by the way, nor even to tell any person his mission. The recovery is said to be perceptible from the time the case is stated to him.43
In spring, when the doctor is called to attend professionally at more places than he can accomplish at the time required, many very respectable farmers will suspend for days the operation of sowing, although the land should be fully prepared, and even in the most precarious weather, rather than run the risk of committing the seed to the soil without his accustomed benediction.44
It will be seen from the following anecdote, related to me at the place where the circumstance occurred, that Seer Teare has power over the birds of the air as well as over the beasts of the field. In July, 1833, the great fairy doctor had just entered the house of Mr. Fargher, innkeeper, at Laxey, and seated himself in an old armchair, when he was greeted by the landlord, " Well, Ballawhane, I am glad to see you ; my little field of wheat is nearer ripe than any grain in the glen, and the sparrows feed on it in such flocks, notwithstanding all I can do to prevent them, that they will have all the grain carried away before the straw is fit for the sickle." " I am quite aware of that," replied Mr. Teare, " and I am just come to try if I can put them away for you." After returning from the field where he had performed some ceremonious riles, he remarked to the innkeeper, " these sparrows know well to take advantage of corn that has not been seen by me before it was sown, but I have sent them all away now, and I think they will not again venture into your field this season." This singular exorcism of the sparrows soon became known throughout Laxey : the paper-makers and the miners in the neighbourhood were the only persons who had any doubt as to the doctors power in such matters, and for the purpose of satisfying themselves, they narrowly watched the field during the remaining part of the season. To their great surprise, however, though the sparrows flocked round Mr. Farghers park in greater numbers than before, casting many a wistful eye to the waving grain, yet not one of them dared to enter the charmed precincts.
The great fairy doctor of Kirk Andreas is the last of a class of professors formerly very numerous throughout the Western Isles, and as such he merits a particular description here. The first time I saw him he was mounted on a little Manks pony that seemed aware of its master having neither whip nor spur to quicken its pace, as it moved very tardily along the way side. The Seer is a little man, far advanced into the vale of life; in appearance he was healthy and active ; he wore a low-crown slouched hat, evidently too large for his head, with a broad brim ; his coat, of an old fashioned make, with his vest and breeches, were all of loaghtyn wool, which had never undergone any process of dying : his shoes also were of a colour not to be distinguished from his stockings, which were likewise of loaghtyn wool.
Mr. Kelly, chief magistrate of Castletown, was kindly driving me in his gig to Port Saint Mary, whither also Mr. Teare was proceeding, and where, he informed us, he was to remain for the night. Aware that it was not agreeable to many even of the most intelligent Manksmen to hear direct allusions made by a stranger to any of the superstitious observances of the lower orders of the people, I avoided as much as possible making any enquiries that might give offence. Mr. Kelly seeing, however, from the nature of my questions and from my travelling in the mountains and associating with the peasantry, that my chief object was to become acquainted with all the existing peculiarities of the people, on our arrival at the inn, generously introduced me to the great fairy doctor, as a person eminently qualified to give me all the statistical information which the Island could afford. After communicating to the seer my object in visiting the Island, Mr. Kelly remarked with a magisterial air, " I know, Mr. Teare, that by probing the secret springs of nature you can either accelerate, retard, or turn aside at pleasure the natural course of events, but you must make oath before me, in presence of this stranger, that you never call evil spirits to your assistance." The seer assented, and the oath was administered with due solemnity by the magistrate, who, after listening to some singular stories from the doctor, departed for Castletown, leaving us to spend the evening together. There was a pithy quaintness in the doctors conversation, and his answers were generally couched in idiomatic proverbialisms. He said he was required by his professional business to travel more than any person in the Island, and when I expressed my surprise at a person of his advanced years enduring such fatigue, he replied " the crab that lies always in its hole is never fat."
Many virtues are ascribed by seafaring people to the caul, sometimes accompanying an infant in birth. This membrane, called by the Scots a haly hoo is by the Manks called crane bran er hect. The doctor related many wonderful anecdotes of persons possessing it, which was illustrated by many reminiscences of the landlady who was about eighty years of age, and whose mind seemed to be imbued with all the darker superstitions of the Islanders.
In various parts of the Island the seed potatoes had that summer become tainted in the ground and sent forth no tubers [fpc - first indication of potato blight ?] ; this caused many persons to plant their lands anew. It was the opinion of the doctor that the disease of the potatoe was occasioned by the malevolence of the fairies, and in order to convince me of such being actually the case, he said that all the potatoes, which he had been induced to take under his protection, had vegetated vigorously, and until they ceased to do so he was sure every Manksman would affirm that he had combated most successfully all the destructive powers of the elfin race.
At parting with this very singular person, he advised me, as I was a stranger in the Island, and consequently unacquainted with the mazes of the mountains, to procure the cross-bone of the head of a bollan fish, which, he assured me, so long as I kept in my possession, would prevent my straying from the most direct road to any place to which I wanted to proceed either by day or by night. In my progress through the Island, I found the same superstitious opinion generally entertained. A Manks mariner seldom goes to sea without one of these wonderful bones in his pocket to direct his course at night, or in hazy weather to the wished for haven.
Although the Manks of the present day manifest an indifference for the olden times, yet, as they still believe in fairies and familiar spirits, stories descriptive of fairy influence constitute the chief part of their traditionary lore.45 Through the medium of Manks servants in the employment of Scotch families resident in the Island, I have heard many of the wild legends related by Waldron upwards of a century ago.
