The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 1/Notes, Queries, Notices, and News (pp. 226-33)
NOTES, QUERIES, NOTICES, AND NEWS.
Bogle Hole.—"It was in the immediate vicinity of Bogle Hole that during one of my earliest visits I was told by a countryman of super-human appearances there, of the huntsman's dogs turning back from the pursuit of animals which were something more than what they seemed to be, and of a man who in trying to fly from a high crag was killed, as we might have supposed he would be; but my informant did not attribute his fate to want of skill in the means he had adopted for his flight, but solely from his having neglected to make an offering of barley-cake to the rocks. As evidences are found throughout the entire length of the Roman Wall of unlimited belief in local divinities there must linger in these stories traces of ancient traditions coeval with the faith which assigned to mountains, rivers, fountains, woods, and fields, their guardian deities."—Charles Roach Smith's Retrospections, Social and Archæological, vol. i. p. 181.
Well Superstition.—The following piece of folk-lore given by one of the witnesses examined before the Skye Commissioners at Glendale is worthy of a note.
Alexander Ross, crofter and fisherman, Glendale, was [next] called and questioned. . . . .
Was there not a rule on the estate which the factor could enforce for keeping down dogs?—He enforced the rule on my dog by shooting him in a well, and the well has been dry since, although it was formerly one of the best wells in the country.
Cheshire Wedding Custom.—At Whitsuntide of this year I attended the wedding of some relations at Knutsford in Cheshire, and observed that the villagers scattered sand opposite the houses of the bride and bridegroom and of the friends who took part in the ceremony. All sorts of patterns are designed The neighbours appear to have done it as a mark of respect.
Peacocks foreboding ill-luck.—In confirmation of the testimony I was able to afford on this subject lately (ante, p. 93), I may mention that I have just heard of another instance. A Devonshire friend tells me of peacock-screaming being considered to forebode death (just the same as a dog howling), and a notable instance of the fact actually happened a few months ago in his own house.Barnard Castle is a town on the Tees in the southern part of the county of Durham. Bewcastle is a village in Cumberland on the wild moors west of Northumberland. Both seem to have opprobrium attaching to them; and natives of either place have their origin thrown in their teeth as a reproach. When I was at school in Sunderland 50 years ago, a common taunt was "a coward, a coward, o' Barney Castle"; and the natives of Bewcastle bear a traditional bad reputation as moss-troopers and thieves. In my own village of Edmundbyers, some years ago, I stopped to listen to two viragos, well-matched, holding a "slanging "contest, and found that when vocabulary and breath were almost exhausted what appeared the most pungent and irritating, as well as laconic, epithets were resorted to, "Barney Castle!" and "Bewcastle!" bandied from side to side: the meaning evidently well understood.
Superstition in Mid-Somerset.—A case of belief in witchcraft and the "evil eye" has just occurred in Mid-Somerset. On the road between Langport and Somerton live two brothers, one a small farmer and haulier and the other a sawyer. A few weeks since the farmer's wife became ill, and shortly afterwards one of his cows died from inflammation. While he was in the act of burying the carcase a woman, known as "the White Witch of Somerton," passed by, and the farmer invoked her aid. The woman, it is said, made him believe that he was "overlooked," and gave him a description of the person who, she said, had caused the death of his cow and also had to do with his wife's illness, adding that his secret enemy would most likely do him further mischief The crossing of the woman's palm with 7s. 6d. gained a promise from her of speedy deliverance. On a second visit she obtained 1s. 6d. more, and then proceeded to do something for the money. Mixing some red powder with the yoke of an egg, she burnt it, meanwhile muttering something that neither the man nor his wife understood. To the sick wife she gave a small heart, telling her to wear it next to her skin, but on no account to divulge the secret. She also obtained a supply of eggs to "work with" at her own home. The idea that he was "overlooked," and that the "spell" could not be removed, so preyed upon the man's mind that he became ill and delirious, and it was necessary that he should be watched. His brother the sawyer, a strong, hale man, of about forty years of age, undertook this duty; but, while attending to his brother, he also became impressed with the delusion that he was "overlooked," and that too by his own mother, who lived close by. The delusion gained such a hold upon him that his mind was unhinged, and he ultimately became so violent that it has been found necessary to remove him to the County Lunatic Asylum at Wells.—Bristol Mercury, 17th March.
NOTICES AND NEWS.
