This week’s tale is all about enchantment and a character that seems to pop up in many a Herefordshire folklore tale. Jenkins was his name. People would call upon Jenkins when they were experiencing problems relating to witchcraft or the evil eye, when they thought their bad luck was attributed to a curse or some unknown spell.
Jenkins referred to himself as the master of witches, a title he was proud to hold. Boasting that he could call the witches of Weobley Marsh and Dilwyn Common and make them dance at his whim, such was his power. Given that this area was said to have no less than fifty witches at the time, this was no mean feat. There was many a story about how Jenkins had helped local folk to overcome enchantments. He was welcomed and feared in equal measure, for it was said he was able to cast a spell or two himself and no-one wanted to be on the wrong side of him.
Jenkins was called upon or consulted for all sorts of situations. On one such occasion a local farmer was concerned about the behaviour of his wife, he was suspicious that she was up to no good when he was away on market day but couldn’t prove anything. So he called on Jenkins for some help. Jenkins requested that he bring the family chamber pot to him, over which he muttered a few words. A strange act you may think, so do we! He then instructed the farmer to go to market the following week as he always did.
Not one to challenge Jenkins the farmer did just that, wondering what might await him when he returned home. He was so keen to find out that he didn’t stop for his usual pint and lunch at the Market Tavern in Hereford. Nothing however would have prepared him for what he saw upon his return. There was a real commotion going on, his wife was sitting on the family chamber pot in her night attire unable to get off. But even stranger than this was the sight of the parish clerk, naked to the world holding his distressed wife’s hand. Unable to release his grip no matter how hard he tried.
Old Jenkins was called and would only release the couple once the parish clerk had agreed to pay the farmer a handsome sum in compensation for his misdeed with his wife. The problem appeared to be resolved, however Jenkins was not prepared for what came next. The disgruntled parish clerk only went to the Hereford magistrates and accused Jenkins of exploitation which led to Jenkins being summoned to appear in court.
It was fair to say that the magistrates were unnerved at the site of Jenkins, he reputation had proceeded him. They asked him about his activities, was he really the master of witches, did he take money from poor people. They concluded in all of their wisdom that as witches didn’t exist he was indeed exploiting people’s fears.
Jenkins stared at them and calmly responded, “so as you don’t think witches exist you won’t mind me calling all of the witches of Herefordshire to this spot to have a look at you will you?”. “Do you want them to arrive in a high wind or low wind?” he taunted. This was not the response that the magistrates had expected and they nervously consulted one another. Not wishing to find out whether Jenkins was able to summon a plethora of witches to their court room they decided not to take the chance and let Jenkins off with a caution instead. Needless to say Jenkins reputation was bolstered that day and he left court with a little smile on his face.
These stories are curated from many sources and retold in our fun ESL style, in the true spirit of Folklore.
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