Near the old mines at Spanish Head there are chasms in the mountains several feet in width. These fissures in the solid rock penetrate into the hill and are so deep and dark, that looking from the summit it is impossible to perceive the bottom. They divide the part now remaining of what was formerly called the Mull hills into accuminated masses, which overhang the sea that in tempestuous weather beats the base with irresistible fury.
I was examining with much attention one of the largest of these singular openings, when I was accosted by an old man, seemingly apprehensive of the danger to which I was thus exposing myself," Stranger, if you knew the depth of that place as well as I do, you would not have approached so near its brink." I thanked him for his kindness, and, on retiring a few paces from the edge of the fissure, solicited a relation of the event to which he alluded.
" We were gathering our sheep," said he, " in this very field, somewhere about forty years ago, when one of the best of them, to escape from a dog by which it was pursued, bounded into the mouth of that dark pit, at the mouth of which you were so lately standing with listless temerity. Being then young and not easily daunted, I determined to descend for the purpose of recovering my loaghtyn pet, notwithstanding the most urgent remonstrance on the part of my father, who was aware of many strange incidents that happened there to former adventurers. I caused myself to be let down, however, into the dark aperture, in a basket attached to a rope, and every rope in the village was knotted, one to the end of another, and all used in lowering me into the pit, but just as I reached the bottom of it, I was mortified to hear the last bleat of my poor sheep, evidently struggling under the knife of the butcher. As I advanced through a spacious cavern to a place whence the sound proceeded, I distinctly heard, in a neighbouring apartment, human voices in quick conversation, which, with the rattling of knives and forks, the drawing of corks, the decanting of liquor, and the uproarious noise which followed, tended to convince me that I was proceeding towards a company of bacchanalians, for whose gratification my poor sheep had probably been despatched. Lest, therefore, I should share the same fate, I made with all possible speed for the mouth of the cavern ; but just as I had set my foot on the sward, as many angry sounds issued from the pit as if a pack of harriers had been uncoupled at my heels. My descent and retreat had evidently been discovered by the gentry below,46 but not till, thanks to providence, I was out of their reach."
I was afterwards informed that the person who related this singular story, was a respectable landholder in that immediate neighbourhood. The sincerity of his manner left no doubt in my mind that he had been himself deceived by the phenomena of sound, and that his heated imagination had readily embodied the particulars of his story.
The ancient Egyptians were the most superstitious of all people. Their wandering tribes are accused of having introduced the study of the black art into Europe.47 This is at least probable, as we have no account of witchcraft in our annals of an earlier date than that ascribed to the arrival of the gipsies into Christendom.48 Though Saint Patrick obtained fire from heaven to consume nine wizards, clothed in white vestments, feigning themselves to be saints : these appear to have been Druids.49
We are informed that, early in the fifteenth century, the Manks women had obtained to such proficiency in the art of selling wind, that they could dispose of it in such quantities as mariners required. Thus they could control the elements, bind up the winds, or send forth tempests at will, to spread devastation over land and sea. " In the Ilonde of Mann is sortilege and witchcrafte used ; for women there sell to shipmen wynde as it were closed under three knottes of threde, so that the more wynde he would have, the more knotts he must undo."50
Matholine, governor of the Isle of Man in 1338, wrote a treatise against the practice of witchcraft then prevalent there.51
The Manks statutes, relating to witchcraft and sorcery, bear that any person suspected of these crimes be presented to the chapter quest, then handed over to the bishop, and finally to the civil law.52
About two miles from Peel, opposite to the Tynwald Mount, there is a hill called Slieu Whallan, said to be haunted by the spirit of a murdered witch, which however, does not appear to mortal eyes, but every night joins its lamentations to the howling winds. This woman is said to have shared the fate of Regulus, having been put into a barrel with sharp iron spikes inserted round the interior, pointing inwards, and thus, by the weight of herself and the apparatus, allowed to roll from the top of the hill to the bottom.53,54
Many other persons suffered here, in a similar manner. One of whom was a man named Thomas Carran, who died protesting his innocence of the crime of which he was accused. In proof of this, as he is said to have predicted, a thorn-tree has since grown, and marks the fatal spot on the summit of the hill, where the cask, in which he was enclosed, in fulfilment of the sentence awarded against him, was pushed over the brow, to roll, and bound, and dash with headlong speed to the plain below.
Another mode of testing and punishing witchcraft was: the suspected person was driven into the middle of the Curragh-glass, a stream near Greeba, in the parish of Kirk German. If she sunk to rise no more in this life, her body was taken out of the water, carried home, waked, and received a christian burial ; but if, to save herself from drowning, she managed to paddle to either side, she was instantly declared guilty of the crime of which she stood charged, and was consequently either burnt alive as a convicted witch, or rolled from the top of Slieu Whallan, in the manner just described.
In a lonely part of the northern district of the Island, stood the cottage of an old woman who had been long suspected of being a practitioner of the black art, to the detriment of many of her neighbours. A person of great courage having had occasion to pass that remote dwelling one night, at a late hour, and seeing a strong light within, on peeping through a chink in the door, perceived distinctly the old beldame busily turning an image before a large fire, and sticking pins into it occasionally, on which she muttered a cabalistic rhyme which he could not understand.
