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obtain mercy;" and inspired with the particulars and superstitions relating to sentiment, and reflecting on the fluctua- the bonfires on this day :tions which are every day, occurring, the “In worshyp of Saint Johan the
peopoor and humble raised, and the wealthy ple waked at home, and made three and apparently secure brought down, you maner of fyres: one was clene bones, will need no other incitement to fulfil the and noo woode, and that is called a bone golden rule of your religion—“Do unto fyre; another is clene woode, and no others as ye would they should do unto bones, and that is called a wood fyre, for you."
SIGMA. people to sit and wake thereby; the thirde
is made of wode and bones, and it
is callyd Saynt Johannys fyre. The Concerning the Feast of St. John the first fyre, as a great clerke, Johan Belleth, Baptist, an author, to whom we are obliged telletń, he was in a certayne countrey, so for recollections of preceding customs, in the countrey there was so soo greate gives us information that should be hete, the which causid that dragons to go carefully perused in the old versified togyther in tokenynge, that Johan dyed version :
in brennynge love and charyte to God Then doth the joyfull feast of John
and man, and they that dye in charyte the Baptist take his turne,
shall have part of all good prayers, and When bonfiers great, with loftie Alame, they that do not, shall never be saved. in every towne doe burne ;
Then as these dragons flewe in th' ayre And yong men round about with maides, they shed down to that water froth of ther doe daunce in every streete,
kynde, and so envenymed the waters, and With garlands wrought of Motherwort, caused moche people for to take theyr or else with Vervain sweete,
deth thereby, and many dyverse sykenesse. And many other flowres faire,
Wyse clerkes knoweth well that dragons with Violets in their handes, Whereas they all do fondly thinke,
hate nothyng more than the stenche of that whosoever standes,
brennynge bones, and therefore they gaAnd thorow the flowres beholds the flame,
deryd as many as they mighte fynde, and his eyes shall feel no paine.
brent them; and so with the stenche When thus till night they daunced have,
thereof they drove away the dragons, and they through the fire amaine,
so they were brought out of greete dysease. With striving mindes doe runne, and all The seconde fyre was made of woode, for
their hearbes they cast therein, that wyll brenne lyght, and wyll be seen And then with wordes devout and prayers farre. For it is the chefe of fyre to be they solemnely begin,
seen farre, and betokennynge that Saynt Desiring God that all their ills
Johan was a lanterne of lyght to the peomay there consumed bee; Whereby they thinke through all that for that they shulde be seene farre, and
ple. Also the people made blases of fyre
yeare from agues to be free.
specyally in the nyght, in token of St. Some others get a rotten Wheele,
Johan's having been
seen from far in the all worne and cast aside,
spirit by Jeremiah. The third fyre of bones Which covered round about with strawe
betokenneth Johan's martyrdome, for hys and tow, they closely hide :
bones were brente.”-Brand calls this And caryed to some mountaines top, “ a pleasant absurdity;" the justice of the being all with fire light,
denomination can hardly be disputed. They hurle it downe with violence,
Gebelin observes of these fires, that when darke appears the night : “ they were kindled about midnight on Resembling much the sunne, that from
the very moment of the summer solstice, the Heavens down should fal, A strange and monstrous sight it seemes,
by the greatest part as well of the ancient and fearefull to them all:
as of modern nations; and that this fireBut they suppose their mischiefes all
lighting was a religious ceremony of the are likewise throwne to hell,
most remote antiquity, which was obAnd that from harmes and daungers now,
served for the prosperity of states and in safetie here they dwell.*
people, and to dispel every kind of evil.” A very ancient“ Homily” relates other origin of this fire, which is still retained
He then proceeds to remark, that “ the by so many nations, though enveloped in
the mist of antiquity, is very simple: it # Naogeorgus by Googe.
