Most wonderful and unpleasant were the bodily contortions that an Irish gentleman suffered, as the result of not having employed a woman who to the useful trade of sage-femme added the mischievous one of witch—it is quite conceivable that a country midwife, with some little knowledge of medicine and the use of simples, would be classed in popular opinion amongst those who had power above the average. " In Ireland there was one Thomas Moor, who had his wife brought to bed of a child, and not having made use of her former midwife, who was malæ famæ, she was witched by her so that she dies. The poor man resenting it, she was heard to say that that was nothing to that which should follow. She witches him also, so that a certain tyme of the day, towards night, the Devil did always trouble him, once every day for the space of 10 or 12 yeirs, by possessing his body, and causing it to swell highly, and tearing him so that he foamed, and his face turned about to his neck, having a most fearfull disfigured visage. At which tyme he was held by strong men, out of whose grips when he gott, he would have rushed his head against the wall in hazard of braining himself, and would have leaped up and down fearfully, tumbling now and then on the ground, and cryed out fearfully with a wyld skirle and noise, and this he did ordinarily for the space of ane hour ; when the fitt was over he was settled as before ; and without the fitt he was in his right mynd, and did know when it came on him, and gave notice of it, so that those appoynted for keeping of him prepared for it. He was, by appointment of the ministers, sent from parish to parish for the ease of his keepers. At length, people being wearied with waiting on him, they devysed a way for ease, which was to put him in a great chyer [chair] fitted for receiving of his body, and so ordered it that it clasped round about so that he could not get out, and then by a pillue [pulley] drew him up off the ground ; and when the fitt came on (of whilk he still gave warning) put him in it and drew him up, so that his swinging to and froo did not hurt him, but was keept till the fitt went over save fra danger, and then lett down till that tyme of the next day, when the fitt recurred. Many came to see him in his fitts, but the sight was so astonishing that few desired to come again. He was a man of a good report, yet we may see givin up to Satan's molestations by the wise and soveraigne God. Complains were givin in against her [the midwife] for her male-fices to the magistrat there, but in England and Ireland they used not to judge and condemn witches upon presumptions, but are very sparing as to that. He was alive in the year 1679." The concluding words of the story would lead us to infer that trials for witchcraft had taken place in Ireland, of which Law had heard, and from the report of which he formed his opinion relative to the certain amount of common-sense displayed by the magistrates in that country, in contradistinction to Scotland, where the very slightest evidence sufficed to bring persons to torture and death.
In the following tale 1 the ghostly portion is rather dwarfed by the strong fairy element which appears in it, and, as we have already shown, many witchcraft cases in Scotland were closely interwoven with the older belief in the " good people " ; Lord Orrery, when giving the account to Baxter, considered it to be " the effect of Witchcraft or Devils." The reader is free to take what view he likes of the matter ! The Lord Orrery mentioned therein is probably Roger, the second Earl, whom Lodge in his Peerage describes as being " of a serious and contemplative disposition, which led him to seek retirement." If this identification be correct the following event must have occurred between 1679 and 1682, during which years the Earl held the title.
1 Glanvill, op. cit., Rel. 18 ; Baxter, op. cit.
The butler of a gentleman living near the Earl was sent to buy a pack of cards. As he was crossing a field he was surprised to see a company of people sitting down at a table loaded with all manner of good things, of which they invited him to partake, and no doubt he would have accepted had not someone whispered in his ear, " Do nothing this company invites you to," upon which he refused. After this they first fell to dancing, and playing on musical instruments, then to work, in both of which occupations they desired the butler to join, but to no purpose.
The night following the friendly spirit came to his bedside and warned him not to stir out of doors the next day, for if he did so the mysterious company would obtain possession of him. He remained indoors the greater part of that day, but towards evening he crossed the threshold, and hardly had he done so when a rope was cast about his waist, and he was forcibly dragged away with great swiftness. A horseman coming towards him espied both the man and the two ends of the rope, but could see nothing pulling. By catching hold of one end he succeeded in stopping the man's headlong course, though as a punishment for so doing he received a smart blow on his arm from the other.
This came to the ears of the Earl of Orrery, who requested the butler's master to send him to his house, which the latter did. There were then staying with the Earl several persons of quality, two Bishops, and the celebrated Healer, Valentine Great-rakes. Here the malice of the spirits or fairies manifested itself in a different manner. The unfortunate man was suddenly perceived to rise from the ground, and the united efforts of Greatrakes and another were unable to check his upward motion —in fact all that the spectators could do was to keep running under him to protect him from being hurt if the invisible power should suddenly relax its hold. At length he fell, but was caught by them before he reached the ground, and so received no harm.
That night the spectre, which had twice proved so friendly, appeared at his bedside with a wooden platter full of some grey liquid, which it bade him drink, as he had brought it to him to cure him of two sorts of fits he was subject to. He refused to drink it, and it would appear from another part of the narration that his refusal was based on the advice of the two Bishops, whom he had consulted in the matter. At this the spirit was very angry, but told him he had a kindness for him, and that if he drank the juice of plantain-roots he would be cured of one sort of fit, but that he should suffer the other one till his death. On asking his visitant who he was, he replied that he was the ghost of a man who had been dead seven years, and who in the days of his flesh had led a loose life, and was therefore condemned to be borne about in a restless condition with the strange company until the Day of Judgment. He added that " if the butler had acknowledged God in all His ways he had not suffered such things by their means," and reminded him that he had not said his prayers the day before he met the company in the field ; and thereupon vanished. Had this story rested alone on the evidence of the butler the " two sorts of fits " would have been more than sufficient to account for it, but what are we to say to the fact that all the main points of the narrative were borne out by the Earl, while Mr. Greatrakes (according to Dr. More, the author of Collections of Philosophical Writings) declared that he was actually an eye-witness of the man's being carried in the air above their heads.