Next morning, on hearing that the minister had been suddenly seized by a chronic disease on the preceding evening, which lasted till midnight, the man who had seen the crone at work at the very time the minister was tortured by racking pains, publicly charged her of being the sole cause of his indisposition, which was seemingly confirmed by the captain of the parish finding in her possession the image or supposed effigy of the minister, with an old bladder containing rusty nails, pins, and skewers. After having been tried and found guilty, she walked seemingly quite unconcerned to the common place of execution, and just before she was bound to the stake, confessed the crime for which she was about to suffer.55
Suspected witches are now differently treated in the Island, as appears by the following case of recent occurrence A farmer named John Quine, residing at Ballaharry, in the parish of Marown, having lost in succession a heifer, a cow, and a horse, stupidly attributed the death of these animals to the influence of witchcraft, though it was plain to other people that his loss, in each instance, was only the effect of a natural cause On the 19th December, 1843, he obtained from one of the deemsters a trespass warrant, under authority of which a jury was sworn and a great number of persons summoned as witnesses, and examined on the premises. The examination was conducted chiefly in Manks ; and such questions as the following were put :" Did you ever witch Quines cattle ?" " Do you bear any malice against Quine ?" " Did you hear any body talking about Quine before his cattle died, and seemingly grudge him what he possessed ?"
The jury was ultimately adjourned, and on the following day similar questions were proposed ; but one of the jurymen interfered and refused to allow any interrogatories irrelevant to matters of trespass, and the proceedings were further adjourned till Thursday, the third day of January, in the present year 1844, when those who were summoned and did not attend on the previous day, were brought up in the custody of constables, amongst whom was Quines sister-in-law, a midwife in his immediate neighbourhood. After being sworn in the common form, the question put to her was, " Did you ever come in any shape or form 56 to do Quine or his goods an injury." The poor woman confessed " that she had once passed through Quines fields without leave, on being called, in great haste to attend a neighbours wife in labour ; and being frightened into the belief that she was consequently liable for the expenses of the court, before a verdict was pronounced by the jury, she agreed to pay the costs, amounting to nearly five pounds.
While the advocate, employed in this case, was busily employed in taking minutes of the evidence, some wag managed to let loose, unperceived, in the room, a wild rabbit. On the appearance of this unexpected visitor, all in an instant became terrified, and a scene of confusion ensued, that may be better conceived than it is possible to describe. The jury, in particular, with staring eyes, hair on end, and mouths distorted, shouted " the witch! the witch !" This uproar continued for several minutes, till one of the party, more courageous and daring than the rest, seized the supposed witch, and while depriving the harmless creature of existence, triumphantly exclaimed " You shall not trouble poor Quine again."57
From the elder or trammon, being vulgarly supposed to have been the tree upon which Judas hanged himself 58 great reliance was formerly placed on its sanative and mystical virtues. The inhabitants used it as a physical charm to protect their houses and gardens from the baneful influence of sorcery and witchcraft ; even at the present time, an elder tree may be observed growing by almost every old cottage in the Island.
In the fishing season, when a boat happens not to be so successful as those around it, the sailors invariably ascribe the cause to witchcraft. In their opinion, it then becomes necessary to exorcise the boat by burning the witches out of it. Townley thus relates one of these operations which he witnessed in the harbour of Douglas in 1789 :" they set fire to bunches of heather in the centre of the boat, and some made wisps of heather, and lighted them, going one at the head, another at the stern, others along the sides, so that every part of the boat might be touched." Again he says, " there is another burning of witches out of an unsuccessful boat off Bankss Howethe flames are very visible to the top of the bay."59
I have heard a Manksman gravely tell of a superb city, with many towers and numerous gilded minarets, which once stood near Langness, in Castletown bay, on a place now covered by the sea, but which, he seemed to believe, is still sometimes seen to rise out of the sea in all its primitive magnificence.60
To this submarine city I have seen no other allusions made ; but Waldron has furnished us with a striking counterpart to it in his story of the " diving bell," wherein an adventurer in search of treasure having descended to a great depth in the sea in a bell, " made of glass, cased with tough leather, beholds many wonderful things through the windows of his cage."61
The Manks people count it very unlucky to receive any thing given by turning the hand outwards. At table they will not turn a herring, but when one side is eaten, they will take away the bone and eat the rest : to turn the herring, they think, would be tantamount to overturning the boat into which it was drawn from the ocean, if it then chanced to be at sea. When a cow has newly calved, she is driven over a burning turf. When removing, also, from one place to another, a cock is put into the house, before any of the new tenants take possession, in order to thwart the bad wishes of the last inhabitant.
Besides these harmless superstitions, the inhabitants of Man believe in prognostication, denominated second-sight with what has been written on this subject, libraries might be occupied to the exclusion of more profitable leaning The visionary gift is said to be now peculiar to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It was the reputed prerogative of the inhabitants of the Isle of Man. " There ofte by daye time, men of that Islonde seen men that bey dede to fore honde, byheeded or hole, and what dethe they deyde. Alyens setten theyr feet vpon feet of the men of that londe for to see such syghts as the men of that londe doon" 62 Sometimes, however, " it was derived by inheritance and transmitted from father to son.63
Sacheverell wishes to make his readers think that he treated a belief in the marvellous lightly, by saying it was not for him to determine whether it proceeded from ignorance, superstition, or prejudice, or education, or from any traditional or heritable magic, which is the opinion of the Scotch diviners respecting the second-sight, yet he confirms it unconsciously in many instances which he quotes, affirming in conclusion, that he could give an hundred instances of a similar description.
