The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 1/Monmouthshire Folk-lore


THERE are a few notices of folk-lore in William Coxe's Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (2 vols. 4to. 1801), which may prove of interest to readers of the Folk-Lore Journal:

"In many parts of this county the poor of every persuasion still retain the custom of begging bread for the souls of the departed on All Souls Day; the bread is called Bara ran, or Dole bread."—Vol. i, p. 30.

Christchurch.—"This church contains a curious sepulchral stone, on which are carved two rude whole-length figures of a man and woman, with their arms folded, standing on each side of a cross. The inscription on the border is in Gothic characters, and, though in some parts illegible, shows it to be the tomb of a man and his wife, who died in the fourteenth century. A superstitious belief prevails among the lower class of people in these parts, that sick people who touch this stone on the eve of the Ascension are miraculously cured. At that time, the children who are thus exposed remain during the whole night in contact with some part of the stone. Mr. Sturge, who has given, in the Archæologia [vol. v. p. 78], a, fac-simile, relates that in 1770 not less than sixteen were laid out on it; but the custom is gradually falling into disuse; the clerk informed me that only six or seven now make their appearance."—Vol. i. p. 40.

"Abergavenny church.—In the middle window of the north aisle of the choir is a colossal figure of S. Christopher, with a long beard and flowing hair, carved out of a single piece of wood. I am informed by my friend Mr. Evans, that in Roman Catholic times it was the custom at funerals to carry the corpse into the northern aisle, and present it to S, Christopher, whose figure was usually there placed; and that still in several places (so prevalent is long habit) the bearers frequently carry the coffin through the northern aisle."—Vol. i. p. 193.

Skyrrid.—"To this place many Roman Catholics in the vicinity are said to repair annually on Michaelmas Eve to perform their devotions. The earth of this spot is likewise considered as sacred, and was formerly carried away to cure diseases and to sprinkle on the coffins of those who were interred; but whether this superstitious practice still continues I was not able to ascertain."—Vol. i. p. 199.

The author refers to a book entitled A Geographical, Historical, and Religious Account oj the Parish of Aherystruth in the county of Monmouth. . . . . . By Edward Jones, 1779, in which there is much about fairies, written from the point of view of a sincere believer in their existence.—Vol. ii. p. 249.

"Among the early specimens of his [John of Rent's] magical skill, while a farmer's boy in the vicinity he confined a number of crows, which he was ordered to keep from the corn, in an old barn without a roof, that he might visit Grosmont fair. 'And sure enough,' said the old woman who told me the anecdote, 'they were there, for they made a terrible clatter, and would not fly away till Jack himself came and released them.' "—Vol. ii. p. 337.

A parallel legend is told of the Hermit of Lindholme, on Hatfield Chase, Yorkshire, near Doncaster. When a boy he was left at home by his parents to keep the sparrows from the corn while they went to Hatfield feast. They had not been long there when they observed their son amusing himself among a crowd of boys. On their remonstrating with him for his disobedience, the boy told them that he had shut up all the sparrows in the barn. "How can that be?" inquired the father, "thoo knaws that the barn hasn't hed a door to it for the last twelvemonth." "No, but I reared a harrow in the doorstead," replied the young miracle-worker, "and none of 'em can get through it." And so sure enough it was. When the father and mother got home all the sparrows were lying dead on the barn floor, and there never has been a sparrow seen there since, except one, and that was as white as snow.

Bottesford Manor, Brigg.

3 September, 1883,


THE following scraps of folk-lore were noted down from the conversation of persons of the middle-class in Switzerland and Würtemberg, during the year 1881. As such old-world sayings are still half believed among educated people, it is probable that a rich harvest of superstitions might be reaped among the poorer and more ignorant portion of the populations of those countries.

Swiss Superstitions.—It is unlucky to mention the date at which the birth of a child is expected. If you have reason to think that a child is bewitched, place a bible under its pillow, then the spell will be broken. This bible-charm was used by the mother of a Calvinistic pastor in the year 1880.

Never go out for pleasure on the Lake of Bienne on one certain day,—it is, I think, the 25th of July,—if you wish to escape death. The general belief in this superstition was greatly strengthened in 1880, for a steamer capsized on the fatal day and all on board were drowned.

An unmarried woman should not be the first person to cut a pat of butter, for if she does so she will never marry though she may have many suitors.

Friday is the proper day on which to cut a baby's nails.

If the fowls huddle together outside a hen-house, instead of going to roost, there will be wet weather.

if a child suffers much pain while it is teething, hang a necklace of amber round its neck, then the teeth will appear quickly and easily. Amber necklaces made specially for this purpose are advertised in the country papers.

Never bring the flower of the periwinkle into the house; if you do so strife will follow.

A birthday-cake must have lighted candles arranged around it, one