Children are naturally visionaries, and, as such, are good subjects for experiment. But it may be a cruel, and is a most injudicious thing, to set children a-scrying. Superstition may be excited, or the half-conscious tendency to deceive may be put in motion.
Socrates and Joan of Arc were visionaries as children. Had Joan’s ears been soundly boxed, as Robert de Baudricourt advised, France might now be an English province. But they were not boxed, happily for mankind. Certainly much that is curious may be learned by any one who, having the confidence of a child, will listen to his, or her, accounts of spontaneous visions. The writer, as a boy, knew a child who used to lie prone on the grass watching fairies at play in the miniature forest of blades and leaves. This child had a favourite familiar whom he described freely, but as his remarks were received with good-humoured scepticism, no harm came to him. He would have made a splendid scryer, still, ’I speak of him but brotherly,’ his revelations would have been taken with the largest allowances. If scrying, on examination, proves to be of real psychological interest, science will owe another debt to folklore, to the folk who kept alive a practice which common-sense would not deign even to examine.
THE SECOND SIGHT
The Gillie and the fire-raising. Survival of belief in second sight. Belief in ancient Greece and elsewhere. Examples in Lapland. Early evidence as to Scotch second sight. Witches burned for this gift. Examples among the Covenanting Ministers. Early investigations by English authors: Pepys, Aubrey, Boyle, Dicky Steele, De Foe, Martin, Kirk, Frazer, Dr. Johnson. Theory of visions as caused by Fairies. Modern example of Miss H. Theory of Frazer of Tiree (1700). ‘Revived impressions of sense.’ Examples. Agency of Angels. Martin. Modern cases. Bodily condition of the seer. Not epileptic. The second-sighted Minister. The visionary Beadle. Transference of vision by touch. Conclusion.
Some years ago, the author was fishing in a river of Inverness-shire. He drove to the stream, picked up an old gillie named Campbell, and then went on towards the spot where he meant to begin angling. A sheep that lay on the road jumped up suddenly, almost under the horse’s feet, the horse shied, and knocked the dogcart against a wall. On the homeward way we observed a house burning, opposite the place