Page images
PDF
EPUB

relations at the very instant preceding the death of the person whose figure they put on. Sometimes there is a greater interval between the appearance and death."

In the “ Statistical Account of Scotland,” vol. xxi. p. 148, parish of Monquhitter, we read, under the head of Opinion: “ The Fye gave due warning by certain signs of approaching mortality.” Again, p. 149: “The Fye has withdrawn his warning.” Ibid. p. 150: Some observing to an old woman, when in the 99th year of her

age,

that in the course of nature she could not long survive" Aye,” said the good old woman, with pointed indignation, “what Fye-token do you see about me?''(a)

In the same work, vol. jji. 8vo. Edinb. 1792, p. 380, the minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of the superstitions of that parish, says: “ The Ghosts of the dying, called Tasks, are said to be heard, their cry being a repetition of the moans of the sick. Some assume the sagacity of distinguishing the voice of their departed friends. The corpse follows the track led by the Tasks to the place of interment; and the early or late completion of the prediction is made to depend on the period of the night at which the Task is heard."

(3) “Who can alleage," says the author of the Living Librarie," &c., fol. Lond. 1621, p. 283, “any certaine and firme reason why the blood runnes out of the wounds of a man

murdred, long after the murder committed, if the murderer be brought before the dead bodie? Galeotus Martius, Jeronymus Maggius, Marsilius Ficinus, Valleriola, Joubert, and others, have offered to say something thereof." The same author immediately asks also : “Who (I pray you) can shew why, if a desperate bodie hang himselfe, suddenly there arise tempests and whirlewinds in the aire ?"

In “ Five Philosophical Questions answered," 4to. Lond. 1653, is the following: "Why dead bodies bleed in the presence of their

murtherers ?" “Good antiquity was so desirous to know the truth, that as often as naturall and ordinary proofes failed them, they had recourse to supernatural and extraordinary wayes. Such, among the Jewes, was the Water of Jealousie, of which an adulteresse could not drink without discovering her guiltinesse, it making her burst. Such was the triall of the sieve, in which the vestall nun, not guilty of unchastity, as she was accused to be, did carry water of Tiber without spilling any. Such were the oathes upon St. Anthonies arme, of so great reverence, that it was believed that whosoever was there perjured would, within a year after, bee burned with the fire of that saint; and even in our times it is commonly reckoned that none lives above a yeare after they have incurred the excommunication of St. Geneviefe. And because nothing is so hidden from justice as murder, they use not only torments of the body, but also the torture of the soule, to which its passions doe deliver it over, of which feare discovering itselfe more than the rest, the judges have forgotten nothing that may make the suspected person fearful]; for besides their interrogatories, confronting him with witnesses, sterne lookes, and bringing before him the instruments of torture, as if they were ready to make him feele them—they persuade him that a carkase bleeds in the presence of his murtherers, because dead bodies, being removed, doe often bleed, and then he whose conscience is tainted with the synteresis of the fact, is troubled in such sort, that, by his mouth or gesture, he often bewrayes his owne guiltinesse, as not having his first motions in his owne power."

See, in the “ Athenian Oracle,” vol. i. p.

(a) In the same volume and page of the “ Statistical Account of Scotland,” is another anecdote, which shows with what indifference death is sometimes contemplated. “ James Mackie, by trade a wright, was asked by a neighbour for what purpose some fine deal that he observed in his barn. It is timber for my coffin,' quoth James. Sure,' replies the neighbour, you mean not to make your own coffin you have neither resolution nor ability for the task. Hoot away, man!' says James, “if I were once begun, I'll soon ca't by hand.' The hand, but not the heart, failed him, and he left the task of making it to a younger operator."

This calls to my remembrance what certainly happened in a village in the county of Durham, where it is the etiquette for a person not to go out of the house till the burial of a near relation. An honest simple countryman, whose wife lay a corpse in his house, was seen walking slowly up the village. A neighbour ran to him and asked, " Where, in heaven, John, are you going?" "To the joiner's shop,” said poor John,“ to see them make my wife's coffin ; it will be a little diversion for me."

there;

106, a particular relation of a corpse falling a above. See “ Gent. Mag.” for Sept. 1731, bleeding at the approach of a person supposed vol. i. p. 395. to have any way occasioned its death; where Mr. Park, in his copy of Bourne and the phenomenon is thus accounted for: “ The Brand's "Popular Antiquities,” p. 101, on the blood is congealed in the body for two or three prevailing opinion that when a person is murdays, and then becomes liquid again, in its dered the corpse will bleed at the approach of tendency to corruption. The air being heated the murderer, has inserted the following note: by many persons coming about the body, is

