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DURING the reign of Charles the Second it was often said in England that the women of Holland became pregnant simply from their habit of carrying and keeping under their petticoats a small receptacle, or hand-stove, in which burning charcoals were placed. These hand-stoves, made of wood and tin, may still be seen among market-women in Philadelphia. The result of such pregnancy was a small elf or goblin, that is, a strange little creature of flesh and blood.

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In Italy women carry a scaldino, a receptacle exactly in the form of a basket, but made of glazed earthenware. It is filled with ashes and charcoal, and is so common that there are as many of them in Italy as there are inhabitants-at least, in the north. And as they are very often put under the garments next to the body, it is not remarkable that the idea that the very agreeable warmth would be impregnating should have occurred. It was known in earliest times, and Spenser has told us in the "Faerie Queene" how a beautiful lady, falling asleep, was exposed to the rays of the sun, which, entering her person, caused her to bear a child.

The Tuscan, more poetical or more classically-minded than the Dutchman, believes that the hand-stove makes the donna incinta, or enceinte, but with a folletto or pretty airy fairy, the rule of whose life is "light come, light go," since it is but a short time in the womb, and escapes, or is born unnoted at night, vanishing unnoted, like air.

When a girl or woman suspects that she has thus been made a madre, or mother, should she desire to see her offspring she repeats the following lines:--

"Folletto! Folletto! Folletto!
Che vole per l'aria,
Piu lesto che del vento,
Tu fai per non farti vedere
Da 'alcuno, ma io
Che desidero di vederti
Sono una persona
Che tanto ti amo;
Sono la tua vera madre,
Per cio mi raccomando
Che tu ti faccia vedere
Al me per una volta!"

("'Spirit! Spirit! Spirit!
Airy fairy light,
Fleeter than the wind,
Thou keepest from my sight,
And from all; but now
Come unto my spell,
Truly I am one
Of all who loves thee well,
Thy mother, too, I am,
And that I may see
What my child is like,
Come, I pray, to met!")

So he cometh in a dream, or it may be in reality--who knows? Who knows anything of it all, or in what life they live who believe in these things? Something

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must be seen or imagined, else how can these people maintain these fancies from age to age, from father to child, ever on. Or is all life a dream?

And yet how they can do it appears intelligible on reflection. When a man is not entirely absorbed by the life of cities, in factories, counting-houses, or "society," and when he is at home "in woodlands wild where the sweet birdes singe," then nature, or his instinct for companionship, makes him feel as if there were souls in trees, a spirit dwelling in the hearth, under the threshold, even in the scaldino of glowing coals. The polypantheistic stage, when man was passing from the phase of making gods of every object, to that of feeling one spirit in all, must have been coeval with a somewhat greater development of social life, yet when out-of-doors, rural or wild life or nature still exerted a deep influence. In such a life we gladly surround ourselves with strange companions, and believe that nature, which is so wonderful and apparently inspired with life and thought as a whole, also exists in separate beings. Men do not reason this out in these words, but Red Indians or Tuscan peasants feel it and act in its spirit.

While this spirit of nature still existed, SHAKESPEARE wrote under its inspiration, and artists painted, and all art came from it. And since it died out, what we call poetry and art are imitations of what they really did who lived in it.

What is most curious as regards this having a child begotten by fire in such a familiar domestic manner is that the very oldest story of the kind in existence is Etruscan. The tale is told by DIONYS, OVID, and PLUTARCH, and runs thus:--

"Tarquinius and his wife, the wise Tanaquil, were seated at their meal, while Ocris, the captive daughter of the king of Corniculum, waited on them. As she went to the fire to throw into it the usual offering to the Lar familiaris there came out of the flames a fascinum (phallus). Alarmed at this she told it to Tanaquil, who bade her dress herself in bridal array and sit on the hearth. She did so, and conceived from the heat, and bore a son, Servius Tullius. And it was said that when he once slept his hair appeared to be like flames."

This is effectively in another form the story of the child begotten by the Scaldino. The reader will observe that Dusio, Cupra, Attilio or the lar familiaris who is the spirit of the fireplace, in these Tuscan tales, always seduces a maid-servant. And this suggests a remark which the reader would do well to bear in mind. It is that, taking them all together, one with another--modern popular Tuscan tales, spells, incantations, and observances or descriptions of spirits--and comparing them with what is given by Latin writers, we find the ancient continually confirming the extreme antiquity of the modern. Be it a tract here, a small observance there, now an herb in an incantation, and anon a couplet in a charm, they continually interlace, cross, touch, and coincide. I find these unobserved small identities continually manifesting themselves, and they form a chain of

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intrinsic evidence which is as valuable to a truly critical scholar as any historical or directly traditional confirmation. That fire was a creature, or a living existence (as is still recognised by the Church of England) was believed in by all religions of all ages, as is illustrated by Schedius and Friedrich with a vast array of authorities. That it should as a spirit be capable of begetting spiritual children was a natural sequence. I think therefore that, all things duly considered, we have in the belief in the Scaldino a probably well-established continuation of the old Etruscan tale of the goblin of the fire and the fair queen's daughter, fallen to a servant-maid.

It is worth remarking that in the Tomba Golini at Orvieto, as in Pompeii, a fascinum, or phallus, was depicted over the oven or fireplace, probably to signify the spirit of the fireside.


I was astonished to find that the name Artemisia is known only as that of a strega--here a vampire--who sucks the blood of the dead in their graves. This indicates some connection with Diana as a witch of the evil kind. The name was promptly recognised, but I could learn nothing more regarding her. PRELLER identifies Diana Artemis with Hecate. As to which as with all others, I leave it to the more learned to investigate, examine, prove or disprove to their heart's content, I only professing to record, as in every case, what was told me.


