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Popular Superstitions - A Word Charm

( Originally Published 1884 )

As from your earliest years you have shown a true appreciation of literary curiosities of all kinds, I send you "a charm" which in some degree explains itself. The copy from which I take this was made by a Lincolnshire clergyman, from one in the possession of an honest farmer's wife at Saltfleetby St. Clements, who was very loth to part with it, even for an hour :

" In the year 1603. A copy of a letter written by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and left by the Angel Gabriel, found under a stone at the foot of a cross eighteen miles from Indiconia. On the top of the stone was written : `Blessed be thee that turneth ye.' Then they endeavoured to turn it over, but all in vain; they prayed to God to know the meaning of it. In the same time came a child about the age of six or seven years, and turned it over, to the great admiration of the people that stood by, where under it they found this letter; to have it read they carried it to the aforesaid town, where it begins :

" 'Whosoever worketh on the Sabbath day shall be accursed. I command you to go to church. Keep that day holy and do no work thereon ; for if you keep the Sabbath day holy, and incline your hearts to keep My laws, your sins shall be forgiven you ; but you must believe that this was written by My hand, and spoken with My mouth.

You also take your children and servants to church with you to hear and observe My word, and teach them My commandments. You must fast five Fridays in the year in memory of five wounds taken and received for all mankind. You must neither take gold nor silver from any person unjustly, nor mock nor scorn My commandments. You shall love one another with brotherly love, and with a tender heart, that your days may be prolonged. You shall also charge them that are not baptized to come to church and receive the same, and be made a member of My church, and in so doing I will heap My blessings upon you, and give you long life, and the land shall be fruitful and bring forth abundantly ; but he that is contrary to those things shall be accursed. I will send famine, lightning, and thunder, and scant of all those things, till I have consumed you. Especially on those that will not believe that this was spoken with My mouth and written with My hand. Also he that hath shall give to the poor; and he that hath and doth not shall be accursed, and be a companion of hell. Remember, I say, to keep the Sabbath day holy, for on it I have taken rest Myself. Also he that hath a copy of this letter and doth not publish it abroad to others, shall be accursed; but he that sheweth it abroad shall be blessed; and though he sin as often as there are stars in the skies, he shall be pardoned if he truly repent; and he that believeth not this writing, My plague shall be upon him, his children and cattle, and all that appertaineth unto him. Whoso hath a copy of this in his house, no evil spirit nor evil shall vex him, no hunger nor ague, nor any evil spirit shall annoy; but all goodness shall be where a copy of this shall be found. Also if any woman be in great trouble in her travel and have but a copy of this above her, she shall be safely delivered of her child. You shall hear no more of Me till the day of judgment. In the name of God, amen.'

" This is copied from one that Elizabeth Darnell had copyed in October 6, 1793."

This curious document has doubtless been copied many times, and treasured up as it is even now at Saltfleetby. Whoever constructed it appears to have been well acquainted with the phraseology of the English Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and imbued with religious traditions both Catholic and Puritanical. Still, I cannot think it of so early a date as 1603.

I am, etc., J. T. FOWLER, M.A., F.S.A. The College, Hurstpierpoint.



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