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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/461

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453
Pin-Wells and Rag-Bushes.

relating to Ffynnon Faglan (St. Baglan's Well) in the parish of Llanfaglan, Carnarvonshire: "The old people who would be likely to know anything about Ffynnon Faglan have all died. The two oldest inhabitants, who have always lived in this parish (Llanfaglan), remember the well being used for healing purposes. One told me his mother used to take him to it, when he was a child, for sore eyes, bathe them with the water, and then drop in a pin. The other man, when he was young, bathed in it for rheumatism, and until quite lately people used to fetch away the water for medicinal purposes. The latter, who lives near the well at Tan-y-graig, said that he remembered it being cleared out about fifty years ago, when two basins-full of pins were taken out, but no coin of any kind. The pins were all bent, and I conclude the intention was to exorcise the evil spirit supposed to afflict the person who dropped them in, or, as the Welsh say, dadwitsio. No doubt some ominous words were also used. The well is at present nearly dry, the field where it lies having been drained some years ago, and the water in consequence withdrawn from it. It was much used for the cure of warts. The wart was washed, then pricked with a pin, which, after being bent, was thrown into the well."[1]

Such being the rites, we will next attempt to sketch the geographical distribution of these and some apparently analogous superstitions. Pin-wells and Rag-bushes are found all over the British Isles. The observances, however, are not confined to the exact form described by Professor Rhys and his correspondents. Sir Arthur Mitchell mentions a well renowned for the cure of insanity on the island of Maelrubha in Loch Maree. Near the well is an oak tree covered with nails, to each of which was formerly attached a portion of the clothing of an afflicted person who had been brought thither; and a few ribbons are said to be still flying

  1. Professor Rhys' paper is printed in Folk-Lore, iv, 55, and Mr. Morris' observations follow it. For other wells in the British Isles see Brand and Ellis, Popular Antiquities, ii, 259 et seqq.