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it a spirit that keeps some treasure hid; but philosophers affirm it to be a great unequal exhalation inflamed between two clouds, the one hot, the other cold (which is the reason that it also smokes), the middle part whereof, according to the proportion of the hot cloud, being greater than the rest, makes it seem like a belly, and both ends like a head and tail." I suppose our author, when he says the above is like a dragon, refers to the common graphic descriptions of that imaginary creature.1 It should seem that Blount only copied the above from Bullokar's Expositor, 8vo.
"A fire-drake," says Steevens, "is both a serpent, anciently called a brenning-drake or dipsas, and a name formerly given to a Will o' the wisp, or ignis fatuus. So in Drayton's Nymphidia:
By the hissing of the snake,
The rustling of the fire-drake.'"
Again, in Cæsar and Pompey, a tragedy, by Chapman, 1607:
"So have I seene a fire-drake glide along
Again, in Albertus Wallenstein, 1640:
"Your wild irregular lust, which, like those fire-drakes
MERMAIDS, WATER-BULLS, &c.2
[THE natives of the Isle of Man say that, many centuries before the Christian era, the island was inhabited by fairies, and that all business was carried on in a supernatural manner. They affirm that a blue mist continually hung over the land, and prevented mariners, who passed in ships that way,
1 White, in his Peripateticall Institutions, p. 156, calls the fiery dragon "a weaker kind of lightning. Its livid colour and its falling without noise and slowly, demonstrate a great mixture of watry exhalation in it. . . . 'Tis sufficient for its shape, that it has some resemblance of a dragon not the expresse figure."
From Train's Account of the Isle of Man, vol. ii.
from even suspecting that there was an island so near at hand, till a few fishermen, by stress of weather, were stranded on the shore. As they were preparing to kindle a fire on the beach, they were astounded by a fearful noise issuing from the dark cloud which concealed the island from their view. When the first spark of fire fell into their tinder-box, the fog began to move up the side of the mountain, closely followed by a revolving object, closely resembling three legs of men joined together at the upper part of the thighs, and spread out so as to resemble the spokes of a wheel-hence the arms of the island.
Collins, the poet, in a note to his Ode to Liberty, gives a different version of this story. "There is," says he, "a tradition in the Isle of Man, that a mermaid having become enamoured of a young man of extraordinary beauty, took an opportunity of meeting him one day as he walked on the shore, and opened her mind to him; but her proposal being received with much coldness, occasioned by his horror and surprise at her appearance, was so misconstrued by the sealady, that in revenge for his treatment of her, she punished the whole island by covering it with mist, so that all who attempted to carry on any commerce with it, either never arrived there, or were, upon a sudden, wrecked upon its cliffs, till the incantatory spell or pishag, as the Manks say, was broken by the fishermen stranded there, by whom notice was given to the people of their country, who sent ships in order to make a further discovery. On their landing, they had a fierce encounter with the little people, and having got the better of them, possessed themselves of Castle Rushen, and, by degrees, of the whole island."
Waldron tells another story of a mermaid, in the words of a native fisherman, whom he happened to meet at Port Iron. "During the time that Oliver Cromwell usurped the government of England, few ships resorted to this island, which gave the mermen and mermaids frequent opportunities of visiting the shore, where, on moonlight nights, they have been seen combing their hair; but as soon as they saw any one coming near them, they jumped into the water, and were soon out of sight. Some people who lived near the shore spread nets, and watched at a convenient distance for their approach, but only one was taken, which proved to be a fe
male. Nothing," continued my author, "could be more lovely; above the waist it resembled a fine young woman, but below that all was fish with fins, and a spreading tail. She was carried to a house and used very tenderly; but, although they set before her the best of provisions, she could not be prevailed on to eat or drink, neither could they get a word from her, although they knew these creatures had the gift of speech. They kept her three days, but perceiving that she began to look very ill by fasting so long, and fearing some calamity would befall the island if they kept her till she died, they opened the door, on perceiving which she raised herself on her tail from the place where she was lying, and glided with incredible swiftness to the sea-side. Her keeper followed at a distance, and saw her plunge into the water, where she was met by a great number of her own species, one of whom asked her what she had observed among the people on the earth. 'Nothing,' answered she; 'but they are so ignorant as to throw away the very water they have boiled their eggs in.""
