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Friday, 31 October 2014

Bell-ringing, Stone Heads and Ghosts - The Customs and Traditions of Halloween in Dorset

Today is Hallowe'en, otherwise known as All Hallows Eve, a time for fun and games, dressing up and ghost stories. Traditionally it was believed that malevolent spirits, witches and fairies were abroad on this night. (see also Walpurgisnacht - The Springtime Halloween)

Yet contrary to popular belief Hallowe’en does not ha
ve its origins in a celebration of evil but in an ancient celtic harvest festival of thanksgiving. The Celts split the year up into only two seasons: winter, which ran from November to the end of April, and summer, which ran from May to the end of October. They called the festival ‘Samhain’ (pronounced sow' an) meaning ‘Summer End’ and celebrated ‘The Feast of the Dying Sun’ by giving thanks for the year’s harvest, a Celtic equivalent of New Year's Eve.


Traditional Bonfire
Samhain marked the third and final harvest and the storage of provisions for the winter. It was a solar festival consisting of fire rituals and large bonfires that would be lit in honour of the sun, a tradition that still survives today as ‘Bonfire Night’ or ‘Bone Fire Night’ as it was originally called. The Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain the dead rose out of their graves to wander freely about the earth and make trouble by harming crops and causing domestic disturbances. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was believed to be at its thinnest point in the year at Samhain, making communication between the living and the dead much easier.

At the same time of year that the Celts were celebrating Samhain, the Romans celebrated the festival of Pomona, the goddess of orchards and the harvest. Apples and nuts were among the special foods used and these retained a place in surviving Halloween festivities.

When the Christian Church set out to convert follow
ers of pagan religions, church leaders astutely saw that they would have an easier time if they incorporated existing holy days and rites into their own. Worship of pagan deities was translated into veneration of the Christian saints. In the 7th century Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead on May 13, 610, when he dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to St. Mary and other martyred Christians. Later, Gregory III reestablished the festival to honor the saints of St. Peter's Church and changed the date from May 13 to November 1 to coincide with pagan festivals. (Presently the Greek Orthodox Church still observes it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.) Later in 834AD, the Christian church adopted Samhain and renamed it ‘Hallow Tide’, ‘Hallow’ meaning ‘Holy’, Pope Gregory IV made the festival official, to be observed by all churches. So 31st October was named as ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, which later became known as ‘Hallowe’en’. Church bells would always be rung on Hallowe’en night in order to guide lost Christian souls back to the sanctuary of the church and at the same time, drive evil spirits away. The annual ringing still takes place at Milton Abbey, Milton Abbas

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal mentioned about the traditions of Hallowe'en Bell -ringing in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:
Hone is responsible for the statement that "At Blandford Forum, in Dorsetshire, 'there was a custom, in the papal times, to ring bells at Allhallow-tide for all Christian souls.'""
This assumes that this custom exited practically alon at Blandford.  Hutchins does not notice it; and I have very grave doubts myself whether this statement of Hone can be accepted as justifying this assumption. Brand states (i,310) that"it is stated in Kethe's sermon preached at Blandford Forum in Dorsetshire, January 17th, 1570, p.19, that 'there was a custom, in the papal times, to ring bells at Allhallow-tide for all Christian souls'." He thus shows the authority for Hon'es statement, which is contained in a sermon preached at Blandford in which this allusion to a very general custom appears to have been made.
Instead of sacrifices, the Church promoted honoring the dead with prayers. Food and wine offerings were replaced with soul cakes, little square buns decorated with currants. The cakes were given away to the village poor, who in turn would pray for the dead. "Soulers" would walk about begging for cakes.

The Christian Church also allowed masquerading but emphasized that it was to honor dead saints and not to frighten off spirits.

The Headless Martyr of Halstock

One Dorset Ghost is said to return to haunt the village of Halstock this night, at one hour after midnight. Th
e headless ghost of Saint Juthware is said to be seen carrying her head in the lane leading to Abbots Hill now know as Judith Hill. (see The Quiet Woman Legend)

The Silent Guardians - From Skulls to Stone Heads t
o Jack O' Lanterns.

Shipton Gorge Stone Head
In ancient times the importance of the skull as a sacred symbol originated in archaic beliefs identifying the cranium as the seat of the soul and the link with the world of spirits, hence their use as a protection against evil. In folklore we still see the relevance today as with the Skull of Bettiscombe Manor (see Bettiscombe Skull legend). Carved stone heads were made according to the same tradition of offering protection in hope of dispelling evil spirits from the threshold of buildings and sacred sites, as long as they were treated with respect.

The sacred heads were feared so much that many would not even speak of w
here the heads lay for fear of bad luck. Stone heads were also used for guardian and luck purposes and can still be seen to this day around Britain, two of which were discovered by Jim Chaplin in 1969 when land was being cleared for the construction of Rockway, Shipton Gorge and are now displayed in the Dorset County Museum.


This tradition of a symbolic guardian to the house is carried on today in the form of the surviving Hallowe’en custom of carving images on Jack o' Lanterns. This dates back to when the display of ancestral skulls were replaced by the old custom of using hollowed out turnips, beets or manglewurzels. Candles were used to create grotesque lanterns as a protection from evil. The Irish who immigrated to America found pumpkins a suitable substitute for turnips and beets and these have been an essential part of Halloween celebrations since Victorian days.




Below, extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days October 31st 1864, details the traditions of Halloween.

 
There is perhaps no night in the year which the popular imagination has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October, known as All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween. It is clearly a relic of pagan times, for there is nothing in the church observance of the ensuing day of All Saints to have originated such extra ordinary notions as are connected with this celebrated festival, or such remarkable practices as those by which it is distinguished.

The leading idea respecting Halloween is that it is the time, of all others, when supernatural influences prevail. It is the night set apart for a universal walking abroad of spirits, both of the visible and invisible world; for, as will be afterwards seen, one of the special characteristics attributed to this mystic evening, is the faculty conferred on the immaterial principle in humanity to detach itself from its corporeal tenement anal wander abroad through the realms of space. Divination is then believed to attain its highest power, and the gift asserted by Glendower of calling spirits 'from the vasty deep,' becomes available to all who choose to avail themselves of the privileges of the occasion.

There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night all over the United Kingdom. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and consumed in immense numbers. Indeed the name of Nutcrack Night, by which Halloween is known in the north of England, indicates the predominance of the former of these articles in making up the entertainments of the evening. They are not only cracked and eaten, but made the means of vaticination in love affairs. And here we quote from Burns's poem of Halloween:

The auld guidwife's well hoordit nits
Are round and round divided,
And mony lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa wi' saucy pride,
And jump out owre the chimly
Fu' high that night.
Jean slips in twa wi' tentie e'e;
Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel':
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see 't that night.'
Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, is more explicit:

'It is a custom in Ireland, when the young women would. know if their lovers are faithful, to put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married.'
As to apples, there is an old custom, perhaps still observed in some localities on this merry night, of hanging up a stick horizontally by a string from the ceiling, and putting a candle on the one end, and an apple on the other. The stick being made to twirl rapidly, the merry makers in succession leap up and snatch at the apple with their teeth (no use of the hands being allowed), but it very frequently happens that the candle comes round before they are aware, and scorches them in the face, or anoints them with grease. The disappointments and misadventures occasion, of course, abundance of laughter. But the grand sport with apples on Halloween, is to set them afloat in a tub of water, into which the juveniles, by turns, duck their heads with the view of catching an apple. Great fun goes on in watching the attempts of the youngster in the pursuit of the swimming fruit, which wriggles from side to side of the tub, and evades all attempts to capture it; whilst the disappointed aspirant is obliged to abandon the chase in favour of another whose turn has now arrived. 

