Part 8 out of 12
"In Borneo albinos are objects of fear, as beings gifted with
supernatural power; in Senegambia, if they are slaves, they are given
their freedom, are exempted from all labour, and are cheerfully
supported at others' expense. In Congo the king keeps them in his palace
as 'fetiches which give him influence over the Europeans.' They are held
in such respect that they may take whatever they will; and he who is
deprived of his property by them, esteems himself honoured. In Loango
they are esteemed above the Gangas (priests), and their hair is sold at
a high price as a holy relic. Thus may a man become a fetich." At Moree,
in West Africa, Ellis informs us, "Albinos are sacred to Aynfwa, and, on
arriving at puberty, become her priests and priestesses. They are
regarded by the people as the mouth-pieces of the goddess." At Coomassie
a boy-prisoner was painted white and consecrated as a slave to the
tutelary deity of the market (438. 49, 88). Coeval with their revival of
primitive language-moulds in their slang, many of our college societies
and sporting clubs and associations have revived the beliefs just
mentioned in their mascots and luck-bringers--the other side of the
shield showing the "Jonahs" and those fetiches of evil import. Even
great actors, stock-brokers, and politicians have their mascots. We hear
also of mascots of regiments and of ships. A little hunchback, a dwarf,
a negro boy, an Italian singing-girl, a child dressed in a certain style
or colour, all serve as mascots. Criminals and gamblers, those members
of the community most nearly allied in thought and action with barbarous
and primitive man, have their mascots, and it is from this source that
we derive the word, which Andran, in his opera _La Mascotte_, has
lifted to a somewhat higher plane, and now each family may have a
mascot, a fetich, to cause them to prosper and succeed in life (390
(1888). 111, 112).
One of the derivations suggested for this word, viz. from _masque_
= _coiffe_, in the expression _ne coiffe_, "born with a caul,"
would make the _mascot_ to have been originally a child born with
the caul on its head, a circumstance which, as the French phrase _etre
ne coiffe_, "to be born lucky," indicates, betokened happiness and
good-fortune for the being thus coming into the world. In German the
caul is termed "Gluckshaube," "lucky hood," and Ploss gives many
illustrations of the widespread belief in the luck that falls to the
share of the child born with one. A very curious custom exists in
Oldenburg, where a boy, in order to be fortunate in love, carries his
caul about with him (326. I. 12-14). Other accidents or incidents of
birth have sufficed to make fetiches of children. Twins and triplets are
regarded in many parts of the world as smacking of the supernatural and
uncanny. The various views of the races of mankind upon this subject are
given at length in Ploss (326. II. 267-275), and Post has much to say of
the treatment of twins in Africa. In Unyoro twins are looked upon as
"luck-bringers, not only for the family, but for the whole village as
well. Great feasts are held in their honour, and if they die, the house
in which they were born is burned down." Among the Ishogo, from fear
that one of the pair may die, twins are practically isolated and
_taboo_ until grown up (127. I. 282, 284).
To the Ovaherero, according to Ploss, "the birth of twins is the
greatest piece of good-fortune that can fall to the lot of mortals," and
such an event makes the parents "holy." Among this Kaffir people,
moreover: "Every father of twins has the right to act as substitute for
the village-chief in the exercise of his priestly functions. If the
chief is not present, he can, for example, exorcise a sick person. Even
the twin-child himself has all priestly privileges. For a twin boy there
is no forbidden flesh, no forbidden milk, and no one would ever venture
to curse him. If any one should kill a twin-child, the murderer's whole
village would be destroyed. As a twin-boy, he inherits the priestly
dignity at the death of the chief, and even when an older brother
succeeds the father as possessor of the village, it is, however, named
after the younger twin-brother, who is clothed with the priestly
dignity" (326. II. 271-274).
Among the Songish Indians of Vancouver Island, it is believed that
"twins, immediately after their birth, possess supernatural powers. They
are at once taken to the woods and washed in a pond in order to become
ordinary men." The Shushwap Indians believe that twins retain this
supernatural power throughout their lives (404. 22, 92).
Of children whose upper teeth break out before the lower, some primitive
tribes are in fear and dread, hastening to kill them, as do the Basutos,
Wakikuyu, Wanika, Wazegua, and Wasawahili. Among the Wazaramo, another
African people, such children "are either put to death, given away, or
sold to a slave-holder, for the belief is that through them sickness,
misfortune, and death would enter the house." The Arabs of Zanzibar,
"after reading from the Koran, administer to such a child an oath that
it will do no harm, making it nod assent with its head" (127. I. 287).
From what has preceded, we can see how hard it is sometimes to draw the
line between the man as fetich and the priest, between the divinity and
_Fetiches of Criminals._
It is a curious fact that St. Nicholas is at once the patron saint of
children and of thieves,--the latter even Shakespeare calls "St.
Nicholas's clerks." And with robbers and the generality of evil-doers
the child, dead or alive, is much of a fetich. Anstey's _Burglar
Bill_ is humorously exaggerated, but there is a good deal of
superstition about childhood lingering in the mind of the lawbreaker.
Strack (361) has discussed at considerable length the child (dead) as
fetich among the criminal classes, especially the use made of the blood,
the hand, the heart, etc. Among the thieving fraternity in Middle
Franconia it is believed that "blood taken up from the genitals of an
innocent boy on three pieces of wood, and carried about the person,
renders one invisible when stealing" (361. 41). The same power was
ascribed to the eating of the hearts (raw) of unborn children cut out of
the womb of the mother. Male children only would serve, and from the
confession of the band of the robber-chief "King Daniel," who so
terrified all Ermeland in the middle of the seventeenth century, it
would appear that they had already killed for this purpose no fewer than
fourteen women with child (361. 59). As late as 1815, at Heide in
Northditmarsch, one Claus Dau was executed for "having killed three
children and eaten their hearts with the belief of making himself
invisible" (361. 61).
This eating of little children's hearts was thought not alone to confer
the gift of invisibility, but "when portions of nine hearts had been
eaten by any one, he could not be seized, no matter what theft or crime
he committed, and, if by chance he should fall into the power of his
enemies, he could make himself invisible and thus escape." The eating of
three hearts is credited with the same power in an account of a robber
of the Lower Rhine, in 1645. In the middle of the last century, there
was executed at Bayreuth a man "who had killed eight women with child,
cut them open, and eaten the warm, palpitating hearts of the children,
in the belief that he would be able to fly, if he ate the hearts of nine
such children" (361. 58).
Only a few years ago (April, 1888), at Oldenburg, a workman named
Bliefernicht was tried for having killed two girls, aged six and seven
years. The examination of the remains showed that "one of the bodies not
only had the neck completely cut through, but the belly cut open, so
that the entrails, lungs, and liver were exposed. A large piece of flesh
had been cut out of the buttocks and was nowhere to be found, the man
having eaten it. His belief was, that whoever ate of the flesh of
innocent girls, could do anything in the world without any one being
able to make him answer for it" (361. 62).
Strack has much to say of the _main-de-gloire_ and the _chandelle
magique._ Widespread among thieves is the belief in the "magic
taper." At Meesow, in the Regenwald district of Pomerania, these tapers
are made of the entrails of unborn children, can only be extinguished
with milk, and, as long as they burn, no one in the house to be robbed
is able to wake. It is of the hands, however, of unbaptized or unborn
children that these tapers were most frequently made. At Nurnberg, in
1577 and 1701, there were executed two monsters who killed many women in
their pursuit for this fetich; at Vechta, in Oldenburg, the finger of an
unborn child "serves with thieves to keep asleep the people of the house
they have entered, if it is simply laid on the table"; at Konow, the fat
of a woman with child is used to make a similar taper. In the Ukrain
district of Poland, it is believed that the hand of the corpse of a
five-year-old child opens all locks (361. 42). This belief in the
_hand-of-glory_ and the _magic candle_ may be due to the fact
that such children, being unbaptized and unborn, were presumed to be
under the influence of the Evil One himself. Of the wider belief in the
_chandelle magique_ and _main-de-gloire_ (as obtained from
criminal adults) in Germany, France, Spain, etc., nothing need be said
At Konow, in the Kammin district of Pomerania, "if a thief takes an
unborn child, dries it, puts it in a little wooden box, and carries it
on his person, he is rendered invisible to everybody, and can steal at
will" (361. 41).
The history of the robbers of the Rhine and the Main, of Westphalia, the
Mark, and Silesia, with whom the child appears so often as a fetich,
evince a bestiality and inhumanity almost beyond the power of belief.