The tarroo-ushtey, or water-bull, it appears, was formerly a regular visitant of the Isle of Man. Waldron says: "A neighbour of mine who kept cattle, had his fields very much infested with this animal, by which he had lost several cows; he therefore placed a man continually to watch, who bringing him word one day that a strange bull was among the cows, he doubted not but it was the water-bull, and having called a good number of lusty men to his assistance, who were all armed with great poles, pitchforks, and other weapons proper to defend themselves, and be the death of this dangerous enemy, they went to the place where they were told he was, and ran altogether at him; but he was too nimble for their pursuit, and after tiring them over mountains and rocks, and a great space of stony ground, he took a river and avoided any further chase, by diving down into it, though every now and then he would show his head above water, as if to mock their skill."
The belief in this imaginary animal is not yet become extinct. Only a few years ago, the farmer of Slieu Mayll, in the parish of Onchan, was, on a Sunday evening, returning home from a place of worship, when at the garee of Slegaby, a wild-looking animal, with large eyes sparkling like fire,
crossed the road before him, and went flapping away. This he knew to be a tarroo-ushtey, for his father had seen one at nearly the same place, over the back of this animal he broke his walking-stick, so lazy was it to get out of his way. This man's brother had also seen a tarroo-ushtey, at Lhanjaghyn, in the same neighbourhood. When proceeding to the fold, very early one morning in the month of June, to let the cattle out to feed before the heat of the day came on, he saw a waterbull standing outside the fold; when the bull that was within with the cattle perceived him, he instantly broke through the fence and ran at him, roaring and tearing up the ground with his feet, but the tarroo-ushtey scampered away, seeming quite unconcerned, and leaping over an adjoining precipice, plunged into deep water, and after swimming about a little, evidently amusing himself, he gave a loud bellow and disappeared.
The glashtin is a water-horse, that formerly, like the tarrooushtey, left his native element to associate with land animals of the same class, and might frequently be seen playing gambols in the mountains among the native ponies, to whom the glashtin is said at one time to have been warmly attached, but since the breed of the native horses has been crossed with those of other countries, he has wholly deserted them.
The dooinney-oie, or nightman, of the former Manks peasantry, seems to have been somewhat akin to the benshee of the Scots and Irish, who were reverenced as the tutelar demons of certain families, as it appeared only to give monitions of future events to particular persons. A manuscript account of Manks Superstitions says: "The voice of the dooinney-oie was sometimes very dismal when heard at night on the mountains, something like h-o-w-l-a-a, or h-o-w-a-a. When his lamentation in winter was heard, on the coast, being a sure prediction of an approaching tempest, it was so awful that even the brute creation trembled at the sound. Perhaps the propensities of this creature more nearly resembled those of the daoine-shie, or men of peace of the Scottish Highlanders, who, according to popular fancy, "sometimes held intercourse with mistresses of mortal race, and were inconsolable when their suits were rejected."
Another cherished phantasm of Manks superstition is the phynnodderee. This creature of the imagination is represented as being a fallen fairy, who was banished from fairy land by
the elfin-king for having paid his addresses to a pretty Manks maid, who lived in a bower beneath the blue tree of Glen Aldyn, and for deserting the fairy court during the harvest moon, to dance in the merry glen of Rushen. He is doomed to remain in the Isle of Man till the end of time, transformed into a wild satyr-like figure, covered with long shaggy hair like a he-goat, and was thence called the phynnodderee, or hairy one.
The Manks phynnodderee is seemingly analogous to the swart-alfar of the Edda, somewhat resembles the lubber fiend of Milton, and possesses several of the attributes of the Scottish brownie.
"His was the wizard hand that toil'd
At midnight's witching hour,
That gather'd the sheep from the coming storm
Ere the shepherd saw it lour,
Yet ask'd no fee save a scatter'd sheaf
From the peasant's garner'd hoard,
The phynnodderee also cut down and gathered in meadow grass, which would have been injured if allowed to remain exposed to the coming storm. On one occasion a farmer having expressed his displeasure with the spirit for not having cut his grass close enough to the ground, the hairy one in the following year allowed the dissatisfied farmer to cut it down himself, but went after him, stubbing up the roots so fast, that it was with difficulty the farmer escaped having his legs cut off by the angry sprite.
For several years afterwards no person could be found to mow the meadow, until a fearless soldier from one of the garrisons at length undertook the task. He commenced in the centre of the field, and by cutting round, as if on the edge of a circle, keeping one eye on the progress of the scythe, while the other
"Was turned round with prudent care,
Lest phynnodderee catched him unaware,"
he succeeded in finishing his task unmolested. This field, situate in the parish of Marown, hard by the ruins of the old church of St. Trinian's, is, from the circumstance just related, still called the Round Meadow.