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Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast
A presage of the kind alluded to in the text, is still believed to announce death to the ancient Highland family of M‘Lean of Lochbuy. The spirit of an ancestor slain in battle is heard to gallop along a stony bank, and then to ride thrice around the family residence, ringing his fairy bridle, and thus intimating the approaching calamity. How easily the eye as well as the ear may be deceived upon such occasions, is evident from the stories of armies in the air, and other spectral phenomena, with which history abounds. Such an apparition is said have been witnessed upon the side of Southfell mountain, between Penrith and Keswick, upon the 230 June 1744, by two persons, William Lancaster of Blakehills, and Daniel Stricket his servant, whose attestation to the fact, with a full account of the apparition, dated the 21st July 1745, is printed in Clarke's Survey of the Lakes. The apparition consisted of several troops of horse moving in regular order, with a steady rapid motion, making a curved sweep around the fell, and seeming to the spectators to disappear over the ridge of the mountain. Many persons witnessed this phenomenon, and observed the last, or last but one, of the supposed troop, occasionally leave his rank, and pass at a gallop to the front, when he resumed the same steady pace. This curious appearance, making the necessary allowance for imagination, may be perhaps sufficiently accounted for by optical deception.-Survey of the Lakes,
Supernatural intimations of approaching fate are not, I believe, confined to Highland families. Howel mentions having seen, at a lapidary's, in 1632, a monumental stone, prepared for four persons of the name of Oxenham, before the death of each of whom, the inscription stated a white bird to have appeared and Auttered around the bed while the patient was in the last agony Fumiliar Letters, edit. 1726, 247. Glanville mentions one family, the members of which received this solemn sign by music, the sound of which floated from the family residence, and seemed to die in a neighbouring wood; another, that of Captain Wood of Bampton, to whom the signal was given by knocking. But the most remarkable instance of the kind occurs in the MS. Memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, so exemplary for her conjugal affection. Her husband, Sir Richard, and she, chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, the head of a sept, who resided in his ancient baronial castle, surrounded with a moat. At midnight she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and, looking out of bed, beheld, by the moonlight, a female face and part of the form, hovering at the window. The distance from the ground, as well as the circumstance of the moat, excluded the possibility that what she beheld was of this world. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale; and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and dishevelled.
The dress, which Lady Fanshaw's terror did not prevent her remarking accurately, was that of the ancient Irish. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks, similar to that which had first excited Lady Fanshaw's attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what she had witnessed, and found him prepared not only to credit but to account for the apparition. A near relation of my family,” said he, “expired last night in this castle. We disguised our certain expectation the event from you, lest it should throw a cloud over the cheerful reception which was due you. Now, before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen always is visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, wliom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done his family, he caused to be drowned in the castle moat."
The Taghairm call'd; by which, afar,
Our sires foresaw the events of war.-P. 164. The Highlanders, like all rude people, had various superstitious modes of enquiring into futurity. One of the most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in the text. A person was wrapped up in the skin of a newly slain bullock, and deposited beside a waterfall, or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild, and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed : and whatever was impressed upon him by his exalted imagination, passed for the inspiration of the disembodied spirits, who haunt the desolate recesses. In some of these Hebrides, they attribute the same oracular power to a large black stone by the sea-shore, which they approached with certain solemnities, and considered the first fancy which came into their own minds, after they did so, to be the undoubted dictate of the tutelar deity of the stone, and, as such, to be, if possible, punctually complied with. Martin has recorded the following curious modes of Highland augury, in which the Taghairm, and its effects upon the person who was subjected to it, may serve to illustrate the texta
“It was an ordinary thing among the over-curious to consult an invisible oracle, concerning the fate of families and battles, &c. This was performed three different ways: the first was by a company of men, one of whom, being detached by lot, was afterwards carried to a river, which was the boundary between two villages ; four of the company laid hold on him, and, having shut his eyes, they took him by the legs and arms, and then, tossing him to and again, struck his hips with force against the bank. One of them cried out, What is it you have got here ? another answers, A log of birch-wood. The other cries again, Let his invisible friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an answer to our present demands : and in a few minutes after, a number of little creatures came from the sea, who answered the question, and disappeared suddenly. The man was then set at liberty, and they all returned home, to take their measures according to the prediction of their false prophets ; but the poor de luded fools were abused, for their answer was still ambiguous. This was always practised in the night, and may literally be called the works of darkness.
“I had an account from the most intelligent and judicious men in the Isle of Skie, that about sixty-two years ago, the oracle was thus consulted only once, and that was in the parish of Kilmartin, on the east side, by a wicked and mischievous race of people, who are now extinguished, both root and branch.
“The second way of consulting the oracle was by a party of men, who first retired to solitary places, remote from any house, and there they singled out one of their number, and wrapt him in a big cow's hide, which they folded about him; his whole body was covered with it, except his head, and so left in this posture all night, until his invisible friends relieved him, by giving a proper answer to the question in hand; which he received, as he fancied, from several persons that he found about him all that time. His consorts returned to him at the break of day, and then he communicated his news to them; which often proved fatal to those concerned in such unwarrantable enquiries.
" There was a third way of consulting, which was a confirmation of the second above mentioned. The same company who put the man into the hide, took a live cat, and put him on a spit; one of the number was employed to turn the spit, and one of his consorts enquired of him, What are you doing? he answered, I roast this cat, until his friends answer the question; which must be the same that was proposed by the man shut up in the hide. And afterwards, a very big cat comes, attended by a number of lesser cats, desiring to relieve the cat turned upon the spit, and then answers the question. If this answer proved the same that was given to the man in the hide, then it was taken as a confirmation of the other, which, in this case, was believed infallible.
1 The reader may have met with the story of the “King of the Cats," in Lord Littleton's Letters. It is well known in the Highlands as a nursery tale.
“Mr Alexander Cooper, present minister of North-Vist, told me that one John Erach, in the Isle of Lewis, assured him, it was his fate to have been led by his curiosity with some who consulted this oracle, and that he was a night within the hide, as above mentioned; during which time he felt and heard such terrible things, that he could not express them; the impression it made on him was such as could never go off, and he said, for a thousand worlds he would never again be concerned in the like performance, for this had disordered him to a high degree. He confessed it ingenuously, and with an air of great remorse, and seemed to be very penitent under a just sense of so great a crime: he declared this about five years since, and is still living in the Lewis for any thing I know.”—Description of the Western Isles, p. 110. See also PENNANT'S Scottish Tour, vol. ii. p. 361.
Alice Brand.-P. 174.
This little fairy tale is founded upon a very curious Danish ballad, which occurs in the Kcempe Viser, a collection of heroic songs, first published in 1591, and reprinted in 1695, inscribed by Anders Sofrensen, the collector and editor to Sophia Queen of Denmark. I have been favoured with a literal translation of the original, by my learned friend Mr Robert Jamieson, whose deep knowledge of Scandinavian antiquities will, I hope, one day be displayed in illustration of the history of Scottish Ballad and Song, for which no man possesses more ample materials. The story will remind the readers of the Border Minstrelsy of the tale of Young Tamlane. But this is only a solitary and not very marked instance of coincidence, whereas several of the other ballads in the same collection find exact counterparts in the Kæmpe Viser. Which may have been the originals, will be a question for future antiquaries. Mr Jamieson, to secure the power of literal trans