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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Walpurgisnacht - The Springtime Halloween

Walpurgisnacht - An Old German Postcard
The 30th April is the eve of St. Walpurgis or as it is known traditionally in Germany Walpurgisnacht.

Described by Bram Stoker in his short story ' Dracula's Guest '.

'Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad - when the graves were opened and the dead come forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.'

So who is St. Walpurgis? And why has this springtime equivalent to Halloween been honoured in this saint's name?

St. Walpurgis or St. Walburga as she is often known, was an eighth century English nun. Born in Devonshire around 710AD, she was the only daughter of a Saxon chief, King Richard and of Winna (sister of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany). She also had two brothers, Winibald and Willibald.

Wimborne Minster
In 721AD, her father and two brothers travelled on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while Walburga was entrusted to the Abbess of the Convent of St. Cuthberga now the site of the present day Minster at Wimborne, Dorset, England (Pictured Left). Where she spent twenty-seven years intensive training and study.

During her schooling at St. Cuthberga, her uncle and Boniface (later martyred in Germany) and her two brothers were sent as missionaries to Germany to convert the heathen races of Europe. As Boniface began to establish churches, he appealed to the Abbess Tetta of the convent of St. Cuthberga to send him some nuns to assist in his work. The Abbess selected a party of ten to embark on a voyage to join him, two of whom were Walburga and Boniface's cousin Lioba.

As they sailed across the channel a terrible and violent tempest arose. In an act of faith Walburga knelt upon the deck of the ship and prayed, where upon the storm seized and became calm once again. When the ship arrived in Germany the sailors proclaimed the miracle they had witnessed at sea, that were ever she went, she was received with joy and veneration.

St. Walburga
On eventually reaching Mainz, she was warmly welcomed by her uncle and brother Willibald. Her two brothers had already established a double monastery for both men and women in Heidenheim. After living for some time in Bischofsheim, Walburga was appointed Abbess to support her brother Winibald at Heidenheim, who already served as first Abbot. When her brother Winibald died, the Bishop of Eichstadt once again appointed her as Abbess of the whole monastery.

The Legends of her life tells of her gentleness, humility and charity, as well as her power to heal the sick through prayer. After a long time of devoted service Walburga died in 777AD and was laid to rest beside her brother Winibald. Her surviving brother Willibald continued her work until his death in 786AD.

When the devotion to Walburga declined, the monastery and church at Heidenheim soon began to decay, and fall into ruin. It wasn't until around 870AD, that the Bishop of Eichstadt, Otkar, decided to restore the Monastery to its former glory.

One night during the renovation, an apparition of Walburga appeared to the Bishop reproaching and threatening him, as the workmen had already discovered her tomb and desecrated it. This encounter led to prompt action the next day on the 21st September 870AD, in the removal of her remains to be taken to Eichstadt and placed in the church of Holy Cross, now called St. Walburga.

Twenty-three years later, the shrine of St. Walburga was opened by Otkar's successor the Bishop Erchanbold, to remove some portions of the remains to give as relics to Liubula, Abbess of Monheim. It was at this point that the Bishop first discovered that the body of the saint was immersed in a oily substance, which from that day forth has continued to flow from the stone slab and surrounding metal plate on which the relics of the saint rest. The fluid or `Walburgis oleum' is collected in a silver cup, placed beneath the slab to catch the fluid, so the nuns of St Walburga can distribute it all over the world to those who wish to benefit from St Walburga's influence of healing.

Due to its divine proprieties many portions of her relics have been taken to other churches and monasteries in other parts of Europe. This has resulted in a diversity of feasts in honour of the saint. In the Roman Martyrology her feast day is commemorated on the 1st May, the day in which she is believed to been declared a saint by the Pope in the 9th Century.

As her feast day also coincided with a much older pagan festival of Beltane when the Celts marked the beginning of summer. The eve of Beltane 30th April - 1st May became also known as Walpurgisnacht, perhaps originally in an attempt to Christianise the festival. Like Halloween, it was also the night in which spirits wandered and witches favoured, as it was an auspicious time for holding their midnight sabbats and for conjuring spells. The most famous of all sabbats held on Walpurgisnacht was supposed to take place on the summit of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains of Germany as mentioned in Goethe's 'Faust'.




(Above) F.W. Murnau, 1926 silent film 'Faust'

Need-Fires
On Walpurgisnacht it was customary for local folk to ring the bells of the church at night, cutting sprigs of blossom from the May bush (Hawthorn) and hung outside or inside the house as deterrent of witchcraft. The burning of Need-Fires and life size straw effigies of men or women which were made prior to burning and cursed with ill-health and ill-luck of the old year. Creating lots of noise by banging on drums, wood or firing of shotguns were all considered effective ways of ridding the area of witchcraft, evil spirits and dark forces. The very name St. Walburga (or Walpurgis, Waltpurde, Gauburge, Vaubourg, Falbourg, as known in other parts of Europe) and her image were also used as protective charms against witchcraft, plague, famine and storms.

