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Popular Superstitions of the Highlands
Origin and History of Witchcraft


When Satan, for weighty dispatches,
Sought messengers cunning and bold,
He pass'd by the beautiful faces,
And pick'd out the ugly and old.
VOLLE

We are now come to consider and describe the ancient and well0known order of Witchcraft; the nature and object of which requires very little explanation in a country where it has been so long established, as in Scotland. Taking a retrospective view of the rise and progress of this once flourishing institution, we are told it was founded by the Grand Master, shortly after the creation of the world. That the wickedness of the inhabitants having kept pace with their increase, Satan found work multiplying so fast on his hands, that his own spiritual minions, numerous as they were, became inadequate to their employment. Being seldom blind to his own interest, the idea of enlisting a few human instruments to supply their deficiencies, naturally

suggested itself to his fertile genius, and such has been the thirst for magic and power, which has at all times pervaded the old women of those countries, that he never had great difficulty in procuring abundance of volunteers to join his banners.

Having thus established his new order of emissaries, Satan found them to answer his purposes uncommonly well. They drudged on in his work so laboriously, and with such good success, that he found them more profitable tools, for deluding and hooking-in the best portion of mankind, than his own proper agents, whose means of communication and seduction were much more confined and disadvantageous. Accordingly, he has found it his interest to continue the institution to this day.

It will, no doubt, prove a matter of some, astonishrnent to the amiable and considerate reader, how any body that has the honour of wearing a human face, could think of espousing so desperate a cause, for the sake of any gratification which Satanís kingdom affords. Common fame errs too much, if he is at all a liberal master to those who are his servants, for it is said, he seldom or never fulfils his conditions with any one of them. Though mighty forward to enter into pactions, and extraordinarily liberal in his terms, while making a bargain, he is said to be far less ready to perform his share of the conditions, when it is once concluded; and what is still worse, when he forfeits a penalty, there is no law that can exact it of him. Accordingly, we have heard of not a few deluded mortals, who sold themselves to him for sums of money and other considerations, but never yet heard of his having paid the purchase money.

So once fared a poor needy wretch of a Highlandman, that bartered his soul to Satan for a cow, and who never could get the latter to fulfil his bargain. It is no doubt true, that after much importunity he did, at length, perform his stipulation, in a way not very creditable to him. Urgently importuned by the disponer to give him his cow, he ultimately fetched him one, which was but a few hours in his possession, when it was challenged by a third party as his stolen property; unwilling to explain how he came by it, the poor fellow was flung into a prison, and speedily brought before the laird for trial. In this distressing situation, the disponer was compelled to tell the truth and manner he came by the cow, not doubting but that the disclosure would have at once exculpated him from the charge. But unfortunately for him, his ingenuous confession failed of its object, and the poor man was condemned to the wuddie, reserving to him such recourse against Satan as he might be advised to adopt.


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