But it is not to the criminal classes alone that superstitions of this
nature belong. Of the alchemy, magic, black art, sorcery, and
"philosophy" of the Dark Ages of Europe, the practice of which lingered
in some places well on into the seventeenth century, horrible stories
are told, in which children, their bodies, their souls even, appear as
fetishes. The baptism of blood is said still to be practised in parts of
Russia by parents "to preserve their child from the temptations of the
prince of darkness," and in 1874, "a country-school teacher of the
Strassburg district, and his wife, upon the advice of a somnambulist,
struck their own aunt with the fire-tongs until the blood flowed, with
which they sprinkled their child supposed to have been bewitched by her"
(361. 73). Here it is the blood of adults that is used, but the practice
demands the child's also. According to C. F. A. Hoffmann (1817), there
lived in Naples "an old doctor who had children by several women, which
he inhumanly killed, with peculiar ceremonies and rites, cutting the
breast open, tearing out the heart, and from its blood preparing
precious drops which were preservative against all sickness." Well known
is the story of Elizabeth Bathori, a Hungarian woman of the early part
of the seventeenth century, who, it is said, receiving on her face a
drop of blood which spurted from a waiting-girl whose ears she had
severely boxed, and noticing afterward, when she wiped it away, that her
skin at that spot appeared to be more beautiful, whiter, and finer than
before, resolved to bathe her face and her whole body in human blood, in
order to increase her charms and her beauty. Before her monstrous
actions were discovered, she is thought to have caused the death of some
650 girls with the aid of accomplices (361. 46).
_Fetiches of Religion._
The use of human blood in ritual has been treated of in detail by
Strack, and in his pages many references to children will be found. He
also discusses in detail the charge of the Anti-Semitics that the Jews
kill little children of their Christian neighbours for the purpose of
using their blood and certain parts of their bodies in religious rites
and ceremonies, showing alike the antiquity of this libel as well as its
baselessness. Against the early Christians like charges appear to have
been made by the heathen, and later on by the Saracens; and indeed, this
charge is one which is generally levelled at new-comers or innovators in
the early history of Christian religion and civilization. Strack points
out also that, during the contest of the Dominicans and Franciscans in
Bern, in 1507 A.D., it was charged that the former used the blood of
Jewish children, the eyebrows and hair of children, etc., in their
secret rites (361. 68, 69).
Brewer, who gives little credit to the stories, cites the account of
numerous crucifixions of children alleged to have been carried out by
Jews in various parts of Europe, for the purpose of using their flesh
and blood in their rituals, or merely out of hatred to the Christian
religion. The principal cases are: Andrew of Innspruck; Albert of
Swirnazen in Podolia, aged four (1598); St. Hugh of Lincoln, aged eleven
(1255); St. Janot of Cologne (1475); St. Michael of Sappendelf in
Bavaria, aged four and one-half (1340); St. Richard of Pontoise, aged
twelve (1182); St. Simon of Trent, aged twenty-nine months and three
days (1475); St. William of Norwich, aged twelve (1137); St. Wernier
(Garnier), aged thirteen (1227). The _Acta Sanctorum_ of the
Bollandists give a long list of nameless children, who are claimed to
have suffered a like fate in Spain, France, Hungary, Austria, Germany,
Italy, etc. The later charges, such as those made in the celebrated case
of the girl Esther Solymasi, whose death was alleged to have been
brought about by the Jews of Tisza-Eszlar in Hungary, in 1882, are
investigated by Strack, and shown to be utterly without foundation of
fact, merely the product of frenzied Anti-Semitism (191. 171-175).
The use of blood and the sacrifice of little children, as well as other
fetichistic practices, have been charged against some of the secret
religious sects of modern Russia.
In Annam the natives "surround the beds of their children suffering from
small-pox with nets, and never leave them alone, fearing lest a demon,
in the form of a strange child, should sneak in and take possession of
them" (397. 169, 242). This belief is akin with the widespread
superstitions with respect to changelings and other metamorphoses of
childhood, to the discussion of which Ploss and Hartland have devoted
much space and attention, the latter, indeed, setting apart some forty
pages of his book on fairy-tales to the subject.
In Devonshire, England, it was formerly believed lucky to put a
stillborn child into an open grave, "as it was considered a sure
passport to heaven for the next person buried there." In the Border
country, on the other hand, it is unlucky to tread on the graves of
unbaptized children, and "he who steps on the grave of a stillborn or
unbaptized child, or of one who has been overlaid by its nurse, subjects
himself to the fatal disease of the grave-merels, or grave-scab." In
connection with this belief, Henderson cites the following popular
verses, of considerable antiquity:--
"Woe to the babie that ne'er saw the sun,
All alane and alane, oh!
His bodie shall lie in the kirk 'neath the rain,
All alane and alane, oh!
"His grave must be dug at the foot o' the wall,
All alane and alane, oh!
And the foot that treadeth his body upon
Shall have scab that will eat to the bane, oh!
"And it ne'er will be cured by doctor on earth,
Tho' every one should tent him, oh!
He shall tremble and die like the elf-shot eye,
And return from whence he came, oh!" (469. 13).
Among the natives of the Andaman Islands, after a dead child has been
buried and the parents have mourned for about three months, the remains
are exhumed, cleansed at the seashore by the father, and brought back to
the hut, where the bones are broken up to make necklaces, which are
distributed to friends and relatives as mementos. Moreover, "the mother,
after painting the skull with _koi-ob_--[a mixture of yellow ochre,
oil, etc.] and decorating it with small shells attached to pieces of
string, hangs it round her neck with a netted chain, called
_rab--._ After the first few days her husband often relieves her by
wearing it himself" (498. 74,75).
According to Lumholtz, "a kind of mummy, dried by the aid of fire and
smoke, is also found in Australia. Male children are most frequently
prepared in this manner. The corpse is then packed into a bundle, which
is carried for some time by the mother. She has it with her constantly,
and at night sleeps with it at her side. After about six months, when
nothing but the bones remain, she buries it in the earth. Full-grown men
are sometimes treated in this manner, particularly the bodies of great
heroes" (495. 278).
Among the western Eskimo, "the mother who loses her nursling places the
poor 'papoose' in a beautifully ornamented box, which she fastens on her
back and carries about her for a long while. Often she takes the
miserable mummy in her arms and makes it a kind of toilette,
disinfecting it, and removing the mouldiness" (523. 102).
According to the traveller Lander, a woman of Yoruba, in Africa,
"carries for some time a wooden figure of her lost child, and, when she
eats, puts part of her food to its lips"; and Catlin writes of the
Mandan Indians: "They place the skulls of their dead in a circle. Each
wife knows the skull of her former husband or child, and there seldom
passes a day that she does not visit it with a dish of the best cooked
food ... There is scarcely an hour in a pleasant day, but more or less
of these women may be seen sitting or lying by the skull of their dead
child or husband, talking to it in the most pleasant and endearing
language they can use (as they were wont to do in former days), and
seemingly getting an answer back" (Spencer, _Princ. of Soc.,_ 1882,
I. 332, 326).
Of the Nishinam Indians of California, Mr. Powers tells us: "When a
Nishinam wife is childless, her sympathizing female friends sometimes
make out of grass a rude image of a baby, and tie it in a miniature
baby-basket, according to the Indian custom. Some day, when the woman
and her husband are not at home, they carry this grass baby and lay it
in their wigwam. When she returns and finds it, she takes it up, holds
it to her breast, pretends to nurse it, and sings it lullaby songs. All
this is done as a kind of conjuration, which they hope will have the
effect of causing the barren woman to become fertile" (519. 318).
Of certain Indians of the northern United States we read, in the early
years of the present century: "The traders on the river St. Peter's,
Mississippi, report that some of them have seen in the possession of the
Indians a petrified child, which they have often wished to purchase; but
the savages regard it as a deity, and no inducement could bribe them to
part with it" (_Philos. Mag._ XXIX., p. 5).
As Count D'Alviella has pointed out, we have in the apocryphal book of
the _Wisdom of Solomon_ the following interesting passage: "For a
father afflicted with untimely mourning, when he hath made an image of
his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god, which was then a
dead man; and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and
Mrs. Stevenson, in a Zuni tale of motherly affection, relates how, in
crossing a river in the olden time, the children clinging to their
mothers were transformed into such ugly and mischievous shapes that the
latter let many of them fall into the river. Some held their children
close, and on the other side these were restored to their natural forms.
Those who had lost their children grieved and would not be comforted; so
two twin-brothers--sons of the sun, they are called--went beneath the
waters of a lake to the dwelling of the children, who asked them to tell
how it fared with their mothers. Their visitors told them of the grief
and sorrow of the parents, whereupon the children said: "Tell our
mothers we are not dead, but live and sing in this beautiful place,
which is the home for them when they sleep. They will wake here and be
always happy. And we are here to intercede with the sun, our father,
that he may give to our people rain and the fruits of the earth, and all
that is good for them." Since that time these children have been
"worshipped as ancestral gods, bearing the name of kok-ko" (358. 541).
This reminds us strikingly of the great Redeemer, of whom it was said
that he is "an Advocate for us with the Father," and who himself
declared: "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I
would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you."
