Witches Transforming Themselves Into Cats





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.





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