gytrash


gytrash
 , gytrash, guytrash
   A frightening shape-changing apparition, usually in animal form, in the folklore of northern England. It was described by Branwell Bronte (d. 1848) in his unpublished fragment Percy as 'a spectre not at all similar to the ghosts of those who were once alive, nor to fairies, nor to demons' which appears mostly as 'a black dog dragging a chain, a dusky calf, nay, even a rolling stone'; at the house where his tale is set, the gytrash was known as 'an old, dwarfish and hideous man, as often without a head as with one, moving at dark along the naked fields'. Bran-well's biographer, Winifred Gerin, confirms that this is an authentic tradition linked to Ponden House, and adds that this gytrash could also take the shape of a 'flaming barrel bowling across the fields', and appeared as an omen of disaster to the family there.
   In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre ((1847) chapter 12), the heroine, hearing a horse approaching towards dusk, remembers her nurse's tales about 'a North-of-England spirit, called a Gytrash, which, in the form of horse, mule or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was coming upon me'. She then sees a black-and-white dog, 'a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head', which also reminds her of a gytrash; in fact, of course, both dog and horse are perfectly normal animals belonging to Mr Rochester.
   Another possible form is that of a large cow; to see it is an omen of death, for oneself or another (Wright 1913: 194).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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