The Mowing-devil

Brief summary:
A farmer was bargaining with a mower about cutting down some of his oats, when the price wasn’t right they fought and the farmer swore about preferring the Devil to mow his oats, that night his oats appeared as if on fire but the next day were perfectly mowed.

Fuller summary:
The pamphlet details a phenomenal instance that occurred in Hartfordshire in August 1678 (pamphlet published August 22, 1678). A farmer wanted his field mowed, and so he went to a poor neighbor who usually worked in harvest labor and proposed a small compensation for his field to be mowed. The poor man asked for a higher price for his labor, and let it be known that the farmer “bid him much more under the usual Rate than the poor Man askt above it” (2). In other words, the farmer was proposing an unreasonably low price and the poor man was within his rights to ask for a higher compensation. The farmer however, was not happy with this and some harsh words were exchanged. The farmer decided he would discuss the matter no further, but the poor man, afraid of losing future business, then proposed to the farmer “a lower price than he had Mowed for any time this Year before,” (3). The farmer said in response, “That the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them,” (3).

In the night, several “Passengers” beheld the farmer’s field of oats “to be all on a Flame” and this strange news reached the farmer in the morning (4). He went out to see his oats, imagining them to be completely devoured by the flames (reflecting on the statement he uttered the day before “That the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them”). The farmer was amazed to find his crops cut down, not in the usual manner but in round circles, with every straw placed so exactly, no man could possibly have performed this task in one night. And the farmer is still afraid to remove the mowed crops from their devilish design.

The pamphlet is told as a dramatic narrative, relaying the story after the matter, and being careful to place the blame of the quarrel on the farmer for being unreasonable. Demonic/devilish intervention is pointed to as the cause of this occurrence, and the opening of the pamphlet provides a dramatic statement that devils certainly exist and they come from hell, as certainly as there is a heaven and consequently a God.

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