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  • 1890
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remembered with regret the days when they used to foot it as nimbly. Sometimes the fires were kindled on the tops of high hills. The people also carried firebrands about the fields.[499] The custom of kindling bonfires on Midsummer Eve prevailed all over Cumberland down to the second half of the eighteenth century.[500] In Northumberland the custom seems to have lasted into the first quarter of the nineteenth century; the fires were lit in the villages and on the tops of high hills, and the people sported and danced round them.[501] Moreover, the villagers used to run with burning brands round their fields and to snatch ashes from a neighbour’s fire, saying as they did so, “We have the flower (or flour) of the wake.”[502] At Sandhill bonfires were kindled on the Eve of St. Peter as well as on Midsummer Eve; the custom is attested for the year 1575, when it was described as ancient.[503] We are told that “on Midsummer’s eve, reckoned according to the old style, it was formerly the custom of the inhabitants, young and old, not only of Whalton, but of most of the adjacent villages, to collect a large cartload of whins and other combustible materials, which was dragged by them with great rejoicing (a fiddler being seated on the top of the cart) into the village and erected into a pile. The people from the surrounding country assembled towards evening, when it was set on fire; and whilst the young danced around it, the elders looked on smoking their pipes and drinking their beer, until it was consumed. There can be little doubt that this curious old custom dates from a very remote antiquity.” In a law-suit, which was tried in 1878, the rector of Whalton gave evidence of the constant use of the village green for the ceremony since 1843. “The bonfire,” he said, “was lighted a little to the north-east of the well at Whalton, and partly on the footpath, and people danced round it and jumped through it. That was never interrupted.” The Rev. G.R. Hall, writing in 1879, says that “the fire festivals or bonfires of the summer solstice at the Old Midsummer until recently were commemorated on Christenburg Crags and elsewhere by leaping through and dancing round the fires, as those who have been present have told me.”[504] Down to the early part of the nineteenth century bonfires called Beal-fires used to be lit on Midsummer Eve all over the wolds in the East Riding of Yorkshire.[505]

[The Midsummer fires in Herefordshire, Somersetshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall; the Cornish fires on Midsummer Eve and St. Peter’s Eve.]

In Herefordshire and Somersetshire the peasants used to make fires in the fields on Midsummer Eve “to bless the apples.”[506] In Devonshire the custom of leaping over the midsummer fires was also observed.[507] “In Cornwall, the festival fires, called bonfires, are kindled on the Eves of St. John Baptist and St. Peter’s day; and Midsummer is thence, in the Cornish tongue, called _Goluan_, which signifies both light and rejoicing. At these fires the Cornish attend with lighted torches, tarred and pitched at the end, and make their perambulations round their fires, going from village to village and carrying their torches before them; this is certainly the remains of Druid superstition; for, _Faces praeferre_, to carry lighted torches was reckoned a kind of gentilism, and as such particularly prohibited by the Gallick Councils.”[508] At Penzance and elsewhere in the county the people danced and sang about the bonfires on Midsummer Eve. On Whiteborough, a large tumulus near Launceston, a huge bonfire used to be kindled on Midsummer Eve; a tall summer pole with a large bush at the top was fixed in the centre of the bonfire.[509] The Cornish fires at this season appear to have been commonly lit on high and conspicuous hills, such as Tregonan, Godolphin, Carnwarth, and Cam Brea. When it grew dusk on Midsummer Eve, old men would hobble away to some height whence they counted the fires and drew a presage from their number.[510] “It is the immemorial usage in Penzance, and the neighbouring towns and villages, to kindle bonfires and torches on Midsummer-eve; and on Midsummer-day to hold a fair on Penzance quay, where the country folks assemble from the adjoining parishes in great numbers to make excursions on the water. St. Peter’s Eve (the twenty-eighth of June) is distinguished by a similar display of bonfires and torches, although the ‘quay-fair’ on St. Peter’s-day (the twenty-ninth of June), has been discontinued upwards of forty years. On these eves a line of tar-barrels, relieved occasionally by large bonfires, is seen in the centre of each of the principal streets in Penzance. On either side of this line young men and women pass up and down, swinging round their heads heavy torches made of large pieces of folded canvas steeped in tar, and nailed to the ends of sticks between three and four feet long; the flames of some of these almost equal those of the tar-barrels. Rows of lighted candles, also, when the air is calm, are fixed outside the windows or along the sides of the streets. In St. Just, and other mining parishes, the young miners, mimicking their fathers’ employments, bore rows of holes in the rocks, load them with gunpowder, and explode them in rapid succession by trains of the same substance. As the holes are not deep enough to split the rocks, the same little batteries serve for many years. On these nights, Mount’s Bay has a most animating appearance, although not equal to what was annually witnessed at the beginning of the present century, when the whole coast, from the Land’s End to the Lizard, wherever a town or a village existed, was lighted up with these stationary or moving fires. In the early part of the evening, children may be seen wearing wreaths of flowers–a custom in all probability originating from the ancient use of these ornaments when they danced around the fires. At the close of the fireworks in Penzance, a great number of persons of both sexes, chiefly from the neighbourhood of the quay, used always, until within the last few years, to join hand in hand, forming a long string, and run through the streets, playing ‘thread the needle,’ heedless of the fireworks showered upon them, and oftentimes leaping over the yet glowing embers. I have on these occasions seen boys following one another, jumping through flames higher than themselves.”[511]

[The Midsummer fires in Wales and the Isle of Man; burning wheel rolled down hill.]

In Wales the midsummer fires were kindled on St. John’s Eve and on St. John’s Day. Three or nine different kinds of wood and charred faggots carefully preserved from the last midsummer were deemed necessary to build the bonfire, which was generally done on rising ground. Various herbs were thrown into the blaze; and girls with bunches of three or nine different kinds of flowers would take the hands of boys, who wore flowers in their buttonholes and hats, and together the young couples would leap over the fires. On the same two midsummer days roses and wreaths of flowers were hung over the doors and windows. “Describing a midsummer fire, an old inhabitant, born in 1809, remembered being taken to different hills in the Vale of Glamorgan to see festivities in which people from all parts of the district participated. She was at that time about fourteen, and old enough to retain a vivid recollection of the circumstances. People conveyed trusses of straw to the top of the hill, where men and youths waited for the contributions. Women and girls were stationed at the bottom of the hill. Then a large cart-wheel was thickly swathed with straw, and not an inch of wood was left in sight. A pole was inserted through the centre of the wheel, so that long ends extended about a yard on each side. If any straw remained, it was made up into torches at the top of tall sticks. At a given signal the wheel was lighted, and sent rolling downhill. If this fire-wheel went out before it reached the bottom of the hill, a very poor harvest was promised. If it kept lighted all the way down, and continued blazing for a long time, the harvest would be exceptionally abundant. Loud cheers and shouts accompanied the progress of the wheel.”[512] At Darowen in Wales small bonfires were kindled on Midsummer Eve.[513] On the same day people in the Isle of Man were wont to light fires to the windward of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn; and they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse round them several times.[514]

[The Midsummer fires in Ireland; passage of people and cattle through the fires; cattle driven through the fire; ashes used to fertilize the fields; the White Horse at the Midsummer fire.]

A writer of the last quarter of the seventeenth century tells us that in Ireland, “on the Eves of St. John Baptist and St. Peter, they always have in every town a bonfire, late in the evenings, and carry about bundles of reeds fast tied and fired; these being dry, will last long, and flame better than a torch, and be a pleasing divertive prospect to the distant beholder; a stranger would go near to imagine the whole country was on fire.”[515] Another writer says of the South of Ireland: “On Midsummer’s Eve, every eminence, near which is a habitation, blazes with bonfires; and round these they carry numerous torches, shouting and dancing, which affords a beautiful sight.”[516] An author who described Ireland in the first quarter of the eighteenth century says: “On the vigil of St. John the Baptist’s Nativity, they make bonfires, and run along the streets and fields with wisps of straw blazing on long poles to purify the air, which they think infectious, by believing all the devils, spirits, ghosts, and hobgoblins fly abroad this night to hurt mankind.”[517] Another writer states that he witnessed the festival in Ireland in 1782: “At the house where I was entertained, it was told me, that we should see, at midnight, the most singular sight in Ireland, which was the lighting of fires in honour of the sun. Accordingly, exactly at midnight, the fires began to appear; and taking the advantage of going up to the leads of the house, which had a widely extended view, I saw on a radius of thirty miles, all around, the fires burning on every eminence which the country afforded. I had a farther satisfaction in learning, from undoubted authority, that the people danced round the fires, and at the close went through these fires, and made their sons and daughters, together with their cattle, pass through the fire; and the whole was conducted with religious solemnity.”[518] That the custom prevailed in full force as late as 1867 appears from a notice in a newspaper of that date, which runs thus: “The old pagan fire-worship still survives in Ireland, though nominally in honour of St. John. On Sunday night bonfires were observed throughout nearly every county in the province of Leinster. In Kilkenny, fires blazed on every hillside at intervals of about a mile. There were very many in the Queen’s County, also in Kildare and Wexford. The effect in the rich sunset appeared to travellers very grand. The people assemble, and dance round the fires, the children jump through the flames, and in former times live coals were carried into the corn-fields to prevent blight.”[519] In County Leitrim on St. John’s Eve, which is called Bonfire Day, fires are still lighted after dusk on the hills and along the sides of the roads.[520] All over Kerry the same thing continues to be done, though not so commonly as of old. Small fires were made across the road, and to drive through them brought luck for the year. Cattle were also driven through the fires. On Lettermore Island, in South Connemara, some of the ashes from the midsummer bonfire are thrown on the fields to fertilize them.[521] One writer informs us that in Munster and Connaught a bone must always be burned in the fire; for otherwise the people believe that the fire will bring no luck. He adds that in many places sterile beasts and human beings are passed through the fire, and that as a boy he himself jumped through the fire “for luck.”[522] An eye-witness has described as follows a remarkable ceremony observed in Ireland on Midsummer Eve: “When the fire burned for some hours, and got low, an indispensable part of the ceremony commenced. Every one present of the peasantry passed through it, and several children were thrown across the sparkling embers; while a wooden frame, of some eight feet long, with a horse’s head fixed to one end, and a large white sheet thrown over it concealing the wood and the man on whose head it was carried, made its appearance. This was greeted with loud shouts of ‘The white horse!’ and having been safely carried by the skill of its bearer several times through the fire with a bold leap, it pursued the people, who ran screaming and laughing in every direction. I asked what the horse was meant for, and was told that it represented ‘all cattle.'”[523]

[Lady Wilde’s account of the Midsummer fires in Ireland.]

Lady Wilde’s account of the midsummer festival in Ireland is picturesque and probably correct in substance, although she does not cite her authorities. As it contains some interesting features which are not noticed by the other writers on Ireland whom I have consulted, I will quote the greater part of it in full. “In ancient times,” she says, “the sacred fire was lighted with great ceremony on Midsummer Eve; and on that night all the people of the adjacent country kept fixed watch on the western promontory of Howth, and the moment the first flash was seen from that spot the fact of ignition was announced with wild cries and cheers repeated from village to village, when all the local fires began to blaze, and Ireland was circled by a cordon of flame rising up from every hill. Then the dance and song began round every fire, and the wild hurrahs filled the air with the most frantic revelry. Many of these ancient customs are still continued, and the fires are still lighted on St. John’s Eve on every hill in Ireland. When the fire has burned down to a red glow the young men strip to the waist and leap over or through the flames; this is done backwards and forwards several times, and he who braves the greatest blaze is considered the victor over the powers of evil, and is greeted with tremendous applause. When the fire burns still lower, the young girls leap the flame, and those who leap clean over three times back and forward will be certain of a speedy marriage and good luck in after-life, with many children. The married women then walk through the lines of the burning embers; and when the fire is nearly burnt and trampled down, the yearling cattle are driven through the hot ashes, and their back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. These rods are kept safely afterwards, being considered of immense power to drive the cattle to and from the watering places. As the fire diminishes the shouting grows fainter, and the song and the dance commence; while professional story-tellers narrate tales of fairy-land, or of the good old times long ago, when the kings and princes of Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there was food to eat and wine to drink for all comers to the feast at the king’s house. When the crowd at length separate, every one carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is attached to the lighted _brone_ which is safely carried to the house without breaking or falling to the ground. Many contests also arise amongst the young men; for whoever enters his house first with the sacred fire brings the good luck of the year with him.”[524]

[Holy water resorted to on Midsummer Eve in Ireland.]