Later the church moved St. Walburga's feast day to the 25th February in an attempt by the authorities to banish the Walpurgisnacht witches revelry.

However, in Germany and other parts of Europe the tradition of Walpurgisnacht still continues to this day but taken less seriously by local people and especially children as a harmless celebration and a excuse to dress up as witches, ghosts and goblins and play pranks on unsuspecting victims after dark similar to Halloween's Trick or Treat.

Source: This article was featured in Bite Me Magazine - Issue 16

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Ghostly Goings On: The Traditions and Legends of St. Mark's Eve

Saint Mark’s Eve, tonight all the souls or wraiths of those who are destined to die over the next twelve months go walkabout, turning up at the church in which they will be buried.

With so much paranormal activity tonight, it is appropriate that anyone born on St Mark's Eve can see spirits. Not only that, but they are also blessed with a startlingly useful ability: the power to see the stars at midday.

St. Marks Eve was once a prize night for lovesick girls wishing to discover their truelove by supernatural means. Any inquisitive girl would place a hazel nut amongst the hot embers of the hearth, naming it after her sweetheart and say:
“If you love me, pop and fly,
If not lie, lie there silently”.
If her boyfriend was destined to be her husband the nut would jump away.

Another popular love divination required the girl to hang up her smock by the fireside and quietly sit naked and alone in the darkness. If the ritual was performed correctly, the inquisitive girl would be rewarded at midnight by seeing the wraith of her future husband appear and turn the garment.
On Saint Mark’s Eve, at twelve o’clock,
The fair maid will watch her smock,
To find her husband in the dark,
By praying unto good Saint Mark.
Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days April 25th 1864, details of St. Mark's Eve.
The Traditions and Legends of St. Mark's Eve

'Tis now, replied the village belle,
St. Mark's mysterious eve,
And all that old traditions tell
I tremblingly believe;
How, when the midnight signal tolls,
Along the churchyard green,
A mournful train of sentenced souls
In winding-sheets are seen.
The ghosts of all whom death shall doom
Within the coming year,
In pale procession walk the gloom,
Amid the silence drear.'

In the northern parts of England, it is still believed that if a person, on the eve of St. Mark's day, watch in the church porch from eleven at night till one in the morning, he will see the apparitions of all those who are to be buried in the churchyard during the ensuing year. The following illustration of this superstition is found among the Hollis manuscripts, in the Lansdowne Collection. The writer, Gervase Hollis, of Great Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, was a colonel in the service of Charles the First, and by no means one who could be termed a superstitious man, even in his own day. He professes to have received the tale from Mr. Liveman Rampaine, minister of God's word at Great Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, who was household chaplain to Sir Thomas Munson, of Burton, in Lincoln, at the time of the incident.

‘In the year 1631, two men (inhabitants of Burton) agreed betwixt themselves upon St. Mark's eve at night to watch in the churchyard at Burton, to try whether or no (according to the ordinary belief amongst the common people) they should see the Spectra, or Phantasma of those persons which should die in that parish the year following. To this intent, having first performed the usual ceremonies and superstitions, late in the night, the moon shining then very bright, they repaired to the church porch, and there seated themselves, continuing there till near twelve of the clock. About which time (growing weary with expectation and partly with fear) they resolved to depart, but were held fast by a kind of insensible violence, not being able to move a foot.

About midnight, upon a sudden (as if the moon had been eclipsed), they were environed with a black darkness; immediately after, a kind of light, as if it had been a resultancy from torches. Then appears, coming towards the church porch, the minister of the place, with a book in his hand, and after him one in a winding-sheet, whom they both knew to resemble one of their neighbours. The church doors immediately fly open, and through pass the apparitions, and then the doors clap to again. Then they seem to hear a muttering, as if it were the burial service, with a rattling of bones and noise of earth, as in the filling up of a grave. Suddenly a still silence, and immediately after the apparition of the curate again, with another of their neighbours following in a winding-sheet, and so a third, fourth, and fifth, every one attended with the same circumstances as the first.

These all having passed away, there ensued a serenity of the sky, the moon shining bright, as at the first; they themselves being restored to their former liberty to walk away, which they did sufficiently affrighted. The next day they kept within doors, and met not together, being both of them exceedingly ill, by reason of the affrightment which had terrified them the night before. Then they conferred their notes, and both of them could very well remember the circumstances of every passage. Three of the apparitions they well knew to resemble three of their neighbours; but the fourth (which seemed an infant), and the fifth (like an old man), they could not conceive any resemblance of. After this they confidently reported to every one what they had done and seen; and in order designed to death those three of their neighbours, which came to pass accordingly.

