It seems that while other, more southerly, folk cultures had their 'house elfs' who took care of things, homes and humans, the hardy northern folk were surrounded by much darker forces. Almost every home, it seemed, had its own boggart, out to cause mayhem and serious damage.
So what - or who - is a boggart?
In Northumbria, there is a tradition that helpful spirits such as 'silkies' could turn bad, and when they did, they became boggarts. In Lancashire, boggarts were mostly evil to begin with. They were said to live outdoors, in holes in the ground, lurking there to trip the unwary, or in marshes, where they would suck unfortunate travellers underground. They would abduct children, kill and eat animals, creep into a house at night and place a cold, clammy hand over the sleeping inhabitants, spreading sickness with their touch.
One famous legend tells of the infamous Grizlehurst Boggart who made his first appearance (in print at least) in 1861, when an elderly Lancashire couple related his story. He was they said, buried at a crosroads nearby, under an ash tree, together with a cockerel. Yet, even though he was buried, he still caused much trouble. They said a farmer's wife, known to them, had experienced doors banging in her house one evening. She heard raucous laughter, saw three candles burning with a blue light which illuminated a grotesque figure with cloven hooves and flaming red eyes, as he leaped and danced around. The following morning, she found many tracks of cloven hooves outside her farmhouse.
The couple also maintained that their own horse had been unhitched inexplicably, and their cart overturned, on more than one occasion.
Then there is the infamous boggart of Boggart Hole Clough - yes he even had a place named after him! He lived in a hole outside until one particularly cold winter when he decided to move into a nearby farmhouse. There, he proceeded to cause all kinds of mischief and malicious mayhem. He snatched the food from the children at table, dashing their bowls to the ground. He would tug curtains, and attack the children while they slept. Eventually, so harassed were the farmer and his family that they decided to move out. Unfortunately, that did no good. Once a boggart has made his home with you, he will travel with you. You're stuck with him for life. When this became clear, the farmer and his family moved back into their old house. Naturally the boggart came too, but for some reason was never so malicious again.
|Boggart Hole Clough - geograph. org.uk|
"New clogs, new wood,
T'hob Thurs will ne'er again do any good!"
From then on, the era of good works was over. The boggart began to hound and hurt his family. The animals got sick, the farmer's prize bull was somehow transported to the farmhouse roof. Household items were smashed indiscriminately. Things got so bad that this family, too, felt forced to flee. But the boggart had other ideas. "Wait there while I fetch me clogs and I'll come with thee."
And this is why you should never give a gift to a boggart - for they cannot harm you unless, and until, you do.
Also, never be tempted to give a boggart a name. If you do, then be prepared for the full force of the boggart's malice to be visited upon you.
In Lancashire and Yorkshire, there are many place names associated with boggarts. In addition to Boggart Hole Clough, you can find Boggart Bridge in Burnley - another Boggart Bridge can be found in Ogden, near Halifax (West Yorkshire). Then there's Bee Hole Boggart. Burnley also boasts Sweet Clough Boggart and Barcroft Boggart. Rochdale has Clegg Hall Boggart, and Matlock boasts Standbark Boggart. Roads on a council estate in Leeds are prefixed with Boggart. In fact the estate itself is called Boggart Hill.
Boggarts answer to only one master. Owd Hob - the archetypal devil with cloven hoofs, forked tail and horns.
How can you protect yourself from a boggart invasion? The best method is to place a horseshoe over your front door and a pile of salt outside your bedroom.
And just be careful when you're walking over the moors and marshland of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The majestic, bleak beauty of the Pennines hides many mysteries - and there may just be a boggart or two lurking, unseen, ready to pounce...
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