Cornish Feasts and Folklore - M. A. Courtney - ebook
Opis

Few Cornish people are probably aware how wide-spread still with us is the belief in charms and charmers, ghosts, and all other superstitions; nor that there are witches in our county, shunned and dreaded by some who fear their supposed power to ill-wish those who offend them, and sought out by others who want by their aid to avert the evil eye, or by their incantations to remove the spells already cast on them and their cattle by an ill-wisher who has “overlooked” them. Folklore is an almost inexhaustible subject. There must be many charms in use here that have not come under my notice; a few are too coarse to record, as are some of the tales.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 334

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

M. A. Courtney

UUID: c69b5c82-3c94-11e7-8765-49fbd00dc2aa
This ebook was created with StreetLib Writehttp://write.streetlib.com

Table of contents

PREFACE.

CORNISH FEASTS AND “FEASTEN” CUSTOMS.

LEGENDS OF PARISHES, ETC.

FAIRIES.

SUPERSTITIONS:

CHARMS, Etc.

CORNISH GAMES.

BALLADS, Etc.

ADDENDA.

PREFACE.

Few Cornish people are probably aware how wide-spread still with us is the belief in charms and charmers, ghosts, and all other superstitions; nor that there are witches in our county, shunned and dreaded by some who fear their supposed power to ill-wish those who offend them, and sought out by others who want by their aid to avert the evil eye, or by their incantations to remove the spells already cast on them and their cattle by an ill-wisher who has “overlooked” them.Folklore is an almost inexhaustible subject. There must be many charms in use here that have not come under my notice; a few are too coarse to record, as are some of the tales.A book on folklore cannot in this century contain original matter; it must be compiled from various sources. I have when quoting from other writers given my authority, and to communications from friends generally appended their names. To “One and All” I beg leave to tender my sincere thanks. M. A. Courtney.

CORNISH FEASTS AND “FEASTEN” CUSTOMS.

