Burning pains. The following quotation is from an article Witchcraft, Past and Present, by Lady Peirse, that appeared in Word-Lord, Vol. I, No. 3 (pp. 122-28), May-June, 1926. The district to which reference is made is a south-country village in England. A local farmer, whose cows and sheep ailed mysteriously, and showed all the usual signs of being overlooked or bewitched, whilst things in general went wrong with him, consulted the witch doctor, and was told to repeat a certain charm last thing at night, to nail a sheep's heart to his front door, and on no account to open the door till morning, no matter what happened.
This the farmer did, and when his family had repaired to bed, he commenced his lonely vigil by the kitchen fire. After a while there came a thunderous knocking on the door, and a voice crying Open and let me in. The voice was very urgent, but the farmer, though he trembled exceedingly, kept firm grip of himself and never moved from his chair. Then came the knocking a second time and a deplorable voice begging to be allowed in, but the farmer remained obdurate. Lastly came a feeble knocking and moaning. The farmer, who was greatly alarmed, remained at his post till the sun was up next morning. When he opened his door a neighbour lay stretched across his threshold dead.
The doctor, so my friend was told, believed it to be a case of heart failure. We can only imagine that the farmer and his family remained silent about the voice and the knocking at the door; perhaps no one but the farmer had heard. To the doctor, a simple though regrettable episode; to the farmer, an awesome case of retribution. To the world at large, a story that may be interpreted in many different ways; but with a lesson for all who run to read, namely, that it does not pay to practise withcraft or the indulgence of personal spite if there happens to be a witch doctor in the neighbourhood, since it is apparently quite an easy thing, with a little occult knowledge, to do the witch to death! Throughout many centuries witches in the long run always seem to come off second best. Faith and fear in their victims seem to lend them strength, just as faith and love help righteousness.
Not very many years ago a farmer and his wife who lived in the country just outside Milan came to the conclusion that their daughter, who had long been suffering from a mysterious ailment, which the best doctors in Milan seemed unable to diagnose and cure, was bewitched by an old woman dwelling in their villagem a wretch of notoriously bad reputation, whome the girl had unwittingly offended in some small way. Accordingly they resorted to a wise man, who lived in a small town a good many miles distant. He gave them a bundle of herbs, telling them to boil these in water and at the same times to recite a certain rune or rhyme which he taught them. He told them that if their daughter was indeed plagued by the malice of some individual, as the water boiled the witch who had cast the spell would be so tormented that she would hasten to their house and betray herself be begging them to take the cauldron from the fire. They could then refuse to do so unless she at once relived the girl from her sickness. They precisely obeyed the directions which had been given, and hardly had the water begun to bubble with the heat than there came running the hag whom they had suspected, imploring them with every symptom of intense agony to throw away the contents of the pot. This they would not do unless the charm was broken. In her despair the old woman promised to restore their daughter to health, and from that time the child rapidly began to mend until she was as stout and sturdy as any lass in the whole country-side.