"This opinion is sarcastically alluded to in same thing to it as motion is. 'Tis observed the following lines of an early English epithat dead bodies will bleed in a concourse of grammatist : people when murderers are absent, as well

66 Phisition Lanio never will forsake as present, yet legislators have thought fit to authorize it, and use this tryal as an argument,

His golden patiente while his head doth ake;

When he is dead, farewell. He comes not at least, to frighten, though 'tis no conclusive one to condemn them." See more to the same

He hath nor cause, nor courage to appearpurpose, p. 193, That this has been a very old superstition

He will not looke upon the face of death,

Nor bring the dead unto her mother earth. in England may be learned from Matthew Paris, who states, that after Henry the Second's

I will not say, but if he did the deede,

He must be absent-lest the corpse shouldl death, at Chinon, his son Richard came to view the body. "Quo superveniente, con

bleed."Bastard's “ Chrestoleros," lib. festim erupit sanguis ex naribus Regis mortui ;

v. ep. 22, ed. 1598. ac si indignaretur spiritus in adventu ejus, One might add to this the very ill-timed qui ejusdem mortis causa esse credebatur, ut jocular remark made by one to a physician videretur sanguis clamare ad Deum." edit. attending a funeral : “So, doctor, I see you 1681, p. 126.

are going home with your work.Henry the Sixth's body, Stow says, was In “Wits, Fits, and Fancies," 4to. b. l. p. brought to St. Paul's in an open coffin, bare- 83, is the following: “A gentlewoma

man went faced, where he bled; thence he was carried to church so concealed, that she thought noto the Blackfriers, and there bled. Annals, body could know her. It chanced that her

lover met her, and knew her, and spake unto At Hertford Assizes, 4 Car. I., the following her, Sir (she answered), you mistake me; was taken by Sir John Maynard, Sergeant at how know ye me ? All too well (replied Law, from the deposition of the minister of the gentleman); for so soone as I met you, bethe parish where a murder was committed : hold my wounds fell fresh a bleerling! Oh, “ That the body being taken out of the grave hereof you only are guilty.”' tbirty days after the party's death, and lying The Dead Ruttle, a particular kind of noise on the grass, and the four defendants (sus- made in respiring by a person in the extrepected of murdering her) being required, each mity of sickness, is still cousidered in the of them touched the dead body, whereupon North, as well as in other parts, of England, the brow of the dead, which before was of a as an Omen of Death. Levinus Lemnius, in livid and carrion colour, began to have a dew, his “Occult Miracles of Nature," lib. ii. ch. or gentle sweat, arise on it, which increased 15, is very learned concerning it:“In Belgica hy degrees, till the sweat ran down in drops regione, totoque Septentrionalis plagæ tractu, on the face, the brow turn'd to a lively and morituri certa argumenta proferunt emifresh colour, and the deceased opened one of grandi, edito sonitu murmuloso, nec est, qui her eyes and shut it again three several times; absque hujusmodi indicio vitam non finiat. she likewise thrust out the ring or marriage Siquidem imminente morte sonum edunt, tanfinger three times, and pulled it in again, quam aquæ labentis per salebras, locaque and the finger dropt blood on the grass." The anfractuosa atque incurva, murmur, aut qua. minister of the next parish, who also was lem Siphunculi ac Fistulæ in aquæ ductibus prezent, being sworn, gave evidence exactly as sonitum excitant. Cùm enim vocalem arte.

p. 424.

riam occludi contingat, spiritus qui confertim cloaths of his bed, or if he pick often his noserumpere gestit, nactus angustum meatum, trils with his fingers, and if he wake much, collapsamque fistulam, gargarismo quodam these are most certain tokens of Death." prodit, ac raucum per lævia murmur efficit, Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, 4to. Edinb. scatebrisque arentes deserit artus. Conglo- 1721, p. 276, speaking of Edge-well Tree, meratus itaque spiritus, spumaque turgida

describes it to be an oak-tree which grows on commixtus, sonitum excitat, reciprocanti the side of a fine spring, nigh the Castle of maris æstui assimilem. Quod ipsum in non- Dalhousie, very much observed by the counnullis etiam fit ob panniculos ac membranas try people, who give out, that before any of in rugas contractas, sic ut spiritus obliquè ac the family died, a branch fell from the Edgesinuoso volumine decurrat. Hi, autem, qui

well Tree. The old tree some few years ago valido sunt vastoque corpore, et qui violenta fell altogether, but another sprung from the morte periunt, gravius resonant, diutiusque same root, which is now tall and flourishing, cum morte luctantur, ob humoris copiam ac and lang be't sae." densos crassosque spiritus. Iis vero qui extenu

In Petri Molinæi “ Vates," p. 151, we ato sunt corpore, ac lenta morte contabescunt, read : “Si visitans Ægrum, lapidem invenminus impetuose lenique sonitu fertur Spiri- tum per viam attollat, et sub lapide inveniatus, ac sensim placideque extinguuntur, ac tur vermis se movens, aut formica vivens, quodammodo obdormiscunt."

faustum omen est, et indicium fore ut æger Among the Superstitions relative to Death convalescat, si nibil invenitur, res est conmay be ranked the popular notion that a pil- clamata, et certa mors, ut docet Buchardus low filled with the feathers of a pigeon pre. Decretorum, lib. xix.” vents an easy Death.