"Lord Foulis sat within his tower,
    And beside him old Red Cap sly;
'Now tell me thou sprite who art mickle of might,
    The death that I shall die.'"
                             Minstrelsy of the Border

"Here is an ancient description of the dress of the fairies: 'They wear a red conical cap; a mantle of green cloth inlaid with wild flowers; green pantaloons, buttoned with bobs of silk, and silver shoon. They carry quivers of arrow-slough, and bows made of the ribs of a man buried where "three lairds" lands meet; their arrows are made of bog-reed tipped with white flints and dipped in the dew of hemlock; they ride on steeds whose hoofs would not "dash the dew from the cup of a harebell."'"-Anonymous

There are in the Romagna Tuscana a class of goblins or fairies who are almost identical with the Irish Leprachaun who possesses treasures which are yielded only under compulsion. I could not learn that the Italian elf has any other name than Il Folletto colla Beretta--the imp with the cap. He was described as follows:--

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"When mysterious noises and knocks or a rummaging sound are heard in your rooms by night, and you are sure it is made by unearthly visitors, prepare for them by putting a lighted lamp in the room, and covering it over with an earthen pot, but very carefully so that not a gleam can be seen.

"Then when you hear a noise in the room, uncover the light as quickly as possible, and if goblins are there catch the cap from one if you can and say:--

"'La beretta ti ho portato via!
Ma non ti ho portato via,
Ma la pace che più non ti daro
Se non mi dice prima
Dov'e nascosto il tesoro.'


Which is in Romagnola:--


"'A t'o porte via la bretta,
Ma an tó porte via la bretta
A to porte via la pes,
Che piu an te daro in fé
Che tun ma vre det en dove
Le piate e tesor!'

("'I have taken thy cap away,
And yet 'tis not a cap I say,
But thy peace which I'll not give
Unto thee while thou dost live,
Till thou tellst me, as thou'rt bid,
Where a treasure now lies hid.')

"Then the spirit, to redeem his cap, will tell where a treasure is concealed."


This is classic enough. "They knew in Italy," says PRELLER (Römische Mythologie, p. 488), " a class of spirits who knew where treasures were hidden, and who guarded them. They were called Incubones, and wore caps (the symbols of their hidden secret natures). If any one can steal these caps he can compel them to tell where these treasures are hidden " (PETRONIUS, s. 38; see GRIMM, Deutsche Mythologie, 479).

This elf with the red cap and a scanty shirt is common in Roman mural paintings and on Etruscan vases. He spread all over the world, unto Germany and the Scandinavian countries, even the Algonkin Indians of America got him from the Norsemen. But it is very probable that the Etruscans or their neighbours had him first of all. Which, however, I leave for more learned men to determine. It is, however, certain that the Red Indians and Romagnolo peasants are the only people at the present day who really believe in him as existing.

It is not improbable that the goblin with the red cap is derived from the redheaded wood-pecker Picus, who was in the earliest times believed in Italy to be a

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sprite who guarded treasures, and sometimes, under compulsion, showed where they were hidden, as is shown in another chapter. All of which--as with everything else in this work--I submit as material only, the real value of which others must determine.




Preller assumes, quite as a matter of course, that the red-caps and other minor deities, or house-goblins of a frolicsome brownie character, belong rather to Teutonic and Celtic mythologies than to the Italian. Herein he quite forgets that though the world has through Grimm's fables or early personal influences learned to associate these sprites with the North, yet that in reality written and authentic history shows them as familiar to early Latins centuries long before German or Celtic beliefs were, so to speak, ever heard of. According to David MacRitchie, the origin of all "wee folk" is to be sought in antecedent dwarf races, driven out by larger and more vigorous people--a process which probably went on all over the world. This would not interfere with the creation of other personifications of manikins, such as the very obvious one which occurs to most children of treating the thumb and fingers as a kind of fairies, or believing that frogs and birds assumed dwarf human forms. As regards Red-cap, as I have already said, testimony seems to indicate that he is of Etruscan origin, and is a personification of the red-headed wood-pecker; that is, a small form of Picus or Picumnus. 1

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The Italian house-goblins, like those of the North, are given to imitating sounds. One of the sixteenth-century writers tells us that the day before a party of merchants arrive at a country house the people dwelling therein often hear the Elves imitating the sound of scales rattling as if making weight, the ring of money, and all the circumstance of buying and selling. And it is very remarkable that, as one may see by the Etruscan Museum of Gori, the red-cap goblins of ancient Italy are sometimes represented with weights and scales and behaving like merchants. But in all countries they are given to holding fairs, as Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" bears witness. He who finds himself in such fairs may buy diamonds and pearls by the pound for a penny, but he must escape ere they close, or he will come to woes. And ere a visitor arrives his voice may be heard, and the night before a rain or a storm the little people make sounds as of a shower or the blowing of winds when all is still.


"What ripples and rapples so fast and near?
Is it the rain on the roof I hear?
It is not rain, it is not hail,
But the Elves and Witches who dance in a gale.
First in a patter and then in a prance,
That is the way the Elfin dance."


A writer in the Philadelphia News sums up the different names by which the wee folk are known. These are "fairies, elves, elfe-folks, fays, urchins, ouphes, ell-maids, ell-women, dwarfs, trolls, norns, nisses, kobolds, duende, brownies, necks, stromkarls, fates, little wights, undines, nixes, salamanders, goblins, hobgoblins, poukes, banshees, kelpies, pixies, moss people, good people, good neighbours, men of peace, wild women, white ladies, peris, djinns, genii, and gnomes."

Making allowance for mere synonyme, all of these are to be found in early Italian lore, and they still exist in the mountains. But in reality they may be found all the world over, be it in Eastern lands or in America.


(The Interlace, or Twining Serpents, Vines, and Knots, as believed in in Tuscany)

"Twist ye, twine ye, even so,
Mingle threads of joy and woe."
                              GUY MANNERING

"Pingue duos angues: pueri, locus est sacer."--PERSIUS (sat. i. 113)

There is a passage in Heine's preface to his Germany which must appeal to

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every collector of folk-lore. In speaking of the traditions and tales of the humbler rural folk he says:--

"I have here given more than one of these which I myself heard by hearths in huts, narrated by some vagabond beggar or old and blind grandmother, but the strange, uncanny reflection which the flickering fire of twigs cast on the face of the narrator, and the beating of the hearts of the hearers who listened in happy silence I could not render, and these rustic, well-nigh barbaric stories when deprived of that lose their wondrous and secret charm."

