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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/538

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Gulf of St. Lawrence. The sight of this weird spectacle invariably presages disaster for mariners. A very terrible shipwreck, which took place at Isle aux Œufs many years ago, was believed to have been caused by this ghostly appearance. Before it appears the sea is smooth as glass; suddenly the waters are agitated, the waves rise mountains high, rolling wildly one against another; then a vessel appears, striving against the force of the raging billows. The deck is crowded by soldiers and mariners whose ancient uniforms date from another century. On the main deck stands the commanding officer, who is pointing out the somber heights of Cape Despair to the pilot, while a beautiful woman in white draperies clings to his arm. The ship is driving straight on to Cape Despair. Then, as the shattered vessel is ingulfed, piercing cries are heard mingling with the growling of thunder and the hoarse roar of the tempest; then, abruptly as it appeared, the vision has vanished; the sunshine dimples on a sea like a mirror, and the waves ripple softly to the foot of Cape Despair.

The word ignolée designates both a song and a custom imported from France by our ancestors. Both flourished for many years in Canada; though now, even in the most remote country districts, they have fallen completely into disuse. M. Ampére, chairman of le Comité de la langue, de l'histoire et des arts de la France, calls this song "a chorus which is perhaps the only actual fragment left of the Druidical epoch." The custom is believed to have come down from the time of the Gauls, and is said to have originated in the habit practiced by the Druids of going out on New Year's eve to gather the mistletoe which clung to the oaks of their sacred forests, and the rejoicing cry uttered by the pagan priests as the hallowed plant fell beneath their golden sickles, "Au gui, l'an neuf!" ("Mistletoe for the New Year!").

Christianity accepted the pagan rite, and sanctified it by charity. In Canada, a party of men, called les ignoleux, went, on New Year's eve from house to house, collecting for the poor of the parish, or in some localities begging wax to make tapers for the altar. They sang a chorus, in which the term ignolée frequently occurred, the term assuming slightly differing forms according to the dialects of the various provinces of France from which the colonists had originally come, as ignolée, guillonée, la guillone, aguilaiden. Troops of children, shouting "La ignolee qui vient!" preceded the procession. A table was immediately prepared for those who cared to partake of refreshments, as well as gifts for the poor. When the ignoleux reached the house, they beat time upon the door with long sticks as they shouted the chorus; but they never entered until the master and mistress, or their representatives, pressed hospitality upon them. The invitation was accepted with great state and ceremony, compliments of