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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Barnes Night! Happy Birthday Rev. William Barnes

Rev. William Barnes
On this day 22nd February 1801, Dorset poet and dialectologist, Rev. William Barnes. was born in the village of Bagber, near Sturminster Newton.

Barnes wrote a large number of poems in the Dorset dialect and his works paint a simple and sincere picture of the life and labour of the south west of England.  His many books include 'An Outline of English Speech Craft', 'Poems of Rural Life in Common England', 'Poems of Rural Life' (two series) and 'Hwomely Rhymes'.  Barnes began his working life as a solicitor's clerk. He went on to become a successful teacher and headmaster and in later life, a priest. Dorset Folklorist John Symonds Udal was a close friend of Barnes and would often visit him at his home at Winterborne Came.

Lucy Baxter, when writing the life of her father William Barnes (1801-1886), says 'Another visitor was J. S. Udal, Esq., a barrister who used to find time for a visit to the Rectory as often as his duties on circuit brought him near Came. Mr. Udal was of some assistance to the Dorset poet in sending him new words for the Glossary, which was always enlarging itself under his hand, and he returned the service by collecting legends and superstitions for Mr. Udal’s contemplated work on the Folk-lore of Dorsetshire, for which, nearly ten years later, Barnes, at his request, wrote an introduction.'

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pancakes and Football: The Customs and Traditions of Shrove Tuesday

The tradition of flipping the pancake
is often observed on this day
Today is Shrove Tuesday, Also known as "Pancake Day", Shrove Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent in the Christian faith. Dates vary from year to year, but it usually falls in February, sometimes early March. It is the day of preparation for Lent, when the eating pancakes was made obvious by the need to up the eggs and fat, the eating of which were prohibited during the forty days of Lent.

Below: Shrove Tuesday 20th February 2007 at All Saints Church, Rectory Green, Easton, Portland, Dorset.



Shrove Tuesday in Dorset

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of Shrove Tuesday in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-
Lent-crocking. — Also known as Pancake Day. Dorsetshire was not behind other counties in the usual festive observances commemorative of this day. That especially applicable to its name of " Pancake Day " was the custom of " Lent-crocking " — the name speaks for itself — which obtained in many parts of the county.

The earliest reference to " Lent-crocking " that I can find from a Dorset source is from the pen of the Dorset poet himself, the Rev. William Barnes, in Hone's Year Book, p. 800 (ed. 1832), which, as it gives a very graphic description of the custom, racy as the soil, I give in full:—
"In some of the villages of Dorsetshire and Wiltshire the boys, at Shrovetide, still keep up a custom called Lent-Crocking, which originated in the carnival of Roman Catholic times, and consists in going round in the  evening to pelt the doors of the inhabitants with pieces of broken crockery.

" In Dorsetshire the boys sometimes go round in small parties, and the leader goes up and knocks at the door, leaving his followers behind him armed with a good stock of potsherds—the collected relics of the washing-pans, jugs, dishes, and plates that have become the victims of concussion in the unlucky hands of careless housewives for the past year. When the door is opened the hero, who is perhaps a farmer's boy, with a pair of black eyes sparkling under the tattered brim of his brown milking-hat, covered with cow's hair and dirt like the inside of a blackbird's nest, hangs, down his head, and, with one corner of his mouth turned up into an irrepressible smile, pronounces, in the dialect of his county, the following lines composed for the occasion, perhaps, by some mendicant friar whose name might have been suppressed with the monasteries by Henry VIII :—
'I be come a shrovin,
Vor a little pankiak,
A bit o' bread o' your biakin,
Or a little truckle cheese o' your own miakin.
If you'll gi' me a little I'll ax no more,
If you don't gi' me nothin I'll rottle your door.'(In later editions of his poems Barnes softened down the vowels " ia " of the rich Doric of the Blackmore Vale into " ea ". See Chapter II, p. 65 (n.)
"Sometimes he gets a piece of bread and cheese; and at some houses he is told to be gone, when he calls up his followers to send their missiles in a rattling broadside against the door. In Wiltshire the begging of pancake and bread and cheese is omitted; and the Lent-crockers pelt the doors as a matter of course.

"The broken pots and dishes originally signified that, as Lent was begun, those cooking vessels were of no use, and were supposed to be broken; and the cessation of flesh-eating is understood in the begging of  pancakes and bread and cheese."
 

In 1872 F. C. H. (the well-known Rev. Dr. F. C. Husenbeth) in Notes and Queries (Ser. iv, ix, 135) referred to a Dorset custom of boys going about at Shrovetide with potsherds to throw at people's doors. These were tolerated, but they were not allowed to throw stones. As they called at the various houses they used to sing this doggerel:—

" I'm come a-shroveing,
For a piece of pancake,
Or a piece of bacon,
Or a little truckle cheese
Of your own making.
Give me some or give me none,
Or else your door shall have a stone."
 

I replied (p. 208) calling attention to the interesting account of this custoin given in Chambers' Book of Days (1864, vol. i, p. 239), and there spoken of as existing in Dorset and Wilts. I added a second verse, as given in Chambers, which savours more of the old vernacular speech. Chambers also gives a first verse which varies somewhat from that furnished by F. C. H.
 

The second verse is as follows :—

" A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin,
Nice meat in a pie,
My mouth is very dry !
I wish a wuz zoo well-a-wet
I'de zing the louder for a nut.

Chorus :   A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
We be come a-shrovin,"


I may say that at that time I was not aware that the account in Chambers, though not the verses, was taken directly from Barnes's description in the Year Book given above.
 

Many years ago the late Rev. W. K. Kendall, of East Lulworth, sent me some MSS. containing various references to Dorset customs and superstitions which he had met with. His remarks as to this particular custom are well worth giving. He says :—

" I am told by a Portlander that it is still the custom for boys on Shrove Tuesday to go round the villages throwing stones, etc,, at the doors of the houses. The following doggerel is sung :—


'Slit, slat, sling,
If you don't give me a pancake
I'll make your doors ring.'

" On this account Shrove Tuesday is called ' Pansherding Day'. This custom has been observed also at West Lulworth until very lately.


