Once upon a time there lived a king whose palace was surrounded by a spacious garden. In spite of good soil and many gardeners, the garden never grew trees or plants, fruit or flowers. The king was in despair. One day, a wise old man told the king “”Your gardeners do not understand their business; they don’t know how to cultivate gardens because their fathers were carpenters and cobblers. You need a gardener whose father and grandfather were gardeners before him. Then your garden will be full fruit and flowers.”
The King sent messengers to every town and village in the land to look for a gardener father and grandfather had been gardeners before him. For forty days they searched until the found such a gardener. The man protested that he was poor and owed money, but the king gave him new clothes and paid his debts and insisted he become the royal gardener. The man had no difficulty in making the royal garden produce fruit and flowers and after a year the king showered gifts on him.
The gardener had a handsome and well-mannered son whose job it was to take the best fruit to the king and the choicest flowers to the king’s sixteen year old daughter, the princess. The king considered it time his princess should marry and he had chosen the prime minister’s son to be her husband.
“I will never marry the prime minister’s son,” protested the princess, “I love the gardener’s son.”
The king became very angry and then very sad. He declared that such a husband was not worthy of his daughter, but the Princess was determined to marry the gardener’s son. So the king consulted his ministers.
“This is what you must do,” they told him, “To get rid of the gardener you must send both suitors to a very distant country. The one who returns first shall marry your daughter.”
The King followed this advice. He gave the minister’s son a splendid horse and a purse full of gold. He gave the gardener’s son an old lame horse and a purse full of copper coins. Everyone thought the gardener’s son would never come back from his journey.
The day before they started the Princess met her lover and said, “Take this purse full of jewels and make the best use you can of them for love of me. Come back quickly and demand my hand.”
The two suitors left the town together, but the minister’s son went off at a gallop on his good horse was soon far out of sight. After some days he reached a fountain beside which sat a ragged old woman.
“Good morning young traveler,” said the old woman, but the minister’s son didn’t reply. “Pity me, young man,” she said, “I am dying of hunger; I’ve been here three days and no one has given me anything.”
“Go away, old witch,” replied the minister’s son, “I can do nothing for you.” With that he went on his way.
Much later that day the gardener’s reached the fountain upon his old lame horse.
“Good-day, young traveler,” said the beggar-woman, “Have pity on me for I’ve eaten nothing these past three days.”
“Good-day, good woman,” replied the gardener’s son, “Take my purse and mount behind me, for your legs can’t be very strong.”
The old woman mounted behind him and in this style they reached the chief city of a powerful kingdom. The minister’s son was lodged in a grand inn while the gardener’s son and the old woman dismounted at the inn for beggars. The next day the gardener’s son heard a great noise in the street, and the King’s heralds passed, and crying: “The King is old and infirm. He will give a great reward to whoever will cure him and give him back the strength of his youth.”
The old beggar-woman said to the gardener’s son, “Go out of the town by the south gate, and there you will find three little dogs of different colors: one white, one black and one red. You must kill them and then burn them separately, and gather up the ashes. Put the ashes of each dog into a bag of its own color, then go before the door of the palace and cry out ‘A celebrated physician has come to cure the king and give him back the strength of his youth.’ The king’s physicians will call you an impostor before you can see the king himself. You must then demand as much wood as three mules can carry, and a great cauldron, and must shut yourself up in a room with the king. When the cauldron boils you must throw him into it and let him cook until his flesh is completely separated from his bones. Then arrange the bones in their proper places and throw the ashes out of the three bags over the bones. The King will come back to life as a young man. For your reward you must demand the bronze ring which has the power to grant you everything you desire.”
The gardener’s son followed the old woman’s directions. First he killed and burnt the three dogs and gathered up their ashes. Then he presented himself to the palace as a physician. When he won admittance to see the king he carried out the old woman’s instructions and from the boiled bones the king rose up as a young, vigorous man. The king offered him many treasures, but the gardener’s son insisted on the magical bronze ring.
After bidding farewell to the old woman, the gardener’s son instructed the bronze ring to prepare a splendid ship of silver and gold in which to continue his journey, a cargo of precious jewels and a crew of fine handsome sailors. In this ship he sailed to a great town and established himself in a fine palace. After a few days he met his rival, the minister’s son. The minister’s son had run out of money and was reduced to cleaning the streets of manure. He did not recognize the gardener’s son and the gardener’s son feigned ignorance also.