Accounts of spectral illusions are Communicated by many persons with the most religious sincerity. Some will tell you that amid the silence of night they have heard themselves called by name, when they were perfectly assured there was no earthly creature at hand. Others, that in their lonely rambles they have met a visionary funeral which followed them wherever they turned, till one apparition, the figure of a departed relation, seemed to touch them, when the whole vanished into air.65
Captain Leather, chief magistrate of Belfast in the year 1690, who had been previously shipwrecked on the coast of Man, assured Mr. Sacheverell 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 drowned.66 " A clergyman," says Waldron, " was one evening taking a solitary walk in the fields, when he was suddenly alarmed by a hideous bellowing, and something like a bull, but much larger, rushed past him to a cottage hard by. Upon enquiry, he found that a man had died there at that instant, who was generally reputed a wicked person. The general conclusion therefore, was, that this terrible apparition came to attend his last moments."67
Almost every country has some person or race of high antiquity, whom they are accustomed to consider as the engineers of every antique monument for whose existence they cannot otherwise account. The Persians have their Deotas and Iins ; the Greeks had their Cyclops ; the Scots have their Picts and Brownies ; the Irish, Fin Mac Coul; and the Manks, Mannanan Beg and a race of giants, one of whom, contemporary with St. Patrick, they say, had by his strength and ferocity become the terror of the whole Island. He used to transport himself with great ease across the gorge between Peel Castle and Contrary Head. " On a time, either for amusement or in a fit of rage, he lifted a large block of granite from the castle rock, and, though several tons weight, tossed it with the greatest ease against the acclivity of the opposite hill, about three miles distant, where it is seen to this day, with a print of his hand on it " 68 In support of this legend, the Manks peasantry show strangers the giant's casting stones, which are two unhewn pieces of clay slate, each ten feet high, standing about half a mile from the fairy hill ,69 also the giants cave, at the foot of Barrule ;70 and the giants grave, a green mound thirty yards long, outside the walls of Peel Castle.71
In the giants cave, it is believed that a great prince, who never knew death, has been bound by enchantment for the last six hundred years " The great-grandfather of my informant," says Waldron, " saw a huge dragon, with a tail and wings that darkened all the elements, and eyes that seemed like two globes of fire, descend into that cavern ; and afterwards- heard the most terrible shrieks and groans from within. If a horse or dog is taken to the mouth of the pit, its hair will stand on end, its eyes stare, and a damp sweat will cover its whole body."72
An enchantress, it seems, also sojourned for a time in the Island. By her alluring arts, she ensnared the hearts of so many men around where she resided, causing them to neglect their usual occupations, that the country presented a scene of utter desolation They neither ploughed nor sowed , their gardens were all overgrown with weeds , their once fertile fields were covered with stones , their cattle died for want of pasture , and their turf lay undug in the commons. This universal charmer having brought things to such a deplorable crisis, under pretence of making a journey to a distant part of the Island, set out on a milk-white palfrey, accompanied by her admirers on foot, till having led them into a deep river, she drowned six hundred of the best men the Island had ever seen, and then flew away in the shape of a bat.
To prevent the recurrence of a like disaster, these wise people ordained that their women should henceforth go on foot and follow the men, which custom is so religiously observed, that if by chance a woman is observed walking before a man, whoever sees her, cries out immediately " Tehi ! Tehi !" 73 which, it seems, was the name of the enchantress who occasioned this law.
That tradition and superstition are most busy where real history is silent, is here amply verified. The person who has read the preceding sketches will, I dare say, concur in the opinion of Sir Walter Scott, that " Tales of goblins, ghosts, and spectreslegends of saints and demons, of fairies and familiar spirits, in no corner of the British dominions are told and received with more absolute credulity than in the Isle of Man."
The following legend, in wild extravagance, inferior only to a few in the Arabian collection, I insert merely to illustrate a superstitious practice still observed in the Island : In the days of enchantment, a certain magician raised by his art the most magnificent palace ever beheld, but it was inhabited solely by infernal spirits. Every mortal who, under any pretence, happened to venture within its portals, was instantly converted into stone. This spread such terror, that the country for several miles round became desolate.
It happened, however, one evening about dusk, that a poor man, looking for charity, who knew nothing of the enchanter, was travelling on that side of the Island. Seeing no part where he might lodge for the night, he proceeded to the dreaded fabric, which rose before him in all its splendour, but not presuming to enter within its doors lest he should be turned out again by some churlish lacquey, he sat down beneath one of the large piazzas, by which the magnificent structure was surrounded. Being hungry, he took some bread and meat with a little salt out of his wallet, to eat, but some of the salt having accidentally fallen to the ground, instantly terrific groans issued from the earth, a dreadful hurricane arose, forked lightning flashed around, and thunder rattled over his head. In a moment the fine palace with all its lofty porticos and brazen doors vanished, and the mendicant found himself in the midst of a barren waste. When he communicated this wonderful adventure to the inhabitants of the neighbouring village, they would not give credit to his relation, till having gone to the spot where the palace of the necromancer stood, they were convinced of its truth, and all joined in prayers and thanksgivings for so great a deliverance. It was evident from the beggars story, that the salt spilt upon the ground had occasioned the dissolution of the enchanted fabric. For this reason salt has since been held in such high estimation with the Manks, that no person will go out on business without taking some in his pocket, much less remove from one house to another without making use of such a necessary precaution. Many will neither put out a child nor take in one to nurse with~. out salt being mutually exchanged. The necessitous poor, although famishing in the streets, will refuse food unless salt be conjoined in the benevolence. Should any one ask the meaning of this veneration for salt, he will be told the story just related, by doubting which, he would incur the censure of the inhabitants as a very profane person.74
It was, formerly, customary 75 for the soldiers of the Island before marching to battle, to fortify themselves with certain amulets,76 in the belief of their thereby becoming impenetrable by swords or other weapons, and by heating their spears in the fire and anointing them with lard, they expected to ensure success in battle.77 The Irish of the present day when they go to battle say certain prayers or charms to their swords, making a cross therewith upon the earth, and thrusting the points of their blades into the ground, that they may have better success in fight,78 but above these, the enchanted sword Macabuin, worn by Olive Goddardson, king of Man, deserves to be particularly noticed.