In Ireland, as elsewhere, water was also apparently thought to acquire a certain mystical virtue at midsummer. “At Stoole, near Downpatrick, there is a ceremony commencing at twelve o’clock at night on Midsummer Eve. Its sacred mount is consecrated to St. Patrick; the plain contains three wells, to which the most extraordinary virtues are attributed. Here and there are heaps of stones, around some of which appear great numbers of people, running with as much speed as possible; around others crowds of worshippers kneel with bare legs and feet as an indispensable part of the penance. The men, without coats, with handkerchiefs on their heads instead of hats, having gone seven times round each heap, kiss the ground, cross themselves, and proceed to the hill; here they ascend, on their bare knees, by a path so steep and rugged that it would be difficult to walk up. Many hold their hands clasped at the back of their necks, and several carry large stones on their heads. Having repeated this ceremony seven times, they go to what is called St. Patrick’s Chair, which are two great flat stones fixed upright in the hill; here they cross and bless themselves as they step in between these stones, and, while repeating prayers, an old man, seated for the purpose, turns them round on their feet three times, for which he is paid; the devotee then goes to conclude his penance at a pile of stones, named the Altar. While this busy scene is continued by the multitude, the wells and streams issuing from them are thronged by crowds of halt, maimed, and blind, pressing to wash away their infirmities with water consecrated by their patron saint, and so powerful is the impression of its efficacy on their minds, that many of those who go to be healed, and who are not totally blind, or altogether crippled, really believe for a time that they are by means of its miraculous virtues perfectly restored.”[525]

[The Midsummer fires in Scotland; fires on St. Peter’s Day (the twenty-ninth of June).]

In Scotland the traces of midsummer fires are few. We are told by a writer of the eighteenth century that “the midsummer-even fire, a relict of Druidism,” was kindled in some parts of the county of Perth.[526] Another writer of the same period, describing what he calls the Druidical festivals of the Highlanders, says that “the least considerable of them is that of midsummer. In the Highlands of Perthshire there are some vestiges of it. The cowherd goes three times round the fold, according to the course of the sun, with a burning torch in his hand. They imagined this rite had a tendency to purify their herds and flocks, and to prevent diseases. At their return the landlady makes an entertainment for the cowherd and his associates.”[527] In the northeast of Scotland, down to the latter half of the eighteenth century, farmers used to go round their lands with burning torches about the middle of June.[528] On the hill of Cairnshee, in the parish of Durris, Kincardineshire, the herdsmen of the country round about annually kindle a bonfire at sunset on Midsummer Day (the twenty-fourth of June); the men or lads collect the fuel and push each other through the smoke and flames. The custom is kept up through the benefaction of a certain Alexander Hogg, a native of the parish, who died about 1790 and left a small sum for the maintenance of a midsummer bonfire on the spot, because as a boy he had herded cattle on the hill. We may conjecture that in doing so he merely provided for the continuance of an old custom which he himself had observed in the same place in his youth.[529] At the village of Tarbolton in Ayrshire a bonfire has been annually kindled from time immemorial on the evening of the first Monday after the eleventh of June. A noted cattle-market was formerly held at the fair on the following day. The bonfire is still lit at the gloaming by the lads and lasses of the village on a high mound or hillock just outside of the village. Fuel for it is collected by the lads from door to door. The youth dance round the fire and leap over the fringes of it. The many cattle-drovers who used to assemble for the fair were wont to gather round the blazing pile, smoke their pipes, and listen to the young folk singing in chorus on the hillock. Afterwards they wrapped themselves in their plaids and slept round the bonfire, which was intended to last all night.[530] Thomas Moresin of Aberdeen, a writer of the sixteenth century, says that on St. Peter’s Day, which is the twenty-ninth of June, the Scotch ran about at night with lighted torches on mountains and high grounds, “as Ceres did when she roamed the whole earth in search of Proserpine”;[531] and towards the end of the eighteenth century the parish minister of Loudoun, a district of Ayrshire whose “bonny woods and braes” have been sung by Burns, wrote that “the custom still remains amongst the herds and young people to kindle fires in the high grounds in honour of Beltan. _Beltan_, which in Gaelic signifies _Baal_, or _Bel’s-fire_, was antiently the time of this solemnity. It is now kept on St. Peter’s day.”[532]

[The Midsummer fires in Spain and the Azores; divination on Midsummer Eve in the Azores; the Midsummer fires in Corsica and Sardinia.]

All over Spain great bonfires called _lumes_ are still lit on Midsummer Eve. They are kept up all night, and the children leap over them in a certain rhythmical way which is said to resemble the ancient dances. On the coast, people at this season plunge into the sea; in the inland districts the villagers go and roll naked in the dew of the meadows, which is supposed to be a sovereign preservative against diseases of the skin. On this evening, too, girls who would pry into the future put a vessel of water on the sill outside their window; and when the clocks strike twelve, they break an egg in the water and see, or fancy they see, in the shapes assumed by the pulp, as it blends with the liquid, the likeness of future bridegrooms, castles, coffins, and so forth. But generally, as might perhaps have been anticipated, the obliging egg exhibits the features of a bridegroom.[533] In the Azores, also, bonfires are lit on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve), and boys jump over them for luck. On that night St. John himself is supposed to appear in person and bless all the seas and waters, driving out the devils and demons who had been disporting themselves in them ever since the second day of November; that is why in the interval between the second of November and the twenty-third of June nobody will bathe in the sea or in a hot spring. On Midsummer Eve, too, you can always see the devil, if you will go into a garden at midnight. He is invariably found standing near a mustard-plant. His reason for adopting this posture has not been ascertained; perhaps in the chilly air of the upper world he is attracted by the genial warmth of the mustard. Various forms of divination are practised by people in the Azores on Midsummer Eve. Thus a new-laid egg is broken into a glass of water, and the shapes which it assumes foreshadow the fate of the person concerned. Again, seven saucers are placed in a row, filled respectively with water, earth, ashes, keys, a thimble, money, and grass, which things signify travel, death, widowhood, housekeeping, spinsterhood, riches, and farming. A blindfolded person touches one or other of the saucers with a wand and so discovers his or her fate. Again, three broad beans are taken; one is left in its skin, one is half peeled, and the third is peeled outright. The three denote respectively riches, competence, and poverty. They are hidden and searched for; and he who finds one of them knows accordingly whether he will be rich, moderately well-off, or poor. Again, girls take slips of paper and write the names of young men twice over on them. These they fold up and crumple and place one set under their pillows and the other set in a saucer full of water. In the morning they draw one slip of paper from under their pillow, and see whether one in the water has opened out. If the names on the two slips are the same, it is the name of her future husband. Young men do the same with girls’ names. Once more, if a girl rises at sunrise, goes out into the street, and asks the first passer-by his Christian name, that will be her husband’s name.[534] Some of these modes of divination resemble those which are or used to be practised in Scotland at Hallowe’en.[535] In Corsica on the Eve of St. John the people set fire to the trunk of a tree or to a whole tree, and the young men and maidens dance round the blaze, which is called _fucaraia_.[536] We have seen that at Ozieri, in Sardinia, a great bonfire is kindled on St. John’s Eve, and that the young people dance round it.[537]

[The Midsummer fires in the Abruzzi; bathing on Midsummer Eve in the Abruzzi; the Midsummer fires in Sicily; the witches at Midsummer.]

Passing to Italy, we find that the midsummer fires are still lighted on St. John’s Eve in many parts of the Abruzzi. They are commonest in the territory which was inhabited in antiquity by the Vestini; they are rarer in the land of the ancient Marsi, and they disappear entirely in the lower valley of the Sangro. For the most part, the fires are fed with straw and dry grass, and are kindled in the fields near the villages or on high ground. As they blaze up, the people dance round or over them. In leaping across the flames the boys cry out, “St. John, preserve my thighs and legs!” Formerly it used to be common to light the bonfires also in the towns in front of churches of St. John, and the remains of the sacred fire were carried home by the people; but this custom has mostly fallen into disuse. However, at Celano the practice is still kept up of taking brands and ashes from the bonfires to the houses, although the fires are no longer kindled in front of the churches, but merely in the streets.[538] In the Abruzzi water also is supposed to acquire certain marvellous and beneficent properties on St. John’s Night. Hence many people bathe or at least wash their faces and hands in the sea or a river at that season, especially at the moment of sunrise. Such a bath is said to be an excellent cure for diseases of the skin. At Castiglione a Casauria the people, after washing in the river or in springs, gird their waists and wreath their brows with sprigs of briony in order to keep them from aches and pains.[539] In various parts of Sicily, also, fires are kindled on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve), the twenty-third of June. On the Madonie mountains, in the north of the island, the herdsmen kindle them at intervals, so that the crests of the mountains are seen ablaze in the darkness for many miles. About Acireale, on the east coast of the island, the bonfires are lit by boys, who jump over them. At Chiaromonte the witches that night acquire extraordinary powers; hence everybody then puts a broom outside of his house, because a broom is an excellent protective against witchcraft.[540] At Orvieto the midsummer fires were specially excepted from the prohibition directed against bonfires in general.[541]

[The Midsummer fires in Malta ]

In Malta also the people celebrate Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve) “by kindling great fires in the public streets, and giving their children dolls to carry in their arms on this day, in order to make good the prophecy respecting the Baptist, _Multi in nativitate ejus gaudebunt_. Days and even weeks before this festival, groups of children are seen going out into the country fields to gather straw, twigs, and all sorts of other combustibles, which they store up for St. John’s Eve. On the night of the twenty-third of June, the day before the festival of the Saint, great fires are kindled in the streets, squares, and market places of the towns and villages of the Island, and as fire after fire blazes out of the darkness of that summer night, the effect is singularly striking. These fires are sometimes kept up for hours, being continually fed by the scores of bystanders, who take great delight in throwing amidst the flames some old rickety piece of furniture which they consider as lumber in their houses. Lots of happy and reckless children, and very often men, are seen merrily leaping in succession over and through the crackling flames. At the time of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the Grand Master himself, soon after the _Angelus_, used to leave his palace, accompanied by the Grand Prior, the Bishop, and two bailiffs, to set fire to some pitch barrels which were placed for the occasion in the square facing the sacred Hospital. Great crowds used to assemble here in order to assist at this ceremony. The setting ablaze of the five casks, and later on of the eight casks, by the Grand Master, was a signal for the others to kindle their fires in the different parts of the town.”[542]

[The Midsummer fires in Greece; the Midsummer fires in Macedonia and Albania.]

In Greece, the custom of kindling fires on St. John’s Eve and jumping over them is said to be still universal. One reason assigned for it is a wish to escape from the fleas.[543] According to another account, the women cry out, as they leap over the fire, “I leave my sins behind me.”[544] In Lesbos the fires on St. John’s Eve are usually lighted by threes, and the people spring thrice over them, each with a stone on his head, saying, “I jump the hare’s fire, my head a stone!” On the morning of St. John’s Day those who dwell near the coast go to bathe in the sea. As they go they gird themselves with osiers, and when they are in the water they let the osiers float away, saying, “Let my maladies go away!” Then they look for what is called “the hairy stone,” which possesses the remarkable property not only of keeping moths from clothes but even of multiplying the clothes in the chest where it is laid up, and the more hairs on the stone the more will the clothes multiply in the chest.[545] In Calymnos the midsummer fire is supposed to ensure abundance in the coming year as well as deliverance from fleas. The people dance round the fires singing, with stones on their heads, and then jump over the blaze or the glowing embers. When the fire is burning low, they throw the stones into it; and when it is nearly out, they make crosses on their legs and then go straightway and bathe in the sea.[546] In Cos the lads and lasses dance round the bonfires on St. John’s Eve. Each of the lads binds a black stone on his head, signifying that he wishes to become as strong as the stone. Also they make the sign of the cross on their feet and legs and jump over the fire.[547] On Midsummer Eve the Greeks of Macedonia light fires after supper in front of their gates. The garlands, now faded, which were hung over the doors on May Day, are taken down and cast into the flames, after which the young folk leap over the blaze, fully persuaded that St. John’s fire will not burn them.[548] In Albania fires of dry herbage are, or used to be, lit everywhere on St. John’s Eve; young and old leap over them, for such a leap is thought to be good for the health.[549]

[The Midsummer fires in America.]

From the Old World the midsummer fires have been carried across the Atlantic to America. In Brazil people jump over the fires of St. John, and at this season they can take hot coals in their mouths without burning themselves.[550] In Bolivia on the Eve of St. John it is usual to see bonfires lighted on the hills and even in the streets of the capital La Paz. As the city stands at the bottom of an immense ravine, and the Indians of the neighbourhood take a pride in kindling bonfires on heights which might seem inaccessible, the scene is very striking when the darkness of night is suddenly and simultaneously lit up by hundreds of fires, which cast a glare on surrounding objects, producing an effect at once weird and picturesque.[551]

[The Midsummer fires among the Mohammedans of Morocco and Algeria.]

