’tis the season: On witchcraft



For the Table Book.

Recollections of Practices formerly used to avert and avoid the Power of Witchery.

Having a small, smooth limestone, picked up on the beach, with its edges rubbed down by friction of the continual action of the sea, with a natural hole through it, tied to the key of a house, warehouse, barn, stable, or other building.  This has  prevented the influence of witches over the house, &c.


Sailors nailed a horse-shoe on the foremast, and jockeys one on the stable-door, but to be effective the shoe ought to be found by accident.


On meeting a suspected witch, look at her thumb for it will be turned inward, and the fingers firmly closed upon it; care was also taken to let her have the wall-side or best path and not bother with her.


Caution was used that gloves, or any portion of apparel worn next to the skin, came not into the possession of a witch, as it was strongly believed she had an highly ascendant power over the rightful owner.


A bit of witch-wood, or a hare’s foot, was carried in the pocket, under an impression that the possessor was free from any harm that otherwise might accrue from the old hag’s malignant practices.  (the beginning of the lucky rabbit”s foot it seems)


One thing of importance was not to go out of the house in a morning without taking a bite of bread, cake, or other eatable to break the fast.


A thick white curtain was hung inside the window, to prevent an “evil eye” being cast into the room.


If a few drops of the old creature’s blood could be obtained, they were considered sufficiently efficacious in preventing her “secret, black, and baneful workings.”


Although the practices abovementioned are spoken of in the past tense, they are not, at the present time, altogether done away; not a few, who are now living, are credulous enough to believe in their potency.


The following may be mentioned as a fact, which occurred a short time ago in the neighbourhood where the writer of this article resides:—A person bought a pig, which after keeping for some time “grew very badly,” and witchery was suspected to be the cause; to ascertain the certainty of the fact nine buds of the elder-tree (here commonly called buttery) were laid in a straight line, and all pointing one way; a dish made of ash wood was inverted and placed carefully over them, and left to the next morning. This was done under an idea that if the pig was bewitched the buds would be found in disorder, but if not, in the state in which they were originally left.

T. C.

Bridlington, July 30, 1827

From the EveryDay Book & Table Book


now on Gutenberg