Heine had been, as we may gather from his life, perhaps half a dozen times in such scenes, and heard, it may be, about as many tales of the Grimm kind. I wonder what he would have written had he been for years almost constantly among gypsies and witches, especially the latter, and seen and felt to perfection the survival of the strange wild classic strega, whose soul is still inspired with early Latin or Etruscan sorcery, and from whose inner life was ever and anon flashing out something far more uncanny and unearthly than all the flames of twigs which he had ever seen. Many a time have I been awed at these living dreams, these forgotten visions of yore, incarnate in strange women, who spoke of an old, old faith, long in its grave, once held by a race whose very language is now as unknown, as their origin. And I avow that this has ever moved me as a sincere lover of antiquity as a real romance, without equal in this our age of prose.

She was seated by the table on which was one of those simple, beautiful long brass lamps with three lights, such as have come down unchanged since the Roman time; in her hands she held a scaldino, which was all the fire for warmth known to her; in the window grew herbs of deeply mystical meaning, not for show but for sorcery, when I by chance asked her if people found many objects of antiquity where she dwelt. And reflecting an instant as usual--which always inspired a marvellously antique-wild expression which suggested classic art--she said:--


"Molti. Strangers come to us and dig up vases, black and yellow, which our ancestors made long ago. Thereat Cesena, for example. Cesena, is in the Romagna. Sometimes the contadini, excavating the ground for a building, find medals as well as antique vases, thousands of years old.

"And these were all made for witches according to their belief, and all these things are of magic and witchcraft, for in those times all the land was full of witches. And the reason why they are found in secret places and old ruins and the like is this: When the priests came in, they would not let the witches be buried in the campo santi, because they said the witches and wizards were scomunicati-excommunicated.

"So they arranged it to bury one another, and when one witch died the others interred her secretly in her own cellar or house 1 with her vases and witch-medals, and all the things which she used in her art. And before dying she taught all her secrets to the others. And this is why it is we never find them buried in


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Christian burying grounds, and why we do find vases and very ancient medals in their graves, for these things are all of their own ancient belief, or for witchcraft, and so they could not be placed in the campo santi.

"For in the old times witchcraft had a religion, and it was called la religione della stregoneria--the religion of sorcery--and what you see on the old vases are the names and portraits of witches and wizards of the olden time. And on them are the pictures of Tigna and Faflon and all other witches or magicians who became spirits." 1


I have read of a man who had "foregone to be a Christian reality, and perverted himself into a Pagan idealist." This was in a novel, but my friends were real Pagan survivals, and though the spirit fire had burned low, so that it smouldered in the ashes, and only now and then sent out a jet of flame, still it was marvellous to me--yea, awful--that through the ages such a glimmering had come down of a heathen faith outworn, and that women now live who speak of the Etruscan Jupiter and Bacchus as of deities whom a few still adore, and whose pictures are to be seen on ancient vases! Though degraded to the humblest condition and fast fleeting, Stregoneria is still a belief, and not mere fragments of folk-lore or of ancient superstitions. Yes, the ceremonies and incantations, charms and amulets which I have so often seen practised or prepared, till they were to me as familiar things--all, as I have elsewhere shown, were of the same hoar antiquity.

Heine could not give the flicker of the fire nor the beating of hearts what I would fain convey is the classically stern, almost terrible beauty which appears in the face of an old Italian witch when it is illuminated by an earnest thought, and the same beauty in the thoughts themselves. The reason why there seems to be so much light in an Italian smile, such intensity in the passion, even of peasants, allied to a certain indescribable picturesqueness, is because all their habits of thought and traditions have been derived for thousands of years from stages of society in which Art and Faith in their most comprehensive sense influenced every act of life. And though the Art no longer exists, the impulses which it created still live in blood and brains, and are transmitted by heredity--even as the water of a stream continues to leap and sparkle long after it has passed some mighty cataract. That was Art which inspired Etruscan vases, and jewellery, and mirrors; not less artistic was the feeling which created deities, goblins, spiriti folletti, and elves, with their lays and legends, and mystical cognate sorcery. Faith without art is an egg not yet hatched; art without faith is an empty egg-shell worth nothing--unless it be for some wizard, like Zola, to make a boat of to ride to the devil withal. These descendants of the old

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Italians who have kept in simple faith their old superstitions, have also kept with them, unconsciously, the art which giveth life--and life is light and fire and feeling.

This speaking of old Etruscan art made me think of serpents, and I asked if the peasants in le Romagne had any beliefs regarding them.


"Yes. They sometimes paint a serpent on the wall to keep away the evil eye or witch evils, and to bring good luck. But the head must be down and interlaced, and the tail uppermost." 1

"And do interlaced serpents mean good fortune?"

"Ah, that is a well-known thing, and not as to serpents alone, but all kinds of interweaving and braiding and interlacing cords, or whatever can attract the eyes of the witches. When a family is afraid of witchery they should undertake some kind of lavori intrecciati--braided work--for witches cannot enter a house where there is anything of the kind hung up, as for instance, patterns of two or three serpents twining together, o altri ricami, or other kinds of embroidery, but always of intertwining patterns. So in making shirts or drawers or any garments for men or women--camice, muntande o vestiti--one should always in sewing try to cross the cotton (thread) as shoemakers do when they stitch shoes, and make a cross-stitch, because shoes are most susceptible to witchcraft (perche le scarpe sono quelle più facile a prendere le stregonerie). And when the witches see such interlacings they can do nothing, because they cannot count either the threads nor the stitches (ne il filo ne i punti). And if we have on or about us anything of the kind they cannot enter because it bewilders or dazzles their sight (le fa a bagliare la vista), and they are incapable of mischief. And to do this well (tenere il sistema) you should take cotton, or silk, or linen thread, and make a braid of six, seven, or eight columns, as many as you will--the more the better--and always carry it in your pocket, and this will protect you from witches. You can get such braids very beautifully made of silk of all colours in some shops; and they keep them for charms against the evil eye."