The gardener’s son told him, “You are a stranger, but I will help you. I will give you a ship to carry you home, but you must accept it willingly whatever its condition.”
The minister’s son agreed and presently they both reached the palace where the palace servants had him strip. The gardener’s son ordered the ring to become red hot and he branded his rival’s back with it. He then ordered the ring to prepare a ship of black and rotten timbers with ragged sails and an ugly, sickly crew and a cargo of filth. In this dreadful vessel the minister’s son arrived home first and, in spite of his condition, the king began to prepare for the wedding. The princess was in despair.
The next daybreak, a wonderful ship of silver and gold sailed into the harbor. The sailors were handsome and the captain appeared to be a prince. The king immediately welcomed the ship’s captain to the palace as his guest for however long the man remained in the capital.
“My daughter is about to be married,” said the king, “will you give her away?”
“I shall be charmed, sire,” replied the young captain, but when he saw the minister’s son he exclaimed “how can you marry your daughter to a man such as that?”
“He is my prime minister’s son!”
“What does that matter? I cannot give your daughter away. The man she is betrothed to is one of my servants.” The king doubted this, but the young captain went on, “I met him in a distant town reduced to sweeping muck from the streets and I engaged him as one of my servants out of charity.”
“This is impossible!” cried the king.
“Do you wish me to prove what I say?” asked the young captain, “This young man returned in a vessel which I fitted out for him, a filthy and unseaworthy ship crewed by crippled sailors.”
“It is quite true,” said the king.
“It is false,” cried the minister’s son. “I do not know this man!”
“Sire,” said the young captain, “You will find my brand on his back.”
The minister’s son admitted the truth of the matter and went away in disgrace. The young captain revealed himself as the gardener’s son and that very day he married the princess.
The young couple were happy and the king was pleased with his new son-in-law, but presently the captain of the golden ship found it necessary to take a long voyage. In the outskirts of the capital there lived an old magician who had studied the dark arts. He knew that the gardener’s son had only succeeded because of the genie who obeyed the bronze ring and he wanted the ring for himself.
The magician went down to the sea-shore and caught some pretty little red fishes. Pretending to be a peddler, he knocked on the princess’s door and ask if she wished to buy the pretty fish.
“What will you take for your fish?” she asked him.
“A bronze ring,” replied the peddler.
The princess didn’t know the value of her husband’s bronze ring, which he had left safely under his pillow, so she gave it to the peddler in exchange for the fishes. Hardly had the magician reached home than he commanded the ring to turn the golden ship to black wood and turn the handsome crew to hideous swarthy men and make the precious cargo into black cats. The ring obeyed him instantly and the young captain knew immediately that his ring had been stolen.
In this ship he sailed miserably from shore to shore, but wherever he went people laughed at him and his ship. Soon his poverty was so great that he and his crew and the poor black cats had nothing to eat but herbs and roots. After sailing for a long time he reached an island inhabited by mice. The captain landed upon the shore and the hungry black cats set upon the mice at once.
The queen of the mice held a council, “These cats will eat every one of us if the captain of the ship does not shut the ferocious animals up. Let us send a deputation of our bravest mice at arms.”
When the mice at arms found the young captain, they said, “Go away quickly from our island or we shall perish, every mouse of us.”
“Upon one condition,” replied the young captain, “You must first bring me back a bronze ring which some clever magician has stolen from me. If you do not do this I will land all my cats upon your island, and you shall be exterminated.”
The mice were dismayed. “What is to be done?” said the Queen. “How can we find this bronze ring?” She held a new council, calling in mice from every quarter of the globe, but nobody knew where the bronze ring was. Suddenly three mice arrived from a very distant country. One was blind, the second lame, and the third had no ears.
“We come from a far distant country,” said the newcomers, “An old sorcerer has the bronze ring and keeps it in his pocket by day and in his mouth by night.”
“Go and take it from him, and come back as soon as possible,” ordered the queen, “Else the cargo of black cats will eat us all.”