The apples provided with stalks are generally caught first, and then comes the tug of war to win those which possess no such append-ages. Some competitors will deftly suck up the apple, if a small one, into their mouths. Others plunge manfully overhead in pursuit of a particular apple, and having forced it to the bottom of the tub, seize it firmly with their teeth, and emerge, dripping and triumphant, with their prize. This venturous procedure is generally rewarded with a hurrah! by the lookers on, and is recommended, by those versed in Halloween aquatics, as the only sure method of attaining success. In recent years, a practice has been introduced, probably by some tender mammas, timorous on the subject of their offspring catching cold, of dropping a fork from a height into the tub among the apples, and thus turning the sport into a display of marksmanship. It forms, however, but a very indifferent substitute for the joyous merriment of ducking and diving.

It is somewhat remarkable, that the sport of ducking for apples is not mentioned by Burns, whose celebrated poem of Halloween presents so graphic a picture of the ceremonies practised on that evening in the west of Scotland, in the poet's day. Many of the rites there described are now obsolete or nearly so, but two or three still retain place in various parts of the country. Among these is the custom still prevalent in Scotland, as the initiatory Halloween ceremony, of pulling kailstocks or stalks of colewort. The young people go out hand in hand, blindfolded, into the kailyard or garden, and each pulls the first stalk which he meets with. They then return to the fireside to inspect their prizes. According as the stalk is big or little, straight or crooked, so shall the future wife or husband be of the party by whom it is pulled. The quantity of earth sticking to the root denotes the amount of fortune or dowry; and the taste of the pith or custoc indicates the temper. Finally, the stalks are placed, one after another, over the door, and the Christian names of the persons who chance thereafter to enter the house are held in the same succession to indicate those of the individuals whom the parties are to marry.

Another ceremony much practised on Halloween, is that of the Three Dishes or Luggies. Two of these are respectively filled with clean and foul water, and one is empty. They are ranged on the hearth, when the parties, blindfolded, advance in succession, and dip their fingers into one. If they dip into the clean water, they are to marry a maiden; if into the foul water, a widow; if into the empty dish, the party so dipping is destined to be either a bachelor or an old maid. As each person takes his turn, the position of the dishes is changed. Burns thus describes the custom:

In order, on the clean hearth stane,
The luggies three are ranged,
And every time great care is ta'en
To see them duly changed:
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock's joys
Sin' Mar's year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.

The ceremonies above described are all of a light sportive description, but there are others of a more weird like and fearful character, which in this enlightened incredulous age have fallen very much into desuetude. One of these is the celebrated spell of eating an apple before a looking glass, with the view of discovering the inquirer's future husband, who it is believed will be seen peeping over her shoulder. A curious, and withal, cautious, little maiden, who desires to try this spell, is thus represented by Burns:

'Wee Jenny to her granny says:
"Will ye go wi' me, granny?
I'll eat the apple at the glass,
I gat frae uncle Johnny."'
A request which rouses the indignation of the old lady:

‘She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin',
She notic't na, an aizle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night.

"Ye little skelpie limmer's face!
I daur you try sic sportin',
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune:
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
And lived and died deleeret,
On sic a night."
Granny's warning was by no means a needless one, as several well authenticated instances are related of persons who, either from the effects of their own imagination, or some thoughtless practical joke, sustained such severe nervous shocks, while essaying these Halloween spells, as seriously to imperil their health.

Another of these, what may perhaps be termed unhallowed, rites of All Hallows' Eve, is to wet a shirt sleeve, hang it up to the fire to dry, and lie in bed watching it till midnight, when the apparition of the individual's future partner for life will come in and turn the sleeve. Bums thus alludes to the practice in one of his songs:

‘The last Halloween I was waukin',
My droukit sark sleeve, as ye ken;
His likeness cam' up the house staukin',
And the very gray breeks o' Tam Glen!'

Other rites for the invocation of spirits might be referred to, such as the sowing of hemp seed, and the winnowing of three wechts of nothing, i. e., repeating three times the action of exposing corn to the wind. In all of these the effect sought to be produced is the same the appearance of the future husband or wife of the experimenter. A full description of them will be found in the poem of Burns, from which we have already so largely quoted. It may here be remarked, that popular belief ascribes to children born on Halloween, the possession of certain mysterious faculties, such as that of perceiving and holding converse with supernatural beings. Sir Walter Scott, it will be recollected, makes use of this circumstance in his romance of The Monastery.

In conclusion, we shall introduce an interesting story, with which we have been favoured by a lady. The leading incidents of the narrative may be relied on as correct, and the whole affair forms matter of curious thought on the subject of Halloween divination:
Mr. and Mrs. M were a happy young couple, who, in the middle of the last century, resided on their own estate in a pleasant part of the province of Leinster, in Ireland. Enjoying a handsome competence, they spent their time in various rural occupations; and the birth of a little girl promised to crown their felicity, and provide them with an object of perpetual interest. On the Halloween following this last event, the parents retired to rest at their usual hour, Mrs. M having her infant on her arm, so that she might be roused by the slightest uneasiness it might exhibit. From teething or some other ailment, the child, about midnight, became very restless, and not receiving the accustomed attention from its mother, cried so violently as to waken Mr. M. He at once called his wife, and told her the baby was uneasy, but received no answer. 

He called again more loudly, but still to no purpose; she seemed to be in a heavy uneasy slumber, and when all her husband's attempts to rouse her by calling and shaking proved ineffectual, he was obliged to take the child himself, and try to appease its wailings. After many vain attempts of this sort on his part, the little creature at last sobbed itself to rest, and the mother slept on till a much later hour than her usual time of rising in the morning. When Mr. M saw that she was awake, he told her of the restlessness of the baby during the night, and how, after having tried in vain every means to rouse her, he had at last been obliged to make an awkward attempt to take her place, and lost thereby some hours of his night's rest. 

'I, too,' she replied, 'have passed the most miserable night that I ever experienced; I now see that sleep and rest are two different things, for I never felt so unrefreshed in my life. How I wish you had been able to awake me it would have spared me some of my fatigue and anxiety! I thought I was dragged against my will into a strange part of the country, where I had never been before, and, after what appeared to me a long and weary journey on foot, I arrived at a comfortable looking house. 

I went in longing to rest, but had no power to sit down, although there was a nice supper laid out before a good fire, and every appearance of preparations for an expected visitor. Exhausted as I felt, I was only allowed to stand for a minute or two, and then hurried away by the same road back again; but now it is over, and after all it was only a dream.'
Her husband listened with interest to her story, and then sighing deeply, said: 'My dear Sarah, you will not long have me beside you; whoever is to be your second husband played last night some evil trick of which you have been the victim.' 

Shocked as she felt at this announcement, she endeavoured to suppress her own feelings and rally her husband's spirits, hoping that it would pass from his mind as soon as he had become engrossed by the active business of the day.