"In the parish of Berwick St. James also the children go a-shroving. On Shrove Tuesday they sing the following verses from house to house :—
 

We are coming shroving,
For a piece of pan-cake,
For a piece of chuckle cheese,
Of your own making.
Is the pan hot,
Is the pan cold,
Is the peas in the pot,
Nine days old?
Is the knives and forks whet?
Is the bread and cheese cut?
Is the best barrel tapped?
For we are come shroving.' "


The following account of the custom as occurring at Stalbridge, in the northern part of the county, is taken from the Rev. W. S. Swayne's pamphlet on the History and Antiquities of Stalbridge (1889), p. 36 :—


" On Shrove Tuesday evening the boys of the parish were accustomed to pelt the doors of the inhabitants with shards and tiles ; this was called keeping Pan-shard night.
" The traditional account was that when King Alfred raised his banner at Stourhead the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages were in this way summoned to join him. This custom died a natural death soon after the passing of Sir Robert Peel's new Police Act."


The Rev. Herbert Pentin, late Vicar of Milton Abbey, in the northern part of the county, contributes an interesting account of this custom as still practised in that parish to the Proceedings of the " Dorset Field Club " for 1904 (vol. xxv, p. 4). After telling us that the sports in Old Milton were badger-baiting under the cedar trees in the Abbey churchyard, cock-squailing, cock-fighting, and playing of fives outside the west end of the church, whilst bowls were played on the bowling-green and ringing was very popular, Mr. Pentin goes on to say :—


" During Lent the children went ' Shroving' and ' Lent-crocking'. On Shrove-Tuesday the children, carrying sticks, knocked at the doors of the principal residents and repeated this doggerel verse:—


' Please I've come a-shroving
For a piece of pancake
Or a little ruckle cheese
Of your own making.
If you don't give me some,
If you don't give me none,
I'll knock down your door
With a great marrow bone
And away I'll run.'


"The result of this threat was that the children were given half-pence, apples, eggs, a piece of pancake, or a piece of ruckle cheese. A ruckle cheese was a small sour-milk home-made cheese weighing about a pound. It could be rucked, i.e. rolled along the ground. Hence its name
(More generally known, perhaps, as " truckle-cheese ". (See Barnes's Glossary.) In the evening the ' Lent-crocking ' began. Those people who had not given the children anything when they came ' a-shroving ' were then rewarded by having pieces of broken crockery and pans and other missiles thrown at their doors. In this way real damage was often done.


" The practice of shroving still exists in the present village of Milton ; it is one of the customs which have survived the demolition of the old town. It exists in other parishes, but is gradually dying out."


See also a similar account by the same writer in Memorials of Old Dorset (1907, pp. 111-12).
Sometimes, it would appear, an attempt was made by the owner or occupier of the house whose door was so battered to derive some personal advantage out of " Lent-crocking" by a selfish limitation or variation of the old custom.


A correspondent (T. B. G.) in the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (1889, vol. i, p. 158), states that in the early days of the century a schoolmaster at Cerne was accustomed to permit each boy to hurl against the school door a log of wood, no matter what the weight; and great were the efforts to break through, or, at least, crack the venerable oak, well studded with iron. But nothing of the kind happened ; the only tangible result being the accumulation of a handsome pile of fuel for future use of the wily pedagogue.


But in later days, apparently, all owners of houses are not inclined to take so quietly the often unpleasant results that follow the attacks of disappointed " Lent-crockers " and appeal to the law for protection ; and, of course, however much one may regret from a folk-lore point of view that it should be so, when the law is invoked with that object custom must give way.
 

At all events this would seem to have been the result of the following case which I find amongst my notes, taken, I believe, from the Bridport News sometime in the " eighties " :—
 

"PANCAKE DAY

"Eliza Jane Horn and Fanny English, young women were summoned by Elizabeth —— of Allweston, for wilfully injuring a door, doing damage to the amount of eight shillings.


"Complainant was the owner of a cottage occupied by a widow named Harriet Cooper, and about ten o'clock on the night of Shrove Tuesday defendants, in obedience to old-established custom, were full of the fun and frolic associated with the day of pancakes and fritters. Accordingly they sallied forth with a large stone jar as the 'pan-shard' to use in the event of meeting with no response to the cry of ' Gie us some pancake O ! '
 

"Arriving opposite the house the widow was alarmed with a bang and crash at the front door and shook with fear. It was a long time before she could muster up enough courage to go and see the cause of the crash; and when she arrived at the front door, the panel of which was broken with the blow, she saw at her feet the remnants of the jar; and in the road close by were the defendants, hugely delighted with their achievement.

"Defendants now denied that they did the mischief ; but four witnesses were called who stated that they saw them close by the house at the time it was done, and that no one else was there.
 

"The Bench thought that sufficient evidence had been given to prove guilt, and fined defendants six shillings and costs, as well as ordering them to pay eight shillings damages. After some protest the money was paid."

Cock-squailing.


I do not suppose that the rural population of the western counties was more cruel or brutal in its amusements than those in other counties,—particularly in the midland or northern counties, where bull-baiting, dog and cock-fighting seems to have been very prevalent,—but the age was a rough one and the manners of the people uncouth. What wonder then if their amusements and customs sometimes followed suit!

The particularly cruel and barbarous amusement of " throwing at cocks ", or " cock-squailing ",—as it is called in the Dorset dialect,—was a common pastime on Shrove Tuesday and sometimes also, it is said, at Whitsuntide.
 

A spirited engraving of this so-called sport is shown in Hone's Every-Day Book (vol. i, p. 129), in which the bird,—a hen in this case,—is depicted lying wounded on the ground, tethered to a stake, and upbraiding, like Balaam's ass, those who had struck her.
 

George Roberts, the well-known Dorset historian and writer upon social subjects, in speaking of the cruelty of the seventeenth century and how it was fostered, alludes in his Social History of the Southern Counties (1856) to this custom. He says (p. 422):—

" When a young couple were blessed with offspring the mother, while early instilling the rudiments of virtuous instruction, did not fail to procure the means for early capability of keeping Shrove Tuesday in an orthodox manner. The village tailor made a cloth representation of a cock, which, being lined with lead, regained an erect position upon being knocked down by the juvenile cock-squailer. To practise upon a living bird was but the next step in the art."


Cock-fighting 


"Cock-fighting" was another form of pastime,—less brutal and degrading, perhaps, than the last,— commonly practised at this time.
 

It seems to have been largely followed in the old grammar schools, and Roberts speaks (p. 423) of " cock-pence " being still paid in some grammar schools to the master as a perquisite on Shrove Tuesday.
 

Hutchins also (History of Dorset, iii, 197) refers to the custom of cock-fighting on Shrove Tuesday having been long established at Wimborne Grammar School, and only discontinued at the beginning of the last century; but as it is there dealt with at some length as rather constituting a local custom at Wimborne, I will reserve further notice of it for my chapter on Local Customs.

