“With lips of rosy hue,
Dipp’d five times over in ambrosial dew,
She led them to their destruction.”~ Old Poet.
Long hundreds of years ago there was a witch in the island who made herself the finest and cleverest looking young woman in it. Her like for beauty was never before seen in this mortal world. When she went out walking or riding the very birds of the air would forget to sing for looking at her, and her sweet voice would tempt them off the trees to listen to her. Even the animals would stand still till she went by, for her beauty cast a spell on them. And as for the men, the poor creatures, they flocked from all sides of the island to woo her, and when they had once looked on her face they never wanted to leave her. They forgot everything else in the world -all sorrow and care, home and country, till at last everything in the island came to a standstill because the men followed wherever this young witch chose to lead them.
Their haggards were empty, for they neither ploughed nor sowed, and their houses became tholthans (ruins), for they neither built nor mended. They cut no turf and pulled no ling for fires. Their fields were covered with stones so that the cattle died for want of pasture, and their gardens were full of weeds. There was a strange stillness throughout the island – no children’s voices were to be heard anywhere. The witch only laughed to see what her beauty had done, and she kept all the men near her by making each think that himself might be the chosen one. If one asked her to marry him she would answer, “An’ maybe I will,” and then she would say the same to the next. When she had made slaves of the men of the island in this way, she said one day:
“Saddle me my horse, for I’ve a mind to ride.”
So they brought her milk-white horse shod with shoes of gold, with bit of gold and bridle set with jewels, with saddle of mother-of-pearl and saddle-cloth of blue. Tehi Tegi mounted, and the waves of her golden hair flowed down over her dress of shining white.
“I’m going,” said she, “to the country for the day, and you can follow me on foot if you like.”
She rode and took her way under shady trees and through grassy lanes, where bluebells and primroses grew as thick as the grass, and the hedges were yellow with gorse. She went on by fields, covered with stones, which were once fine corn land; and on she went at the head of them by lonely little tholthans whose roofs had sunk in on the hearth, and then by spots where houses once had been, now marked by jenny nettles and an old tramman (rowan) tree. Her way mounted upwards among hills shining in the May sunlight, and through gills where little streams ran down between banks covered with fern and briar and many a flower, to the blue sea.
At last they found themselves at the side of a bright swift river, and she put a spell on it and made it seem shallow and as smooth and clear as glass, so that the little stones at the bottom were barely covered. Then, when they were all beginning to wade through it, she took off the spell,and the water rushed over their heads and swallowed up the six hundred poor lovers. With that she made a bat of herself and rose up in the air and flew out of sight. Her milk-white horse turned into a perkin, plunged to the bottom of the stream, and swam away out to sea and was never more seen.
From that time the wise men of the island made their women go on foot and follow their husbands wherever they should lead, so that no such accident should happen again.
If by chance a woman went first, anyone who saw her cried out “Tehi Tegi! Tehi Tegi!”
(source: Manx Fairy Tales by Sophia Morrison, 1911: artwork by Daniel F. Gerhartz)