Some months passed tranquilly away after this occurrence, and the dream on Halloween night had well nigh been forgotten by both husband and wife, when Mr. M's health began to fail. He had never been a robust man, and he now declined so rapidly, that in a short time, notwithstanding all the remedies and attentions that skill could suggest, or affection bestow, his wife was left a mourning widow. Her energetic mind and active habits, however, prevented her from abandoning herself to the desolation of grief. She continued, as her husband had done during his life, to farm the estate, and in this employment, and the education of her little girl, she found ample and salutary occupation. Alike admired and beloved for the judicious management of her worldly affairs, and her true Christian benevolence and kindliness of heart, she might easily, had she been so inclined, have established herself respectably for a second time in life, but such a thought seemed never to cross her mind. 

She had an uncle, a wise, kind old man, who, living at a distance, often paid a visit to the widow, looked over her farm, and gave her useful advice and assistance. This old gentleman had a neighbour named C, a prudent young man, who stood very high in his favour. Whenever they met, Mrs. M's uncle was in the habit of rallying him on the subject of matrimony. On one occasion of this kind, C excused himself by saying that it really was not his fault that he was still a bachelor, as he was anxious to settle in life, but had never met with any woman whom he should like to call his wife. 'Well, C,' replied his old friend, 'you are, I am afraid, a saucy fellow, but if you put yourself into my hands, I do not despair of suiting you.' 

Some bantering then ensued, and the colloquy terminated by Mrs. M's uncle inviting the young man to ride over with him next day and visit his niece, whom C had never yet seen. The proffer was readily accepted; the two friends started early on the following morning, and after a pleasant ride, were approaching their destination. Here they descried, at a little distance, Mrs. M retreating towards her house, after making her usual matutinal inspection of her farm. The first glance which Mr. C obtained of her made him start violently, and the more he looked his agitation increased. Then laying his hand on the arm of his friend, and pointing his finger in the direction of Mrs. M, he said: 'Mr., we need not go any further, for if ever I am to be married, there is my wife!'

Well, C, was the reply, that is my niece, to whom I am about to introduce you; but tell me, he added, is this what you call love at first sight, or what do you mean by your sudden decision in favour of a person with whom you have never exchanged a word? Why, sir, replied the young man, I find I have betrayed myself, and must now make my confession. A year or two ago, I tried a Halloween spell, and sat up all night to watch the result. I declare to you most solemnly, that the figure of that lady, as I now see her, entered my room and looked at me. She stood a minute or two by the fire and then disappeared as suddenly as she came. I was wide awake, and felt considerable remorse at having thus ventured to tamper with the powers of the unseen world; but I assure you, that every particular of her features, dress, and figure, have been so present to my mind ever since, that I could not possibly make a mistake, and the moment I saw your niece, I was convinced that she was indeed the woman whose image I beheld on that never to be forgotten Halloween.

The old gentleman, as may be anticipated, was not a little astonished at his friend's statement, but all comments on it were for the time put a stop to by their arrival at Mrs. M's house. She was glad to see her uncle, and made his friend welcome, performing the duties of hospitality with a simplicity and heartiness that were very attractive to her stranger guest. After her visitors had refreshed themselves, her uncle walked out with her to look over the farm, and took opportunity, in the absence of Mr. C, to recommend him to the favourable consideration of his niece. To make a long story short, the impression was mutually agreeable. Mr. C, before leaving the house, obtained permission from Mrs. M to visit her, and after a brief courtship, they were married. They lived long and happily together, and it was from their daughter that our informant derived that remarkable episode in the history of her parents which we have above narrated.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rough Music: The Customs and Traditions of the Sherborne Pack Monday Fair

Rough Music - Teddy Rowe's Band
The Pack Monday Fair was held on Old Michaelmas Day, 10th October in Sherborne.  This was usually heralded with the arrival of the Teddy Rowe's Band. comprising of a group of young people who paraded the streets making as much discordant noise as possible on horns, bugles, whistles, tin trays, saucepans.  The origin for this noisy custom is explained that Teddy Rowe was the master mason employed in the 15th century to build the great fan vault in the nave of the Abbey Church. When the work was completed, the workmen packed their tools and paraded in triumph around the town, hence why the fair is called ‘Pack Monday’

Teddy Rowe's Band was suppressed in the 1960s because of the potential for anti-social behaviour. The heralding of a fair with a discordant parade is not unique, and such a noisy gathering is also a core feature of rough music traditions (see also Skimmington Ride).

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal mentioned about the traditions of the  Pack Monday Fair in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:
Hutchins (iv.209), speaking of the annual fairs held in the town of Sherborne:

"The first on St. Thomas a Becket's Day, O.S., upon the green near the site of St. Thomas a Becket's chapel; the second in St. Swithin's Street on St. Swithin's day, O.S ; the third, outside the Abbey Close, on the first Monday after the feast of St. Michael, O.S. This last is the most considerable, and is a great holiday for the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood. It is ushered in by the ringing of the great bell at 4 a.m., and by the boys and young men perambulating the streets with cows' horns at a still earlier hour, to the no small annoyance of their less wakeful neighbours. It has been an immemorial custom in Sherborne for the boys to blow horns in the evenings, in the streets, for some weeks before the fair. It is commonly known as Pack Monday Fair, and there is a tradition that Abbot Peter Ramsam and his workmen completed the nave of the abbey and kept a holiday on that day in 1490, and that the name was derived from the men packing up their tools. These fairs are chiefly for cattle, horses, and sheep. At the last woollen cloths and all sorts of commodities are sold. The tolls of St. Swithin's belong to the Vicar ; those of the others to the lord of the Manor"

In September, 1826, a resident in Sherborne sent to Hone's Every-Day Book (ii, 654) the following very full description of what goes on at Pack Monday Fair. He says :
"This fair is usually held on the first Monday after the 10th of October, and is a mart for the sale of horses, cows, fat and lean oxen, sheep, lambs, and pigs, cloth, earthenware, onions, wall and hazel nuts, apples, fruit trees, and the usual nick nacks for children, toys, ginger-bread, sweetmeats, sugar plums etc. etc. with drapery, hats, bonnets, caps, ribands, etc. for the country belles, of whom, when the weather is favourable, a great number is drawn together from the neighbouring villages. Tradition relates that this fair originated at the termination of the building of the church, when the people who had been employed about it packed up their tools, and held a fair or wake in the churchyard, blowing cows' horns in their rejoicing, which at that time was perhaps the most common music in use. ..
 

The fair has been removed from the churchyard about six or seven years, and is now held on a spacious parade in a street not far from the church. . .
 

To the present time Pack Monday fair is annually announced three or four weeks previous by all the little urchins who can procure and blow a cow's horn parading the streets in the evenings, and sending forth the different tones of their horny bugles, sometimes beating an old sauce-pan for a drum, to render the sweet sound more delicious, and not infrequently a whistle-pipe or a fife is added to the band.
 

The clock's striking twelve on the Sunday night previous is the summons for ushering in the fair, when the boys assemble with their horns and parade the town with a noisy shout, and prepare to forage for fuel to light a bonfire, generally of straw obtained from some of the neighbouring farmyards, which are sure to be plundered, without respect to the owners, if they have not been fortunate enough to secure the material in some safe part of their premises.
 

