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Welsh Folk Lore - Stories Of Satan, Ghosts, Etc.

Mermaids And Mermen
It is said that these fabulous beings frequented the sea-co...

Stories Of Satan Ghosts Etc
Although Max Muller, in Chips from a German Workshop, vol. ...

Satan Playing Cards
A good many years ago I travelled from Pentrevoelas to Yspy...

Satan Playing Cards At A Merry Meeting
It was formerly a general custom in Wales for young lads an...

Satan Playing Cards On Rhyd-y-cae Bridge_ _pentrevoelas
Gwas yn y Gilar a phen campwr ei oes am chwareu cardiau oed...

Satan Snatching A Man Up Into The Air
It would appear that poor Bob was doomed to a sad end. His...

Satan Frightening A Man For Gathering Nuts On Sunday
The following tale was related to me by the Rev. W. E. Jone...

Satan Taking Possession Of A Man Who Fished On Sunday
The following tale is in its main features still current in...

Satan Appearing In Many Forms To A Man Who Travelled On Sunday
I received the following tale from my deceased friend, the ...

The Evil Spirit Appearing To A Man Who Frequented Alehouses On Sunday
Jones writes as follows:--W. J. was once a Sabbath-breaker ...

Satan Outwitted
In the preceding tales the Evil One is depicted as an agent...

Satan And Churches
The traditional stories that are still extant respecting th...

The Ejectment Of The Evil Spirit From Llanfor Church
Mr. Roberts states that his grandmother, born in 1744, had ...

An Evil Spirit In Llandysilio Church Montgomeryshire
The history of this Spirit's proceedings is given in Bye-Go...

A Spirit In Llangerniew Church_ _denbighshire
There was a tradition in this parish that on All-Hallows' E...

Satan And Bell Ringing
Durand, according to Bourne, in his Antiquities of the Comm...

Mysterious Removal Of Churches
I. LLANLLECHID CHURCH. There was a tradition extant i...

Apparitions Of The Devil
To accomplish his nefarious designs the Evil Spirit assumed...

The Devil Appearing To A Dissenting Minister At Denbigh
The Rev. Mr. Thomas Baddy, who lived in Denbigh Town, and w...

The Devil's Tree By Eglwys Rhos
At the corner of the first turning after passing the villag...

Satan Appearing As A Lovely Maiden
The following story I received from the Rev. Owen Jones, Pe...

A Man Carried Away By The Evil One
W. E., of Ll--- M---, was a very bad man; he was a brawler,...

Satan Appearing To A Young Man
A young man, who had left Pentrevoelas to live in a farm ho...

Satan Appearing To A Collier
John Roberts of Colliers' Row, Cyfartha, Merthyr, was once ...

Ghosts Or Spirits
Ghosts, or Spirits, were supposed to be the shades of depar...

The Gloddaeth Ghost
The following tale was told the Rev. Owen Jones, Pentrevoel...

Tymawr Ghost Bryneglwys
This Ghost plagued the servants, pinched and tormented them...

Ffrith Farm Ghost
I am indebted to Mr. Williams, schoolmaster, Bryneglwys, fo...

Pont-y-glyn Ghost
There is a picturesque glen between Corwen and Cerrig-y-Dru...

Ysbryd Ystrad Fawr
Yr oedd Ysbryd yn Ystrad Fawr, ger Llangwm, yn arfer ymddan...

Ty Felin Ghost Llanynys
An exciseman, overtaken by night, went to a house called Ty...

Llandegla Spirit
The tale of this Spirit was given me by Mr. Roberts, late S...

Lady Jeffrey's Spirit
This lady could not rest in her grave because of her misdee...

Pentrevoelas Squire Griffith's Ghost
A couple of workmen engaged at Foelas, the seat of the late...

David Salisbury's Ghost
I will quote from Bye-Gones, vol. iii., p. 211, an account ...

A Ghost Appearing To Point Out Hidden Treasures
There is a farm house called Clwchdyrnog in the parish of L...