Cornwall has always been a county largely given to hospitality, and, as “all Cornish gentlemen are cousins,” they have from time immemorial made it a practice to meet at each other’s houses to celebrate their feasts and saints’ days.Since “there are more saints in Cornwall than there are in heaven,” these friendly gatherings must necessarily be very numerous. Each parish has its own particular saint to which its church is dedicated. The feasts held in their honour, probably dating from the foundation of the churches, are kept on the nearest Sunday and Monday to dedication day, called by the people “feasten” Sunday and Monday.Every family, however poor, tries to have a better dinner than usual on feasten Sunday; generally a joint of meat with a “figgy-pudden” (a baked or boiled suet-pudding with raisins in it).On the preceding Saturdays large quantities of “plum cake” are baked; light currant cakes raised with barm (yeast), and coloured bright yellow with saffron (as dear as “saffern” is a very common simile in Cornwall). This “saffern cake” at tea is often supplemented with “heavy cake” (a delicacy peculiar to the county), a rich currant paste, about an inch thick, made with clotted cream, and eaten hot.The Western hounds meet in all the villages situated at a convenient distance from their kennel, at ten o’clock on feasten Mondays, and, after a breakfast given by the squire of the parish to the huntsmen, start for their run from somewhere near the parish church (the “church town”). Three or four houses clustered together, and even sometimes a single house, is called in Cornwall “a town,” a farmyard is “a town place,” and London is often spoken of as “Lunnon church town.”The first of the West Penwith feasts is that of Paul, a parish close to Penzance, which has not the Apostle Paul but St. Pol-de-Lion for its patron saint. It falls on the nearest Sunday to 10th of October. An old proverb says, “Rain for Paul, rain for all,” therefore, should the day be wet, it is of course looked upon by the young people as a bad sign for their future merry-makings. An annual bowling-match was formerly held on feasten Monday, between Paul and Mousehole men (Mousehole is a fishing village in the same parish); the last of them took place sixty years ago. Up to that time the bowling-green, an artificially raised piece of ground, was kept in order by the parishioners. No one in the neighbourhood now knows the game; the church schools are built on a part of the site, and the remainder is the village playground. If there were ever any other peculiar customs celebrated at Paul feast they are quite forgotten, and the Monday night’s carousal at the public-houses has here, as elsewhere, given place to church and chapel teas, followed by concerts in the school-rooms, although there are still a few “standings” (stalls) in the streets, for the sale of gingerbread nuts and sweetmeats, and one or two swings and merry-go-rounds, largely patronised by children.October 12th. A fair, called Roast Goose Fair, is held at Redruth.On the nearest Saturday to Hallowe’en, October 31st, the fruiterers of Penzance display in their windows very large apples, known locally as “Allan” apples. These were formerly bought by the inhabitants and all the country people from the neighbourhood (for whom Penzance is the market-town), and one was given to each member of the family to be eaten for luck. The elder girls put theirs, before they ate them, under their pillows, to dream of their sweethearts. A few of the apples are still sold; but the custom, which, I have lately been told, was also observed at St. Ives, is practically dying out. On “Allantide,” at Newlyn West, two strips of wood are joined crosswise by a nail in the centre; at each of the four ends a lighted candle is stuck, with apples hung between them. This is fastened to a beam, or the ceiling of the kitchen, and made to revolve rapidly. The players, who try to catch the apples in their mouths, often get instead a taste of the candle.In Cornwall, as in other parts of England, many charms were tried on Hallowe’en to discover with whom you were to spend your future life, or if you were to remain unmarried, such as pouring melted lead through the handle of the front door key. The fantastic shapes it assumed foretold your husband’s profession or trade.Rolling three names, each written on a separate piece of paper, tightly in the centre of three balls of earth. These were afterwards put into a deep basin of water, and anxiously watched until one of them opened, as the name on the first slip which came to the surface would be that of the person you were to marry.Tying the front door key tightly with your left leg garter between the leaves of a Bible at one particular chapter in the Song of Solomon. It was then held on the forefinger, and when the sweetheart’s name was mentioned it turned round.Slipping a wedding-ring on to a piece of cotton, held between the forefinger and thumb, saying, “If my husband’s name is to be —— let this ring swing!” Of course, when the name of the person preferred was spoken, the holder unconsciously made the ring oscillate. I have, when a school-girl, assisted at these rites, and I expect the young people still practise them.In St. Cubert’s parish, East Cornwall, is a celebrated Holy well, so named, the inhabitants say, from its virtues having been discovered on All Hallows-day. It is covered at high spring tides.St. Just feast (which, when the mines in that district were prosperous, was kept up with more revelry than almost any other) is always held on the nearest Sunday to All Saints’-day. Formerly, on the Monday, many games were played, viz.