In not a few mythologies we meet with the infant god in the arms of its
mother or of some other woman. Of the goddess of pity in the Celestial
Empire we read: "The Chinese Lady of Mercy in her statues is invariably
depicted as young, symmetrical, and beautiful. Sometimes she stands or
sits alone. Sometimes she holds an infant god in her lap. Sometimes she
holds one, while a second plays about her knee. Another favourite
picture and statue represents her standing on the head of a great
serpent, with a halo about her face and brows, and spirits encircling
her. In the sixth, she stands upon a crescent, awaiting a bird
approaching her from the skies. In a seventh, she stands smiling at a
beautiful child on the back of a water-buffalo. In an eighth, she is
weeping for the sins of either humanity or the female portion of it. She
is the patron saint of all her sex, and intercedes for them at the great
throne of Heaven. She is a very old divinity. The Chinese themselves
claim that she was worshipped six thousand years ago, and that she was
the first deity made known to mankind. The brave Jesuit missionaries
found her there, and it matters not her age; she is a credit to herself
and her sex, and aids in cheering the sorrowful and sombre lives of
millions in the far East." We also find "the saintly infant Zen-zai, so
often met with in the arms of female representations of the androgynous
Mr. C. N. Scott, in his essay on the "Child-God in Art" (344), is
hesitant to give to many mythologies any real child-worship or artistic
concept of the child as god. Not even Rama and Krishna, or the Greek
Eros, who had a sanctuary at Thespiae in Boeotia, are beautiful, sweet,
naive child-pictures; much less even is Hercules, the infant, strangling
the serpents, or Mercury running off with the oxen of Admetus, or
bacchic Dionysus. In Egypt, in the eleventh, or twelfth dynasty, we do
find a family of gods, the triad, father (Amun), mother (Maut), child
(Khuns). Mr. Scott follows Ruskin in declaring that classic Greek art
gives no real child-concept; nor does Gothic art up to the thirteenth
century, when the influence of Christianity made itself felt, that
influence which made art lavish its genius upon the Madonna and the
Santo Bambino--the Virgin and the Christ-Child.
The holy thing that is to be born shall be called the Son of
God.--_Luke_ i. 35. There is born to you this day in the city of
David a Saviour, which is anointed Lord.--_Luke_ ii. 11.
Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth.--_Richard Crashaw._
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling hands control the damned crew.--_Milton._
The heart of Nature feels the touch of Love;
And Angels sing:
"The Child is King!
See in his heart the life we live above."--_E. P. Gould._
During the nineteen centuries that have elapsed since Jesus of Nazareth
was born, art and music, eloquence and song, have expended their best
talents in preserving forever to us some memories of the life and deeds
of Him whose religion of love is winning the world. The treasures of
intellectual genius have been lavished in the interpretation and
promulgation of the faith that bears his name. At his shrine have
worshipped the great and good of every land, and his name has penetrated
to the uttermost ends of the earth.
But in the brief record of his history that has come down to us, we
read: "The common people heard him gladly"; and to these, his simple
life, with its noble consecration and unselfish aims, appealed
immeasurably more even than to the greatest and wisest of men. This is
evident from a glance into the lore that has grown up among the folk
regarding the birth, life, and death of the Christ. Those legends and
beliefs alone concern us here which cluster round his childhood,--the
tribute of the lowly and the unlearned to the great world-child, who was
to usher in the Age of Gold, to him whom they deemed Son of God and Son
of Man, divinely human, humanly divine.
_Nature and the Christ-Birth._
The old heathen mythologies and the lore of the ruder races of our own
day abound in tales of the strange and wonderful events that happened
during the birth, passion, and death of their heroes and divinities.
Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and the Isles of the Sea, bring us a vast
store of folk-thought telling of the sympathy of Mother Nature with her
children; how she mourned when they were sad or afflicted, rejoiced when
they were fortunate and happy. And so has it been, in later ages and
among more civilized peoples, with the great good who have made their
influence felt in the world,--the poets, musicians, artists, seers,
geniuses of every kind, who learned to read some of the secrets of the
universe and declared them unto men. They were a part of Nature herself,
and she heralded their coming graciously and wept over them when they
died. This deep feeling of kinship with all Nature pervades the writings
of many of our greatest poets, who "live not in themselves," but are
become "a portion of that around them." In the beautiful words of
"Call it not vain; they do not err
Who say, that, when the poet dies,
Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,
And celebrates his obsequies;
Who say, tall cliff, and cavern lone,
For the departed bard make moan;
That mountains weep in crystal rill;
That flowers in tears of balm distil;
Through his loved groves the breezes sigh,
And oaks, in deeper groan, reply;
And rivers teach their rushing wave
To murmur dirges round his grave."
And with a holier fervour, even, are all things animate and inanimate
said to feel the birth of a great poet, a hero, a genius, a prophet; all
Nature thrills with joy at his advent and makes known her satisfaction
with the good that has fallen to the lot of earth. With such men, as
Goethe said, Nature is in eternal league, watching, waiting for their
How Nature must have rejoiced on that auspicious day, nineteen centuries
ago, when the Messiah, long looked for, long expected, came! The sacred
historians tell us that the carol of angels heralded his birth and the
bright star in the East led the wise men to the modest manger where he
lay. Never had there been such gladness abroad in the world since
"The morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy."
Shakespeare, in _Hamlet,_--a play in which so many items of
folk-lore are to be found,--makes Marcellus say:--
"It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time,"
to which Horatio replies:--
"So have I heard, and do in part believe it."
This belief in the holy and gracious season of the birth of Christ,--a
return to the old ideas of the Golden Age and the kinship of all
Nature,--finds briefest expression in the Montenegrin saying of
Christmas Eve: "To-night, Earth is blended with Paradise." According to
Bosnian legend, at the birth of Christ: "The sun in the East bowed down,
the stars stood still, the mountains and the forests shook and touched
the earth with their summits, and the green pine tree bent; heaven and
earth were bowed." And when Simeon took the Holy Child from the mother's
"The sun leaped in the heavens and the stars around it danced. A peace
came over mountain and forest. Even the rotten stump stood straight and
healthy on the green mountain-side. The grass was beflowered with
opening blossoms, and incense sweet as myrrh pervaded upland and forest,
and birds sang on the mountain-top, and all gave thanks to the great
God" (_Macmil-lan's Mag.,_ Vol. XLIII, p. 362).
Relics of the same thoughts crop out from a thousand Christmas songs and
carols in every country of Europe, and in myriads of folk-songs and
sayings in every language of the Continent.
And in those southern lands, where, even more than with us, religion and
love are inseparable, the environment of the Christ-birth is transferred
to the beloved of the human heart, and, as the Tuscans sing in their
_stornelli_ (415. 104):--
"Quando nascesti tu, nacque un bel flore;
La luna si fermo di camminare,
Le stelle si cambiaron di colore,"
in Mrs. Busk's translation:--
"Thy birth, Love, was the birth of a fair flower;
The moon her course arrested at that hour,
The stars were then arrayed in a new colour,"
so, in other lands, has the similitude of the Golden Age of Love and the
Golden Time of Christmas been elaborated and adorned by all the genius
of the nameless folk-poets of centuries past.
_Folk-Lore of Christmas Tide._
Scottish folk-lore has it that Christ was born "at the hour of midnight
on Christmas Eve," and that the miracle of turning water into wine was
performed by Him at the same hour (246. 160). There is a belief current
in some parts of Germany that "between eleven and twelve the night
before Christmas water turns to wine"; in other districts, as at
Bielefeld, it is on Christmas night that this change is thought to take
place (462. IV. 1779).
This hour is also auspicious for many actions, and in some sections of
Germany it was thought that if one would go to the cross-roads between
eleven and twelve on Christmas Day, and listen, he "would hear what most
concerns him in the coming year." Another belief is that "if one walks
into the winter-corn on Holy Christmas Eve, he will hear all that will
happen in the village that year."
Christmas Eve or Christmas is the time when the oracles of the folk are
in the best working-order, especially the many processes by which
maidens are wont to discover the colour of their lover's hair, the
beauty of his face and form, his trade and occupation,--whether they
shall marry or not, and the like. The same season is most auspicious for
certain ceremonies and practices (transferred to it from the heathen
antiquity) of the peasantry of Europe in relation to agriculture and
allied industries. Among those noted by Grimm are the following:--
On Christmas Eve thrash the garden with a flail, with only your shirt
on, and the grass will grow well next year.
Tie wet strawbands around the orchard trees on Christmas Eve and it will
make them fruitful.
On Christmas Eve put a stone on every tree, and they will bear the more
(462. IV. 1790-1825).
Beat the trees on Christmas night, and they will bear more fruit (448.
In Herefordshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall, in England, the farmers and
peasantry "salute the apple-trees on Christmas Eve," and in Sussex they
used to "worsle," _i.e._ "wassail," the apple-trees and chant
verses to them in somewhat of the primitive fashion (448. 219).
Some other curious items of Christmas folk-lore are the following,
current chiefly in Germany (462. IV. 1779-1824):--
If after a Christmas dinner you shake out the table-cloth over the bare
ground under the open sky, crumb-wort will grow on the spot.
If on Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, you hang a wash-clout on a hedge,
and then groom the horses with it, they will grow fat.
