The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 2/Notices and News (p. 27–32)
NOTICES AND NEWS.
Knowing how zealous our own English Notes and Queries has been in the cause of folk-lore we can readily understand what might be expected from Captain Temple's Panjâb offshoot. Nobody, we think, will be disappointed. Captain Temple, one of our most active members, understands and values Hindu archaic lore, and he knows where to look for his information. Scraps that do not find their way into the Asiatic Society Journals or into the Indian Antiquary will be duly registered in these pages; and, judging from the specimens before us, there will be many contributions from books almost inaccessible to the ordinary student of Indian matters. Captain Temple has adopted a very good plan of classifying the contributions of his various correspondents under, at all events, some kind of general grouping; and we venture to suggest that this excellent plan might with advantage be further developed. We confine our attention to general remarks in this opening notice, as it will be our object to give a summary of the folk-lore contents of each number as it appears, and we sincerely hope that Captain Temple's efforts will be warmly supported in this country.
This handsome volume is most welcome to all students of folk-lore. They have long known the stores of curious information contained in the two hundred and twenty-four volumes of the original series of The Gentleman's Magazine. But the information was practically inaccessible. One had to be content with second-hand references,—of all references the most unsatisfactory in a subject where every detail is of importance,—or, at best, with verifying a quotation now and again when a great library afforded facilities for personal inquiry. Now we have in two hundred and eighty clearly-printed pages all the information regarding "Manners and Customs" which generations of the friends of Sylvanus Urban sent to that respected shadow. The entries are clearly arranged, with bold headings; they contain the very words of the original, with year and page reference at the head of each quotation. Further, there is an excellent index. It is needless to say that the subjects embraced under the general head of "Manners and Customs" are very various. Thus we have notes on customs in 1697, and again on "Modern Manners" (viz., those of 1812, by "A Constant Reader"); on harvest customs, marriage customs, funeral customs, games, hunting, stage plays in churches, burlesque festivals of former ages, school barring-outs, and so on. Mr. Nichol's papers on London Pageants are a distinct addition to municipal history which must be comparatively unknown to many. Most members of the Folk-Lore Society will find some flowers to their fancy in this garden of old-fashioned plants.
The newly-established Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece, the main object of which is the promotion of the study of the mediaeval and modern history of that country, together with kindred subjects, has lately issued the first number ot its Journal. This comprises a variety of hitherto unpublished documents relating to different periods; and, among other contributions, a paper by M. Polites on "Diseases as found in the Myths of the Greek People," an essay in comparative mythology containing much information; an account of local Greek marriage customs; and collections of popular songs from Northern Euboea and popular tales from Athens.
Bishop Callaway has sent off two boxes of MSS. and printed matter on South African folk-lore, and Mr. Gomme hopes by next month to report as to their contents.
Subscriptions are due on 1st January, and Members would greatly facilitate the Society's business if they paid promptly.
Professor Rhys Davids has promised to read a paper in January, and the Council hope that Members will do their best to hear this distinguished scholar.
At a meeting of the Society on 14th December, at 22, Albemarle Street, Mr. Edward Clodd read a paper on the "Philosophy of Punchkin." After remarks on the more serious meaning now sought for within the folk-tale, sober treatment of which was impossible while it was looked upon only as the vagrant of fancy, an abstract of the more important variants of the Punchkin group of stories was given. The central idea common to these tales, whether found among Aryan, Semitic, Finno-Ugrian, &c. races, however much obscured by local detail, is the dwelling apart of the soul or heart, as the seat of life, from the body; and its deposit in some animate or inanimate thing, chiefly animate, an egg or a bird being the frequent hiding-place, and the fate of the soul determining the fate of the body. This central idea, it was sought to show, was the belief, thus preserved in more or less dramatic form, of the barbaric mind in one or more entities in the body, yet not of it, and endowed with power to leave it at will and control its destiny; whilst the passage of the life-principle from princess or demon into bird or necklace was an easy assumption of the imagination which created its rude analogies between man and brutes and lifeless objects,
A little book treating chiefly of the Orkney Islands will be issued by Messrs. Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., in a few weeks. It is entitled Rambling Sketches in the Far North, and is written by Mr. R. Menzies Ferguson. Besides containing chapters upon historical and archaeological subjects, with descriptions of the principal isles, it will treat of the customs and superstitions of Orkney, land tenure, farming, folk-lore, and fairy tales.
The Rev. John M'Gavin Boyd delivered a lecture at Airdrie, on Dec. 10, the subject being "Scotch Proverbs." Mr. Boyd, at the outset of his lecture, inquired as to what was a proverb, and how this peculiar form of expression arose. There was no want of definitions, but he did not think a proverb was capable of direct definition. He quoted several classical definitions showing that brevity and point were the distinguishing features of the proverb, such as that by Cervantes, who called them "short sentences drawn from long experience," and Lord Bacon who said they "embodied the wit, genius, and wisdom of a nation." The lecturer then showed that it was in the more ancient proverbs that were to be found the first genus of religious science and philosophy, as well as of political economy. He also pointed out that every nation had its own proverbs, which often corresponded to those of other nations, although different in words, such as the English one "carrying coals to Newcastle," which in Scotland was rendered "carrying salt to Dysart." In Scotland, up to a recent date, proverbs had been very common in conversation, but an abundant education had now turned them into the lumber-room of the past for the study of the antiquary and the investigation of the curious. Mr. Boyd then proceeded to give a number of illustrations of proverbs applied to different classes in Scotland, many of them highly amusing by their quaint drollery. He stated that, notwithstanding the characteristic religious sentiment of Scotland, there were comparatively few of her proverbs that touched on sacred things, this being accounted for by two reasons (1) the profound reverence with which the Scotch have always regarded things pertaining to religion; and (2) the doctrinal form in which we received our religion under the Reformation regime. The reverend gentleman quoted several Scottish proverbs in illustration of this and other points as he proceeded, and went on to say that there was no class of people with whom the proverbs of Scotland dealt more largely than with the clergy. For instance, "Maiden's stockins and ministers' stipends are aye less than they're ca'd," and "Corbies and clergy are little shot," and one, exceedingly good in its way, though rather libellous in its nature—
"The Deil and the Dean begin wi' ae letter;
When the Deil kills the Dean the kirk *11 be better."