—“Kook, a trial of casting quoits farthest and nearest to the goal, now all but forgotten” (Bottrell), wrestling, and kailles, or keels (ninepins), &c. Much beer and “moonshine” (spirit that had not paid the duty) were drunk, and, as the St. Just men are proverbially pugnacious, the sports often ended with a free fight. A paragraph in a local paper for November, 1882, described a St. Just feast in those days as “A hobble, a squabble, and a ‘hubbadullion’ altogether.” Rich and poor still at this season keep open house, and all the young people from St. Just who are in service for many miles around, if they can possibly be spared, go home on the Saturday and stay until the Tuesday morning. A small fair is held in the streets on Monday evening, when the young men are expected to treat their sweethearts liberally, and a great deal of “foolish money” that can be ill afforded is often spent.In many Cornish parishes the bells are rung on November 4th, “Ringing night.”The celebration of Gunpowder Plot has quite died out in West Cornwall, but in Launceston, and in other towns in the eastern part of the county, it is still observed. As regularly as the 5th of November comes around, fireworks are let off, and bonfires lit, to lively music played by the local bands. “ This year, 1884, ‘Young Stratton’ celebrated the Fifth with much more than his customary enthusiasm. A good sum was raised by public subscription by the energy of Mr. C. A. Saunders. The Bude fife and drum band headed a grotesque procession, formed at Howl’s Bridge, and second in order came a number of equestrian torch-bearers in all kinds of costumes, furnished by wardrobes of Her Majesty’s navy, the Royal Marines, the Yeomanry, and numerous other sources. ‘Guido Faux’ followed in his car, honoured by a postilion and a band of Christy Minstrels; then came foot torch-bearers, and a crowd of enthusiastic citizens, who ‘hurraed’ to their hearts’ content. Noticeable were the banners, ‘Success to Young Stratton,’ the Cornish arms, and ‘God save the Queen.’ The display of fireworks took place from a field overlooking the town, and the inhabitants grouped together at points of vantage to witness the display. The bonfire was lit on Stamford Hill, where the carnival ended. Good order and good humour prevailed.”—(Western Morning News.)When I was a girl, I was taught the following doggerel rhymes, which were on this day then commonly chanted:— “ Please to remember the fifth of November!A stick or a stake, for King George’s sake.A faggot or rope, to hang the Pope.For Gunpowder Plot, shall never be forgot,Whilst Castle Ryan stands upon a rock.”This was in Victoria’s reign; where Castle Ryan stands I have never been able to learn.The old custom formerly practised in Camborne, of taking a marrow-bone from the butchers on the Saturday before the feast, which is held on the nearest Sunday to Martinmas, was, in 1884, revived in its original form. “A number of gentlemen, known as the ‘Homage Committee,’ went round the market with hampers, which were soon filled with marrow-bones, and they afterwards visited the public-houses as ‘tasters.’ ”—(Cornishman.)One night in November is known in Padstow as “Skip-skop night,” when the boys of the place go about with a stone in a sling; with this they strike the doors, and afterwards slily throw in winkle-shells, dirt, &c. Mr. T. Q. Couch says: “They strike violently against the doors of the houses and ask for money to make a feast.”At St. Ives, on the Saturday before Advent Sunday, “Fair-mo” (pig fair) is held. This town is much celebrated locally for macaroons; a great many are then bought as “fairings.” The St. Ives fishing (pilchard) season generally ends in November, consequently at this time there is often no lack of money.The feast of St. Maddern, or Madron feast, which is also that of Penzance (Penzance being until recently in that parish), is on Advent Sunday.The last bull-baiting held here was on the “feasten” Monday of 1813, and took place in the field on which the Union is now built. The bull was supplied by a squire from Kimyel, in the neighbouring parish of Paul. A ship’s anchor, which must have been carried up hill from Penzance quay, a distance of nearly three miles, was firmly fixed in the centre of the field, and to it the bull was tied. Bull-baiting was soon after discontinued in Cornwall. The following account of the last I had from a gentleman who was well known in the county. He said, “This I think took place in a field adjoining Ponsandane bridge, in Gulval parish, at the east of Penzance, in the summer of 1814. I remember the black bull being led by four men. The crowd was dispersed early in the evening by a severe thunderstorm, which much alarmed the people, who thought it (I was led to believe) a judgment from heaven.”—(T.S.B.)The second Thursday before Christmas is in East Cornwall kept by the “tinners” (miners) as a holiday in honour of one of the reputed discoverers of tin. It is known as Picrous-day. Chewidden Thursday (White Thursday), another “tinners’ ” holiday, falls always on the last clear Thursday before Christmas-day. Tradition says it is the anniversary of the day on which “white tin” (smelted tin) was first made or sold in Cornwall.On Christmas-eve, in East as well as West Cornwall, poor women, sometimes as many as twenty in a party, call on their richer neighbours asking alms. This is “going a gooding.”At Falmouth the lower classes formerly expected from all the shopkeepers, of whom they bought any of their Christmas groceries, a slice of cake and a small glass of gin. Some of the oldest established tradespeople still observe this custom; but it will soon be a thing of the past.In some parts of the county it is customary for each household to make a batch of currant cakes on Christmas-eve. These cakes are made in the ordinary manner, coloured with saffron, as is the custom in these parts. On this occasion the peculiarity of the cakes is, that a small portion of the dough in the centre of each top is pulled up and made into a form which resembles a very small cake on the top of a large one, and this centre-piece is usually called “the Christmas.” Each person in a house has his or her especial cake, and every person ought to taste a small piece of every other person’s cake. Similar cakes are also bestowed on the hangers-on of the establishment, such as laundresses, sempstresses, charwomen, &c.; and even some people who are in the receipt of weekly charity call, as a matter of course, for their Christmas cakes. The cakes must not be cut until Christmas-day, it being probably “unlucky to eat them sooner.”