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Popular Superstitions - Rag Wells

( Originally Published 1884 )

The Rev. Mr. Brand, in his ingenious annotations on Bourne's " Popular Antiquities," mentions a well at Benton, similar to the well near the foot of Rosberrye Toppinge, between the towns of Aten and Newton, co. York, and dedicated to St. Oswald. In the opinion of the neighbours St. Oswald's well has a particular charm, which is this : that if a shirt or shift taken off a sick person is thrown into this well, it will show whether the person so sick will recover or die. If it floats, it denotes their recovery; if it sinks, there remains no hope of their life. To reward the Saint for his intelligence, they tear off a rag of the shirt, and leave it hanging on the briars thereabouts," where," says the writer of the MS. in the Cottonian Library, marked Julius F. 6, " I have seen such numbers, as might have made a fayre rheme in a paper myll."* These rag wells, as they are called, were formerly not uncommon. Mr. Pennant tells us of two in Scotland, which were visited for many distempers, and where the offerings were small pieces of money and bits of rags. Yours, etc., STEMMALYSMU.

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