The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Notes and Queries (September)

938180The Folk-Lore Journal, Volume 6 — Notes and Queries (September)


Folk-lore of Whistling.—In some districts of North Germany, the villagers say that if one whistles in the evening it makes the angels weep. Speaking, however, of ladies in connection with whistling, it is a widespread superstition that it is at all times unlucky for them to whistle; which, according to one legend, originated in the circumstance that while the nails for Our Lord's cross were being forged a woman stood by and whistled. Curiously enough, however, one very seldom hears any of the fair sex indulging in this recreation, although there is no reason, as it has been often pointed out, why they should not whistle with as much facility as the opposite sex. One cause, perhaps, of the absence of this custom among women may be, in a measure, due to the distortion of the features which it occasions.

A Spanish Easter Custom. —A writer in the last number of the Journal refers to the Spanish custom of calling worshippers to prayer during Passion Week by means of wooden clappers instead of bells. A few years ago, happening to be at the little town of Espluga, near the great monastery of Poblet, on the day before Good Friday, I heard a rattle of clappers proceeding from the tower of one of the churches on the chief square. A Spaniard whom I asked the meaning of the noise told me that it was made by the children in imitation of the thunder which rent the heaven during the Passion of Our Lord. A similar ceremony in South America is thus described: "There is another church service, quite as ludicrous and preposterous, on the day of celebrating the Bending of the Veil of the Temple, when Our Saviour gave up the ghost. The people have large hammers, with which they beat the benches, and have sheets of tin, &c., which they shake, to imitate the noise of thunder as nearly as possible." C. S. Cochrane, Journal of a Residence and Travels in Colombia, London, 1825, vol. ii. p. 335 seq.) The other custom (not, however, an Easter one) described by the writer is this: "At midnight [December 24th] a curious custom of the Roman Catholic Church was performed, called the Cock Mass, in commemoration of the crowing of the cock which took place on Peter's denial of Christ. When the curate commences the service the people imitate and mock his gestures, tone of voice, and manner of reading, making all kinds of noise, shouting, bawling, hooting, and imitating the crowing of the cock, with every possible exertion of lungs, the whole forming an exhibition most deafening to the ear, and perfectly ridiculous to the eye."

The custom of substituting clappers or mallets for bells before Easter seems to have been observed in France, for Sir William (then Colonel) Napier wrote thus from Bapaume, April 21st, 1816: "The bells and clocks of Arras have departed by the force of prayers to Rome to be blessed; and, as it will take a fortnight to bless them and perform the journey with comfort, the hours are struck by boys with mallets in the streets."—(Life of General Sir William Napier, vol. i. p. 192.)

Milk v. Lightning.—In Emin Pasha's letter published in Nature (vol. xxxvii. p. 583), the Sudan Arabs are said to have a superstition that fire kindled by a flash of lightning cannot be extinguished until a small quantity of milk has been poured upon it. A similar belief seems to have existed formerly in this country. The earliest register-book of this parish contains the following note: —

"In the yeare of our Lord 1601 and uppon ye 14 day of May beinge thursday ther was great thundringe and lightninge and ye fyer descendinge from heaven kindled in a white-thorne bush growinge neere to a mudd-wall in Brook-street westward from Thomas Wake his house, it burned and consumed ye bush and tooke into ye wall about on yeard then by milke brought in tyme it was quenched and it did noe more hurt."

The Vicarage, Soham, Cambridgeshire.

Singing Game.—I have received the following which was recently taken down from word of mouth at Booking in Essex: —

"Here come seven sisters,
And seven milken daughters,
And with the ladies of the land,
And please will you grant us.

I grant you once, I grant you twice,
I grant you three times over;
A for all, and B for ball.
And please [Maudie Everard] deliver the ball."

The children stand all together, with another girl opposite. She comes forward and sings the first four lines. Then one child answers from the numbers, then the chorus sings "A for all," &c.

A Welsh Mining Superstition.—Thursday, May 10, being Ascension-day, work was entirely suspended at Lord Penrhyn's extensive slate-quarries near Bangor. The cessation of work is not due to any religious regard for the day, but is attributable to a superstition which has long lingered in the district, that if work is continued an accident is inevitable. Some years ago the management succeeded in coming this feeling and in inducing the men to work. But each year there was a serious accident, and now all the men keep at a distance from the quarries on Ascension-day.—Shrewsbury Chronicle, May 18th, 1888.