Shortly after their deaths, a woman in the town was delivered of a child, which died likewise. So that now there wanted but one (the old man), to accomplish their predictions, which likewise came to pass after this manner. In that winter, about mid-January, began a sharp and long frost, during the continuance of which some of Sir John Munson's friends in Cheshire, having some occasion of intercourse with him, despatched away a foot messenger (an ancient man), with letters to him. This man, tramling this bitter weather over the mountains in Derbyshire, was nearly perished with cold, yet at last he arrived at Burton with his letters, where within a day or two he died. And these men, as soon as ever they see him, said peremptorily that he was the man whose apparition they see, and that doubtless he would die before he returned, which accordingly he did.'

It may readily be presumed that this would prove a very pernicious superstition, as a malignant person, bearing an ill-will to any neighbour, had only to say or insinuate that he had seen him forming part of the visionary procession of St. Mark's Eve, in order to visit him with. a serious affliction, if not with mortal disease. Of a similar tendency was a custom indulged in among cottage families on St. Mark's Eve, of riddling out all the ashes on the hearth-stone over night, in the expectation of seeing impressed upon them, in the morning, the footstep of any one of the party who was to die during the ensuing year. In circles much given to superstition, great misery was sometimes created by a malicious or wanton person coming slily into the kitchen during the night, and marking the ashes with the shoe of one of the party.

St. Mark's Eve appears to have enjoyed among our simple ancestors a large share of the privileges which they assigned to All Saints' Eve (the Scottish Halloween.) In Poor Robin's Almanack for 1770, occurs this stanza:

Until lately, St. Mark's Day was marked at Alnwick by a ridiculous custom, in connection with the admission of freemen of the common, and described as follows: 'The persons who are to receive this privilege march on horseback, in great ceremony, dressed in white, with their swords by their sides, to the common, headed by the Duke of Northumberland's chamberlains and bailiff. Arrived at the Freemen's Well, a large dirty pool on the border of the common, they all deliberately walk into and through it, coming out on the other side begrimed with mud, and dripping all over.

On St. Mark's eve, at twelve o'clock,
The fair maid will watch her smock,
To find her husband in the dark,
By praying unto good St. Mark.'

We presume that the practice was to hang up the smock at the fire before going to bed; the rest of the family having retired, the anxious damsel would plant herself to wait till the resemblance of him who was to be her husband should come in and turn the garment. The divination by nuts was also in vogue. A row being planted amongst the hot embers on the hearth, one from each maiden, and the name of the loved one being breathed, it was expected that if the love was in any case to be successful, the nut would jump away; if otherwise, it would go on composedly burning till all was consumed:

If you love me, pop and fly,
If not, lie there silently.'

Then hastily changing their clothes, and having comforted themselves with a dram, they make a round of the common, return into the town, where a ceremonial reception by fantastically dressed women awaits them, and end by calling at each other's houses, and imbibing more liquor. It is alleged that this singular procedure has reference to a visit which King John paid to Alnwick. Having been "laired" in this pool, he punished the inhabitants for their bad roads by imposing upon them, in the charter of their common, an obligation each to subject himself, on his entry, to the same filthy ablution.' Alnwick common lands being now enclosed, this absurd custom is abolished. The last time the freemen passed through the well was April 25, 1854.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and St. George! - The Customs of St. George's Day

St. George
St. George's Day - The 23rd April is the day when England celebrates its gallant Patron Saint, - Saint George.

George was a forth century Christian soldier from the province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He is most famous for rescuing Princess Sabra from the clutches of a blood thirsty dragon which was terrorising the city of Silene in Libya. George killed the dragon and in doing so converted all the heathens of Silene to the Christian faith.

George’s adventures eventually led him to Lydda in Palestine where he destroyed the shrine of the Roman god Bacchus. For this George was cast into prison and tortured, but because he would not renounce the Christian faith he was martyred by decapitation.

His body was later buried near Joppa in the Holy Land, and when the First Crusade took Jerusalem from the Saracens a chapel to St. George was built over the tomb, which had been preserved through the years as a holy spot by the Christian Greeks who lived there. In the tomb rested the body of St George. But not his heart.  This was brought to England by the Emperor Sigismond of Germany and given to King Henry V.

