Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/392

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NOTES AND QUERIES. [ii s. XL MAY 15, 1915.


BUTLERS IN PARISH BEGISTERS, BUCKS AND OXON. Wanted, any entries of bap- tism, marriage, or burial in Bucks or Oxon parish registers between 1650 and 1730 under the names of Daniel, Edward, Henry, or Richard Butler. C.

90, Eardley Road, Streatham.


EASTER EGGS. (11 S. xi. 320.)

" OMNE vivum ex ovo." The egg as the embodiment of the life principle has been associated from the earliest times with mythical and religious ceremonies. In the Mosaic narrative of creation the Spirit of God is represented as brooding over the waters of the great deep, as a bird over her eggs, to bring forth and develope the latent life. The Egyptians held the egg to be the sacred emblem of the renovation of man- kind after the Deluge. An egg with a dove over it was the emblem of the Ark, probably because the Ark, an enclosure whence all life was derived, was considered to be similar to an egg from which life emanates. The chief deity of the ancient Egyptians was Cneph, who was represented with an egg proceeding from his mouth.

The Phoenicians, who derived much of their mythology from the Egyptians, applied the egg to the heavens, or rather to heaven and earth. Chaos and darkness were supposed to produce the egg which afterwards divided into two parts. The Phoenicians, who were the greatest sailors in the world, probably disseminated the egg tradition over the whole of the world known in their time. It is quite possible that the Gauls who traded with the Phoenician sailors adapted the egg symbol from them, and handed it over to the inhabitants of Britain. In British mythology Kreirwy, the lady of the under- world and the daughter of Ked, was called the token of the egg. This token was the serpents egg," common to the Druids of Gaul and Britain, to which Pliny in the 29th Book of his ' Natural History ' attri- butes the power of swimming against the stream.

Th e> Jews adopted the egg as a symbo of their departure from the land of Egypt It was used as part of the garniture of the table with the Paschal 'amb in the feast o the Passover. The connexion of the Easter


gg with this feast is apparent from the common names, "paste egg," "pace egg,"

pasch egg," &c., all of which are variants

)f " pascha," which means the Passover.

The egg appears almost universally ; it lolds an important place in Chinese, Hindu, and even in Hawaian mythology. It would lave been singular if it had not become associated with some Christian ceremony, ard as the fagan and Jewish ceremonies in vhich it figured took place in the springtime, and coincided with the festival adapted by he early Christians for commemorating the Resurrection of Christ, the egg naturally retained a place in that ceremony. As the mblem of the Resurrection, it was richly ornamented, and was retained as a religious trophy. It was used in the Easter feast after the abstinence during Lent, and signi- ied the resurrection of life. The English and Teutonic names of Easter are clearly derived from the name of the Saxon goddess Eostre, to whom sacrifices were made in April, the Saxon Ostermoneth. The Romance names are derived from pascha, as in the French pdques, because the Jewish feast of the Passover was celebrated during the same month.

At a very early date Easter eggs were pre- sented at church to the priests on Easter Sunday, when, after being sprinkled with holy water, they were solemnly blessed in this form :

"Bless, O Lord, we beseech Thee, this Thy


sustenance to Thy faithful servants, eating it in thankfulness to Thee on account of the resurrection


creature of eggs, that it may become a wholesome

to Th

s of our Lord.

In 1262 the twenty -four customary tenants and cottagers of the manor of Saperton in Gloucestershire gave to the Lord of the Manor at Easter five eggs each. Eggs pay- able at Easter were often part of the rent due from tenants under ecclesiastical lords. The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral received a vast number, and many parish registers record " eggs at Easter due by ancient custom."

The monks of old ornamented Easter eggs with rich emblematic designs, and there are extant a number of choice engravings of these gorgeous eggs, which after being blessed were eaten with great ceremony. Easter fggs were often sawn in two, the shells cleaned and lined with gold-leaf, after which they were embellished with figures inside and out, and secured with ribbons, to be retained as souvenirs. This practice was in vogue as late as 1700.

THOMAS WM. HUCK.

38, King's Road, Willesden Green, N.W.