Werenfels says, p. 7, “ The superstitious To an inquiry of the “ British Apollo," person could wish indeed that his estate might fol. Lond. 1710, vol. ii. No.93, “ that if any go to his next and best friends after his death, body be sick and lye a dying, if they lie upon but he had rather leave it to any body than pigeons' feathers they will be languishing and make his will, for fear lest he should prenever die, but be in pain and torment. An- sently die after it.” swer is given : “ This is an old woman's “ The Wraith, or spectral appearance, story. But the scent of pigeons' feathers is of a person shortly to die (we read in the so strong, that they are not fit to make beds Introduction to the “ Minstrelsy of the Scotwith, insomuch that the offence of their smell tish Border," p. clxvi.), is a firm article in may be said (like other strong smells) to re- the creed of Scottish superstition. Nor is it vive any body dying, and if troubled with unknown in our sister kingdom. See the hysteric fits. But as common practice, by story of the beautiful lady Diana Rich. Aureason of the nauseousness of the smell, has brey's 'Miscellanies,' p. 89." introduced a disuse of pigeons' feathers to

The Wraith of a living person,” says Dr. make beds, so no experience doth or hath Jamieson, “ does not, as some have supposed, ever given us any example of the reality of indicate that he shall die soon : although in the fact."

all cases viewed as a premonition of the dis(4) Lupton, in his third book of “ Notable embodied state. The season, in the natural Things,” 13, (edit. 8vo. 1660, p. 53,) says:

day, at which the spectre makes its appear“If a firr tree be touched, withered, or burned ance, is understood as a certain presage of the with lightening, it signifies that the master or time of the person's departure. If seen early mistresse thereof shall shortly dye. Servius." in the morning, it forebodes that he shall live Ibid. book ix. No. 6, we read : “If the fore- long, and even arrive at old age; if in the head of the sick wax red, and his brows fall evening, it indicates that his death is at hand." down, and his nose wax sharp and cold, and Etymol. Dict. of Scot. Lang. in v. his left eye become little, and the corner of his eye run, if he turn to the wall, if his ears Connected with Death Omens are the folbe cold, or if he may suffer no brightness, lowing curious extracts. In the Dialogue and if his womb fall, if he pull straws or the of “ Dives and Pauper,” fol. 1493, Firste Pre. cepte, chap. xlii. we read : “ Dives. Is it leful pale Death? good Lord, what have you done, to trust in these fastinges new found, to fle that your hands are thus bloody? What, my sodeyne dethe ? Pauper. It is a grete foly to hands, said his Oast? Why, you may see trust therein : yf men were certayne by suche they are neither bloody nor foule; either your fastynge that they shuld nat die sodeynly eyes doe greatly dazell, or else fancies of a but haue tyme of repentaunce, and to be troubled minde doe delude you." “ With shrevyne and houselyde, they shulde be the that the scritch-owle cried piteously, and more rechelesse in their lyvynge, and the lesse anon, after, the night-raven sat croking hard tale yeve for to doo amys in hope of amende- by his window. Jesn have mercy upon me, mente in their diyng. More sodeyn deth quoth bee, what an ill-favoured cry doe wyste I nevir that men hadde thanne I wyste yonder carrion birds make! and therewithal theym have that have fastyol suche fastes he laid him downe in his bed, from whence seven yere about. And was their nevir soo he never rose againe." moche sodeyn deth so longe reignynge in this Watching in the church-porch for Death londe as bath be sithe suche fastynge beganne." Omens (on the Eves of St. Mark and St. John

