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it foretells. For an Account of the Fetch-lights, or Dead Men's Candles, vide Athenian Oracle, Vol. I.
The Rev. Mr. Shaw, in his History of the Province of Moray, in Scotland, gives the following Account of some Omens and Superstitions still preserved there: When a Corpse is lifted, the Bed Straw on which the Deceased lay, is carried out, and burnt in a place where no Beast can come near it; and they pretend to find next Morning in the Ashes, the Print of the Foot of that Person in the Family who shall first die*.
In hectic and consumptive Diseases, they pare the Nails of the Fingers and Toes of the Patient, put these Parings into a Rag cut from his Clothes, then wave their Hand with the Rag thrice round his Head, crying, Deas Soil; after which they bury the Rag in some unknown Place. He tells us he has seen this done; and Pliny, in his Natural History, mentions it as practised by the Magicians or Druids of his Time.
When a contagious Disease enters among Cattle,
* Dr. Goldsmith, in his Vicar of Wakefield, speaking of the waking Dreams of his Hero's Daughters, tells us, “ The Girls “ had their Omens too; they felt strange Kisses on their Lips;
they saw Rings in the Candle, Purses bounded from the Fire, and • True Love Knots lurked at the Bottom of every Tea Cup.” In the North, the Cinders that bound from the Fire (in this Manner) are examined by old Women, Children, &c. and according to their respective Forms, are called either Coffins or Purses; and consequently thought to be the Presages of Death or Wealth. Ant Cæsar, aut Nullus!
the Fire is extinguished in some Villages round; then they force Fire with a Wheel or by rubbing a Piece of dry Wood upon another, and therewith burn Juniper in the Stalls of the Cattle, that the Smoke may purify the Air about'them: They likewise boil Juniper in Water, which they sprinkle upon the Cattle ; this done, the Fires in the Houses are rekindled from the forced Fire. All this too (he tells us) he has seen done, and has no Doubt of its being a Druid Custom.
Mr. Shaw further tells us, that the antient Scots much regarded Omens upon an Expedition. An armed Man meeting them was a good Omen :--If a Woman barefoot crossed the Road before them, they seized her, and fetched Blood from her Forehead: If a Deer, Fox, Hare, or any Beast of Game appeared, and they did not kill it, it was an unlucky Omen*.
A superstitious Opinion vulgarly prevails here,
* Spitting, according to Pliny, was superstitiously observed in averting Witchcraft, and in giving a shrewder Blow to an Enemy. Hence seems to be derived the Custom our Bruisers have, of spită ting in their Hands before they begin their unmanly Barbarity.Several other Vestiges of this Superstition relative to fasting Spittle, (Fascinationes saliva jejuna repelli, veteri superstitione creditum est. Alex, ab Alex.) mentioned also in Pliny, may yet be traced among our Vulgar.- Boys have a Custom, (inter se) of spitting their Faith, or as they also call it here, their Saul, (Soul) when required to make Asseverations in a Matter of Consequence.--In Combinations of the Colliers, &c. in the North, for the Purpose of raising their Wages, they are said to spit upon a Stone together, by Way of cementing their Confederacy. We have too a kind of po pular Saying, when Persons are of the same Parts, or agree in Sentiment, " they spit upon the same Stone."
that the howling of a Dog by Night in a Neighbourhood, is the Presage of Death to any that are sick in it. I know not what has given Rise to this: Dogs have been known to stand and howl over the Bodies of their Masters, when they have been murdered, or died an accidental or sudden Deathi.—An Instance of great Sensibility in this faithful Animal !
Shakespear ranks this among Omens : • The Owl shriek'd at thy Birth; an evil Sight! « The Night Crow cry'd, forboding luckless Time; Dogs howl'd, and hideous Tempest sbook down Trees,” &c.
Of the Country Conversation in a Winter's Even
ing : Their Opinions of Spirits and Apparitions ; of the Devil's appearing with a cloven Foot; of Fairies and Hobgoblins ; of the walking Places
of Spirits ; and of haunted Houses. NOTHING is commoner in Country Places, than for a whole Family in a Winter's Evening, to sit round the Fire, and tell Stories of Apparitions and Ghosts. · And no Question of it, but this adds to the natural Fearfulness of Men, and makes them many Times imagine they see Things, which really are nothing but their own Fancy. Froin this, and seldom any other Cause, it is, that Herds and Shepherds have all of them seen frequent Apparitions, and are generally so well stock'd with Stories of their own Knowledge. Some of them have seen Fairies, some Spirits in the Shapes of Cows and Dogs and Horses; and some have seen even the Devil himself, with a cloven Foot. All which, is either Hearsay or a strong imagination. Not that there have not been, or may not bę Apparitions; we
know that there have undoubtedly been such Things, and that there still are, upon particular Occasions; but that almost all the Stories of Ghosts and Spirits, are grounded on no other Bottom, than the Fears and Fancies, and weak Brains of Men.
In their Account of the Apparition of the Devil, they always describe him with a cloven Foot; That is always his distinguishing Badge, whatever Shape he appears in; whether it be in Beauty or Deformity, he never appears without it. Such is the old Tradition they have received of his appearing, and such is their Belief of it.
Indeed it must be confess'd, that this is not so improbable and ridiculous as many Things they hold. For tho' perhaps few of them have ought else for this Opinion, but old TVives Fables, or the Picture of the Devil, which they have always observed drawn with a cloven Foot, yet there seems to be some Truth in it. For in the Times of frequent Apparitions, the Devil was wont to appear so, if we may believe Antiquity; and there is also some Reason for it, considering tlie Circumstances of the fallen Angels.