Monday, 11 December 2017

St Andrew' Day, Old style 11th Dec





A very interesting custom takes place in Northamptonshire on this date; at midnight
 a very noisy Tin Can Band makes its way around the villages of this area. 
It harks back to the old custom of 'Riding the Stang' or the 'Skimmington Ride'.
This was always used as a way for the locals to register disapproval of wife beaters. 
adulterers and other like offenders. Either the guilty person would be caught or 
a straw dummy used in their place and be paraded through the streets astride 
a 'stang' or pole.
 Behind this the Tin Can Band would march, beating pans and kettles, blowing horns
 and singing insulting songs. 
Once the offenders home was reached a speech was delivered recounting their crimes 
and sometimes the straw effigy was burnt for good measure.
The ceremony was often repeated three nights in a row, the result being the offender 
usually left the village.

"There is a man in our town,
Who often beats his wife,
So if he does it any more,
We'll pull his nose right out before,
Holler boys, holler boys,
Make the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys,
God save the King"














Sunday, 26 November 2017

Pack Rag Day





 So many interesting days to recount!...
This is the day when hiring fairs were held through out the north of the country.
It was called pack rag day because the servants who were seeking new 
places would carry their possessions with them as they visited the fairs 
in search of employment.  

"Servant men, stand up for your wages
When the hirings you do go
For you must work all sorts of weather
Both cold and wet and snow."

Traditional Ballad from Shropshire


Hiring Fairs date from the time of Edward III, and his attempts to regulate 
the labour market by the Statute of Labourers in 1351 at a time of serious national shortage of workers after the Black death decimated the population.


The hopefuls would gather in the street, sporting some sort of badge or tool to signify their speciality. Shepherds held a crook or a tuft of wool, cowmen brought wisps of straw, dairymaids carried a milking stool or pail and housemaids held a  broom or mop. This is why sometimes the fairs a re known as mop fairs.
If they fitted the employers requirements a shilling would be handed over to seal the bargain for the coming year.


Friday, 24 November 2017

Stir up Sunday 21st November




 This event is the last Sunday before advent and is traditionally the day on 
which Noah entered the Ark. 
The collect from the Church of England begins " Stir, we beseech you, O Lord, the 
will of the faithful people..."

This was always taken as a reminder to 'stir up' the mixture for the 
Christmas pudding and pies.

" Stir up we beseech thee
The pudding in the pot
And when we do get home
We'll eat it piping hot."

Sorry this little gem is a bit late if you are intending to make Christmas 
pudding, if you do get round to it remember that the mixture must be stirred
 clockwise with a wooden spoon. All present must take a turn and make a wish.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The 20th November is the Feast of St Edmund of East Anglia


Edmund, King of East Anglia was born of Saxon stock and brought up as a Christian. He became King before 855 until his death in 869. An army of vikings, led by Ingwar, invaded East Anglia  and he led his army out to meet them but was defeated and captured. He refused to renounce the Christian faith and was killed, some believe he was shot with arrows then beheaded. His body was buried in a small wooden chapel near where he died. Around 915 his body was discovered to be incorrupt and so was taken to Bedricsworth later called Bury St Edmunds where a community was founded in 925 to take care of the shrine. His body was later relocated to a large new Norman church and re-enshrined in 1198.
Folklore relates that his head fell into a thron bush and was hidden and when his followers sought it, the head itself called out to them crying 'here, here.' It was found being guarded between the paws of a giant  white wolf.
A miraculous freshwater spring  broke through the soil where the head had lain. Near the site of a Benedictine Monastery near Hoxne is a deep moat enclosing a small island where the spring is said to be located. The ill and infirm visited the spot during the middle ages believing the waters were healing.




Just south of the village of Hoxne which is believed to be the spot where he was killed is a stone cross that marks the spot of the oak to which Edmund was tied, The memorial reads...'St Edmund the Martyr, Ad 870 Oak tree fell August 1848 by its own weight.'
Near Hoxne lies the Goldbrook Bridge where Edmund is said to have hidden from the Danes. According to legend a pair of newly weds  spotted his spurs glistening in the sunlight and as the Danes dragged him away Edmund put a curse on all bridal couples who ever crossed the bridge. Up until the 19th century many wedding parties refused to cross the bridge and took the long way round rather than chance the curse.






Friday, 10 November 2017

Martinmas, Halloween Old Style


Martinmas is also known as Saint Martin's Day, Feast of Saint Martin, Martinstag as well as Old Halloween. It is the feast day of St Martin of Tours and is the time of year when Autumn seeding was completed and the annual slaughter of fattened cattle was performed. Hiring fairs where farm labourers historically looked for new positions were held at this time of year.
Martin of Tours was a soldier in the Roman army, when he decided to convert to Christianity he was later imprisoned for his refusal to fight. Becoming a monk he founded the monastery in Gaul and became the Bishop of Tours. 
Famous for his generosity towards a drunken beggar to whom he gave his cloak St Martin is now the patron saint of beggars, drunks and the poor. As his feast day falls during the wine harvest in Europe he is also the patron saint of wine growers and innkeepers. (bit of a conflict of interests there I think)





The 11th November is also a second chance to look into the future, so if you wish to
 do so try this, as performed in Scotland!
Take three dishes, fill one with clean water and another with dirty water, the third leave empty. The person wishing to know their future is blindfolded and is directed to choose a dish with their left hand. If they choose the clean dish then their future partner will be a maid or a bachelor, if they choose the dirty water then their partner will be a widow or widower but if they choose the empty one then they will never marry. And if they don't like the results let them try again but remember to move the dishes.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Elizabeth I, and her cure for wind!





A cure for wind prescribed by the Tudor monarch Elizabeth I

Take ginger, cinnamon, galingale ( a plant in the ginger family) of each 
one ounce; aniseeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, of each half an ounce; mace 
and nutmegs two dram each; pound together and add one pound of white sugar.
Use this powder after or before meat at any time.
 It comforteth the stomach, helpeth digestion and expels wind greatly.

From the Fairfax Household Book 17th/ 18th century

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October is the month for making potions...





The month of harvest and falling leaves is the ideal time to make 
sympathetic and magical potions for the treatment of wounds; these 
as tradition dictates are applied to the weapon that makes the wound 
instead of the wound itself.





"Take the moss on the skull of a strangled man two ounces; of the
 mummia of man's blood an ounce and a half; of earthworms
 washed in wine or water an ounce and a half; of the hemetitis two 
ounces; of the fat of a boar and a boar pig, two drams each; oil of 
turpentine two drams. Pound them and keep them in a narrow pot 
and make this cure when the sun is in Libra. Dip into the ointment 
the iron or wood of the weapon, or if the weapon cannot be had a
 sallow stick made wet with blood in opening the wound. And let the
 patient wash his wound in the morning with his own urine and 
bind it with a clean cloth, always wiping away the matter."

Excerpt from the Fairfax Household Book, 17th/18th century.