Walter Keating Kelly.

Curiosities of Indo-European tradition and folk-lore online

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280 OO^S AND WIT0HE8.

covered with a woman's red stocking, before the
threshold of the oow-honse, and make the animals
st^ over it.

Bat it is no easy matter to guard against the
secret practices of the witch. There was a farmer in
Casebnrg whose cows gave no milk, though he fed
them ever so well, so that at last he sent for a wise
man to see what he could do with them. The wise
man went into the cow-house, looked at the cows,
and saw at once what was the matter. They were
bewitched. So he went about the village to look ic«
the witch, and at last he found the neighbour's wife
standing in her own cow-house, at the wall nearest
to the fanner's. She had stuck a broom handle
into the wall, with a bucket hanging from it, and was
Tnillring the broom stick, which gave milk like a
natural udder. Thus, then, this witch was caught
in the fact. The wise man threatened her terribly,
and from that day forth the farmer had no cause to
ccanplain of his cows.* In Scotland, " witches were
supposed to have the power of supplying themselves
with milk from their neighbours* cattle by a very
simple though insidious process. Procuring a small
quantity of hair from the tail of every cow within
her reach, the vile wretch twisted it up into a rop^

* Eahm nnd Schwarti, Kdd. p. 24,



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O0W8 AITD WITCRS& 231

on wliicli filie tied a knot for e»ch cow. At this she
tugged in the usual manner of milkiag a cow, pro-
nouncing at the same time some unhallowed incan-
tation, at which the milk would stream abundantly
into her ^iL The following is a verse said to have
been used on sudi occasions, though it seems of
larger application :— -

' Meares* milk and deer^s milk.
Am] tf^revf beast tbat bean milk.
Between 8b. Johnaton und Dvnde^
Gome a' to ine, come a* to me.*

It was believed that some cows of uncommon sagacity
knew when this process was going on, and would
give warning oi it by lowing* An acute old woman
could easily distinguish this low firom any other, as
it bene a peculiar expres^on of pain. The prop<^
antidote was to lay a twig of rowan4ree, bound with
a scarlet thread, across the threshold of the byre, or
fix a stalk of clover, having four leaves, to the stall
To discover the witch, the goodman'a breeks might
be put upon the horns of the cow, one leg upon each
horn, when for certain, she, being let loose, would run
straight to the door of the guilty party."*

As Indra used to milk the cloud cows and chum
the milk lakes and fountains with the thunderbolt,

♦ Eobart Chambers, *< Pop. Rhymes," p. Ill,



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232 C0W8 AND WITCHES.

80 did Th6r. The German god's fiery weapon was
often represented as an axe,* and hence it is a
customary thing with witches to draw milk from
the handle of an axe stuck in a doorpost.*)* They
stir the waters of a fountain about with a stake, and
bring out of it pats of the finest and sweetest butter ;
or, if they like, they can produce thunder and light-
ning by the same process. A little girl was seen
paddling with a stick in a fountain, and was asked
what she was doing. " Oh," said she, " I am doing
what mother does, you know. She takes a stick and
turns it round and round in the fountain, and then
there comes a storm." f

When cows go dry, their udders are stroked
with a belemnite that they may fill again. §
Belemnites are well-known fossils of a conical
form, and are called thunderbolts by the country
people in Germany, as weU as by the workmen in
the chalk-pits of Lewes and Dover ; for it is an old
tradition that they are actually missiles shot down
from the thunder-cloud. In Sweden they ai-e called
amordubbar, i, e., butter-beater. Their Greek name

* An Anglo-Saxon poem, quoted by EemLle, says tbat the thnnder
threshes with a fiery axe :

Se thnnor hit thryscedh mid thsere fyrenan recxe.

t D.M. 1025. X Mannhardt, p. 195. § Ibid.



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cows AND WITCHES, 233

signifies a missile, and was applied to certain stones
(fossils?) resembling arrow-heads. In Swabia and
Switzerland the cows are milked through a per-
forated stone, which is believed to have fallen from
the clouds, and is therefore called cowstone (kuhatein).
In Holstein the chum-dash is made of rowan wood,
and in Carinthia a red cloth is laid under the chum
when it is in use, to prevent the milk from being
bewitched and yielding no butter. For witches are
not content with stealing the produce of their neigh-
bours' cows, but delight in turning good milk into
blue or bloody, and their glosing speeches when they
enter a house endanger all the work of the dairy,
and hinder the butter from coming in the churn.*
There are certain Sundays and holidays when these
wicked hags go to church, and though they seem to
be dressed like other women, people who are in pos-
session of certain talismans, such as an egg laid on
" Green Thursday" (formerly sacred to Thor), may see
that they wear chums or milk-pails on their heads
The fact is well known in Denmark and in Germany.^
Giraldus CambrensisJ says that in Wales, Ireland,
and Scotland, it was an old complaint, and a common

• D.M. 1025.

t D.M.*1032. Euho, n. Schwartz, NdcL p. 878.