As often as the cock crows on Christmas Eve, the quarter of corn will be
If a dog howls the night before Christmas, it will go mad within the
If the light is let go out on Christmas Eve, some one in the house will
When lights are brought in on Christmas Eve, if any one's shadow has no
head, he will die within a year; if half a head, in the second
If a hoop comes off a cask on Christmas Eve, some one in the house will
die that year.
If on Christmas Eve you make a little heap of salt on the table, and it
melts over night, you will die the next year; if, in the morning, it
remain undiminished, you will live.
If you wear something sewed with thread spun on Christmas Eve, no vermin
will stick to you.
If a shirt be spun, woven, and sewed by a pure, chaste maiden on
Christmas Day, it will be proof against lead or steel.
If you are born at sermon-time on Christmas morning, you can see
If you burn elder on Christmas Eve, you will have revealed to you all
the witches and sorcerers of the neighbourhood (448. 319).
If you steal hay the night before Christmas, and give the cattle some,
they thrive, and you are not caught in any future thefts.
If you steal anything at Christmas without being caught, you can steal
safely for a year.
If you eat no beans on Christmas Eve, you will become an ass.
If you eat a raw egg, fasting, on Christmas morning, you can carry heavy
The crumbs saved up on three Christmas Eves are good to give as physic
to one who is disappointed (462. IV. 1788-1801).
It is unlucky to carry anything forth from the house on Christmas
morning until something has been brought in.
It is unlucky to give a neighbour a live coal to kindle a fire with on
If the fire burns brightly on Christmas morning, it betokens prosperity
during the year; if it smoulders, adversity (246. 160).
These, and many other practices, ceremonies, beliefs, and superstitions,
which may be read in Grimm (462), Gregor (246), Henderson (469), De
Gubernatis (427, 428), Ortwein (3l5), Tilte (370), and others who have
written of Christmas, show the importance attached in the folk-mind to
the time of the birth of Christ, and how around it as a centre have
fixed themselves hundreds of the rites and solemnities of passing
heathendom, with its recognition of the kinship of all nature, out of
which grew astrology, magic, and other pseudo-sciences.
_Flowers of the Christ-Child._
Many flowers are believed to have first sprung into being or to have
first burst into blossom at the moment when Christ was born, or very
near that auspicious hour.
The Sicilian children, so Folkard tells us, put pennyroyal in their cots
on Christmas Eve, "under the belief that at the exact hour and minute
when the infant Jesus was born this plant puts forth its blossom."
Another belief is that the blossoming occurs again on Midsummer Night
In the East the Rose of Jericho is looked upon with favour by women with
child, for "there is a cherished legend that it first blossomed at our
Saviour's birth, closed at the Crucifixion, and opened again at Easter,
whence its name of Resurrection Flower" (448. 528).
Gerarde, the old herbalist, tells us that the black hellebore is called
"Christ's Herb," or "Christmas Herb," because it "flowreth about the
birth of our Lord Jesus Christ" (448. 281).
Certain varieties of the hawthorn also were thought to blossom on
Christmas Day. The celebrated Abbey of Glastonbury in England possessed
such a thorn-tree, said to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of
Arimathea, when he stuck it into the ground, in that part of England,
which he is represented as having converted. The "Glastonbury Thorn" was
long believed to be a convincing witness to the truth of the Gospel by
blossoming without fail every Christmas Day (448. 352, 353).
Many plants, trees, and flowers owe their peculiarities to their
connection with the birth or the childhood of Christ. The
_Ornithogalum umbellatum_ is called the "Star of Bethlehem,"
according to Folkard, because "its white stellate flowers resemble the
pictures of the star that indicated the birth of the Saviour of mankind"
(448. 553). The _Galium verum,_ "Our Lady's Bedstraw," receives its
name from the belief that the manger in which the infant Jesus lay was
filled with this plant (448. 249).
The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt has attracted to it as a centre
a large group of legends belonging to this category, many of which are
to be found in Folkard and Busk.
Of a certain tree, with leaves like the sensitive plant, in Arabia, we
read that this peculiarity arose from the fact that when near the city
of Heliopolis "Joseph led the dromedary that bore the blessed Mother and
her Divine Son, under a neighbouring tree, and as he did so, the green
branches bent over the group, as if paying homage to their Master."
Near Mataria there was said to be a sycamore-tree, called "the Tree of
Jesus and Mary," which gave shelter at nightfall to the Holy Family, and
to this fact the Mohammedans are reported to attribute the great
longevity and verdure of the sycamore (448. 558).
A widespread tradition makes the "Rose of Jericho," called also "St.
Mary's Rose," spring up on every spot where the Holy Family rested on
their way to Egypt. The juniper owes the extraordinary powers with which
it is credited in the popular mind to the fact that it once saved the
life of the Virgin and the infant Christ. The same kind offices have
been attributed to the hazel-tree, the fig, the rosemary, the date-palm,
etc. Among the many legends accounting for the peculiarity of the aspen
there is one, preserved in Germany, which attributes it to the action of
this tree when the Holy Family entered the dense forest in which it
stood (448. 230):--
"As they entered this wilderness, all the trees bowed themselves down in
reverence to the infant God; only the Aspen, in her exceeding pride and
arrogance, refused to acknowledge Him, and stood upright." In
consequence of this "the Holy Child pronounced a curse against her; ...
and, at the sound of His words, the Aspen began to tremble through all
her leaves, and has not ceased to tremble to this day." According to a
Sicilian legend, "the form of a hand is to be seen in the interior of
the fruit of the pine," representing "the hand of Jesus blessing the
tree which had saved Him during the flight into Egypt by screening Him
and His mother from Herod's soldiers" (448. 496).
We have from Rome the following tradition (415. 173):--
"One day the Madonna was carrying the Bambino through a lupine-field,
and the stalks of the lupines rustled so, that she thought it was a
robber coming to kill the Santo Bambino. She turned, and sent a
malediction over the lupine-field, and immediately the lupines all
withered away, and fell flat and dry on the ground, so that she could
see there was no one hidden there. When she saw there was no one hidden
there, she sent a blessing over the lupine-field, and the lupines all
stood straight up again, fair and flourishing, and with ten-fold greater
produce than they had at first." In a Bolognese legend the lupines are
cursed by the Virgin, because, "by the clatter and noise they made,
certain plants of this species drew the attentions of Herod's minions to
the spot where the tired and exhausted travellers had made a brief halt"
(448. 473). Another tradition, found over almost all Italy, says that
when the Holy Family were fleeing from the soldiers of King Herod:--
"The brooms and the chick-peas began to rustle and crackle, and by this
noise betrayed the fugitives. The flax bristled up. Happily for her,
Mary was near a juniper; the hospitable tree opened its branches as arms
and enclosed the Virgin and Child within their folds, affording them a
secure hiding-place. Then the Virgin uttered a malediction against the
brooms and the chick-peas, and ever since that day they have always
rustled and crackled." The story goes on to tell us that the Virgin
"pardoned the flax its weakness, and gave the juniper her blessing,"
which accounts for the use of the latter for Christmas decorations,
--like the holly in England and France (448. 395).
_Birds of the Christ-Child._
Several birds are associated with the infant Christ in the folk-lore of
Europe and the East. In Normandy, the wren is called _Poulette de
Dieu, Oiseau de Dieu,_ "God's Chicken," "God's Bird,"--corresponding
to the old Scotch "Our Lady's Hen,"--because, according to legend, "she
was present at the birth of the Infant Saviour, made her nest in his
cradle, and brought moss and feathers to form a coverlet for the Holy
Child" (539. 35).
A Tyrolian folk-tale informs us that in days of yore the ravens were
"beautiful birds with plumage white as snow, which they kept clean by
constant washing in a certain stream." It happened, once upon a time,
that "the Holy Child, desiring to drink, came to this stream, but the
ravens prevented him by splashing about and befouling the water.
Whereupon he said: 'Ungrateful birds! Proud you may be of your beauty,
but your feathers, now so snowy white, shall become black and remain so
till the judgment day!'" In consequence of their uncharitable action
have the ravens continued black ever since (539. 92).
In his childhood Christ is often represented as playing with the other
little Jewish children. One Sabbath day He and His playmates amused
themselves by making birds out of clay, and after the children had been
playing a while, a Sadducee chanced to pass that way. The story goes on
to tell that "He was very old and very zealous, and he rebuked the
children for spending their Sabbath in so profane an employment. And he
let it not rest at chiding alone, but went to the clay birds and broke
them all, to the great grief of the children. Now, when Christ saw this,
He waved His hands over all the birds He had fashioned, and they became
forthwith alive, and soared up into the heavens" (539. 181). From
Swainson we learn that in the Icelandic version of the legend the birds
are thought to have been the golden plover "whose note 'deerin' sounds
like to the Iceland word 'dyrdhin,' namely 'glory,' for these birds sing
praise to their Lord, for in that He mercifully saved them from the
merciless hand of the Sadducee."
