**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Magicians And Witch Folk
by [?]

Dr. Child was a graduate of the renowned University of Padua, and had travelled extensively in the Old World. Probably, like Michael Scott, he had:

“Learned the art of glammarye
In Padua, beyond the sea;”

for I find in the dedication of an English translation of a Continental work on astrology and magic, printed in 1651 “at the sign of the Three Bibles,” that his “sublime hermeticall and theomagicall lore” is compared to that of Hermes and Agrippa. He is complimented as a master of the mysteries of Rome and Germany, and as one who had pursued his investigations among the philosophers of the Old World and the Indians of the New, “leaving no stone unturned, the turning whereof might conduce to the discovery of what is occult.”

There was still another member of the Friends’ society in Vermont, of the name of Austin, who, in answer, as he supposed, to prayer and a long-cherished desire to benefit his afflicted fellow-creatures, received, as he believed, a special gift of healing. For several years applicants from nearly all parts of New England visited him with the story of their sufferings and praying for a relief, which, it is averred, was in many instances really obtained. Letters from the sick who were unable to visit him, describing their diseases, were sent him; and many are yet living who believe that they were restored miraculously at the precise period of time when Austin was engaged in reading their letters. One of my uncles was commissioned to convey to him a large number of letters from sick persons in his neighborhood. He found the old man sitting in his plain parlor in the simplest garb of his sect,– grave, thoughtful, venerable,–a drab-coated Prince Hohenlohe. He received the letters in silence, read them slowly, casting them one after another upon a large pile of similar epistles in a corner of the apartment.

Half a century ago nearly every neighborhood in New England was favored with one or more reputed dealers in magic. Twenty years later there were two poor old sisters who used to frighten school urchins and “children of a larger growth” as they rode down from New Hampshire on their gaunt skeleton horses, strung over with baskets for the Newburyport market. They were aware of the popular notion concerning them, and not unfrequently took advantage of it to levy a sort of black mail upon their credulous neighbors. An attendant at the funeral of one of these sisters, who when living was about as unsubstantial as Ossian’s ghost, through which the stars were visible, told me that her coffin was so heavy that four stout men could barely lift it.

One, of my earliest recollections is that of an old woman, residing about two miles from the place of my nativity, who for many years had borne the unenviable reputation of a witch. She certainly had the look of one,–a combination of form, voice, and features which would have made the fortune of an English witch finder in the days of Matthew Paris or the Sir John Podgers of Dickens, and insured her speedy conviction in King James’s High Court of Justiciary. She was accused of divers ill- doings,–such as preventing the cream in her neighbor’s churn from becoming butter, and snuffing out candles at huskings and quilting- parties.

“She roamed the country far and near,
Bewitched the children of the peasants,
Dried up the cows, and lamed the deer,
And sucked the eggs, and killed the pheasants.”

The poor old woman was at length so sadly annoyed by her unfortunate reputation that she took the trouble to go before a justice of the peace, and made solemn oath that she was a Christian woman, and no witch.

Not many years since a sad-visaged, middle-aged man might be seen in the streets of one of our seaboard towns at times suddenly arrested in the midst of a brisk walk and fixed motionless for some minutes in the busy thoroughfare. No effort could induce him to stir until, in his opinion, the spell was removed and his invisible tormentor suffered him to proceed. He explained his singular detention as the act of a whole family of witches whom he had unfortunately offended during a visit down East. It was rumored that the offence consisted in breaking off a matrimonial engagement with the youngest member of the family,–a sorceress, perhaps, in more than one sense of the word, like that “winsome wench and walie” in Tam O’Shanter’s witch-dance at Kirk Alloway. His only hope was that he should outlive his persecutors; and it is said that at the very hour in which the event took place he exultingly assured his friends that the spell was forever broken, and that the last of the family of his tormentors was no more.