Kicking the Ball 

"Kicking the ball,"—to which the modern and highly scientific game of " football" was in the olden days entirely restricted,—was a pastime customary to Shrove Tuesday in certain parts of Dorsetshire,—though not, I believe, to any large extent.

From time immemorial, however, it would seem to have been indulged in at Corfe Castle by the quarrymen of Purbeck; but is so identified with their life and customs that I thought it better to deal with it in my chapter later upon Local Customs rather than treat it here as a calendar custom merely.


(i) Quarrymen's customs. — One of the oldest and most interesting amongst the customs of the Isle of Purbeck is that connected with the quarrymen of the district—the " Purbeck Marblers ", as they were anciently called. These quarrymen, who were resident in the districts of Corfe Castle and Swanage, were formed into a strong company or guild, to whom was granted a charter confirming all their rights and privileges. These were evidenced by a series of Articles of Agreement. Corfe Castle was the proper metropolis of the quarriers' country; though Swanage, being the place of shipment of the stone, the business tended more to that quarter. At one time, it is said, the general meeting was opened at Corfe, and adjourned to Swanage; but afterwards the meetings were held at Corfe and Langton respectively.
 

Marblers Football and Boots
displayed at the Corfe Museum
Hutchins (vol i, pp. 682-4) gives an account of the Marblers' • Company and of the articles of their charter, which account was taken from a paper by the late Mr. Oliver W. Farrer, which appeared in that interesting but short-lived—and now very scarce—publication, The Purbeck Papers, in 1859. Hutchins states that the early history of the company is involved in obscurity, the ancient records having been destroyed in a fire at Corfe Castle. They were governed by certain rules or articles of agreement, which it seems to have been customary to renew at intervals, for several copies, varying only in orthography, are extant. To one of these, in the possession of the only member of the company then resident in Corfe Castle, and one of the wardens, was attached a seal, purporting to be the seal of the Company of Marblers, but it was a heraldic  device, viz. On a pale three roses slipped proper. (The Roses of Kempstone in Corfe Castle bore "on a pale three roses slipped ".)

To this account of Mr. Farrer's I would refer those who desire a fuller account of the company and its constitution.
(References might also be made to Biggs's Isle of Purbeck, pp. 27-8 ; and for privileges and customs of Corfe to the late Mr. Thomas Bond's History of Corfe Castle (1883), p. 125.) In the Standard newspaper of 10th March, 1886, appeared a very good and succinct account of a meeting of the Purbeck quarrymen at Corfe Castle on Shrove Tuesday (their customary day of meeting) of that year. This account I, many years after, sent to the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (1907), vol. x, p. 249, with references to Mr. Farrer's article in the Purbeck Papers ; and as it expresses all that it seems to me necessary to state here about the Company and its customs, I reproduce it.
 

A photograph of Purbeck Marblers
kicking a football through the
streets of Corfe Castle, Dorset,
on Shrove Tuesday, 1938
"A curious old custom among the quarrymen of the Isle of Purbeck was observed yesterday at Corfe Castle. There is among the quarrymen a charter bearing the date 1551, which is rigorously obeyed in order to keep the working of the stone quarries in the Isle of Purbeck in the hands of the freemen. To be able to take up one's freedom one must be the legitimate son of a freeman. He must be 21 years of age, up to which time his wages belong to his parents.

"Once during the year the quarrymen used to meet at Corfe Castle Town Hall and there read the charter, and on that occasion, viz. Shrove Tuesday, ' free boys ' claim and take up their freedom. Yesterday morning a large number of quarrymen assembled in the Town Hall, Corfe Castle, and proceeded to the election of officers, after which about twelve freemen were sworn in. Each man has to sign the roll of freemen, pay a fee of 6s. 8d., provide a penny loaf made on purpose by the baker of the place, and buy a pot of beer. The man thus sworn in becomes his own master. Should any of the freemen desire to marry during the next year he has to pay to the stewards a ' marriage shilling ', and should he neglect to do this his wife loses all interest in the quarry and cannot take an apprentice to work for her. After the above business was transacted the ceremony of ' kicking the ball' commenced. The ball is provided by the man who was last married among the freemen, and is presented in lieu of the ' marriage shilling '. If it should happen that no freeman has married since the previous Shrove Tuesday the old football is used. The ball was taken from the Town Hall to a field at Corfe Castle, and there kicked about by any one who wished.
 

"These very novel proceedings terminated by the ball and a pound of pepper being taken to the lord of the manor as an acknowledgement to him in respect of the way to the River Ower."

(ii) Kicking the Ball.—The custom of kicking the football "to be provided by the man who was last married amongst the freemen ", is alluded to in the above account. In a later set of rules provision was made for the carrying of the ball to Ower—I believe on the following day, Ash Wednesday. I have seen it stated somewhere that in these degenerate days it was carried, not kicked, to its destination. The Bridport News in March, 1884, speaks of the annual custom of the Swanage Freemen " kicking the ball " as having taken place at Corfe on Shrove Tuesday. It says that the custom was one that had been kept up annually for generations past. The ball was taken to Corfe Castle, and kicked from the Castle grounds through Corfe on towards Swanage.
 
Below an extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days February 9th 1864, details the tradition of Shrove Tuesday.
"SHROVE TUESDAY

Shrove Tuesday derives its name from the ancient practice, in the Church of Rome, of confessing sins, and being shrived or shrove, i.e. obtaining absolution, on this day. Being the day prior to the beginning of Lent, it may occur on any one between the 2nd of February and the 8th of March. In Scotland, it is called Fasten's E'en, but is little regarded in that Presbyterian country. The character of the day as a popular festival is mirthful: it is a season of
carnival-like jollity and drollery—'Welcome, merry Shrovetide!' truly sings Master Silence.

The merriment began, strictly speaking, the day before, being what was called Collop Monday, from the practice of eating collops of salted meat and eggs on that day. Then did the boys begin their Shrovetide perambulations in quest of little treats which their senior neighbours used to have in store for them—singing:

'Shrovetide is nigh at hand, And I be conic a shroving: Pray, dame, something, An apple or a dumpling.'

When Shrove Tuesday dawned, the bells were set a ringing, and everybody abandoned himself to amusement and good humour. All through the day, there was a
preparing and devouring of pancakes, as if some profoundly important religious principle were involved in it. The pancake and Shrove Tuesday are inextricably associated in the popular mind and in old literature. Before being eaten, there was always a great deal of contention among the eaters, to see which could most adroitly toss them in the pan.

Shakspeare makes his clown in All's Well that Ends Well speak of something being 'as fit as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday.' It will be recollected that the parishioners of the Vicar of Wakefield 'religiously ate pancakes at Shrovetide.'

