Графични страници
PDF файл

quality peculiar to the mugwort; many other herbs, plants, and minerals, appear to have been equally efficacious.

The fern was a yet more important object of popular superstition at this season. It was supposed at one time to have neither flower nor seed,* the seed which lay on the back of the leaf being so small as to escape the sight of the hasty observer. Hence, probably, proceeding on the fantastic doctrine of signatures,† our ancestors derived the notion that those who could obtain and wear this invisible seed would be themselves invisible, a belief of which innumerable instances may be found in our old dramatists. It was also, as we are informed by Lemnius, gathered at the summer solstice on tempestuous et adversus diaboli potestatem, opera, et quæcunque maleficia, velut prærogativa quadam valere." PAPATUS, per T. Moresinum, p. 28. 12mo. Edinburghi. 1594.

* This belief was as old as the time of the Romans. Pliny roundly asserts, "filicis duo genera, nec florem habent, nec semen"--there are two kinds of fern, and they have neither flower nor seed. Nat. Hist. lib. xxvii. cap. 55.

+ Signature is the supposed resemblance borne by a mineral or vegetable to some part of the human body. These resemblances were superstitiously held to afford an indication of the use and virtues of the plant or mineral.

To give a few instances only

'Why did you think that you had Gyge's ring

Or the herb that gives invisibility ?"—

Beaumont and Fletcher's FAIR MAID OF THE INN, Act I. Scene I,

[blocks in formation]

Ben Jonson's New Inn, Act I. Scene VI.

"We have the receipt of fern-seed, we walk invisible.”—

Shakspeare's K. Henry IV. Act II. Scene I.

nights* for the purpose of being used in magic impostures, though of what kind he does not state; by his coupling it with vervain one would suppose he alluded to its power of "hindering witches of their will;" but upon this important subject even Bovet is not more explicit; he contents himself with saying, "much discourse hath been about gathering of fern-seed (which is looked upon as a magical herb) on the night of Midsummer Eve; and I remember I was told of one that went to gather it, and the spirits whisked by his ears like bullets, and sometimes struck his hat and other parts of his body; in fine, though he apprehended that he had gotten a quantity of it and secured it in papers, and a box besides, he found all empty. But most probable this appointing of times and hours, is of the devil's own institution, as well as the fast, that having once ensnared people to an obedience to his rules, he may with more facility oblige them to a stricter vassalage."+

This eve was particularly favourable to the charms by which women were to discover their future lovers, the modes of divination being rather various. In addition to those already mentioned, there was the Dumb Cake

Two make it,

Two bake it,

Two break it;

and the third must put it under each of their pillows, but not a word must be spoken all the time. This being done the diviners are sure to dream of the man they

* "Sic filicem solstitio æstivo intempesta nocte erutam, rutam, trifolium verbena magicis imposturis accommodant." Exhortatio Ad Vit. Opt. Inst. DE MIRACULIS OCCULT. NAT.-Levini Lemnii. 12mo. 658, p. 575.

PANDEMONIUM, by R. Bovet, 9th Relat. p. 207.

+ Connoisseur, No. 56.

love. Then there is the divination by hempseed; that is you sow hemp, saying to yourself,

"Hempseed I sow,

Hempseed I hoe,

And he, that is my true love,

Come after me and mow."

Upon looking behind you, the lover makes his appear

[blocks in formation]

If you wet a clean shift, and turn it wrong side out, and hang it on the back of a chair before the fire, the result will be the same.t

It is also a good plan to tie your garter nine times round the bed-post and tie nine knots in it, saying to yourself,

"This knot I knit, this knot I tie,

To see my love as he goes by

In his apparel and array,

As he walks in every day."

The narrator of this spell says that her lover came, tucked up her bed-clothes at the feet, and drew the curtains.

Even the snakes in Wales, Cornwall, and throughout all Scotland, celebrate this particular season by meeting together and perform a sort of magical rite after their own fashion, if it should not rather be called a species of glass-blowing. "It is usual," says Camden," for snakes to meet in companies, and that by joyning heads together and hissing, a kind of bubble is formed, which the rest, by continual. hissing, blow on till it passes quite through the body, and then it immediately hardens and resembles a glass ring, which whoever finds (as some old women and children are persuaded) shall prosper in all his undertakings. The rings, thus generated, are called GLEINEU NADROEDH, i.e. Gemma Anguine (Anglice, Snake-Stones),


Connoisseur, No. 56.