The custom of kindling bonfires on Midsummer Day or on Midsummer Eve is widely spread among the Mohammedan peoples of North Africa, particularly in Morocco and Algeria; it is common both to the Berbers and to many of the Arabs or Arabic-speaking tribes. In these countries Midsummer Day (the twenty-fourth of June, Old Style) is called [Arabic: _l’ansara_]. The fires are lit in the courtyards, at cross-roads, in the fields, and sometimes on the threshing-floors. Plants which in burning give out a thick smoke and an aromatic smell are much sought after for fuel on these occasions; among the plants used for the purpose are giant-fennel, thyme, rue, chervil-seed, camomile, geranium, and penny-royal. People expose themselves, and especially their children, to the smoke, and drive it towards the orchards and the crops. Also they leap across the fires; in some places everybody ought to repeat the leap seven times. Moreover they take burning brands from the fires and carry them through the houses in order to fumigate them. They pass things through the fire, and bring the sick into contact with it, while they utter prayers for their recovery. The ashes of the bonfires are also reputed to possess beneficial properties; hence in some places people rub their hair or their bodies with them.[552] For example, the Andjra mountaineers of Morocco kindle large fires in open places of their villages on Midsummer Day. Men, women, and children jump over the flames or the glowing embers, believing that by so doing they rid themselves of all misfortune which may be clinging to them; they imagine, also, that such leaps cure the sick and procure offspring for childless couples. Moreover, they burn straw, together with some marjoram and alum, in the fold where the cattle, sheep, and goats are penned for the night; the smoke, in their opinion, will make the animals thrive. On Midsummer Day the Arabs of the Mnasara tribe make fires outside their tents, near their animals, on their fields, and in their gardens. Large quantities of penny-royal are burned in these fires, and over some of them the people leap thrice to and fro. Sometimes small fires are also kindled inside the tents. They say that the smoke confers blessings on everything with which it comes into contact. At Salee, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, persons who suffer from diseased eyes rub them with the ashes of the midsummer fire; and in Casablanca and Azemmur the people hold their faces over the fire, because the smoke is thought to be good for the eyes. The Arab tribe Ulad Bu Aziz, in the Dukkala province of Morocco, kindle midsummer bonfires, not for themselves and their cattle, but only for crops and fruit; nobody likes to reap his crops before Midsummer Day, because if he did they would lose the benefit of the blessed influence which flows from the smoke of the bonfires. Again, the Beni Mgild, a Berber tribe of Morocco, light fires of straw on Midsummer Eve and leap thrice over them to and fro. They let some of the smoke pass underneath their clothes, and married women hold their breasts over the fire, in order that their children may be strong. Moreover, they paint their eyes and lips with some black powder, in which ashes of the bonfire are mixed. And in order that their horses may also benefit by the fires, they dip the right forelegs of the animals in the smoke and flames or in the hot embers, and they rub ashes on the foreheads and between the nostrils of the horses. Berbers of the Rif province, in northern Morocco, similarly make great use of fires at midsummer for the good of themselves, their cattle, and their fruit-trees. They jump over the bonfires in the belief that this will preserve them in good health, and they light fires under fruit-trees to keep the fruit from falling untimely. And they imagine that by rubbing a paste of the ashes on their hair they prevent the hair from falling off their heads.[553]

[Beneficial effect ascribed to the smoke of the fires; ill luck supposed to be burnt in the Midsummer fires; the Midsummer festival in North Africa comprises rites concerned with water as well as with fire; the Midsummer festival in North Africa is probably older than Mohammedanism.]

In all these Moroccan customs, we are told, the beneficial effect is attributed wholly to the smoke, which is supposed to be endued with a magical quality that removes misfortune from men, animals, fruit-trees, and crops. But in some parts of Morocco people at midsummer kindle fires of a different sort, not for the sake of fumigation, but in order to burn up misfortune in the flames. Thus on Midsummer Eve the Berber tribe of the Beni Mgild burn three sheaves of unthreshed wheat or barley, “one for the children, one for the crops, and one for the animals.” On the same occasion they burn the tent of a widow who has never given birth to a child; by so doing they think to rid the village of ill luck. It is said that at midsummer the Zemmur burn a tent, which belongs to somebody who was killed in war during a feast; or if there is no such person in the village, the schoolmaster’s tent is burned instead. Among the Arabic-speaking Beni Ahsen it is customary for those who live near the river Sbu to make a little hut of straw at midsummer, set it on fire, and let it float down the river. Similarly the inhabitants of Salee burn a straw hut on the river which flows past their town.[554]

Further it deserves to be noticed that in Northern Africa, as in Southern Europe, the midsummer festival comprises rites concerned with water as well as with fire. For example, among the Beni-Snous the women light a fire in an oven, throw perfumes into it, and circumambulate a tank, which they also incense after a fashion. In many places on the coast, as in the province of Oran and particularly in the north of Morocco, everybody goes and bathes in the sea at midsummer; and in many towns of the interior, such as Fez, Mequinez, and especially Merrakech, people throw water over each other on this day; and where water is scarce, earth is used instead, according to the Mohammedan principle which permits ablutions to be performed with earth or sand when water cannot be spared for the purpose.[555] People of the Andjra district in Morocco not only bathe themselves in the sea or in rivers at midsummer, they also bathe their animals, their horses, mules, donkeys, cattle, sheep, and goats; for they think that on that day water possesses a blessed virtue (_baraka_), which removes sickness and misfortune. In Aglu, again, men, women, and children bathe in the sea or springs or rivers at midsummer, alleging that by so doing they protect themselves against disease for the whole year. Among the Berbers of the Rif district the custom of bathing on this day is commonly observed, and animals share the ablutions.[556]

[Some Mohammedans of North Africa kindle fires and observe water ceremonies at their movable New Year; water ceremonies at New Year in Morocco; the rites of fire and water at Midsummer and New Year in Morocco seem to be identical in character; the duplication of the festival is probably due to a conflict between the solar calendar of the Romans and the lunar calendar of the Arabs.]

The celebration of a midsummer festival by Mohammedan peoples is particularly remarkable, because the Mohammedan calendar, being purely lunar and uncorrected by intercalation, necessarily takes no note of festivals which occupy fixed points in the solar year; all strictly Mohammedan feasts, being pinned to the moon, slide gradually with that luminary through the whole period of the earth’s revolution about the sun. This fact of itself seems to prove that among the Mohammedan peoples of Northern Africa, as among the Christian peoples of Europe, the midsummer festival is quite independent of the religion which the people publicly profess, and is a relic of a far older paganism. There are, indeed, independent grounds for thinking that the Arabs enjoyed the advantage of a comparatively well-regulated solar year before the prophet of God saddled them with the absurdity and inconvenience of a purely lunar calendar.[557] Be that as it may, it is notable that some Mohammedan people of North Africa kindle fires and bathe in water at the movable New Year of their lunar calendar instead of at the fixed Midsummer of the solar year; while others again practise these observances at both seasons. New Year’s Day, on which the rites are celebrated, is called _Ashur_; it is the tenth day of Moharram, the first month of the Mohammedan calendar. On that day bonfires are kindled in Tunis and also at Merrakech and among some tribes of the neighbourhood.[558] At Demnat, in the Great Atlas mountains, people kindle a large bonfire on New Year’s Eve and leap to and fro over the flames, uttering words which imply that by these leaps they think to purify themselves from all kinds of evil. At Aglu, in the province of Sus, the fire is lighted at three different points by an unmarried girl, and when it has died down the young men leap over the glowing embers, saying, “We shook on you, O Lady Ashur, fleas, and lice, and the illnesses of the heart, as also those of the bones; we shall pass through you again next year and the following years with safety and health.” Both at Aglu and Glawi, in the Great Atlas, smaller fires are also kindled, over which the animals are driven. At Demnat girls who wish to marry wash themselves in water which has been boiled over the New Year fire; and in Dukkala people use the ashes of that fire to rub sore eyes with. New Year fires appear to be commonly kindled among the Berbers who inhabit the western portion of the Great Atlas, and also among the Arabic-speaking tribes of the plains; but Dr. Westermarck found no traces of such fires among the Arabic-speaking mountaineers of Northern Morocco and the Berbers of the Rif province. Further, it should be observed that water ceremonies like those which are practised at Midsummer are very commonly observed in Morocco at the New Year, that is, on the tenth day of the first month. On the morning of that day (_Ashur_) all water or, according to some people, only spring water is endowed with a magical virtue (_baraka_), especially before sunrise. Hence at that time the people bathe and pour water over each other; in some places they also sprinkle their animals, tents, or rooms. In Dukkala some of the New Year water is preserved at home till New Year’s Day (_Ashur_) of next year; some of it is kept to be used as medicine, some of it is poured on the place where the corn is threshed, and some is used to water the money which is to be buried in the ground; for the people think that the earth-spirits will not be able to steal the buried treasures which have thus been sanctified with the holy water.[559]

[The Midsummer festival in Morocco seems to be of Berber origin.]

Thus the rites of fire and water which are observed in Morocco at Midsummer and New Year appear to be identical in character and intention, and it seems certain that the duplication of the rites is due to a conflict between two calendars, namely the old Julian calendar of the Romans, which was based on the sun, and the newer Mohammedan calendar of the Arabs, which is based on the moon. For not only was the Julian calendar in use throughout the whole of Northern Africa under the Roman Empire; to this day it is everywhere employed among Mohammedans for the regulation of agriculture and all the affairs of daily life; its practical convenience has made it indispensable, and the lunar calendar of orthodox Mohammedanism is scarcely used except for purposes of chronology. Even the old Latin names of the months are known and employed, in slightly disguised forms, throughout the whole Moslem world; and little calendars of the Julian year circulate in manuscript among Mohammedans, permitting them to combine the practical advantages of pagan science with a nominal adherence to orthodox absurdity.[560] Thus the heathen origin of the midsummer festival is too palpable to escape the attention of good Mohammedans, who accordingly frown upon the midsummer bonfires as pagan superstitions, precisely as similar observances in Europe have often been denounced by orthodox Christianity. Indeed, many religious people in Morocco entirely disapprove of the whole of the midsummer ceremonies, maintaining that they are all bad; and a conscientious schoolmaster will even refuse his pupils a holiday at midsummer, though the boys sometimes offer him a bribe if he will sacrifice his scruples to his avarice.[561] As the midsummer customs appear to flourish among all the Berbers of Morocco but to be unknown among the pure Arabs who have not been affected by Berber influence, it seems reasonable to infer with Dr. Westermarck that the midsummer festival has belonged from time immemorial to the Berber race, and that so far as it is now observed by the Arabs of Morocco, it has been learned by them from the Berbers, the old indigenous inhabitants of the country. Dr. Westermarck may also be right in holding that, in spite of the close similarity which obtains between the midsummer festival of Europe and the midsummer festival of North Africa, the latter is not a copy of the former, but that both have been handed down independently from a time beyond the purview of history, when such ceremonies were common to the Mediterranean race.[562]

Sec. 5. _The Autumn Fires_

[Festivals of fire in August; Russian feast of Florus and Laurus on August 18th; “Living fire” made by the friction of wood.]

In the months which elapse between midsummer and the setting in of winter the European festivals of fire appear to be few and unimportant. On the evening of the first day of August, which is the Festival of the Cross, bonfires are commonly lit in Macedonia and boys jump over them, shouting, “Dig up! bury!” but whom or what they wish to dig up or bury they do not know.[563] The Russians hold the feast of two martyrs, Florus and Laurus, on the eighteenth day of August, Old Style. “On this day the Russians lead their horses round the church of their village, beside which on the foregoing evening they dig a hole with two mouths. Each horse has a bridle made of the bark of the linden-tree. The horses go through this hole one after the other, opposite to one of the mouths of which the priest stands with a sprinkler in his hand, with which he sprinkles them. As soon as the horses have passed by their bridles are taken off, and they are made to go between two fires that they kindle, called by the Russians _Givoy Agon_, that is to say, living fires, of which I shall give an account. I shall before remark, that the Russian peasantry throw the bridles of their horses into one of these fires to be consumed. This is the manner of their lighting these _givoy agon_, or living fires. Some men hold the ends of a stick made of the plane-tree, very dry, and about a fathom long. This stick they hold firmly over one of birch, perfectly dry, and rub with violence and quickly against the former; the birch, which is somewhat softer than the plane, in a short time inflames, and serves them to light both the fires I have described.”[564]

[Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin on the eighth of September at Capri and Naples.]

The Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin on the eighth day of September is celebrated at Naples and Capri with fireworks, bonfires, and assassinations. On this subject my friend Professor A. E. Housman, who witnessed the celebration in different years at both places, has kindly furnished me with the following particulars: “In 1906 I was in the island of Capri on September the eighth, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin. The anniversary was duly solemnised by fire-works at nine or ten in the evening, which I suppose were municipal; but just after sundown the boys outside the villages were making small fires of brushwood on waste bits of ground by the wayside. Very pretty it looked, with the flames blowing about in the twilight; but what took my attention was the listlessness of the boys and their lack of interest in the proceeding. A single lad, the youngest, would be raking the fire together and keeping it alight, but the rest stood lounging about and looking in every other direction, with the air of discharging mechanically a traditional office from which all zest had evaporated.” “The pious orgy at Naples on September the eighth went through the following phases when I witnessed it in 1897. It began at eight in the evening with an illumination of the facade of Santa Maria Piedigrotta and with the whole population walking about blowing penny trumpets. After four hours of this I went to bed at midnight, and was lulled to sleep by barrel-organs, which supersede the trumpets about that hour. At four in the morning I was waked by detonations as if the British fleet were bombarding the city, caused, I was afterwards told, by dynamite rockets. The only step possible beyond this is assassination, which accordingly takes place about peep of day: I forget now the number of the slain, but I think the average is eight or ten, and I know that in honour of my presence they murdered a few more than usual.”

[The Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin may have replaced a pagan festival; the coincidence of the Midsummer festival with the summer solstice implies that the founders of the festival regulated their calendar by observation of the sun.]

It is no doubt possible that these illuminations and fireworks, like the assassinations, are merely the natural and spontaneous expressions of that overflowing joy with which the thought of the birth of the Virgin must fill every pious heart; but when we remember how often the Church has skilfully decanted the new wine of Christianity into the old bottles of heathendom, we may be allowed to conjecture that the ecclesiastical authorities adroitly timed the Nativity of the Virgin so as to coincide with an old pagan festival of that day, in which fire, noise, and uproar, if not broken heads and bloodshed, were conspicuous features. The penny trumpets blown on this occasion recall the like melodious instruments which figure so largely in the celebration of Befana (the Eve of Epiphany) at Rome.[565]

Sec. 6. _The Hallowe’en Fires_

[On the other hand the Celts divided their year, not by the solstices, but by the beginning of summer (the first of May) and the beginning of winter (the first of November).]

From the foregoing survey we may infer that among the heathen forefathers of the European peoples the most popular and widespread fire-festival of the year was the great celebration of Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day. The coincidence of the festival with the summer solstice can hardly be accidental. Rather we must suppose that our pagan ancestors purposely timed the ceremony of fire on earth to coincide with the arrival of the sun at the highest point of his course in the sky. If that was so, it follows that the old founders of the midsummer rites had observed the solstices or turning-points of the sun’s apparent path in the sky, and that they accordingly regulated their festal calendar to some extent by astronomical considerations.

[The division seems to have been neither astronomical nor agricultural but pastoral, being determined by the times when cattle are driven to and from their summer pasture.]

But while this may be regarded as fairly certain for what we may call the aborigines throughout a large part of the continent, it appears not to have been true of the Celtic peoples who inhabited the Land’s End of Europe, the islands and promontories that stretch out into the Atlantic ocean on the North-West. The principal fire-festivals of the Celts, which have survived, though in a restricted area and with diminished pomp, to modern times and even to our own day, were seemingly timed without any reference to the position of the sun in the heaven. They were two in number, and fell at an interval of six months, one being celebrated on the eve of May Day and the other on Allhallow Even or Hallowe’en, as it is now commonly called, that is, on the thirty-first of October, the day preceding All Saints’ or Allhallows’ Day. These dates coincide with none of the four great hinges on which the solar year revolves, to wit, the solstices and the equinoxes. Nor do they agree with the principal seasons of the agricultural year, the sowing in spring and the reaping in autumn. For when May Day comes, the seed has long been committed to the earth; and when November opens, the harvest has long been reaped and garnered, the fields lie bare, the fruit-trees are stripped, and even the yellow leaves are fast fluttering to the ground. Yet the first of May and the first of November mark turning-points of the year in Europe; the one ushers in the genial heat and the rich vegetation of summer, the other heralds, if it does not share, the cold and barrenness of winter. Now these particular points of the year, as has been well pointed out by a learned and ingenious writer,[566] while they are of comparatively little moment to the European husbandman, do deeply concern the European herdsman; for it is on the approach of summer that he drives his cattle out into the open to crop the fresh grass, and it is on the approach of winter that he leads them back to the safety and shelter of the stall. Accordingly it seems not improbable that the Celtic bisection of the year into two halves at the beginning of May and the beginning of November dates from a time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people, dependent for their subsistence on their herds, and when accordingly the great epochs of the year for them were the days on which the cattle went forth from the homestead in early summer and returned to it again in early winter.[567] Even in Central Europe, remote from the region now occupied by the Celts, a similar bisection of the year may be clearly traced in the great popularity, on the one hand, of May Day and its Eve (Walpurgis Night), and, on the other hand, of the Feast of All Souls at the beginning of November, which under a thin Christian cloak conceals an ancient pagan festival of the dead.[568] Hence we may conjecture that everywhere throughout Europe the celestial division of the year according to the solstices was preceded by what we may call a terrestrial division of the year according to the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter.

[The two great Celtic festivals, Beltane and Hallowe’en.]

Be that as it may, the two great Celtic festivals of May Day and the first of November or, to be more accurate, the Eves of these two days, closely resemble each other in the manner of their celebration and in the superstitions associated with them, and alike, by the antique character impressed upon both, betray a remote and purely pagan origin. The festival of May Day or Beltane, as the Celts called it, which ushered in summer, has already been described;[569] it remains to give some account of the corresponding festival of Hallowe’en, which announced the arrival of winter.

[Hallowe’en (the evening of October 31st) seems to have marked the beginning of the Celtic year; the many forms of divination resorted to at Hallowe’en are appropriate to the beginning of a New Year; Hallowe’en also a festival of the dead.]

Of the two feasts Hallowe’en was perhaps of old the more important, since the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from it rather than from Beltane. In the Isle of Man, one of the fortresses in which the Celtic language and lore longest held out against the siege of the Saxon invaders, the first of November, Old Style, has been regarded as New Year’s day down to recent times. Thus Manx mummers used to go round on Hallowe’en (Old Style), singing, in the Manx language, a sort of Hogmanay song which began “To-night is New Year’s Night, _Hog-unnaa_!”[570] One of Sir John Rhys’s Manx informants, an old man of sixty-seven, “had been a farm servant from the age of sixteen till he was twenty-six to the same man, near Regaby, in the parish of Andreas, and he remembers his master and a near neighbour of his discussing the term New Year’s Day as applied to the first of November, and explaining to the younger men that it had always been so in old times. In fact, it seemed to him natural enough, as all tenure of land ends at that time, and as all servant men begin their service then.”[571] In ancient Ireland, as we saw, a new fire used to be kindled every year on Hallowe’en or the Eve of Samhain, and from this sacred flame all the fires in Ireland were rekindled.[572] Such a custom points strongly to Samhain or All Saints’ Day (the first of November) as New Year’s Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire takes place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout the whole period of twelve months. Another confirmation of the view that the Celts dated their year from the first of November is furnished by the manifold modes of divination which, as we shall see presently, were commonly resorted to by Celtic peoples on Hallowe’en for the purpose of ascertaining their destiny, especially their fortune in the coming year; for when could these devices for prying into the future be more reasonably put in practice than at the beginning of the year? As a season of omens and auguries Hallowe’en seems to have far surpassed Beltane in the imagination of the Celts; from which we may with some probability infer that they reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane. Another circumstance of great moment which points to the same conclusion is the association of the dead with Hallowe’en. Not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Hallowe’en, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winter, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and to comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate kinsfolk.[573] It was, perhaps, a natural thought that the approach of winter should drive the poor shivering hungry ghosts from the bare fields and the leafless woodlands to the shelter of the cottage with its familiar fireside.[574] Did not the lowing kine then troop back from the summer pastures in the forests and on the hills to be fed and cared for in the stalls, while the bleak winds whistled among the swaying boughs and the snow drifts deepened in the hollows? and could the good-man and the good-wife deny to the spirits of their dead the welcome which they gave to the cows?

[Fairies and Hobgoblins let loose at Hallowe’en.]

But it is not only the souls of the departed who are supposed to be hovering unseen on the day “when autumn to winter resigns the pale year.” Witches then speed on their errands of mischief, some sweeping through the air on besoms, others galloping along the roads on tabby-cats, which for that evening are turned into coal-black steeds.[575] The fairies, too, are all let loose, and hobgoblins of every sort roam freely about In South Uist and Eriskay there is a saying:–

“_Hallowe’en will come, will come,
Witchcraft [or divination] will be set agoing, Fairies will be at full speed,
Running in every pass.
Avoid the road, children, children_.”[576]

[Dancing with the fairies at Hallowe’en.]

In Cardiganshire on November Eve a bogie sits on every stile.[577] On that night in Ireland all the fairy hills are thrown wide open and the fairies swarm forth; any man who is bold enough may then peep into the open green hills and see the treasures hidden in them. Worse than that, the cave of Cruachan in Connaught, known as “the Hell-gate of Ireland,” is unbarred on Samhain Eve or Hallowe’en, and a host of horrible fiends and goblins used to rush forth, particularly a flock of copper-red birds, which blighted crops and killed animals by their poisonous breath.[578] The Scotch Highlanders have a special name _Samhanach_ (derived from _Samhain_, “All-hallows”) for the dreadful bogies that go about that night stealing babies and committing other atrocities.[579] And though the fairies are a kindlier folk, it is dangerous to see even them at their revels on Hallowe’en. A melancholy case of this sort is reported from the Ferintosh district of the Highlands, though others say that it happened at the Slope of Big Stones in Harris. Two young men were coming home after nightfall on Hallowe’en, each with a jar of whisky on his back, when they saw, as they thought, a house all lit up by the roadside, from which proceeded the sounds of music and dancing. In reality it was not a house at all but a fairy knoll, and it was the fairies who were jigging it about there so merrily. But one of the young men was deceived and stepping into the house joined in the dance, without even stopping to put down the jar of whisky. His companion was wiser; he had a shrewd suspicion that the place was not what it seemed, and on entering he took the precaution of sticking a needle in the door. That disarmed the power of the fairies, and he got away safely. Well, that day twelve months he came back to the spot and what should he see but his poor friend still dancing away with the jar of whisky on his back? A weary man was he, as you may well believe, but he begged to be allowed to finish the reel which he was in the act of executing, and when they took him out into the open air, there was nothing of him left but skin and bones.[580] Again, the wicked fairies are apt to carry off men’s wives with them to fairyland; but the lost spouses can be recovered within a year and a day when the procession of the fairies is defiling past on Hallowe’en, always provided that the mortals did not partake of elfin food while they were in elfinland.[581]

[Guleesh and the revels of the fairies at Hallowe’en.]

Sometimes valuable information may be obtained from the fairies on Hallowe’en. There was a young man named Guleesh in the County of Mayo. Near his house was a _rath_ or old fort with a fine grass bank running round it. One Hallowe’en, when the darkness was falling, Guleesh went to the rath and stood on a gray old flag. The night was calm and still; there was not a breath of wind stirring, nor a sound to be heard except the hum of the insects flitting past, or the whistle of the plovers, or the hoarse scream of the wild geese as they winged their way far overhead. Above the white fog the moon rose like a knob of fire in the east, and a thousand thousand stars were twinkling in the sky. There was a little frost in the air, the grass was white and crisp and crackled under foot. Guleesh expected to see the fairies, but they did not come. Hour after hour wore away, and he was just bethinking him of going home to bed, when his ear caught a sound far off coming towards him, and he knew what it was in a moment. The sound grew louder and louder; at first it was like the beating of waves on a stony shore, then it was like the roar of a waterfall, at last it was like a mighty rushing wind in the tops of the trees, then the storm burst upon the rath, and sure enough the fairies were in it. The rout went by so suddenly that Guleesh lost his breath; but he came to himself and listened. The fairies were now gathered within the grassy bank of the rath, and a fine uproar they made. But Guleesh listened with all his ears, and he heard one fairy saying to another that a magic herb grew by Guleesh’s own door, and that Guleesh had nothing to do but pluck it and boil it and give it to his sweetheart, the daughter of the King of France, and she would be well, for just then she was lying very ill. Guleesh took the hint, and everything went as the fairy had said. And he married the daughter of the King of France; and they had never a cark nor a care, a sickness nor a sorrow, a mishap nor a misfortune to the day of their death.[582]

[Divination resorted to in Celtic countries at Hallowe’en.]

