Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Cure for Witches

badger woodcut by ross ahlfeld
"A tuft of hair gotten from the head of a full-grown Brock
is powerful enough to ward off all manner of witchcraft;
these must be worn in a little bag made of cat's skin - a black cat -
and tied about the neck when the moon be not more than seven days old,
and under that aspect when the planet Jupiter be mid-heaven at midnight."

That winter the sky was thick with witches, almost darkening the moon as they  shrieked and cackled across the night sky; and wherever their black shadows fell, there was trouble and misfortune.

Nothing and no one seemed able to stop them, not the watchmen with their swords and pikes and not the elders with their plans and schemes.

As the nights passed in the shadow of the witches, there was a sickness in the village and the harvest crops all rotted in the store. The people grew worried for there were many winter nights yet to come.

So it was that a Trapper came to one of the villages plagued by witches.
"There is only one way to keep the witches from your village," he said "and I can show you how it's done."
"What must we do?" asked the Elders.
"All you need, is a tuft of hair from a badger, nailed to each door, pinned above each bed and carried by each of you in a catskin bag. The badger is a creature of the twilight, just like them, full of old magics and riddles. Witches are feared of badgers. Your village will be safe."
"We'd need many badgers for that much magic." said the Elders.
"Ah!" said the Trapper, "I know a place very near to here, where there are fields of badger setts. If we went down near the dusk with traps and clubs, we would easily find enough of them to keep your village safe."
So, having no other plans or ways of guarding against witches, The Elders paid the Trapper to take them to the field at dusk, and the green grass ran red with blood. The next morning, every house in the village was made safe from the witches.

And sure enough, that night, when they flew overhead, the witches stopped cackling, and screamed away over the hills toward another village.

The Trapper tipped his hat and thanked the Elders, then headed off slowly in the same direction as the witches.

The witches never returned, and no one in the village ever saw a badger again, or gained the fair fortune they could bring. 

I'm actually not all that keen on animals; I don't like dogs, cats or even goldfish and  I'm a vegetarian not because of some sort of 'Meat is Murder' principle, but because I really don't like the taste or texture. But a childhood of Watership Down and Wind in the Willows does predispose me to anthropomorphic animal fiction. And I actually have an adopted badger...he doesn't live with me or anything, but I get photos and updates about how he's getting on not being culled. So, I'm very firmly in the "don't like the idea of a badger cull symbolically" camp, though I gather there are some very sound scientific reasons also. Obviously, the debates around the proposed badger cull can't be reduced to folktales, but I just though I'd say, "I don't like it". If you don't either, sign the petition.