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 Post subject: Boggarts - 1871
PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:02 am 
Spider Lady
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Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:23 pm
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Location: Staffordshire
Manchester Times

Saturday 29 April 1871

Boggarts
(From the Oddfellows Magazine)

Witches, fairies, ghosts, and boggarts seem to have become intimately amalgamated in the répertoire of modern superstition. Doubtless many of them have a common origin, and are but separate developments, mythical or artistic, of the universal tendency of primitive people to personify, or render more tangible to the ruder sense, their conceptions of those forces of nature the laws governing which are, to them, hidden in the delusive gloom of ignorance. "Feeorin" is a general term for all things of this character that create fear in the otherwise intrepid
heart of a "Lancashire Lad."
Boggarts, in some cases, appear to have been anything but unwelcome guests. King James, in his "Doemonologie," describes the spirit called a "brownie" as something that "appeared like a rough man, and haunted divers houses without doing any evil, but doing, as it were, necessarie turns up and downe the house; yet some were so blinded as to believe that their houses were all sonsier, as they called it, that such spirits resorted there.
Mr. T. T. Wilkinson, of Burnley, relates some good stories of Lancashire goblins, who are believed to have determined the sites of Rochdale, Burnley, Samlesbury, and some other churches, by removing the stones and scaffolding of the builders in the night time. There is likewise a legend of this class in connection with the church at Winwick, near Warrington, and another at Whaleybridge, in Derbyshire. Indeed, these goblin churchbuilders are very common throughout the land. In some cases the sprite assumes the form of the archfiend himself. Referring to the famous boggart of Syke Lumb Farm, near Blackburn, Mr. Wilkinson says:—
"When in a good humour, this noted goblin will milk the cows, pull the hay, fodder the cattle, harness the horses, load the carts, and stack the crops. When irritated by the utterance of some unguarded expression or marked disrespect, either from the farmer or his servants, the cream jugs are then smashed to atoms; no butter can be obtained by churning; the horses and other cattle are turned loose, or driven into the woods; two cows will sometimes be found fastened in the same stall; no hay can be pulled from the mow; and all the while the wicked imp sits grinning with delight upon one of the cross beams in the barn. At other times the horses are unable to draw the empty carts across the farmyard; if loaded, they are upset; While the cattle tremble with fear, without any visibl cause. Nor do the inmates of the house experience any better or gentler usage. During the night the clothes are said to be violently torn from off the beds of the offending parties, whilst, by invisible hands, they themselves are dragged down the stone stairs by the legs, one step at a time, after a more uncomfortable manner than we need describe."
Mr. Wilkinson relates an anecdote of a near relation of his own, who, although "not more imbued with superstition than the majority," firmly believes that he had once seen "a real dwarf or fairy, without the use of any incantation. He had been amusing himself one summer evening on the top of Mellor Moor, near Blackburn, close to the remains of the Roman encampment, when his attention was arrested by the appearance of a dwarf-like man, attired in full hunting costume, with top-boots and spurs, a green jacket, red hairy cap, and a thick hunting whip in his hand. He ran briskly along the moor for a considerable distance, when, leaping over a low stone wall, he darted down a steep declivity, and was soon lost to sight."
Sir Walter Scott thought "bargaist" to be the German "bahrgeist," the spirit of the bier, alluding to its presence fortelling death. The word is variously written, "barguest" and "boguest" being among its forms. A very slight provincial change would make the latter "boguerst," from whence probably the Lancashire boggart. This sprite is often confounded with others, and is subjected to much local variation.