—(Geo. C. Boase, Notes and Queries, 5th series, Dec. 21st, 1878.)The materials to make these and nearly all the cakes at this season were at one time given by the grocers to their principal customers.In Cornwall, as in other English counties, houses are at Christmas “dressed up” with evergreens, sold in small bunches, called “Penn’orths of Chris’mas”; and two hoops fastened one in the other by nails at the centres are gaily decorated with evergreens, apples, oranges, &c., and suspended from the middle beam in the ceiling of the best kitchen. This is the “bush,” or “kissing bush.” At night a lighted candle is put in it, stuck on the bottom nail; but once or twice lately I have seen a Chinese lantern hanging from the top one.In a few remote districts on Christmas-eve children may be, after nightfall, occasionally (but rarely) found dancing around painted lighted candles placed in a box of sand. This custom was very general fifty years ago. The church towers, too, are sometimes illuminated. This of course, on the coast can only be done in very calm weather. The tower of Zennor church (Zennor is a village on the north coast of Cornwall, between St. Ives and St. Just) was lit up in 1883, for the first time since 1866.When open chimneys were universal in farmhouses the Christmas stock, mock, or block (the log), on which a rude figure of a man had been chalked, was kindled with great ceremony; in some parts with a piece of charred wood that had been saved from the last year’s “block.” A log in Cornwall is almost always called a “block.” “Throw a block on the fire.”Candles painted by some member of the family were often lighted at the same time.The choir from the parish church and dissenting chapels go from house to house singing “curls” (carols), for which they are given money or feasted; but the quaint old carols, “The first good joy that Mary had,” “I saw three ships come sailing in,” common forty years ago, are now never heard. The natives of Cornwall have been always famous for their carols; some of their tunes are very old. Even the Knockers, Sprig-gans, and all the underground spirits that may be always heard working where there is tin (and who are said to be the ghosts of the Jews who crucified Jesus), in olden times held mass and sang carols on Christmas-eve.In the beginning of this century at the ruined baptistery of St. Levan, in West Cornwall (Par-chapel Well), all the carol-singers in that district, after visiting the neighbouring villages, met and sang together many carols. Mr. Bottrell says, “One was never forgotten, in which according to our West Country version, Holy Mary says to her dear Child:— ‘ Go the wayst out, Child Jesus,Go the wayst out to play;Down by God’s Holy WellI see three pretty children,As ever tongue can tell.’ “ This for its sweet simplicity is still a favourite in the west.”An old carol or ballad, “ Come and I will sing you,” etc.,known to many old people in all parts of the county, has been thought by some to be peculiar to Cornwall; but this is an error, as it has been heard elsewhere.At the plentiful supper always provided on this night,1 egg-hot, or eggy-hot, was the principal drink. It was made with eggs, hot beer, sugar, and rum, and was poured from one jug into another until it became quite white and covered with froth. A sweet giblet pie was one of the standing dishes at a Christmas dinner—a kind of mince-pie, into which the giblets of a goose, boiled and finely chopped, were put instead of beef. Cornwall is noted for its pies, that are eaten on all occasions; some of them are curious mixtures, such as squab-pie, which is made with layers of well-seasoned fat mutton and apples, with onions and raisins. Mackerel pie: the ingredients of this are mackerel and parsley stewed in milk, then covered with a paste and baked. When brought to table a hole is cut in the paste, and a basin of clotted cream thrown in it. Muggetty pie, made from sheep’s entrails (muggets), parsley, and cream. “The devil is afraid to come into Cornwall for fear of being baked in a pie.”There is a curious Christmas superstition connected with the Fogo, Vug, or Vow (local names for a cove) at Pendeen, in North St. Just. “ At dawn on Christmas-day the spirit of the ‘Vow’ has frequently been seen just within the entrance near the cove, in the form of a beautiful lady dressed in white, with a red rose in her mouth. There were persons living a few years since who had seen the fair but not less fearful vision; for disaster was sure to visit those who intruded on the spirit’s morning airing.”