Friday, September 20, 2013

The Legend of Lady Sybil and The White Doe

Lady Sybil at the Eagles' Crag.

A tradition well-known in Yorkshire relates how on the Eagle's Crag, otherwise nicknamed the "Witches' Horseblock," the Lady of Bernshaw Tower made that strange compact with the devil, whereby she not only became mistress of the country around, but the dreaded queen of the Lancashire witches.

It seems that this Lady Sybil was possessed of almost unrivalled beauty, and scarcely a day passed without some fresh admirer seeking her hand—an additional attraction being her great wealth. Her intellectual attainments, too, were commonly said to be far beyond those of her sex, and oftentimes she would visit the Eagle's Crag in order to study nature and admire the varied aspects of the surrounding country.

It was on these occasions that Lady Sybil often felt a strong desire to possess supernatural powers; and, in an unwary moment, it is said that she was induced to sell her soul to the devil, in order that she might be able to take a part in the nightly revelries of the then famous Lancashire witches. It is added that the bond was duly attested with her blood, and that in consequence of this compact her utmost wishes were at all times granted.

Hapton Tower was, at this time, occupied by a junior branch of the Towneley family, and, although Lord William had long been a suitor for the hand of Lady Sybil, his proposals were constantly rejected. In his despair, he determined to consult a famous Lancashire witch—one Mother Helston—who promised him success on the ensuing All Hallows' Eve. When the day arrived, in accordance with her directions, he went out hunting, and on nearing Eagle's Crag he started a milk-white doe, but, after scouring the country for miles—the hounds being well-nigh exhausted—he returned to the Crag.

At this crisis, a strange hound joined them—the familiar of Mother Helston, which had been sent to capture Lady Sibyl, who had assumed the disguise of the white doe. The remainder of the curious family legend, as told by Mr. Harland, is briefly this: During the night, Hapton Tower was shaken as by an earthquake, and in the morning the captured doe appeared as the fair heiress of Bernshaw. Counter spells were adopted, her powers of witchcraft were suspended, and before many days had passed Lord William had the happiness to lead his newly-wedded bride to his ancestral home. But within a year she had renewed her diabolical practices, causing a serious breach between her husband and herself.

Happily a reconciliation was eventually effected, but her bodily strength gave way, and her health rapidly declined. When it became evident that the hour of her death was drawing near, Lord William obtained the services of the neighbouring clergy, and by their holy offices the devil's bond was cancelled. Soon afterwards, Lady Sybil died in peace, but Bernshaw Tower was from that time deserted. Popular tradition, however, still alleges that her grave was dug where the dark Eagle's Crag shoots out its cold, bare peak into the sky, and on the eve of All Hallows, the hound and the milk-white doe are supposed by the peasantry to meet on the Crag, pursued by a spectre huntsman in full chase. It is further added that the belated peasant crosses himself at the sound, remembering the sad fate of Lady Sybil of Bernshaw Tower.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.
The use of inferior and therefore more chaotic "mortal" magic as opposed to "inborn" magic figures prominently in the plot of Shadows In A Timeless Myth.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915
Smiles & Good Fortune, Teresa ************************************ It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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