A Danish legend, cited by Swainson, accounts for the peculiar cry of the
lapwing, which sounds like "Klyf ved! klyf ved!" i.e. "Cleave wood!
cleave wood!" as follows (539. 185):--"When our Lord was a wee bairn,
He took a walk out One day, and came to an old crone who was busy
baking. She desired Him to go and split her a little wood for the oven,
and she would give Him a new cake for His trouble. He did as He was bid,
and the old woman went on with her occupation, sundering a very small
portion of the dough for the promised recompense. But when the batch was
drawn, this cake was equally large with the rest. So she took a new
morsel of the dough still less than before, and made and baked another
cake, but with the like result. Hereupon she broke out with 'That's a
vast overmuckle cake for the likes o' you; thee's get thy cake anither
time.' When our Lord saw her evil disposition, His wrath was stirred,
and He said to the woman: 'I split your wood as you asked me, and you
would not so much as give me the little cake you promised me. Now you
shall go and cleave wood, and that, too, as long as the world endures!'
With that he changed her into a weep (_vipa_) [lapwing]."
Among the many legends of Isa, as Jesus is called by the Moslems,
current among the Mohammedan peoples is a variant of the story of the
clay-birds, as follows: "When Isa was seven years old, he and his
companions made images in clay of birds and beasts, and Isa, to show his
superiority, caused his images to fly and walk at his command." Clouston
informs us that this story is also found in the Gospel of the
Pseudo-Matthew, and in that of the Infancy (422. II. 408).
In Champagne, France, legend makes the cuckoo to have issued from a
Christmas log (462. I. 113), and in a Latin poem of the Middle Ages we
are told that "the crossbill hatches its eggs at Christmas and the young
birds fly in full plumage at Easter" (539. 67).
At Christmas certain animals become more human, or express their joy at
the birth of Christ in unmistakable fashion.
There was an old Scottish belief that "at the exact hour of the
Saviour's birth bees in their hive emitted a buzzing sound" (246. 147).
According to a Breton folk-tale the ox and the ass can converse for a
single hour, "between eleven and twelve on Christmas night." At the same
hour, in German folk-lore, all cattle stand up; another version,
however, makes them devoutly kneel (462. IV. 1481).
Among the animals which folk-thought has brought into connection with
the Christ-Child is the horse. A Russian legend tells us that the flesh
of the horse is deemed unclean because "when the infant Saviour was
hidden in the manger, the horse kept eating the hay under which the babe
was concealed, whereas the ox not only would not touch it, but brought
back hay on its horns to replace what the horse had eaten" (520. 334).
From a Spanish-American miracle-play, we learn that the oxen and asses
around the manger kept the little babe warm with their breath. In
Ireland the following folk-beliefs obtain regarding the ass and the
"Joseph and Mary fled into Egypt with the infant Jesus, on an ass. Since
that date the ass has had a cross on its back. This same ass returned to
Nazareth seven years later with them on its back, travelling in the
night, since which time it has been the wisest of all animals; it was
made sure-footed for Christ to ride on his triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, and it remains the most sure-footed of all beasts. The ass
and cow are looked upon as sacred, because these animals breathed upon
the infant Jesus in the manger and kept the child warm. Old women
sprinkle holy water on these animals to drive away disease" (480 (1893)
264). In _I Henry IV._ (Act II. Sc. 4) Falstaff says: "The lion
will not touch the true Prince," and the divinity which hedged about the
princes of human blood was ever present with the son of Joseph and Mary,
whose divinity sprang from a purer, nobler fount than that of weak
_The Holy Family._
We have several word-pictures of the Holy Family from the mouth of the
folk. Among the hymns sung by the Confraternities of the Virgin in
Seville, is one in which occurs the following figure (_Catholic
World,_ XXIV. 19):--
"Es Maria la nave de gracia,
San Jose la vela, el Nino el timon;
Y los remos son las buenas almas
Que van al Rosario con gran devocion."
["Mary is the ship of grace,
St. Joseph is the sail,
The Child (Jesus) is the helm,
And the oars are the pious souls who devoutly pray."]
One of the little Italian songs called _razzi neddu,_ recorded by
Mrs. Busk, is even briefer:--
Gesu si stricava
Ca minna vulia."
["Sweet Mary was washing,
Joseph was hanging out the clothes to dry,
Jesus was stretching Himself on the ground,
For so His mother willed."]
A popular Spanish lullaby recorded by De Gubernatis in his great study
of birth customs and usages, runs as follows in translation (500. 310):--
"The Baby Child of Mary,
Now cradle He has none;
His father is a carpenter,
And he shall make Him one.
"The Lady, good St. Anna,
The Lord St. Joachim,
They rock the Baby's cradle,
That sleep may come to Him.
"Then sleep, thou too, my baby,
My little heart so dear;
The Virgin is beside thee,
The Son of God is near."
Among the many versions and variants of the familiar child's prayer,
"Now I lay me down to sleep," cited by the Countess Martinengo-Cesaresco
(500. 202-213), is to be included the following, found among the Greeks
of the Terra d'Otranto, in Italy:--
"I lay me down to sleep in my little bed; I lay me down to sleep with my
Mamma Mary; the Mamma Mary goes hence and leaves me Christ to keep me
Some of the most naive legends are those which deal with the Child and
His mother in the early years of life. "Our Lady's Thistle" (_Carduus
Marianus_) receives its name "because its green leaves have been
spotted white ever since the milk of the Virgin fell upon it, when she
was nursing Jesus, and endowed it with miraculous virtues." A German
tradition tells the same story of the _Polypodium vulgare_
(Marienmilch), based upon an older legend of the goddess Freia, many of
whose attributes, with the lapse of heathendom, passed over to the
central female figure of Christianity (448. 499). A similar origin of
the white lily from the milk of Juno is given in Greek mythology (462.
In Devonshire, the custom of burning a faggot of ash at Christmas, is
traced back to the fact that "the Divine Infant at Bethlehem was first
washed and dressed by a fire of ash-wood" (448. 235).
In Spain the rosemary is believed to blossom on the day of Christ's
passion, and the legend accounting for this tells us that "the Virgin
Mary spread on a shrub of rosemary the underlinen and little frocks of
the infant Jesus." The peasantry believe that rosemary "brings happiness
on those families who employ it in perfuming the house on Christmas
night" (448. 526).
_Joseph and Mary._
The suspicions entertained by Joseph (as indicated in the narrative of
St. Matthew i. 19), when the birth of the child of Mary was first
announced, have found deep expression in folk-thought. According to one
Oriental legend, the infant Christ himself spoke, declaring that "God
had created Him by His word, and chosen Him to be His servant and
prophet" (547. 254).
Another tradition, cited by Folkard, states that (448. 279): "Before the
birth of our Saviour, the Virgin Mary longed extremely to taste of some
tempting cherries which hung upon a tree high above her head; so she
requested Joseph to pluck them. Joseph, however, not caring to take the
trouble, refused to gather the cherries, saying sullenly, 'Let the
father of thy child present thee with the cherries if he will!' No
sooner had these words escaped his lips, than, as if in reproof, the
branch of the cherry-tree bowed spontaneously to the Virgin's hand, and
she gathered its fruit and ate it. Hence the cherry is dedicated to the
In Finland the white side of the flounder "is said to have been caused
by the Virgin Mary's laying her hand upon it," and an Eastern legend
states that "the Angel Gabriel restored a sole to life, to assure the
Virgin Mary of the truth of the miraculous conception." Ralston cites
from the Kherson Government in Russia the following:--
"At the time of the Angelic Salutation, the Blessed Virgin told the
Archangel Gabriel that she would give credit to his words, if a fish,
one side of which had already been eaten, were to come to life again.
That moment the fish came to life, and was put back into the water."
This legend, accounting for the shape of the sole, finds perhaps its
origin in "the old Lithuanian tradition that the Queen of the Baltic Sea
once ate half of it and threw the other half into the sea
again"--another example of the transference of older stories to the
cycle of the Virgin Mary (520. 334).
De Gubernatis records from Andalusia, in Spain, a legend which tells how
the Holy Family, journeying one day, came to an orange-tree guarded by
an eagle. The Virgin "begged of it one of the oranges for the Holy
Child. The eagle miraculously fell asleep, and the Virgin thereupon
plucked not one but three oranges, one of which she gave to the infant
Jesus, another to Joseph, and the third she kept for herself. Then, and
not till then, the eagle that guarded the orange-tree awoke" (448. 478).
A beautiful pendant to this Spanish tale is found in the Roumanian story
cited by Folkard:--
"The infant Jesus, in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, becomes restless,
will not go to sleep, and begins to cry. The Virgin, to calm the Holy
Child, gives Him two apples. The infant throws one upwards and it
becomes the Moon; He then throws the second, and it becomes the Sun.
After this exploit, the Virgin Mary addresses Him and foretells that He
will become the Lord of Heaven" (448.222).
In his recent book on _Childhood in Literature and Art,_ Mr.
Scudder treats of the Christ-Child and the Holy Family in mediaeval and
early Christian art and literature (350. 57-65, 83-99), calling special
attention to a series of twelve prints executed in the Netherlands,
known as _The Infancy of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,_
in which we have "a reproduction of the childhood of the Saviour in the
terms of a homely Netherland family life, the naturalistic treatment
diversified by the use of angelic machinery" (350.91).
