Legends and Sagas
HE belief in witches was universal. The witch was usually an old woman, who lived in a lonely house by herself, and kept all her affairs very much herself. Her power was derived from Satan, was very great, and ranged over almost everything. By various ways she could cause disease in man and beast; raise storms to destroy crops, sink ships, and do other destructive work; steal cows' milk, and keep herself well supplied with milk and butter, though she had no cow. To do this last she was able to turn herself into a hare. At times, however, she used her power for the benefit of those who pleased her. She could cure diseases, discover stolen goods, and tell who the thief was. Such a woman was dreaded, and all her neighbours tried to live on good terms with her, bore from her what they would bear from no one else, and, if she asked a favour, would have granted it, however much it cost to do so. If one was unfortunate enough to fall out with her, something untoward was sure to happen to the offender, and that too in no long time after the quarrel. A horse died, or the cow's milk was taken away, or a calf began to dwine, or an arm or a leg was broken, or a hand was cut, or disease fell on the offender or on some member of the family. Sometimes the witch, instead of sending upon her enemy a single disaster, set herself to give all manner of petty annoyances, dogging him in all directions.
Here is a tradition:--A man had incurred the ill-will of a witch. He could not leave the house without being followed by his enemy. His life in a short time became a burden to him. He told his case to a reputed man of wisdom. He was advised to get a gun, load it with a crooked sixpence instead of a ball,
go out after sunset, when, of course, the witch would be after him. He was to use every artifice to conceal the gun, and to get his tormentor between him and the point of sunset. The moment he caught a glimpse of her by the last rays of the twilight, "atween im an the sky," he was to fire. The man did so, and be was left in peace ever after.
The power of witchcraft was sometimes possessed by men. It was also inherent in certain families, and went down from generation to generation. 1
72:1 Cf. Henderson, pp. 180, &c., and F. L. Record, vol. i. pp. 23-26.
Next: Chapter XV. ''Black Airt'' and Devil Compacts