Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/399

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
391
Correspondence.

KEY MAGIC.

To the Editor of Folk-Lore.

Sir, —The key, either in conjunction with the Bible or alone, played an important part in our East-Anglian divination ceremonies. But a use to which it was put is, I think, almost unique, namely, to influence wind and tide on behalf of a vessel coming into or leaving port.

The following is a brief account supplied by our friend and representative for Norfolk, Miss Matthews; and it is the more interesting as it is corroborated by a friend at Lynn, who states in a letter to me that he well remembers seeing the action, but did not attach any value or interest to it at the time (not being a folk-lorist, perhaps). But since I told him of the information I had received he called it to mind; but, though he has since been on the look-out at intervals for its recurrence, he has not been able to trace even an isolated instance of its survival at this date. If it does still exist he has not been fortunate enough to observe it. Possibly the decrease in the shipping may partly account for this; or possibly it has been proved to be ineffectual in its results. But in any case it does not appear popular with the younger generation of seamen's wives, and will probably be, ere long, entirely forgotten. The following is the account supplied to Miss Matthews by a friend.

"At a time when there were no docks at Lynn, and all ships trading to the port moored in the harbour, I have seen groups of women, no doubt the wives and sweethearts of the sailors, assembled on the quay, watching for the arrival or departure of a ship, in the crew of which one or all might have an interest. Each carried in her hand a key, generally apparently the key of the house-door; and if she was watching for a vessel expected 'up with the tide' she would, by inserting one finger in the bow of it,