- Mowing Devil, The
- The *chapbook of this title, printed in 1678, sets out to prove the reality of the Devil by a cautionary tale of an amazing occurrence in Hertfordshire that August. A rich farmer, too mean to pay the wages which a labourer wanted for mowing his oats, angrily said 'that the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he [the labourer] should have anything to do with them'. But God punished his greed and heartlessness. That night, the oatfield seemed to be on fire, yet next morning, when the farmer went to look at his oats:he found the Crop was cut down ready to his hands; and as if the Devil had a mind to show his Skill in Husbandry, and scorned to mow them after the usual manner, he cut them in round circles, and plac't every straw with that exactness that it would have taken up above an Age for any Man to perform what he did that one night: and the man that owns them is as yet afraid to remove them.The text is accompanied by a woodcut showing a small demon crouching over the oats, which lie in rings around him, the whole being surrounded by flames.The chapbook was reprinted as a pamphlet by W. Gerish in 1913, and in his Hertfordshire Folklore (1970); it is mentioned in several books of local folklore (e.g. Jones-Baker 1977). In 1990 it was drawn into the controversy over crop circles.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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