J Topogr. Hiber. 2, VJ,



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234 ffARJg.

one in his own day, that certain old crones tamed
th^nselves into hares, and in that shape sucked the
cowB. The same complaint is still rife in those three
countries. A certain Scotch witch " has been seen
a hundred times milking the cows in the shape of a
hare."* This sort of thing appears to be peculiarly
Celtic ; at least I cannot call to mind any record of
its occurrence among other races, although witches
of Qerman, as well as those of Celtic^ descent are
known to affect the forms of hares and cats above
all other animals. The goddess who represents
Freyja in Lower Saxony is attended by hares (p.
129), two of them acting as her trainbearers, whilst
others carry lights before her. Another form of
Freyja walks the fields in Aargau at night, accom*
panied by a silver-grey haraf Mannhardt even
asserts that this animal is reputed to be a fire and
soul bringer, that many "baby foimtains" (kinder*
briinnen) are named after it, and that in some places
children are said to come out of the hare's fonn.|
The hare is no doubt mythically connected with
the phenomena of the sky, but upon what natural
grounds it has been credited with such meteoric
relations is a point not yet determined. I incline

• Ath«iwam, Not. 1846. + Mannliardt, p. 303.

t Ibid. p. 283.



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HARE. 235

to think it will be found to lie^ in part at leasts in
the habits which the animal displayB about the time
of the vernal equinox, and which have given rise
to the popular saying, " as mad as a March hare.*

There are some local customs that seem to indicate,
however obscurely, that the hare^ like the serp^it
among the Celts, was anciently regarded as a promi-
nent actor in the celestial changes peculiar to that
season. At Easter, in Swabia and in Hesse, a nest is
made of moss, a hare is set upon it, and the children
are sent to look for the eggs that the hare has laid. *
Now it was the custom of the Parsees to distribute
red eggs at their spring festival \'\ the Easter eggs
of the Germanic and Slave nations are indisputably
emblems of the renovated sim, and when we find
them thus associated with the hare, we may be
sure that there once was a reason for the venerable
joke. "Last year," says Schwartz, { "I heard them
say in the Saxon mountains, 'the Easter hare brings
the Easter eggs,*" and Friedreich § states that in
many districts these eggs are made into cakes in the
form of a hare. Leoprechting mentions the same
practice as common in the Lechrain. || In England,

* Meier, Oebrftnefae, Ko. 65. Wdf, Zdtacbrifl, i. 175.

+ Schwwrti, p. 229. X P. 229.

§ Symbolik der Natar, p. 692. UP. 175.



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236 HABE. CAT.

too, we find some evidence of a connection between
Easter hares, and Easter eggs. " They have a singular
custom at Coleshill, in the county of Warwick, that
if the young men of the town can catch a hare and
bring it to the parson of the parish, before ten o'clock
on Easter Monday, the parson is bound to give them
a calf s head, a hundred of eggs for their breakfast,
and a groat in money."*

The question why the chariot of the goddess Freyja
was drawn by cats, and why Holda was attended by
maidens riding on cats, or themselves disguised in
feline form, is easily solved. Like the lynx, and the
owl of Pallas Athene, the cat owes its celestial
honours above all to its eyes, that gleam in the dark
like fii-e, but the belief in its supernatural powers may
very probably have been corroborated by the common
observation that the cat, like the stormy boar, is a
weatherwise animaL Pigs, as everybody knows, see
the wind ; in Westphalia they smell it.f Gk)od wea-
ther may generally be expected when the cat washes
herself, but bad when she licks her coat against the
grain, or washes her face over her ear, or sits with
her tail to the fire. In Germany, if it rains when
women have a large washing on hand, it is a sign
that the cats have a spite against them, because they

* Brand. f Kuhn, WestC ii 98.



