Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  English Folklore  Index  Previous  Next 


FARMER, who possessed broad acres, and who was in many respects a sensible man, was greatly annoyed to find that his cattle became diseased in the spring. Nothing could satisfy him but that they were bewitched, and he was resolved to find out the person who had cast the evil eye on his oxen. According to an anciently prescribed rule, the farmer took one of his bullocks and bled it to death, catching all the blood on bundles of straw. The bloody straw was then piled into a heap, and set on fire. Burning with a vast quantity of smoke the farmer expected to see the witch either in reality or in shadow, amidst the smoke.

In this particular case he was to some extent gratified. An old woman who lived in the adjoining village noticing the fire and smoke, --with all a woman's curiosity, - went to Farmer --'s field to see what was going on. She was instantly pounced on by this superstitious man, and he would no doubt have seriously ill-treated her, had not the poor, and now terrified, old soul, who roused her neighbours by her cries, been rescued by them. Every person knew this poor woman to be a most inoffensive and good creature, and consequently the farmer was only laughed at for sacrificing thus foolishly one of his oxen.

Another farmer living in one of the western parishes was constantly losing his cattle in the spring. Many persons said this was because they were nearly starved during, the winter, but he insisted upon it that he was ill-wished, and that a blight was upon him.

At length, to break the spell, and discover the witch, he betook himself to a conjurer' (white witch) who lived near the Lizard Point. This learned person, of whom several other facts are told in these pages, told the farmer to bleed the next animal when taken ill, and to receive the blood upon straw, being careful not to lose any of it. Then the straw and blood were to be burnt, and whilst the blood was burning he would be certain of seeing. the witch pass through the smoke.

A young steer fell ill first; it was bled as ordered, the blood caught upon the straw, and both carefully burnt. While this was going on, female curiosity induced a poor weak old woman to go into the field and see what was going on. She was well known to all, and as guiltless as a child of ill-wishing anybody, but she was seen through the smoke, darted upon by the farmer, and cruelly ill-treated.

Next: How to become a Witch