The time of this new fast seems to be Baptist) has been already noticed in the pointed out in the following passage : “ I see first volume of this work (pp. 115, 176, 186); no grounde ne reason whye it shuld be more The following relation on this subject is found medeful to fast alle Mondayes in the yere whan in the “ Athenian Oracle," vol. iii. p. 515 : the Feeste of oure Lady in Lente fallyth on 66 On last eve, nine others besides myself Monday, thanne to fast in worshyp of her went into a church-porch, with an expectaWednesdaye, Friday, or Saturday,

tion of seeing those who should die that year; Our ancient popular Death Omens are all but about eleven o'clock I was so afraid that enumerated in the well-known “Historie of I left them, and all the nine did positively Thomas of Reading,” 4to. Lond. 1632, pre- affirm to me, that about an hour after, the vious to his being murdered by his “ Dasts.” church-doors flying open, the minister (who, Signat. O 4 b: “ There is no remedy but he it seems, was much troubled that night in his should goe to Colebrooke that night; but by sleep), with such as should die that year, did the way he was heavy asleepe, that he could appear in order. Which persons they named scant keepe himself in the saddle; and when to me, and they appeared then all very he came neere unto the towne, his nose burst healthful, but six of them died in six weeks out suddenly a bleeding.” “Cole, beholding after, in the very same order that they aphis Oast and Oastesse earnestly, began to start peared.” Perhaps this comes more properly backe, saying, what aile you to looke so like under the head of Divinations than Omens.

CORPSE CANDLES, FETCH-LIGHTS, OR DEAD-MEN'S

CANDLES.

CORPSE CANDLES, says Grose, are very common appearances in the counties of Car. digan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke, and also in some other parts of Wales: they are called Candles, from their resemblance, not to the body of the Candle, but the fire; because that fire, says the honest Welshman, Mr. Davis, in a letter to Mr. Baxter, doth as much resemble material Candle-lights as eggs do

eggs : saving that, in their journey, these Candles are sometimes visible and sometimes disappeared, especially if any one comes near to them, or in the way to meet them. On these occasions they vanish, but presently appear again behind the observer and hold on their course.

If a little Candle is seen, of a pale bluish colour, then follows the Corpse, either of an abortive, or some infant: if a

larger one, then the Corpse of some one come slowly than falling stars. It lighteneth all to age. If there be seen two, three, or more, the air and ground where it passeth, lasteth of different sizes, some big, some small, then three or four miles or more, for aught is known, shall so many Corpses pass together, and of because no man seeth the rising or beginning such ages or degrees. If two Candles come of it; and when it falls to the ground, it from different places, and be seen to meet, the sparkleth and lighteth all about. These comCorpses will do the same; and if any of these monly announce the death or decease of free. Candles be seen to turn aside, through some holders by falling on their lands; and you by-path leading to the church, the following shall scarce bury any such with us, says Mr. Corpse will be found to take exactly the Davis, be he but a lord of a house and garden, same way. Sometimes these Candles point but you shall find some one at his burial that out the

places where persons shall sicken and hath seen this fire fall on some part of his die. They have also appeared on the bellies lands. of pregnant women previous to their delivery; Sometimes these appearances have been and predicted the drowning of persons passing seen by the persons whose death they foretold: a ford. Another kind of fiery apparition pe

two instances of which Mr. Davis records as culiar to Wales, is, what is called the Tan-we having happened in his own family.(1) or Tan-wed. This appeareth, says Mr. Davis, For a particular relation of the appearance to our seeming, in the lower region of the of a FETCH-Light, or DEAD-MAN'S CANDLE, air, straight and long, not much unlike a to a gentleman in Carmarthenshire, see the Glaive, mours, or shoots, directly and level “ Athenian Oracle," vol. i. pp. 76, 77. See (as who should say I'll hit), but far more also, ibid. vol. iii. p. 150.

NOTE TO CORPSE CANDLES, FETCH-LIGHTS, OR DEAD-MEN'S CANDLES.

( See Aubrey's “ Miscellanies," p. 176; Baxter's “ World of Spirits,” p. 131-137.

Bishop Hall, in his “ Characters of Vertues and Vices,” speaking of the superstitious man, says: “Some wayes he will not go, and some he darés not; either there are bugs, or he faineth them. Every lanterne is a ghost, and every noise is of chaines. He knowes not why, but his custom is to go a little about, and to leave the crosse still on the right hand.”

In the “ Cambrian Register," 8vo. 1796, p. 431, we read “ That, among the lower class of people, there is a general belief in the existence of apparitions, is unquestionable : but as to the lighted Candle springing up upon

the errand of Love, I believe that no person in Wales has ever before heard of it (the author is remarking on Pratt’s ‘Gleaner"); the traveller has probably confounded it with a very commonly-received opinion, that within the diocese of St. David's, a short space before Death, a Light is seen proceeding from the house, and sometimes, as has been asserted, from the very bed where the sick person lies, and pursues its way to the church where he or she is to be interred, precisely in the same track in which the funeral is afterwards to follow. This Light is called Canwyll Corpt, or the Corpse Candle."

OMENS AMONG SAILORS.

There is a very singular marine supersti

no person in a ship must pare his Nails or cut

his

« PreviousContinue »