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CAT. 237

have not treated the animals well ; an enemy to cats
may reckon upon it that he will be carried to his
grave in wind and rain ;* and in Holland, if the wea-
ther is rainy on a wedding-day, the saying is that
the bride has neglected to feed the cat.f Seeing
that these sly creatures know so much of the weather,
and are more than suspected of having a share in
making it, nothing can be more unwise than to pro-
voke them, as English sailors know very well. They
do not much like to see cats on board, but least of
all do they hke to see them unusually frisky, for
then they say " the cat has a gale of wind in her tail."
An infallible recipe for raising a storm is to throw
a cat overboard. J The presence of a dead hare on
board ship is also said to bring bad weather. §

Cats, though inveterate milk -stealers, very rarely
rob the dairy in any but the natural way ; on the
other hand, witch-cats have a great hankering after
beer, a liquor into which no canny puss will dip her
whiskers. Witches are adepts in the art of brewing
(p. 221), and therefore fond of making parties to
taste what their neighbours brew. It appears that
on these occasions they always masquerade as cats,
and what they steal they consxmie on the spot.

* Mannhardt, p. 90. f " Notes and Queries," x. 184.

X ** Choice Notes," p. 160. § IbicL



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tSa CAT. mQHTMARE.

There was a cotintryman whose beer was all drunk
up by night whenever he brewed^ so that at last he
resolved for once to mt up all night and watcL
Well, as he was standing by his brewing copper, up
came a great lot of cats^ and he called to them,
" Come, puss, puss, come warm you a bit." So they
all squatted in a great ring round the fire as if to
warm themselves. After they had sat there for a
while, he asked them if the water was hot " Just
on the boil," said they, and as they spoke he dipped
his long-handled pail in the wort, and soused the
whole company with it. They all vanished at once ;
but on the following day his wife had a terribly
scalded face, and then he knew who it was that had
always drunk up his been*

This story appears to be widely spread. I know it
to be current among the Flemish-speaking nalives of
Belgium.

The nightmare, also, often appears as a cat. A
joiner in Btihl, who was much plagued with the
nightmare, at last saw it steal into his room in that
shape about midnight Having stopped up the hole
through which the cat had come in, he caught the
animal, and nailed it l^ one paw to the floor. Next
morning, instead of a cat, it was a handsome naked

* Euhn n. Schwartz, Ndd. p. 287.



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mOHTMJLBML 239

wanum he founds with a nail driven through her
hand« He married her, and they had three children ;
but one day he uncovered the hole he had stopped
up \ she escaped through it instantly in the shape of
a cat) and never returned.*

There are a g^at number of cases on record in
which German nightmares have been caught by
stopping up the hole through which they had
entered, and either striking a light or waiting till
day> when the nightmare is always found in human
form, and naked, like Tamlane in the old ballad.
The sequel of the story is almost always ^e same
as in that of iJie joiner of Buhl^ except that the
departing Tndhrty or marte, often makes some excla-
mation about England, and that in many instances
she comes back every Saturday evening, Iwit invi-
sible, and brings clean linen for her husband and
children.

In a village near Riesenburg, in East Prussia, th^re
was a girl, who, unknown to herself, was every night
transformed into a black cat. In the morning she
used to feel exhausted as after a heavy dream ; l^it
the fact was that in her transformed state she used
to go to her betrothed lover and scratch and torment
him. One night he caught the cat and tied it up in

* Baader Volkssagen, No. 136.



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240 NIGHTMARE,

a sack, in which he found next morning no cat, but
his naked sweetheart. The parson of the parish
cured her *

In standard German the nightmare is called Alp,
i. e., Elf. It has many German provincial names,
the most current of which is Mahrt, Marte, or
Mahr, diflferent forms of a word which has no rela-
tion to the equine species, but is identical with the
Sanscrit Marut (p. 17). Sometimes the nightmare
appears as a mouse, a weasel, or a toad, but never,
I believe, as a horse or mare, except in Fuseli*s well-
known engraving, which must have been designed
after one of those suppers of half-raw pork from
which the artist was wont to draw inspiration. It
is a bit of false etymology embodied in a correspond-
ing style of art.

The nightmare, or night-hag,*}" is equestrian, not
equine. It is an old story in England, and still is
common in Germany, that they infest stables at
night and mount the horses, which are found
sweating in their stalls in the morning as after a
hard ride.} These riders, in all other respects iden-



* Tettau und Temme, Ostpreussen, p. 274.

t Hag, Anglo-Saxon hagesse, is the German hexCf witch, a word aa
applicable to a yonng and comely woman as to an ugly old crone.
t Brand, iii. 147.



