Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/445

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341
GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

turn i' the wheel." (The Comedy of Errors.) When Dromio says:

"Some devils ask but the parings of one's nails,
A rush, a hair, a drop of blood, a pin,
A nut, a cherry stone;"

he alludes to the frequent propitiation of witches by gifts. From Potts's account we learn that witches levied blackmail and that a constant annual tribute was not infrequently paid as a sure means of avoiding the baneful results of magic spells.

Ghosts and fairies are wholly supernatural. They are, so to speak, creatures of the imagination. The belief in ghosts and spirits is not yet wholly dead; but the tiny fairy folk are no longer with us. However the Elizabethans may have felt, we can say with confidence that none of them ever saw Queen Mab, or actually heard the tinkly music of the moonlight revels. On the other hand, witches were creatures of flesh and blood. They lived on earth among friends and neighbours. A witch could be remembered in her own reputable days before she had sold herself to the devil. An examination of the numerous acts attributed to witches shows how prone the Elizabethan mind was to jump at conclusions as a result of circumstantial evidence. One died suddenly and, perhaps, mysteriously. What was the