In folklore, money that comes from Fairies, witches, sorcerers (see sorcery) and the Devil turns out to be worthless. The victim accepts payment for goods or services and discovers, after it is too late, that the gold coins or currency are actually toads, cat claws, shells, lead or other worthless—and sometimes repulsive— objects.
According to legend, Paracelsus, the 16th-century Swiss alchemist, roamed about Europe penniless during his last years, paying innkeepers with gold coins that turned into seashells after he departed. Belief in illusory money parallels another folk belief that livestock purchased unwittingly from witches and fairies would disappear or metamorphose into something undesirable: cows would dissolve in running water, horses would turn into pigs, and so forth.
- Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. 1911. reprint, Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1966.
In folklore, money from Fairies, witches, sorcerers, Demons and the Devil is worthless.
Many tales exist of victims accepting payment for goods or services and discovering, after it is too late, that the gold coins or currency are actually toads, animal claws, shells, lead, or other worthless objects. For example, the Devil gives a purse filled with gold to a victim, who later finds it contains nothing but embers and smoke. In one tale, a 15-year-old youth met a strange man who was passing through a village. The man inquired whether the youth would like to be rich. When the youth agreed, the man gave him a folded piece of paper and told him it would produce as many gold coins as he wished as long as he did not unfold the paper. If he managed to contain his curiosity, the youth would then meet his true benefactor. The youth took the paper home and was amazed when it spilled out gold coins. But he was unable to resist the temptation to unfold it. When he did, he saw, to his horror, that it contained bear’s nails, cat’s claws, toad’s feet, and other awful items. He threw the paper on the fire, but it refused to burn for an hour. The gold pieces vanished.
Demons supposedly guard all the vast treasures of the earth but can never draw upon them. Nicholas Remy told in his witch-hunting handbook Demonolatry (1595) that false riches offered by a Demon deceived a man in Nuremberg in 1530. The Demon revealed a hiding place of a great treasure. The man found a vault containing a chest guarded by a black dog. But when the man attempted to seize the chest, the vault collapsed and crushed him to death. The tragedy was witnessed by one of the man’s servants, who fled and spread the story.
Remy also related several cases of women being deceived by gifts of money and gold coins from Demons. The riches were in purses or wrapped in paper and proved to be bits of brick and coal, swine dung, leaves of trees, and a rusty-colored stone that crumbled to dust. Remy said he tried one woman, Catharina Ruffa of Ville-sur-Moselle, on a capital charge in 1587 because she claimed that a Demon gave her three genuine gold coins. According to legend, Paracelsus, the 16th-century Swiss alchemist, roamed about Europe penniless during his last years, paying innkeepers with gold coins that turned into seashells after he departed. Illusory money parallels another folk belief that livestock purchased unwittingly from witches and fairies disappears or turns into something undesirable. For example, cows dissolve in running water, horses turn into pigs, and so forth.
Further Reading :
- Collin de Plancy, Jacques. Dictionary of Witchcraft. Edited and translated by Wade Baskin. Originally published as Dictionary of Demonology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1965.
- Remy, Nicholas. Demonolatry. Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1974.