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Piskie Potion

Piskie Potion

What happened was, many years ago, an old nurse dwelt in a small village on the very edge of Dartmoor. Although getting on in years she was still a sprightly old dame who lived on her own in a small tidy cottage. The local folk would often call on her to cure their aches and pains in times of need.

So, late one night she was not surprised when a loud, frantic knocking came upon her door. Thinking that someone was in trouble she shuffled over to see who was calling. To her amazement she found on the doorstep a little boss eyed piskie. He was chirping and chattering excitedly and eventually managed to explain that his wife needed urgent attention. The old woman was in a quandary, she had always been told never to get involved with the piskies as “naught gud ‘ud come on it,” but on the other hand she had never refused her help to anyone. So reluctantly she packed her medicine bag and followed the little man out into the dark night. There she saw a huge horse that was a black as bog wood, its eyes were as red as a glowing peat turf. The animal was snorting and snaffling, its massive hooves were clattering excitedly across the cobbles. Without a word the piskie leapt on the creatures back, turned around and hauled the old nurse up behind him. In no time they were hurtling down the lane and off across the moors.

At first she had a vague idea as to their direction of travel, but as the horse sped faster and faster her fear and concern for merely staying on the animals back overcame her navigational senses. Eventually the horse clattered up infront of a tiny cottage hidden in a small dell. The piskie leapt off his mount and dragged the nurse inside the tiny cott. There she saw a pregnant piskie woman who was clearly in the midst of a difficult labour. Immediately the old woman sprang into action and demanded hot water and towels. After a great deal of effort a tiny piskie baby was safely delivered, as the nurse wrapped it up in some towels she could not help notice two things, firstly the infant was having trouble breathing and secondly how ugly it was. There was a local saying for ugly people and that was “they look as if they had been slapped in the face with a turving iron,” but this baby looked as if its face WAS a turving iron. So calmly the old woman slapped the babies bum as was the custom. Immediately it started to bawl and as she turned it around a small hand shot out and whacked her around the ear. On seeing this the piskie couple beamed with pride and began chirruping their approval. The old nurse was dumbfounded, never before had she seen such behaviour from a newborn child.

The proud mother then pointed at a small jar of potion that was sitting on the dresser and asked the woman to rub some of it on each of the babies eyes. This the nurse dutifully did and quickly handed the baby to the new parents. As they were cooing and billing over their new offspring the old woman noticed that some of the potion was still on her fingers and so out of curiosity rubbed some on one of her eyes. Instantly the whole place became transformed, the small dingy room took on palatial proportions, the mother appeared as a beautiful woman dressed in fine silks and jewels. The ugly baby was now the most angelic child she had ever seen and even the boss eyed piskie took on the form of a handsome prince. This unnerved the old woman so much that she pleaded to be taken home, even the thought of a break neck ride home was more appealing than the sorcery that was happening before her very eyes. Reluctantly the piskie handed his wife the baby, grabbed the old woman by the arm and led her out to where the mighty steed was tethered. The return journey was even quicker than than before and almost instantly the dazed woman was delivered to her cottage. The last thing she heard was the clattering of hooves as the piskie tore off into the night.

The next morning, in the cold light of day she recounted her adventure and decided that it might be best to say nothing of what had happened to anybody, after all who would believe her? After a couple of days the whole event seemed like a dim and distant dream and her life returned to normal. Moretonhampstead market approached and early that morning she gathered her eggs and butter and set off to sell her produce. The market was a busy bustling affair and it did not take long for the old nurse to sell here wares. Having done so she decided to have a browse amongst the other stalls. All of a sudden the nurses heart stopped and a shiver shot down her spine, for there ahead she saw the boss eyed piskie. He was wandering down the line of stalls cheekily stealing anything that took his fancy, an apple here a pie there and nobody seemed to notice him. The old woman was transfixed, what should she do? The piskie was getting nearer and nearer until eventually he was stood directly infront of her noisily chomping on a huge pasty. She was sure he had recognised her and so not wishing to seem rude enquired as to the health of his baby. The little man leapt back in amazement and started to angrily chatter and chirp. He demanded to know which eye she could see him with. This flummoxed the nurse and so she firstly covered her right eye and he vanished, then she covered her left eye and he reappeared. “Why my right eye I reckon,” she stammered. “I see,” hissed the piskie, “then that means you meddled with the piskie potion and for that you will be as blind as a mole in that eye for the rest of your miserable days.” With that he slowly faded away and from that moment on the old woman could no longer see out of her right eye. All she kept thinking was the age old advice, “Don’t meddle with a piskie, naught gud ‘ud come on it.”

There are some as will say the story never ended their because in certain circles it was told that a few weeks later the boss eyed piskie paid the old woman another visit. One afternoon she heard a loud wrapping at the door and opened it to find the little boss eyed fellow. Her first dreaded thought was that he had come to take the sight from her other eye but the piskie said nothing and just handed her a small leather purse and disappeared. When the woman opened the bag it was full of shiny gold coins and then to her delight she realised that the sight had returned to her right eye. It took a few moments of opening and shutting each eye to definitely confirm she could see perfectly but that was the case, clearly the piskies had taken pity on her. From that day on the old nurse never meddled with anything that was not of this world and certainly refused to nurse any creature that was not of human origin.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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