Selling the Wind
Whilst doing a little research on holy wells and wishing wells. I came across the book “Holy Wells in Britain” by Janet Bord in the Museum library.
It contained lots of really interesting information but the piece that caught my eye related to the practice of “selling the wind” on the Isle of Man.
As you’re probably aware, the Museum used to be located on the Isle of Man so we always find mentions of witchcraft there of interest but we also have a display about this practice in the Museum along with several images and descriptions of it inside the Museum. We also have a painting outside by Vivienne Shanley which shows “The Witches of Boscastle: Selling the Wind.” Any reference to selling the wind always gets the Museum’s attention!
Here are the relevant excerpts from the book – fascinating.
“On the Isle of Man, one use to which wells were put was “raising the wind”. This was something that witches did – for various purposes including in order to sell it to sailors, by, according to one fourteenth century record, putting the wind under three knots of thread which the sailors would then loosen one by one when they wished the wind to blow. In a record surviving from 1658, one Elizabeth Black was accused of emptying “a springing well dry for to obtain a favourable wind.” In court several witnesses testified that the well had been emptied, though Black denied the allegations; still she was fined “for such folly tendinge to charminge, witchcraft, or sorcery.” There is also a well on the remote isldn of St Kilda, which was used to control the wind, but by fishermen rather than by witches. If the wind was not favourable for fishing, each fisherman would go to the well and stand astride it for a moment, and the wind would then turn in their favour.” (page 152)