14 APRIL 1894, Page 14


[To THE EDITOR 01 THE "SPECTATOR."] SIR.,—I have been much interested in " Witchcraft in Somer- set," as I was born in that county ; but for several years I have lived in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, where there is a

mistaken idea that superstition does not abound, as in Somer- set and Devon. A rich farmer's wife in Nottinghamshire reproved me for being superstitious, saying she was not,

though I keep a potato always in my pocket for the rheu- matism," and there and then produced the article from her pocket. When going to see a sick person in Lincolnshire, I noticed a whorl in the garden, and having described it as a sound stone with a hole through it, I asked what was its ,history, at which the woman looked very mysterious, and said, after a long pause: "If you would like it, I will give it you, but I do not think you would like to have a witch- stone;" so she opened the door, and took down a three- -cornered flint, which was hanging by the side of the door on a nail by a loop made of tape, covered with -cobwebs, and gave it to me, explaining what made it a witch-stone was its having a hole through it, and also its being found without being looked for ; and when hung up by the door, it prevented familiars of witches -entering the house. Having accepted the witch-stone, I explained that I had not meant to describe it, and had never heard of such a thing, and showed her the whorl in the garden, which she gave me, and said she had forgotten about the stone in the garden, and thought I meant the witch-stone, -close to the door-fastener, adding, " We never tell gentlefolks about such things, for fear they should laugh at us ; but we all keep witch-stones, and that I have given you was my grandmother's, and we have had it more than one hundred years." In confirmation of this, a woman who said she had never seen or beard of witches, let alone witch-stones, some time afterwards, in gratitude for my kindness to her son, said, " I will give you our witch-stone, but please do not let any -one know," and handed me a stone which at some time must have been carried about a good deal, as it was worn quite smooth. Since then, the old woman who gave me the first witch-stone has given me a pewter-dish, in which her aunt -tried to catch fern-seed at the Devil's harvest on St. Mark's Eve ; but would not say if her aunt was successful or not.

In 1873 I saw the Great Little Witch of Devonshire, near Exeter, who was only a child in size; and the witch of the town in Somersetshire where I was born and lived was our -charwoman.; I also knew by sight the witch of another pariah near, whose eyes and voice were exactly described by an old Iiincolnshire woman, who said, " Witches had vipers' eyes and eareamy wimy voices." I may add, our former charwoman was -beaten to death for having overlooked a young woman, I heard some years ago. I am convinced it is their bright command- ing eyes which give old women (who are considered, but seldom now called, witches) their power, and the low, clear voice in which they speak, by contrast to their neighbours, adds to the awe they inspire; and their superior knowledge and observa- tion combined with a love of power gives them great ascend- ency over their neighbours. I was told (but did not believe -at the time) that a certain old woman of violent temper and 'religions opinions, who had seen and vanquished the devil in the presence of her daughter, of whom more presently, had -" worrated two people to death;" after securing a very 'respectable young fellow for her above-named daughter, she became violently jealous of her affection for him, and, soon after a baby was born, drove him away. And then the poor young woman began to pine away, longing for her husband, yet when he came to see her, cursing and swearing at him in the presence of her old mother, until he left heart-broken. This went on for some five or six months ; and then—just, as

was told, but would not believe—she died, " worrated to -death." The two medical men who saw her, said she only wanted change of scene to restore her to health. After her -death, her mother told me that she died in full assurance of going to Jesus, &c. But a neighbour said she heard each .awful squealing that she ran in, and was told by the poor young woman, that she had died once, but her mother had shaken her back to life, and begged ber not to leave her to the mercy of her mother; and she did not leave her till she was dead, and got some one to push the raving mother downstairs. She also said, as long as the mother lived, she would never tell what the daughter said she had suffered at the hands of her mother, as they are still friends, and of the same religious opinions.-