According to tradition, there resided in Man, in the days of Olave Goddardson, a great Norman baron, named Kitter, who was so fond of the chase, that he extirpated all the bisons and elks with which the Island abounded at the time of his arrival, to the utter dismay of the people, who, dreading that he might likewise deprive them of their cattle and even of their purrs in the mountains, had recourse to witchcraft to prevent such a disaster. When this Nimrod of the north had destroyed all the wild animals of the chase in Man, he one day extended his havoc to the red deer of the Calf, leaving at his castle on the brow of Barrule, only the cook, whose name was Eaoch, ( which signifies a person who can cry loud,) to dress the provisions intended for his dinner. Eaoch happened to fall asleep at his work in the kitchen ; the famous witch-wife Ada caused the fat, accumulated at the lee side of the boiling pot, to bubble over into the fire, which set the house in a blaze. The astonished cook immediately exerted his characteristic powers to such an extent that he alarmed the hunters in the Calf, a distance of nearly ten miles.
Kitter, hearing the cries of his cook and seeing his castle in flames, made to the beach with all possible speed and embarked in a small currach for Man, accompanied by nearly all his attendants. When about halfway, the frail bark struck on a rock (which from that circumstance has since been called Kitterland), and all on board perished.
The fate of the great baron and the destruction caused the surviving Norwegians to believe that Eaoch the cook was in league with the witches of the Island, to extirpate the Norwegians then in Man, and on this charge he was brought to trial, and sentenced to suffer death. The unfortunate cook heard his doom pronounced with great composure, but claimed the privilege, at that time allowed to criminals in Norway, of choosing the place and manner of passing from time into eternity. This was readily granted by the king. " Then," said the cook with a loud voice, " I wish my head to be laid across one of your majestys legs and there cut off by your majestys sword Macabuin, which was made by Loan Maclibhuin, the dark smith of Drontheim."
It being generally known that the kings scimitar could sever even a mountain of granite, if brought into immediate contact with its edge, it was the wish of every one present that he would not comply with the subtle artifice of such a low varlet as Eaoch the cook ; but his majesty would not retract the permission so recently given, and therefore gave orders that the execution should take place in the manner desired.
Although the unflinching integrity of Olave was admired by his subjects, they sympathised deeply for the personal injury to which he exposed himself, rather than deviate from the path of rectitude. But Ada, the witch, was at hand ; she ordered toads skins, twigs of the rowan tree, and adders eggs, each to the number of nine times nine, to be placed between the kings leg and the cooks head,~ to which he assented.
All these things being properly adjusted, the great sword Macabuin, made by Loan Maclibhuin, the dark smith of Drontheim, was lifted with the greatest caution by one of the kings most trusty servants and laid gently on the neck of the cook. But ere its downward course could be stayed, it severed the head from the body of Eaoch, and cut all the preventives asunder, except the last ; thereby saving the kings leg from harm.
When the dark smith of Drontheim heard of the stratagem submitted to by Olave to thwart the efficacy of the sword Macabuin, he was so highly offended that he despatched his hammerman, Hiallus-nan-urd, who had only one leg, having lost the other when assisting in making that great sword, to the Castle of Peel to challenge king Olave or any of his people to walk with him to Drontheim. It was accounted very dishonourable in those days to refuse a challenge, particularly if connected with a point of honour. Olave, in mere compliance with this rule, accepted the challenge and set out to walk against the one-legged traveller from the Isle of Man to the smithy of Loan Maclibhuin, in Drontheim.
" They walked oer the land and they sailed oer the sea ;"
And so equal was the match, that when within sight of the smithy, Hiallus-nan-urd, who was first, called at Loan Maclibhuin to open the door and Olave called out to shut it. At that instant, pushing past he of the one leg, the king entered the smithy first, to the evident discomfiture of the swarthy smith and his assistant. To show that he was not in the least fatigued, Olave lifted a large fore-hammer, and under pretence of assisting the smith, struck the anvil with such force that he clove it not only from top to bottom, but also the block upon which it rested.