I took great pains to have this carefully recorded, for it is intimately connected with an interesting subject which possibly enters into the raison d'etre or real inspiration of all the most characteristic decorative art of all Europe, especially during the Middle Ages. In my work on Gypsy Sorcery the following passage occurs (page 98):--


"There is a very curious belief or principle attached to the use of songs in conjuring witches or in averting their own sorcery. It is that the witch is obliged, willy-nilly, to listen to the end what is in metre--an idea founded on the attraction of melody, which is much stronger among savages and children than with civilised adults. Nearly allied to this is the belief that if the witch sees interlaced, or bewildering and confused patterns, she must follow them out, and by means of this her thoughts are diverted or scattered. Hence the serpentine inscriptions of the Celts and Norsemen, and their intertwining bands which were firmly believed to bring good luck, or avert evil influence. A traveller in Persia states that the patterns of the carpets of that country are made as bewildering as possible 'to avert the evil eye.' And it is with this purpose that, in Italian as in all other witchcraft, so many spells and charms depend on interwoven braided cords (vide the Spell of the Holy Stone).

"The basis for this belief is the fascination or interest which many persons, especially children, feel to trace out patterns, to thread the mazes of labyrinths, or to analyse and distangle knots and 'cats' cradles.' Did space permit, nor inclination fail, I could point out some curious proofs that the old belief in the power of long and curling hair to fascinate, was derived not only from its beauty, but also because of the magic of its curves and entanglements."


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I have made serious and extensive study of interlaced patterns, beginning with Westwood's Palæographia Picta in which the claims of the Irish to be the originators of such art are upheld, down to the latest works on design. I have studied them with intense interest in the museums of Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, England, and Scotland, and copied literally thousands of them. And I was deeply convinced from the beginning that in all these Celtic intertwinings of infinite Irish lizards, and eternal Scandinavian serpents, down to Gothic ribbon and Florentine cord and vine braidings, there ran a mystic meaning, expressing as it were in an occult writing, deep and strange secrets of sorcery. What gave me the suggestion is worth mentioning. There is a book of which TROLLOPE declared that he believed he was the only person in Europe who had ever read it. I had, however, perused it thrice in as many versions before I was sixteen years of age, which I mention to show what an impression it made on me, for such reading at such an age sinks deep into the soul. This was The Unheard-of Curiosities, by GAFFAREL, in which he sets forth naïvely, yet strikingly, a grand Paracelsian idea that the stars in heaven in their relative aspects and courses form the points of Hebrew or geomantic letters, and that the lines on the bark of all trees, and the marks on seashells and fishes, the curve of the waters as they wind in the brook or bound upwards in the ocean-wave, the flight of the bird and the flickering bend of a flame; or all forms, inspired by the spirit of Nature, or the Archæus, form eternally varied hieroglyphics of a vast writing, to which we may get the key by inspiration and study. The poetry of this idea entered into my soul, and I cherished it for a long time, the more so as I read much in Wordsworth and Shelley. It was in my first year at college, where I took daily long and lonely walks in wild woods, and seated by grey rocks and silent waters, tried to trace by the aid of poetry some of this Divine caligraphy. About the same time I began to study Gothic art, and to copy illuminations, and, as may be supposed, the spirit of Gaffarelius guided me here to many deep and strange conclusions. And from it I have since drawn many more which have apparently no connection with it. That some tradition and association, some extremely deeply-seated feeling and serious sense of meaning must have attached itself to this immensity, this universality of a system of design which endured for a thousand years, and was found in every work of art, every letter, every article of Northern jewellery, stands to reason. In an age when symbolism and magic permeated everything it would have been a miracle indeed if Art were meaningless. And what the Interlace meant everywhere has been, as I think, clearly set forth by the Italian strega in the preceding pages.

Identical with this law, or instinct, by which the evil eye must perforce trace out patterns is that which compels the witch to count, con gré mal gré, all the

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grains of rice or sesame or corn which she may encounter. So in the Arabian Nights the ghoul Amina must eat her rice grain by grain with a bodkin. In South Carolina, rice strewed in the form of a cross about a bed prevents a witch from getting at her victim, for she must remove it, grain and grain, ere she can reach him, nor must she shirk the task. And as I have elsewhere shown the erba Rosolaccio, or Rice of the Goddess of the Four Winds, is esteemed as a protective, because the witches cannot count its rice-like leaves, and so they get bewildered in them. This belief was carried to the extent of regarding corrugated and rugged surfaces of any kind as protecting from evil. Hence the stalagmite, or salagrana stone, is very popular against malocchio, which means all inimical sorcery.

I conjecture--for it is not as yet a matter of proof--that the Celtic peoples from the earliest times, in the East, during the migration of races, e.g., through Hungary, and in Great Britain and Gaul, had the interlace and constantly used it. The Britons, generally, made gaily-painted baskets--bascaudæ--which were sent to Rome. This suggests interlaces. The Irish monks and artisans developed these basket-patterns, manifestly using, as a more pliable suggestive, ribbons, ropes, or cords, as I have often done myself to make designs. I do not think it necessary to adopt the rather unpleasant idea set forth in a great book on needlework that the entrails of animals were thus used for models. A month's work of intelligent designing is worth all the theory in the world, and I no more believe that "insides" were employed to suggest motives than I do that earth-worms were taken for the same purpose, as was indeed once suggested to me by a certain wood-carver, who could see no beauty in anything save baroque patterns.

I have been told, or I have read, that the theory of the basket-pattern is now "exploded" as also that of the Irish claim to have developed or invented the interlace; in fact, I find that everything nowadays is "exploded" almost before the powder has been put into it. Thus a certain blue-stocking lady, speaking to me of agnosticism, declared languidly that she had gone through with it all, and that it was a vanished quantity. I begged her to define it for me. "Let me hear your definition first?" asked the blasée-bleue. But I was not to be caught thus, and the learned dame, with an ill grace, explained that an agnostic was "a kind of infidel-sceptic,--but all that sort of thing is quite out of fashion now, you know." So I have been told, on the best authority, that somebody--I forget who--has exploded the Altaic-Tartar Accadian theory--a theory which, however, the firm and gentle Sayce and the fiery Oppert still maintain. And I am also told by other men that Fetishism is exploded, or

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utterly blown up, though I have before me, specially manufactured for my own use, as undeniable specimens of fetishes of many kinds as could emanate from the brains of Italian witches and American Voodoos. So they go on, building up every man his little cardboard system and blowing down those of others.

