Witches and warlocks of the common breed cut no great figures in the medieval English romances. Nor do they appear with startling force in English ballads-poetry in which magic roamed un­ checked. ‘Willy’s Lady’ suffered from the demonic attentions of his mother, ‘that vile rank witch of vilest kind’, until her witchcrafts were foiled, the nine witchlocks were loosened, the combs of care were removed and the master-kid was killed. Alison (a witch name with erotic echoes) Gross was ‘the ugliest witch in the north country’ and punished disdain with cruel enchantment, like the stepmother of the Laily Worm. But not all witches were evil enchanters. ‘An auld witch wife’ gave a cautious maiden very good advice about behaviour on the dangerous Broomfield Hill. In fact, though magic plays an integral part in the romances and ballads its principal contrivers bear, on the whole, little resemblance to village dabblers in the ways of darkness like the old woman dexterously enchanting her cow-sucking bag before an inquisitive bishop, or less distinguished but more sinister crones directing their attendant imps to malevolent attacks on neighbours.