Emergaid, the daughter of Loan, seeing Olave perform such manly prowess, fell so deeply in love with him that during the time her father was replacing the block and the anvil, she found an opportunity of informing him that-her father was only replacing the studdy to finish a sword he was making, and that he had decoyed him to that place for the purpose of destruction, as it had been prophesied that the sword would be tempered in royal blood, and in revenge for the affront of the cooks death by the sword Macabuin. " Is not your father the seventh son of old Windy Cap, king of Norway ?" said Olave. " He is," replied Emergaid, as her father entered the smithy. " Then," cried the king of Man, as he drew the red steel from the fire, " the prophecy must be fulfilled." Emergaid was unable to stay his uplifted hand, till he quenched the sword in the blood of her father and afterwards pierced. the heart of the one-legged hammerman, who, he knew, was in the plot of taking his life.
This tragical event was followed by one of a more agreeable nature. Olave, conscious that had it not been for the timely intervention of Emergaid, the sword of her father would indeed have been tempered in his blood, and knowing the irreparable loss which she had sustained at his hands, made her his queen, and from her were descended all succeeding kings of Man down to Magnus, the last of the race of Goddard Crovan, the conqueror
Not wishing to exceed the due limits of history in the preceding chapter, I have made only such extracts from the ample and diffuse stock of popular legends, not yet obsolete in the Isle of Man, as might tend to give a concise view of the most distinctive shades of superstition observed there. The curious observer may yet find amid the Manks mountains the elements of another Thousand and one Nights Entertainment.
1 Johntones Jurisprudence
2 Many sanative virtues were ascribed to hair ropes. A person might obtain the Second sight by having one coiled round his body like a screw, gazing at the same time through a hole left by a fir knot at a passing funeral, but if the wind changed while the mystical cord begirt the body of the novice, his life was in jeopardy Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, pp. 469, 470.
3 Could this tradition be divested of the improbabilities by which it appears to have been surrounded in the course of time, it would, perhaps, resolve into the usual ceremony, performed by the Druids at the solstices, of rolling a wheel enveloped in straw to the top of the nearest consecrated hill, to kindle the straw by a spark from the sacred fire, and while blazing to allow the wheel to roll down the declivity, that the Arch-druid might see in its evolutions the events that would occur ere the sun returned to the next tropical point. Count de Gebelon, in his Allegories, printed at Paris in 1773, says that from the druidical ceremony of the wheel is derived the name wiel, jol, and yule, applied to Christmas in modem times by the Germans, Danes, and Scots respectively.
4 Waldron, pp. 161,162.
5 Ibid, pp. 147, 148.
6 MS. Account of Manks Superstitions, collected for this work by a native of the Island. A superstitious belief in this imaginary water spirit is not confined to the Isle of Man. The water-bull is still believed to reside in Loch Awe and Loch Rannock, in the Highlands of Scotland. He is odd to be vulnerable only to silver.Maccullock's Description of the Western Isles, vol ii, p. 185.
7 Cregeen's Manks Dictionary, p. 79 ; MS. Account of Manks Superstitions. The glashlin seems to be merely a different shade of the superestion of the tarroo-ushtey ; but, like the latter, is not wholly confined to the Isle of Man. The water-horse is said to have been seen in Loch Lomond and in Shetland. the latter is represented as being very handsome, but when mounted carries its rider into the sea. -Croker, vol. i, p. 272.
8 The Bonaaishnee of the Manks was a female fortune-teller.-Cregeen Dictionary, p. 24.
9 Graham's Sketches of Perthshire, ap. Dalyell's Darker Superstition, p. 600."
10 VideNorthem Sagas; Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary.
11 Vide L'Allegro.
12 Jameson described the brownie as a " spirit supposed, till of late years, to haunt some old houses, those, especially, attached to farms. Instead of doing any injury he was believed to be very useful to the family, particularly to the servants if they treated him well, for whom, while they took their necessary refreshments in sleep, he was wont to do many pieces of drudgery. "-Scottish Dictionary. "Some think the brownie not of supernatural origin, but distressed persons who were obliged to conceal themselves and wander about during some of the past turbulent ages" - Mac Taggart's Gallovidian Encyclopeedia, p. 96. James Hogg, in his Tale of the Brownie of Bodsbeek, shows the brownie to have been one of the fugitive Cameronians
13 Mrs. E. S. Craven Green.
14 MS. Account of Manks Customs.-Another large stone is pointed out to the visitor near Jurby Church, said to have been thrown by a giant from either Snafield or some of the adjoining mountains, after a companion who had insulted him, but who contrived to escape his rage by wading or swimming from Jurby to the coast of Scotland. Such memorials of fabulous achievements are also to be found in Scotland. In the town of Ayr, close to the Wallace Tower, is a block of blue whinstone of at least a ton weight, called Wallace's putting Stane, which, tradition says, was slung by the Scottish champion against a squadron of English cavalry.
15 Mrs. Craven Green.
16 Wood's History of the Isle of Man, p. 159.
17 Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto i, stanza xx.
18 Waldron, p. 138.
19 Teignmouth's Sketches of the Coasts of Scotland and the Isle of Man, vol. ii, page 262.
20 MS. Account of Manks Superstitions.
21 Mac Leod on Second Sight, pp. 21 t 2 7.
22 Waldron, p. 133.
23 Waldron, p. 133. " Not far from Ballaftetcher in the fairy'a saddle, a stone so called, I suppose, from the similitude it has to a saddle. It seems to be lodge on the edge of a small rock, and the wise natives of Man tell you it is every night made use of by the fairies; but on what kind of horses I could never find any who could inform me."-Waldron, p. 176. From this it appears that the euach skeibh, or fairy horse, of which many wonderful stories are yet related by many old people in the Highlands or Islands of Scotland, was not unknown in the Isle of Man. The stone saddle wag of itself sufficient to kill the gentleman's horses. The stone is yet own in nearly the same place, and from that circumstance, the way leading to it in still called the Saddle-road.
