Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/95

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73
Correspondence.


In another interesting description of the custom,[1] the St. Ives hurling-match is spoken of as having been held on the sands on the Monday after Quinquagesima Sunday, the ball being formed of cork, or light wood, covered with silver. And it is noted that in early days the mimic contention used to be commonly between two or more parishes, or between one parish and another, but that now one part of a parish hurls against another, the Helston instance being among the examples quoted, in which two streets play all the other streets on the 2nd May, when the town-bounds are renewed. In some private families the balls carried off by their ancestors in the early years of the last century are still religiously preserved as heirlooms. Yet a Druidic circle at St. Cleer, in East Cornwall, is known as "the Hurlers," from a tradition that a party of men hurling on a Sunday were for their wickedness turned into stone. This story has probably superseded an older legend, which embodied a more correct idea of some ancient relationship between the prehistoric remains and the popular game.

The analogy between Cornish hurling, the Lincolnshire hood-game, and the Eastertide ball-play of France, described by Souvestre and Laisnel de la Salle, is obvious. They are all examples of ancient solar ritual which have survived to modern times under the ægis of Christianity. The hood-game, however, is conspicuous among them on account of the curiously barbaric scene with which it ought properly to conclude. "Smoking the fool" appears to be known at Haxey alone. Yet there is no reason why similar practices may not be found to exist on some of the scattered islets of folk-custom, that still manage to lift their crests above the tide of modern thought, which now washes over the sinking continent of European myth. Instances of symbolic sacrifice to the sun may yet be chronicled. Wherever flaming wheels, or bonfires, are kindled in connection with some sacred day representing a prehistoric festival of the seasons, there is a possibility that traces of archaic blood-offering may linger in recognisable form.

Cabsow, the ball-game which till some few years ago was played at Cleethorpes on Christmas-Day, seems to be almost identical in name with scabshew or scobshew, the Cumbrian word for hockey or

  1. M. A. Courtney, Cornish Feasts and Folk-Lore (1890), pp. 20, 21, 25, 26.