was a feu de joic, kindled the very moment the year began; for the first of all of St. John the baptist and St. Peter, they years,
and the most ancient that we know always have in every town a bonfire late of, began at this month of June. Thence in the evenings, and carry about bundles the very name of this month, junior, the of reeds fast tied and fired; these being youngest, which is renewed; while that dry, will last long, and flame better than of the preceding one is May, major, the a torch, and be a pleasing divertive prosancient. Thus the one was the month of pect to the distant beholder; a stranger young people, while the other belonged would go near to imagine the whole to old men. These feux de joie were country was on fire.” Brand cites furaccompanied at the same time with vows ther, from “ The Survey of the South of and sacrifices for the prosperity of the Ireland,” that—" It is not strange that people and the fruits of the earth. They many Druid remains should still exist; Janiced also round this fire; for what but it is a little extraordinary that some feast is there without a dance ? and the of their customs should still be practised. most active leaped over it. Each on de- They annually renew the sacrifices that parting took away a fire-brand, great or used to be offered to Apollo, without small, and the remains were scattered to knowing it. On Midsummer's eve, every the wind, which, at the same time that it eminence, near which is a habitation, dispersed the ashes, was thought to expel blazes with bonfires; and round these every evil. When, after a long train of they carry numerous torches, shouting years, the year ceased to commence at and dancing, which affords a beautiful ihis solstice, still the custom of making sight. Though historians had not given these fires a: this time was continued by us the mythology of the pagan Irish, and force of habit, and of those superstitious though they had not told us expressly ideas that are annexed to it.” So far re- that they worshipped Beal, or Bealin, and marks Gebelin concerning the univer- that this Beal was the sun, and their chief sality of the practice.
god, it might, nevertheless, be investiBourne, a chronicler of old customs, gated from this custom, which the lapse that men and women
of so many centuries has not been able to customed to gather together in the even- wear away.”. Brand goes on to quote ing by the sea side, or in some certain from the “ Gentleman's Magazine,” foi houses, and there adorn a girl, who was February 1795, “The Irish have ever her parent's first begotten child, after the been worshippers of fire and of Baal, and manner of a bride. Then they feasted, are so to this day. This is owing to the and leaped after the manner of baccha- Roman Catholics, who have artfully yieldnals, and danced and shouted as they ed to the superstitions of the natives, in were wont to do on their holidays; after order to gain and keep up an establishthis they poured into a narrow-necked ment, grafting christianity upon pagan vessel some of the sea water, and put also rites. The chief festival in honour of the into it certain things belonging to each of sun and fire is upon the 21st of June, them ; then, as if the devil gifted the girl when the sun arrives at the summer solwith the faculty of telling future things, stice, or rather begins its retrograde mothey would inquire with a loud voice tion. I was so fortunate in the summer about the good or evil fortune that should of 1782, as to have my curiosity gratified attend them : upon this the girl would by a sight of this ceremony to a very great take out of the vessel the first thing that extent of country. At the house where I came to hand, and show it, and give it to was entertained, it was told me that we the owner, who, upon receiving it, was should see at midnight the most singular so foolish as to imagine himself wiser as sight in Ireland, wrich was the lighting of to the good or evil fortune that should fires in honour of the sun. Accordingly, attend him." “ In Cornwall, particu. exactly at midnight, the fires began to larly,” says Borlase, “ the people went appear : and taking the advantage of with lighted torches, tarred and pitched going up to the leads of the house, which at the end, and made their perambula- had a widely extended view, I saw on a tions round their fires." They went “from radius of thirty miles, all around, the village to village, carrying their torches fires burning on every eminence which before them, and this is certainly the re- the country affor led. I had a farther mains of the Druid superstition." satisfaction in leirning, from undoubtel
And so in Ireland, according to sir authority, that the people danced round Henry Piers, in Vallancay, “ on the eves the fires, and at the close went through
these fires, and made their sons and of flowers. A layer of clay is placed on daughters, together with their cattle, pass the stool, and therein is stuck, with great the fire; and the whole was conducted regularity, an arrangement of all kinds of with religious solemnity."
