Comforting thoughts

File:Illustration to 'Tam O'Shanter', John Faed.jpgWitches are extremely dangerous. Fortunately, one may protect oneself:

For mony a beast to deid she shotFile:Walpurgisnacht.jpg
and perished mony a bonny boat
and shook both meikle corn and bear
and kept the countryside in fear…

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg
And reach the keystane of the brig
There at them thou thy tail may toss
A runnin stream they darena cross

Witches have the power to blight a farming community completely, destroying crops and animals, but as they cannot cross a river, we can get away. If only that superstition had been used, two centuries before Burns, as proof of innocence! But the witchfinders only sought proof of guilt.

It is striking how much effort I put into retaining beliefs about myself which are not true, or not obviously true. I could, of course, prove them, or decide to prove them- at some unspecified point in the future, which never comes. Procrastination is only a particular type of this thought.

I have false negative beliefs too: at least, I hope they are false. Two Upworthy videos depress me. The dancers in the Amsterdam prostitutes’ windows- I cited it before– shows how awful the World can be; the junkyard orchestra, which should be uplifting, I find a judgment on me: they can overcome their appalling difficulties, why can’t I? Whereas if I use it as a spur to think of the Possible, are my dreams just dreams?

10 thoughts on “Comforting thoughts

  1. I recognise some old Scots words such as ‘meikle’ where I live is the ‘meikle mill’ which was a free mill given to the community by William de Brechin in 1256 so the poor could have their crop milled for free. Also the word bonnie, darena, deid and ‘keystane of the brig’ Keystone of the bridge…. This sounds like the 16th century witch trials in Forfar as there was a witch who was hung called Meg. Shakespeares Hamlet which has of course the 3 witches was first staged at Glamis castle. Glamis is just 5 miles from Forfar and the ancestoral home of the queens mother. Its a great poem. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • When pedlar-johnnies leave the market-place
      and thirsty neighbours, neighbours meet
      as market days are wearing late
      and folk begin to go home
      and we sit boozing at the ale
      and getting pissed, and rather hale
      we don’t think about the long way home… Disnae have the same ring, does it? It is indeed a great poem.


  2. Interesting images, Clare. People blamed and persecuted because they’re different. As a healer, I’m sure I would have been accused of being a witch in those days, too! I’m glad, at least in this age, that is not the case!


    • King James VI wrote a book about witchcraft, and the first Scots book on criminal law describes the witchcraft offences as real things. There were five nationwide witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries, and even in the 18th century a woman was exiled because of allegations of conjuring the devil, etc. I don’t know about the prevalence, but witches would be a good enemy to take the peasants’ minds off their real problems. I hope that wise women were allowed to do their thing, at times.


      • Thinking about your witches today, I wasca photographer for the Sealed Knot which is the Englush civil war reenactment group with 1000’s of members many had a knowledge on certain areas of the civil war and the 16th century, one person was the late Leslie Thompson, a wonderful lady who unfortunately passed away of cancer earlier this year, her expertise was herbs and healing in the 16th century and was an expert on Nicholas Culpeper he was an English apothecary and physician. Inspired by the work of medical reformers such as Paracelsus, who rejected traditional medical authorities, Culpeper published books in English, giving healers who could not read Latin access to medical and pharmaceutical knowledge.

        Culpeper was a political radical who wrote pamphlets against the king, all priests and lawyers, and licensed physicians. He dedicated himself to serving the sick, the poor and the powerless. In 1644 he set up his own shop in east London, and started to translate medical books into English. In doing this, he not only made them more accessible, but also threatened the monopolies of university-trained physicians.

        He was many times seen as training witches, which Leslie if she lived in the 16th century would have been seen as a witch, either hung, burned or sent to the colonies.

        Any was I was getting around to tell was about the broom stick which witches were suppose to fly at night. Leslie told me that the bark of the Hazel tree was a good healer and one of the things it was used for was to cure gynecological problems such as period pain, thrush, syphilis for the period pain the park was stripped, dried and ground down and taken as a potion, the other ways it was taken was a branch was cut down, groves were cut into the bark, wetted and the woman would the hold it between her legs, this was used along with another herb which made the patient feel light headed and had the feeling they were flying. The Hazel has always been seen as having magical properties and has been renowned even today of having magical and healing properties.


      • One of the most boring things I have ever done is attending a Burns supper, some people take it all far to serious. Three things you neef to have to get through a Burns supper is.

        A) The ability to take your mind somewhere else to escape the torrant of badly read or spoken Burns poems by the English who think because they have lived in Scotland 10 minutes and bought a house it makes them Scottish and can speak old Scots…….nope not possible, even Scots have a problem reading old Scots.
        B) An ability to enjoy over cooked Haggis, cold neeps and under boiled potatoes which have not enough of salt, milk or butter.
        C) Have an extremely large and strong bladder, or wear an adult diaper. Believe me when the piems are being read getting up to go to the bathroom is seen as extremely rude and as you know Burns poems are very long and tedious see point A.



        • I did a McGonagall supper once, we debated whether he was a great poet or not: fortunately I had the side to speak for him. Who could seriously deny he is a great poet? At one point I had all of Tam O’Shanter memorised. My accent is mild, as my mother was English and that was the accent I picked up at home. I recited it once, slightly merry, in Cheshire, so my accent was probably just as well.


          • Yes I know the Cheshire accent, Leslie I spoke about her and her husband were from there. My son who is quite broad Scots, his wife is Gloucestershire English, my two grandaughters both born Scots, they moved to Wales three years ago Megan who is now 7 speaks quite posh, with a flick of Scots and Welsh, she is at a Welsh speaking school so she is speaking Welsh in school, english at home and Scots when she come to stay with us lol. Hayley who is 4 has a speech proplem all her T are H and her B are F but it will come eventually her father was slow speaking. But we cannot all be perfect. 🙂


            • Thank you, I had it as anyone can post I spent half my time removing spam so I have had set it to cut down on spam, lots of blig I post on I have to log in first. Have you seen the post on Dunnottar castle under the post ‘Castle in the air’ I used to be a guide there and just recently gave it all up due to ill health.


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