—(Bottrell, Traditions, &c., West Cornwall, 2nd series.)The following is an account by an anonymous writer of a Christmas custom in East Cornwall:— “ In some places the parishioners walk in procession, visiting the principal orchards in the parish. In each orchard one tree is selected, as the representative of the rest; this is saluted with a certain form of words, which have in them the form of an incantation. They then sprinkle the tree with cider, or dash a bowl of cider against it, to ensure its bearing plentifully the ensuing year. In other places the farmers and their servants only assemble on the occasion, and after immersing apples in cider hang them on the apple-trees. They then sprinkle the trees with cider; and after uttering a formal incantation, they dance round it (or rather round them), and return to the farmhouse to conclude these solemn rites with copious draughts of cider. “ In Warleggan, on Christmas-eve, it was customary for some of the household to put in the fire (bank it up), and the rest to take a jar of cider, a bottle, and a gun to the orchard, and put a small bough into the bottle. Then they said:— “ Here’s to thee, old apple-tree!Hats full, packs full, great bushel-bags full!Hurrah! and fire off the gun.” — (Old Farmer, Mid Cornwall, through T. Q. Couch, Sept. 1883, W. Antiquary.)The words chanted in East Cornwall were:— “ Health to thee, good apple-tree,Pocket-fulls, hat-fulls, peck-fulls, bushel-bag fulls.”An old proverb about these trees runs as follows:— “ Blossom in March, for fruit you may search,Blossom in April, eat you will,Blossom in May, eat night and day.” “ At one time small sugared cakes were laid on the branches. This curious custom has been supposed to be a propitiation of some spirit.”—(Mrs. Damant, Cowes, through Folk-Lore Society.)From Christmas to Twelfth-tide parties of mummers known as ‘Goose or Geese-dancers’ paraded the streets in all sorts of disguises, with masks on. They often behaved in such an unruly manner that women and children were afraid to venture out. If the doors of the houses were not locked they would enter uninvited and stay, playing all kinds of antics, until money was given them to go away. “A well-known character amongst them, about fifty years ago (1862), was the hobby-horse, represented by a man carrying a piece of wood in the form of a horse’s head and neck, with some contrivance for opening and shutting the mouth with a loud snapping noise, the performer being so covered with a horse-cloth or hide of a horse as to resemble the animal, whose curvetings, biting and other motions he imitated. Some of these ‘guise-dancers’ occasionally masked themselves with the skins of the head of bullocks having the horns on.”—(The Land’s End District, by R. Edmonds.)Sometimes they were more ambitious and acted a version of the old play, “St. George and the Dragon,” which differed but little from that current in other countries.Bottrell, in his Traditions in W. Cornwall (2nd series), gives large extracts from another Christmas-play, “Duffy and the Devil.” It turns upon the legend, common in all countries, of a woman who had sold herself to a devil, who was to do her knitting or spinning for her. He was to claim his bargain at the end of three years if she could not find out his name before the time expired. Of course, she gets it by stratagem; her husband, who knows nothing of the compact, first meets the devil, whilst out hunting, the day before the time is up, and makes him half-drunk. An old woman in Duffy’s pay (Witch Bet) completes the work, and in that state the devil sings the following words, ending with his name, which Bet remembers and tells her mistress:— “ I’ve knit and spun for herThree years to the day;To-morrow she shall ride with meOver land and over sea.Far away! far away!For she can never knowThat my name is ‘Tarraway.’ ”Bet and some other witches then sing in chorus:— “ By night and by dayWe will dance and playWith our noble captain,Tarraway! Tarraway!”Mr. Robert Hunt in his Romances and Drolls of Old Cornwall has a variation of this play, in which the devil sings— “ Duffy my lady, you’ll never know—what?That my name is Ferry-top, Ferry-top—top.”These “goose-dancers” became such a terror to the respectable inhabitants of Penzance that the Corporation put them down about ten years since, and every Christmas-eve a notice is posted in conspicuous places forbidding their appearance in the streets, but they still perambulate the streets of St. Ives. Guise-dancing wit must have very much deteriorated since the beginning of the present century, as writers before that time speak of the mirth it afforded; and the saying, “as good as a Christmas-play,” is commonly used to describe a very witty or funny thing.It was the custom in Scilly eighty years ago for girls to go to church on Christmas morning dressed all in white, verifying the old proverb—“pride is never a-cold.” “ On Porthminster Beach on Christmas-day, as seen from the Malakoff, St. Ives, at nine o’clock in the morning the boys began to assemble on the beach with their bats and balls. As soon as twelve youths arrived a game commenced, called ‘Rounders.’ The first thing to be done was to right up the ‘bickens.’ This accomplished, the sides were chosen in the following manner:—Two of the best players, whom we will call Matthew and Phillip, went aside and selected two objects—the new and old pier. The old pier was Matthew and the new pier was Phillip. After this was arranged the ‘mopper’ selected the old pier, which meant he would rather have Matthew his side than Phillip. Then Phillip selected some one for his side; and so it went on until the whole twelve were elected one side or the other. Then they tossed up for the first innings. Phillip’s side won the toss, and it was their luck to go in first. While they are taking off their jackets and getting ready to go in I will briefly describe the game. “ The bickens, four in number, were piles of sand thrown up; each one being about ten yards from one another, and arranged so as to form a square. In the centre of the square the bowler was placed with ball in hand. Behind the batsman stands the ‘tip,’ while the other four were off a long way waiting for the long hits. The coats off, in went the first batsman. The ball was thrown towards him and he tipped it. The tip instantly took the ball and threw it at the batsman, and hit him before he arrived at the first bicken, and he was consequently out. The second batsman had better luck; for on the ball being thrown to him he sent it out to sea, and by that means he ran a rounder, or in other words he ran around the four bickens without being hit by the ball. The next batsman went in. The ball was thrown to him, when, lo! it went whizzing into the bowler’s hands and was caught. This unlucky hit and lucky catch got the whole side out, before three of them had a chance to show their skill. The other side then went in, laughing at the discomfiture of their opponents. The tables, however, were very soon turned; for the very first hit was caught, and this produced a row, and the game was broken up! “ I then went to the next lot: They were playing ‘catchers.’ There is only one bicken required in this game, and at this stood a lad called Watty, with bat and ball in hand. At last he hit the ball, and up it went flying in the air, descended, and passed through the hands of a boy named Peters. Peters took the ball from the sand and asked Watty, ‘How many?’ Watty replied— ‘ Two a good scat,2Try for the bat.’ “ Peters threw the ball to the bicken, but it stopped about three lengths short. Watty took the ball up and again sent it a great way. The question was again asked, and Watty gave the same answer. Again the ball was thrown to the bicken, but this time with better success; for it stopped at the distance of the length of the bat and so was within the distance named. Williams then went in. He was a strong lusty fellow, and the ball was sent spinning along the sand. It was picked up by Curnow, who asked, ‘How many?’ ‘ Three a good scat,Try for the bat.’ “ The ball was thrown home and rolled about three bats from the bicken. This point, however, was the breaking-up of the game, for Williams said it was more than three bats off, whilst Curnow maintained that it was not three bats off, and there being no chance of a compromise being arrived at the game was broken up. “ The next party was one of young men. They were playing rounders with a wooden ball, instead of an india-rubber one, as is generally used. They were twelve each side, and the bickens were about 20 yards distant. By this time the tide was out a great way, so that there was no fear of the ball being knocked to sea, as was the case with the other boys. When I got there they had been playing for about an hour, and the side that was in had been in about half of that time. The first hit I saw was ‘a beauty!’ The ball was sent about 75 yards, and the result was a rounder. Two or three other persons went in and did the same thing, and so the game went on for about an hour longer, when one of the fellows knocked up a catcher and was caught. This side had stayed in for about one hour and a half. The other side went in at about a quarter to three, and after playing about another hour they went home to tea. “ I went to tea also, but was soon up in the Malakoff again. It was so dark that the play was stopped for the time. At about seven o’clock the older part of the town began to congregate, and about a quarter-past seven they began to play ‘Thursa.’ This game is too well known to need description, and I need only say that it was played about one hour, when they began to form a ring with the intention, I supposed, of playing that best of all games, ‘Kiss-in-the-Ring’.”—(Cornishman, 1881.)On St. Stephen’s-day, 26th December, before the days of gun-licences, every man or boy who could by any means get a gun went out shooting, and it was dangerous to walk the lanes. The custom is said to have had its origin in the legend of one of St. Stephen’s guards being awakened by a bird just as his prisoner was going to escape. A similar practice prevailed in the neighbourhood of Penzance on “feasten Monday,” the day after Advent Sunday; but on that day I have never heard of any religious idea connected with it.In the week after Christmas-day a fair is held at Launceston (and also at Okehampton in Devonshire), called “giglet fair” (a “giglet or giglot” is a giddy young woman). It is principally attended by young people. “At this ‘giglet market,’ or wife-market, the rustic swain was privileged with self-introduction to any of the nymphs around him, so that he had a good opportunity of choosing a suitable partner if tired of a single life.”—(Britton and Brayley’s Devon and Cornwall.)It is unlucky to begin a voyage on Childermas (Innocents’-day), also to wash clothes, or to do any but necessary household work.On New Year’s-eve in the villages of East Cornwall, soon after dusk, parties of men, from four to six in a party, carrying a small bowl in their hands, went from house to house begging money to make a feast. They opened the doors without knocking, called out Warsail, and sang,— “ These poor jolly Warsail boysCome travelling through the mire.”This custom was common fifty years since, and may still be observed in remote rural districts. There is one saint whose name is familiar to all in Cornwall, but whose sex is unknown. This saint has much to answer for; promises made, but never intended to be kept, are all to be fulfilled on next St. Tibbs’s-eve, a day that some folks say “falls between the old and new year;” others describe it as one that comes “neither before nor after Christmas.”Parties are general in Cornwall on New Year’s-eve to watch in the New Year and wish friends health and happiness; but I know of no peculiar customs, except that before retiring to rest the old women opened their Bibles at hap-hazard to find out their luck for the coming year. The text on which the fore-finger of the right hand rested was supposed to foretell the future. And money, generally a piece of silver, was placed on the threshold, to be brought in the first thing on the following day, that there might be no lack of it for the year. Nothing was ever lent on New Year’s-day, as little as possible taken out, but all that could be brought into the house. “I have even known the dust of the floor swept inwards.”