Apparitions Of The Devil

: Welsh Folk-lore

To accomplish his nefarious designs the Evil Spirit assumed forms

calculated to attain his object. The following lines from Allan

Cunningham's Traditional Tales, p. 9, aptly describe his


Soon he shed

His hellish slough, and many a subtle wile

Was his to seem a heavenly spirit to man,

First, he a hermit, sore subdued in flesh,

O'er a cold
cruse of water and a crust,

Poured out meet prayers abundant. Then he changed

Into a maid when she first dreams of man,

And from beneath two silken eyelids sent,

The sidelong light of two such wondrous eyes,

That all the saints grew sinners . . .

Then a professor of God's word he seemed,

And o'er a multitude of upturned eyes

Showered blessed dews, and made the pitchy path,

Down which howl damned Spirits, seem the bright

Thrice hallowed way to Heaven; yet grimly through

The glorious veil of those seducing shapes,

Frowned out the fearful Spirit.

S. Anthony, in the wilderness, as related in his life by S. Athanasius,

had many conflicts in the night with the powers of darkness, Satan

appearing personally to him, to batter him from the strongholds of his

faith. S. Dunstan, in his cell, was tempted by the Devil in the form of

a lovely woman, but a grip of his nose with a heated tongs made him

bellow out, and cease his nightly visits to that holy man. Ezra Peden,

as related by Allan Cunningham, was also tempted by one who was indeed

passing fair, and the longer he looked on her she became the

lovelier--owre lovely for mere flesh and blood, and poor Peden

succumbed to her wiles.

From the book of Tobit it would appear that an Evil Spirit slew the first

seven husbands of Sara from jealousy and lust, in the vain hope of

securing her for himself. In Giraldus Cambrensis's Itinerary through

Wales, Bohn's ed., p. 411 demons are shown to possess those qualities

which are ascribed to them in the Apocryphal book of Tobit.

There is nothing new, as far as I am aware, respecting the doings of the

Great Enemy of mankind in Welsh Folk-Lore. His tactics in the

Principality evince no originality. They are the usual weapons used by

him everywhere, and these he found to be sufficient for his purposes even

in Wales.

Gladly would I here put down my pen and leave the uncongenial task of

treating further about the spirits of darkness to others, but were I to

do so, I should be guilty of a grave omission, for, as I have already

said, ghosts, goblins, spirits, and other beings allied to Satan, occupy

a prominent place in Welsh Folk-Lore.

Of a winter's evening, by the faint light of a peat fire and rush

candles, our forefathers recounted the weird stories of olden times, of

devils, fairies, ghosts, witches, apparitions, giants, hidden treasures,

and other cognate subjects, and they delighted in implanting terrors in

the minds of the listeners that no philosophy, nor religion of after

years, could entirely eradicate. These tales made a strong impression

upon the imagination, and possibly upon the conduct of the people, and

hence the necessity laid upon me to make a further selection of the many

tales that I have collected on this subject.

I will begin with a couple of stories extracted from the work of the Rev.

Edmund Jones, by a writer in the Cambro-Briton, vol. ii., p. 276.

Satan appearing to a Man who was fetching a Load of Bibles, etc.

A Mr. Henry Llewelyn, having been sent to Samuel Davies, of Ystrad

Defodoc Parish, in Glamorganshire, to fetch a load of books, viz.,

Bibles, Testaments, Watts's Psalms, Hymns, and Songs for Children,

said--Coming home by night towards Mynyddustwyn, having just passed by

Clwyd yr Helygen ale-house, and being in a dry part of the lane--the

mare, which he rode, stood still, and, like the ass of the ungodly

Balaam, would go no farther, but kept drawing back. Presently he could

see a living thing, round like a bowl, rolling from the right hand to the

left, and crossing the lane, moving sometimes slow and sometimes very

swift--yea, swifter than a bird could fly, though it had neither wings

nor feet,--altering also its size. It appeared three times, less one

time than another, seemed least when near him, and appeared to roll

towards the mare's belly. The mare would then want to go forward, but he

stopped her, to see more carefully what manner of thing it was. He

staid, as he thought, about three minutes, to look at it; but, fearing to

see a worse sight, he thought it high time to speak to it, and

said--'What seekest thou, thou foul thing? In the name of the Lord

Jesus, go away!' And by speaking this it vanished, and sank into the

ground near the mare's feet. It appeared to be of a reddish oak


In a footnote to this tale we are told that formerly near Clwyd yr

Helygen, the Lord's Day was greatly profaned, and it may be that the

Adversary was wroth at the good books and the bringer of them; for he

well knew what burden the mare carried.

The editor of the Cambro-Briton remarks that the superstitions

recorded, if authentic, are not very creditable to the intelligence of

our lower classes in Wales; but it is some satisfaction to think that

none of them are of recent date. The latter remark was, I am sorry to

say, rather premature.

One other quotation from the same book I will here make.