Hear also our quaint old friend, the Water Poet—'Shrove Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdom is in quiet, but by that time the clock strikes eleven, which (by the help of a knavish sexton) is commonly before nine, there is a bell rung called Pancake Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanity. Then there is a thing called wheaten flour, which the cooks do mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragical, magical enchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a frying-pan of boiling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing (like the herniae snakes in the reeds of Acheron), until at last, by the skill of the cook, it is transformed into the form of a flipjack, called a pancake, which. ominous incantation the ignorant people do
devour very greedily.'

It was customary to present the first pancake to the greatest slut or lie-a-bed of the party, 'which commonly falls to the clog's share at last, for no one will own it their due.' Some allusion is probably made to the latter custom in a couplet placed opposite Shrove Tuesday in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1677:

Pancakes are eat by greedy gut,
And Hob and Madge run for the slut.'
In the time of Elizabeth, it was a practice at Eton for the cook to fasten a pancake to a crow (the ancient equivalent of the knocker) upon the school door.

At Westminster School, the following custom is observed to this day:—At 11 o'clock a.m. a verger of the Abbey, in his gown, bearing a silver baton, emerges from the college kitchen, followed by the cook of-the school, in his white apron, jacket, and cap, and carrying a pancake. On arriving at the school-room door, he announces himself, 'The cook;' and having entered the school-room, he advances to the bar which separates the upper school from the lower one, twirls the pancake in the pan, and then tosses it over the bar into the upper school, among a crowd of boys, who scramble for the pancake: and he who gets it unbroken, and carries it to the deanery, demands the honorarium of a guinea (sometimes two guineas), from the Abbey funds, though the custom is not mentioned in the Abbey statutes: the cook also receives two guineas for his performance.

Among the revels which marked the day, football seems in most places to have been conspicuous. The London apprentices enjoyed it in Finsbury Fields. At Teddington, it was conducted with such animation that careful house-holders had to protect their windows with hurdles and bushes. There is perhaps no part of the United Kingdom where this Shrovetide sport is kept up with so much energy as at the village of Scone, near Perth, in Scotland. The men of the parish assemble at the cross, the married on one side and the bachelors on the other: a ball is thrown up, and they play from two o'clock till sunset. A person who witnessed the sport in the latter part of the last century, thus describes it: 'The game was this: he who at any time got the ball into his hands, ran with it till overtaken by one of the opposite party: and then, if he could shake himself loose from those on the opposite side who seized him, he ran on: if not, he threw the ball from him, unless it was wrested from him by the other party, but no party was allowed to kick it. The object of the married men was to hang it, that is, to put it three times into a small hole on the moor, which was the dool, or limit, on the one hand: that of the bachelors was to drown it, or clip it three times in a deep place in the river, the limit on the other: the party who could effect either of these objects won the game: if neither one, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset. In the course of the play, there was usually some violence between the parties: but it is a proverb in this part of the country, that "A' is fair at the ba' o' Scone."'

Taylor, the Water Poet, alludes to the custom of a fellow carrying about 'an ensign made of a piece of a baker's mawkin fixed upon a broom-staff,' and making orations of nonsense to the people. Perhaps this custom may have been of a similar nature and design to one practised in France on Ash Wednesday. The people there 'carry an effigy, similar to our Guy Fawkes, round the adjacent villages, and collect money for his funeral, as this day, according to their creed, is the burial of good living. After sundry absurd mummeries, the corpse is deposited in the earth.' In the latter part of the last century, a curious custom of a similar nature still survived in Kent. A group of girls engaged themselves at one part of a village in burning an uncouth image, which they called a holly boy, and which they had stolen from the boys: while the boys were to be found in another part of the village burning a like effigy, which they called the ivy girl, and which they had stolen from the girls: the ceremony being in both cases accompanied by loud huzzas.

These are fashions, we accompanied opine, smacking of a very early and probably pagan origin. At Bromfield, in Cumberland, there used to be a still more remarkable custom. The scholars of the free school of that parish assumed a right, from old use and wont, to bar out the master, and keep him out for three days. During the period of this expulsion, the doors were strongly barricaded within: and the boys, who defended it like a besieged city, were armed in general with guns made of the hollow twigs of the elder, or bore-tree. The master, meanwhile, made various efforts, by force and stratagem, to regain his lost authority. If he succeeded, heavy tasks were imposed, and the business of the school was resumed and submitted to: but it more commonly happened that all his efforts were unavailing. In this case, after three days' siege, terms of capitulation were proposed by the master and accepted by the boys. The terms always included permission to enjoy a full allowance of Shrovetide sports.

In days not very long gone by, the inhumane sport of throwing at cocks was practised at Shrovetide, and nowhere was it more certain to be seen than at the grammar-schools. The poor animal was tied to a stake by a short cord, and the unthinking men and boys who were to throw at it, took their station at the distance of about twenty yards. Where the cock belonged to some one disposed to make it a matter of business, twopence was paid for three shies at it, the missile used being a broomstick. The sport was continued till the poor creature was killed out-right by the blows. Such tumult and outrage attended this inhuman sport a century ago, that, according to a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, it was sometimes dangerous to be near the place where it was practised. Hens were also the subjects of popular amusement at this festival. It was customary in Cornwall to take any one which had not laid eggs before Shrove-Tuesday, and lay it on a barn-floor to be thrashed to death. A man hit at her with a flail; and if he succeeded in killing her therewith, he got her for his pains. It was customary for a fellow to get a hen tied to his back, with some horse-bells hung beside it.

A number of other fellows, blind-folded, with boughs in their hands, followed him by the sound of the bells, endeavouring to get a stroke at the bird. This gave occasion to much merriment, for sometimes the man was hit instead of the hen, and sometimes the assailants hit each other instead of either. At the conclusion, the hen was boiled with bacon, and added to the usual pancake feast. Cock-fights were also common on this day. Strange to say, they were in many instances the sanctioned sport of public schools, the master receiving on the occasion a small tax from the boys under the name of a cock-penny. Perhaps this last practice took its rise in the circumstance of the master supplying the cocks, which seems to have been the custom in some places
in a remote age. Such cock-fights regularly took place on Fasten's E'en in many parts of Scotland till the middle of the eighteenth century, the master presiding at the battle, and enjoying the perquisite of all the runaway cocks, which were technically called fugies. Nay, so late as 1790, the minister of Applecross, in Rossshire, in the account of his parish, states the schoolmaster's income as composed of two hundred merks, with 1s. 6d. and 2s. 6d, per quarter from each scholar.