—(T. Q. Couch, W. Antiquary, September, 1883.)Door-steps on New Year’s-day were formerly sanded for good luck, because I suppose people coming into the house were sure to bring some of it in with them sticking to their feet.Many elderly people at the beginning of the present century still kept to the “old style,” and held their Christmas-day on Epiphany. On the eve of that day they said “the cattle in the fields and stalls never lay down, but at midnight turned their faces to the east and fell on their knees.”Twelfth-day (old Christmas-day) was a time of general feasting and merriment. Into the Twelfth-day cake were put a wedding-ring, a sixpence, and a thimble. It was cut into as many portions as there were guests; the person who found the wedding-ring in his (or her) portion would be married before the year was out; the holder of the thimble would never be married, and the one who got the sixpence would die rich. After candlelight many games were played around the open fires. I will describe one:—“Robin’s alight.” A piece of stick was set on fire, and whirled rapidly in the hands of the first player, who repeated the words— “ Robin’s alight, and if he go out I’ll saddle your back.”It was then passed on, and the person who let the spark die had to pay a forfeit.—(West Cornwall.)This game in East Cornwall was known as “Jack’s alive.” “ Jack’s alive and likely to live,If he die in my hand a pawn I’ll give.”In this county forfeits are always called “pawns”; they are cried by the holder of them, saying,— “ Here’s a pawn and a very pretty pawn!And what shall the owner of this pawn do?”After the midnight supper, at which in one village in the extreme West a pie of four-and-twenty blackbirds always appeared, many spells to forecast the future were practised. The following account of them was given to me by a friend. He says—“I engaged in them once at Sennen (the village at the Land’s End) with a lot of girls, but as my object was only to spoil sport and make the girls laugh or speak, it was not quite satisfactory. I suppose the time to which I refer is over forty years ago. After making up a large turf fire, for hot ‘umers’ (embers) and pure water are absolutely necessary in these divinations, the young people silently left the house in single file, to pull the rushes and gather the ivy-leaves by means of which they were to learn whether they were to be married, and to whom; and if any, or how many, of their friends were to die before the end of the year. On leaving and on returning each of these Twelfth-night diviners touched the ‘cravel’ with the forehead and ‘wished.’ The cravel is the tree that preceded lintels in chimney corners, and its name from this custom may have been derived from the verb ‘to crave.’ Had either of the party inadvertently broken the silence before the rushes and ivy-leaves had been procured they would all have been obliged to retrace their steps to the house and again touch the cravel; but this time all went well. When we came back those who wished to know their fate named the rushes in pairs, and placed them in the hot embers: one or two of the engaged couples being too shy to do this for themselves, their friends, amidst much laughing, did it for them. The manner in which the rushes burned showed if the young people were to be married to the person chosen or not: some, of course, burnt well, others parted, and one or two went out altogether. The couples that burnt smoothly were to be wedded, and the one named after the rush that lasted longest outlived the other. This settled, one ivy-leaf was thrown on the fire; the number of cracks it made was the number of years before the wedding would take place. Then two were placed on the hot ashes; the cracks they gave this time showed how many children the two would have. We then drew ivy-leaves named after present or absent friends through a wedding ring, and put them into a basin of water which we left until the next morning. Those persons whose leaves had shrivelled or turned black in the night were to die before the next Twelfth-tide, and those who were so unfortunate as to find their leaves spotted with red, by some violent death, unless a ‘pellar’ (wise man) could by his skill and incantations grant protection. These prophecies through superstition sometimes unluckily fulfilled themselves.”During the twelve days of Christmas card-playing was a very favourite amusement with all classes. Whilst the old people enjoyed their game of whist with ‘swabbers,’ the young ones had their round games. I will append the rules of two or three for those who would like to try them.Whist (or whisk, as I have heard an old lady call it and maintain that that was its proper name) with “swabbers.”This game, which was played as recently as 1880, nightly, by four maiden ladies at Falmouth, is like ordinary whist; but each player before beginning to play puts into the pool a fixed sum for “swabs.” The “swab-cards” are—ace and deuce of trumps, ace of hearts and knave of clubs. The four cards are of equal value; but should hearts be trumps the ace would count double. “ Board-’em,” a round game that can be played by any number of players, from two to eight; it is played for fish, and there must never be less than six fish in the pool. Six cards are dealt to each person; and the thirteenth, if two are playing, the nineteenth if three, and so on, is turned up for trumps. The fore-hand plays; the next player, if he has one, must follow suit, if not, he may play another suit, or trump. The highest card of the original suit, if not trumped, takes the trick and one or more fish, according to the number staked. If you have neither card in your hand that you think will make a trick you may decline to play, in which case you only lose your stake; but should you play and fail to take a trick you pay for the whole company, and are said to “be boarded.” “ Ranter-go-round” was formerly played in four divisions marked with chalk upon a tea-tray; or even, in some cases, on a bellows—it is now played on a table, and is