+ Idem.

+ Idem.

whereof I have seen at several places twenty or thirty. They are small glass annulets, commonly about half as wide as our finger-rings, but much thicker, of a green colour usually, though some of them are blue, and others curiously waved with blue, red, and white. I have also seen two or three earthen rings of this kind, but glazed with blue and adorned with transverse streaks or furrows on the outside. The smallest of them might be supposed to have been glass beads worn for ornament by the Romans, because some quantity of them, together with several amber beads have been lately discovered at a stone-pit near Garvord in Berkshire, where they also find some pieces of Roman coin, and sometimes dig up skeletons of men and pieces of arms and armour. may be objected that a battle being fought there between the Romans and Britons, as appears by the bones and arms they discover, these glass beads might as probably belong to the latter. And indeed it seems to me very likely that these snake-stones (as we call them,) were used as charms or amulets amongst our Druids of Britain, on the same occasions as the snake-eggs amongst the Gaulish Druids; for Pliny,* who lived when those priests were in

But it

* The passage, alluded to by Camden, is in the twelfth chapter of the twenty-ninth book of Pliny, though in Gibson's edition of Camden the reference is to the third chapter. Old Philemon Holland gives a free but very pleasant version of the passage, filling up all the allusions of Pliny and smoothing down all the abruptness of his concise and sometimes unintelligible style, 'till it almost reads like an original :"Over and besides, I will not overpasse one kind of eggs besides which is in great name and request in Fraunce, and whereof the Greeke authors have not written a word; and this is the serpent's egg, which the Latins call anguinum. For in summer-time verely, you shall see an infinit number of snakes gather round together into an heape, entangled and enwrapped one within another so artificially, as I am not able to expresse the manner thereof; by the means therefore of the froth or salivation which they yeeld from their mouths and the humour that commeth from their bodies, there is engendered the egg

request, and saw one of their snake-eggs, gives us the like account of the origin of them, as our common people do of their Glain Neidr."*

Sometimes it would appear that these glass annulets were struck through a larger ring of iron, and that again through a much larger of copper. One of this kind was found in the river Cherwell, near Hampton Gay, in Oxfordshire, as we find it figured and described in Dr. Plott's Natural History of that county. He maintains however that they were not British, but either Saxon or Danish, the British rings being of iron, as the Roman were of gold or silver.t

The only remaining feast of this month of any note in the calendar, is the Eve of St. Peter and St. Paul, i.e. the 28th, on which occasion many of the rites peculiar to St. John the Baptist are repeated.

aforesaid. The priests of France, called Druidæ, are of opinion, and so they deliver it, that these serpents when they have thus engendered this egg, doe cast it up on high into the aire, by the force of their hissing, which being observed there must be one ready to catch and receive it in the fall againe (before it touch the ground) within the lappet of a coat of arms or soldiour's cassocke. They affirme also that the partie, who carrieth this egg away, had need to be well mounted on a good horse and to ride away upon the spur, for that the foresaid serpents will pursue him still, and never give over untill they meet with some great river between him and them that may cut off and intercept their chase. They add moreover and say that the onely marke to knowe this egg, whether it be right or no, is this, that it will swim aloft above the water even against the streame, yea though it were bound and enchased with a plate of gold."-Holland's Pliny, p. 353, b. 29, chap. iii.

Camden affirms that this ovum anguinum is nothing more than a shell, either marine or fossil, of the kind called Echinus Marinus, "whereof one sort, though not the same that he, (Pliny) describes, is called at this day in most parts of Wales, where they are found, WYEUR MOR, i.e. Sea Eggs."-See his account of the Ordovices, p. 64. * CAMDEN'S BRITANNIA.-Ordovices-vol. ii. p. 64. fol. 1772. + Plott's History of Oxfordshire, chap. x. pars 107 and 108, p. 353, folio. Oxford, 1705.

« ПредишнаНапред »