_Moslem Lore of the Christ._
In the _Toldoth Jesu,_ which Clouston terms "a scurrilous Jewish
'Life of Christ,'"--the Hebrew text with a Latin translation and
explanatory notes, appeared at Leyden in 1705, under the title
_Historia Jeschuce Nazareni,_--the many wonders admitted to have
been performed by Christ are ascribed to his "having abstracted from the
Temple the Ineffable Name and concealed it in his thigh,"--an idea
thought to be of Indian origin. Clouston goes so far as to say: "Legends
of the miracles of Isa, son of Maryam, found in the works of Muslim
writers, seem to have been derived from the Kuran, and also from early
Christian, or rather _quasi_-Christian traditions, such as those in
the apocryphal gospels, which are now for the most part traceable to
Buddhist sources." One belief of the Mohammedans was that "the breath of
the Messiah had the virtue of restoring the dead to life" (422. II. 395,
In the first volume of the _Orientalist,_ Muhammed Casim Siddi
Lebbe gives an account of the views of Arabian writers regarding the
Virgin Mary and Jesus. Weil has also devoted a section of his work on
Mussulman legends to "John, Mary, and Christ." When the child Jesus was
born, we are told, the withered trunk of a date tree against which the
Virgin leaned, "blossomed, and its withered branches were covered with
fresh dates," while "a fountain of fresh water gushed forth from the
earth at her feet" (547. 249-264).
_The Christ-Child To-day._
Folk-stories and churchly legends tell us that the Christ-Child still
walks the earth, and appears unto the saints and sinners of this world.
Folkard reports a tradition from the Havel country in North Germany:--
"One Christmas Eve a peasant felt a great desire to eat cabbage and,
having none himself, he slipped into a neighbour's garden to cut some.
Just as he had filled his basket, the Christ-Child rode past on his
white horse, and said: 'Because thou hast stolen on the holy night, thou
shalt immediately sit in the moon with thy basket of cabbage.'" And so,
we are told, "the culprit was immediately wafted up to the moon," and
there he can still be seen as "the man in the moon" (448. 265).
Brewer gives many of the churchly legends in which the Christ-Child
appears to men and women upon earth, either in the arms of the Virgin,
as he came to St. Agnes of Monte Pulciano and to Jeanne Marie de Maille,
or as a glorious child, in which form he appeared alone to St. Alexander
and Quirinus the tribune, in the reign of Hadrian; to St. Andrew
Corsini, to call him to the bishopric of Fiesole; to St. Anthony of
Padua, many times; to St. Cuthbert, to rebuke him (a child of eight
years) for wasting his time in play; to St. Emiliana of Florence, with
the same purpose; to St. Oxanna, and to St. Veronica of Milan (191. 59,
60). Among the rude peasantry of Catholic Europe belief in the
visitations of the Christ-Child lingers, especially at the season of His
birth. With them, as Milton thought,--"Millions of spiritual creatures
walk the earth." Yet not unseen, but seen often of the good and wise,
the simple and innocent, and greatest of these visitants of earth is the
Child Jesus, ever occupied about His Father's business.
PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT PARENTS, FATHER AND
1. Be a father to virtue, but a father-in-law to vice.
2. Bread is our father, but _kasha_ [porridge] is our mother.
3. Call not that man wretched, who, whatever ills he suffers, has a
child he loves.--_Southey_.
4. Children suck the mother when they are young, and the father when
they are old.
5. Children see in their parents the past, they again in their children
the future; and if we find more love in parents for their children than
in children for their parents, this is sad and natural. Who does not
fondle his hopes more than his recollections?--_Eotvos_.
6. Choose a good mother's daughter, though her father were the
7. Die Menschheit geben uns Vater und Mutter, die Menschlichkeit aber
gibt uns nur die Erziehung. [Human nature we owe to father and mother,
but humanity to education alone.]--_Weber_.
8. Die Mutter geben uns von Geiste Warme, und die Vater Licht. [Our
mothers give us warmth of spirit; our fathers, light.]--_Jean
9. Die Mutter sagt es, der Vater glaubt es, ein Narr zweifelt daran.
[The mother says it, the father believes it, the fool doubts
10. Dos est magna parentum Virtus. [The virtue of parents is a great
11. En olle kan beter sofen kinner erneren, as sofen kinner en olle. [A
parent can more easily maintain seven children than seven children one
12. Fader og Moder ere gode, end er Gud bedre. [Father and mother are
kind, but God is better.]--_Danish._
13. He knows not what love is that hath no children.
14. He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of
15. If poverty is the mother of crimes, want of sense is the father of
16. Keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy
17. La buena vida padre y madre olvida. [Prosperity forgets father and
18. Laus magna natis obsequi parentibus. [Great praise comes to children
for having complied with the wishes of their parents.]
19. Look at home, father priest, mother priest; your church is a
hundred-fold heavier responsibility than mine can be. Your priesthood is
from God's own hands.--_Henry Ward Beecher._
20. One mother is more venerable than a thousand fathers.
--_Laws of Manu._
21. Parents are the enemies of their children, if they refuse them
22. Parents' blessings can neither be drowned in water, nor consumed in
23. Parents we can have but once.--_Dr. Johnson._
24. Parents say: "Our boy is growing up." They forget his life is
25. Respect for one's parents is the highest duty of civil life.
26. The bazaar knows neither father nor mother.--_Turkish._
27. The crow says: "O my son, whiter than muslin."--_Afghan._
28. The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his
mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles
shall eat it.--_Bible._
29. The house of the childless is empty; and so is the heart of him that
hath no wife.--_Hitopadesa._
30. The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and
31. These are my jewels.--_Cornelia (mother of the Gracchi)._
32. They who have lost an infant are never, as it were, without an
infant child.--_Leigh Hunt._
33. To a father, when his child dies, the future dies; to a child, when
his parents die, the past dies.--_Auerbach._
34. To make a boy despise his mother's care is the straightest way to
make him also despise his Redeemer's voice; and to make him scorn his
father and his father's house, the straightest way to make him deny his
God and his God's heaven.--_Ruskin._
35. Unworthy offspring brag most of their worthy descent.
Vom Vater hab'ich die Statur,
Des Lebens ernstes Fuhren;
Von Mutterchen die Frohnatur
Und Lust zu fabulieren.
[My father's stature I possess
And life's more solemn glory;
My mother's fund of cheerfulness,
Her love for song and story.]--_Goethe._
37. Was der Mutter an's Herz geht, das geht dem Vater nur an die Kniee.
[What goes to the mother's heart goes only to the father's
38. Wer nicht Kinder hat, der weiss nicht, warum er lebt. [Who has not
children knows not why he lives.]--_German._
39. Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in
40. Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no
transgression, the same is the companion of a destroyer.--_Bible._
PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT THE CHILD, MANKIND,
1. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has great force,
though shot by a child.--_Bacon_.
2. Childhood often holds a truth in its feeble fingers, which the grasp
of manhood cannot retain, and which it is the pride of utmost age to
3. Children always turn toward the light.--_Hare_.
4. Der grosste Mensch bleibt stets ein Menschenkind. [The greatest man
always remains a son of man.]--_Goethe_.
5. Dieu aide a trois sortes de personnes,--aux fous, aux enfants, et aux
ivrognes. [God protects three sorts of people,--fools, children, and
6. Enfants et fous sont devins. [Children and fools are
7. Every child is, to a certain extent, a genius, and every genius is,
to a certain extent, a child.--_Schopenhauer_.
8. Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot
enter into the kingdom of heaven.--_Jesus_.
Fede ed innocenzia son reperte
Solo ne' pargoletti.
[Faith and innocence we find
Only in the children's mind.]
10. Genius is the power of carrying the feelings of childhood into the
powers of manhood.--_Coleridge_.
11. Genius must be born, and never can be taught.--_Dryden_.
12. Genius should be the child of genius, and every child should be
13. God is kind to fou [_i.e._ drunken] folk and
14. God watches over little children and drunkards.--_Russian_.
15. Heaven lies about us in our infancy.--_Wordsworth_.
16. I love God and little children.--_Jean Paul_.
17. If children grew up according to early indications, we should have
nothing but geniuses.--_Goethe_.
18. Infancy presents body and spirit in unity; the body is all
19. Ingenio non atate adipiscitur sapientia. [Wisdom comes by nature,
not by age.]--_Latin_.
20. Kinder und Narren sprechen die Wahrheit. [Children and fools tell
21. Kloke kinner ward nit old. [Wise children don't live long.]
22. L'homme est toujours l'enfant, et l'enfant toujours l'homme. [The
man is always the child, and the child is always the man.]
23. Mankind at large always resembles frivolous children; they are
impatient of thought, and wish to be amused.--_Emerson_.
24. Men are but children of a larger growth; Our appetites are apt to
change as theirs, And full as craving, too, and full as
25. Men are unwiser than children; they do not know the hand that feeds
26. Men deal with life as children with their play, Who first misuse,
then cast their toys away.--_Cowper_.