flowers, so close as to form a beautiful
cushion. These are exhibited at the doors Mr. Brand notices, that Mr. Douce has of houses in the villages, and al the ends a curious French print, entitled “L'este of streets and cross-lanes of larger towns, le Feu de la St. Jean;" Mariette ex. In where the attendants beg money from the centre is the fire made of wood piled passengers, to enable them to have an up very regularly, and having a tree evening feast and dancing.* stuck in the midst of it. Young men One of the “Cheap Repository Tracts," and women are represented dancing round entitled, “ Tawney Rachel, or the Forit hand in hand. Herbs are stuck in tune-Teller," said to have been written their hats and caps, and garlands of the by Miss Hannah More, relates, among same surround their waists, or are slung other superstitious practices of Sally across their shoulders. A boy is repre. Evans, that “she would never go to hed sented carrying a large bough of a tree. on Midsummer eve, without sticking up Several spectators are looking on. The in her room the well-known plant called following lines are at the bottom :- Midsummer Men, as the bending of the
“Que de Feux brulans dans les airs ! leaves to the right, cr to the left, would Qu'ils font une douce harmonie !
never fail to tell her whether her lover Redoublons cette mélodie
was true or false.” The Midsummer Men Par nos dances, par nos concerts !"
were the orpyne plants, which Mr. Brand This “curious French print,” furnished
says is thus elegantly alluded to in the the engraving at page 82.), or to speak Cottage Girl," a poem
" written on more correctly, it was executed from one Midsummer eve, 1786:"in the possession of the editor of the Every-Day Book.
“ The rustic maid invokes her swain;
And hails, to pensive damsels dear, To enliven the subject a little, we may This eve, though direst of the
year. recur to recent or existing usages at this
“ Oft on the shrub she casts her eye, period of the year. It may be stated then
That spoke her true-love's secret sigh; on the authority of Mr. Brand's collec
Or else, alas! too plainly told tions, that the Eton scholars formerly had
Her true-love's faithless heart was cold.' bonfires on St. John's day; that bonfires are still made on Midsummer eve in In the “ Connoisseur,” there is menseveral villages of Gloucester, and also tion of divinations on Midsummer eve. in the northern parts of England and in “I and my two sisters tried the dumbWales; to which Mr. Brand adds, that cake together : you must know, two must there was one formerly at Whiteborough, make it, two bake it, two break it, and a tumulus on St. Stephen's down near the third put it under each of their pilLaunceston, in Cornwall. A large summer lows, (but you must not speak a word all pole was fixed in the centre, round which the time), and then you will dream of the the fuel was heaped up. It had a large man you are to have. This we did : and bush on the top of it. Round this were to be sure I did nothing all night but parties of wrestiers contending for small dream of Mr. Blossom. The same night, prizes. An honest countryman, who had exactly at twelve o'clock, I sowed hempoften been present at these merriments, seed in our back-yard, and said to myinformed Mr. Brand, that at one of them self ----Hemp-seed I sow, hemp-seed I an evil spirit had appeared in the shape hoe, and he that is my true-love come of a black dog, since which none could after me and mow.' Will you believe wrestle, even in jest, without receiving me? I looked back, and saw him behind hurt : in consequence of which the wrest
me, as plain as eyes could see him. After ling was, in a great measure, laid aside. that, I took a clean shift and wetted it, The rustics there believe that giants are and turned it wrong-side out, and hung buried in these tumuli, and nothing would it to the fire upon the back of a chair; tempt them to be so sacrilegious as to and
very likely my sweetheart would have disturb their bones.
