Auld Betty of Halifax

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"Auld Betty" is the name given to a shape-shifting entity known to local folklore to turn into a cat. Should she be injured while in cat-form, the wounds would also show in human form.

William Henderson, folklorist, collected a tale concerning her in his 1879 Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties.

"An old man... was said to have undertaken the dangerous task of catching this witch. Armed with a three-pronged table-fork he stationed himself beside the fire in the house where she was suspected of doing mischief by night in the form of a black cat. According to the directions for the capture of witches he had a cake baking before the fire. All at once he perceived a large black cat sitting by the fire washing its face, thought he had not seen or heard it come in. 'Cake burns,' cried the cat. 'Turn it then,' replied the witch-catcher. 'Cake burns,' it said once more, and he made the same answer again and again.

The man had been especially charged on no account to mention any hole name while watching the doings of the cat, and for a long time her remembered this, but worn out with watching and worried by the continued cry of 'cake burns,' he lost his temper, and answered it with an imprecation. Instantly, the cat sprang up the chimney, and after it scrambled the witch-catcher, trying to pierce it with the three-pronged fork. This he accomplished at last, but not till he had been dreadfully scratched by his antagonist.

The next day the old witch-woman was ill in bed, and continued there for some days, but the person who had been witched was relieved."

Which was nice.

See also: folklore

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 13th August 2014 | © Weird Island 2010-2019


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