Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  English Folklore  Index  Previous  Next 


AGAIN and again had the Lord of Pengerswick reversed the spells of the Witch of Fraddam, who was reported to be the most powerful weird woman in the west country. She bad been thwarted so many times by this "white witch," that she resolved to destroy him by some magic more potent than anything yet heard of. It is said that she betook herself to Kynance Cove, and that there she raised the devil by her incantations, and that she pledged her soul to him in return for the aid he promised. The enchanter's famous mare was to be seduced to drink from a tub of poisoned water placed by the road-side, the effect of which was to render her in the highest degree restive, and cause her to fling her rider. The wounded Lord of Pengerswick was, in his agony, to be drenched by the old witch, with some hell-broth, brewed in the blackest night, under the most evil aspects of the stars; by this he would be in her power for ever, and she might torment him as she pleased. The devil felt certain of securing the soul of the witch of Fraddam, but he was less certain of securing that of the enchanter. They say, indeed, that the sorcery which Pengerswick learned in the East was so potent, that the devil feared him. However, as the proverb is, he held with the hounds and ran with the hare. The witch collected with the utmost care all the deadly things she could obtain, with which to brew her famous drink. In the darkest night, in the midst of the wildest storms, amidst the flashings of lightnings and the bellowings of the thunder, the witch was seen riding on her black ram-cat over the moors and mountains in search of her poisons. At

length all was complete--the horse-drink was boiled, the hell-broth was brewed. It was in March, about the time of the equinox; the night was dark, and the King of Storms was abroad. The witch planted her tub of drink in a dark lane, through which she knew the Lord of Pengerswick must pass, and near to it she sat, croning over her crock of broth. The witch-woman had not long to wait; amidst the hurrying winds was heard the heavy tramp of the enchanter's mare, and soon she perceived the outline of man and horse defined sharply against the line of lurid light which stretched along the western horizon. On they came; the witch was scarcely able to contain herself--her joy and her fears, struggling one with the other, almost overpowered her. On came the horse and her rider they neared the tub of drink; the mare snorted loudly, and her eyes flashed fire as she looked at the black tub by the road-side. Pengerswick bent him over the horse's neck and whispered into her ear; she turns round, and flinging out her heels, with one kick she scattered all to the wild winds. The tub flew before the blow; it rushed against the crock, which it overturned, and striking against the legs of the old Witch of Fraddam, she fell along with the tub, which assumed the shape of a coffin. Her terror was extreme she who thought to have unhorsed the conjurer, found herself in a carriage for which she did not bargain. The enchanter raised his voice and gave utterance to some wild words in an unknown tongue, at which even his terrible mare trembled. A whirlwind arose, and the devil was in the midst of it. He took the coffin in which lay the terrified witch high into the air, and the crock followed them. The derisive laughter of Pengerswick, and the savage neighing of the horse, were heard above the roar of the winds. At length, with a satisfied tone, he exclaimed, "She is settled till the day of doom," gave the mare the spurs, and rode rapidly home.

The Witch of Fraddâm still floats up and down, over the seas, around the coast, in her coffin, followed by the crock, which seems like a punt in attendance on a jolly-boat. She still works mischief, stirring up the sea with her ladle and broom till the waves swell into mountains, which heave off from their 'crests so much mist and fciam, that these wild wanderers of the winds can scarcely be seen through the mist. Woe to the mariner who sees the witch !

The Lord of Pengerswick alone had power over her. He had but to stand on his tower, and blow three blasts on his trumpet, to summon her to the shore, and compel her to peace.

Next: Trewa, the Home of Witches