called “Miss Joan.” Any number of players may join in it. The first player throws down any card of any suit, and says:— “ Here’s a —— as you may see.2nd Player—Here’s another as good as he.3rd Player—And here’s the best of all the three.4th Player—And here’s Miss Joan, come tickle me.”The holder of the fourth card wins the trick. He sometimes added the words wee-wee; but these are now generally omitted. If the person sitting next to the fore-hand has neither one of the cards demanded (one of the same value as the first played, in another suit), he pays one to the pool, as must all in turn who fail to produce the right cards. The player of the third may have the fourth in his hand, in which case all the others pay. The holder of the most tricks wins the game and takes the pool.I once, about thirty years since, at this season of the year, joined some children at Camborne who were playing a very primitive game called by them “pinny-ninny.” A basin turned upside down was placed in the centre of a not very large round table. The players were supplied with small piles of pins—not the well-made ones sold in papers, but clumsy things with wire heads—“pound-pins.” A large bottle full of them might, then, always be seen in the general shop window of every little country village. Each in turn dropped a pin over the side of the basin, and he whose pin fell and formed a cross on the top of the heap was entitled to add them to his own pile. This went on until one player had beggared all the others. Poor children before Christmas often begged pins to play this game, and their request was always granted by the gift of two.A wishing-well, near St. Austell, was sometimes called Pennameny Well, from the custom of dropping pins into it. Pedna-a-mean is the old Cornish for “heads-and-tails.”—(See Divination at St. Roche and Madron Well.)All Christmas-cakes must be eaten by the night of Twelfth-tide, as it is unlucky to have any left, and all decorations must be taken down on the next day, because for every forgotten leaf of evergreen a ghost will be seen in the house in the course of the ensuing year. This latter superstition does not prevail, however, in all parts of Cornwall, as in some districts a small branch is kept to scare away evil spirits.January 24th, St. Paul’s-eve, is a holiday with the miners, and is called by them ‘Paul pitcher-day,’ from a custom they have of setting up a water-pitcher, which they pelt with stones until it is broken in pieces. A new one is afterwards bought and carried to a beer-shop to be filled with beer. “ There is a curious custom prevalent in some parts of Cornwall of throwing broken pitchers and other earthen vessels against the doors of dwelling-houses on the eve of the conversion of St. Paul, thence locally called ‘Paul pitcher-night.’ On that evening parties of young people perambulate the parishes in which the custom is retained, exclaiming as they throw the sherds, ‘St. Paul’s-eve and here’s a heave.’ According to the received notions the first heave cannot be objected to; but, upon its being repeated, the inhabitants of the house whose door is thus attacked may, if they can, seize the offenders and inflict summary justice upon them.”—(F.M., Notes and Queries, March, 1874.)I have heard of this practice from a native of East Cornwall, who told me the pitchers were filled with broken sherds, filth, &c.The weather on St. Paul’s-day still, with the old people, foretells the weather for the ensuing year, and the rhyme common to all England is repeated by them:— “ If St. Paul’s-day be fine and clear,” &c.St. Blazey, a village in East Cornwall, is so named in honour of St. Blaize, who is said to have landed at Par, a small neighbouring seaport, when he came on a visit to England. His feast, which is held on 3rd February, would not be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that—“This saint is invoked in the county for toothache, while applying to the tooth the candle that burned on the altar of the church dedicated to him. The same candles are good for sore-throats and curing diseases in cattle.”—(Mrs. Damant, Cowes.)On the Monday after St. Ives feast, which falls on Quinquagesima Sunday, an annual hurling-match is held on the sands. Most writers on Cornwall have described the old game. The following account is taken from The Land’s End District, 1862, by R. Edmonds:— “ A ball about the size of a cricket-ball, formed of cork, or light wood, and covered with silver, was hurled into the air, midway between the goals. Both parties immediately rushed towards it, each striving to seize and carry it to its own goal. In this contest, when any individual having possession of the ball found himself overpowered or outrun by his opponents, he hurled it to one of his own side, if near enough, or, if not, into some pool, ditch, furze, brake, garden, house, or other place of concealment, to prevent his adversaries getting hold of it before his own company could arrive.”The hurlers, quaintly says Carew (Survey of Cornwall, p. 74), “Take their next way ouer hills, dales, hedges, ditches—yea, and thorou bushes, briers, mires, plashes, and rivers whatsoever—so as you shall sometimes see twenty or thirty lie tugging together in the water, scrambling and scratching for the ball. A play verily both rude and rough.”Hurling between two or more parishes, and between one parish and another, has long ceased in Cornwall: but hurling by one part of a parish against another is still played at St. Ives, as well as other places in Cornwall. At St. Ives all the Toms, Wills, and Johns are on one side, while those having other Christian names range themselves on the opposite. At St. Columb (East Cornwall) the townspeople contend with the countrymen; at Truro, the married men with the unmarried; at Helston, two streets with all the other streets; on the 2nd of May, when their town-bounds are renewed. “