The Powis Castle Ghost Revealing A Hidden Box To A Woman
The following is the narrative:--It had been for some time ...

The Spirit Of Llyn-nad-y-forwyn
It is said that a young man was about to marry a young girl...

Spirit Laying
It must have been a consolation to those who believed in th...

Cynon's Ghost
One of the wicked Spirits which plagued the secluded Valley...

Caellwyngrydd Spirit
This was a dangerous Spirit. People passing along the road...

Ghost Raising
If the possibility of Ghost Laying was believed in, so also...

Witches And Conjurors
From and before the days of King Saul, to the present momen...

Llanddona Witches
There is a tradition in the parish of Llanddona, Anglesey, th...

Witches Transforming Themselves Into Cats
One of the forms that witches were supposed to change thems...

The Witches' Revenge On Huw Llwyd
Several months after the occurrence recorded above of Huw L...

A Witch Transformed Into A Hare Injured By One Whom She Tormented
An old woman, thought to be a witch, was said by a neighbou...

A Witch Shot When In The Form Of A Hare
The following tale was told me by the Rev. R. Jones, Rector...

A Witch In The Form Of A Hare In A Churn
In the Spectator, No. 117, are these words:-- If the...

A Hare Crossing The Road
Mr. Jones said that when he was a lad, he and his mother we...

A Witch In The Form Of A Hare Hunted By A Black Greyhound
The writer has heard variants of the following tale in seve...

Early Reference To Witches Turning Themselves Into Hares
The prevalence of the belief that witches could transform t...

Ceridwen And Gwion_ (_gwiawn_) _bach's Transformation
But a striking instance of rapid transition from one form t...

A Man Turned Into A Hare
One of the servant men at Dolfawr, some years before Mr. Wi...

A Man Changed Into A Horse
Mr. Williams writes of the same servant man who figures in ...

A Witch Who Turned A Blue Dye Into A Red Dye
An old hag went to a small farmhouse in Clocaenog parish, a...

A Pig Witched
A woman sold a pig at Beaumaris to a man called Dick y Gree...

A Witch Who Was Refused A Goose And Her Revenge
A witch called at a farm when they were feathering geese fo...

A Horse Witched
Pedws Ffoulk, a supposed witch, was going through a field w...

Cows And Horses Witched
The writer was told the name of the farm where the followin...

Witches Punished
A neighbour, who does not wish to have his name recorded, s...

1. It was formerly believed that men could sell themselves...

Huw Llwyd And His Magical Books
The story, as it has reached our days, is as follows:--It i...

The Magician's Glass
This glass, into which a person looked when he wished to so...

A Conjuror And Robbers
A conjuror, or Gwr Cyfarwydd, was travelling over the Denbi...

The Conjuror And The Cattle
R. H., a farmer in Llansilin parish, who lost several head ...

A Conjuror's Collusion Exposed
This man's house consisted of but few rooms. Between the kit...

The Conjuror's Dress
Conjurors, when engaged in their uncanny work, usually wore...

The cure of diseases by charms is generally supposed to be ...

Swyno'r 'ryri (charming The Shingles)
The shingles is a skin disease, which encircles the body li...

A Charm For The Shingles
This custom (charming for the shingles) was more prevalent ...

Toothache Charms
By repeating the following doggerel lines the worst case of...

Rosemary Charm For Toothache
Llosg ei bren (Rhosmari) hyd oni bo yn lo du, ac yna dyro e...

Whooping Cough Charm
Children suffering from whooping cough were taken to a seve...

Charm For Fits
A ring made out of the offertory money was a cure for fits....

Charm For Cocks About To Fight
The charm consisted of a verse taken from the Bible, writte...

Charm For Asthma
Place the Bible for three successive nights under the bolst...

Charms For Warts
1. Drop a pin into a holy well and your warts will disappe...

Charm For Removing A Stye From The Eye
Take an ordinary knitting needle, and pass it back and fore...

Charms For Quinsy
Apply to the throat hair cut at midnight from the black sho...