In England, the Order of the Knights of St George was founded at Windsor Castle, and St George became the Patron Saint of England.  The Knights of St George have the garter as their emblem. This dates from a party on this day in 1348. The host, Edward III, intervened when he found that the guests were giggling at Joan, Duchess of Salisbury, whose blue ribbon garter had dropped off. He picked it up, tied it round his own knee and cried the now famous 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense' - which, roughly translated, implies shame on anyone who thought ill of the garter-dropping incident -a phrase so eternally resonant that it now adorns many coins, court-rooms and family crests.
Edward III instantly abandoned his plans to form a new Round Table, and instigated instead the Order of the Garter. The blue ribbon became its badge of honour, first awarded one year later on St. George's Day. The order still exists, and Knight of the Garter is among the highest honours doled out by the monarch each year.

Joan's blue garter is explained by the fact that blue was said to be the saint's colour, and it remains customary to wear something blue on St George's Day. This justifies the wearing of bluebells today, as opposed to the otherwise-to-be-expected roses - England's national flower - which are not yet in bloom.
Stone tympanum over the south door of St. George's Church at Fordington
The St. George Tympanum
St. George's Church at Fordington

It is claimed that St. George miraclous apperance lead crusaders into battle in the Holy Lands, is recorded in the stone tympanum (left) over the south door of St. George's Church at Fordington near Dorchester. This still exists, and is often thought to be one of the earliest images to depict the saint.

Saint George survives today as the central hero character of the traditional mummers play. Death and resurrection are the main themes of Mummers Plays which are traditionally performed at Christmas, New Year and Saint George’s Day. Mumming Plays usually begin with an introductory prologue by the character, Old Father Christmas.

Following Father Christmas comes the entrance of Saint George who proceeds to slay his enemies, which might include a Dragon, Turkish Knight or even a currently unpopular person like the Prime Minster. Following this a Doctor is called to restore the fallen to life. This is the major scene of the play with its rich symbolism of death and resurrection. The play usually draws to a close with a seasonal song.

Every year since 1978 the ‘Frome Valley Morris Mummers’ have performed an action-packed mummers play, which up until 1936 was originally performed by the ‘Thomas Hardy Players’ at Broadwey near Weymouth. Their bright costumes with colourful streamers hanging down over the faces for disguise are based on the actual costumes worn at the time. Thomas Hardy was well aware of the romance of mummers plays and describes one in his novel; 'The Return of the Native'.




Dorset Dragons

One of the oldest mythical creatures that have appeared in every culture around the world occurring in oral and written folk traditions are dragons. The popular image of the dragon as a large fire breathing winged lizards has been so deeply ingrained on our psyche that it is hard to think that these fabulous animals never existed at all, although traveller’s tales, and misunderstandings about the habits of real animals, may have played a major part in the zoology of the dragon.

In English folk tradition the dragon appeared either as a marauding creature that would feast upon livestock or lay waste to villages.  More often than not it was the case that a maiden would be sacrificed to the creature to appease it and a gallant knight or local squire would slay the beast with either cunning or magical means.

As most English counties have a dragon legend it is surprising that Dorset is devoid of any stories relating to them, which is strange considering that fossils of long forgotten sea monsters of prehistoric times have been found along the Dorset coast for centuries


The Christchurch Dragon

However in a chronicle, written in 1146 by one Hermann of Tournai. In "De Miraculis S. Marie Laudunensis" ("On the Miracles of Our Lady of Laon." ) Hermann writes about the year 1113 in which French monks visiting England, witnessed a dragon with five-heads emerge from the channel attacking and burning Christchurch (formerly in the county of Hampshire) to the ground.

Hermann writes:
XI. God’s vengeance is shown in a wonder

On the same Sunday when we had dined, we left the town. The people there, who were touched with gratitude for the benefits we had brought them, asked us to return to them later and we accepted the invitation. But, meanwhile, the just Judge of Heaven did not delay revenge for the slight given to his Mother. We were only about half a league out of town when suddenly two horsemen rode up behind us, shouting out and calling us to come and help the city, which was on fire. We looked back: the whole town had caught fire and was in a blaze. We asked them how it had come to burn and were told that a dragon had come out of the sea and, while we were making our departure, had flown to the city, breathing fire out of its nostrils.

