Thursday, 22 October 2020

October Tales

 It's that time again, pumpkins, falling leaves, roaring fires and of course Halloween or Samhain

 as it was traditionally called. We all know the lore behind Halloween but there are 

many tales from this season that have been forgotten.

And here are just a few...

October 21st is the Feast of St Ursula and her eleven thousand Virgins.

St Ursula ( Latin for little female bear) was a British Princess who was ordered by her father King Dionotus of Domnonia from south west England to set sail to meet her future husband the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Amorica. It is said that Dionotus received a request to supply wives for the settlers of the newly founded region of Amorica  (Brittany) from Conan himself., so he sent his daughter to become his wife and thousands more women for the men.    But on the way there a strange and miraculous storm carried them all the way across the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port. Wishing to give thanks for this strange miracle Ursula declared that she would make a pilgrimage  and headed to Rome with her followers where she persuaded the then current Pope to join them. Nearing Cologne, which at the time was besieged by Huns, the Princess and her companions were caught. Refusing to bed the soldiers or to become their wives the virgins as punishment were beheaded and Ursula was shot and killed by an arrow, 21st October 383.

The Basilica  of St Ursula in Cologne holds the alleged relics of Ursula and her companions.

October 25th is St Crispin and Crispinian's Day; Agincourt Day

Born to a noble Roman family in the 3rd century AD they fled persecution for their faith ending up in Soissons in France. Here they preached Christianity to the Gauls while making shoes by night to support themselves. This irked the Governor Rictus Varus who had them tortured and thrown into the river with millstones a round their necks. Miraculously they survived only to be beheaded by the Emperor.

So they became the Patron Saints of shoemakers and their day is the Cobblers Feast or 'Snobs' Holiday.

'The twenty fifth of October

Cursed be the Cobbler

That goes to bed sober'

And of course it is the anniversary of the great English Victory at Agincourt in 1415.

'This day is called the Feast of Crispian

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by

From this day to the ending of the world

But we in it shall be remembered.'

Shakespeare....of course.

October 28th St Simon and St Jude's Day

Saints Simon and Jude were among Christ's Twelve Apostles, believed to be the shepherds to whom the angles announced Jesus's birth.                                                                                                          Simon who is supposed to have been martyred by being sawn in half is the patron saint of woodcutters while Jude is the patron of lost causes although the reason behind this is not known. It is always said to rain heavily on this day.

During the day if wishful to gain knowledge of your future spouse, peel an apple in one long strip turn round three times with the peel in your right hand repeating...

'St Simon and Jude, on you I intrude

By this paring I hold to discover

Without any delay, to tell me this day

The first letter of my own true love' 

Drop the peel over your left shoulder and it will form the initial of your future spouse's surname, if it breaks into many pieces you will probably never marry.

Okay now I am going to be irreverent, sorry...all this talk of saints!

To ward off evil spirits during Halloween according to a text written in 1688 the use of a spayed bitch was considered to be very wholesome in a house. Homeowners of that era had a strong belief that it it kept away evil spirits from haunting a house. At a haunted house in Cranborne in Dorset 1686 occupants were driven away by the strange happenings within. It didn't stop until the next tenant arrived with a spayed bitch in tow; according to reports all haunting activity stopped while the dog was in the house.

It was also believed if the dog started growling and the owner could see nothing, it would be possible to see the ghost by looking through the dog's ears!

I was going to stop there but then I found a strange story of a bridge in Scotland where locals mutts go to commit suicide! A Victorian bridge built in  1895 spans the Overtoun Burn, it is here that reportedly hundreds of dogs have thrown themselves to their death. Locals, who say that the area has a strange atmosphere, believe that they driven to it by the ghost  'The White Lady of Overtoun'

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