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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/325

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317
First-Footing in Aberdeenshire.

those carrying it from house to house were generally a band of young folks of both sexes; they approached each house in turn (there was no first-foot among them), chanting this ditty:

"'Rise up, good wife, and shake your feathers,
Rise up and dinna swear,
For here we've come wi' our Yule sowens,
And fain would taste your cheer.'

If they were refused admittance, the door was liberally bespattered with sowens in revenge." And this is still practised in the district.

In some respects Mr. Michie's account differs from the other stories I have heard. All whom I have consulted do not agree that the sowens were sprinkled in revenge for non-admittance. For example, another correspondent, the Rev. Dr. Jamieson of Old Machar, whose experience of parish work extends over half a century, writes: "The practice of carrying sowens by the first-foot on the morning of Old Yule, to sprinkle on the doors of persons he wishes well to, was common enough." And he goes on to relate how, on one occasion, about fifty years ago, he went, as a young preacher, to a manse on the last day of the year (a Saturday), and was awakened after twelve o'clock by the offer from the servants of a bowl of sowens.

From Tarland and Fintray I get further confirmation of the carrying of sowens by the Old Yule first-foot. My Fintray informant tells me of how the aspersion was made: "The man gets a pail like what we use to water horses with. This he fills with sowens, and then having procured a brush, similar to those painters use for whitewashing walls, he goes round the houses of those he wishes well to, sprinkling doors and windows with the concoction."

Besides New Year's Day and Old Yule, there were other occasions when some attention was paid to the first person met, and omens drawn regarding the fortune, or misfortune, that would attend the enterprise the observer