come and turned it right again, (for I In Northumberland, it is customary on this day to dress out stools with a cushion
* Hutchinson's Northumberland,
heard his step) but I was frightened, keep it in a clean sheet of paper, without
At eve last Midsummer no sleep I sought,
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth. It is also a popular superstition that The moss-rose that, at fall of dew, any unmarried woman fasting on Mid- (Ere Eve its duskier curtain drew,) summer eve, and at midnight laying a Was freshly gather'd from its stem, clean cloth, with bread, cheese, and ale,
She values as the ruby gem; and sitting down as if going to eat, the
And, guarded from the piercing air,
With all an anxious lover's care, street-door being left open, the person whom she is afterwards to marry will
She bids it, for her shepherd's sake,
Await the new-year's frolic wakecome into the room and drink to her by
When, faded, in its alter'd hue bowing; and after filling the glass will
She reads—the rustic is untrue ! leave it on the table, and, making another But, if it leaves the crimson paint, bow, retire.*
Her sick’ning hopes no longer faint. So also the ignorant believe that any The rose upon her bosom worn, person fasting on Midsummer eve, and She meets him at the peep of morn; sitting in the church porch, will, at mid- And lo! her lips with kisses prest, night, see the spirits of the persons of that
He plucks it from her panting breast. parish who will die that year, come and knock at the church door, in the order In “Time's Telescope," there is cited and succession in which they will die. the following literal version of a beautiful
In the “Cottage Girl," before referred ballad which has been sung for many to, the gathering the rose on Midsummer centuries by the maidens, on the banks of eve and wearing it, is noticed as one of the Guadalquivir in Spain, when they go the modes by which a lass seeks to divine forth to gather flowers on the morning of the sincerity of her suitor's vows:- the festival of St John the baptist :
Come forth, come forth, &c.
Come, forth, come forth, &c. Come forth, come forth, my maidens, and slumber not away The blessed, blessed morning of John the Baptist's day ; There's trefoil ou the meadow, and lilies on the lee, And hawthorn blossoms on the bush, which you must pluck with me.
Come forth, come forth. &c.
Come forth, come forth, my maidens, the air is calm and cool,
Come forth, come forth, &c.
Come forth, come forth, &c.
Come forth, come forth, &c. There are too many obvious traces of follow. He accordingly called several of the fact to doubt its truth, that the mak- his friends together, on an appointed day, ing of bonfires, and the leaping through and having lighted a large fire, brought them, are vestiges of the ancient worship forth his best calf; and, without ceremoof the heathen god Bal; and therefore, ny or remorse, pushed it into the flames. it is, with propriety, that the editor of The innocent victim, on feeling the in“ Times's Telescope,” adduces a recent tolerable heat, endeavoured to escape; occurrence from Hitchin's " History of but this was in vain. The barbarians Cornwall," as a probable remnant of pagan that surrounded the fire were armed with superstition in that county. He presumes pitchforks, or pikes, as in Cornwall they that the vulgar notion which gave rise are generally called; and, as the burning to it, was derived from the druidical victim endeavoured to escape from death, sacrifices of beasts. “An ignorant old with these instruments of cruelty the farmer in Cornwall, having met with wretches pushed back the tortured animal some severe losses in his cattle, about the into the flames. In this state, amidst the year 1800, was much afflicted with his wounds of pitchforks, the shouts of unmisfortunes. To stop the growing evil, feeling ignorance and cruelty, and the he applied to the farriers in his neighcorrosion of flames, the dying victim bourhood, but unfortunately he applied poured out its expiring groan, and was in vain. The malady still continuing, consumed to ashes. It is scarcely posand all remedies failing, he thought it sible to reflect on this instance of supernecessary to have recourse to some extra- stitious barbarity, without tracing a kind ordinary measure. Accordingly, on con- of resemblance between it, and the an. sulting with some of his neighbours, cient sacrifices of the Druids. This calf equally ignorant with himself, and evi- was sacrificed to fortune, or good luck, dently not less barbarous, they recalled to avert impending calamity, and to ento their recollections a tale, which tradi- sure future prosperity, and was selected tion had handed down from remote anti- by the farmer as the finest among his quity, that the calamity would not cease herd.” Every intelligent native of Čornuntil he had actually burned alive the wall will perceive, that this extract from
finest calf which he had upon his farm; the history of his county, is here made for but that, when this sacrifice was made, the purpose of shaming the brutally ignothe murrian would afflict his cattle no rant, if it be possible, into humanity.
The old farmer, influenced by this To conclude the present notices rather counsel, resolved immediately on reduc- pleasantly, a little poem is subjoined, ing it to practice; that, by making the which shows that the superstition respectdetestable experiment, he might secure ing the St. John's wort is not confined to an advantage, which the whisperers of England; it is a version of some lines tradition, and the advice of his neigh- transcribed from a German almanac:--bours, had conspired to assure him would
The St. John's IVort.
The young maid stole through the cottage door,