Category: BIRDS AND BEASTS.
Caesar, bk. v., ch. xii., states that the Celts do not regard it
lawful to eat the hare, the cock, and the goose; they, however, breed
them for amusement and pleasure. This gives a respectable age to the
superstitions respecting these animals.
Mention has already been made of witches turning themselves into hares.
This superstition was common in all parts of North Wales. The Rev. Lewis
Williams, rector of Prion, near Denbigh, told me the following tales of
this belief:--A witch that troubled a farmer in the shape of a hare, was
shot by him. She then transformed herself into her natural form, but
ever afterwards retained the marks of the shot in her nose.
Another tale which the same gentleman told me was the following:--A
farmer was troubled by a hare that greatly annoyed him, and seemed to
make sport of him. He suspected it was no hare, but a witch, so he
determined to rid himself of her repeated visits. One day, spying his
opportunity, he fired at her. She made a terrible noise, and jumped
about in a frightful manner, and then lay as if dead. The man went up to
her, but instead of a dead hare, he saw something on the ground as big as
a donkey. He dug a hole, and buried the thing, and was never afterwards
troubled by hare or witch.
In Llanerfyl parish there is a story of a cottager who had only one cow,
but she took to Llanfair market more butter than the biggest farmer in
the parish. She was suspected of being a witch, and was watched. At
last the watcher saw a hare with a tin-milk-can hanging from its neck,
and it was moving among the cows, milking them into her tin-can. The man
shot it, and it made for the abode of the suspected witch. When he
entered, he found her on the bed bleeding.
It was supposed that there was something uncanny about hares. Rowland
Williams, Parish Clerk, Efenechtyd, an aged man, related to me the
following tale, and he gave the name of the party concerned, but I took
no note of the name, and I have forgotten it:--A man on his way one
Sunday to Efenechtyd Church saw a hare on its form. He turned back for
his gun, and fired at the hare. The following Sunday he saw again a hare
on the very same spot, and it lifted its head and actually stared at him.
The man was frightened and went to church; the third Sunday he again saw
a hare on the very same form, and this hare also boldly looked at him.
This third appearance thoroughly convinced the man that there was
something wrong somewhere, and he afterwards avoided that particular
The pretty legend of Melangell, called Monacella, the patroness of hares,
is well known. One day the Prince of Powis chased a hare, which took
refuge under the robe of the virgin Melangell, who was engaged in deep
devotion. The hare boldly faced the hounds, and the dogs retired to a
distance howling, and they could not be induced to seize their prey. The
Prince gave to God and Melangell a piece of land to be henceforth a
sanctuary. The legend of the hare and the saint is represented in carved
wood on the gallery in the church of Pennant. Formerly it belonged to
the screen. Hares were once called in the parish of Pennant Melangell
Wyn Melangell, or St. Monacella's lambs. Until the last century no one
in the parish would kill a hare, and it was believed that if anyone cried
out when a hare was being pursued, God and St. Monacella be with thee,
it would escape.