Whitby Witches

This is from Highways & Byways in Yorkshire:

I have never seen a witch, but really there are so many in the Cleveland district, of which Whitby is by far the most considerable town, that it would be absurd to stay my pen because my personal experiences have been less rich than those of the men. Why the very streets of Whitby are vote full of spirits, and not very many years have gone by since  man of Guisborough, entering a shop in this old fishy town, saw his own wraith standing there unoccupied He called it a “waff”. Now, it is unlucky in the highest degree to meet one’s own double;in fact it is common regarded as a sign of early death. There is but one path of safety;you must address it boldly. The Guisborogh man was well aware of this, and went up without hesitation to the waff.”What’s thou doing here?”he said roughly; “What’s thou doing here? Thou’s after no good, I’ll go bail. Getty ways yom, wi’ thee, get thy ways yom.” whereupon the gaff slunk off abashed, and the evil design with which it came there was brought haply to nought.

But wafts… are not witches… “For my part,” said Sir Thomas Brown valiantly, “I have ever believed, and do know that there be witches.”.. Canon Atkinson has collected much of it with a loving hand. “Not believe in witches, saidst ‘ee? Wheea, ah kens well there’s eleven in G—- at this present Tahm! Neea, neea, it will na dee to be wivout my witchwood!” so said an excellent old woman, who in pulling out her purse, had pulled out also her witchwood, and was mush concerned on discovering her loss. Probably there are some people so ignorant as not to know what witch wood is, or what use to make of it. …

Witch wood must be cut from the rowan tree, and from a tree, moreover, which the cutter had not only never seen before, but of whose existence he had no knowledge. It must be cut fro such a tree on St. Helen’s day, and with a household knife, and must not be carried home by the same route n which the searcher had gone out. Watchword is thus, in the language of the economists, difficult of attainment; and it has also value in use, otherwise how would the witches be kept out of dairies and kitchens, where they might work such mischief? A piece of witch wood laid upon he lintel of the door is a sure protection, an it is of no less service i a cow-byre, where it is indeed even ore needed, since everybody knows how apt witches are to draw the milk of cows. Of course, there are other ways of protecting cows; alone such was discovered near Wakefield – another district where witches always have been rampant. An old cow-byre was taken down, and in a hole over every cow’s head was a paper bearing the following scrap of odd Latinate:

“Omnes Spiritones Iandent  Dominus,

Habentu Mosa et Prophetores,

Excugat Deus et dissipentur,

Manu segas amori,

Fiat  Fiat.  Fiat.”

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