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The Witch As Hare


Witchcraft Legends translated and/or edited by


D. L. Ashliman


© 2000-2005





The Old Hare - Ireland


When I was a little girl, 'twas out near Loop Head I live. Well, there was an old woman lived in a small little cabin by herself, and all the neighbors around used to be in dread of her. They said she was chanted [haunted]. No one knew how she lived, for she never left the cabin in the day, but they said she used to go out through the fields at night. Nearly every week some of the neigbors' milk would be gone, and if it wasn't, if they were churning for a month, 'twouldn't make butter.


One, a man name of Shawn Teigue Mack, said he would know if 'twas she that was taking the butter. So he watched all night at the cabin, and about twelve o'clock he saw a hare come out of the house. The very minute it saw Shawn, away would it across the field, but Shawn fired, and struck it in the shoulder.


Begor, the next morning tracks of blood was seen along the road to the cabin. What did Shawn do, but call to the cabin, and the door was barred from inside. But he shoved in the window, and sure enough, there was the old dame, and all her shoulder wrapped up in calico. She left the place shortly after, for she knew she was found out, and no one ever missed butter or milk after.


•Source: "Folk-Tales from County Limerick collected by Miss D. Knox," Folk-Lore: A Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, Institution, & Custom (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1917), v. 28, p. 214.

•Knox's source: Told by Kate Vasey, Moveen, County Clare.

•I have revised Knox's spelling, changing "nabors" to "neighbors," "cum," to "come," "minit" to "minute," etc.


Witch and Hare - England


An old witch, in days of yore, lived in this neighborhood; and whenever she wanted money she would assume the shape of a hare, and would send out her grandson to tell a certain huntsman who lived hard by that he had seen a hare sitting at such a particular spot, for which he always received the reward of sixpence.


After this deception had many times been practiced, the dogs turned out, the hare pursued, and often seen but never caught, a sportsman of the party began to suspect, in the language of the tradition, "that the devil was in the dance," and there would be no end to it.


The matter was discussed, a justice consulted, and a clergyman to boot; and it was thought that, however clever the devil might be, law and church combined would be more than a match for him. It was therefore agreed that, as the boy was singularly regular in the hour at which he came to announce the sight of the hare, all should be in readiness for a start the instant such information was given; and a neighbor of the witch, nothing friendly to her, promised to let the parties know directly the old woman and her grandson left the cottage and went off together, the one to be hunted, and the other to set on the hunt.

The news came, the hounds were unkenneled, and huntsmen and sportsmen set off with surprising speed. The witch, now a hare, and her little colleague in iniquity, did not expect so very speedy a turnout; so that the game was pursued at a desperate rate, and the boy, forgetting himself in a moment of alarm, was heard to exclaim, "Run, Granny, run! Run for your life!"


At last the pursuers lost the hare, and she once more got safe into the cottage by a little hole in the door, not large enough to admit a hound in chase. The huntsman and all the squires with their train lent a hand to break open the door, yet could not do it till the parson and the justice came up; but as law and church were certainly designed to break through iniquity, even so did they now succeed in bursting the magic bonds that opposed them.


Upstairs they all went. There they found the old hag bleeding, and covered with wounds, and still out of breath. She denied she was a hare, and railed at the whole party. "Call up the hounds," said the huntsman, "and let us see what they take her to be. Maybe we may yet have another hunt." On hearing this the old woman cried quarter. The boy dropped on his knees, and begged hard for mercy,

which was granted on condition of its being received together with a good whipping; and the huntsman, having long practiced amongst the hounds, now tried his hand on other game.


Thus the old woman escaped a worse fate for the time present; but on being afterwards put on her trial for bewitching a young woman and making her spit pins, the tale just told was given as evidence against her, before a particularly learned judge, and a remarkably sagacious jury, and the old woman finished her days, like a martyr, at the stake.


Source: Edwin Sidney Hartland, English Fairy and Other Folk Tales (London: The Walter Scott Publishing Company, ca. 1890), pp. 194-195.

Hartland's source: Mrs. Bray, The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy, vol. 2, p. 112.


Witch as Hare - Germany


On two days a hunter from Freiburg saw a hare in Schlossberg Forest and shot at it. Both times it stood still, looked mockingly at the man, only running away when the latter hurried toward it. The hunter presumed that he was dealing with witchcraft, so he loaded his gun with consecrated powder, then used this to shoot at the hare when he saw it a third time. Instead of a hare, a female personage was there, standing on her head and bleeding from a gunshot wound in her breast. When the hunter touched her, she fell to the ground dead.


Source: Bernhard Baader, Volkssagen aus dem Lande Baden und den angrenzenden Gegenden (Karlsruhe: Verlag der Herder'schen Buchhandlung, 1851), no. 62, p. 50.



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