The other Shrovetide observations were chiefely of a local nature. The old plays make us aware of a licence which the London prentices took on this occasion to assail houses of dubious repute, and cart the unfortunate inmates through the city. This seems to have been done partly under favour of a privilege which the common people assumed at this time of breaking down doors for sport, and of which we have perhaps some remains, in a practice which still exists in some remote districts, of throwing broken crockery and other rubbish at doors. In Dorsetshire and Wiltshire, if not in other counties, the latter practice is called Lent Crocking. The boys go round in small parties, headed by a leader, 'who goes up and knocks at the door, leaving his followers behind him, armed with a good stock of potsherds—the collected relics of the washing-pans, jugs, dishes, and plates, that have become the victims of concussion in the hands of unlucky or careless housewives for the past year. When the door is opened, the hero,—who is perhaps a farmer's boy, with a pair of black eyes sparkling under the tattered brim of his brown milking-hat,—hangs down his head, and, with one corner of his mouth turned up into an irrepressible smile, pronounces the following lines.

A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin;
A piece of bread,
a piece of cheese,
A bit of your fat bacon,
Or a dish of dough-nuts,
All of your own makin!
A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin,
Nice meat in a pie,
My mouth is very dry!
I wish a was zoo well-a-wet
l'de zing the louder for a nut!
Chorus—A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
We be come a-shrovin!

Sometimes he gets a bit of bread and cheese, and at sonic houses he is told to be gone; in which latter case, he calls up his followers to send their missiles in a rattling broadside against the door. It is rather remarkable that, in Prussia, and perhaps other parts of central Europe, the throwing of broken crockery at doors is a regular practice at marriages. Lord Malmesbury, who in 1791 married a princess of that country as proxy for the Duke of York, tells us, that the morning after the ceremonial, a great heap of such rubbish was found at her royal highness's door."

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Wolf Gods and Love Tokens: Customs and Traditions of Saint Valentine's Day

The 14th February is better known as 'St Valentine's Day' and it is without question the most popular day of the year for romance.

The custom of sending anonymous greeting cards to ones sweetheart or 'Valentine' is as popular as ever, yet the St Valentine's Day we know today actually evolved from the ancient Roman festival of 'Lupercalia', part of which was the choosing of sexual partners for the coming year by the drawing of lots. The names of all the eligible girls were placed in a vessel dedicated to the god 'Lupercus', and the boys each in turn pulled out a name to see whom fate had chosen for them.

Wolf God - Lupercus
'The Valentine Lottery' as it later became known experienced over the centuries ebbs and flows of popularity and unexpectedly became fashionable once again in the early Victorian era as a party game.

If a girl was courting but unlucky enough not to receive a Valentine greeting from her sweetheart today she would be deemed as 'Dusty' and therefore had to undergo the indignity of being swept down by either her Mother or companions with a broomstick or wisp of straw. The idea was to create as much embarrassment to the 'dusty victim' as possible as she then had to cast lots with the other girls in the usual manner.

St Valentine's Day in Dorset

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of St Valentine's Day in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-

"Amongst my Dorset notes for this day I find one from the Illustrated London News in February, 1880, which states that on St. Valentine's day the maids suspend in the kitchen a nosegay of early flowers tied up with a "true-lover's knot" of blue ribbon.  It is not stated, however, what was the object or purpose of this act; though it is not difficult, I think, to believe that it indicated some manifestation or expression connected with the young women's attitude towards those subjects to which the lover's Saint's day is dedicated.

Somewhat akin to this, perhaps, is the belief that it is unlucky if a male is not the first visitor that comes to the house on St. Valentine's Day.
Formerly in Dorsetshire, as elsewhere, large numbers of " valentines " were exchanged between young people, a practice to which this day gave special licence ; some of these, especially those sent in ridicule, being both vulgar and wanting in good taste. A great improvement has, however, set in in late years with regard to this; and now the custom is mostly confined in regard to " valentines " to the exchange or sending of presents of a more useful or valuable nature.
Hone, in his Every-Day Book, vol. i, p. 118, records a custom which prevailed many years since in the West of England, and may well, therefore, be known in Dorsetshire, although I am not myself personally acquainted with it: —

" Three single young men went out together before daylight on St. Valentine's Day, with a clapnet to catch an old owl and two sparrows in a neighbouring barn. If they were successful and could bring the birds to the inn without injury before the females of the house had risen they were rewarded by the hostess with three pots of purl in honour of St. Valentine, and enjoyed the privilege of demanding at any house in the neighbourhood a similar boon. This was done, it is said, as an emblem that the owl, being the bird of wisdom, could influence the feathered race to enter the net of love as mates on that day, whereon both single lads and maidens should be reminded that happiness could alone be secured by an early union."
Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days February 14th 1864, details the traditions of St. Valentine's Day.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY 
Valentine's Day is now almost everywhere a much degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting merely of the sending of jocular anonymous letters to parties whom one wishes to quiz, and this confined very much to the humbler classes. The approach of the day is now heralded by the appearance in the print-sellers' shop windows of vast numbers of missives calculated for use on this occasion, each generally consisting of a single sheet of post paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below. More rarely, the print is of a sentimental kind, such as a view of Hymen's altar, with a pair undergoing initiation into wedded happiness before it, while Cupid flutters above, and hearts transfixed with his darts decorate the corners. Maid-servants and young fellows interchange such epistles with each other on the 14th of February, no doubt conceiving that the joke is amazingly good: and, generally, the newspapers do not fail to record that the London postmen delivered so many hundred thousand more letters on that day than they do in general. Such is nearly the whole extent of the observances now peculiar to St. Valentine's Day.

At no remote period it was very different. Ridiculous letters were unknown: and, if letters of any kind were sent, they contained only a courteous profession of attachment from some young man to some young maiden, honeyed with a few compliments to her various perfections, and expressive of a hope that his love might meet with return. But the true proper ceremony of St. Valentine's Day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits. Misson, a learned traveller, of the early part of the last century, gives apparently a correct account of the principal ceremonial of the day.
 
'On the eve of St. Valentine's Day,' he says, 'the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together: each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men's billets, and the men the maids': so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines: but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.'