First, it had set the church afire, and then had kindled some houses in the town. We heard this and, wanted to take a look at the wonder. Leaving the shrine with its own attendants, we raced our horses back to Christchurch and there we saw the dragon. It was incredibly long and had five heads.
We made our way back there as far as the church, which we found burnt to the ground, totally – it was not just the timbers which were consumed but the walls themselves, even the biggest blocks of stone. The altars had been reduced to dust and ashes. Everyone who saw what had happened was dumbfounded with dread at the miracle.
When the Dean had seen his house and his church on fire, he had hastily collected his clothing and furniture and strapped them onto a ship which was beached in the harbour nearby. Then he had the ship launched and hoped that on it they would be safe from the fire. The dragon was nearby and (as if fulfilling the purpose for which it had come) found the ship and flew over it and burnt all that was on board. Then, wonderful as it is to tell, it set fire to the whole ship in an instant! We were anxious about our host of the night before and moved on towards his home: there we found him glad in the safety of his house and all within it, thinking how good a quest the Queen of Heaven had been in preserving him. It was not just the house where we had stayed that had survived intact: the preservation extended to the outbuildings, which, as I said, housed his livestock, so that nothing out of all his goods had been lost. The traders who had earlier shown so much kindness to us now received the favour of Heaven, for little if any of their wares were lost. The fair in the town only lasted a day, so after eating at midday they had all gathered up their packs and had them already strapped up and stowed away when the dragon came. They were all utterly terrified by the dragon’s appearance and we saw them running about wildly in all directions. Now the Dean – the man who had the shrine of Our Lady thrown out of his church – was moved to a late repentance. He came forward, barefoot, and prostrated himself before the shrine, acknowledging that the judgement of the Lord had been just, and praying to be forgiven for all that he had done wrong.

Wyverns of Wessex

Where there is a lack of stories and folklore related to Dragons in Dorset there is no shortage of usage in symbolism represented in stone ornaments and grotesques on churches and houses and also heraldic crests.

Stone Tympanum, Wynford Eagle
From Rev. John Hutchins
'History and Antiquities of Dorset' 1741

The wyvern is a legendary winged serpent with a dragon's head, two legs, a barbed tail and poisonous breath. These creatures are depicted fighting on the stone tympanum, the remaining part of the original Norman chapel at Wynford Eagle. It also bears two inscriptions, Malhad l'Egle meaning Matilda l' Eagle this is though to refer to the patron of the piece. The village is named after the Normal Aqulia (Eagle) family. There is a further enscription Alvi me feci meaning Alvi made me. 

Modern depictions can be found on the county coat of arms. Two golden dragons (Sometimes incorrectly referred to as Wyverns) represented the ancient kingdom of Wessex were later granted as supporters to the arms of Dorset County Council in 1950. Two Wyvern supporters also appear in the West Dorset District Council granted in 1990.

Who's Afear'd: County Arms of Dorset
There has been much debate on the origins of the wyvern or dragon used as an emblem of Wessex.  The invading Saxons may have brought dragon-emblems with them, but from the Romano-British the ancient chronicles indicate that Cerdic, and perhaps all the Saxon monarchs not only in Wessex but in other parts of Britain, adopted the dragon-standard, and possibly this is what did actually happen. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman legions. The phrase, ‘the dragon of Wessex,’ does not appear to be of great antiquity.


It has been suggested that a golden dragon standard was raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons.

The historian William Camden (1551–1623) wrote
"...in Saxon Beorgford [i.e. Burford], where Cuthred, king of the West Saxons, then tributary to the Mercians, not being able to endure any longer the cruelty and base exactions of King Æthelbald, met him in the open field with an army and beat him, taking his standard, which was a portraiture of a golden dragon."
While others have suggested the origin of the golden dragon standard, is attributed to that of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur of whom Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote:
[Uther Pendragon] "...ordered two dragons to be fashioned in gold, in the likeness of the one which he had seen in the ray which shone from that star. As soon as the Dragons had been completed this with the most marvellous craftsmanship — he made a present of one of them to the congregation of the cathedral church of the see of Winchester. The second one he kept for himself, so that he could carry it around to his wars."
'Yellow Devils' Badge of the 43rd Wessex Division
The golden wyvern of Wessex continued to be used as a symbol for battle.  The British Army have used this ancient emblem to represent The 43rd (Wessex)Infantry Division.  Who adopted a formation sign consisting of a gold wyvern on a black background, and both the Wessex Brigade and Wessex Regiments used a cap badge featuring the heraldic beast. During the Second World War, the Germans certainly respected the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, nicknaming them "Yellow Devils" on account of their tenacity (and, of course, the "Wessex Wyvern" badge), especially at the battles on the R Odon and for Hill 112 in Normandy.

Dragon Reading.....

Dragons - More than a Myth?
by Richard Freeman

Click Here
For further reading about Dragons look no further than this excellent publication 'Dragons - More than a Myth?' by Richard Freeman, cryptozoologist, author, explorer, adventurer, and Zoological Director of the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation 'The Centre for Fortean Zoology'. Richard follows this mysteries creature right across the globe, from prehistory to the present day. He tracks it from the steamy jungles of the Congo, to the desolate lakes of eastern Siberia. The dragon rears its scaly head in every culture on Earth; from the Indians to the Australian Aborigines, and from the Vikings to the Pygmies.