In this way the youths enjoy themselves in boisterous triumph, to the annoyance of the sleeping part of the inhabitants, many of whom deplore, whilst others, who entertain respect for old customs, delight in the deafening mirth. At four o'clock the great bell is rang for a quarter of an hour. From this time the bustle commences by the preparation for the coming scene : stalls erecting, windows cleaning and decorating, shepherds and drovers going forth for their flocks and herds, which are depastured for the night in the neighbouring fields, and every individual seems on the alert. The business in the sheep and cattle fairs (which are held in different fields, nearly in the centre of the town, and well attended by the gentlemen farmers of Dorset, Somerset and Devon) takes precedence, and is generally concluded by twelve o'clock, when what is called the in-fair begins to wear the appearance of business-like activity, and from this time till three or four o'clock more business is transacted in the shop, counting-house, parlour, hall and kitchen than at any other time of the day, it being a custom of the tradespeople to have their yearly accounts settled about this time, and scarcely a draper, grocer, hatter, ironmonger, bookseller, or other respectable tradesman but is provided with an ample store of beef and home-brewed October, for the welcome of their numerous customers, few of whom depart without taking quantum suff: of the old English fare placed before them."

"Now," Hone's correspondent goes on to say,—" is the town alive." And he tells us of the usual merry sights of a country fair—the giant, the learned pig, the giantess and dwarf, the conjuror, the managerie of wild beasts, the merry-go-round, the lucky bag, the Sheffield hardwareman with his wonderful display of cheap cutlery, the inevitable Cheap Jack offering everything for next-to-nothing—for fuller details of which I would refer my readers to his account. And he concludes with the following remarks :—
 

"This is Pack Monday fair, till evening throws on her dark veil, when the visitors, in taking their farewell, stroll through the rows of ginger-bread stalls ... By this time the country folks are for jogging home, and vehicles and horses of every description on the move, and the bustle nearly over, with the exception of what is to be met with at the inns, where the lads and lasses so disposed, on the light fantastic toe, assisted by the merry scraping of the fiddle, finish the fun, frolic, and pastime of Pack Monday fair."

Some sixty years later Mr. E. Archdall Ffooks - the present clerk of the peace for the county of Dorset, and then a resident in the neighbourhood of Sherborne — at my request for information as to the modern proportions of the fair, wrote me a letter in which he says :
 
"The old custom of horn blowing has now,through the aid of the police, been reduced to reasonable limits. A few years ago small boys blew horns at all hours of the day and night until their bed-time for more than a month before Pack Monday Fair. Then the inhabitants complained of the nuisance, and the police were instructed to prevent it and to take away the horns, with the result that now only a few occasional horns are heard for about a week beforehand. On Sunday evening about 10 p.m. on October 12th (1884) a few horns in different parts, calling together those who were to take part in the march round, were heard ; and these gradually increased in number and became mingled with an occasional tin tray etc. until 12 o'clock, when the whole body of about 300 assembled at the Antelope Hotel moved off in no particular order and marched once all over the town, starting down Cheap Street and then passing through as many as possible until all the most important had been visited, keeping up an incessant din the whole time with horns, bugles, and all sorts of tin trays etc. that would make a noise. About 2 a.m. the town is allowed to go to sleep.This is what is left of the old custom, and seems likely to last in about its same proportions until something puts an end to Pack Monday Fair itself."
Other sources read: Dark Dorset - Folklore, Customs and Ghost Stories in Sherborne by Elisabeth Bletsoe

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

'Merry Meet' issue 53 out now!

Merry Meet Issue 53 Summer 2014
Merry Meet Magazine is an independent quarterly journal of Folklore and Pagan Heritage, produced and edited by local musician and author Jerry Bird. 

In Issue 53 Summer 2014, articles include:
  •  News & Comment
  • The Angel of Mons
  • Montem Mound
  • A Midsummer Divination Spell
  • The Lost Stone Circles of Dorset (Part 1)
  • Reviews: Ameth - The Life and Times of Doreen Valiente by Jonathan Tapsell and Pagan Britain by Prof. Ronal Hutton
  • Folklore Diary
Current Stockists

    For more information visit www.merrymeetmagazine.co.uk

    Monday, 29 September 2014

    The Devil Spits - The Traditions and Customs of Michaelmas Day

    The 29th September is better known as ‘Michaelmas Day’, or ‘The Feast of St Michael and All Angels’. ‘St Michael’ is the archangel who personally threw ‘Lucifer’ out of Heaven. According to the legend, when Lucifer fell from grace, he landed on Earth right in the middle of a bramble bush. Since then, he returns on every anniversary to get his revenge by fouling and spitting upon all unpicked blackberries. Therefore it is believed whoever gathers them afterwards will have bad luck! It is true that, by this day, maggots and early frosts will probably have spoilt the crop!

    MICAHAELMAS DAISIES

    At this time of year, the Aster (Aster nova-belgii) blooms, and it has become known as the Michaelmas Daisy. The Michaelmas Daisy comes in many colours, from white to pink to purple. An old verse goes:

    The Michaelmas Daisies,
    among dede weeds,

    Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.

    And seems the last of flowers that stood,

    Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.


    (The Feast of St. Simon and St.Jude is 28 October) An old custom surrounds Michaelmas Daisies; one plucks off the petals one by one thus: pull a petal while saying

    Michaelmas Daisies
    ""S/he loves me," then pull of the next while saying "S/he loves me not," and repeat until all petals are gone. The words one intones while pulling off the last petal lets one know if one's love is requited.

    As to foods, geese were, at least at one time, plentiful during this time of year, so roast goose dinners are traditional (eating them on this day is said to protect against financial hardship, according to Irish and English folk belief). It was also the time (at least in Ireland) when the fishing season ended, the hunting season began, and apples were harvested, so eating apples today with that goose would be a nice touch.

    WEATHER LORE

    Michaelmas was considered another key date for weather predictions. A clear sunny Michaelmas Day meant that a dry but freezing winter lay ahead.

    If ducks do slide at Michaelmas,
    At Christmas they will swim;

    If ducks do swim at Michaelmas

    At Christmas they will slide.


    Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days September 29th 1864, details the traditions of Michaelmas.
    MICHAELMAS DAY

    Michaelmas Day, the 29th of September, properly named the day of St. Michael and All Angels, is a great festival of the Church of Rome, and also observed as a feast by the Church of England. In England, it is one of the four quarterly terms, or quarter-days, on which rents are paid, and in that and other divisions of the United Kingdom, as well as perhaps in other countries, it is the day on which burgal magistracies and councils are re-elected. The only other remarkable thing connected with the day is a widely prevalent custom of marking it with a goose at dinner.
    St Michael defeats the Devil
    Michael is regarded in the Christian world as the chief of angels, or archangel. His history is obscure. In Scripture, he is mentioned five times, and always in a warlike character; namely, thrice by Daniel as fighting for the Jewish church against Persia; once by St. Jude as fighting With the devil about the body of Moses; and once by St. John as fighting at the head of his angelic troops against the dragon and his host. Probably, on the hint thus given by St. John the Romish church taught at an early period that Michael was employed, in command of the loyal angels of God, to overthrow and consign to the pit of perdition Lucifer and his rebellious associates—a legend which was at length embalmed in the sublimest poetry by Milton.