Charming The Wild Wart
Take a branch of elder tree, strip off the bark, split off ...

Charm For Rheumatism
Carry a potato in your pocket, and when one is finished, su...

Charm For Removing The Ringworm
1. Spit on the ground the first thing in the morning, mix ...

Cattle Charms
Mr. Hamer in his Parochial Account of Llanidloes published ...

Charm Against Foot And Mouth Disease
The cattle on a certain farm in Llansilin parish suffered f...

Another Cattle Charm Spell
Mr. Hughes, Plasnewydd, Llansilin, lost several head of cat...

A Charm For Stopping Bleeding
Mrs. Reynolds, whom I have already mentioned in connection ...

Charm To Make A Servant Reliable
Y neb a fyno gael ei weinidog yn gywir, doded beth o'r llud...

Charms Performed With Snake's Skin
1. Burn the skin and preserve the ashes. A little salve m...

The Charms Performed With Rosemary
Rosemary dried in the sun and made into powder, tied in a c...

Charm For Clefyd Y Galon_ _or Heart Disease
The Rev. J. Felix, vicar of Cilcen, near Mold, when a young...

Witches And Conjurors


From and before the days of King Saul, to the present moment, witches
have held dreaded sway over the affairs of man. Cruel laws have been
promulgated against them, they have been murdered by credulous and
infuriated mobs, they have lost their lives after legal trial, but still,
witches have lived on through the dark days of ignorance, and even in
these days of light and learning they have their votaries. There must be
something in the human constitution peculiarly adapted to the exercise of
witchcraft, or it could not have lived so long, nor could it have been so
universal, as it undoubtedly is, unless men lent themselves willingly to
its impositions.

It is curious to notice how good and enlightened men have clung to a
belief in witchcraft. It is, consequently, not to be wondered at that
the common people placed faith in witches and conjurors when their
superiors in learning professed a like faith.

I have often spoken to intelligent men, who did not scruple to confess
that they believed in witches and conjurors, and they adduced instances
to prove that their faith had a foundation in fact.

Almost up to our days, the farmer who lost anything valuable consulted a
conjuror, and vowed vengeance on the culprit if it were not restored by
such and such a time, and invariably the stolen property was returned to
its owner before the specified period had expired. As detectives, the
conjurors, therefore, occupied a well-defined and useful place in rural
morality, and witches, too, were indirectly teachers of charity, for no
farm wife would refuse refreshments to the destitute lest vengeance
should overtake her. In this way the deserving beggar obtained needed
assistance from motives of self-preservation from benefactors whose fears
made them charitable.

But, if these benefits were derived from a false faith, the evils
attending that faith were nevertheless most disastrous to the community
at large, and many inhuman Acts were passed in various reigns to
eradicate witchcraft. From the wording of these Acts it will be seen
what witches were credited with doing.

An Act passed 33 Henry VIII. adjudged all witchcraft and sorcery to be
felony. A like Act was passed 1 James, c.12, and also in the reign of
Philip and Mary. The following is an extract:--

All persons who shall practise invocation, or conjuration, of wicked
spirits, any witchcraft, enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby any
person shall happen to be killed, or destroyed, shall, with their aiders,
and abettors, be accounted felons, without benefit of clergy; and all
persons practising any witchcraft, etc., whereby any person shall happen
to be wasted, consumed, or lamed in his or her body, or members, or
whereby any goods, or chattels, shall be destroyed, wasted, or impaired,
shall, with their counsellors, and aiders, suffer for the first offence
one year's imprisonment and the pillory, and for the second the
punishment of felony without the clergy. . . . If any person shall
consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward any evil or
wicked spirit, or take up any dead man, woman, or child out of his,
her, or their grave; or, the skin, bone, or any other part of any
dead person to be employed in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm,
or enchantment, etc., he shall suffer death as a felon, without benefit
of clergy.