24 Communications from Dr. H. R. Oswald, of Douglas, July, 1830.
25 Waldron, pp. 126, 127. Several tales similar to the above have been placed at my disposal by friends in the Isle of Man ; but as they are all of the same shade of superstition, it would have been foreign to my purpose to have inserted any of them,
26 Appendix, Note i, " Suspension of Labour on Saturday Evening."
27 Communications from Dr. Oswald, of Douglas, July, 1830.
28 Townleys Journal, vol. ii, p. 208.
29 MS. Account of Manx Superstitions.
29 Brands Observations on Popular Antiquities, by Sir Henry Ellis, edition 1843, vol. lii, p. 68.
30 Henrys History of Great Britain, vol. lii, p. 575, ap. Ellis, vol. iii, p. 69.
31 Chronicles of the Kings of Man, anno 1098, ap. Camden; Macphersons Critical Dissertation on the Origin of the Ancient Caledonians, No. xvi ; History of the Norwegian Principality, called the Kingdom of Man.
32 Manx Sun newspaper, 14th September, 1838.
33 Touching or lifting the earth in different countries, always, in rude times, involved mystery. Varri speaks of curing the gout by touching the earth nine times fasting. For diseases of the eye, touching the earth was, by the ancients, a specific remedy. Earth taken from the spot where a man had been slain was prescribed in Scotland for a hurt or an ulcer..Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1835, page 125.
34 MS. Account of Manks Superstitions.
35 Book of Spiritual Laws, ap. Mills, p. 53 ; Ibid. anno 1594, p. 64.
36 Acts of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, edition 1685, p. 288.
37 " Certain persons, either of divine endowment or by diabolical power, enjoy the supernatural faculty of infecting any living creature with disease and of curing it by various expedients without the use of medicine, also of reserving that faculty inactive in store for injury, and of transferring it from one being to another."Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, Glasgow, edition 1835, p. 288.
38 Where the Manks language is principally spoken in the Island, the natives are generally called after their estates or localities, as above.
39 Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, Glasgow, edition 1835, p. 318.
40 It appears from the following story that the fairies have also taken their departure from Scotland :" On a Sabbath morning, all the inmates of a little hamlet had gone to church except a herd.boy and a little girl, his sister, who were lounging be-side one of the cottages, when just as the shadow of the garden dial had fallen on the line of noon, they saw a long cavalcade ascending out of the ravine through the wooded hollow. It winded among the knolls and bushes ; and turning round the northern gable of the cottage, beside which the sole spectators of the scene were stationed, began to ascend the eminence towards the south. The horses were shaggy, diminutive things, speckled dun and gray : the riders stunted, misgrown, ugly creatures, attired in antique jerkins of plaid, long gray cloaks, and little red caps, from under which their wild uncombed locks shot out over their cheeks and foreheads. The boy and his sister stood gazing in utter dismay and astonishment, as rider after rider, each more uncouth and dwarfish than the one which had preceded it, passed the cottage and disappeared among the brushwood, which at that period covered the hill, until at length the entire rout, except the last rider, who lingered a few yards behind the others, had gone by. What are ye little manie ? and where are you going ? en-quired the boy, his curiosity getting the better of his fearsand his prudence. Not of the race of Adam, said the creature, turning for a moment in its saddle : the people of peace shall never more be seen in Scotland. "The Old Red Sand-stone by Hugh Miller, Edinburgh, edition 1842, p. 251.
41 June, 1843.
42 Feltham, who visited the Island in 1797, speaking of Mr. John Teare, of Ballawhane, in the parish of Andreas says This gentleman's family have long been in possession of some valuable medicinal preparations, which they liberally distribute to the relief of the poor Tour through the Isle of Man, p 150
43 MS. Account of Manks Customs.
44 This branch of the black art though probably now confined to the Isle of Man, was formerly practised en Orkney A woman was verie anxious to know when David Cumlagoy would sow, and after shoe had heard, shoe went and stood to I his face all the tyme he was sowing, and that yeir his seed failed him that he could not sow the third of his land Magnus Linay and his wife Geillis Sclaitter were accused of having learned from the Egyptians the art of taking the profit of their neighbours corn.-Records of Orkney, 13th June, 1616, fol. 74, and 1st June,. 1643, fol. 278, ap. Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, edt. 1835, pp. 8, 236
45 Communication from Dr. Oswald, of Douglas, July, 1830.
46 The Fins and Laplanders have a species of Gnomes called Cobolds, who haunt dark and solitary places, and are often seen in mines, where they seem to imitate the miners, and sometimes take pleasure in frustrating their objects.Si,- Walter Scotts Demonology and Witchcraft, letter iv. These were the prototypes of the Manks subterranean spirits.
47 Hailes Annal. of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1779, vol. i, p. 305.
48 The account of the three witches of Forres, who deceived Macbeth, is the first mention made of sorcery in Scottish history. The magical power of the Scottish islanders is thus described by the bard who accompanied Haco, king of Norway, in his expedition against Scotland in 1263. " Now our deep enquiring sovereign encountered the horrid powers of enchantment and the abominations of an impious race. The troubled flood tore many fair gallies from their moorings and swept them anchorless before the waves. A magic raised watery tempest blew upon our warriors, ambitious of conquest, and against the floating habitations of the brave. The roaring billows and the stormy blast threw many of our shielded companies of adventurers on the Scottish strand.Poem of Snorro Starison, translated from the Flateyan MSS. by Johnstone, chaplain to the British embassy at Denmark, 1779.