The three mice set sail for the magician’s country. When they reached the capital they ran to the palace, leaving the blind mouse on the shore to take care of the boat. That night they found the wicked old man asleep with the bronze ring into his mouth. The mouse with no ears dipped her tail in a pepper-pot and held it to the sorcerer’s nose. The sorcerer sneezed and the ring shot out of his mouth, but he did not wake. The lame mouse snatched up the ring and the three mice set sail back to their own land.
Naturally they began to talk about the bronze ring.
“Which of us deserves the most credit?” they asked each other.
“I do,” said the blind mouse, “for without my watchfulness our boat would have drifted away to the open sea.”
“I do,” cried the mouse with no ears, “did I not cause the ring to jump out of the man’s mouth?”
“I do,” cried the lame mouse, “for I ran off with the ring.”
The three mice began to quarrel and in the argument the bronze ring fell into the sea.
“How are we to face our queen,” said the three mice “when we have lost the ring and condemned our people to be utterly exterminated by black cats?”
So they landed on the first island they came to. The lame mouse and the mouse with no ears went to find nuts and roots, leaving their blind sister on the beach and she wandered sadly, eating whatever fish were washed up by the tide. Suddenly she let out a cry as her teeth bit something hard. It was the bronze ring, which had been swallowed by a fish. Joyfully, the three mice set sail for their own island and arrived just in time for the young captain was about to land his full cargo of hungry black cats to eat all the mice. With his ring returned, he turned his ship back to silver and gold, his crew back to handsome sailors and the hungry black cats became precious jewels once more.
The captain immediately sailed for home and took his revenge on the magician who had tricked the princess into giving over the ring. He seized the magician and tied him to the tail of a wild ass. The ass was set loose outside the city and dragged the magician behind him, breaking him utterly on the hard ground.
Found at: Moggy Cat
Once upon a time there was a peasant whose wife had died and left him with two children; a twin boy and a twin girl. He decided to marry again and over the next few years his new wife had several children of her own, but she neglected and beat the twins and wanted nothing better than to get rid of them. Finally, she had a wicked thought and decided to send them out into the great gloomy wood where a wicked witch lived.
One morning she told the twins, “You have been such good children that I am sending you to visit my granny, who lives in a dear little hut in the wood. You will have to wait upon her and serve her, but she will give you the best of everything in return.”
The children left the house together, but the little sister said to her brother, “First we will visit own dear grandmother and tell her where our step-mother is sending us.” Which they did.
Their grandmother cried, “I wish I could help you, but I am old and poor. Your step-mother is sending you to the wicked witch of the wood. Listen to me – be civil and kind to everyone, never say a cross word to anyone and never touch a crumb belonging to anyone else. Help may be sent to you after all.”
She gave them a bottle of milk, some ham and a loaf of bread and they set out for the wood. There they saw a queer little hut and knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?”‘ snarled the witch in an awful voice.
“Good-morning, granny. Our step-mother has sent us to wait upon you, and serve you.”
“If I am pleased with you, I’ll reward you. If not, I’ll cook you in my oven! See that you work hard!” growled the witch.
She set the girl down to spin yarn and she gave the boy a sieve in which to carry water from the well, then she herself went out into the wood. The girl sat weeping at the spinning wheel because she didn’t know how to spin. Presently she heard the pattering of hundreds of little feet, and from every hole in the hut mice came squeaking: “Don’t cry little girl. We’ll help you if you give us some of your bread.”
The girl gave them some the bread and the mice began to spin the yarn. The mice told her that the witch’s grey cat would tell her how to escape if she gave it some of her ham. She went to find the cat, but instead she found her brother sobbing because the water kept running out of the sieve. Then they heard rustling wings and a flight of wrens alighted and said said, “If you give us some crumbs we’ll help you keep that water in the sieve.”
So they gave their remaining crumbs of bread to the wrens and the wrens showed the boy how to fill the holes of the sieve with clay to make it water-tight. They carried the water inside the hut without spilling a drop. Inside the hut they found the cat curled up on the floor, so they stroked her and gave her some ham and asked, “Pussy, grey pussy, how are we to get away from the witch?”