In all Celtic countries Hallowe’en seems to have been the great season of the year for prying into the future; all kinds of divination were put in practice that night. We read that Dathi, a king of Ireland in the fifth century, happening to be at the Druids’ Hill (_Cnoc-nan-druad_) in the county of Sligo one Hallowe’en, ordered his druid to forecast for him the future from that day till the next Hallowe’en should come round. The druid passed the night on the top of the hill, and next morning made a prediction to the king which came true.[583] In Wales Hallowe’en was the weirdest of all the _Teir Nos Ysbrydion_, or Three Spirit Nights, when the wind, “blowing over the feet of the corpses,” bore sighs to the houses of those who were to die within the year. People thought that if on that night they went out to a cross-road and listened to the wind, they would learn all the most important things that would befall them during the next twelve months.[584] In Wales, too, not so long ago women used to congregate in the parish churches on the night of Hallowe’en and read their fate from the flame of the candle which each of them held in her hand; also they heard the names or saw the coffins of the parishioners who would die within the year, and many were the sad scenes to which these gloomy visions gave rise.[585] And in the Highlands of Scotland anybody who pleased could hear proclaimed aloud the names of parishioners doomed to perish within the next twelve months, if he would only take a three-legged stool and go and sit on it at three cross-roads, while the church clock was striking twelve at midnight on Hallowe’en. It was even in his power to save the destined victims from their doom by taking with him articles of wearing apparel and throwing them away, one by one, as each name was called out by the mysterious voice.[586]

[Hallowe’en bonfires in the Highlands of Scotland; John Ramsay’s account of the Hallowe’en bonfires; divination from stones at the fire; Hallowe’en fires in the parishes of Callander and Logierait.]

But while a glamour of mystery and awe has always clung to Hallowe’en in the minds of the Celtic peasantry, the popular celebration of the festival has been, at least in modern times, by no means of a prevailingly gloomy cast; on the contrary it has been attended by picturesque features and merry pastimes, which rendered it the gayest night of all the year. Amongst the things which in the Highlands of Scotland contributed to invest the festival with a romantic beauty were the bonfires which used to blaze at frequent intervals on the heights. “On the last day of autumn children gathered ferns, tar-barrels, the long thin stalks called _gainisg_, and everything suitable for a bonfire. These were placed in a heap on some eminence near the house, and in the evening set fire to. The fires were called _Samhnagan_. There was one for each house, and it was an object of ambition who should have the biggest. Whole districts were brilliant with bonfires, and their glare across a Highland loch, and from many eminences, formed an exceedingly picturesque scene.”[587] Like the Beltane fires on the first of May, the Hallowe’en bonfires seem to have been kindled most commonly in the Perthshire Highlands. Travelling in the parish of Moulin, near Pitlochrie, in the year 1772, the Englishman Thomas Pennant writes that “Hallow Eve is also kept sacred: as soon as it is dark, a person sets fire to a bush of broom fastened round a pole, and, attended with a crowd, runs about the village. He then flings it down, heaps great quantity of combustible matters on it, and makes a great bonfire. A whole tract is thus illuminated at the same time, and makes a fine appearance.”[588] The custom has been described more fully by a Scotchman of the eighteenth century, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre. On the evening of Hallowe’en “the young people of every hamlet assembled upon some eminence near the houses. There they made a bonfire of ferns or other fuel, cut the same day, which from the feast was called _Samh-nag_ or _Savnag_, a fire of rest and pleasure. Around it was placed a circle of stones, one for each person of the families to whom they belonged. And when it grew dark the bonfire was kindled, at which a loud shout was set up. Then each person taking a torch of ferns or sticks in his hand, ran round the fire exulting; and sometimes they went into the adjacent fields, where, if there was another company, they visited the bonfire, taunting the others if inferior in any respect to themselves. After the fire was burned out they returned home, where a feast was prepared, and the remainder of the evening was spent in mirth and diversions of various kinds. Next morning they repaired betimes to the bonfire, where the situation of the stones was examined with much attention. If any of them were misplaced, or if the print of a foot could be discerned near any particular stone, it was imagined that the person for whom it was set would not live out the year. Of late years this is less attended to, but about the beginning of the present century it was regarded as a sure prediction. The Hallowe’en fire is still kept up in some parts of the Low country; but on the western coast and in the Isles it is never kindled, though the night is spent in merriment and entertainments.”[589] In the Perthshire parish of Callander, which includes the now famous pass of the Trossachs opening out on the winding and wooded shores of the lovely Loch Katrine, the Hallowe’en bonfires were still kindled down to near the end of the eighteenth century. When the fire had died down, the ashes were carefully collected in the form of a circle, and a stone was put in, near the circumference, for every person of the several families interested in the bonfire. Next morning, if any of these stones was found to be displaced or injured, the people made sure that the person represented by it was _fey_ or devoted, and that he could not live twelve months from that day.[590] In the parish of Logierait, which covers the beautiful valley of the Tummel, one of the fairest regions of all Scotland, the Hallowe’en fire was somewhat different. Faggots of heath, broom, and the dressings of flax were kindled and carried on poles by men, who ran with them round the villages, attended by a crowd. As soon as one faggot was burnt out, a fresh one was lighted and fastened to the pole. Numbers of these blazing faggots were often carried about together, and when the night happened to be dark, they formed a splendid illumination.[591]

[Hallowe’en fires on Loch Tay; Hallowe’en fires at Balquhidder.]

Nor did the Hallowe’en fires die out in Perthshire with the end of the eighteenth century. Journeying from Dunkeld to Aberfeldy on Hallowe’en in the first half of the nineteenth century, Sheriff Barclay counted thirty fires blazing on the hill tops, and saw the figures of the people dancing like phantoms round the flames.[592] Again, “in 1860, I was residing near the head of Loch Tay during the season of the Hallowe’en feast. For several days before Hallowe’en, boys and youths collected wood and conveyed it to the most prominent places on the hill sides in their neighbourhood. Some of the heaps were as large as a corn-stack or hayrick. After dark on Hallowe’en, these heaps were kindled, and for several hours both sides of Loch Tay were illuminated as far as the eye could see. I was told by old men that at the beginning of this century men as well as boys took part in getting up the bonfires, and that, when the fire was ablaze, all joined hands and danced round the fire, and made a great noise; but that, as these gatherings generally ended in drunkenness and rough and dangerous fun, the ministers set their faces against the observance, and were seconded in their efforts by the more intelligent and well-behaved in the community; and so the practice was discontinued by adults and relegated to school boys.”[593] At Balquhidder down to the latter part of the nineteenth century each household kindled its bonfire at Hallowe’en, but the custom was chiefly observed by children. The fires were lighted on any high knoll near the house; there was no dancing round them.[594]

[Hallowe’en fires in Buchan to burn the witches; processions with torches at Hallowe’en in the Braemar Highlands.]

Hallowe’en fires were also lighted in some districts of the north-east of Scotland, such as Buchan. Villagers and farmers alike must have their fire. In the villages the boys went from house to house and begged a peat from each householder, usually with the words, “Ge’s a peat t’ burn the witches.” In some villages the lads collected the peats in a cart, some of them drawing it along and the others receiving the peats and loading them on the cart. Along with the peats they accumulated straw, furze, potato haulm, everything that would burn quickly, and when they had got enough they piled it all in a heap and set it on fire. Then each of the youths, one after another, laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as he could without being scorched, and thus lying allowed the smoke to roll over him. The others ran through the smoke and jumped over their prostrate comrade. When the heap was burned down, they scattered the ashes. Each one took a share in this part of the ceremony, giving a kick first with the right foot and then with the left; and each vied with the other who should scatter the most. After that some of them still continued to run through the scattered ashes and to pelt each other with the half-burned peats. At each farm a spot as high as possible, not too near the steading, was chosen for the fire, and the proceedings were much the same as at the village bonfire. The lads of one farm, when their own fire was burned down and the ashes scattered, sometimes went to a neighbouring fire and helped to kick the ashes about.[595] Referring to this part of Scotland, a writer at the end of the eighteenth century observes that “the Hallow-even fire, another relict of druidism, was kindled in Buchan. Various magic ceremonies were then celebrated to counteract the influence of witches and demons, and to prognosticate to the young their success or disappointment in the matrimonial lottery. These being devoutly finished, the hallow fire was kindled, and guarded by the male part of the family. Societies were formed, either by pique or humour, to scatter certain fires, and the attack and defence were often conducted with art and with fury.”[596] Down to about the middle of the nineteenth century “the Braemar Highlanders made the circuit of their fields with lighted torches at Hallowe’en to ensure their fertility in the coming year. At that date the custom was as follows: Every member of the family (in those days households were larger than they are now) was provided with a bundle of fir ‘can’les’ with which to go the round. The father and mother stood at the hearth and lit the splints in the peat fire, which they passed to the children and servants, who trooped out one after the other, and proceeded to tread the bounds of their little property, going slowly round at equal distances apart, and invariably with the sun. To go ‘withershins’ seems to have been reserved for cursing and excommunication. When the fields had thus been circumambulated the remaining spills were thrown together in a heap and allowed to burn out.”[597]

[Divination at Hallow-e’en in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland; the stolen kail; sowing hemp seed; the winnowing basket; the wet shirt; the thrown shoe.]

In the Highlands of Scotland, as the evening of Hallowe’en wore on, young people gathered in one of the houses and resorted to an almost endless variety of games, or rather forms of divination, for the purpose of ascertaining the future fate of each member of the company. Were they to marry or remain single, was the marriage to take place that year or never, who was to be married first, what sort of husband or wife she or he was to get, the name, the trade, the colour of the hair, the amount of property of the future spouse–these were questions that were eagerly canvassed and the answers to them furnished never-failing entertainment.[598] Nor were these modes of divination at Hallowe’en confined to the Highlands, where the bonfires were kindled; they were practised with equal faith and in practically the same forms in the Lowlands, as we learn, for example, from Burns’s poem _Hallowe’en_, which describes the auguries drawn from a variety of omens by the Ayrshire peasantry. These Lowlanders of Saxon descent may well have inherited the rites from the Celts who preceded them in the possession of the south country. A common practice at Hallowe’en was to go out stealthily to a neighbour’s kailyard and there, with shut eyes, to pull up the first kail stock that came to hand. It was necessary that the plants should be stolen without the knowledge or consent of their owner; otherwise they were quite useless for the purpose of divination. Strictly speaking, too, the neighbour upon whose garden the raid was made should be unmarried, whether a bachelor or a spinster. The stolen kail was taken home and examined, and according to its height, shape, and features would be the height, shape, and features of the future husband or wife. The taste of the _custock_, that is, the heart of the stem, was an infallible indication of his or her temper; and a clod of earth adhering to the root signified, in proportion to its size, the amount of property which he or she would bring to the common stock. Then the kail-stock or _runt_, as it was called in Ayrshire, was placed over the lintel of the door; and the baptismal name of the young man or woman who first entered the door after the kail was in position would be the baptismal name of the husband or wife.[599] Again, young women sowed hemp seed over nine ridges of ploughed land, saying, “I sow hemp seed, and he who is to be my husband, let him come and harrow it.” On looking back over her left shoulder the girl would see the figure of her future mate behind her in the darkness. In the north-east of Scotland lint seed was used instead of hemp seed and answered the purpose quite as well.[600] Again, a mode of ascertaining your future husband or wife was this. Take a clue of blue yarn and go to a lime-kiln. Throw the clue into the kiln, but keep one end of the thread in your hand and wind it on to another clue. As you come near the end somebody or something will hold the other end tight in the kiln. Then you call out, “Who holds?” giving the thread at the same time a gentle pull. Some one or something will thereupon pull the other end of the thread, and a voice will mention the name of your future husband or wife.[601] Another way is this. Go to the barn alone and secretly. Be sure to open both doors and if possible take them off their hinges; for if the being who is about to appear should catch you in the barn and clap the doors to on you, he or she might do you a mischief. Having done this, take the sieve or winnowing-basket, which in Lowland Scotch is called a _wecht_ or _waicht_, and go through the action of winnowing corn. Repeat it thrice, and at the third time the apparition of your future husband or wife will pass through the barn, entering at the windy door and passing out at the other.[602] Or this. Go to a southward running stream, where the lands of three lairds meet, or to a ford where the dead and living have crossed. Dip the left sleeve of your shirt in the water. Then go home, take off the shirt, hang it up before a fire to dry, and go to bed, taking care that the bed stands so that you can see your shirt hanging before the fire. Keep awake, and at midnight you will see the form of your future spouse come into the room and turn the other side of the sleeve to the fire to dry it.[603] A Highland form of divination at Hallowe’en is to take a shoe by the tip and throw it over the house, then observe the direction in which the toe points as it lies on the ground on the other side; for in that direction you are destined to go before long. If the shoe should fall sole uppermost, it is very unlucky for you.[604]

[The white of eggs in water; the names on the chimney piece; the nuts in the fire; the milk and meal; the apples in the water; the three plates.]

