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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/854

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

they see but another form of the word 'holy' and its thorny foliage and blood-red berries are suggestive of the most Christian associations." Then there is the rowan-tree or mountain-ash, which has long been considered one of the most powerful antidotes against works of darkness of every kind, probably from its sacred associations with the worship of the Druids. Hence it is much valued in Scotland, and the following couplet, of which there are several versions, still embodies the popular faith:

"Rowan-tree and red thread
Put the witches to their speed."

But its fame has not been confined to any one locality, and as far south as Cornwall the peasant, when he suspects that his cow has been "overlooked," twists an ashen twig round its horns. Indeed, so potent is the ash as a counter-charm to sorcery, that even the smallest twig renders their actions impotent; and hence, in an old ballad entitled "Laidley Wood," in the "Northumberland Garland," it is said:

"The spells were vain, the hag returned
To the queen in sorrowful mood,
Crying that witches have no power
Where there is row'n-tree wood."

Hence persons carry an ashen twig in their pocket, and according to a Yorkshire proverb—

"If your whipstick's made of row'n,
You may ride your nag through any town";

but, on the other hand, "Woe to the lad without a rowan-tree gall!" Possessed of such virtues, it is not surprising that the mystic ash should have been held in the highest repute, in illustration of which we find many an amusing anecdote. Thus according to a Herefordshire tradition, some years ago two hogsheads full of money were concealed in an underground cellar belonging to the Castle of Penyard, where they were kept by supernatural force. A farmer, however, made up his mind to get them out, and employed for the purpose twenty steers to draw down the iron door of the vault. On the door being slightly opened, a jackdaw was seen sitting on one of the casks, but the door immediately closed with a bang—a voice being heard to say:

"Had it not heen
or your quicken-tree goad,
And your yew-tree pin,
You and your cattle
Had all been drawn in."

Another anecdote current in Yorkshire is interesting, showing how fully superstitions of this kind are believed:[1] A woman

  1. Henderson's "Folk-Lore of Northern Counties," 1879, p. 225.