    Sometimes Michael is represented as the sole arch-angel, sometimes as only the head of a fraternity of archangels, which includes likewise Gabriel, Raphael, and some others. He is usually represented in coat-armour, with a glory round his head, and a dart in his hand, trampling on the fallen Lucifer. He has even been furnished, like the human warriors of the middle ages, with a heraldic ensign—namely, a banner hanging from a cross. We obtain a curious idea of the religious notions of those ages, when we learn that the red velvet-covered buckler worn by Michael in his war with Lucifer used to be shewn in a church in Normandy down to 1607, when the bishop of Avranches at length forbade its being any longer exhibited.

    Angels are held by the Church of Rome as capable of interceding for men; wherefore it is that prayers are addressed to them and a festival appointed in their honour. Wheatley, an expositor of the Book of Common Prayer, probably expresses the limited view of the subject which is entertained in the Church of England, when he says, that 'I the feast of St. Michael and All Angels is observed that the people may know what blessings are derived from the ministry of angels.'

    Amongst Catholics, Michael, or, as he has been named, St. Michael, is invoked as 'a most glorious and warlike prince,' chief officer of paradise,' I captain of God's hosts,' receiver of souls,' 'the vanquisher of evil spirits,' and 'the admirable general.' It may also be remarked, that in the Sarum missal, there is a mass to St. Raphael, as the protector of pilgrims and travellers, and a skilful worker with medicine; likewise an office for the continual intercession of St. Gabriel and all the heavenly militia. Protestant writers trace a connection between the ancient notion of tutelar genii and the Catholic doctrine respecting angels, the one being, they say, ingrafted on the other.

    As to the soundness of this view we do not give any opinion, but it seems certain that in early ages there was a prevalent notion that the affairs of men were much under the direction of angels, good and bad, and men prayed to angels both to obtain good and to avoid evil. Every human being was supposed to have one of these spiritual existences watching over him, aiming at his good, and ready to hear his call when he was in affliction. And, however we may judge this to be a delusion, we must certainly own that, as establishing a connection between the children of earth and something above and beyond the earth, as leading men's minds away from the grossness of worldly pursuits and feelings into the regions of the beautiful and the infinite, it is one of by no means the worst tendency. We must be prepared, however, to find simplicity amidst all the more aspiring ideas of our forefathers.

    In time, the sainted spirits of pious persons came to stand in the place of the generally name-less angels, and each place and person had one of these as a special guardian and protector. Not only had each country its particular patron or tutelar saint, but there was one for almost every town and church. Even trades and corporations had their special saints. And there was one more specially to be invoked for each particular ail that could afflict humanity. It will be curious here to descend a little into particulars.

    First, as to countries, England had St. George; Scotland, St. Andrew; Ireland, St. Patrick; Wales, St. David; France, St. Dennis and (in a less degree) St. Michael; Spain, St. James (Jago); Portugal, St. Sebastian; Italy, St. Anthony; Sardinia, St. Mary; Switzerland, St. Gall and the Virgin Mary; Germany, St. Martin, St. Boniface, and St. George Cataphractus; Hungary, St. Mary of Aquisgrana and St. Lewis; Bohemia, St. Winceslaus; Austria, St. Colman and St. Leopold; Flanders, St. Peter; Holland, St. Mary; Denmark, St. Anscharius and St. Canute; Sweden, St. Anscharius, St. Eric, and St. John; Norway, St. Olaus and St. Anscharius; Poland, St. Stanislaus and St. Hederiga; Prussia, St. Andrew and St. Albert; Russia, St. Nicholas, St. Mary, and St. Andrew.

    Then as to cities, Edinburgh had St. Giles, Aberdeen St. Nicholas, and Glasgow St. Mungo; Oxford had St. Frideswide; Paris, St. Genevieve; Rome, Feast Day: St. Peter and St. Paul; Venice, St. Mark; Naples, St. Januarius and St. Thomas Aquinas; Lisbon, St. Vincent; Brussels, St. Mary and St. Gudula; Vienna, St. Stephen; Cologne, the three kings, with St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins.

    St. Agatha presides over nurses. St. Catherine and St. Gregory are the patrons of literati and studious persons; St. Catherine also presides over the arts. St. Christopher and St. Nicholas preside over mariners. St. Cecilia is the patroness of musicians. St. Cosmas and St. Damian are the patrons of physicians and surgeons, also of philosophers. St. Dismas and St. Nicholas preside over thieves; St. Eustace and St. Hubert over hunters; St. Felicitas over young children. St. Julian is the patron of pilgrims. St. Leonard and St. Barbara protect captives. St. Luke is the patron of painters. St. Martin and St. Urban preside over tipsy people, to save them from falling into the kennel. Fools have a tutelar saint in St. Mathurin, archers in St. Sebastian, divines in St. Thomas, and lovers in St. Valentine. St. Thomas Becket presided over blind men, eunuchs, and sinners, St. Winifred over virgins, and St. Yves over lawyers and civilians. St. Æthelbert and St. Elian were invoked against thieves.

    Generally, the connection of these saints with the classes of persons enumerated took its rise in some incident of their lives, and in the manner of their deaths; for instance, St. Nicholas was once in danger at sea, and St. Sebastian was killed by arrows. Probably, for like reasons, St. Agatha presided over valleys, St. Anne over riches, St. Barbara over hills, and St. Florian over fire; while St. Silvester protected wood, St. Urban wine and vineyards, and St. Osyth was invoked by women to guard their keys, and St. Anne as the restorer of lost things. Generally, the patron-saints of trades were, on similar grounds, persons who had themselves exercised them, or were supposed to have done so. Thus, St. Joseph naturally presided over carpenters, St. Peter over fishmongers, and St. Crispin over shoemakers. St. Arnold was the patron of millers, St. Clement of tanners, St. Eloy of smiths, St. Goodman of tailors, St. Florian of mercers, St. John Port-Latin of booksellers, St. Louis of periwig-makers, St. Severus of fullers, St. Wilfred of bakers, St. William of hatters, and St. Windeline of shepherds. The name of St. Cloud obviously made him the patron-saint of nailsmiths; St. Sebastian became that of pinmakers, from his having been stuck over with arrows; and St. Anthony necessarily was adopted by swine-herds, in consequence of the legend about his pigs. It is not easy, however, to see how St. Nicholas came to be the presiding genius of parish-clerks, or how the innocent and useful fraternity of potters obtained so alarming a saint as 'St. Gore with a pot in his hand, and the devil on his shoulder.'