In that curious record of domestic life in England in the reign of Charles II, Pepu's Diary, we find some notable illustrations of this old custom. It appears that married and single were then alike liable to be chosen as a valentine, and that a present was invariably and necessarily given to the choosing party. Mr. Pepys enters in his diary, on Valentine's Day, 1667: 'This morning came up to my wife's bedside (I being up dressing myself) little Will Mercer to be her valentine, and brought her name written upon blue paper in gold letters, done by himself, very pretty; and we were both well pleased with it. But I am also this year my wife's valentine, and it will cost me £5: but that I must have laid out if we had not been valentines.' Two days after, he adds:
 

'I find that Mrs. Pierce's little girl is my valentine, she having drawn me: which I was not sorry for, it easing me of something more that I must have given to others. But here I do first observe the fashion of drawing mottoes as well as names, so that Pierce, who drew my wife, did draw also a motto, and this girl drew another for me. What mine was. I forget: but my wife's was "Most courteous and most fair," which, as it maybe used, or an anagram upon each name, might be very pretty.'

Noticing, soon afterwards, the jewels of the celebrated Miss Stuart, who became Duchess of Richmond, he says: 'The Duke of York, being once her valentine, did give her a jewel of about £800: and my Lord Mandeville, her valentine this year, a ring of about £300.' These presents were undoubtedly given in order to relieve the obligation under which the being drawn as valentines had placed the donors. In February 1668, Pepys notes as follows:
 

'This evening my wife did with great pleasure shew me her stock of jewels, increased by the ring she hath made lately, as my valentine's gift this year, a Turkey-stone set with diamonds. With this, and what she had, she reckons that she hath above one hundred and fifty pounds' worth of jewels of one kind or other: and I am glad of it, for it is fit the wretch should have something to content herself with.'

The reader will understand wretch to be used as a term of endearment. Notwithstanding the practice of relieving, there seems to have been a disposition to believe that the person drawn as a valentine had some considerable likelihood of becoming the associate of the party in wedlock. At least, we may suppose that this idea would be gladly and easily arrived at, where the party so drawn was at all eligible from other considerations. There was, it appears, a prevalent notion amongst the common people, that this was the day on which the birds selected their mates. They seem to have imagined that an influence was inherent in the day, which rendered in some degree binding the lot or chance by which any youth or maid was now led to fix his attention on a person of the opposite sex. It was supposed, for instance, that the first unmarried person of the other sex whom one met on St. Valentine's morning in walking abroad, was a destined wife or a destined husband. Thus Gay makes a rural dame remark:

        'Last Valentine, the day when binds of kind
        Their paramours with mutual chirping', find,
        I early rose just at the break of day,
        Before the sun had chased the stars away:
        A-field I went, amid the morning clew,
        To milk my kine (for so should housewives do).
        Thee first I spied—and the first swain we see,
        In spite of Fortune shall our true love be.'

A forward Miss in the Connoisseur, a series of essays published in 1751-6, thus adverts to other notions with respect to the day:

'Last Friday was Valentine's Day, and the night before, I got five bay-leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillow, and the fifth to the middle: and then, if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out. But to make it more sure, I boiled an egg hard, and took out the yolk, and filled it with salt: and when I went to bed, ate it, shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it. We also wrote our lovers' names upon bits of paper, and rolled them up in clay, and put them into water; and the first that rose up was to be our valentine. Would you think it?—Mr. Blossom was my man. I lay a-bed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house: for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.'

St. Valentine's Day is alluded to by Shakspeare and by Chaucer, and also by the poet Lydgate (who died in 1440). One of the earliest known writers of valentines, or poetical amorous addresses for this day, was Charles Duke of Orleans, who was taken at the battle of Agincourt. Drayton, a poet of Shakspeare's time, full of great but almost unknown beauties, wrote thus charmingly:

            TO HIS VALENTINE

            'Muse, bid the morn awake,
            Sad winter now declines,
            Each bird cloth choose a mate,
            This day's St. Valentine's :
            For that good bishop's sake
            Get up, and let us see,
            What beauty it shall be
            That fortune us assigns.

            But lo! in happy hour,
            The place wherein she lies,
            In yonder climbing tower
            Gilt by the glittering rise;
            Oh, Jove! that in a shower,
            As once that thunder did,
            When he in drops lay hid,
            That I could her surprise!

            Her canopy I'll draw,
            With spangled plumes bedight,
            No mortal ever saw
            So ravishing a sight:
            That it the gods might awe,
            And powerfully transpierce
            The globy universe,
            Out-shooting every light.

            My lips I'll softly lay
            Upon her heavenly cheek,
            Dyed like the dawning day,
            As polish'd ivory sleek:
            And in her ear I'll say,
            "Oh thou bright morning-star
            'Tis I that come so far,
            My valentine to seek."

            Each little bird, this title,
            Doth choose her loved peer,
            Which constantly abide
            In wedlock all the year,
            As nature is their guide:
            So may we two be true
            This year, nor change for new,
            As turtles coupled were.

            Let's laugh at them that choose
            Their valentines by lot:
            To wear their names that use,
            Whom icily they have got.
            Such poor choice we refuse,
            Saint Valentine befriend;
            We thus this morn may spend,
            Else, Muse, awake her not'

Donne, another poet of the same age, remarkable for rich though scattered beauties, writes an epithalamium on the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to Frederick Count Palatine of the Rhine—the marriage which gave the present royal family to the throne--and which took place on St. Valentine's Day, 1614. The opening is fine

            'Hail, Bishop Valentine! whose day this is:
            All the air is thy diocese,
            And all the chirping choristers
            And other birds are thy parishioners:
            Thou marryest every year
            The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove:
            The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
            The household bird with the red stomacher:
            Thou mak'st the blackbird speed as soon
            As cloth the goldfinch or the halcyon--
            This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
            This day which might inflame thyself, old Valentine!'

The origin of these peculiar observances of St. Valentine's Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century, seems to have had nothing to do with the matter, beyond the accident of his day being used for the purpose. Mr. Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakspeare, says:

'It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno. whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who, by every possible means, endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women: and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine's Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time.

This is, in part, the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the Lives of the Saints, the Rev. Alban Butler.

It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed—a fact which it were easy to prove in tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions. And, accordingly, the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose, that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually become reciprocal in the sexes, and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines, from the day on which the ceremony took place.'



Monday, 2 February 2015

HEDGEHOG DAY! The customs and traditions of Candlemas

Today, Candlemas has long been held in the Christian calendar as ‘The Feast of Our Lady,

The Blessed Virgin Mary’ otherwise known as ‘Candelora’ or ‘Candlemas’. It derived from the ceremony which the Church of Rome dictates to be observed on this day; namely the blessing of candles by the clergy and their distribution to mothers who had borne children during the previous year, after which they process around the church in solemn procession.

