Popular Superstitions - Charms, Omens, And Cautionary Denouncements
( Originally Published 1884 )
I recognize every one of your correspondent, Mr. Noake, charms, omens, and cautionary denouncements, but do not admit their exclusive application to Worcester. [See ante, p. I 33.] I have had the benefit of their inculcation in every county in England, and I have rigidly and reverently obeyed, as my fingers and toes will testify, the solemn injunction impressively delivered to me seventy years ago by my grandmother, conveyed in the following couplet
" Better thou wert never born,
which has reason as well as rhyme in its' support; whereas, the lines quoted by Mr. Noake are destitute of both :
" Better a child was never born
I remember when most of the houses in Monmouth Street, Soho, had a horseshoe nailed under the threshold of the entrance, to pre-vent the admission of witches, and some still remain, and, as according to the then fashion of hanging at Tyburn and elsewhere, the culprit walked under the ladder, I was considerately warned ever to walk round it.
A pillow filled with hops was prescribed to George III, by a physician at Reading, recommended by Lord Sidmouth, and administered accordingly.
That the present of a knife or pair of scissors cuts love is a certain fact.
Yours, M. M. M.
Wonderful Effect Of a Charm.
The days of miracle and chivalry, we are told, have gone by, witches, fairies, ghosts, and goblins, are laid full many a fathom deep in the Red Sea. But charms and amulets, those sacred arcana of superstition, at the disposal of cunning men, are still in full possession of their accustomed powers, and wield an influence over the mind not to be controuled by reason and experience.
The following is a true recital of a fact positively within my own knowledge.
My brother has a considerable farm in Worcestershire. His tenant is a yeoman of some substance, intelligent, rational, and in common reputation a man of sound sense and good understanding. About two years since, the landlord and the farmer met ; questions of kindness and courtesy passed ; and the latter expressed himself happy in his children, and prosperous, though things were not as they had used to be. His boys were grown into manhood, and shared in his daily toil. His girls were good housewives, contented and healthy ; all, save one, and she had sickened long under a sad disease, which, wasting her strength, had brought her nearly to the grave. The anxious father had consulted every medical practitioner of note the country round, and had sought at Gloucester that certainty of relief, which the high talents of its medical professors so naturally promised. A large glandular swelling on one side of her neck, drained from her the whole strength of life ; and still no relief was found ; it was pronounced incurable. At this time a cunning man of high reputation presented himself, and proposed the experiment of a charm, which, under similar circumstances, had been universally successful. He examined the part minutely, and left the patient, requiring neither the exhibition of medicine, nor attention to diet. Nature was to be his only handmaid. Now comes the extraordinary fact. He caught a frog, no matter where; and with his knife inflicted a wound on that part of its neck, corresponding exactly with the seat of disease in the patient's, and then suffered the animal to escape. " If (said he) it lives, the disease will gradually waste away, and your daughter recover; but if the creature dies in consequence of this injury, there is then no hope; the malady will continue to increase, and a painful, though it may be a lingering death will be the certain consequence."
Some time after this interview, my brother and his tenant met again; and what was the strange result ? the charm had prospered, or rather Nature had triumphed; because, perhaps, left to her own powerful resources ;—the maid no longer suffered ; the disease had dispersed without any medical assistance, and the "cunning man" has established a character and a practice which, until Nature plays him some mischievous trick, will crown his name with honour, and fill his strong box with more substantial testimonies of the credulity of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.