Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/131

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

in the kitchen, and that people came sometimes distances of twenty or thirty miles, gathering up the loaves at the different houses as they went along. The younger women and girls especially made a great holiday of it, and groups of them would go about together very merrily, and clothed in their best. In those days barley bread was commonly eaten, and wheaten bread was a treat to the peasantry. But does the date correspond with any festival of Ceres, and is not the round form of the loaf an unconscious survival of the custom of making round cakes as offerings to or in honour of Ceres, Isis, and other mother goddesses? The custom has now quite died out.

The Neck Feast.—At harvest-time, in South Pembrokeshire, the last ears of corn left standing in the field were tied together, and the harvesters then tried to cut this neck by throwing their hatchets at it. What happened afterwards appears to have varied somewhat. I have been told by one old man that the one who got possession of the neck would carry it over into some neighbouring field, leave it there, and take to his heels as fast as he could; for, if caught, he had a rough time of it. The men who caught him would shut him up in a barn without food, or belabour him soundly, or perhaps shoe him, as it was called, beating the soles of his feet with rods—a very severe and much-dreaded punishment. On my grandfather's farm the man used to make for the house as fast as possible, and try to carry in the neck. The maids were on the look out for him, and did their best to drench him with water. If they succeeded, they got the present of half-a-crown, which my grandfather always gave, and which was considered a very liberal present indeed. If the man was successful in dodging the maids, and getting the neck into the house without receiving the wetting, the half-crown became his. The neck was then hung up, and kept until the following year, at any rate, like the bunches of flowers or boughs gathered at the St. Jean, in the south of France. Sometimes the necks of many successive years were to be found hanging up together. In these two ways of disposing of the neck one sees the embodiment, no doubt, of the two ways of looking at the corn spirit, as good (to be kept) or as bad (to be passed on to the neighbour). The drenching with water may point to a very early period of origin, when moisture represented the female principle in nature.

37, Fitzroy Square, W.C.

A Wedding Dance- Mask from Co. Mayo.—My friend the Rev. W. S. Green, H.M. Inspector of Irish Fisheries, has given me an account of a marriage-custom at Erris in Co. Mayo, which is so remarkable that it is worth a special notice.

Whenever a wedding takes place, gangs of men and boys appear