The ceremony commemorates when the Virgin Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, went to the Temple of Jerusalem, both to be purified and to present the ‘Christ Child’, ‘The Light of the World’ to God as her firstborn.

However, the word ‘Purification’ carries in its original meaning the idea of cleansing by fire,rather than Jesus Christ being the Spiritual Light and therefore, the origins of Candlemas predate Christianity and lie in the pagan Roman festival of ‘Februalia’, and the ancient Celtic festival of ‘Imbolc’.

Imbolc, meaning ‘ewes milk’ was the Celtic festival held on the 1st February and heralded the start of the lambing season. Ancient people saw it as a time of hope and new beginnings.
They believed the young goddess ‘Bride’ of youth and fertility, who was held captive each year by winter, was released or re-born at Imbolc. Huge fires were lit in celebration to summon the return of light and new birth, which followed in Bride’s footsteps.

Dorset Candlemas

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of Candlemas in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-
Evidently so called from the candles or lights which were distributed and carried about in older times upon that day William Hone in his Every-Day Book, vol. i, p. 107 (1826), gives the foloowing from a Dorset source.  He speaks of a gentleman having communicated a custom which he had witnessed at lyme regis in his juvenile days. To what extent it prevailed he was unable to say, his knowledge being limited to the domestic circle wherein he was included. He says :—

" The wood-ashes of the family being sold throughout the year as they were made, the person who purchased them annually sent a present on Candlemas-day of a large candle. When night came the candle was lighted, and, assisted by its illumination, the inmates regaled themselves with cheering draughts of ale and sippings of punch, or some other animating beverage, until the candle had burnt out. The coming of the Candlemas candle was looked forward to by the young ones as an event of some consequence ; for, of usage, they had a sort of right to sit up that night and partake of the refreshment till all retired to rest, the signal for which was the self-extinction of the Candlemas candle."

Candlemas Day
or Eve was the great occasion in Dorsetshire, as in other counties, when all Christmas decorations, such as holly, mistletoe, and evergreens, should be taken down in accordance with Herrick's well-known lines :—
 
"Down with the rosemary and bays, Down with the mistletoe," etc.

But care should be taken that they are not thrown away as ordinary rubbish, but should be entirely destroyed in the fire. If otherwise, it portends death or misfortune to some one of the household before another year is out. (conf. Shropshire Folk-Lore, p.245.)

In Dorsetshire, apparently, Candlemas Day is mostly known to the rustic public as affording portents or omens of what the weather is likely to be for the rest of the winter, as shown by what it is on Candlemas Day.  If Candlemas Day is a fine day, winter is to come ; if it's a middling day, winter is half over ; it it's a very rough day, winter is past.

Another and rhythmical form of this belief was sent to me years ago, together with several other interesting items of Dorset folk-lore, by the late Rev. W. K. Kendall, of East Lulworth, himself an early member of the Dorset Field Club.

"If Candlemas Day be fair and fine,
Half the winter is left behin'.
If Candlemas Day do bluster and blow,
The winter is o'er, as all good people do know."

Yet another instance of mild weather at Candlemas being taken as a harbinger of something more severe later on is furnished by the old saying that " as much ground as the sun shines on on Candlemas Day will be covered with snow before Lady Day ".

The late Mr. Hugh Norris, of South Petherton, for many years Somerset editor of The Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (vol. i, pp. 160-2), gives a list of some West Country weather proverbs, from which I extract his version of the above saying, clothed in a rich vernacular — perhaps a little more

Somerset than Dorset—" Za much groun' as ez cove'd wi'zun pon Cannelmas Day '11 be cove'd wi' znaw avore Laady Day."

In the following instance relating to Candlemas, furnished to Notes and Queries in 1872 (Ser. IV, x, 82) by F. C. H. (the well known Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority, the late Dr. F. C. Husenbeth), attention is called to the alteration in these old dates — a fact, I am afraid, generally ignored — caused by the introduction of the New Style. He says:

" In Dorsetshire people anxiously look for the dew-drops hanging thickly on the thorn-bushes on Candlemas morning. When they do, it forebodes a good year for peas. But these weatherwise seers are apt to forget that all these old saws were adapted to the Old Style, according to which what used to be Candlemas is now St. Valentine. N'importe, the weather prophet coolly moves on his peg and goes on predicting with equal confidence."
Hedgehog Day?

American Groundhog
The 1993 hit comedy film Groundhog Day took its title from an old American custom, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If the groundhog sees its shadow because the weather is bright and clear, it will be frightened and run back into its hole, and the winter will continue for six more weeks. The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; crowds of around 20,000 to 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday.

The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania. The reference was made on February 4th 1861 in Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris’ diary:

“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day is cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

In the United States the tradition derives from a Scottish poem:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again

A farmer should on Candlemas day

Have half his corn and half his hay

On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop

You can be sure of a good pea crop
.

This is however not a British custom, due to the shortage of groundhogs, but in some parts of the county there is a very similar superstition involving the common hedgehogs, the saying goes:

'if a hedgehog casts a shadow at noon, winter will return'

In Scotland the hedgehog has long been revered for its healing powers. Around the fifth century, the European Celts believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that were half-way between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

************************

Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days Bebruary 2nd 1864, details the traditions of Candlemas
CANDLEMAS

From a very early, indeed unknown date in the Christian history, the 2nd of February has been held as the festival of the Purification of the Virgin, and it is still a holiday of the Church of England. From the coincidence of the time with that of the Februation or purification of the people in pagan Rome, some consider this as a Christian festival engrafted upon a heathen one, in order to take advantage of the established habits of the people; but the idea is at least open to a good deal of doubt. The popular name Candlemass is derived from the ceremony which the Church of Rome dictates to be observed on this day; namely, a blessing of candles by the clergy, and a distribution of them amongst the people, by whom they are afterwards carried lighted in solemn procession. The more important observances were of course given up in England at the Reformation; but it was still, about the close of the eighteenth century, customary in some places to light up churches with candles on this day.

At Rome, the Pope every year officiates at this festival in the beautiful chapel of the Quirinal. When he has blessed the candles, he distributes them with his own hand amongst those in the church, each of whom, going singly up to him, kneels to receive it. The cardinals go first; then follow the bishops, canons, priors, abbots, priests, &c., down to the sacristans and meanest officers of the church. According to Lady Morgan, who witnessed the ceremony in 1820:


'When the last of these has gotten his candle, the poor conservatori, the representatives of the Roman senate and people, receive theirs. This ceremony over, the candles are lighted, the Pope is mounted in his chair and carried in procession, with hymns chanting, round the ante-chapel; the throne is stripped of its splendid hangings; the Pope and cardinals take off their gold and crimson dresses, put on their usual robes, and the usual mass of the morning is sung.'

