Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/413

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Collectanea. 403

which were regarded as mahgn beings : " the dark brown and spotted butterflies were always detested, and were named witch butterflies. Ill luck, it was believed, would attend any one who kept one alive, but to kill one was an unlucky transaction." ^ On the borders of Wales, too, coloured butterflies were regarded as hostile beings, which "it was considered a duty to chase, and if caught, to kill," while the white butterfly, " if caught, was treated kindly, and indeed generally set free." -

In this distinction between benign and malign insects, we have perhaps the explanation of a passage in which the Oxford "fly" is called "the enemy." Edmund Gayton, of St. John's College, speaks of " the man that preaches the Cooks Sermon at Oxford, when that plump Society rides upon their Governour's Horses, to fetch in the Enemie, the Flie."" Bearing in mind the biblical phrases, " the enemy that sowed them is the devil," " to tread over all the power of the enemy " ; and the expression in the church catechism, " our ghostly enemy," it would appear that the Oxford " fly " was sometimes regarded as personifying a malign influence, which might take a merely " ghostly " form, or manifest itself actively as an enemy of crops, etc. As in so many half- civilized societies where primitive beliefs are breaking down, the "fly" cult was very confused. Its object, now a crane-fly, now a butterfly, was two-faced, sometimes a beneficent, sometimes a malevolent being. It might be conciliated by gifts of food, be honoured by being carried in procession, or receive that supreme token of esteem — to be solemnly and ritually eaten by its devotees. But, on the other hand, the attitude of compulsion was equally present ; it was " fetched in," as Wood says, and might be over- awed and hunted to its death.

Percy Manning.

"^ Ibid. "^Montgomeryshire Collections ^1%']']), x. 261.

"^Pleasant Notes upon Don Quixote (1654), III. v. 99 (quoted in New English Dictionary).