Myths and legends are full of tales of witches and the powers they possess, from controlling men’s minds to conjuring demons. Some are more than a tad surprising.
Being able to turn milk sour There’s nothing worse than tipping the bottle on your cornflakes and curdled lumps coming out. Whether in the churn or straight from the cow, a witch could do this just by being in the area. Maybe the cows would even stop producing milk altogether.
Preventing hens from laying During a more superstitious age, witchcraft was blamed. But when most people worked on the land, and survived on what they grew, milk and eggs were far more important; you couldn’t just pop round the supermarket.
Blighted Crops Why would a field of wheat fail one year when it had prospered in others? Whether the reason was disease, infestation or drought, it must be the work of witchcraft.
A still born child A sure sign of witchcraft. With a high child mortality rate there were plenty of opportunities to cast suspicion upon the elder woman who had helped with a birth only to see it end in tragedy. Stories spread that the bodies of unbaptised children were used in rituals or even eaten by witches.
Witches could control the weather A summer’s storm that came from nowhere, or a draught that dried the well, all things were thought possible by witchcraft. In 1591 a coven of Scottish witches was accused of creating a storm with the hope of drowning King James VI and Queen Anne as they sailed to Denmark. The storm only succeeded in slowing their ship down.
Other abilities included being able to suckle a familiar from a wart and being able to fly. They were also seen throwing lightning bolts during storms and it was even believed that they were able to go to sea on an eggshell where they would cause great harm, so always make sure you break the shell of your boiled egg after you’ve eaten it. Witches could also turn themselves into a hare, a creature which has always had sacred and pagan associations. Finally, if your candle flame ever turns blue, you had better check for a witch.