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VALKYRS. 241

tical with the Mahrts, are in some parts of Gennany
called WaJriderske, i. e., Valkyrs. In some of the
tales that are told of them, they still retain their old
divine nature ; in others they are brought down to
the common level of mere earthly witches. If they
ride now in stables, without locomotion, it is because
they swept of old through the air on their divine
coursers. Now they steal by night to the beds of
hinds and churls ; but there was a time when they
descended from Valhalla to conceive, in the embrace
of a mortal, the demigod whom they aft^*wards
accompanied to the battle-field, to bear him thence
to the hall of Odin.



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CHAPTER IX.



TBM WXBSWOLY.



The werewolf is so called from the Anglo-Saxon
wer (Lat. vir) "man" and wolf. The word corre-
sponds exactly to the Greek lycanthropos, Italian
lupo Tnomnaro, Portuguese lobia-homem, and means
a wolf who is properly a man. Loup-garou, the
name given by the French to the same fearful
being, is a pleonastic compound, which they have
made out of their Romance appellation for the wolf
and their old Frankish word geridf, i. «., werwlf,
werewolf The people of Bretagne have just such
another mongrel term, bleiz-garou (from bleiz, wolf) ;
but they have also the purely Celtic terms denvleiz
and grekvleiz, meaning man-wolf and woman-wolf.

The werewolf tradition has not been discovered
with certainty amongst the Hindus, but there is no
European nation of Aryan descent in which it has
not existed from time immemorial Hence it is
certain that the tradition itself, or the germs of it
more or less developed, must have been brought by



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WEREWOLF. L YGA ON. 243

them all from Arya ; and if Dr. Schwartz has not
actually proved his case, he seems at least to have
conjectured rightly in assigning, as one of those
germs, the Aryan conception of the howling wind as
a wolf* The Maruts and other beings who were
busy in the storm assumed various shapes. The
human form was proper to many or all of them, for
they w^ere identical with the Pitris or Fathers (p.
15), and it would have been a very natural thought,
when a storm broke out suddenly, that one or more
of those people of the air had been turned into
wolves for the occasion. It was also a primaeval
notion that there were dogs and wolves among the
dwellers in hell, and Weber, who has shown that
this belief was entertained by the early Hindus,f
is of opinion that these infernal animals were
real werewolves, that is to say, men upon whom
such a transformation had been inflicted as a punish-
ment.

The oldest werewolf story on record is that of
Lycaon, king of Arcadia, in which however the
legend of the werewolf proper is mixed up with
another, and apparently a less ancient one, relating
to the practice of sacrificing human victims, which
seems to have prevailed more extensively and to a

* Ursprnng, p. 118. f Indisclie Stadien, i. 412.

s 2



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244 WEREWOLF.

later period in Arcadia than in other parts of Greece.
Lycaon is said to have been turned into a wolf by
Zeus Lycaios, as a punishment for haying offered a
human victim to the god ; and after Lycaon's time,
according to a tradition recorded by Pausanias,
Plato, and Pliny, similar transformations continued
to be things of common occurrence on the same
spot. One of the race of Anthos (probably a
priestly family) was periodically chosen by lot and
taken to an Arcadian lake, where he hung up his
clothes on an oak. Then he swam across the lake,
was changed into a wolf, and roamed the wilderness
for nine years in company with other wolves. At
the end of that time, if he had not tasted human
flesh in the interval, he swam back again, found his
clothes where he had left them,* and recovered his
original form, only with this difference, that it was
nine years older.

It is certain that in Greece as well as in Aiya
the wolf was in early times a symbol of the stormy
winds. It was sacred above all other animals to
Apollo, who was samamed after it Lycaios, or the
wolf-god. This fact has much perplexed many
learned men, and given them a world of trouble
in striving to explain why an animal that figures
so often and so naturally as a type of winter, night.



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WEREWOLF. APOLLO. 245

and death, should have become the favourite of the
radiant god of day. But aU this labour would have
been spared had it been borne in mind that even in
Homer's time ApoUo had not yet become the sun-
god. Originally he was the god of the summer
storms, and in that capacity he himself appeared
as a wolf on sundry occasions, a£^ for instance, in
Bhodes^ when he slew the Telchins, a dwarfish race
of magicians, smiths, and weather-makers, like the
German Zwergs and the Panis of India. In the
spring time, the appropriate season for the birth of
such a god, ApoUo's mother, " the dark-robed Leto,"
or Latona (i. e., the dark storm-cloud), escorted at
Jove's command by the Northwind, came as a she-*
wolf from Lycia to the place where she was delivered
of her twins. The Zeus Lycaios of the Arcadians
was efvidently Zeus plus Apollo, the thunderer, con-
sidered with special reference to the winds that
accompany the thunder. In mythical language,
Apollo was the son of Zeus ; that is to say, he was
Zeus in anotii^ form. The two gods were in fact,
like Indra and Budra (p. 18), only different personi-
fications of the same cycle of natural phenomena.