But to return to the interlace, or the magic power of intertwining knots, for there is more of it in the lore of the strege. The mulberry-tree, being of great importance in Italy, has, of course, its peculiar superstitions, and curious among them is the following:--


"When a peasant prunes the mulberry-trees which are for silkworms, he must trim them so that the boughs restino intrecciati--may remain interlaced--in which case the silkworms will be protected against any malocchio, or evil influence from any witch.

"But care must also be taken that, however fine (belli) the silkworms may be, no one shall say so, because calling them 'fine' during the three trials (malattie) which they pass through before spinning their silk would cause their death.

"Be therefore attentive that if any one entering the house should say, 'Belli quei bacchi' ('Those are fine silkworms'), to throw at that person a handful of leaves, because the person, being vexed, will throw the leaves at the silkworms, and the evil charm, if they have taken it, will be removed."


In Italy, as in the East, there is great dread of unpremeditated praise, be it of animals or children, because those who fascinate or bewitch always use it.

The convolvulus, which includes the honeysuckle and morning-glory, and indeed all that twineth as a vine or "bine," is also a protection against witches, owing to its twisted tendrils.


"Those who fear enchantment or the evil eye should have the convolvolo in their gardens or in a pot in the window, because it is of all others the flower which witches cannot endure. And they cannot enter a house where it is, because it bears tendrils (nerbolini) like a mass of little serpents intertwined (come tante piccole serpia rotolate) and all entangled, for which reason it keeps them out. This plant flowers by night, and its beautiful flowers in a bouquet and its tendrils bewilder the sight (fa affogliare la vista) of sorceresses, and keeps them afar."


All of which, if the reader be "a thinking character," may give him something to think over when he sees a Gothic interlace, or serpentine ornaments, or love-knots, or fish-nets, or Hegel's sentences!

Lenormant, in his Magie Chaldaienne, speaks of the very ancient weaving of magic knots--that is, plaiting interlaces, as old Assyrian, of which he says that the efficacy was so firmly believed in, even up to the Middle Ages, and gives in illustration the following against a disease or pain in the head:--

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"Knot on the right and arrange flat in regular bands--on the left a woman's diadem;
divide it twice in seven little bands
gird the head of the invalid with it
gird the forehead of the invalid with it
gird the seat of life with it
gird his hands and his feet
seat him on his bed;
pour on him enchanted waters.
Let the disease of his head be carried away into the heavens like a violent wind
may the earth swallow it up like passing waters!"


From which we can see that plaiting the hair in interlaces was a charm for a headache. Taking it altogether, this application of interlacing cords to the temple or other parts of the body is quite identical with modern usage.

This subject of the interlace as a guard against evil magic, or an amulet, is nearly allied to the idea of holes and corrugations in stones--vide the Salagrana--to magic rhymes and bewildering music, and mingled colours, and all that attracts and confuses the mind. All produce one effect.

I am indebted to Miss Mary Owen, of Missouri, for the following (learned from a black sorceress), which is nearly connected with the interlace:--


"When a man is visited in sleep by witches who ride or torment him, you should fasten in the chimney a coarse linen cloth or a sieve; tie at the head of the bed a pair of wool cords or a branch of fern leaves, in which the seeds are almost ripe; sprinkle a cup of mustard seed on the door-sill. The witch must count the interstices of the cloth or sieve, the seeds of the fern or the teeth of the cords, and must pick up every mustard seed, counting as she does so, ere she is free to torment the sleepers by knotting their feathers, riding on their breasts, or whispering to them awful dreams."


The black Takroori, or sorcerers of Africa, draw their magic and lore largely from Arabic-cabalistic sorcerers, as I know, having examined their books when in Egypt, and all this is known to the Arabs. It is very curious that Prætorius speaks of a man who, in jest, used curry-combs or wool-cords to defend himself from a nightmare witch. Here, I think, in these cases we probably have tradition or transmission.



Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live " (Ezekiel xxxvii. 9)

Among all primitive or superstitious people, the medicinal or other virtues of herbs are attributed to some deeply mysterious cause of a supernatural nature. In the Romagna, just as among the Red Indians of America, this faith is carried so far

p. 173

that certain plants are regarded as being in some strange way fairies or spirits in themselves. He who bears one of these about him--always in a red bag, as in old Etrusco-Roman times--carries a small guardian angel, or, if he plants it in a pot, he will be like the ancient Egyptians of whom Juvenal said they had gods growing in their gardens--in allusion to their reverence for onions or garlic.

One of these plants which is an object of culture not only in a literal, but also in a religious and æsthetic sense, is the Rosolaccio which has also the curious double-meaning name of the rice (riso), also laughter, or the smile, of the Goddess of the Four Winds. I had the following account given to me with a specimen of the herb:--


"'Rosolaccio is a plant the leaves of which, drawn up like a many-fingered little hand, look like grains of rice, whence it is called the rice (or the smile) of the Goddess of the Four Winds. It is also called the plant of good luck because it brings great good fortune. A sprig of it may be kept growing in a small pot, or, if this be impossible, in a red bag. If the former, it must always be in the window, if in a bag, the latter should be hung up behind the window, and this done, no witches can enter, for there are so many grains (or grain-like leaves), or eyes, that the witches cannot count them and therefore cannot pass by. For they are so closed together that counting is impossible. And should it happen that in any family a child or grown person is bewitched, then we take this plant, either growing or else in the bag, and go to the sufferer who must be fasting, even from water, early in the morning, and say:--

"'Dea, o dea dei quattri venti,
Non ci e altra bella al par di te
Un' erba miracolosa l'hai fatta nascere,
Perche la stregoneria passi . . .!'

("'Goddess, O goddess of the four winds
There is no one equal to thee in beauty,
Thou bust made a miraculous plant to grow,
That the bewitchment may pass from . . .')

Then let the sign of the cross be made three times with the herb, and this must be done for three mornings.

"'But who was the Goddess of the Four Winds?'

