Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

on this subject, and how the local sibyl, resuming her elevated seat at the opening of each successive winter, gave the author of the Volospd his plan of that remarkable poem, which has been described by the same authority as the highest spiritual effort of the heathen muse of the North.

CHAPTER V
The Fenodyree And His Friends

'f/1o! 8} at era} f1c/aka1 firv\iat oix upioitovat, Ra Sitov imoraf1l1-y is Ian <p6ovfp6r.Herodotus.

The last chapter is hardly such as to call for a recapitulation of its principal contents, and I venture to submit instead of any such repetition an abstract of some very pertinent notes on it by Miss M. G. W. Peacock, who compares with the folklore of the Isle of Man the old beliefs which survive in Lincolnshire among the descendants of Norse ancestors1. She was attracted by the striking affinity which she noticed between them, and she is doubtless right in regarding that affinity as due in no small degree to the Scandinavian element present in the population alike of Man and the East of England. She is, however, not lavish of theory, but gives us interesting items of information from an intimate acquaintance with the folklore of the district of which she undertakes to speak, somewhat in the following order :—

i. Whether the water-bull still inhabits the streams of Lincolnshire she regards as doubtful, but the deep pools formed, she says, by the action of the downflowing water at the bends of the country becks are still known as bull-holes.

1 My paper was read before the Folk-Lore Society in April or May, 1891, and Miss Peacock's notes appeared in the journal of the Society in the following December: see pp. 509-13.

2. As to the glashtyn, or water-horse, she remarks that the tatter-foal, tatter-colt, or shag-foal, as he is variously called, is still to be heard of, although his visits take place less often than before the fens and carrs were drained and the open fields and commons enclosed. She describes the tatter-foal as a goblin of the shape and appearance of a small horse or yearling foal in his rough, unkempt coat. He beguiles lonely travellers with his numberless tricks, one of which is to lure them to a stream, swamp, or water-hole. When he has succeeded he vanishes with a long outburst of mockery, half neigh, half human laughter.

3. The fenodyree, one is told, has in Lincolnshire a cousin, but he is diminutive; and, like the Yorkshire Hob or Robin Round-Cap, and the Danish Niss, he is used to befriend the house in which he dwells. The story of his driving the farmer's sheep home is the same practically as in the Isle of Man, even to the point of bringing in with them the little grey sheep, as he called the fine hare that had given him more trouble than all the rest of the flock: see pp. 286-7 above.

4. The story of this manikin's clothing differs considerably from that of the fenodyree. The farmer gives him in gratitude for his services a linen shirt every New Year's Eve; and this went on for years, until at last the farmer thought a hemp shirt was good enough to give him. When the clock struck twelve at midnight the manikin raised an angry wail, saying:—

Harden, harden, harden hemp I

I will neither grind nor stamp!

Had you given me linen gear,

I would have served you many a year!

He was no more seen or heard: he vanished for ever. The Cornish counterpart of this brownie reasons in the opposite way; for when, in gratitude for his help in threshing, a new suit of clothes is given him, he hurries away, crying1:—

Pisky new coat, and pisky new hood,
Pisky now will do no more good.

Here, also, one should compare William Nicholson's account of the brownie of Blednoch2, in Galloway, who wore next to no clothing:—

Roun' his hairy form there was naething seen,
But a philabeg o' the rushes green.

So he was driven away for ever by a newly married wife wishing him to wear an old pair of her husband's breeches:—

But a new-made wife, fu' o' rippish freaks,
Fond o' a' things feat for the first five weeks,
Laid a mouldy pair o' her ain man's breeks
By the brose o' Aiken-drum.

Let the learned decide, when they convene,
What spell was him and the breeks between:
For frae that day forth he was nae mair seen,
And sair missed was Aiken-drum!

The only account which I have been able to find of a Welsh counterpart will be found in Bwca'r Trwyn, in chapter x: he differs in some important respects from the fenodyree and the brownie.

5. A twig of the rowan tree, or wicken, as it is called, was effective against all evil things, including witches. It is useful in many ways to guard the welfare of the household, and to preserve both the live stock and the crops, while placed on the churn it prevents any malign influence from retarding the coming of the butter. I may remark that Celts and Teutons seem to have been generally pretty well agreed as to the virtues of the rowan tree. Bits of iron also are lucky against witches.

1 See Choice Notes, p. 76.

* See the third edition of Wm. Nicholson's Poetical Works (Castle-Douglas, 1878), pp. 78, 81.

6. Fairies are rare, but witches and wizards abound, and some of them have been supposed to change themselves into dogs to worry sheep and cattle, or into toads to poison the swine's troughs. But they do not seem to change themselves into hares, as in Man and other Celtic lands.

7. Witchcraft, says Miss Peacock, is often hereditary, passing most frequently from mother to daughter; but when a witch has no daughter her power may appear in a son, and then revert to the female line. This appears far more natural than the Manx belief in its passing from father to daughter and from daughter to son. But another kind of succession is mentioned in the Welsh Triads, i. 32, ii. 20, iii. go, which speak of Math ab Mathonwy teaching his magic to Gwydion, who as his sister's son was to succeed him in his kingdom; and of a certain Rhudlwm Dwarf teaching his magic to Cott, son of Colifrewi, his nephew. Both instances seem to point to a state of society which did not reckon paternity but only birth.

8. Only three years previous to Miss Peacock's writing an old man died, she says, who had seen blood drawn from a witch because she had, as was supposed, laid a spell on a team of horses: as soon as she was struck so as to bleed the horses and their load were free to go on their way again. Possibly no equally late instance could be specified in the Isle of Man: see p. 296 above.

9. Traces of animal sacrifice may still be found in Lincolnshire, for the heart of a small beast, or of a bird, is necessary, Miss Peacock says, for the efficient performance of several counter-charms, especially in torturing a witch by the reversal of her spells, and warding off evil from houses or other buildings. Apparently Miss Peacock has not heard of so considerable a victim

« ForrigeFortsæt »