Superstitions of the Highlands
Origin and History of Witchcraft
Of the Witch's Powers of
of our readers who are not very well
acquainted with the theory of witchcraft will not be a little surprised at
the unaccountable activity of its agents, who are capable of paying not
only proper attention to their own
private affairs, but likewise of carrying on almost all
the business of the Evil One in this land. In order to obviate all
surprise on this head, be it remembered, that they are endowed with as
ample powers of transmigration (at their institution into the craft) as
any other of Satans spiritual agents; consequently, there is no
similitude from their own proper likenesses to that of a cat or a stone,
but they can assume at pleasure. Hence the speed and privacy with which
they attain their evil ends.
One of the most ordinary disguises of a "BanBuchichd"
is the similitude of a hare. This transformation she finds exceedingly
convenient while performing her cantrips in the fieldbewitching farming
implements destroying corn and grass
holding communion with the sisterhood, and similar
pieces of business. It enables her to execute her undertakings with
greater expedition, and flee more fleetly on any emergency, than she could
do in any other character.
A second is the likeness of a cat -
by personating which, she procures admission to the inmost recesses of a
house, to deposit her infernal machinery, without exciting the least
suspicions of her real character and intentions.
A third is her transformation into a
stone, which is a common practice with the witch in the season of
agricultural operations, by which she is afforded great opportunities of
mischief to the farmers interest. The wily witch will penetrate into the
ground, and place herself in the line of the plough, and, as it passes
her, she will creep in betwixt the sock and the culter. The plough is
consequently expelled from the ground for a considerable space, and a "bank"
is the consequence. For these insidious and barefaced acts of
iniquity, the witch, if discovered, seldom escapes with impunity. Stopping
the cattle, the ploughman will take hold of the stone, bestowing upon it
the most abusive and opprobrious epithets, and dashes her with all his
might against the hardest substance he can as a mark of his hatred and
contempt for her character.
A fourth is her transformation into
the shape of a raven; which now, in a great measure, supersedes the use of
her ancient and renowned hobby-horse, the Broom, on which she formerly
walloped with such surprising velocity. This similitude is commonly
assumed by her when on excursions to any distance, to attend the counsels
of Satanto hold communion with the sisterhoodor to attend some important
The witch likewise assumes the
character of a rnagpie on occasions of sudden emergency, which
require immediate conference with a number of the members of the craft.
The likeness of this bird, which is of a domestic character, and fond of
hopping and picking about the doors, screens the witch from suspicion, as
she visits another witchs dwelling. Hence, when a number of magpies
convene together side by side on a house top, it is no wonder that their
appearance should occasionally excite suspicion. But we humbly
think that mere suspicion by no means justifies that hostility of temper
which in several districts the inhabitants are led to entertain against
the whole race of magpies, merely because the witches sometimes assume
their similitude. These suspicions are no doubt a good deal heightened by
the circumstance of the poor magpies being a little endowed with the gift
of prophecy. As a foreteller of minor events such as the coming of
visitors, the change of weather, and such like little occurrences the
magpie has never been excelled; and notwith standing the illiberal conduct
of its human neighbours, those little qualities are always exerted by the
magpie for their comfort and convenience.
On the morning of that auspicious
day on which the factor, the parson, or any other of the country gentry of
equal importance, is to pay a visit to the lord of the manor on which the
magpie may have pitched her residence, she will approach the house, and,
by her incessant chattering, announce to the inhabitants the coming of the
consequential stranger. The state apartment, perhaps rather deranged, is
consequently arrayed in proper-order; and the necessary provisions to
entertain the expected guests are timeously procured, which, but for the
magpies generous and ill-rewarded premonition, could not perhaps be
provided for the occasion.
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