These ways of prying into the future are practised outside of the house; others are observed in the kitchen or the parlour before the cheerful blaze of the fire. Thus the white of eggs, dropped in a glass of pure water, indicates by certain marks how many children a person will have. The impatience and clamour of the children, eager to ascertain the exact number of their future progeny, often induced the housewife to perform this ceremony for them by daylight; and the kindly mother, standing with her face to the window, dropping the white of an egg into a crystal glass of clean water, and surrounded by a group of children intently watching her proceedings, made up a pretty picture.[605] When the fun of the evening had fairly commenced, the names of eligible or likely matches were written on the chimney-piece, and the young man who wished to try his fortune was led up blindfolded to the list. Whatever name he put his finger on would prove that of his future wife.[606] Again, two nuts, representing a lad and a lass whose names were announced to the company, were put side by side in the fire. If they burned quietly together, the pair would be man and wife, and from the length of time they burned and the brightness of the flame the length and happiness of the married life of the two were augured. But if instead of burning together one of the nuts leaped away from the other, then there would be no marriage, and the blame would rest with the person whose nut had thus started away by itself.[607] Again, a dish of milk and meal (in Gaelic _fuarag_, in Lowland Scotch _crowdie_) or of beat potatoes was made and a ring was hidden in it. Spoons were served out to the company, who supped the contents of the dish hastily with them, and the one who got the ring would be the first to be married.[608] Again, apples and a silver sixpence were put in a tub of water; the apples naturally floated on the top and the sixpence sank to the bottom. Whoever could lift an apple or the sixpence from the water with his mouth, without using his teeth, was counted very lucky and got the prize to himself.[609] Again, three plates or basins were placed on the hearth. One was filled with clean water, another with dirty water, and the third was empty. The enquirer was blindfolded, knelt in front of the hearth, and groped about till he put his finger in one of them. If he lighted on the plate with the clean water, he would wed a maid; if on the plate with the dirty water, he would marry a widow; and if on the empty plate, he would remain a bachelor. For a girl the answer of the oracle was analogous; she would marry a bachelor, a widower, or nobody according to the plate into which she chanced to dip her finger. But to make sure, the operation had to be repeated thrice, the position of the plates being changed each time. If the enquirer put his or her finger into the same plate thrice or even twice, it was quite conclusive.[610]

[The sliced apple; the white of egg in water; the salt cake or salt herring.]

These forms of divination in the house were practised by the company in a body; but the following had to be performed by the person alone. You took an apple and stood with it in your hand in front of a looking-glass. Then you sliced the apple, stuck each slice on the point of the knife, and held it over your left shoulder, while you looked into the glass and combed your hair. The spectre of your future husband would then appear in the mirror stretching forth his hand to take the slices of the apple over your shoulder. Some say that the number of slices should be nine, that you should eat the first eight yourself, and only throw the ninth over your left shoulder for your husband; also that at each slice you should say, “In the name of the Father and the Son.”[611] Again, take an egg, prick it with a pin, and let the white drop into a wine-glass nearly full of water. Take some of this in your mouth and go out for a walk. The first name you hear called out aloud will be that of your future husband or wife. An old woman told a lady that she had tried this mode of divination in her youth, that the name of Archibald “came up as it were from the very ground,” and that Archibald sure enough was the name of her husband.[612] In South Uist and Eriskay, two of the outer Hebrides, a salt cake called _Bonnach Salainn_ is eaten at Hallowe’en to induce dreams that will reveal the future. It is baked of common meal with a great deal of salt. After eating it you may not drink water nor utter a word, not even to say your prayers. A salt herring, eaten bones and all in three bites, is equally efficacious, always provided that you drink no water and hold your tongue.[613]

[Hallowe’en fires in Wales; omens drawn from stones thrown into the fire; divination by stones in the ashes.]

In the northern part of Wales it used to be customary for every family to make a great bonfire called _Coel Coeth_ on Hallowe’en. The fire was kindled on the most conspicuous spot near the house; and when it had nearly gone out everyone threw into the ashes a white stone, which he had first marked. Then having said their prayers round the fire, they went to bed. Next morning, as soon as they were up, they came to search out the stones, and if any one of them was found to be missing, they had a notion that the person who threw it would die before he saw another Hallowe’en.[614] A writer on Wales at the beginning of the nineteenth century says that “the autumnal fire is still kindled in North Wales, being on the eve of the first day of November, and is attended by many ceremonies; such as running through the fire and smoke, each casting a stone into the fire, and all running off at the conclusion to escape from the black short-tailed sow; then supping upon parsnips, nuts, and apples; catching up an apple suspended by a string with the mouth alone, and the same by an apple in a tub of water: each throwing a nut into the fire; and those that burn bright, betoken prosperity to the owners through the following year, but those that burn black and crackle, denote misfortune. On the following morning the stones are searched for in the fire, and if any be missing, they betide ill to those who threw them in.”[615] According to Sir John Rhys, the habit of celebrating Hallowe’en by lighting bonfires on the hills is perhaps not yet extinct in Wales, and men still living can remember how the people who assisted at the bonfires would wait till the last spark was out and then would suddenly take to their heels, shouting at the top of their voices, “The cropped black sow seize the hindmost!” The saying, as Sir John Rhys justly remarks, implies that originally one of the company became a victim in dead earnest. Down to the present time the saying is current in Carnarvonshire, where allusions to the cutty black sow are still occasionally made to frighten children.[616] We can now understand why in Lower Brittany every person throws a pebble into the midsummer bonfire.[617] Doubtless there, as in Wales and the Highlands of Scotland,[618] omens of life and death have at one time or other been drawn from the position and state of the pebbles on the morning of All Saints’ Day. The custom, thus found among three separate branches of the Celtic stock, probably dates from a period before their dispersion, or at least from a time when alien races had not yet driven home the wedges of separation between them.

[Divination as to love and marriage at Hallowe’en in Wales.]

In Wales, as in Scotland, Hallowe’en was also the great season for forecasting the future in respect of love and marriage, and some of the forms of divination employed for this purpose resembled those which were in use among the Scotch peasantry. Two girls, for example, would make a little ladder of yarn, without breaking it from the ball, and having done so they would throw it out of the window. Then one of the girls, holding the ball in her hand, would wind the yarn back, repeating a rhyme in Welsh. This she did thrice, and as she wound the yarn she would see her future husband climbing up the little ladder. Again, three bowls or basins were placed on a table. One of them contained clean water, one dirty water, and one was empty. The girls of the household, and sometimes the boys too, then eagerly tried their fortunes. They were blindfolded, led up to the table, and dipped their hands into a bowl. If they happened to dip into the clean water, they would marry maidens or bachelors; if into the dirty water, they would be widowers or widows; if into the empty bowl, they would live unmarried. Again, if a girl, walking backwards, would place a knife among the leeks on Hallowe’en, she would see her future husband come and pick up the knife and throw it into the middle of the garden.[619]

[Divination at Hallowe’en in Ireland.]

In Ireland the Hallowe’en bonfires would seem to have died out, but the Hallowe’en divination has survived. Writing towards the end of the eighteenth century, General Vallancey tells us that on Hallowe’en or the vigil of Saman, as he calls it, “the peasants in Ireland assemble with sticks and clubs (the emblems of laceration) going from house to house, collecting money, bread-cake, butter, cheese, eggs, etc., etc., for the feast, repeating verses in honour of the solemnity, demanding preparations for the festival, in the name of St. Columb Kill, desiring them to lay aside the fatted calf, and to bring forth the black sheep. The good women are employed in making the griddle cake and candles; these last are sent from house to house in the vicinity, and are lighted up on the (Saman) next day, before which they pray, or are supposed to pray, for the departed souls of the donor. Every house abounds in the best viands they can afford: apples and nuts are devoured in abundance: the nut-shells are burnt, and from the ashes many strange things are foretold: cabbages are torn up by the root: hemp seed is sown by the maidens, and they believe, that if they look back, they will see the apparition of the man intended for their future spouse: they hang a smock before the fire, on the close of the feast, and sit up all night, concealed in a corner of the room, convinced that his apparition will come down the chimney and turn the smock: they throw a ball of yarn out of the window, and wind it on the reel within, convinced, that if they repeat the _Pater Noster_ backwards, and look at the ball of yarn without, they will then also see his _sith_ or apparition: they dip for apples in a tub of water, and endeavour to bring one up in the mouth: they suspend a cord with a cross-stick, with apples at one point, and candles lighted at the other, and endeavour to catch the apple, while it is in a circular motion, in the mouth. These, and many other superstitious ceremonies, the remains of Druidism, are observed on this holiday, which will never be eradicated, while the name of _Saman_ is permitted to remain.”[620]

[Divination at Hallow-e’en in Queen’s County; divination at Hallow-e’en in County Leitrim; divination at Hallowe’en in County Roscommon.]

In Queen’s County, Ireland, down to the latter part of the nineteenth century children practised various of these rites of divination on Hallowe’en. Girls went out into the garden blindfold and pulled up cabbages: if the cabbage was well grown, the girl would have a handsome husband, but if it had a crooked stalk, the future spouse would be a stingy old man. Nuts, again, were placed in pairs on the bar of the fire, and from their behaviour omens were drawn of the fate in love and marriage of the couple whom they represented. Lead, also, was melted and allowed to drop into a tub of cold water, and from the shapes which it assumed in the water predictions were made to the children of their future destiny. Again, apples were bobbed for in a tub of water and brought up with the teeth; or a stick was hung from a hook with an apple at one end and a candle at the other, and the stick being made to revolve you made a bite at the apple and sometimes got a mouthful of candle instead.[621] In County Leitrim, also, down to near the end of the nineteenth century various forms of divination were practised at Hallowe’en. Girls ascertained the character of their future husbands by the help of cabbages just as in Queen’s County. Again, if a girl found a branch of a briar-thorn which had bent over and grown into the ground so as to form a loop, she would creep through the loop thrice late in the evening in the devil’s name, then cut the briar and put it under her pillow, all without speaking a word. Then she would lay her head on the pillow and dream of the man she was to marry. Boys, also, would dream in like manner of love and marriage at Hallowe’en, if only they would gather ten leaves of ivy without speaking, throw away one, and put the other nine under their pillow. Again, divination was practised by means of a cake called _barm-breac_, in which a nut and a ring were baked. Whoever got the ring would be married first; whoever got the nut would marry a widow or a widower; but if the nut were an empty shell, he or she would remain unwed. Again, a girl would take a clue of worsted, go to a lime kiln in the gloaming, and throw the clew into the kiln in the devil’s name, while she held fast the other end of the thread. Then she would rewind the thread and ask, “Who holds my clue?” and the name of her future husband would come up from the depth of the kiln. Another way was to take a rake, go to a rick and walk round it nine times, saying, “I rake this rick in the devil’s name.” At the ninth time the wraith of your destined partner for life would come and take the rake out of your hand. Once more, before the company separated for the night, they would rake the ashes smooth on the hearth, and search them next morning for tracks, from which they judged whether anybody should come to the house, or leave it, or die in it before another year was out.[622] In County Roscommon, which borders on County Leitrim, a cake is made in nearly every house on Hallowe’en, and a ring, a coin, a sloe, and a chip of wood are put into it. Whoever gets the coin will be rich; whoever gets the ring will be married first; whoever gets the chip of wood, which stands for a coffin, will die first; and whoever gets the sloe will live longest, because the fairies blight the sloes in the hedges on Hallowe’en, so that the sloe in the cake will be the last of the year. Again, on the same mystic evening girls take nine grains of oats in their mouths, and going out without speaking walk about till they hear a man’s name pronounced; it will be the name of their future husband. In County Roscommon, too, on Hallowe’en there is the usual dipping in water for apples or sixpences, and the usual bites at a revolving apple and tallow candle.[623]

[Hallowe’en fires in the Isle of Man; divination at Hallowe’en in the Isle of Man.]