In Greece the tradition of the werewolf appears
to have run the usual coutse of myths. Beginning
as a figurative explanation of meteoric facts, it next



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246 WEREWOLF IN GREECE.

became a hieratic mystery, and then descended from
the domain of religion to that of magic and popu-
lar story. In this last stage it is the subject of a
ludicrous tale told by .^feop. A thief hung about
a tavern for some days without being able to steal
anything. At last he saw the host sitting before the
door in a handsome new garment, and going up to
him he began a conversation, in the course of which
he fell to yawning and then howling like a wolf
"What's the matter with you?" said the host.
"Ill tell you directly," said the thief, "but first let
me beg you will take care of my clothes, for I will
leave them here. I cannot tell how it is this yawning
comes upon me ; whether it be for my sins or for any
other cause is to me unknown ; but so sure as ever
I yawn three times I change into a wolf that devours
men." So saying he yawned a second time and
howled as before. The host started up and would
have made off, but the thief held him fast by his
tunic, saying, " Stay where you are, I beseech you,
and take care of my clothes, that I may not tear
them all to bits." With that he yawned a third
time, and the host, in mortal terror, ran and hid
himself in the innermost nook of Ms tavern, leaving
his timic in the hands of the thief, who vanished
with it instantly.



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NEURIAN8. ROMAN WEREWOLF. 247

Herodotus was informed that the Neurians passed
for wizards among the Scythians and the Greeks who
were settled about the Black Sea, because each of
them, once a year, became a wolf for a few days, and
then returned to his natural shape.

The transformation of men into wolves is known
in Boman literature only as a work of magia Virgil
is the first Latin author who mentions this super-
stition. He is followed by Propertius ; and Petronius
gives the following circumstantial story as related by
Niceros at Trimalchio's banquet : —

" It happened that my master was gone to Capua
to dispose of some second-hand goods. I took the
opportunity, and persuaded our guest to walk with
me to the fifth milestone. He was a valiant soldier,
and a sort of grim water-drinking Pluto. About
cockcrow, when the moon was shining as bright as
midday, we came among the monuments. My Mend
began addressing himself to the stars, but I was
rather in a mood to sing or to count them; and when
I turned to look at him, lo ! he had already stripped
himself and laid down his clothes near him. My
heart was in my nostrils ; and I stood like a dead
man ; but he made a mark round his clothes (ci/r-
cumminxU vestmienta), and on a sudden became
a wolf. Do not think I jest ; I would not lie for any



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248 BOMAN WEREWOLF.

man's estate. But to return to what I was sayijag.
When he became a wolf he began howling, and fled
into the wood& At first I hardly knew where I was,
and afterwards, when I went to take up his dothes^
they were turned into stone. Who then died with
fear but I ! Yet I drew my sword, and w^it cutting
the air right and left, till I reached the villa of my
sweetheart. I entered the court-yard. I almost
breathed my last, the sweat ran down my neck, my
eyes were dim, and I thought I should never recover
myself. My Melissa wondered why I was out so
late, and said to me, — ' Had you come sooner you
might at least have helped us, for a wolf has entered
the ferm and worried all our cattle ; but he had not
the best of the joke, for all he escaped, for our slave
ran a lance through his neck.' When I heard thia
I could not doubt how it was, and as it was clear
daylight, I ran home as fSa.st as a robbed iimkeeper.
When I came to the spot where the clothes had
been turned into stone, I could find nothing except
blood. But when I got home I found my friend the
soldier in bed, bleeding at the neck like an ox, and
a doctor dressing his wound I then knew he was
a turnskin ; nor would I ever have broke bread with
him again, no, not if you had killed me.*'
The werewolf is here called a turnskin (versi-



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WOLF-SHIRTS. 249

pelHs)> there bdng no special name for the thing in
Latin,

It was an old belief in the North that transforma-
tions of all kinds were commonly effected by means
of an appropriate garment of fur or feather, which
could be put on or laid aside at pleasure (pp. 21, 22).
The oldest Norse legends of the werewolf make the


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