The law of James I. was repealed in George II.'s. reign, but even then
persons pretending to use witchcraft, tell fortunes, or discover stolen
goods, by skill in the occult sciences, were to be punished by a year's
imprisonment; and by an Act, 5 George IV., c.83, any person or persons
using any subtle art, means, or device, by palmistry, or otherwise, to
deceive his Majesty's subjects, were to be deemed rogues and vagabonds,
and to be punished with imprisonment and hard labour.

Acts of Parliament did not succeed in eradicating witchcraft. Its power
has waned, but it still exercises an influence, shadowy though it be, on
certain minds, though in its grosser forms it has disappeared.

Formerly, ailments of all kinds, and misfortunes of every description,
were ascribed to the malignant influence of some old decrepit female, and
it was believed that nature's laws could be changed by these witches,
that they could at will produce tempests to destroy the produce of the
earth, and strike with sickness those who had incurred their displeasure.
Thus Lady Macbeth, speaking of these hags, says:--

I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than
mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further
they made themselves air, into which they vanished.

Macbeth, Act. i, S. 5.

The uncanny knowledge possessed by witches was used, it was thought, to
injure people, and their malice towards good, hard-working, honest folk
was unmistakable. They afflicted children from sheer love of cruelty,
and bewitched animals gratuitously, or for slights which they supposed
their owners had shown towards them; consequently their knowledge was
considered to be greatly inimical to others, and particularly baneful to
the industrious, whom witches hated.

There was hardly a district that had not its witches. Children ran away
when they saw approaching them an aged woman, with a red shawl on, for
they believed she was a witch, who could, with her evil eye, injure them.
It was, however, believed that the machinations of witches could be
counteracted in various ways, and by and by some of these charms shall be
given. Life would have been intolerable but for these antidotes to

Shakespeare's knowledge of Welsh Folk-lore was extensive and peculiarly
faithful, and what he says of witches in general agrees with the popular
opinion respecting them in Wales. I cannot do better than quote from
this great Folk-lorist a few things that he tells us about witches.

Mention has been made of witches taking dead bodies out of their graves
to make use of them in their enchantments, and Shakespeare, in his
description of the witches' cauldron, shows that they threw into the
seething pot many portions of human beings. The first witch in Macbeth

Round about the cauldron go,
In the poisoned entrails throw.

The third witch mentions other things that are thrown into the pot, as:--

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digged i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-delivered by a drab.

Macbeth, A. IV., S. 1.

It was thought that witches could change themselves, and other people,
into the form of animals. In Wales, the cat and the hare were the
favourite animals into which witches transformed themselves, but they did
not necessarily confine themselves to these animals. They were able to
travel in the air on a broom-stick; make children ill; give maids the
nightmare; curse with madness, animals; bring misfortune on families;
hinder the dairy maid from making butter; and many more imaginary things
were placed to their credit.

The personal appearance of witches, as given by Shakespeare, corresponds
exactly with the Welsh idea of these hags. On this subject the poet

What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
And yet are on't?--Live you? Or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her chappy fingers laying
Upon her skinny lips:--you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.

Macbeth, Act I., S. 3.

A striking and pathetic portrait of a witch, taken from Otway's Orphan,
Act. II., is given in No. 117 of the Spectator. It is so true to life
and apposite to our subject that I will quote it:--

In a close lane, as I pursu'd my journey,
I spy'd a wrinkled hag, with age grown double,
Picking dry sticks, and mumbling to herself.
Her eyes with scalding-rheum were gall'd, and red,
Cold palsy shook her head, her hands seemed wither'd,
And on her crooked shoulders had she wrapt
The tatter'd remnant of an old striped hanging,
Which served to keep her carcass from the cold;
So there was nothing of a piece about her.
Her lower weeds were all o'er coarsely patched,
With different colour'd rags, black, red, white, yellow.
And seem'd to speak variety of wretchedness.

A picture such as this is enough to create sympathy and charity in a
selfish heart, but in those dark days, when faith in witchcraft
prevailed, such a poor old decrepit woman inspired awe, and was shunned
as a malicious evil-doer by all her neighbours.

Next: Llanddona Witches

Previous: Ghost Raising

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