The inescapable conclusion is that there are very real beasts at the core of these fantastic stories. The dragon has its teeth and claws deep into the collective psyche of mankind, and it’s not about to let go. Our most ancient fear still stalks the earth today. Beware. This is no fairytale! When your parents told you that there were no such things as dragons, they lied! With illustrations by Mark North, (co-author of Dark Dorset Tales of Mystery Wonder and Terror) - this is truly a fascinating insight into the world of Dragons.

 ***************
The Portland Sea Dragon
by Carol Hunt
Click Here
Published by Roving Press 'The Portland Sea Dragon' by Carol Hunt. This is the first in a series of children’s books set on Portland written by local author Carol Hunt. The Portland Chronicles draw on local history, exploring a seventeenth century world of smuggling, witchcraft, piracy and local intrigue. The Chronicles aim to capture children’s imagination with stories based on real folklore and places.

For more information about the book visit www.rovingpress.co.uk










Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days April 23rd 1864, details the traditions of St George's Day.
"ST. GEORGE



If Gibbon's sketch of St. George's career be correct, that martial hero owes his position in the Christian calendar to no merit of his own. Born in a fuller's shop in Epiphania, Cilicia, he contrived to ingratiate himself with those above him by servilely flattering them, and so gradually rose from his original obscurity. A lucrative contract for supplying the army with bacon, proved, under his unscrupulous management, a mine of wealth; but as soon as he had made his fortune, he was compelled to fly the country, to escape the consequences of the discovery of his dishonest practices. He afterwards became a zealous convert to Arianism, and made himself so conspicuous in his new vocation, that he was sent by Constantius to supersede Athanasius in the archbishopric of Alexandria. To satisfy his avarice, the pagan temples were plundered, and the pagan and Christian inhabitants taxed, till the oppression became unendurable. The people rose and expelled the ex-contractor, but he was quickly reinstated by the army of Constantius. The accession of Julian was the signal for retribution.


St. George
George and two of his most obnoxious adherents were dragged to prison by the exultant Alexandrians, where they lay for twenty-four days, when the impatience of the people refused to wait longer for revenge. The prison doors were broken open, the archbishop and his friends murdered, and their bodies, after being carried through the city in triumph, thrown into the sea. This death at the hands of the pagans made the tyrant a martyr in the eyes of the Arians, and canonization followed as a matter of course. When the Arians re-entered the church, they brought back their saint with them; and although he was at first received with distrust, the sixth century saw him firmly established as one of the first order. The Crusades added to his renown. He was said to have fought for Godfrey of Bouillon at the battle of Antioch, and appeared to Coeur-de-Lion before Acre as the precursor of victory, and from that time the Cappadocian adventurer became the chosen patron of arms and chivalry. Romance cast its halo around him, transforming the symbolical dragon into a real monster slain in Lybia to save a beautiful maiden from a dreadful death.

Butler, the historian of the Romish calendar, repudiates George of Cappadocia, and will have it that the famous saint was born of noble Christian parents, that he entered the army, and rose to a high grade in its ranks, until the persecution of his co-religionists by Diocletian compelled him to throw up his commission, and upbraid the emperor for his cruelty, by which bold conduct he lost his head and won his saintship. Whatever the real character of St. George might have been, he was held in great honour in England from a very early period. While in the calendars of the Greek and Latin churches he shared the twenty-third of April with other saints, a Saxon Martyrology declares the day dedicated to him alone; and after the Conquest his festival was celebrated after the approved fashion of Englishmen.
In 1344, this feast was made memorable by the creation of the noble Order of St. George, or the Blue Garter, the institution being inaugurated by a grand joust, in which forty of England's best and bravest knights held the lists against the foreign chivalry attracted by the proclamation of the challenge through France, Burgundy, Hainault, Brabant, Flanders, and Germany. In the first year of the reign of Henry V, a council held at London decreed, at the instance of the king himself, that henceforth the feast of St. George should be observed by a double service; and for many years the festival was kept with great splendour at Windsor and other towns. Shakspeare, in Henry VI, makes the Regent Bedford say, on receiving the news of disasters in France:

Bonfires in France I am forthwith to make
To keep our great St. George's feast withal!'
Edward VI promulgated certain statutes severing the connection between the 'noble order' and the saint; but on his death, Mary at once abrogated them as 'impertinent, and tending to novelty.' The festival continued to be observed until 1567, when, the ceremonies being thought incompatible with the reformed religion, Elizabeth ordered its discontinuance. James I, however, kept the 23rd of April to some extent, and the revival of the feast in all its glories was only prevented by the Civil War. So late as 1614, it was the custom for fashionable gentlemen to wear blue coats on St. George's day, probably in imitation of the blue mantle worn by the Knights of the Garter.