One of the best descriptions of a Lancashire boggart, or bargaist, that I have met with, was written by the late Crofton Croker, and published in Roby's "Traditions of Lancashire." I may just remark, en passant, that the word "traditions," as applied to nearly the whole of these stories, is a sad misnomer. The tales might perhaps, with propriety, be termed "nouvellettes," or little novels; but when put forth as "traditions," in the true acceptance of the term, they are worse than useless, for they are calculated equally to mislead both the antiquary and the collector of "folk-lore." Croker makes the scene of his story what was once a retired and densely-wooded dell, or deep valley, in the township of Blackley, near Manchester, called to this day, "Boggart Ho' Clough." This boggart sadly pestered a worthy farmer, named George Cheetham, by "scaring his maids, worrying his men, and frightening the poor children out of their senses, so that, at last, not even a mouse durst show himself indoors at the farm, as he valued his whiskers, after the clock struck twelve." This same boggart, however, had some jolly genial qualities. His voice, when he joined the household laughter, on merry tales being told and practical jokes indulged in, around the hearth at Christmas-tide, is described as "small and shrill," and as easily "heard above the rest, like a baby's penny trumpet." He began to regard himself at last as a "privileged in-mate," and conducted himself in the most extraordinary manner, snatching the children's bread and butter out of their hands, and interfering with their porridge, milk, and other food. His "invisible hand" knocked the furniture about in the most approved modern style of goblin or spiritual manifestation." Yet this mischievous propensity did not prevent him from occasionally performing some kindly acts, such as churning the cream, and scouring the pans and kettles! Truly, he was a "tricksty sprite." Croker refers to one circumstance which he regards as "remarkable," and which will remind modern readers very distinctly of a "spiritual" exhibition which, some time ago, attracted much public attention. He says; "The stairs ascended from the kitchen; a partition of boards covered the ends of the steps, and formed a closet beneath the staircase. From one of the boards of this partition a large round knot was accidentally displaced, and one day the youngest of the children, while playing with the shoe-horn, stuck it into this knot-hole. Whether or not the aperture had been formed by the boggart as a peep-hole to watch the motions of the family, I cannot pretend to say. Some thought it was, for it was called the boggart's peep-hole; but others said that they had remembered it before the shrill laugh of the boggart was heard in the house. However this may have been, it is certain that the horn was ejected with surprising precision at the head of whoever put it there; and either in mirth or in anger, the horn was darted forth with great velocity, and struck the poor child over the ear."
To say the least of it, it is rather remarkable that the mere substitution of the word "structure" or "cabinet" for "closet," and "trumpet" for "horn," to say nothing of the peculiar quality of the boggart's voice should make the whole so eloquently suggestive of a certain "Mr. Ferguson," and his friends, the Davenport brothers, and the "spiritual manefestations" recently so much in vogue. All this supernatural mountebanking was, it appears, taken in good part by Mr. Cheetham's family; and when the children or neighbours wished for a little excitement, they easily found it in "larking" - that is playing with this eccentric and pugnacious disembodied spirit. But Mr. Boggart eventually returned to his old avocations, and midnight noises again disturbed the repose of the inmates of the haunted house. Pewter pots and earthen dishes were dashed to the floor, and yet, in the morning, they were found perfectly uninjured, and in their usual places. To such a pitch at last did matters reach, that George Cheetham and his family were observed, one day, by neighbour JOhn Marshall, sullenly following a cart that contained their household goods and chattels. What transpired is best told in Mr. Croker's own words, as follow:-
"Well, Georgy, and soa you're leaving th'owd house at last," said Marshall. "Heigh, Johnny, my lad, I'm in a manner forced to it, thou sees,' replied the other, 'for that wearyfu' boggart torments us soa, we can neither rest neet nor day for't. It seems loike to have a malice again t'young uns, an' it ommost kills my poor dame at thoughts on't, and soa, thou sees, we're forced to flit like.' "He had got thus far in his complaint when, behold, a shrill voice, from a deep upright churn, the topmost utensil on the cart, called out, 'Ay, ay, neighbour, we're flitting, you see.' "'Od rot thee,' exclaimed George, 'if I'd known thou'd been flitting too, I wadn't ha' stirred a peg. Nay, nay, it's no use, Mally,' he continued, turning to his wife, 'we may as weel turn back again to th'owd house, as be tormented in another not so convenient.'"