His "gruesome majesty," it was stated, seemed rather a favourite with the Scottish people, for the purpose of "pointing a moral and adorning a tale," as appeared from many other proverbs (quoted by the lecturer), as, for instance, "The Deil is a busy bishop in his ain diocese," "He needs a lang-shankit spoon that sups kail wi' the Deil," and "The Deil's aye guid tae his ain." Several very humorous proverbs concerning lawyers were also quoted, and reference was made to the numerous proverbs relating to and arising out of the excesses and debauchery of a past age, this being the most melancholy feature in connection with the proverbial philosophy of Scotland. In these days of greater self-control and wiser social intercourse, the lecturer said it was with feelings of amazement that he looked back on days gone by upon customs that disgraced society. Those excesses had left sad havoc on our national proverbs. The lecturer also referred to proverbs on marriage, and concluded with a beautiful and appropriate peroration on the exclusively Scotch proverb—"The e'ening brings a' hame," and said that if the Scotch proverbs taught no more than that implied they would have taught much that was worth learning and a great deal that was worth remembering.
At a recent meeting of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society the Rev. G. Rundle read a paper called "Some Facts connected with old Cornish History." He began with a few words on charms. For a child who has thrush, say in the morning thrice the second verse of the eighth psalm. For tooth-ache.—Begin every morning the act of dressing by putting the stocking on the left foot. For a bad eye.—Pierce the shell of a living snail, and let the exuding liquid fall on the eye. For warts.—Cut a stalk of corn at one of the knots, cross it seven times over the wart, then bury it. Take a piece of meat, cross it seven times over the warts, then hang it on a thorn-tree to rot. The power of the seventh son of a seventh son is very interesting to us, as being quoted by Cornelius a Lapide as existing in Flanders in his day, some two hundred years ago. Mundic as a charm.—Mundic being applied to a wound immediately cures it, which the workmen are so sure of that they use no other remedy than washing in the water that runs from the mundic-ore. Old customs.—1st of May.—On that day it was the custom in Landrake to give the person who plucked a fern as much cream as would cover it. On Shrove Tuesday.—It is the custom to unhang gates, as well as to eat pork-chops and eggs, besides customary pan-cake. On May-day, in Landrake, it was customary to chastise with stinging-nettles any one found in bed after six a.m. For epilepsy, to walk round the church altar thrice. On St. Stephen's Day.—Every youth and boy who can beg, borrow, or steal a gun on that day goes out to shoot birds. On New Year's Eve.— It is the custom to place a piece of silver on the window-sill. This is said to bring good luck. A piece of flea-bane used to be placed in harvest-time in the first "arish mow" that was made. Blowing horns before the house of a newly married couple.—An amusing reason has been assigned for this custom in the parish of St. Breage. It is said the inhabitants, finding it impossible to make sufficient noise with the one bell hung in the tower, and not liking to be outdone by other parishes, hit upon the happy expedient of making good the deficiency by using horns. Col-Perra.—John mentions the custom of persons going from house to house, begging a Col-Perra tabban (morsel) on Shrove Tuesday. He does not, however, give the rhyme which is in use on that occasion. It begins Han-cock, Han-cock. On Christmas Eve children demand, and are never refused, from shop-keepers a couple of pins. With this they play at a singular game thus: A cup is placed on the table, round which the children gather. They drop pins over the cup; the child whose pin crosses another wins the game and receives all the pins as a forfeit. Superstitions.—St. Veryan.—There is a belief that if the clock in the church gallery strikes during the time of service a member of the congregation will die during a short period. This is said to have happened in the case of a recent vicar.
The following are the titles of folk-lore notes in Pânjab Notes and Queries:—October: Marriage customs, glow-worm, lucky days, house building, well finding, the goat as a peace-ofi'ering, black a protection against the evil eye, omens, quarters of the compass, jackals, evil-eye, proverbs, bears, wild-dogs, passing holy places, death customs, praying machines, curing maggots in sheep, horns on temples, unicorn, tombs and gravestones, objection to taking life, interment customs, spirits of the hills, fortune-telling, priest-making. November: Birth customs, first-born children, evil spirits, well finding, donkeys, charms against snakes, omens, village boundaries, burning houses to secure male issue, unlucky name, lucky numbers, children clapping hands, proverbs, sacred places, marriage customs, gold finding, ears of grain suspended, annual dance to the gods, plant-lore, votive pillars, votive flowers, votive rags, altar horns, going with the sun, praying machines, pashas of three tails, porcupine unlawful food, wild ass, sheep, cairns, salute on bringing in candles, confusion of creeds.