Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/429

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331
GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

old Mother Nobs hath called her by chance idle young housewife, or bid the devil scratch her, then no doubt but that Mother Nobs is the witch, the young girl is owl-blasted and possessed; and it goes hard but ye shall have some addle, giddy, lymphatical, illuminate dotrel, who being out of credit, learning, sobriety, honesty, and wit, will take this holy advantage to raise the ruins of his desperate decayed name, and for his better glory will bepray the juggling drab, and cast out Mopp, the devil."

According to the popular superstition, witches were provided with beards; thus, in the words of Macbeth, "you should be women. And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so." "The women that Come to us for disguises must wear beards; And that's to say, a token of a witch." (Middleton's The Honest Man's Fortune.)

It was generally believed that witches met in a disturbance of the elements. This is the case at the opening of Macbeth. Terrible thunder and lightning accompany the raising of the spirits in Henry the Sixth (2d part, i. 4). So, midnight hours and desolate places were associated with witches. They were exorcised by charms often composed of a nonsensical succession of syllables, sentences (especially the Lord's prayer), repeated