Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review Volumes 32 and 33.djvu/244

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232
Mingling of Fairy and Witch Beliefs.

peculiar haunt of such beings. "The Lord guide us," says Mistress Baby in Scott's Pirate, "what kind of a country of guisards and gyre-carlines is this!" Perhaps for this reason the mingling of fairy and witch behefs was rendered more easy. At all events, the evidence from three sources is clear enough regarding it. These are: (1) certain poems of the Reformation period; (2) the copious evidence of several witch-trials; (3) King James VI.'s book on Daemonologie (1598).

(1) Even the greater Scots poets of the sixteenth century were content to lay aside the splendid singing robes required by the courtly tradition of poetry, and to condescend upon the matters of popular belief. Although treated by Hterary and learned men, these show clearly what poets like Dunbar, Lindsay, and Montgomery could make of the traditions of the folk, well known to them in their early years from the teachings of the credulous, kindly, if masterful Scottish nurse of the old school, like Burns's old woman. They treated this traditional lore in a burlesque fashion, it is true, as Burns himself did; but their witness to it is none the less valuable, and they show that fairies, fiends, and witches were in close communion. It will suffice to refer to one of these poems: The Flyting of Montgomery and Polwart, by Alexander Montgomery (1556-1610). With the coarse humour of the time Montgomery's aim is to show that Polwart was child of an elf and an ape: Polwart responds in equally ribald fashion. The poem opens with a description of the fairy ride or procession on Hallowe'en, but the constituents of this procession are significant.

"In the hinder-end of harvest, on All Hallows even,
When our Good Neighbours doe ryd, gif I read right,
Some buckled on a bunewand [ragwort], and some on a been,
Ay trottand in trupes from the twilight;
Some sadleand a she-ape, all graithed in green,