In Florence of Worcester's Chronicle, under the date 1138, a singular story as related, which explains "how the devil, in the shape of the black dwarf, was made a monk." From some of the details, it appears to embody, in no slight degree, the popular superstition regarding the mischevious Puck. On three distinct occasions the cellars of a monastery at Prum, in the arch-diocese of Treves, had been invaded, bungs wantonly withdrawn from casks, and good wine spilled on the floor. The abbot, in despair, at length ordered the bung-holes to be "anointed round with chrism." On the following morning "a wonderful dwarfish black boy"' was found "clinging by the hands to one of the bungs." He was released, dressed in a monk's habit, and made to associate with the other boys. He, however, never uttered a word, either in public or private, or tasted food of any kind. A neighbouring abbot pronounced him to be a devil, lurking in human form; and, the Chronicle informs us, "while they were in the act of stripping off his monastic dress, he vanished from their hands like smoke."A story yet lingers of a headless boggart that haunted Preston streets and neighbouring lanes. Its presence was often accompanied by the rattling of chains. I forget now what was its special mission. It frequently changed its form, however; but whether it appeared as a woman or a black dog it was always headless. The story went that this boggart or ghost was at length "laid" by some magical or religious ceremony, in Walton Church yard. I have often thought that the story told by Weaver, a Preston antiquary, in his "Funerall Monuments," printed in 1631, and which I have transcribed at page 140 of the "History of Preston and its environs," may have had some remote connection with this tradition. He relates how Michael Kelly, the celebrated Dr. Dee's companion, together with one Paul Wareing, "invocated some of the infernal regiment to know certain passages in the life, as also what might bee knowne by the devil's foresight, of the manner and the time of the death of a noble young gentleman, then in his wardship." He further relates how, on the following evening, they dug up in Law (Walton) Churchyard the corpse of a man recently buried when, "by their incantations, they made him (or rather some evil spirit through his organs) to speake, who delivered strange predictions concerning the said gentleman." From the whole of this narration, it is evident that Weaver honestly believed some special sorcery on diablerie had been perpetrated in the localities referred to.
This spectre hound, or howling dog, is a very common sprite in Lancashire. I remember in my youth being terrified by Christmas recitals of its appearance at Preston, and the misfortune which its howling was said to forebode. This black dog was without a head, which rendered the said howling still more mysterious to my youthful imagination. A gentleman recently related to me a story respecting this "dog-fiend," which he had direct from a Manchester tradesman's own lips, who thoroughly believed in the supernatural character of his nocturnal assailant. This tradesman assured my friend that the celebrated black headless dog-fiend, on one occasion, about the year 1825, suddenly appeared before, or rather behind him, not far from the then Collegiate Church, and, placing its fore paws upon his shoulders, actually ran him home at a rapid rate, in spite of his strenuous resistance. He was so terrified at the incident, that he rushed into bed in his dirty clothes, much to the surprise and dismay of his family. This particular dog-boggart is believed yet by many to have been "laid" and buried under the dry arch of the old bridge across the Irwell, on the Salford side of the river; and that the spell to which it has been subjected will endure for 999 years, which, I suppose, is vulgar as well as legal parlance, is supposed to be nearly equivalent to the more comprehensive term— "for ever."
I am inclined to think that the "Trash," or "Skriker," described by Mr. Wilkinson, as well as the other howling dog superstitions, have some relationship to the strayed hound of Odin, and especially so as the legend of the Spectre Huntsman is well known in the neighbourhood of the gorge of Cliviger and in Yorkshire generally. He says—
"The appearance of this sprite is considered a certain death sign. ... ... ... He generally appears to one of the family from which death is about to select his victim, and is more or less visible according to the distance of the event. I have met with persons to whom this barghaist has assumed the form of a white cow or horse; but on most occasions 'Trash' is described as having the appearance of a large dog, with very broad feet, shaggy hair, drooping ears, and 'eyes as large as saucers."
Grose tells us that dogs have the "faculty of seeing spirits;" but he adds that they usually show signs of terror, by whining and creeping to their master for protection." He further informs us that there are "some persons, particularly those born on a Christmas Eve, who cannot see spirits." Grimm says the dog is an embodiment of the wind and an attendant of the dead, both in the mythology of the Germans and the Aryans, and that both these attributes are conspicuous in the "Spectre Huntsman," and "Furious Host" superstitions. Dogs, he adds, see ghosts, as well as Hel or Hela, the goddess of death, although she is invisible to human eyes. Dr. Kuhn contends that the name of Yama's canine messengers, Sarameyas, was borne, in a Greek form, by the messenger of the Greek gods, Hermeias or Hermes, the conductor of the shades of the departed to the realm of Hades.
The superstition that the howling of a dog, especially in the night time, portends the death of some person in the immediate neighbourhood, is yet, at the present day, firmly believed in by the middle, and by no means un-educated, classes in Lancashire. I listened, not very long ago, to the serious recital of a story by one who heard the howling and knew well the party whose death immediately followed. He himself, being sick at the time, deemed his own end approaching but was relieved of his
terror on being informed that a well-known neighbour had just expired. -Article: "Fairies and Boggarts," By Charles Hardwick, P.G.M.

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