In the Isle of Man also, another Celtic country, Hallow-e’en was celebrated down to modern times by the kindling of fires, accompanied with all the usual ceremonies designed to prevent the baneful influence of fairies and witches. Bands of young men perambulated the island by night, and at the door of every dwelling-house they struck up a Manx rhyme, beginning

“_Noght oie howney hop-dy-naw_,”

that is to say, “This is Hollantide Eve.” For Hollantide is the Manx way of expressing the old English _All hallowen tide_, that is, All Saints’ Day, the first of November. But as the people reckon this festival according to the Old Style, Hollantide in the Isle of Man is our twelfth of November. The native Manx name for the day is _Sauin_ or _Laa Houney_. Potatoes, parsnips and fish, pounded up together and mixed with butter, formed the proper evening meal (_mrastyr_) on Hallowe’en in the Isle of Man.[624] Here, too, as in Scotland forms of divination are practised by some people on this important evening. For example, the housewife fills a thimble full of salt for each member of the family and each guest; the contents of the thimblefuls are emptied out in as many neat little piles on a plate, and left there over night. Next morning the piles are examined, and if any of them has fallen down, he or she whom it represents will die within the year. Again, the women carefully sweep out the ashes from under the fireplace and flatten them down neatly on the open hearth. If they find next morning a footprint turned towards the door, it signifies a death in the family within the year; but if the footprint is turned in the opposite direction, it bodes a marriage. Again, divination by eavesdropping is practised in the Isle of Man in much the same way as in Scotland. You go out with your mouth full of water and your hands full of salt and listen at a neighbour’s door, and the first name you hear will be the name of your husband. Again, Manx maids bandage their eyes and grope about the room till they dip their hands in vessels full of clean or dirty water, and so on; and from the thing they touch they draw corresponding omens. But some people in the Isle of Man observe these auguries, not on Hallowe’en or Hollantide Eve, as they call it, which was the old Manx New Year’s Eve, but on the modern New Year’s Eve, that is, on the thirty-first of December. The change no doubt marks a transition from the ancient to the modern mode of dating the beginning of the year.[625]

[Hallowe’en fires and divination in Lancashire; candles lighted to keep off the witches; divination at Hallowe’en in Northumberland; Hallowe’en fires in France.]

In Lancashire, also, some traces of the old Celtic celebration of Hallowe’en have been reported in modern times. It is said that “fires are still lighted in Lancashire, on Hallowe’en, under the name of Beltains or Teanlas; and even such cakes as the Jews are said to have made in honour of the Queen of Heaven, are yet to be found at this season amongst the inhabitants of the banks of the Ribble…. Both the fires and the cakes, however, are now connected with superstitious notions respecting Purgatory, etc.”[626] On Hallowe’en, too, the Lancashire maiden “strews the ashes which are to take the form of one or more letters of her lover’s name; she throws hemp-seed over her shoulder and timidly glances to see who follows her.”[627] Again, witches in Lancashire used to gather on Hallowe’en at the Malkin Tower, a ruined and desolate farm-house in the forest of Pendle. They assembled for no good purpose; but you could keep the infernal rout at bay by carrying a lighted candle about the fells from eleven to twelve o’clock at night. The witches tried to blow out the candle, and if they succeeded, so much the worse for you; but if the flame burned steadily till the clocks had struck midnight, you were safe. Some people performed the ceremony by deputy; and parties went about from house to house in the evening collecting candles, one for each inmate, and offering their services to _late_ or _leet_ the witches, as the phrase ran. This custom was practised at Longridge Fell in the early part of the nineteenth century.[628] In Northumberland on Hallowe’en omens of marriage were drawn from nuts thrown into the fire; and the sports of ducking for apples and biting at a revolving apple and lighted candle were also practised on that evening.[629] The equivalent of the Hallowe’en bonfires is reported also from France. We are told that in the department of Deux-Sevres, which forms part of the old province of Poitou, young people used to assemble in the fields on All Saints’ Day (the first of November) and kindle great fires of ferns, thorns, leaves, and stubble, at which they roasted chestnuts. They also danced round the fires and indulged in noisy pastimes.[630]

Sec. 7. _The Midwinter Fires_

[A Midwinter festival of fire; Christmas the continuation of an old heathen festival of the sun.]

If the heathen of ancient Europe celebrated, as we have good reason to believe, the season of Midsummer with a great festival of fire, of which the traces have survived in many places down to our own time, it is natural to suppose that they should have observed with similar rites the corresponding season of Midwinter; for Midsummer and Midwinter, or, in more technical language, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, are the two great turning-points in the sun’s apparent course through the sky, and from the standpoint of primitive man nothing might seem more appropriate than to kindle fires on earth at the two moments when the fire and heat of the great luminary in heaven begin to wane or to wax. In this way the savage philosopher, to whose meditations on the nature of things we owe many ancient customs and ceremonies, might easily imagine that he helped the labouring sun to relight his dying lamp, or at all events to blow up the flame into a brighter blaze. Certain it is that the winter solstice, which the ancients erroneously assigned to the twenty-fifth of December, was celebrated in antiquity as the Birthday of the Sun, and that festal lights or fires were kindled on this joyful occasion. Our Christmas festival is nothing but a continuation under a Christian name of this old solar festivity; for the ecclesiastical authorities saw fit, about the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century, arbitrarily to transfer the nativity of Christ from the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December, for the purpose of diverting to their Lord the worship which the heathen had hitherto paid on that day to the sun.[631]

[The Yule log is the Midwinter counterpart of the Midsummer bonfire.]

In modern Christendom the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice appears to survive, or to have survived down to recent years, in the old custom of the Yule log, clog, or block, as it was variously called in England.[632] The custom was widespread in Europe, but seems to have flourished especially in England, France, and among the South Slavs; at least the fullest accounts of the custom come from these quarters. That the Yule log was only the winter counterpart of the Midsummer bonfire, kindled within doors instead of in the open air on account of the cold and inclement weather of the season, was pointed out long ago by our English antiquary John Brand;[633] and the view is supported by the many quaint superstitions attaching to the Yule log, superstitions which have no apparent connexion with Christianity but carry their heathen origin plainly stamped upon them. But while the two solstitial celebrations were both festivals of fire, the necessity or desirability of holding the winter celebration within doors lent it the character of a private or domestic festivity, which contrasts strongly with the publicity of the summer celebration, at which the people gathered on some open space or conspicuous height, kindled a huge bonfire in common, and danced and made merry round it together.

[The Yule log in Germany; the Yule log in Switzerland.]

Among the Germans the custom of the Yule log is known to have been observed in the eleventh century; for in the year 1184 the parish priest of Ahlen, in Muensterland, spoke of “bringing a tree to kindle the festal fire at the Lord’s Nativity.”[634] Down to about the middle of the nineteenth century the old rite was kept up in some parts of central Germany, as we learn from an account of it given by a contemporary writer. After mentioning the custom of feeding the cattle and shaking the fruit-trees on Christmas night, to make them bear fruit, he goes on as follows: “Other customs pointing back to the far-off times of heathendom may still be met with among the old-fashioned peasants of the mountain regions. Such is in the valleys of the Sieg and Lahn the practice of laying a new log as a foundation of the hearth. A heavy block of oak-wood, generally a stump grubbed up from the ground, is fitted either into the floor of the hearth, or into a niche made for the purpose in the wall under the hook on which the kettle hangs. When the fire on the hearth glows, this block of wood glows too, but it is so placed that it is hardly reduced to ashes within a year. When the new foundation is laid, the remains of the old block are carefully taken out, ground to powder, and strewed over the fields during the Twelve Nights. This, so people fancied, promotes the fruitfulness of the year’s crops.”[635] In some parts of the Eifel Mountains, to the west of Coblentz, a log of wood called the _Christbrand_ used to be placed on the hearth on Christmas Eve; and the charred remains of it on Twelfth Night were put in the corn-bin to keep the mice from devouring the corn.[636] At Weidenhausen and Girkshausen, in Westphalia, the practice was to withdraw the Yule log (_Christbrand_) from the fire so soon as it was slightly charred; it was then kept carefully to be replaced on the fire whenever a thunder-storm broke, because the people believed that lightning would not strike a house in which the Yule log was smouldering.[637] In some villages near Berleburg in Westphalia the old custom was to tie up the Yule log in the last sheaf cut at harvest.[638] On Christmas Eve the peasantry of the Oberland, in Meiningen, a province of Central Germany, used to put a great block of wood called the _Christklots_ on the fire before they went to bed; it should burn all night, and the charred remains were believed to guard the house for the whole year against the risk of fire, burglary, and other misfortunes.[639] The Yule log seems to be known only in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland, where it goes by the usual French name of _Buche de Noel_. In the Jura mountains of the canton of Bern, while the log is burning on the hearth the people sing a blessing over it as follows:–

“_May the log burn!
May all good come in!
May the women have children
And the sheep lambs!
White bread for every one
And the vat full of wine_!”

The embers of the Yule log were kept carefully, for they were believed to be a protection against lightning.[640]

[The Yule log in Belgium.]

“The Christmas fires, which were formerly lit everywhere in the Low Countries, have fallen into disuse. But in Flanders a great log of wood, called the _kersavondblok_ and usually cut from the roots of a fir or a beech, is still put on the fire; all the lights in the house are extinguished, and the whole family gathers round the log to spend part of the night in singing, in telling stories, especially about ghosts, were-wolves, and so on, and also in drinking gin. At Grammont and in the neighbourhood of that town, where the Yule log is called _Kersmismot_, it is customary to set fire to the remainder of the gin at the moment when the log is reduced to ashes. Elsewhere a piece of the log is kept and put under the bed to protect the house against thunder and lightning. The charcoal of the log which burned during Christmas Night, if pounded up and mixed with water, is a cure for consumption. In the country of Limburg the log burns several nights, and the pounded charcoal is kept as a preventive (so they say), of toothache.”[641]

[The Yule log in France.]

In several provinces of France, and particularly in Provence, the custom of the Yule log or _trefoir_, as it was called in many places, was long observed. A French writer of the seventeenth century tells us that on Christmas Eve the log was prepared, and when the whole family had assembled in the kitchen or parlour of the house, they went and brought it in, walking in procession and singing Provencal verses to the following effect:–

“_Let the log rejoice,
To-morrow is the day of bread;
Let all good enter here;
Let the women bear children;
Let the she-goats bring forth kids; Let the ewes drop lambs;
Let there be much wheat and flour,
And the vat full of wine_.”

Then the log was blessed by the smallest and youngest child of the house, who poured a glass of wine over it saying, _In nomine patris_, etc.; after which the log was set on the fire. The charcoal of the burnt wood was kept the whole year, and used as an ingredient in several remedies.[642]

[French superstitions as to the Yule log.]

Amongst the superstitions denounced by the same writer is “the belief that a log called the _trefoir_ or Christmas brand, which you put on the fire for the first time on Christmas Eve and continue to put on the fire for a little while every day till Twelfth Night, can, if kept under the bed, protect the house for a whole year from fire and thunder; that it can prevent the inmates from having chilblains on their heels in winter; that it can cure the cattle of many maladies; that if a piece of it be steeped in the water which cows drink it helps them to calve; and lastly that if the ashes of the log be strewn on the fields it can save the wheat from mildew.”[643]

[The Yule log at Marseilles and in Perigord; virtues ascribed to the charcoal and ashes of the burnt log; the Yule log in Berry.]

In Marseilles the Yule log used to be a great block of oak, which went by the name of _calendeau_ or _calignau_; it was sprinkled with wine and oil, and the head of the house kindled it himself.[644] “The Yule log plays a great part at the festival of the winter solstice in Perigord. The countryman thinks that it is best made of plum-tree, cherry, or oak, and that the larger it is the better. If it burns well, it is a good omen, the blessing of heaven rests upon it. The charcoal and ashes, which are collected very carefully, are excellent for healing swollen glands; the part of the trunk which has not been burnt in the fire is used by ploughmen to make the wedge (_tecoin ou cale_) for their plough, because they allege that it causes the seeds to thrive better; and the women keep pieces of it till Twelfth Night for the sake of their chickens. Nevertheless if you sit down on the log, you become subject to boils, and to cure yourself of them you must pass nine times under a bramble branch which happens to be rooted in the ground at both ends. The charcoal heals sheep of a disease called the _goumon_; and the ashes, carefully wrapt up in white linen, preserve the whole household from accidents. Some people think that they will have as many chickens as there are sparks that fly out of the brands of the log when they shake them; and others place the extinct brands under the bed to drive away vermin. In Vienne, on Christmas Eve, when supper is over, the master of the house has a great log–the Christmas brand–brought in, and then, surrounded by all the spectators gathered in profound silence, he sprinkles salt and water on the log. It is then put on the fire to burn during the three festivals; but they carefully preserve a piece to be kindled every time that it thunders.”[645] In Berry, a district of Central France, the Yule log was called the _cosse de Nau_, the last word being an abbreviation of the usual French word for Christmas (Noel). It consisted of an enormous tree-trunk, so heavy that the united strength of several men was needed to carry it in and place it on the hearth, where it served to feed the fire during the three days of the Christmas festivity. Strictly speaking, it should be the trunk of an old oak-tree which had never been lopped and had been felled at midnight. It was placed on the hearth at the moment when the tinkle of the bell announced the elevation of the host at the midnight mass; and the head of the family, after sprinkling it with holy water, set it on fire. The remains of the log were preserved till the same day next year. They were kept under the bed of the master of the house; and whenever thunder was heard, one of the family would take a piece of the log and throw it on the fire, which was believed to guard the family against lightning. In the Middle Ages, we are told, several fiefs were granted on condition that the vassal should bring in person a Yule log every year for the hearth of his liege lord.[646]

[The Yule log in Normandy and Brittany.]