In olden times, the standard of St. George was borne before our English kings in battle, and his name was the rallying cry of English warriors. According to Shakspeare, Henry V led the attack on Harfleur to the battle-cry of 'God for Harry! England! and St. George!' and 'God and St. George' was Talbot's slogan on the fatal field of Patay. Edward of Wales exhorts his peace-loving parents to

'Cheer these noble lords,
And hearten those that fight in your defence;

Unsheath your sword, good father, cry St. George!'The fiery Richard invokes the same saint, and his rival can think of no better name to excite the ardour of his aherents:

'Advance our standards, set upon our foes,
Our ancient word of courage, fair St. George, Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons.'

England was not the only nation that fought under the banner of St. George, nor was the Order of the Garter the only chivalric institution in his honour. Sicily, Arragon, Valencia, Genoa, Malta, Barcelona, looked up to him as their guardian saint; and as to knightly orders bearing his name, a Venetian Order of St. George was created in 1200, a Spanish in 1317, an Austrian in 1470, a Genoese in 1472, and a Roman in 1492, to say nothing of the more modern ones of Bavaria (1729), Russia (1767), and Hanover (1839).

DRAGON LEGENDS
 



In all the wide domain of the mythical and marvellous, no legends occur so frequently, or in so many various forms, as those which describe a monstrous winged serpent, or dragon, devouring men, women, and children, till arrested by the miraculous valour or saintly piety of some hero. In nearly all of these legends, a maiden, as the special victim of the monster, and a well, cave, or river, as its dwelling-place, are mixed up with the accessory objects of the main story. The Grecian mythology abounds with such narrations, apparently emblematical of the victory gained by spring over winter, of light over darkness, of good over evil. Nor was this pagan myth antagonistic to the language or spirit of Christianity. Consequently we find a dragon—as the emblem of sin in general, and paganism in particular—vanquished by a saint, a perpetually recurring myth running through all the ancient Christian legends. At first the monster was used in its figurative sense alone; but in the darker ages, the idea being understood literally, the symbol was translated into an acknowledged fact.


A Knight slaying a Dragon
In many instances the ravages caused by inundations have been emblematized as the malevolent deeds of dragons. In the seventh century, St. Romanus is said to have delivered the city of Rouen from one of those monsters. The feat was accomplished in this very simple manner. On Ascension day, Romanus, taking a condemned criminal out of prison, ordered him to go and fetch the dragon. The criminal obeyed, and the dragon following him into the city, walked into a blazing fire that had previously been prepared, and was burned to death. To commemorate the event, King Dagobert gave the clergy of Rouen the annual privilege of pardoning a condemned criminal on Ascension day; a right exercised with many ceremonies, till the period of the first Revolution. This dragon, named Gargouille (a water-spout), lived in the river Seine; and as Romanus is said to have constructed embankments to defend Rouen from the overflowing of that river, the story seems to explain itself.
The legends of Tarasque, the dragon of the Rhone, destroyed by St. Martha, and the dragon of the Garonne, killed by St. Martial at Bordeaux, admit of a similar explanation. The winding rivers resembling the convolutions of a serpent, are frequently found to take the name of that animal in common language, as well as in poetical metaphor. The river Draco, in Bithynia, is so called from its numerous windings, and in Italy and Germany there are rivers deriving their names from the same cause. In Switzerland the word drach has been frequently given to impetuous mountain torrents, which, suddenly breaking out, descend like avalanches on the lower country. Thus we can easily account for such local names as Drachenlok, the dragon's hole; Drackenreid, the dragon's march; and the legends of Struth, of Winkelreid, and other Swiss dragon-slayers.

But the inundation theory will not explain all dragon legends. Indeed, it would be as easy for a supernaturally endowed power to arrest the overflowing of a river as to destroy a dragon, admitting there were animals of that description. But such a comparison cannot be applied to the limited power of an ordinary man, and we find not only saints, but sinners of all kinds, knights, convicts, deserters, and outlaws, figuring as dragon-killers. And this may readily be accounted for. In almost every strange object the ignorant man fancies he discovers corroboration of the myths learned in his childhood; and, as different periods and places exhibit different phenomena, legends in course of time are varied by being mixed up with other myths and facts originally unconnected with them. The mediaeval naturalists, too, by recognizing the dragon as a genuine existing animal known to science and travellers, laid a foundation for innumerable varieties of the legend. Thus, at Aix, the fossilized head of an extinct Saurian reptile is shewn as the veritable head of the dragon slain by St. Martha.
In churches at Marseilles, Lyons, Ragusa, and Cimiers, skins of stuffed alligators are exhibited as the remains of dragons. The best authenticated of all the dragon stories is that of the one said to have been killed by Dieudonne, of Gozo, a knight of Rhodes, and afterwards Grand Master of the Order, in the fourteenth century. The head of this dragon was carefully preserved as a trophy at Rhodes, till the knights were driven out of the island. The Turks, respecting bravery even in a Christian enemy, preserved the head with equal care, so that it was seen by Thevenot as late as the middle of the seventeenth century; and from his account it appears to have been no other than the head of a hippopotamus.
Real persons have, in some instances, been made the heroes of legends as wild as that of Perseus. The ignorant, unable to appreciate or even to comprehend the mere idea of literary fame, have ever given a mythical reputation to men of letters. In Italy, Virgil is still spoken of as a potent necromancer; and a sculptured representation of St. George and the dragon on the portal of a church at Avignon has conferred on Petrarch the renown of a dragon-killer. According to the tale, as Petrarch and Laura were one day hunting, they chanced to pass the den of a dragon. The hideous monster, less ravenous than amorous, attacked Laura; but the poet rushing to her assistance, killed the beast with his dagger. If the story be doubted, the narrator triumphantly points to the sculpture as a proof of its correctness; just as the painted representation of a dragon, on the wall of Mordiford church, in Herefordshire, has been innumerable times pointed out as the exact resemblance and memorial of a reptile killed by a condemned criminal in the neighbouring river Lug. To vulgar minds such evidence appears incontrovertible. As a local poet sings

