Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review Volumes 32 and 33.djvu/255

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243
Mingling of Fairy and Witch Beliefs.

nonsense as evidence of Satanic power. The Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle (ob. 1692) seems to have been alone in that age in regarding fairies as outside Satan's kingdom, to have a real existence which is not demoniacal, and to be worthy of a scientific examination. All this is found in his delightful book. The Secret Commonwealth, i.e. of the elves, fauns, and fairies, which appears to have remained in MS. until Sir Walter Scott published it in 181 5. It was later edited by Andrew Lang in 1893. Kirk refused to believe that the arrow-heads were made by devils and not by fairies, for the continual torments of devils would not allow them so much leisure.

The evidence of the victims shows how easily preconceptions and vivid belief in current superstitions may give rise to dreams or hallucinations, regarded then as real experiences, or how actual events can be interpreted in terms of such beliefs. None of the judges seems to have seen that the matters alleged were delusions and that the victims were to be pitied. Rather they accepted these delusions as fact, and by leading questions, usually in combination with the application of torture, confirmed the victims in their delusions, and induced them to admit what they were asked. Ignorant, simple-minded, and half-witted as the victims were, they only too readily yielded what their accusers suggested or demanded of them. The mingling of really separate beliefs was perhaps thus also brought about by the determination of the judges to find Satan's craft everywhere, quite as much as by the folk themselves and their attribution of similar things to different orders of beings. The boastings and ravings of half-crazy and self-conscious as well as self-deluded persons, the hallucinations of women dominated by the superstitions of the time, the admissions of victims maddened by torture, were alike accepted as evidence, and that evidence was regarded as fact by men of learning and knowledge sitting in the seat of judgment. All this throws