absurd superstitions

April 24, 2017

In common with most of the lower classes of the West of England, the miner is not free from many absurd superstitions (though I am glad to observe, even in the last few years, a great change has taken place, and such follies are gradually declining). Some think themselves endowed with a species of supernatural agency, and, like the Egyptian alluded to by Othello, call themselves charmers, and profess to stop the flowing of blood (no matter from what cause – a divided artery even), to remove specks from the cornea (which, in the dialect of the country, are called cannons!), and cure erysipelas, by charming. But I have never been able to ascertain by what means the charm is supposed to work. I only know that it is an everyday occurrence for mothers to bring children to the surgery, afflicted with either of the diseases mentioned, and say that they have had them charmed; but they were no better, such want of improvement having obviously excited the greatest feelings of astonishment. I knew a person connected with the mines, who felt himself endowed with prophetic powers; and in his case the divination was not confined to events momentous and terrible, but extended to the most trifling minutiae of life.

He with grave simplicity told me one day, by way of exemplifying the proper estimation in which his prophetic powers were held by his wife, that on one occasion, his pig having wandered from his sty, she came to him to ascertain in what direction it was to be sought for; and on his professing utter ignorance of the animal’s peregrinations, she exclaimed in reproachful tones, ‘Ak – you are not so pious as you used to be. I remember the time when you could have told me in an instant the exact spot to have found it.’

William Wale Tayler
On the Diseases of Cornish Miners

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