"Well, I have heard that her mother was a beautiful girl who was of great rank, perhaps a princess however she loved a poor young man, and her parents would not hear of such a match.

"How it came to pass, who knows? but the young man dwelt near her, and they found a subterranean passage which led to her room--some say she had it dug, for she was of fairy kind--but it came to a trap-door in her room, and under her bed.

"And the end was that she was with child, and remained many months in her room, lest the world should know it. And she prepared a fine cradle all made of roses. And her mother, who was a fairy, kept her secret, and aided her, and when the time came for the princess to give birth to the child, the mother made a fire of laurel, so that in its crackling the cries of the babe should not be heard.

"And when this happened, and while the mother burned the laurel, she said


p. 174


"'Figlia mia, amata, amata,
A batta di lauro tu sei nata,
E di rose conbugigata,
Figlia mia, amata, amata,
Una fata di te pure ho fatta.'

("'Darling daughter in the morn,
To the sound of laurel thou wert born
Wrapped in roses thou shalt be,
Daughter, daughter, dear to me,
A fairy I have made of thee.')

"And this child was the Goddess of the Four Winds. E questa fu la fata detta la dea dei quattro venti."


This marvellous and mysterious story can hardly fail to suggest much to every folk-lorist. First of all the infant goddess of the wind is rocked in a cradle of roses. FRIEDRICH (Symbolik d. Natur) observes that in the Greek myth, the Wind, Æolos, has in his home six sons and six daughters--wohl die ælteste Andeutung einer Windrose--"the first indication of the wind-rose or anemone." The real rosalaccio (rose-lace) is the red poppy or corn-flower, but the name rose refers to the colour. We have in it, however, a connection of roses with the wind, and of the dew-drop, " rocked by the wind in the cradle of a rose." The anemone or wind-flower sprung from the blood of Adonis, that is, in the flower he lives again as a spirit of the wind. Adonis, the spirit of spring, is the same with Favonius, "the Greek zephyr, the sweet and fructifying south wind who comes with the swallow and the spring." It can hardly be denied that all this seems to be indicated in this strange Tuscan tale.

The burning of laurel twigs so that they shall make a noise is of ripe antiquity. "There was a special divination or foretelling the future by burning laurel leaves, and it was regarded as a good sign if they crackled and made a loud noise" (TIBULLUS, Eleg., ii. 6, 81). Hence came a common proverb, Clamosior lauro ardente--"Noisier than burning laurel," Or, as we are told by the author of the Trinum Magicum (A.D. 1611), "Et lauri quoque ramis divinatio sumebatur, and there was also divination by a branch of laurel, which if it made a loud sound was a good sign, and the contrary if it burned out quietly."

But the chief aim of this story is to show how it was that the babe was made to pass from a mere mortal into a fairy or goddess, as Ceres attempted to do with the infant Triptolemus. She also employed a fire, but I do not know that it was of laurel boughs. But the laurel, as FRIEDRICH declares, was not only consecrated to prophecy or magic, and, as an evergreen, to immortality, but it was peculiarly a symbol--of a new life--neues Leben im Tode. "Among the Romans the corpse in a

p. 175

funeral was sprinkled with water from laurel boughs; and in the early times of Christianity the dead were laid on laurel leaves to signify that those who died in Christ had not ceased to live. And the baptism, or the new life in CHRIST, was also symbolised by laurel" (WINCKELMANN, Versuch einer Allegorie, besonders für die Kunst, iii. c.; also HARTUNG, die Relig. der Römer, part i., p. 46). WINCKELMANN also mentions that on a rare medal, Lucilla, the wife of the Emperor Lucius Verus, is represented as holding a branch of laurel, near her kneels a woman drawing water, and there stands by her a half-naked child awaiting baptism. This has a special application to the Tuscan tale, with this difference--that in one case there is a baptism by fire, and in the other by water. In both the babe is to be prepared for a new life by means of the mystic laurel.

There is some obscurity in this myth, but it may be remarked that the zephyr, the dew-drop, and the rose, were mystically combined in ancient fable, and that they reappear in the birth of the Goddess of the Four Winds. Again, peasants usually retain, or relate, only fairy stories, whereas this is not a tale at all in the real sense of the word, but an explanation of the origin of a spirit who is, we may say, worshipped in a plant.

In another Romagnolo legend the Wind appears as male and female. It is as follows:--


"The Wind is a magician (mago) and Corina (Romagnolo, Curena) is his sister.

"A youth had a sweetheart and believed she had been false to him while she was innocent. But the youth in his sorrow fled far, far away so that he might see her no more.

"Then she went to a wise old woman, who consulted the cards (that is 'divined' in any way), to know if she would ever find her lover again, and the old woman bade her go to the Wind, and to his sister Curena." (Here there is a manifest hiatus.) "And they departed with her; the morning had just dawned when they came to a city, they put her down before the window of her love, and she sang

"'Love, thou hast been false to me,
While I was ever true to thee,
Thou for me didst leave thy home,
Now unto thee I have come,
In two hours' time I travelled here,
Yet 'twas the journey of a year.
The wild wind bore me like a cloud,
And Curena whistled loud,
They have put me on thy track,
Thou from me wilt ne'er turn back;
Now our sufferings are o'er,
Thou shalt leave me nevermore.'

So they were united, and lived happily ever after."


p. 176

It is possible that in this Curena we have the Teutonic "Wind's bride," who is ever hunting, and who blows a horn which is indicated in cor or curen. Corinth, Corinna, and Curena seem to be certainly allied to Coronis, the wind: raven typical of the north-west wind, or Skiron.

As regards the rosalaccio it is evident that the names and associations of the herb which I have described are confused and intermingled with those of the poppy or red corn-flower, which is the true rosalaccio, and the red anemone or wind-flower. And there are those in Ireland who maintain that the so-called wild wind-flower, which is white, and has a triple leaf, is the real Shamrock. Out of all which those who have better material wherewith to work than I, may make what they can. There are some also who assert that the red sorrel is the true Shamrock because the blood of the Saviour dropped upon it, even as the blood of Adonis dropped on the anemone.

