The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141469   Message #3256730
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
14-Nov-11 - 08:19 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Shape changer/shifter legends
Subject: RE: Shape changer/shifter legends
Isobel Gowdie (as recently celebrated by Hunt Emmerson in two graphic tellings for the Fortean Times) was a noted shape-shifter. Her charm was:

I shall go into a hare,
    With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
    And I shall go in the Devil's name,
    Ay while I come home again.


Robert Graves expanded this to:

I will go into a hare
with sorrow and sighing and mickle care,
and I will go in the Devil's name,
aye 'til I be fetched hame
- Hare, take heed of a bitch greyhound
will harry thee all these fells around
for here come I in Our Lady's name
all but for to fetch thee hame

Cunning and art he did not lack
but aye her whistle would fetch him back

I will go into a trout
With sorrow and sighing and mickle doubt,
And show thee many a merry game,
Ere that I be fetched hame.
- Trout, take heed of an otter lank,
will harry close from bank to bank.
For here come I in Our Lady's name
All but for to fetch thee hame.

Cunning and art he did not lack,
But aue her whistle would fetch him back.

Yet I will go into a bee,
With mickle horror and dread of thee
And flit to hive in the Devil's name,
Ere that I be fetched hame
- Bee, take heed of a swallow hen,
Will harry close, both but an' ben,
For here come I in Our Lady's name,
All but for the fetch thee hame

Cunning and art he did not lack,
But aye her whistle would fetch him back.

Yet I shall go into a mouse,
And haste me unto the miller's house,
There in his corn to have good game,
Ere that I be fetched hame.
- Mouse, take heed of a white tib-cat,
that never was baulked of a mouse or rat,
For I'll crack thy bones in Our Lady's name,
Thus shalt thou be fetched hame.

Cunning and art he did not lack,
But aye her whistle would fetch him back.


This poem forms the basis for the entirely bogus Fith/Fath Song which many Wiccans & Neo-Pagans claim as being Traditional. Tori Amos revisits the theme on her new album Night of Hunters which deals with many such aspects of folk & fakelore alike; and a damn fine piece of work it is too.

For more on Seals and Selkies check out the classic The People of the Sea by David Thomson, who also co-wrote The Leaping Hare with George Ewart Evans, in which, amongst other things, you'll find further shape-shifting lore with respect of hares & witches.