27. Men fear death as children to go into the dark.--_Bacon_.
28. Nature is full of freaks, and now puts an old head on young
shoulders, and then a young heart beating under fourscore
29. Nothing is so intelligible to the child, nothing seems so natural to
him as the marvellous or the supernatural.--_Zacharia_.
30. Odi puerulos pracoci ingenio. [I hate boys of precocious
31. _on oi theoi philousin apothnaeskei neos_. [He whom the gods
love dies young.]--_Menander_.
32. Poeta nascitur, non fit. [A poet is born, not made.]--_Latin_.
Prophete rechts, Prophete links,
Das Weltkind in der Mitten.
[Prophets to right of him, prophets to left of him,
The world-child in the middle.]--_Goethe_.
34. So wise, so young, they say, do ne'er live long.
--_Shakespeare_ (Rich. III. iii. 1).
35. Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of
such is the kingdom of heaven.--_Jesus_.
36. The best architecture is the expression of the mind of man-hood by
the hands of childhood.--_Ruskin_.
37. The birth of a child is the imprisonment of a soul.--_Simons_.
38. The boy's story is the best that is ever told.--_Dickens_.
39. The child is father of the man.--_Wordsworth_.
40. The childhood shows the man As morning shows the
41. The wisest doctor is gravelled by the inquisitiveness of a
42. These moving things, ca'ed wife and weans, Wad move the very heart
43. They who have lost an infant are never, as it were, without an
infant child.--_Leigh Hunt_.
44. To be young is to be as one of the immortals.--_Hazlitt_.
45. Wage du zu irren und zu traumen: Hoher Sinn liegt oft im kind'schen
Spiel. [Dare thou to err and dream; Oft deep sense a child's play
46. Wer darf das Kind beim rechten Namen nennen? [Who dare give the
child its right name?]--_Goethe_.
47. Whilst we converse with what is above us, we do not grow old but
48. Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he
shall not enter therein.--_Jesus_.
49. Ye are but children.--_Egyptian Priest (to Solon)_.
PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT THE MOTHER AND
1. A child may have too much of its mother's blessing.
2. A kiss from my mother made me a painter.--_Benj. West._
3. Ama sinhesten, ezduenac, ain zuna. [Who does not follow his mother
will follow his stepmother, i.e. who will not hear must
4. A mother curses not her son.--_Sanskrit_.
5. An ounce o' mother-wit is worth a pound o' clergy.--_Scotch_.
6. As if he had fallen out of his mother's mouth (i.e. so like his
7. Barmherzige Mutter ziehen grindige Tochter. [Compassionate mothers
bring up scabby daughters.]--_German_.
8. Choose cloth by its edge, a wife by her mother.--_Persian_.
9. Das Kind, das seine Mutter verachtet, hat einen stinkenden Atem. [The
child that despises its mother has a fetid breath.]--_German_.
10. Das Kind fallt wieder in der Mutter Schooss. [The child falls back
into its mother's bosom.]--_German_.
11. Das Kind folgt dem Busen. [The child follows the
12. Die Mutter eine Hexe, die Tochter auch eine Hexe. [Mother a witch,
daughter also a witch.]--_German_.
13. Die Tochter ist wie die Mutter. [Like mother, like
14. Es meinet jede Frau, ihr Kind sei ein Pfau. [Every woman thinks her
child a peacock.]--_German_.
15. Es ist kein' so bose Mutter, sie zohe gern ein frommes Kind. [There
is no mother so bad but that she will bring up a good
16. Fleissige Mutter hat faule Tochter. [A diligent mother has a lazy
17. God pardons like a mother who kisses the offence into everlasting
forgetfulness.--_Henry Ward Beecher_.
18. Happy is the boy whose mother is tired of talking nonsense to him
before he is old enough to know the sense of it.--_Hare_.
19. He deceives thee, who tells thee that he loves thee more than thy
20. He has faut [i.e. need] o' a wife that marries mam's pet.
21. He that is born of a hen must scrape for a living.
22. I have always found that the road to a woman's heart lies through
23. I would desire for a friend the son who never resisted the tears of
24. If the world were put into one scale and my mother into the other,
the world would kick the beam.--_Lord Langdale_.
25. In a matter of life and death don't trust even your mother; she
might mistake a black bean [nay] for a white one
26. lst eine Mutter noch so arm, so giebt sie ihrem Kinde warm. [However
poor a mother is, she keeps her child warm.]--_German_.
27. It is not as thy mother says, but as thy neighbours say.
28. Jedes Mutterkind ist schon. [Every mother's child is
29. Keine Mutter tragt einen Bastart. [No mother bears a
30. La madre pitiosa fa la figluola tignosa. [A merciful mother makes a
31. Like mother, like daughter.
32. Mai agucosa, filha preguicosa. [Diligent mother, idle
33. Mere piteuse fait sa fille rogneuse. [A merciful mother makes her
34. Milk with water is still milk [i.e. though, your mother is bad, she
is nevertheless your mother].--_Badaga_.
35. Mothers' darlings are but milksop heroes.
36. Mothers' love is the cream of love.
37. Muttertreu wird taglich neu. [Mother's truth keeps constant
Mysterious to all thought,
A mother's prime of bliss,
When to her eager lips is brought
Her infant's thrilling kiss.--_Keble_.
39. Nature sent women into the world that they might be mothers and love
children, to whom sacrifices must ever be offered, and from whom none
can be obtained.--_Jean Paul_.
40. No bones are broken by a mother's fist.--_Russian_.
41. No hay tal madre come la que pare. [There is no mother like her who
O l'amour d'une mere! amour quo nul n'oublie!
Pain merveilleux, que Dieu partage et multiplie!
Table toujours servie au paternel foyer!
Chacun en a sa part, et tous l'ont tout entier.
[O mother-love! love that none ever forgets!
Wonderful bread, that God divides and multiplies!
Table always spread beside the paternal hearth!
Each one has his part of it, and each has it all!]
43. One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.
44. One scream of fear from a mother may resound through the whole life
of her daughter.--_Jean Paul_.
Seem I not as tender to him
As any mother?
Ay, but such a one
As all day long hath rated at her child,
And vext his day, but blesses him asleep.
46. Sind die Kinder klein, so treten sie der Mutter auf den Schooss;
sind die Kinder gross, so treten sie der Mutter auf das Herz. [When the
children are small they tread upon the mother's breast; when they are
large they tread upon the mother's heart.]--_German._
47. So moder, so dogter. [Like mother, like daughter.]--_Frisian_.
Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta crucem lacrymosa
Quo pendebat Filius.
[Sorrow-stricken stood the Mother
Weeping by the cross
On which hung her Son.]
--_Mediaeval Latin Hymn_.
49. Tendresse maternelle toujours se renouvelle. [A mother's affection
is forever new.]--_French_.
50. The child is often kissed for the mother's (nurse's) sake.
51. The elephant does not find his trunk heavy, nor the mother her
52. The future destiny of the child is always the work of the
53. The good mother says not "Will you?" but gives.--_Italian_.
54. The mother's heart is always with her children.
55. The mother's breath is aye sweet.--_Scotch_.
56. The mother knows best if the child be like the father.
57. The mother makes the house or mars it.
58. The nurse's bread is better than the mother's cake.
59. The prayer of the mother fetches her child out of the bottom of the
60. The watchful mother tarries nigh, Though sleep has closed her
61. There is nothing more charming to see than a mother with her child
in her arms, and there is nothing more venerable than a mother among a
number of her children.--_Goethe_.
62. Though a mother be a wolf, she does not eat her cub's
63. Timidi mater non flet. [The coward's mother need not
64. To a child in confinement its mother's knee is a binding-post.
65. Unhappy is the man for whom his own mother has not made all mothers
66. Unless the child cries even the mother will not give it
67. Wer ein saugendes Kind hat, der hat eine singende Frau. [Whoever has
a suckling child, has a singing wife.]--_German_.
68. Wer dem Kinde die Nase wischt, kusst der Mutter den Backen. [Whoever
wipes a child's nose kisses the mother's cheek.]--_German_.
69. What a mother sees coils itself up, but does not come out [i.e. the
faults of her child].-_Angolese_ (Africa).
70. You desire, O woman, to be loved ardently and forever until death;
be the mothers of your children.--_Jean Paul_.
71. Zu solchen Kindern gehort eine solche Mutter. [To such children
belongs such a mother.]--_German_.
PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT FATHER AND CHILD.
1. An dem Kind kennt man den Vater wohl. [The father is known from the
2. Bone does not let go flesh, nor father son.--_Angolese_.
3. Bose Kinder machen den Vater fromm. [Bad children make the father
4. Chi non ha figluoli non sa qualche cosa sia amore. [Who has not
children knows not what love is.]--_Italian_.
5. Child's pig, but father's bacon.
6. Ein Vater ernahrt ehei zehn Kinder, denn zehn Kinder einen Vater.
[One father can better nourish ten children, than ten children one
7. Fathers alone a father's heart can know.--_Young_.
8.Fathers first enter bonds to Nature's ends,
And are her sureties ere they are a friend's.
