Folk-Lore/Volume 29/An Anglesey Superstition: Modes of Protection from Evil Spirits

Folk-Lore. Volume 29
Number 2 (June). Collectanea:

An Anglesey Superstition: Modes of Protection from Evil Spirits

An Anglesey Superstition: Modes of Protection from Evil Spirits.

For the following note the Editor is indebted to Sir James Frazer.

Twenty-five years ago an old man in one of the parishes of Anglesey invariably bore or rather wore a sickle over his neck—in the fields, and on the road, wherever he went. He was rather reticent as to the reason why he wore it, but he clearly gave his questioner to understand that it was a protection against evil spirits. This custom is known in Welsh as "gwisgo'r gorthrwm," which literally means "wearing the oppression." Gorthrwm=gor, an intensifying affix = super, and trwm = heavy, so that the phrase perhaps would be more correctly rendered "wearing the overweight." It is not easy to see the connection between the practice and the idea either of overweight or oppression; still, that was the phrase in common use.

For a similar reason, that is, protection from evil spirits during the hours of the night, it was and is a custom to place two scythes archwise over the entrance-side of the wainscot bed found in many of the older cottages of Anglesey. It is difficult to find evidence of the existence of this practice to-day as the old people no doubt feel that it is contrary to their prevailing religious belief and will not confess their faith in the efficacy of a "pagan" rite which they are yet loth to abandon.