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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/339

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Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivals.

selected the village of Ducklington, about two miles south of Witney, as typical of the surrounding district. At the hour of midnight on Whit-Sunday, the villagers were roused from their sleep, by the blowing of "peeling-horns," and the loud shouts of their bearers, to prepare for the coming festivities. These "peeling horns" (pl. vi.) were made of green willow-bark, peeled[1] in a long spiral strip from a bough previously well soaked and beaten, in order to loosen the bark. This strip was then rolled up in a long funnel shape, about 11 in. long, and 2½ in. in diameter at the larger end. To the smaller end was fitted a reed, about 2 in. long, made of willow bark stripped from a twig without any incision being made in it. This reed was called the "trumpet." The edges of the reed, which entered the mouth of the player, were pinched closely together to produce the sound. The whole horn was pinned together with the long thorns of the blackthorn.[2]

At daybreak on the Monday, all the men of the village who could beg or borrow a horse, rode off to the village of Hailey on the edge of the Forest, where they were joined by a crowd of hunters from the surrounding towns and villages of Witney, Bampton, Brize Norton, Crawley, Leafield, Charlbury, Finstock, etc. The crowd then moved off in a body, and proceeded to chase and kill three deer, one of which was claimed by Hailey, one by Crawley, and one by Witney, the first-named having always the prior claim. The man who was first in at the death of the deer claimed the head and antlers as his trophy, and the antlers seem to have been kept for years after as a mark of distinction. The carcase of the deer was then carried in triumph to an inn, where it was skinned. The skin was cut up into pieces, and distributed, and happy was the maiden whose lover could sport a piece

  1. Whence the name "peeling-horn."
  2. Mr. H. Balfour has contributed to The Reliquary and Illustrated Archæologist for October, 1896, an account of the peeling-horn considered as a musica instrument, and of its analogues in other parts of the world.