Lady Morgan mentions that similar ceremonies take place in all the parish churches of Rome on this day.

It appears that in England, in Catholic times, a meaning was attached to the size of the candles, and the manner in which they burned during the procession; that, moreover, the reserved parts of the candles were deemed to possess a strong supernatural virtue:
 

'This done, each man his candle lights,
Where chiefest seemeth he,
Whose taper greatest may be seen;
And fortunate to be,
Whose candle burneth clear and bright:
A wondrous force and might
Both in these candles lie, which if
At any time they light,
They sure believe that neither storm
Nor tempest cloth abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard,
Nor any devil's spide,
Nor fearful sprites that walk by night,
Nor hurts of frost or hail,' &c.
 

The festival, at whatever date it took its rise, has been designed to commemorate the churching or purification of Mary; and the candle-bearing is understood to refer to what Simeon said when he took the infant Jesus in his arms, and declared that he was a light to lighten the Gentiles. Thus literally to adopt and build upon metaphorical expressions, was a characteristic procedure of the middle ages. Apparently, in consequence of the celebration of Mary's purification by candle-bearing, it became customary for women to carry candles with them, when, after recovery from child-birth, they went to be, as it was called, churched. A remarkable allusion to this custom occurs in English history. William the Conqueror, become, in his elder days, fat and unwieldy, was confined a considerable time by a sickness. 'Methinks,' said his enemy the King of France, 'the Ring of England lies long in childbed.' This being reported to William, he said, 'When I am churched, there shall be a thousand lights in France I' And he was as good as his word; for, as soon as he recovered, he made an inroad into the French territory, which he wasted wherever he went with fire and sword.
 

At the Reformation, the ceremonials of Candlemass day were not reduced all at once. Henry VIII proclaimed in 1539:
 

'On Candlemass day it shall be declared, that the bearing of candles is clone in memory of Christ, the spiritual light, whom Simeon did prophesy, as it is read in. the church that day.'
 

It is curious to find it noticed as a custom down to the time of Charles II, that when lights were brought in at nightfall, people would say—' God send us the light of heaven!' The amiable Herbert, who notices the custom, defends it as not superstitious. Some-what before this time, we find. Herrick alluding to the customs of Candlemass eve: it appears that the plants put up in houses at Christmas were now removed.
 

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.
 

The holly hitherto did sway,
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter day
Or Easter's eve appear.
 

The youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
 

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin',
To honour Whitsuntide.
 

Greeu rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
 

Thus times do shift; each thing in turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.'
 

The same poet elsewhere recommends very particular care in the thorough removal of the
Christmas garnishings on this eve:
 

That so the superstitious find
No one least branch left there behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.'
 

He also alludes to the reservation of part of the candles or torches, as calculated. to have the effect of protecting from mischief:
 

'Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn,
Which quenched, then lay it up again,
Till Christmas next return.
 

Part mast be kept, wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.'
 

There is a curious custom of old standing in Scotland, in connection with Candlemass day. On that day it is, or lately was, an universal practice in that part of the island, for the children attending school to make small presents of money to their teachers. The master sits at his desk or table, exchanging for the moment his usual authoritative look for one of bland civility, and each child goes up in turn and lays his offering down before him, the sum being generally pro-portioned to the abilities of the parents. Six-pence and a shilling are the most common sums in most schools; but some give half and whole crowns, and even more. The boy and girl who give most are respectively styled King and Queen. The children, being then dismissed for a holiday, proceed along the streets in a confused procession, carrying the King and Queen in state, exalted upon that seat formed of crossed hands which, probably from this circumstance, is called the King's Chair. In some schools, it used to be customary for the teacher, on the conclusion of the offerings, to make a bowl of punch and regale each urchin with a glass to drink the King and Queen's health, and a biscuit. The latter part of the day was usually devoted to what was called the Candlemass bleeze, or blaze, namely, the conflagration of any piece of furze which might exist in their neighbourhood, or, were that wanting, of an artificial bonfire.
 

Another old popular custom in Scotland on Candlemass day was to hold a football match, the east end of a town against the west, the unmarried men against the married, or one parish against another. The 'Candlemass Ba', as it was called, brought the whole community out in a state of high excitement. On one occasion, not long ago, when the sport took place in Jedburgh, the contending parties, after a struggle of two hours in the streets, transferred the contention to the bed of the river Jed, and there fought it out amidst a scene of fearful splash and dabblement, to the infinite amusement of a multitude looking on from the bridge.
 

Considering the importance attached to Candlemass day for so many ages, it is scarcely surprising that there is a universal superstition throughout Christendom, that good weather on this day indicates a long continuance of winter and a bad crop, and that its being foul is, on the contrary, a good omen. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, quotes a Latin distich expressive of this idea:
 

 'Si sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fait ante;
 

which maybe considered as well translated in the popular Scottish rhyme:
 

If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemass day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter's gave at Yule.'
 

In Germany there are two proverbial expressions on this subject: 1. The shepherd would rather see the wolf cuter his stable on Candlemass day than the sun; 2. The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemass day, and when he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining, he draws back into his hole. It is not improbable that these notions, like the festival of Candlemass itself, are derived from pagan times, and have existed since the very infancy of our race. So at least we may conjecture, from a curious passage in Martin's Description of the Western Islands. On Candlemass day, according to this author, the Hebrideans observe the following curious custom:

 The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in women's apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Brύd's Bed.; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, "Brύd is come; Brύd is welcome!" This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Brad's club there; which, if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.

 The Purification Flower


 Our ancestors connected certain plants with certain saints, on account of their coming into blossom about the time of the occurrence of those saints' days. Thus the snowdrop was called the Purification Flower (also the Fair Maid of February), from its blossoming about Candlemass; the crocus was dedicated to St. Valentine; the daisy to St. Margaret (hence called by the French La belle Marguerite); the Crown Imperial to St. Edward, king of the West Saxons, whose day is the 18th of March; the Cardamine, or Lady's Smock, to the Virgin, its white flowers appearing about Lady-day. The St. John's Wort was connected, as its name expresses, with the blessed St. John. The roses of summer were said to fade about St. Mary Magdalen's Day. There were also the Lent Lily or Daffodil, the Pasque-flower or Anemone, Herb Trinity, Herb Christopher, St Barnaby's Thistle, Canterbury Bell (in honour of St. Augustine of England), Huh St. Robert, and Mary Wort.
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