    The medicating saints are enumerated in the following passage from a whimsical satire of the sixteenth century:

    To every saint they also do his office here assign,
    And fourteen do they count, of whom thou may'st have aid divine;
    Among the which Our Lady still cloth hold the chiefest place,
    And of her gentle nature helps in every kind of case.
    St. Barbara looks that none without the body of Christ oth die;
    St. Cath'rine favours learned men and gives them wisdom high,
    And teacheth to resolve the doubts, and always giveth aid
    Unto the scolding sophister, to make his reason staid.
    St. Apolin the rotten teeth doth help when sore they ache;
    Otilia from the bleared eyes the cause and grief cloth take;
    Rooke healeth scabs and mangins, with pocks, and scurf, and scall,
    And cooleth raging carbuncles, and boils, and botches all.
    There is a saint, whose name in verse cannot declared be,
    He serves against the plague and each infective malady.
    St. Valentine, beside, to such as do his power despise
    The falling-sickness sends, and helps the man that to him cries.
    The raging mind of furious folk oth Vitus pacify,
    And oth restore them to their wit, being called on speedily.
    Erasmus heals the colic and the griping of the guts,
    And Laurence from the back and from the shoulder sickness puts.
    Blaise drives away the quinsy quite with water sanctified,
    From every Christian creature here, and every beast beside.
    But Leonard of the prisoners oth the bands asunder pull,
    And breaks the prison-doors and chains, wherewith his church is full.
    The quartan ague, and the rest cloth Pernel take away,
    And John preserves the worshippers from prison every day;
    Which force to Bennet eke they give, that help enough may be,
    By saints in every place. What dost thou omitted see?
    From dreadful unprovided death oth Mark deliver his,
    Who of more force than death himself, and more of value is.
    St. Anne gives wealth and living great to such as love her most,
    And is a perfect finder out of things that have been lost;
    Which virtue likewise they ascribe unto another man,
    St. Vincent; what he is I cannot tell, nor whence he came.
    Against reproach and infamy on Susan do they call;
    Romanus driveth sprites away and wicked devils all.
    The bishop Wolfgang heals the gout, St. Wendlin keeps the sheep,
    With shepherds and the oxen fat, as he was wont to keep.
    The bristled hogs cloth Anthony preserve and cherish well,
    Who in his lifetime always did in woods and forests dwell.
    St. Gertrude rids the house of mice, and killeth all the rats;
    And like doth Bishop Huldrick with his two earth-passing cats.
    St. Gregory looks to little boys, to teach their a, b, c,
    And makes them for to love their books, and scholars good to be.
    St. Nicholas keeps the mariners from dangers and disease,
    That beaten are with boisterous waves, and toss'd in dreadful seas.
    Great Christopher that painted is with body big and tall,
    Doth even the same, who doth preserve and keep his servants all
    From fearful terrors of the night, and makes them well to most,
    By whom they also all their life with diverse joys are blest.
    St. Agatha defends the house from fire and fearful flame,
    But when it burns, in armour all doth Florian quench the same.'

    It will be learned, with some surprise, that these notions of presiding angels and saints are what have led to the custom of choosing magistracies on the 29th of September. The history of the middle ages is full of curious illogical relations, and this is one of them. Local rulers were esteemed as in some respects analogous to tutelar angels, in as far as they presided over and protected the people. It was therefore thought proper to choose them on the day of St. Michael and All Angels. The idea must have been extensively prevalent, for the custom of electing magistrates on this day is very extensive,

    'September, when by custom (right divine)
    Geese are ordained to bleed at Michael's shrine'

    says Churchill. This is also an ancient practice, and still generally kept up, as the appearance of the stage-coaches on their way to large towns at this season of the year amply testifies. In Blount's Tenures, it is noted in the tenth year of Edward IV, that John de la Hay was bound to pay to William Barnaby, Lord of Lastres, in the county of Hereford, for a parcel of the demesne lands, one goose fit for the lord's dinner, on the feast of St. Michael the archangel. Queen Elizabeth is said to have been eating her Michaelmas goose when she received the joyful tidings of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The custom appears to have originated in a practice among the rural tenantry of bringing a good stubble goose at Michaelmas to the landlord, when paying their rent, with a view to making him lenient. In the poems of George Gascoigne, 1575, is the following passage:

    And when the tenants come to pay their quarter's rent,
    They bring some fowl at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent,
    At Christmas a capon, at Michaelmas a goose,
    And somewhat else at New-year's tide, for fear their lease fly loose.'

    We may suppose that the selection of a goose for a present to the landlord at Michaelmas would be ruled by the bird being then at its perfection, in consequence of the benefit derived from stubble-feeding. It is easy to see how a general custom of having a goose for dinner on Michaelmas Day might arise from the multitude of these presents, as land-lords would of course, in most cases, have a few to spare for their friends. It seems at length to have become a superstition, that eating of goose at Michaelmas insured easy circumstances for the ensuing year. In the British Apollo, 1709, the following piece of dialogue occurs:

    'Q: Yet my wife would persuade me (as I am a sinner)
    To have a fat goose on St. Michael for dinner:
    And then all the year round, I pray you would mind it,
    I shall not want money—oh, grant I may find it!
    Now several there are that believe this is true,
    Yet the reason of this is desired from you.

    A: We think you're so far from the having of more,
    That the price of the goose you have less than before:
    The custom came up from the tenants presenting
    Their landlords with geese, to incline their relenting
    On following payments, &c.'

    Michaelmas Day, 1613, is remarkable in the annals of London, as the day when the citizens assembled to witness, and celebrate by a public pageant, the entrance of the New River waters to the metropolis.

    Sunday, 21 September 2014

    Happy Birthday H.G.Wells - British Science Fiction Author

    H.G.Wells
    Herbert George Wells was born on 21st September 1866 at Atlas House in Bromley, Kent. He began his literary career in earnest in 1895 with the publication of his first novel, "The Time Machine." Until this first success his life had been a patchwork of unsatisfactory drapery and chemist apprenticeships that were interrupted by stints as a teacher's assistant, and eventually acceptance into London's Normal School of Science where he studied biology under Darwin's "bull dog," the great T.H. Huxley.

    The 1890's saw the publication of the "scientific romances" that were to make him the most successful author of his time. Following "The Time Machine" was "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), "When the Sleeper Wakes" (1899), and "The First Men in the Moon" (1901). After this point he turned his prolific pen to social topics, history, and even a bit of hopeful prophecy with books like "Anticipations" (1901), "The Discovery of the Future" (1902), "Mankind in the Making" (1903), "The War in the Air" ,"War and the Future" (1917), "The Open Conspiracy" (1928), "The Shape of Things to Come" (1933), and "The New World Order" (1939).

    Martian Invasion!: The War of the Worlds
    A revolutionary in thought and deed, Wells was often the subject of public controversy owing to his attitude on so-called "free love" and women's rights. He was also a life-long believer in Socialism as the means to mankind's ultimate social salvation. His particular brand had nothing to do with the retrogressive Marxist strain and also helped bring him in conflict with other leading Socialist thinkers of his day during his brief stint with The Fabian Society. The outbreak of the First World War found a heretofore pacifist Wells changing his mind to support this Great War against the Hohenzollern "Blood and Iron" Imperial aggression. He reacted by writing a pamphlet in 1914 addressing the anti-war and pacifist elements in Britain entitled "The War That Will End War." Its title became proverbial almost instantly and is used to refer to the First World War even today. After spending time with the British government's War Office in the Propaganda Department and helping to define a clear set of war aims, he resigned and returned to writing propaganda his way. Even before the Great War began he published "The World Set Free" early in 1914. It was a prophetic novel about a world war against Imperial Germany and her "Central European Allies" which included a remarkably accurate forecast of atomic warfare and even coined the term "atomic bomb." He was amongst the first to call for a post war League of Nations but was bitterly disappointed with and critical of the actual League that developed. He spent the early part of the 1920's writing "The Outline of History," which like so many of his previous works was also enormously successful on both sides of the Atlantic. The 1930's found H.G. Wells profoundly disturbed by the rising din of Nietzschean nationalism from Nazi Germany and Fascism in Italy. His critical writings on the aggressive "Krupp cum Kaiser" Imperial Germany coupled with his outright vicious attacks on Adolf Hitler and his accomplices earned H.G. Wells the distinction of having his "anti-German" books burned by Goebbels during the infamous book bonfires at German universities. The name "H.G. Wells" also appeared very near the top of a list compiled by the SS/SD command staff of those intellectuals and politicians slated for immediate liquidation upon the invasion of Britain by the Nazis. Winston Churchill was also named. He remained at his flat at number 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park, London throughout the war and walked his own fire watch, even as his equally wealthy neighbors fled the Luftwaffe's Blitz to their comfortable country estates.

