Rainmaking

The rain-making powers of the witches have hardly been noted by writers on the subject, for by the time the records were made the witches were credited with the blasting of fertility rather than its increase. Yet from what remains it is evident that the original meaning of much of the ritual was for the production of fertilizing rain, though both judges and witnesses believed that it was for storms and hail.

One of the earliest accounts of such powers is given in the story quoted by Reginald Scot from the Malleus Maleficarum, written in 1487, a century before Scot's own book:

'A little girle walking abroad with hir father in his land, heard him complaine of drought, wishing for raine, etc. Whie father (quoth the child) 'can make it raine or haile, when and where I list: He asked where she learned it. She said, of hir mother, who forbad hir to tell anie bodie thereof. He asked hir how hir mother taught hir? She answered, that hir mother committed hir to a maister, who would at anie time doo anie thing for hir. Whie then (said he) make it raine but onlie in my field. And so she went to the streame, and threw vp water in hir maisters name, and made it raine presentlie. And proceeding further with hir father, she made it haile in

[1. Ravaisson, 1679-81, p. 336. 2. Burns Begg, p. 224.]

another field, at hir father's request. Herevpon he accused his wife, and caused hir to be burned; and then he new christened his child againe.'[1]

Scot also gives 'certaine impossible actions' of witches when he ridicules the belief

'that the elements are obedient to witches, and at their commandement; or that they may at their pleasure send raine, haile, tempests, thunder, lightening; when she being but an old doting woman, casteth a flint stone ouer hir left shoulder, towards the west, or hurleth a little sea sand vp into the element, or wetteth a broome sprig in water, and sprinkleth the same in the aire; or diggeth a pit in the earth, and putting water therein, stirreth it about with hir finger; or boileth hogs bristles; or laieth sticks acrosse vpon a banke, where neuer a drop of water is; or burieth sage till it be rotten; all which things are confessed by witches, and affirmed by writers to be the meanes that witches vse to mooue extraordinarie tempests and raine'.[2]

More quotes Wierus to the same effect: 'Casting of Flint-Stones behind their backs towards the West, or flinging a little Sand in the Air, or striking a River with a Broom, and so sprinkling the Wet of it toward Heaven, the stirring of Urine or Water with their finger in a Hole in the ground, or boyling of Hogs Bristles in a Pot.'[3]

The throwing of stones as a fertility rite is found in the trial of Jonet Wischert, one of the chief witches at Aberdeen, and is there combined with a nudity rite. 'In hervest last bypast, Mr. William Raves huikes [saw thee at] the heid of thi awin gudmannis croft, and saw the tak all thi claiss about thi heid, and thow beand naikit from the middill down, tuik ane gryte number of steynis, and thi self gangand baklenis, keist ane pairt behind the our thi heid, and ane wther pairt fordward.'[4]

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