'Who has not heard, of Herefordian birth,
Who has not heard, as winter evenings lag on,
That tale of awe to some—to some of mirth
Of Mordiford's most famous huge green dragon?
Who has not seen the figure on its church,
At western end outspread to all beholders,
Where leaned the beggar pilgrim on his crutch
And asked its meaning—body, head, and shoulders?
There still we see the place, and hear the tale,
Where man and monster fought for life and glory;
No one can righteously the facts assail,
For even the church itself puts it before ye.'

A fertile source of mythical narrations is found in the ancient names of places; legends being invented to account for the names, and then we are gravely informed that the names were derived from the alleged facts of the legends. Near Dundee, in Forfarshire, there is a well called The Nine Maidens' Well, and adjoining are places named respectively Pittempton, Baldragon, Strathmartin, and Martinstane. From these simple circumstances we have a dragon story, which may be thus abridged. A dragon devoured nine maidens at the well near Pittempton. Martin, the lover of one of the maidens, finding life a burden, determined to kill the reptile, or perish in the attempt. Accordingly, he attacked it with a club, striking the first blow at Strath—pronounced by the country people Strike — martin. The venomous beast was scotched, not killed, by this blow; but as it dragged — Scottice, draiglet — 'its slow length along 'through a morass, the hero of the adventure followed up the attack, and finally killed the monster at Martinstane. The dragon, like other great criminals of the olden time, made a 'last speech, confession, and dying declaration,' in the following words:
I was tempit (tempted) at Pittempton,
Draiglit (draggled) at Baldragon,
Stricken at Strikemartin,
And killed at Martinstane.'

The festival of the Rogations, anciently held on the three days preceding Ascension Day, were the prime source of dragon legends. During these days the clergy, accompanied by the church officers and people, walked round the boundaries of their respective parishes; and at certain pre-scribed spots offered up prayers, beseeching blessings on the fruits of the earth, and protection from the malevolent spirit of all evil. To a certain extent, the custom is still observed in many English parishes. In the ancient processions, there was always carried the image of a dragon, the emblem of the infernal spirit, whose overthrow was solicited from heaven, and whose final defeat was attributed to the saint more particularly revered by the people of the diocese or parish. On the third day of the processions, the dragon was stoned, kicked, buffeted, and treated in a very ignominious, if not indecent manner. Thus every parish had its dragon as well as its saint, with a number of dragon localities—the dragon's rock, the dragon's well, &c., so named from being the spots where the dragon was deposited, when the processions stopped for refreshment or prayer.

The processional dragon has descended down even to our own day. Previous to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, Snap, the famous Norwich dragon, annually went in procession with the mayor and corporation on the Tuesday preceding the eve of St. John the Baptist. Snap was a magnificent reptile, all glittering in green and gold. He was witty, too, bandying jokes on men and things in general, with his admiring friends in the crowd. Guarded by four whifflers, armed with drawn swords, Snap seemed to be quite at home among the bands and banners of the procession. But, true to his ancient traditionary instincts, though on that important anniversary the cathedral was strewn with rushes to receive the civic dignitaries in the olden manner, Snap never presumed to enter the sacred edifice, but sat upon a stone—the dragon's stone—till the service was concluded, and the procession resumed its onward march. But the act previously referred to has ruthlessly swept away Snap, with all the grand corporate doings and feastings for which the East Anglian city was once so famous. Yet the rabble, affectionately clinging to their time-honored friend the dragon, have more than once attempted to get up a mock Snap, to be speedily put to flight by the 'Move on there!' of a blue-coated policeman. Such are the inevitable changes of time."


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