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Early Reference To Witches Turning Themselves Into Hares


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

The prevalence of the belief that witches could transform themselves into
hares is seen from a remark made by Giraldus Cambrensis in his
topography of Ireland. He writes:--

It has also been a frequent complaint, from old times, as well as in
the present, that certain hags in Wales, as well as in Ireland and
Scotland, changed themselves into the shape of hares, that, sucking
teats under this counterfeit, they might stealthily rob other
people's milk.

Giraldus Cambrensis, Bohn's Edition, p. 83.

This remark of the Archdeacon's gives a respectable antiquity to the
metamorphosis of witches, for it was in 1185 that he visited Ireland, and
he tells us that what he records had descended from old times.

The transformation fables that have descended to us would seem to be
fossils of a pagan faith once common to the Celtic and other cognate
races. It was not thought that certain harmless animals only could
become the temporary abode of human beings. Even a wolf could be human
under an animal form. Thus Giraldus Cambrensis records that a priest
was addressed in Ireland by a wolf, and induced to administer the
consolations of his priestly office to his wife, who, also, under the
shape of a she-wolf was apparently at the point of death, and to convince
the priest that she was really a human being the he-wolf, her husband,
tore off the skin of the she-wolf from the head down to the navel,
folding it back, and she immediately presented the form of an old woman
to the astonished priest. These people were changed into wolves through
the curse of one Natalis, Saint and Abbot, who compelled them every seven
years to put off the human form and depart from the dwellings of men as a
punishment for their sins. (See Giraldus Cambrensis, Bohn's Edition,
pp. 79-81.)

Next: Ceridwen And Gwion_ (_gwiawn_) _bach's Transformation

Previous: A Witch In The Form Of A Hare Hunted By A Black Greyhound

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