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Witches Transforming Themselves Into Cats


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

One of the forms that witches were supposed to change themselves into was
that of a cat. In this metamorphosed state they were the more able to
accomplish their designs. The following tale, illustrative of this
belief, was told me by the Rev. R. Jones, Rector of Llanycil, Bala.

On the side of the old road, between Cerrig-y-drudion and
Bettws-y-Coed--long before this latter place had become the resort of
artists--stood an inn, which was much resorted to, as it was a convenient
lodging house for travellers on their way to Ireland. This inn stood
near the present village of Bettws-y-Coed. Many robberies occurred here.
Travellers who put up there for the night were continually deprived of
their money, and no one could tell how this occurred, for the lodgers
were certain that no one had entered their rooms, as they were found
locked in the morning just as they were the night before. The mystery
was, therefore, great. By and by, one of those who had lost his money
consulted Huw Llwyd, who lived at Cynvael, in the parish of Festiniog,
and he promised to unravel the mystery. Now, Huw Llwyd had been an
officer in the army, and, equipped in his regimentals, with sword
dangling by his side, he presented himself one evening at the suspected
inn, and asked whether he could obtain a room and bed for the night; he
represented himself as on his way to Ireland, and he found no difficulty
in obtaining a night's lodging. The inn was kept by two sisters of
prepossessing appearance, and the traveller made himself most agreeable
to these ladies, and entertained them with tales of his travels in
foreign parts. On retiring for the night he stated that it was a habit
with him to burn lights in his room all night, and he was supplied with a
sufficient quantity of candles to last through the night. The request,
as Hugh Llwyd was a military man, did not arouse suspicion. Huw retired,
and made his arrangements for a night of watching. He placed his clothes
on the floor within easy reach of his bed, and his sword unsheathed lay
on the bed close to his right hand. He had secured the door, and now as
the night drew on he was all attention; ere long two cats stealthily came
down the partition between his room and the next to it. Huw feigned
sleep, the cats frisked here and there in the room, but the sleeper awoke
not; they chased each other about the room, and played and romped, and at
last they approached Huw's clothes and played with them, and here they
seemed to get the greatest amusement; they turned the clothes about and
over, placing their paws now on that string, and now on that button, and
ere long their paws were inserted into the pockets of his clothes, and,
just as one of the cats had her paw in the pocket that contained Huw
Llwyd's purse, he like lightning struck the cat's paw with his sword.
With terrible screams they both disappeared, and nothing further was seen
of them during the night.

Next morning, only one of the sisters appeared at the breakfast table.
To the traveller's enquiry after the absent lady of the house, her sister
said that she was slightly indisposed, and could not appear.

Huw Llwyd expressed regret at this, but, said he--I must say good-bye to
her, for I greatly enjoyed her company last night. He would not be
refused, so ultimately he was admitted to her presence. After expressing
his sympathy and regret at her illness, the soldier held out his hand to
bid good-bye to the lady. She put out her left hand; this Huw refused to
take, averring that he had never taken a left hand in his life, and that
he would not do so now. Very reluctantly, and with evident pain, she put
out her right hand, which was bandaged, and this fact cleared up the
mystery connected with the robberies. These two ladies were two witches,
who in the form of cats had robbed travellers who lodged under their
roof. Huw, when he made this discovery said--I am Huw Llwyd of Cynvael,
and I warn you of the risk you have incurred by your thefts, and I
promise you I will not let you off so easily the next time I have need to
visit you.

The preceding tale is circumstantial, but unfortunately similar tales are
current in other places, as shown by the following quotation:--

The last instance of national credulity on this head was the story
of the witches of Thurso, who, tormenting for a long time an honest
fellow under the usual form of a cat, at last provoked him so that
one night he put them to flight with his broad sword and cut off the
leg of one less nimble than the rest. On his taking it up, to his
amazement he found it belonged to a female of his own species, and
next morning discovered the owner, an old hag, with only the
companion leg to this.

Brand's Popular Antiquities, pp. 318-319.

Next: The Witches' Revenge On Huw Llwyd

Previous: Llanddona Witches

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