Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/58
5<d Journal of American Folk-Lore.
A CHRISTMAS EVE CUSTOM.
On Christmas Eve a curious custom was formerly practised by the young women to find out the vocation of their future husband. A cup half filled with water was provided, and about midnight a small quantity of lead was melted and poured into the cup, and the lead upon cooling assumed a variety of forms, such as horseshoes, hammers, nails, etc., for a blacksmith ; square blocks for a farmer ; and if one assumed the shape of a coffin, the person who got it would not live very long. Strict silence was enjoined while the practice was in progress.
WITCHES AND WITCHCRAFT.
The belief in witches and witchcraft, even at this late day, has not entirely died out.
On the last day of April the old German Catholics used to make a cross on the door to keep the witches out, with the names (or their initials) of three Catholic saints, — Caspar, Melicher (Melchior), and Balthazar.
An old woman told me that one day a witch came to the place where she was working, and asked for some food, which was refused her. She left, much incensed at this refusal, and as she passed down the lane she began calling the cows to her, meanwhile holding up three fingers. The farmer did not think much of the circumstance at the time ; but when the women began to milk the cows, they found that on every cow only one teat produced milk, the other three blood. The following morning the same thing happened again, and the farmer, becoming alarmed, consulted an Amish witch-doctor, who cured the cow by a process of charming. The old woman related another witch story to me, which is equally absurd. One of her employer's cows became bewitched. The milk was thick every time the cow was milked. A witch-doctor was consulted, and he advised them to put the milk into a pan and set it on the stove to boil, then to give the milk a thorough whipping with a whip while it boiled. This was done. The cow was cured, and the witch's power was dis- pelled.
About twenty years ago there was an old woman living not far from here who was popularly regarded as a witch. She is said to have possessed the sixth and seventh books of Moses, and it was believed that she could transform herself into any animal she chose. She sometimes transformed herself into a cat, and prowled around her neighbors' premises.