Welsh Journals

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WALES. Vol. IT.] APRIL, 1895. [No. 12. AN EERIE SUPERSTITION.* By the Rev. JonN PlUCE, M.A., Llanveigan Eectory, Breconshire. ERTAINLY the Welsh are an imaginative people, a poetical people, and, for lack of education were, a hundred years ago, —yes, fifty years ago,—a very super¬ stitious people. Like the Greeks of old, they peopled "earth, and sky and sea" with living beings. The mysterious sights and sounds of nature around them were signs or voices from another World. To what extent they acquired touch of their belief from contact with other nations I will not pause to consider. Traces of this we shall certainly find later on. Not only had the great events of life,— Carriage, birth, death,—their foreshadow- ings, but sorrow and joy, good luck and had luck, had their premonitory signs. Still, all these clustered most thickly Ground the closing scene of life,—Death ! It is simply marvellous how many signs foretold to Welshmen the approach of the dread tyrant. These were firmly believed in by a number of people in country districts sixty or seventy years ago, and must have tended to greatly sadden their lives. The following is a short list, beginning with the one that is, at least in South Wales, the most important,— * A collection of the weird superstitions of Cardiganshire, •'lade by a St. David's College undergraduate who died young, "lay be seen in the earlier volumes of Cymku. (1) The Canwyll Corf or " Corpse Candle." (2) The Aderyn y Corf, or " Corpse Bird." (3) Cwn Annwn, or " Annwn's Hounds." (4) Cynhebrwng, or premonitory spectral funeral. (5) The loss of fire from the hearth. This was before the days of lucifer matches. (6) The howling of the watch dog or sheep dog, if a favourite of the sick person. (7) The ticking of the death-watch,— marw-oriawr. (8) The handling of coffin boards by spirits in the workshops of country car¬ penters. (9) The sound of grave-digging by night, heard by those living near churchyards. There were other signs, almost too numerous to mention. But of all these, the one most frequently seen and trusted in as infallible was the Canwyll Corf. This was a light seen issuing at night from the house where death was about to occur, and proceeding slowly along the road the corpse would travel to its resting place in the parish churchyard. I have never yet met with anyone who has seen it travel the whole way. Sometimes the " candle " would be seen near the house, or on the road between the house and the churchyard, or in the neighbourhood of the church. It travelled slowly, at the pace people walk in a funeral. It was a very dangerous thing to boldly meet a corpse candle when it was advancing towards you. Such a proceeding might entail death or madness or some terrible mis¬ fortune. The correct thing was to turn back or turn on one side. I must say, in justice to my countrymen, that this they were very ready to do,— 10 145