9.Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind;
But fathers that wear bags
Do make their children kind.
--_Shakespeare_ (King Lear, ii. 4).
10.Fathers their children and themselves abuse, That wealth a husband
for their daughters choose. --_Shirley_.
11. Happy is he that is happy in his children.
12. Happy is the child whose father went to the devil.
13. Haur nizar-galeac aitari bizzarra thira. [The child that will cry,
pulls at its father's beard.]--_Basque_.
14. He has of [i.e. is like] his father.--_Russian_.
15. He is a chip of the old block.
16. He is cut out of his father's eyes [i.e. very like his
17. He is the son of his father.
18. He is a wise child that knows his own father.
19. He that can discriminate is the father of his father.--_Veda_.
20. He that hath wife and children wants not business.
21. He that marries a widow and three children marries four
22. He that hath a wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for
they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or
23. He was scant o' news that told that his father was hanged.
24. He who hath but one hog makes him fat; he who hath but one son makes
him a fool.--_Italian_.
25. It is a wise father that knows his own child.--_Shakespeare_
(Merch. of Venice, ii. 2).
26. Like father, like son.--_Arabic_.
27. Man sieht dem Kind an, was er fur einen Vater hat. [By the child one
sees what sort of man his father is.]--_German_.
28. Many a father might say ... "I put in gold into the furnace, and
there came out this calf."--_Spurgeon_.
29. Many a good father has a bad son.
30. On est toujours le fils de quelqu'un. Cela console. [One is always
the son of somebody. That is a consolation.]--_French_.
31. Patris est filius. [He is the son of his father.]--_Latin_.
32. Such a father, such a son.--_Spanish_.
33. Tel pere, tel fils. [Like father, like son.]--_French_.
34. The child is the father of the man.--_Wordsworth_.
35. The child has a red tongue like its father.
36. The Devil's child, the Devil's luck.
37. The father can no more destroy his son than the cloud can extinguish
by water the lightning which precedes from itself.--_Raghuvansa_.
38. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set
39. The glory of children are their fathers.--_Bible_.
40. The gods do not avenge on the son the misdeeds of the father. Each,
good or bad, reaps the just reward of his own actions. The blessing of
the parents, not their curse, is inherited.--_Goethe_.
41. The ungrateful son is a wart on his father's face; to leave it is a
blemish, to cut it a pain.--_Afghan_.
42. The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of
home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they
are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.--_Jean Paul_.
43. To a father, who is growing old, there is nothing dearer than a
44. To a father, when his child dies, the future dies; to a child, when
his parents die, the past dies.--_Auerbach_.
45. Vinegar the son of wine [_i.e._ an unpopular son of a popular
46. Whoso wishes to live without trouble, let him keep from
step-children and winter-hogs.--_Low German_.
PROVERBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT CHILDHOOD, YOUTH,
1. A' are guid lasses, but where do a' the ill wives come frae?
2. Age does not make us childish, as people say; it only finds
us still true children.--_Goethe_.
3. Aliud legunt pueri, aliud viri, aliud senes. [Children read
one way, men another, old men another.]--_Terence_.
4. A man at five may be a fool at fifteen.
5. A man at sixteen will prove a child at sixty.
6. An old knave is no babe.
7. A smiling boy seldom proves a good servant.
8. Auld folk are twice bairns.--_Scotch_.
9. Aus gescheidenen Kindern werden Gecken. [From clever
children come fools.]--_German_.
10. Aus Kindern werden Leute, aus Jungfern werden Braute.
[From children come grown-up people, from maidens come brides.]
11. Better bairns greet [_i.e._ weep] than bearded men.
12. Childhood and youth see all the world in persons.
13. Childhood often holds a truth in its feeble fingers, which
the grasp of manhood cannot retain, and which it is the pride of
utmost age to recover.--_Ruskin_.
14. Childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day.--_Milton_.
15. Der Jungling kampft, damit der Greis geniesse. [The youth fights, in
order that the old man may enjoy.]--_Goethe_.
16. Een diamant van een dochter wordt een glas van eene vrouw. [A
diamond of a daughter becomes a glass of a wife.]--_Dutch_.
17. Eident [_i.e._ diligent] youth makes easy age.--_Scotch_.
Ewig jung zu bleiben
Ist, wie Diehter schreiben,
Willst du es erwerben,
Musst du fruhe sterben.
[To remain ever-young
Is, as poets write,
The highest good of life;
If thou wouldst acquire it,
Thou must die young.]--_Ruckert_.
19. Fanciulli piccioli, dolor di testa; fanciulli grandi dolor di cuore.
[Little children bring head-ache, big children, heart-ache.]
20. Giovine santo, diavolo vecchio. [Young saint, old devil.]
21. Hang a thief when he's young, and he'll no steal when
22. Happy child! the cradle is still to thee an infinite space; once
grown into a man, and the boundless world will be too small to
23. He cometh to you with a tale which holdeth children from play, and
old men from the chimney-corner.--_Sir Philip Sidney_.
24. He who mocks the infant's faith Shall be mocked in age and
25. How little is the promise of the child fulfilled in the man!
26. If you lie upon roses when young, you will lie upon thorns when old.
Ihr Kinder, lernet jetzt genug,
Ihr lernt nichts mehr in alten Zeiten.
[Ye children, learn enough now;
When time has passed, you will learn nothing more.]--_Pfeffel_.
28. In childhood a linen rag buys friendship.--_Angolese_.
29. In childhood be modest, in youth temperate, in manhood just, and in
old age prudent.--_Socrates_.
30. In the opening bud you see the youthful thorns.--_Talmud_.
31. In youth one has tears without grief; in age, grief without
32. Invention is the talent of youth, and judgment of age.
33. It's no child's play, when an old woman dances.--_Low German._
34. Jong rijs is te buigen, maar geen oude boomen. [A young twig can be
bent, but not old trees.]--_Dutch._
35. Jonge lui, domme lui; oude lui, koude lui. [Young folk, silly folk;
old folk, cold folk.]--_Dutch._
36. Junge Faullenzer, alte Bettler. [Young idlers, old beggars.]
37. Just at the age 'twixt boy and youth When thought is speech, and
speech is truth.--_Scott._
38. La jeunesse devrait etre une caisse d'epargne. [Youth ought to be a
39. Learn young, learn fair; Learn auld, learn mair.--_Scotch._
40. Let the young people mind what the old people say, And where there
is danger, keep out of the way.
41. Levity is artlessness in a child, a shameful fault in men, and a
terrible folly in old age.--_La Rochefoucauld._
42. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are
wives.--_Shakespeare_ (As You Like It, iv. 1).
43. Man schont die Alten, wie man die Kinder schont. [We spare old
people, as we spare children.]--_Goethe._
44. Man mut de kinner bugen, so lange se junk sunt. [Children must be
bent while they are young.]--_Frisian._
45. Man's second childhood begins when a woman gets hold of
46. My son's my son till he hath got him a wife, But my daughter's my
daughter all the days of her life.
47. Nicht die Kinder bloss speist man mit Marchen ab. [Not children
alone are put off with tales.]--_Leasing._
48. Old head and young hand.
49. Old heads will not suit young shoulders.
50. Old men are twice children.--_Greek_.
51. Once a man and twice a child.
52. Se il giovane sapesse, se il vecchio potesse, c' non c' e cosa che
non si facesse. [If the youth but knew, if the old man but could, there
is nothing which would not be done.]--_Italian_.
53. Study is the bane of boyhood, the element of youth, the indulgence
of manhood, and the restorative of age.--_Landor_.
54. The household is the home of the man as well as of the
55. The man whom grown-up people love, children love still
56. There are in man, in the beginning, and at the end, two blank
book-binder's leaves,--childhood and age.--_Jean Paul_.
57. We are children for the second time at twenty-one, and again when we
are gray and put all our burden on the Lord.--_Barrie_.
58. We bend the tree when it is young.--_Bulgarian_.
59. When bairns are young they gar their parents' heads ache; when they
are auld they make their hearts break.--_Scotch_.
60. When children, we are sensualists, when in love, idealists.
61. Wie die Alten sungen, so zwitschern auch die Jungen. [As the old
birds sing, the young ones twitter.]--_German_.
62. Wir sind auch Kinder gewesen. [We too were once children.]
63. Young men think that old men are fools; but old men know young men
64. Youth is a blunder; manhood, a struggle; old age, a regret.
Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short;
Youth is nimble, age is lame;
Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold;
Youth is wild, and age is tame.--_Shakespeare_.
PBOVEKBS, SAYINGS, ETC., ABOUT THE CHILD AND
1. A beltless bairn cannot lie.--_Scotch._
2. A burnt child dreads the fire.
3. A child is a Cupid become visible.--_Novalis._
4. A daft nurse makes a wise wean.--_Scotch._
5. A growing youth has a wolf in his belly.
6. A hungry belly has no ears.
7. A lisping lass is good to kiss.
8. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
9 An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light;