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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/13

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5
Annual Address by the President.

and I hope our Council will take it up and see if, by our united wisdom, we cannot definitely fix upon the range and terms to be used. It would present to the folk-lore student a guide something like the anthropometrical standards have supplied to craniological students, and other countries may follow our example and construct for themselves their own measurer of survivals.

It is a magnificent contemplation that we may begin to measure our items of folk-lore; to trace some up to the mediaeval monastery or manorial lord, others to the paganism of Scandinavians, or Teutons, others to the paganism of the Celts, others to a savagery which falls into no historical chronology at present. And then to examine the residue and endeavour to work out by analogy and comparison their place in the system. There would be such a clearance of the unclassified items of folk-lore that we could hope to see some way out of the immense difficulties all must feel in the present chaos of materials, and we could begin to sum up the worthless items.

Now, at present, it is an extremely dangerous proceeding to suggest that folk-lore possesses any worthless items. At all events I am not prepared to give a catalogue of them; and I have rescued several apparently worthless fragments from oblivion, though it was impossible to say what their value is. For instance, my friend Mr. Rackham Mann, of Shropham in Norfolk, not long since told me that the farming peasantry of his neighbourhood always throw the afterbirth of sheep into the trees; and during lambing time the trees are to be seen everywhere bedecked with these not particularly pleasing trophies. Now is this custom worthless or not as an item of folk-lore? First; then, we note that it is commonly believed if the performance were not gone through ill-luck would attend the flock. Secondly, by searching for other examples of the group to which it belongs, we come upon the most perfect form in the series of gradations which it presents, namely, the Sussex practice, noted by Mr. Baring Gould, of hanging