DURING the discussions which took place some years ago in the Folk-lore Society as to the nature of folk-lore, there was one curious omission. Much was said about what the Folk believed, what the Folk did, and how these sayings and doings of the Folk should be arranged and classified. But very little indeed was said as to what the Folk was that said and did these things, and nothing at all was said as to how they said and did them, and especially as to how they began to say and do them. In short, in dealing with Folk-lore, much was said of the Lore, almost nothing was said of the Folk. I propose to supply that omission so far as the short space at my disposal will allow.
We all know the way in which the currency of a folk-custom is described. "It has arisen among the people"; "it is universally the custom"; "everybody does it or thinks it", and so on. These phrases are adequate enough as far as they go, though even here it is worth while recording that at times the custom is not universal, or has important variations. Thus at times it is unlucky to have a man step over your threshold first in the New Year; at times, horresco referens, it is one of the fairer sex whom the Folk are so ungallant as to taboo on that occasion. At times the first-foot should be of light complexion, at others he should be dark, and so on. So that even for purposes of universal custom we have to split up that mysterious entity, the Folk, into various segments of mutually conflicting opinions.
The Folk is many-headed, it would seem, and often
- A paper read—as a stopgap—before the Folk-lore Society.