[From Manx Soc vol 11 - Waldron's History] 


[W. Harrison].

Notes 49 to 55

NOTE 49—page 29.

"Infants being changed in their cradles."—This continues to be the belief of nurses to the present day, and great anxiety is expressed to have the infant christened as early as possible, in order to avert so dreaded a calamity. Many modes are adopted until the christening takes place, and among others I have seen the nurse place a pair of open scissors across the infant in the cradle every time she had occasion to leave the room, for fear the fairies should take the boght millish, and leave one of their own bandings in its place. This was regularly done until the christening, after which the child was considered safe. A red thread tied round its neck, or a cross made of the mountain ash, are said to be equally efficacious in preventing these exchanges. A curious mode of recovering " a changeling" is recorded in " A Pleasant Treatise of Witches," &c. London, 1673, p. 62, where a poor woman having brought up her child for some years, and finding it could neither speak nor go, and suspecting it to have been a changeling, was advised by an old man " to make a clear fire, sweep the hearth very clean, and place the child fast in his chair, that he might not fall before it; then break a dozen eggs, and place the four-and-twenty half shells before it; then go out, and listen at the door, for if the child spoke, it was certainly a changeling." Having done this, she heard the child say, " Seven years old was I before I came to the nurse, and four years have I lived since, and never saw so many milk pans before." " So the woman took it up and left it upon the dunghill to cry, and not to be pitied, till at last she thought the voice went up into the air, and coming out, found, there in the stead, her own natural and well-favoured child." One remedy, formerly resorted to in Ireland, to get rid of a supposed changeling, was placing a boiling mixture of digitalis and oatmeal in the mouth of the sickly child, or, another way was, placing it on a shovel, made red hot in the fire.

NOTE 50— page 33.

" Fairy hunting."—One distinguishing trait of Manx fairies is their fondness for the chase, and their pride in mounting large horses instead of ponies. It is no uncommon thing upon going in a morning into the stable and finding one of the horses wet with perspiration, to be told, " no doubt he has been ridden by the fairies." In Onchan, to this day it is still asserted they hear a phantom carriage pass through the village rapidly at night, but by no amount of vigilance can a glimpse of it be seen. This may be a link from the mighty huntsman of the North, Odin, or the Wild Hunstman, and his crew, of Germany. He is met with in many lands under different appellations; Herne, the hunter, in Windsor Forest; the one-handed Boughton in Warwickshire; or the Lady Skipwith.

NOTE 51—page 34.

"Fairy horse dealer."—The well-known legend of Alderley Edge, Cheshire, relates how a farmer passing over the heathy heights of Alderley on his way to sell his steed at a neighbouring fair, was suddenly accosted by an old man who demanded the price of his beast, but not agreeing upon the amount, said " Go on then to the fair, but mark my words, you win not sell; meet me here on your return, and I win buy your horse." The farmer heeded not the prophecy, and proceeded on to the fair. To his great surprise and disappointment, though an admired, none would buy his horse. Returning by the same spot he was again accosted by the venerable man who repeated his former offer, which was then accepted, when striking the rock with his wand, a ponderous pair of iron gates flew open, they entered a spacious cavern where a countless number of warriors, with their horses, Al armed ready for battle, lay fast asleep, with heaps of treasure piled up on the ground, from which he received the price of his steed, and was told to be gone. " These will arise at lEngland's great need. Till that day no mortal eye will ever look upon the Iron Gates."

" Vainly they search, they find it not,—
No trace remained, nor since that night
Hath mortal eye beheld the sight:
And till the hour decreed by Fate,
None o'er shall see the Iron Gate."

NOTE 52—page 36.

" Apparition at Castle Rushen."—Like all old castles, this, the " oldest of the old" has an apparition belonging to it, yet the narrative has nothing particularly remarkable appertaining to it. It may have some connection with the widow of Douglas who is said to have murdered her three children, mentioned at p. 22, and who, as Waldron states, was afterwards executed.

NOTE 53—page 37.

" The finest symphony."Fairies have ever been remarkable as passionately fond of music, and particularly of that light and festive character which best accords with their reputed habits. To such a degree of fascination did it hold those who came within hearing of it, that days passed as minutes, and many a poor wight who has been thus spell-bound, is recorded to have returned to his home and found there had been a total change during his absence. The fiddler who is said to have played nothing but psalm tunes (page 29) at the festive season of Christmas, when he was no doubt hired for a different purpose, shows that even fairies are not to be insulted. This love of music is again alluded to at page 68.

NOTE 54—page 37.

" Circles in the grass."—Mr. Dovaston, of Shrewsbury, has published a very ingenious paper on this subject, in which he adopts the electric theory of their formation. His theory is, that when a column of electric matter affects the earth, either ascending or descending, it scorches the ground an around its edge, and leaves the centre untouched. Consequently the grass is withered, which contributes to fertilise the spot where the herbage springs luxuriantly the following season, and at the same time brings into vegetation the dormant seeds of fungi, which grow and disappear rapidly, and with them the "fairy ring,"—rarely existing two successive seasons. The common fungi of "fairy rings" are, agaricus, boletus, or lycoperdon, and sometimes clavaria.— " Rennie." Mr. Jessop, in the Philosophical Transactions for 1675, propounded the electrical theory.

NOTE 55—page 38.

"Mock funerals."—This may be ranked among omens, being an indication of some future event, which the persons to whom it is comemunicated get, as it were, by accident, and without their seeking for and is denominated second sight. This faculty was wed known in Scotland and the Western Isles, and on this subject Dr. Johnson made some judicious remarks when on that tour. He says, " 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—things distant are seen at the instant when they happen. 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, detained, or recalled—the impression is sudden, and the effect often painful." This power may have been communicated to the Island by the Scandinavians among whom traces of the same faculty may be found, ingrafted upon them by the Druids. Mr. Waldron gives several instances of this faculty, of which he was " positively convinced by many proofs."


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