The cat thanked them for the ham and gave them a handkerchief and a comb. She told them that when the witch chased them, as she certainly would, they must throw the handkerchief on the ground and run as fast as they could. As soon as the handkerchief touched the ground, a deep broad river would spring up to hinder the witch’s progress. If the witch managed to cross the river, they must throw the comb behind them and run for their lives, for where the comb fell a dense forest would start up, which would delay the witch so long that they would be able to get safely away. The cat had scarcely finished speaking when the witch returned.
“You have done your work well enough for today,” she grumbled, “but tomorrow you’ll have something more difficult to do, and if you fail it will be straight into the oven with you.”
The terrified children barely slept a wink on their pile of straw. In the morning the witch gave the girl two pieces of linen to weave before night, and gave the boy a pile of wood to cut into chips. Then she went out into the wood. As soon as she was out of sight, the children took the comb and handkerchief and ran hand-in-hand away from the hut.
First they met the witch’s fierce watch-dog, but they threw their remaining bread and ham to him and he let them go past. Then they were hindered by the tangled birch-trees, but little sister tied the twigs together with her ribbons, and they passed safely. At last they reached open fields. Meanwhile, the cat was busy weaving the linen and tangling the threads as it wove. When the witch returned to see how the children were getting on she crept up to the window and whispered, “Are you weaving, my little dear?”
“Yes, granny, I am weaving,” answered the cat.
The angry witch saw that the children had escaped and began beating the cat. “Why did you let the children leave the hut? Why did you not scratch their eyes out?”
The cat hissed, “I have served you all these years and you never even threw me a bone, but the dear children gave me their own piece of ham.”
Then the witch was furious with the watch-dog and with the birch-trees for letting the children escape. The dog told her “I have served you all these years and you never gave me so much as a hard crust, but the dear children gave me bread and ham.” The birch tree rustled its leaves and said “I have served you longer than I can say with twigs for your broom, and you never tied a bit of twine even round my branches, but the dear children bound them up with bright ribbons.”
The witch mounted on her broom and set off after the children, her broom sweeping the ground as it went. The children heard the sound of the broom close behind them and they threw the handkerchief over their shoulder. In an instant, a deep, broad river flowed behind them. It took the witch a long time to find a safe place to cross, but at last she found a place and she chased faster than before. When the children heard the broom behind them, they threw the comb down on the ground. In an instant, as the witch’s cat had promised, a dense forest sprung up. It was so thick and tangled that the witch found there was nothing for it but to turn round and go back to her hut.
The twins ran until they reached their own home where they told their father what had happened. In anger, he drove their step-mother out of the house forever and he never again let a stranger into the house.
Found at: Moggy Cat
A drunken braggart accepted a dare to sleep in a house that had once been used by witches. At midnight, when he had finished his jug of whisky and was just beginning to fall asleep, an enormous cat suddenly appeared.
It howled and spat at him, so he shot at it with his hunting gun and, though it escaped, he was certain he had shot one of its paws clean off. At that moment a woman’s scream was heard in the distance, and just as the candle went out, the man saw a woman’s bare and bloody foot wriggling around on the table.
The following day he learned that a woman who lived nearby had accidentally shot her foot off and had died from loss of blood. It is said that she died howling and spitting like a cat.
Found at: Moggycats Cat Pages
“All cats are grey at night.”
~Old French Proverb
No other animal is more frequently linked with Witches and the Craft than the cat, and in particular the black cat.
This is not just part of the mythology of the Craft, as many Witches live with cats. Notice I say “live with” not “own.” No one who knows cats will ever consider that you can have possession of one! Having said that, there is no reason why you have to live with a cat to be a Witch.
There is an enormous body of folklore surrounding the cat. A cat washing behind it’s ears is said to forecast rain; stroking an affected eye with a cat’s tail was thought to cure a stye, and so forth. Whatever you feel about such sayings there is no doubt that the cat is a very magical animal. One of mine, now sadly dead, could tell the difference between a true Witch and a pretender. Certainly both my current cats pay great attention whenever I am practicing the Craft, and can distinguish between a candle lit for magic and one lit for ambiance.
Another way in which cats and Witches are linked is that cats are probably the best domestic animal for borrowing. That is when you transfer a part of your mind into the body of the animal so that you can travel in it’s shape and experience the things it sees and does. Indeed; it is thought that the saying that a cat has nine lives is an indication of the number of times a Witch can ride with a cat in this way.
Found in: The Real Witches’ Year
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