This is the first part of what promises to be a very useful collection of local folk-lore. Collections arranged in districts like this must always be welcomed, and we cannot endorse the cry raised in some quarters that customs incidental to several counties or districts need not be repeated in every local collection. In dealing with folk-lore its geography as well as its variations are most important to note. If folk-lore is early custom and tradition survived from early times, it may in England be due to a Celtic or a Teutonic origin; and therefore to pick out the geographical limits of certain customs or traditions is a most interesting phase of folk-lore studies which has not yet been fully appreciated. Such books as Shropshire Folk-Lore will enable this to be done when the time comes for it. Miss Burne has taken up the Collections of Miss Jackson, whose Shropshire Word-Book was so much welcomed, and by the aid of her own local knowledge and her clear-sighted discrimination as to what was good and what was not, has succeeded in giving us an exceedingly good, if not a model, county collection. Shropshire is certainly rich in folk-lore. Its proximity to Wales lends additional interest to its possessions in this field of study. The book when complete will contain sections devoted to legends and traditions concerning giants and devils, popular heroes, Wild Edric, Will Edric, Will o' the Wisp, the white cow of Mitchell's Fold, bogies, fairies, meres and pools, hidden treasures, names and places, concerning ghosts, witchcraft, charming and divination, superstitions, cures, superstitions concerning animals, birds, insects, plants, the moon, days of the week, luck and unluck in daily life, birth, marriage, and death, customs and superstitions connected with days and seasons, the New Year, Shrovetide, Mid-Lent, Passiontide, and Easter, Rogationtide and Ascension Day, Whitsuntide, the month of May, Midsummer, harvest. All Saints Day, Christmastide, well worship, wakes, fairs, and feasts, games, morris dances, play-ballads, songs, rhymes, proverbs, notes on church bells, epitaphs. It will thus be seen that considerable interest attaches to Miss Burne's labours. She has occasionally used the publications of this Society for reference or for guidance, but the main portion of the work consists entirely of local collections obtained from the people themselves. The comparisons occasionally instituted with the folk-lore of other districts or of the continent are all to the point, but we must confess that we rather grudge the space devoted to this portion of the work in favour of the much more important work of printing what is fresh gathered. The comparisons are too few to be exhaustive, nor do they intend to be; and hence in their incompleteness they do not aid the study very much. Still it seems almost ungracious to say even this much in the way of objection to a most welcome and most valuable addition to a folk-lore collection. We trust our readers will aid Miss Burne in bringing out the succeeding parts—aid her in material as well as in subscriptions.
All who know Prof. Stephens's work will hear with delight of anything fresh from his pen. The vigour, the go, the sturdy manly sincerity of all he writes, his very affectations, quaint and original as they are, endear him to his readers. The present work is full of his peculiar charm. An adequate answer to Prof. Bugge it can hardly be called—only on one point (that, it is true, a vital one) is issue fully joined. It was requisite for Prof. Bugge, in order to maintain his view of the late origin of the Norse mythology, as presented in the Eddas, to date the Ruthwell Cross from the tenth century instead of from the latter half of the seventh, as had been held by previous investigators. Prof. Stephens repeats and reaffirms his argument for the earlier date, and no unprejudiced reader but will admit that he proves his case thoroughly. In other points our author contents himself with a simple statement of the absurdity of Prof. Bugge's views—but he by no means shows how absurd they really are. By far the most valuable and interesting part of his book consists in the monuments he figures, some for the first time, from English, especially North-English, lands, and in the interpretation he gives of their symbolism from Norse mythology. Most remarkable of all these is the Gosforth Cross from Cumberland. Amongst other Eddaic episodes Prof. Stephens finds the slaying of the Femir wolf and the punishment of Loki. Another fragment from Gosforth is interpreted to figure Thor's fishing for the Midgardsworm.
Now for one word of criticism. Prof. Stephens would seem to think that the Kelts had nothing of their own in the way of god or hero tales. Thus on p. 404, referring to the tale of Thor and his goats, he says, "The same is told of an old Keltic saint. Unhappily I have not made a note where I found this. Of course it had been annext from the song of some Scandinavian pagan." The allusion is to the well-known story told by Nennius (c. 32) of St. Germanus, and its Scandinavian origin is by no means a matter of course.
This booklet is a very interesting dissertation on popular poetry, designated by a Spanish writer, "lozano, huerto de la fantasia popular." It has been called forth by the publication of Cantos populares Españoles by Marin. After giving an account of the different attempts at collecting them, the author goes on to show how much of the real life of the people lies embedded in their poetry—their religion, their ideas of life, their superstitions, &c. The little work though based on Spanish popular poetry, has a universal range, and is worthy of careful study.
The Folk-Lore Biblioteca de las tradiciones populares Españoles promises to be of much value. According to the prospectus among the volumes to be first issued will be Colleccion de cuentos populares, compared with those of France, Italy, and Portugal, by A. Machado y Alvarez; Supersticiones populares, by A. Guichot y Sierra; Costumbres y fiestas populares Andaluzes, by Luis Montoto y Rantenstranch, &c., &c. A volume of about 300 pages will be published every three months at a subscription of 15 francs yearly, to be payable to the Editors, Franciso Alvarez y Ca., Zaragoza, 21, Seville. It is expected that the first volume will be issued during the current month.
Folk-Tale Tabulations.—The following tabulations have been received: "The Story of a Dam," "Kgolodikane (a large Bead)," "The Lion and the Jackal," "The Bewitched King," "Much searching disturbs things that were lying still," "The Ox which returned to life," "The Story of Umkuywana," "Story of Five Heads," "Ulusanana," "The Fleeing Girls and the Rock," from The South African Folk-Lore Journal, by Mr. G. L. Apperson. "La Soru di lu Conti," "La panza chi parra," "Lu Furasteri e lu Tratturi," "Li tri casini," "L'acqua e lu sali," "Il padre santo," "Il Re di Francia," "Figlio mio dottore!" " Li tri belli curuni mei," "Lu Re Cavaddu-mortu," "Russu-comu-sangu," "Donna Guángula," "La Bella Mainrana," "La Bella di li setti citri," from Pitré's Fiahe Novelle e Racconti Popolari Siciliani raccolti by Mr. E. Sidney Hartland.
The Annual Meeting will be held on the 5th July, at 3.30 o'clock. The President has very kindly offered to have the meeting at his residence, 13, Belgrave Square. Members who desire to bring friends to the meeting may have cards on application to the Honorary Secretary.