Of which confusion there is a great deal in all legends of a people in which old tradition has long since run into decay and new growth, and I beg the reader to pardon me if I cannot clear it up.


Sic in igne praeter alia clementa, sacra omnia insistebant, quod is, credo, proximus cœlo sit, quod in specie ignis Deus Mosen primum allocutus."--ELIAS SCHEDIUS, De Dis Germanis, 1648

It was formerly a custom at Forli in the Romagna Toscana to give annually a grand procession, the occasion of which was the showing an image of the Virgin seated on a dragon surrounded by flames. This extremely heathen ceremony is now discontinued, so far as Forli is concerned, but it is still kept up in the neighbouring small town of Civitella.

I have looked over a rather large Latin work, profusely illustrated, published about two hundred years ago, which is entirely devoted to describing this Madonna of Fire and Dragons, from which I gather that once upon a time the festival must have been very magnificent. It is remarkable that the witches and wizards, either guided by a sagacious intuition or ancient tradition, regard this Madonna as one of their own heathen deities who has been unjustly filched from them, and placed in the Christian pantheon. On which subject one of the sisterhood expressed herself not without a certain amount of righteous or pious indignation, to the effect that the Lady of the Fire was a great spirit before the other Madonna was ever heard of; her words being, in part, as follows:--


"She was a spirit (i.e., heathen) who indeed worked many miracles, and so the priests took her and called her la donna miracolosa del fuoco.


p. 177


"But in truth the priests knew that this Madonna del Fuoco did many miracles, and revived those who had fallen dead, before they had ever done anything. (The sense here is that she did all this before she was claimed or known as Christian.)

"The first that was known of her was that she appeared as a beautiful lady in a certain garden, and so all the neighbourhood began to talk of her and said it was Our Lady, or the Madonna.

"In Civitella there was an ancient and rich family. And in their fields there was a very small boy who kept sheep and was dumb. One morning the lady came to him, and this child who was mute began to speak and said: 'Lady, I could never speak before, dumb I was from my birth. Thou art a miraculous virgin. Tell me what I must do to express my thanks.'

"And she replied: 'Go to the great family and tell them they must go to Rome for a certain large stone and send it to me, and that by doing this their race will never end, but if they neglect it their troubles will never cease.

"This he did, but was treated as a lunatic. Yet while they did this there appeared before them great flashes of fire--gran fiaccole del fuoco--and they knew it was the Lady of Fire. So they sent for the stone, and as soon as the lady had it she ascended it and remained there as an image. So they bore it to a church and placed it there--e le misero nome, la Madonna del Fuoco, la Madonna Miraculosa--and called it the Lady of Fire and the Miraculous Madonna.

"And this family left it by will that the festival with miraculous fire should he continually kept up. And all peasants when they have any illness or bad crops, or any trouble, attend this ceremony."


Ottfried Müller and Preller observe from good authority that the Etruscans paid very great. attention to thunder and lightning, and that all their principal gods and goddesses were believed to wield, during certain months, the terrible power. Traces of this continually reappear in the legends of Le Romagne, as the reader may find in several places in this work, such as the tale of the Spirito del Giuoco. I think that this, taken in connection with the witch belief that this Madonna del Fuoco is really one of their own spirits, indicates a pre-Christian origin for the Madonna del Fuoco. It may be, indeed, that she is Vesta, the Roman goddess of fire, converted and Christianised. The miraculous stone refers possibly to the flint from which fire is struck.


"Thou holdest the Cicada by the wings.'!--ARCHILOCHUS

La Cavalletta is defined as "a locust or grasshopper," but as I understand, it is neither, but what is known in America as the Katydid, a cicada which indeed resembles the Oriental locust in its general shape, but is somewhat larger, and is of a clear green colour, its wings being quite like leaves. Its cry is like that of the locust, but much louder. It appears to play an important part among the Superstitions of the Romanga. 1

p. 178

I was first induced to notice it by hearing a woman sing a song, alla contadinesca, about it, in Romagnola, which I wrote down, and then received the following account in Italian:--


"The Cavalletta is an insect of a green colour with long legs. It is a sign of good luck--e tanto di buon augurio. When it comes into a room one should at once close the windows to prevent its escaping, and if there should happen to be sleeping children in bed, so much the better. Then one should tie a thread to the leg of the Cavalletta and the other end to the bed, and say or sing:--

"'O Cavalletta che tanto bello sei!
E da per tutto la buona fortuna porti,
E quando va via tu la lasci,
Percio sei venuto in casa mia
Per portarmi la buona fortuna,
E neppure non riportarmela via,
La buon' fortuna lascia in casa mia;
E specialmente ai figli miei,
Che eri tu pure in vita una donzella
Bella e buona e piena di talento,
E cosi ti prego se tu vuoi far' venire
I figli miei di gran talento,
E se cosi farai ne sarai sempre benedetta;
E ben vero che ora tu hai
La forma di una bestia, ma una bestia tu non sei
Sei uno spirito della buona fortuna.'

("'Oh. Katydid, so fine and fair,
Who bringst good fortune everywhere
Leave good luck in this my home
Since into the house you've come.
Bring it unto me I pray,
And do not take the least away
Bring it to me and every one,
Most of all unto my son;
In life you were a lady, full
Of talent, good and beautiful,
Let me pray, as this is true,
You'll give my children talents too,
And where you fly from East to West,
May you in turn be truly blest!
Since though an insect form you wear,
You are a spirit good and fair!')


p. 179


"Then when the child shall be of an age to understand this, he should be taught to sing, when he sees Katydid:--

"'Io son giovane e vero,
Ma lo tengo un gran talento,
Un gran uomo io saro,
Ma la cavalletta posso ringraziare,
Per che nella culla il gran talento
Mi e venuto a porta mia,
Portato la buona fortuna per la cavalletta.'

("'I am but little, as you see,
And yet I may a genius be,
And if when grown I should be great,
And make a name in Church or State,
I'll not forget that one fine day,
As I in cradle sleeping lay,
How all my wit, as mother bid,
Was brought me by the Katydid.')