Similar customs and beliefs survived till recent years in some of the remote country villages of the picturesque district known as the Bocage of Normandy. There it was the grandfather or other oldest man of the family who chose the Yule log in good time and had it ready for Christmas Eve. Then he placed it on the hearth at the moment when the church bell began to ring for the evening service. Kneeling reverently at the hearth with the members of his family in a like attitude of devotion, the old man recited three _Pater Nosters_ and three _Aves_, and invoked the blessing of heaven on the log and on the cottage. Then at the sound of the bell which proclaimed the sacrament of the mass, or, if the church was too far off to allow the tinkle of the bell to be heard, at the moment when they judged that the priest was elevating the host before the high altar, the patriarch sprinkled the burning log with holy water, blessed it in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and drew it out of the fire. The charred log was then carefully kept till the following Christmas as a precious relic which would guard the house against the levin bolt, evil spirits, sorcerers, and every misfortune that might befall in the course of the year.[647] In the department of Orne “the Yule-log is called _trefouet_; holy water is poured on it; it should last the three days of the festival, and the remains of it are kept to be put on the fire when it thunders. This brand is a protection both against thunder and against sorcerers.”[648] In Upper Brittany, also, the Yule log is thought to be a safeguard against thunder and lightning. It is sprinkled with holy water on Christmas morning and allowed to burn till evening. If a piece of it is thrown into the well, it will ensure a supply of good water.[649]

[The Yule log in the Ardennes.]

“In almost all the families of the Ardennes,” we are told, “at the present day they never fail to put the Yule log on the fireplace, but formerly it was the object of a superstitious worship which is now obsolete. The charred remains of it, placed under the pillow or under the house, preserved the house from storms, and before it was burned the Virgin used to come and sit on it, invisible, swaddling the infant Jesus. At Nouzon, twenty years ago, the traditional log was brought into the kitchen on Christmas Eve, and the grandmother, with a sprig of box in her hand, sprinkled the log with holy water as soon as the clock struck the first stroke of midnight. As she did so she chanted,

‘_When Christmas comes,
Every one should rejoice,
For it is a New Covenant_.’

“Following the grandmother and joining in the song, the children and the rest of the family marched thrice round the log, which was as fine a log as could be got.”[650] We can now, perhaps, understand why in Perigord people who sat on the Yule log suffered from boils,[651] and why in Lorraine young folks used to be warned that if they sat on it they would have the scab.[652] The reason probably was that the Virgin and child were supposed to be seated, invisible, upon the log and to resent the indignity of contact with mortal children.

[The Yule log in the Vosges; the Yule log in Franche-Comte and Burgundy.]

On Christmas Eve the mountaineers of Rupt, in the Vosges, also never fail to put on the hearth the largest log which the hearth can hold; they call it _la galeuche de Noe_, that is, the Yule log. Next morning they rake the ashes for any charred fragments and keep them as valuable talismans to guard them against the stroke of lightning. At Vagney and other places near it in the Vosges it used to be customary on the same evening to grease the hinges and the latches of the doors, that no harsh grating sound should break the slumbers of the infant Christ. In the Vosges Mountains, too, as indeed in many other places, cattle acquired the gift of speech on Christmas Eve and conversed with each other in the language of Christians. Their conversation was, indeed, most instructive; for the future, it seems, had no secret worth mentioning for them. Yet few people cared to be caught eavesdropping at the byre; wise folk contented themselves with setting a good store of fodder in the manger, then shut the door, and left the animals to their ruminations. A farmer of Vecoux once hid in a corner of the byre to overhear the edifying talk of the beasts. But it did him little good; for one ox said to another ox, “What shall we do to-morrow?” and the other replied, “We shall carry our master to the churchyard.” Sure enough the farmer died that very night and was buried next morning.[653] In Franche-Comte, the province of France to the west of the Jura mountains, if the Yule log is really to protect a house against thunder and lightning, it is essential that it should burn during the midnight mass, and that the flame should not go out before the divine service is concluded. Otherwise the log is quite useless for the purpose.[654] In Burgundy the log which is placed on the fire on Christmas Eve is called the _suche_. While it is burning, the father of the family, assisted by his wife and children, sings Christmas carols; and when he has finished, he tells the smallest children to go into a corner of the room and pray God that the log may give them sweeties. The prayer is invariably answered.[655]

[The Yule log and the Yule candle in England.]

In England the customs and beliefs concerning the Yule log, clog, or block, as it was variously called, used to be similar. On the night of Christmas Eve, says the antiquary John Brand, “our ancestors were wont to light up candles of an uncommon size, called Christmas Candles, and lay a log of wood upon the fire, called a Yule-clog or Christmas-block, to illuminate the house, and, as it were, to turn night into day. This custom is, in some measure, still kept up in the North of England. In the buttery of St. John’s College, Oxford, an ancient candle-socket of stone still remains ornamented with the figure of the Holy Lamb. It was formerly used to burn the Christmas Candle in, on the high table at supper, during the twelve nights of that festival.”[656] “A tall mould candle, called a Yule candle, is lighted and set on the table; these candles are presented by the chandlers and grocers to their customers. The Yule-log is bought of the carpenters’ lads. It would be unlucky to light either of them before the time, or to stir the fire or candle during the supper; the candle must not be snuffed, neither must any one stir from the table till supper is ended. In these suppers it is considered unlucky to have an odd number at table. A fragment of the log is occasionally saved, and put under a bed, to remain till next Christmas: it secures the house from fire; a small piece of it thrown into a fire occurring at the house of a neighbour, will quell the raging flame. A piece of the candle should likewise be kept to ensure good luck.”[657] In the seventeenth century, as we learn from some verses of Herrick, the English custom was to light the Yule log with a fragment of its predecessor, which had been kept throughout the year for the purpose; where it was so kept, the fiend could do no mischief.[658] Indeed the practice of preserving a piece of the Yule-log of one year to light that of the next was observed by at least one family at Cheadle in Staffordshire down to the latter part of the nineteenth century.[659]

[The Yule-log in Yorkshire; the Yule log in Lincolnshire; the Yule log in Warwickshire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire; the Yule log in Wales.]

In the North of England farm-servants used to lay by a large knotty block of wood for the Christmas fire, and so long as the block lasted they were entitled by custom to ale at their meals. The log was as large as the hearth could hold.[660] At Belford, in Northumberland, “the lord of the manor sends round to every house, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the Yule Logs–four or five large logs–to be burnt on Christmas Eve and Day. This old custom has always, I am told, been kept up here.”[661] The custom of burning the Yule log at Christmas used to be observed in Wensleydale and other parts of Yorkshire, and prudent housewives carefully preserved pieces of the log throughout the year. At Whitby the portions so kept were stowed away under the bed till next Christmas, when they were burnt with the new log; in the interval they were believed to protect the house from conflagration, and if one of them were thrown into the fire, it would quell a raging storm.[662] The practice and the belief were similar at Filey on the coast of Yorkshire, where besides the Yule log a tall Yule candle was lit on the same evening.[663] In the West Riding, while the log blazed cheerfully, the people quaffed their ale and sang, “Yule! Yule! a pack of new cards and a Christmas stool!”[664] At Clee, in Lincolnshire, “when Christmas Eve has come the Yule cake is duly cut and the Yule log lit, and I know of some even middle-class houses where the new log must always rest upon and be lighted by the old one, a small portion of which has been carefully stored away to preserve a continuity of light and heat.”[665] At the village of Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, down to 1759 at least, the Yule-block, as it was called, was drawn into the house by a horse on Christmas Eve “as a foundation for the fire on Christmas Day, and according to the superstition of those times for the twelve days following, as the said block was not to be entirely reduced to ashes till that time had passed by.”[666] As late as 1830, or thereabout, the scene of lighting the hearth-fire on Christmas Eve, to continue burning throughout the Christmas season, might have been witnessed in the secluded and beautiful hill-country of West Shropshire, from Chirbury and Worthen to Pulverbatch and Pontesbury. The Christmas brand or brund, as they called it, was a great trunk of seasoned oak, holly, yew, or crab-tree, drawn by horses to the farm-house door and thence rolled by means of rollers and levers to the back of the wide open hearth, where the fire was made up in front of it. The embers were raked up to it every night, and it was carefully tended, that it might not go out during the whole Christmas season. All those days no light might be struck, given, or borrowed. Such was the custom at Worthen in the early part of the nineteenth century.[667] In Herefordshire the Christmas feast “lasted for twelve days, and no work was done. All houses were, and are now, decorated with sprigs of holly and ivy, which must not be brought in until Christmas Eve. A Yule log, as large as the open hearth could accommodate, was brought into the kitchen of each farmhouse, and smaller ones were used in the cottages. W—- P—- said he had seen a tree drawn into the kitchen at Kingstone Grange years ago by two cart horses; when it had been consumed a small portion was carefully kept to be used for lighting next year’s log. ‘Mother always kept it very carefully; she said it was lucky, and kept the house from fire and from lightning.’ It seems to have been the general practice to light it on Christmas Eve.”[668] “In many parts of Wales it is still customary to keep part of the Yule-log until the following Christmas Eve ‘for luck.’ It is then put into the fireplace and burnt, but before it is consumed the new log is put on, and thus ‘the old fire and the new’ burn together. In some families this is done from force of habit, and they cannot now tell why they do it; but in the past the observance of this custom was to keep witches away, and doubtless was a survival of fire-worship.”[669]

[The Yule log in Servia; the cutting of the oak tree to form the Yule log.]

But nowhere, apparently, in Europe is the old heathen ritual of the Yule log preserved to the present day more perfectly than in Servia. At early dawn on Christmas Eve (_Badnyi Dan_) every peasant house sends two of its strongest young men to the nearest forest to cut down a young oak tree and bring it home. There, after offering up a short prayer or crossing themselves thrice, they throw a handful of wheat on the chosen oak and greet it with the words, “Happy _Badnyi_ day to you!” Then they cut it down, taking care that it shall fall towards the east at the moment when the sun’s orb appears over the rim of the eastern horizon. Should the tree fall towards the west, it would be the worst possible omen for the house and its inmates in the ensuing year; and it is also an evil omen if the tree should be caught and stopped in its fall by another tree. It is important to keep and carry home the first chip from the fallen oak. The trunk is sawn into two or three logs, one of them rather longer than the others. A flat, unleavened cake of the purest wheaten flour is brought out of the house and broken on the larger of the logs by a woman. The logs are left for the present to stand outside, leaning on one of the walls of the house. Each of them is called a Yule log (_badnyak_).

[Prayers to Colleda.]

Meanwhile the children and young people go from house to house singing special songs called _Colleda_ because of an old pagan divinity Colleda, who is invoked in every line. In one of them she is spoken of as “a beautiful little maid”; in another she is implored to make the cows yield milk abundantly. The day is spent in busy preparations. The women bake little cakes of a special sort in the shape of lambs, pigs, and chickens; the men make ready a pig for roasting, for in every Servian house roast pig is the principal dish at Christmas. A bundle of straw, tied with a rope, is brought into the courtyard and left to stand there near the Yule logs.

[The bringing in of the Yule log.]

At the moment when the sun is setting all the members of the family assemble in the central hall (the great family kitchen) of the principal house. The mother of the family (or the wife of the chief of the Zadrooga)[670] gives a pair of woollen gloves to one of the young men, who goes out and presently returns carrying in his gloved hands the largest of the logs. The mother receives him at the threshold, throwing at him a handful of wheat, in which the first chip of the oak tree cut in the early morning for the Yule log has been kept all day. Entering the central hall with the Yule log the young man greets all present with the words: “Good evening, and may you have a happy Christmas!” and they all answer in chorus, “May God and the happy and holy Christmas help thee!” In some parts of Servia the chief of the family, holding a glass of red wine in his hand, greets the Yule log as if it were a living person, and drinks to its health. After that, another glass of red wine is poured on the log. Then the oldest male member of the family, assisted by the young man who brought in the log, places it on the burning fire so that the thicker end of the log protrudes for about a