Apparitions Of The Devil
: STORIES OF SATAN, GHOSTS, ETC.
: 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
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.