"But when the Cavalletta has been tied one hour to the cradle of the child, it must be freed, and the window opened, and it should be allowed to depart--not driven away--but suffered to leave at its own free will."


It is altogether impossible to separate the ancient folk-lore of the locust, grasshopper, and cricket, or cicada. FRIEDRICH remarks that in the magical practices of the ancients the grasshopper was supposed to possess such powers of divination that it was called μαντις {Greek mantis}, or the soothsayer. It often occurs on monuments as an amulet against evil. One which represents a Cupid holding a butterfly, while a grasshopper is close by on an ear of corn, seems to me to set forth the spirit of the Song which I have cited.

But the cavalletta is properly in legend the same as the cicada which was regarded as the emblem, and almost as the genius, of song and poetry, or the highest forms of intellect. The Greeks and old Italians loved this insect more than the nightingale, they associated it strangely with a higher genius and stronger powers of magic and prophecy. It was to them the herald of spring, a song of rivulets and fountains sparkling in the shade, a calling to green fields, a voice of the flowers.

Thus ANACREON sings:--


"We praise thee auspicious Cicada, enthroned like a king
On the tree's summit, thou cheer'st us with exquisite song,
Living on dew-drops, and all men bestow on thee honour
As the sweet prophet of summer--the Muses all love thee,
So does Apollo the golden who gave thee thy song."


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Ulysses holding a cicada to Cerberus, as it occurs in gems, signifies the power of evil or horror, captivated by genius or song. The old story was that these insects were once men and women, who, having heard the Muses sing, were so enchanted or enraptured that they could think of nothing else---yes, they forgot all earthly things, including eating and drinking, and so starved to death in pure æsthetic absence of mind. So the Muses turned them into the beautiful cicadæ which, when they have sung themselves out in summer shades, return to the Muses. Therefore the Athenian ladies wore golden cicadæ in their hair as a sign of culture and refinement, also to indicate their patriotic attachment to their small country or city, because it is said that the insect never quits the place where it is born.

The whole spirit of the ancient belief in the cicada, or grasshopper, as a prophetic spirit, and the genius of song, is perfectly reflected in this Romagnolo ballad, which is in reality a rough but very fine diamond. For it is beautiful to see how the refined old classic feeling that the cicada is the spirit of genius and poetry has survived among these humble peasants, and how as a mantis it is believed to be capable of bestowing genius on the little bambino. It is absolutely the same idea or inspiration, but in a far sweeter and nobler form, which made the Greek maiden wear a golden cicada in her hair, that induces the Italian mother to tie a cavalletta by the leg to her baby's cradle, and sing to it the incantation or prayer to give it talents or genius, or make of it a poet.

There is something very antique in all this, as well as original and beautiful, so that, taking all others into consideration, I have very little doubt that this ceremony, as well as its song, may have come to us from the early spring-time of Latin, Greek, or Etruscan song. Ancient!--why there is nothing of the kind here given which is not, as the Germans say, stone-old, among the mountains of La Romagna Toscana. Every idea there which has a form, took it in neolithic or certainly bronze times. This of the cavalletta can at least be proved to be almost prehistoric.

The original Romagnolo which was sung like all contadino songs to a monotonous air, which, like the words, gave the impression that it was being improvised, was as follows:--


E spirit la cavaletta,
Le un spirit et bona fortona,
E sla ven in ca' vostra
Nola fe mai scape.

Sla ven in ca' vostra
Piutost lighela a una gamba p. 181
E po lighela a e let de vostra bordel
E quella lav portera fortona
Ai vostre fial.

Lav portara fortona
Ai vostre fial e lai portra
La fortona pur et gran talent,
E la vi librara pur dal regiment.

En fen caiari pze an pense mai,
A quant chi andara a fer i solde
Ma quan chi e grend e chi belle aloe
Per vo o sara un gran dalor.

Per cio pensei sempre per temp,
Arcorder ed la Cavalletta,
Per che se le a pregari i vostre fiol,
Da feri solde ai librari a punti ste sicur."


It may be observed that this was described to me as Lo Spirito la Cavalletta--the Spirit Cavalletta. That is to say the insect is recognised as a spirit which was once human, just as it is set forth in the Latin or Greek legend. The ancient myth declares that the cicadæ were once very much refined maidens, who were turned to insects by the Muses. The modern incantation says that the katydid was in life--


                  "a lady full
Of talent good and beautiful."


Of those who attribute all of these identities in tradition to chance coincidences and "development under like causes," one can only say, as did the old orthodox Christian of the doctrine of atoms, and fortuitous combinations, that it put upon the back of Chance more than it would bear.


164:1 "The negroes and half-breeds in Missouri consider the red-headed wood-pecker a great sorcerer, who can appear either as a bird or as a red man with a mantle or cloak on his arm. He is supposed to be very grateful and very vengeful. He made the bat by putting a rat and a bird together. He sometimes bores holes in the heads of his enemies while they sleep and puts in maggots which keep them for ever restless or crazy."--Note by MARY A. OWEN.

166:1 As the Etruscan tombs were often exact copies of the homes of the departed, this idea would be very naturally formed by the peasantry.

167:1 The nakedness, the dancing and wild revelry depicted on the Etrusco-Greek vases, with their satyrs, goblins, and winged lases and mysterious emblems or hieroglyphs, would all very naturally suggest to the contadini magic and sorcery. Does not all this Greek beauty and joyousness seem even to us like a dream of fairyland--a Paradise?

168:1 Probably the caduceus of Mercury, which often appears on vases as simply two serpents with interlaced heads.

177:1 "That animal which the French call sauterelle, we a grasshopper, is named Ακρις {Greek Akris} by the Greeks, by the Latines locusta, and by ourselves a locust. Again, between a cicada and that we call a grasshopper the p. 178 differences are very many, as may be observed in themselves, or their descriptions in Matthiolus Aldrovandus and Muffetus. . . . Our word is borrowed from the Saxon' Graest-hopp, which our ancestors, who never beheld the cicada, used for that insect which we yet call a grasshopper " (Pseudoxia Epidemsica (Vulgar Errors), by Sir THOMAS BROWN, London, 1672).

Next: Part One: Chapter X--CUPRA