The ‘witch’ and her daughter-in-law

27 Jan

This following tale has some interesting similarities with MacKenzie’s tale The Coming of Angus and Bride, that are well worth noting. The ‘great witch’ and the eight witches who served her are reminiscent of much of the lore concerning the Cailleach as well.

The author of this tale, K. W. Grant, attributes the story to a Saxon-Hungarian woman named Malvina (whose name, she points out, will be “familiar to readers of Ossianic poems”), who she met in Romania:

There was once a very great witch, who was head over other eight witches. She had a daughter-in-law, to whom she was very unkind. She was so hard upon her that she made her life miserable. One day she handed her son’s young wife a fleece of a brown sheep, bidding her go wash it white before bringing it back to her. The daughter-in-law obeyed. She took it to a brook and washed it till she was weary, weeping as she did so because her work was all in vain. Old Winter came that way, and asked her why she wept. She told him of her mother-in-law’s command. “Give it to me,” said Winter, and taking the brown fleece from her he washed it white. Giving the fleece back with one hand, he held out in the other a bunch of ‘vioréle’ (blue flowers resembling our wild hyacinth, but without scent. They are the frst to bloom in Transylvania, when the snows begin to melt). “Take this to your mother-in-law,” said Winter. “If she asks any question, hold up these flowers and say, ‘The flowers are out on the mountain.’ ”

The young wife returned home, handed the white fleece to her mother-in-law, and held up the buds, saying, “The flowers are out on the mountain.” The old witch was enraged. She callled the other eight, and mounted on their goats, they rode off to the mountain. Borrowing three days from February, they began a fierce contest against all growth. Snow and hail, wind and rain were summoned to do battle, but the warm sun shone out, the south wind breathed, and Spring triumphed. The nine witches were turned into stone, and “there they sit,” said Malvina, “on their goats, on the top of the mountain of Sílash in Temesvar; and on the anniversary of their defeat the fountains in their heads overflow, and their faces become blurred with weeping. My mother,” added Malvina, “took me there to see them when I was a child of twelve.”

 Grant, Myth, Tradition and Story from Western Argyll, 1925.
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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