    On the 13th August 1946, H.G.Wells died at his London home in Regent's Park. In his preface to the 1941 edition of "The War in the Air", Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: "I told you so. You damned fools!" but his wish was not granted as he was cremated on 16th August 1946.

    His ashes were later scattered at sea, off Old Harry Rocks, Studland. In his book "H.G.Wells: Aspects of a Life" the son of Wells, Anthony West gives a moving account.
    "My father died on the afternoon of the thirteenth of August 1946, a few weeks before reaching his eightieth birthday. His body was cremated three days later, and rather more than a year after that I chartered a boat named the Deirdre, owned by Captain Miller of Poole in Dorset. My half-brother George Philip Wells came down from London bringing the ashes with him, and we went out to scatter them on the sea at a point we had picked out on a line between Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight and St. Alban's Head on the Dorset shore. That was our intention. But when the Deirdre cleared the narrow mouth of Poole Harbour we found that the wind coming up the Solent from the South West beyond St. Alban's Head was freshening. The tide was just turning and beginning to run out into the face of the wind. A wind blowing over a contrary tide is a recipe for short steep seas, and the Deirdre was soon pitching nastily.

    The idea of burying my father at sea had come to my half-brother during the memorial service at the crematorium. A passage from the last chapter of his novel Tono-Bungay, "Night and the Open Sea," had then been read with telling effect, and while listening to its description of the book's narrator taking his newly launched torpedo-boat destroyer down the Thames and out into the North Sea to run its speed trials, my half-brother had thought, yes, that will be it, that will be the right thing to do. "We make and pass," the passage concludes by saying. "We are all things that make and pass, striving upon a hidden mission, out to the open sea."
    Old Harry Rocks
    The idea had seemed romantic and suitable when it was put to me,and I had been for it. But its defects soon became clear in that condition of wind and tide. My half-brother and I both became quiet and thoughtful. Captain Miller became entirely expressionless as he kept his boat bunting into the waves. We could all see that as soon as we were out of the shelter of Purbeck Island and in the open Solent things were going to be a lot wetter and much more uncomfortable. While we were still abeam of the two chalk stacks called Old Harry and Old Harry's Wife that stand below the white cliffs between Swanage and Studland, my father's ashes went into the sea. The wind took them off as a long veil that struck the very pale green water with a hiss. The Deirdre wallowed as Captain Miller put her about, and I had a moment of agony. He was really gone now, and I was never, ever going to get that stupid business about blackmail and the pro-Nazi conspirators in the BBC straightened out with him. I was surprised by the intense bitterness this thought aroused in me, and by the discovery that I could feel so strongly about the matter when he was no longer in a position to care about anything at all."
    Websites:

    The H.G.Wells Society

    Online Literature: HG Wells. Biography of HG Wells and a searchable collection of works.

    Saturday, 30 August 2014

    Happy Birthday Mary Shelley - author of Frankenstein

    Few seaside towns can claim so many literary associations as Bournemouth. The remains of writer, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, author of one of the most famous of all Gothic horror novels - Frankenstein, is buried in the cemetery of St. Peters in the centre of the town.

    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
    Portrait of Mary Shelley, painted by Richard Rothwell in 1840.
    Mary Shelley was born on the 30th August 1797, in Somers Town, London. She was the second daughter of feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and political journalist William Godwin (who are aso interred in her grave). Her mother died shortly after Mary's birth from a hemorrhage  sustained either during delivery or by the actions of the midwife. Unusual for girls at the time, Mary received an excellent education. She published her first poem at the age of ten.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley and his first wife Harriet often visited Godwin's home and bookshop in London. At the age of 16 Mary eloped to France and then Switzerland with Shelley. During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva. Apparently inspired by a ghost tale contest among her friends, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont Mary had what she called a waking dream that became the manuscript for her most famous work, entitled ‘Frankenstein' or 'The Modern Prometheus'.

    It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who tries to create a living being for the good of humanity but instead produces a monster.  Frankenstein creates his monster by assembling parts of dead bodies and activating the creature with electricity.  The monster, which has no name in the book, is actually a gentle, intelligent creature.  However, everyone fears and mistreats him because of his hideous appearance.  Frankenstein rejects the monster and refuses to create a mate for him.  The monster's terrible loneliness drives him to seek revenge by murdering Frankenstein's wife, brother, and best friend.  Frankenstein dies while trying to track down and kill the monster, who disappears into the Arctic at the end of the novel. 


    Film Posters for Universal Studios 1931 version of 'Frankenstein'
    Film Posters for Universal Studios 1931 version of 'Frankenstein'
    Many films have been based on the character of Frankenstein's monster, the most iconic being played by Boris Karloff in the Universal Studios 1931 version of the novel.  Most are simply tales of horror and have little to do with the serious themes of Shelley's novel.  These themes include the possible dangers involved in scientific experimentation with life and the suffering caused by judging people by their appearance. 

    Mary and Shelley married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife committed suicide by drowning. In 1818 the Shelleys left England for Italy. The Italian adventure was, however, blighted for Mary by the death of both her children Clara, in Venice and their son Will died from malaria in Rome.  Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the death and almost died of a later miscarriage. It was followed by the birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In July 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed up the Italian coast and was caught in a storm on his return. He drowned on the 8th July along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant.

     To support herself and her child, Mary wrote novels, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), and the autobiographical Lodore (1835).  She spent much of her life in promoting her late husband's work, including editing and annotating unpublished material. She returned to England, never to re-marry.


    The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
    The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
    She died on 1st February 1851 in Chester Square, London of what some suspect to be a brain tumor, before her to move to live with her son Percy Florence Shelley at Boscombe Manor. Her last book, sometimes considered her best work, was ‘Maria', which was published posthumously.  Her son brought his mothers remains to be interred in St. Peter's Churchyard in Bournemouth, along with Percy's heart, which was not originally buried with his body. It was retrieved from his funeral pyre by his friend Trelawny and kept by Shelley's wife Mary, pressed flat, in a copy of the poet's "Adonais" and was interred for the first time in Mary's tomb.

    Source: www.darkdorset.co.uk

    Friday, 22 August 2014

    Happy Birthday "Folklore" - On this day, the 22nd August 1846, the term Folk-Lore, was 'born'


    William John Thoms
    William John Thoms
    On this day, the 22nd August 1846, the term "Folklore", was coined, by English antiquarian, William John Thoms (1803-1885).

    Thoms is credited with inventing the term under the pseudonym Ambrose Merton in a letter to the London literary magazine ‘Athenaeum’. 

    He invented this composite word to replace the various other terms used at the time including (1803-1885)"popular antiquities" or "popular literature" to describe people’s traditional beliefs, ballads, proverbs, customs, popular superstitions and legends.

