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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/92

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72


NOTES AND QUERIES. [io s. xn. JULY 24 , im


The Hocktide prisoners' base probably has to do with the seasons, and therefore with the pasturing of cattle also. It has many parallels in various parts of the world, but usually the contest is between the people inhabiting different divisions of a district, or wards of a town. The camping of East Anglia, the hurling of Cornwall, and certain violent Italian games were, or are, such contests.

In Kilkenny and Wexford the people of certain baronies and parishes used to kick a huge football prepared with thread of wool. To whichever side it was carried the luck of the defeated party was said to be transferred.

A traditional ball-game of France, which was played with a zeal endangering limb and life, appears, according to the anti- quaries of the country, to have referred to the sun, and therefore to happy fortune in regard to the weather, pastures, and arable land. Many other instances might be quoted.

In his ' Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America,' 1859, pp. 104, 190, Paul Kane says, " We entered the straits between Lake Winnipeg and Play- green Lake," and adds : " The lake derives its name from a green plain which the Indians frequent to play their great game of ball." Later he remarks: <r They [the Chinooks] also take great delight in a game with a ball, which is played by them in the same manner as the Cree, Chippewa, and Sioux Indians." He then describes the game as having two goals about a mile apart, and as being conducted with sticks having a small ring, or hoop, at the end, with which the ball is picked up and thrown to a great distance. " At this game they bet heavily, as it is generally played between tribes and villages." Nansen says in * The First Cross- ing of Greenland,' 1892, p. 218, that the Eskimo have a pretty legend of the Northern lights, and believe them to be the souls of dead children playing at ball in heaven ; but he does not describe the earthly game which suggested the idea.

According to H. H. Bancroft's ' Native Races of the Pacific States of North Ame- rica,' 1875, ii. 297, the national game of the Nahuas was in many respects like the white man's football. It was common among all the nations whose cult was similar to that of the Toltec, and was under divine protection, though what its original significance was is uncertain. A legend of the Gallinomeros of Central California may, however, indicate what the conception underlying the apparent


pastime was, for it represents the sun as originally formed of a ball of reeds. In the beginning there was no light, and to dispel the darkness the coyote, a small kind of wolf, gathered a heap of tules, rolled them into a ball, and gave it to the hawk, together with some pieces of flint. The hawk, carried it up into the sky, struck fire with the flints, lit the ball of reeds, and left it flaming and whirling along, glowing fiercely.

El pato, which was formerly played in the Argentine Republic, was a blood- stained contest between mounted men for a duck, or other domesticated bird, sewn up in a piece of hide.

In Asia the Kirghez horsemen delight in a mad struggle for a decapitated sheep.

In India

"at Ahmadnagar the boys of two neighbouring villages fight 9n the bright 3rd of Baisakh (April- May) with slings and stones. The local belief is that if the fight be discontinued rain fails, or if rain does fall, it produces a plague of rats. W. Crooke, 'The Popular Folk-Lore of Northern India,' 1896, I. 73. Consult also II. 176, 321, 325.

In reference to such games in India Mr. Crooke observes that

"these mock combats have their parallels in English customs, such as the throwing of the hood at Haxey, the football match at Derby, the fighting on Lammas Day at Lothian, and the hunting of the ram at Eton."

Hocktide probably represents a heathen spring festival. According to Tille, the year of Teutonic heathendom was divided into three periods, and began with the great slaughter festival, held as soon as wintry weather set in, and the summer feeding-grounds could no longer yield the flocks and herds a sufficiency of food. This high-day was soon followed, for reasons connected with cattle-breeding, by a lesser feast. The more important became Martle- mas after the introduction of Christianity, the lesser St. Andrew's Day, or far more frequently St. Nicholas's Day.

Our 5th of November bonfires probably once belonged to the most important pagan festival. ' Bone-fire," which is the real meaning of the word, may refer to the burning of the bones of animals killed at that great slaughter-tide which gave to November the name of Slaughter-month.

Some four months after the principal eating-bout was held, the early-summer (or, as we should now say, spring) festival took place that is, if the weather allowed, for Teutonic pastoral feasts, like the modern harvest festival, were influenced by atmo- spheric conditions. Then, about four