This shows the high opinion entertained by the Norwegians of the magical powers of the islanders even in the thirteenth century. :
49 Proprium Sanctorum, f. lxxi, v, ap. Dalyells Darker Superstitions, p. 239. i
50 Higden Polychronicon by Trevisa, London, 1482, folio, lib. i, cap. xv ; Dalyells Darker Superstitions, p. 250 ; Malletts Northern Antiquities, vol. 1,, cap. xii. This art was also "practised by the ancient Norwegian Finlaps ; the knots were cast on a leathern thong, moderate breezes attended the loosening of odß ~ stronger gales the next ; and vehement tempests, even with thunders, followed tM loosening of the third." These knotted thongs were sold to navigators.-" Magnus, lib. iii, cap. xv ; Scheferus Lapponia, cap. ix, pp. 144, 145 ; see Henrys History of Great Britain, 4to vol., p. 199.
51 Sacheverells Account of the Isle of Man, p. 72.
52 Millss Laws, pp. 53, 64.
53 Wood, p. 160.
54 Appendix, Note ii, " Punishment for Witchcraft."
55 MS. Account of Manks Superstitions.
56 A witch was generally supposed to take the form of a hare when she intended to do any harm to a persons cattle, &c.
57 Abridged from a more detailed account of these proceedings in the Mona's Herald of 10th January 1844
58 Cole's Adam and Eve London 12mo 1656 ap Brand s Popular Superstitions by Ellis vol iii p 155 It is curious to mark the sympathy formerly observ~ between the gallows, or a person who had ended his days on it and sanative charms
The chip of a gallows on which a person had been hanged when worn in a bag on the breast suspended by a string round the neck would cure all diseases of the stomach The halter that had served in hanging a criminal was an infallible remedy for the headache when tied round the bead the hand of a dead man who had just been cut down from the gallows, dispelled tumours of the glands by stroking the parts nine times A ring made of the hinge of a coffin of a person who had been hanged had the power of relieving cramps ~Curioszties of Medical Experience ap the British Museum London 1835 vol i p 120 The common people keep, as a great secret in curing diseases, the leaves of the elder, which they gather on the last day of April To disappomt the effects of witchcraft they affix these leaves to their doors and windows Brand by Ellis, vol iii p 147
59 Townleys Journal, vol. ii, pp. 197, 207. A similar mode of witchcraft seems to have been practised on the coast of Scotland. " Isabell Young was accused of preventing the success of a certain fishing boat, though all the rest belonging to Dun-bar had got a full ladening, whereby the owner was reduced to indigence. .Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 267. In Orkney, " the water, wherein a fisherman kept his bait, was cast into the sea or about the boat to propitiate the fishery." Records of Orkney, folio 49, May, 1629.
60 A similar superstitious notion is entertained of a submarine city being sometimes seen on the north of Ireland :
" On Lough Neaghs banks, as the fisherman strays,
When the clear cold eves declining,
He sees time round towers of other days
In the wave beneath him shining."
Moores Irish Melodies, Song Let Erin remember the days of old."
61 Waldron, p. 164.
62 Higden Polychronicon by Trevisa, ap. Dalyells Darker Superstitions, p. 481.
63 Sacheverells Account of the Isle of Man, p. 14. It is further stated," That families had the second-sight by succession, descending from parents to children; and as yet there are many that have it in that way, and the only way to be freed from it is, when a woman hath it herself and is married to a man that hath it also, if in the very act of delivery, upon the first sight of the childs bead it be baptized, the same is free from it, if not, he bath it all his life."Groses Popular Superstitions London, quarto, edition 1811, p. 114.
64 Sacheverell's Account of the Isle of Man p 17 Martin's Description of the Western Isles London, edition 1703, pp 1 313
65 Robertsons Tour in the isle of Man in 1791.
66 Sacheverell, p. 15.
67 Waldron, p. 136.
68 Bennetts Sketches of the Isle of Man, London edition,1829, p 79
69 Wood, p. 139.
70 Waldron, p. 179.
71 Bennetts Sketches, p. 79.
72 Waldron, p 179
73 Waldron, p. 188.
74 Appendix, Note iii, " Virtue anciently ascribed to Salt."
75 Waldron, p. 185.
76 The toadstone was a most potent amulet ; it " is preserved to prevent the burning of a house and the sinking of a boat, and if a commander in the field has one of these about him, he will besure to win the day."Dalyell, p. 142. This imaginary jewel, which has been celebrated more by poets than by naturalists, was believed to be contained in the head of the toad. The stone might be obtained alive by burying the toad in an ant-hill to consume the flesh. As the toad is not mentioned in Scripture, it may be asked whether the same vocable does not signify either toad or frog.
77 Dalyells Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 158.
78 Spencers View of the State of Ireland, ap. Lithgows Travels in 1620, Leith, edition 1820, p. 141.
79 Among the portentous animals familiar to sorcerers and an object of superstitious apprehension, the toad is most noted. These animals are said to have been kept and fed for magical purposes decorated with ribands.Bodinus, book ii, cap. viii, p. 208, ap. Dalyell, p. 407.