    During the 1800's, scholars like Thoms, believed that folklore in ancient times had been shared by all members of a society. Most ancient peoples lived in rural communities. Over the centuries, large numbers of people moved to cities and gradually lost touch with so-called "authentic" folk uneducated peasants called ‘folk’, whose way of life had changed little for traditions. According to the scholars of the 1800’s, those traditions were preserved by hundreds of years.


    Brothers Grimm
    The Brothers Grimm
    Amongst the most notable leading folklore scholars were two German brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. From 1807 to 1814, they collected folk tales from peasants who lived near Kassel, in Germany. The Grimms believed that by collecting the tales, they were preserving for all time the heritage of all Germans. The stories they collected became famous as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

    But some versions of these tales are found throughout Europe, the Near East, and Asia. Today, scholars consider folk to be any group of people who share at least one common linking factor. This factor may be, Geography, as in folklore of the English Countryside, Religion, as in Jewish folklore, Occupation, as in Fisherman folklore, Ethnic background, as in French-Canadian folklore. Some scholars believe that even a family can be considered folk because many families have their own traditions and stories.

    Characteristics of folklore

    Folklore can be short and simple or long and complicated. Brief proverbs, such as "Time flies" and "Money talks," are famous examples of folklore. On the other hand, in other parts of the world, some folk plays begin at sundown and end at dawn. It is extremely difficult to make up folklore.

    The songs, stories, and other material that became folklore were, of course, thought up by various people. But those individuals had the rare ability to create a subject and a style that appealed to others over the years. Folklore survives only if it retains that appeal.

    People would not bother to retell tales or continue to follow customs that had no meaning for them. This is the reason people keep on using the same folklore over and over. To be considered authentic folklore, an item must have at least two versions.


    For example, scholars have identified more than 1,000 versions of the fairy tale about Cinderella. These versions developed over hundreds of years in many countries, including China, France, Germany, and Turkey. Changes in folklore often occur as a story passes from person to person. These changes, called variations, are one of the surest indications that the item is true folklore. Variations frequently appear in both the words and music of folk songs. The same lyrics may be used with different tunes, or different words may be set to the same music. For example the nursery rhymes "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" have the same melody. 

    Kinds of folklore:  

    Myths
    Myths are stories that explain how the world and humanity reached their present form. Myths differ from most types of folk stories because myths are considered to be true among the people who develop them. Many myths describe the creation of the earth. In some of these stories, a god creates the earth. In others, the earth emerges from a flood. A number of myths describe the creation of the human race and the origin of death.
    Folk Tales
    Folk tales are fictional stories about animals or human beings. Most of these tales are not set in any particular time or place, and they begin and end in a certain way. For example, many English folk tales begin with the phrase "Once upon a time" and end with "They lived happily ever after." Fables are one of the most popular types of folk tales. They are animal stories that try to teach people how to behave. One fable describes a race between a tortoise and a hare. The tortoise, though it is a far slower animal, wins because the hare foolishly stops to sleep. This story teaches the lesson that someone who works steadily can come out ahead of a person who is faster or has a head start. In many European fairy tales, the hero or heroine leaves home to seek some goal. After various adventures, he or she wins a prize or a marriage partner, in many cases a prince or princess. One popular kind of folk tale has a trickster as the hero. Each culture has its own trickster figure. Most tricksters are animals like the wolf, fox and the cunning hare who act like human beings.
     Legends
    Legends, like myths, are stories told as though they were true. But legends are set in the real world and in relatively recent times. Many legends tell about human beings who meet supernatural creatures, such as fairies, ghosts, vampires, and witches. A number of legends are associated with famous people who have died. Others tell of holy persons and religious leaders. Some legends describe how saints work miracles. The action in myths and folk tales ends at the conclusion of the story. But the action in many legends has not been completed by the story's end. For example, a legend about a buried treasure may end by saying that the treasure has not yet been found. A legend about a haunted house may suggest that the house is still haunted. A number of legends tell about the Loch Ness Monster, a lake monster in Scotland; and the Beast of Exmoor, a large cat that haunts the Somerset moors. Some people believe these creatures actually exist. From time to time, various expeditions have tried to find both of them.
     Folk songs
    Folk songs have been created for almost every human activity. Some are associated with work. For example, sailors sing songs called ‘shanties’ while pulling in their lines. Folk songs may deal with birth, childhood, courtship, marriage, and death. Parents sing folk lullabies to babies. Children sing traditional songs as part of some games. Other folk songs are sung at weddings and funerals. Some folk songs are related to seasonal activities, such as planting and harvesting. Many are sung on certain holidays. The English Christmas folk song "I saw three ships " is a popular example. Some folk songs celebrate the deeds of real or imaginary heroes. But people sing many folk songs simply for enjoyment.
    Superstitions and Customs

    A large number of superstitions and customs supposedly help control or predict the future. The people of fishing communities may hold elaborate ceremonies that are designed to ensure a good catch as in the custom of the Abbostbury Garland. Many people try to foretell future events by analysing the relationships among the planets and stars.

    Superstitions and customs are involved largely in marking a person's advancement from one stage of life to another. For example, one such superstition concerns the Cerne Abbas Giant's powers of fertility and the belief that childless couples who made love on a phallic part of the figure would soon be blessed with children. While young women wishing to keep their lovers faithful would walk around the hill figure three times.
     Holidays
    Holidays are special occasions celebrated by a group, and almost all of them include some elements of folklore. Christmas is especially rich in folklore. A national group may celebrate this holiday with its own special foods and costumes. Many groups have variations of the same folk custom. In a number of countries, for example, children receive presents at Christmas. In Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Father Christmas or Santa Claus brings the presents. In Italy, an old woman named La Befana distributes the gifts. In some countries of Europe, the gifts come from the Christ child. In others, the Three Wise Men bring them.
     Folklore and the arts
    Folklore has made a major contribution to the world's arts. Many folk stories and folk songs are beautiful works of art themselves. Folklore has also inspired masterpieces of literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer used a number of folk tales in his famous Canterbury Tales. William Shakespeare based the plots of several of his plays on folk tales. These plays include King Lear, The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew.

    Certain legends and myths have attracted artists, composers, and writers for centuries, most recent revival has been made by Seth Lakeman in his songs that have been inspired by legends and folk stories of the south west of England like Childe the Hunter, Kitty Jay, The White Hare and The Hurlers.
    One legend tells about a medieval German scholar named Faust who sold his soul to the devil. This legend has been the basis of many novels, plays, operas, and orchestral works. Faust, a drama by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is perhaps the greatest work in German literature.
     Folklore and society
    Folklore reflects the attitudes and ideals of a society. For example, much folklore reflects how a society regards the roles of males and females in real life. In many examples of Western folklore, women are depicted as passive and uncreative. A society that produces such folklore considers men superior to women.

    This attitude appears in a 18th century Scottish proverb “A crooning cow, a crowing Hen and a whistling Maid boded never luck to a house”. According to the proverb, a girl who whistles like a boy and a hen that crows like a rooster are unnatural. The proverb implies that women should not try to take part in activities traditionally associated with men, an idea that has become outdated in modem society.

    A common wedding custom calls for the groom to carry his bride over the threshold of their home. This custom suggests that the woman is weak and must be carried through the doorway - and presumably through life - by the strong male. In many Western fairy tales, a female is captured by a villain and waits quietly until a heroic male rescues her.



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