Page images

in running at it. (He gives an engraving of it.) The crosspiece of it is broad at one end, and pierced full of holes, and à bag of sand is hung at the other, and swings round on being moved with any blow. The pastime was for the youth on horseback to run at it as fast as possible, and hit the broad part in his career with much force. He that by chance hit it not at all was treated with loud peals of derision ; and he who did hit it made the best use of his swiftness, lest he should have a sound blow on his neck from the bag of sand, which instantly swang round from the other end of the quintin. The great design of this sport was to try the agility of the horse and man, and to break the board, which whoever did, he was accounted chief of the day's sport. It stands opposite the dwelling-house of the estate, which is bound to keep it up.” The same author (ibid. p. 639), speaking of Bobbing parish, says: “There was formerly a quintin in this parish, there being still a field in it called from thence the Quintin Field."

Owen, in his Welsh Dictionary, v. Cwintan, describes a hymencal game thus acted: “A pole is fixed in the ground, with sticks set about it which the bridegroom and his company take up and try their strength and activity in breaking them upon the pole.

In the marriage ceremonies amongst the ancient Romans, the bridegroom threw nuts about the room for the boys to scramble. The epithalamiums in the classics prove this. It was a token that the party scattering them was now leaving childish diversions.1

It appears to have been a waggish custom at weddings to

Quanquam Plinius, lib. xv. cap. 22, causas alias adfert, quam ob rem nuces in nuptialibus ceremoniis consueverint antiquitus adhiberi; sed præstat ipsius referre verba : Nuces, inquit, juglandes quanquam et ipsa nuptialium Fescenninorum comites, multum pineis minores universitate, eædemque portione ampliores nucleo. Nec non et honor his naturæ peculiaris, gemino protectis operimento, pulvinati primum calycis, mox lignei putaminis. Quæ causa eas nuptiis fecit religiosas, tot modis fætu munito: quod est verisimilius," &c. See Erasmus on the proverb, “ Nuces relin. quere.” Adag. fol. Col. Allobr. 1606, col. 1356. The Roman boys had some sport or other with nuts, to which Horace refers in these words:

“ Postquam te talos aule nucesque Ferre sinu laxo, donare et ludere vidi."

hang a bell under the party's bed. See Fletcher's Night Walker, act i. sc. 1. “Îl oult une risée de jeunes hommes qui s'etoient exprès cachez auprès de son lit, comme on a coûtume de faire en pareilles occasions,” —Contes d'Ouville, i. 3.


DIVINATION at marriages was practised in times of the remotest antiquity. Vallancey tells us that, in the Memoirs of the Etruscan Academy of Cortona, is a drawing of a picture found in Herculaneum representing a marriage. In the front is a sorceress casting the five stones. The writer of the memoir justly thinks she is divining. The figure exactly corresponds with the first and principal cast of the Irish Purin ; all five are cast up, and the first catch is on the back of the hand. He has copied the drawing; on the back of the hand stands one, and the remaining four on the ground. Opposite the sorceress is the matron, attentive to the success of the cast. No marriage ceremony was performed without consulting the Druidess and her Purin :

“Auspices solebant nuptiis interesse."'--Juvenal, Sat. xii. Pliny, in the tenth book, chap. viii. of his Natural History, mentions that in his time the circos, a sort of lame hawk, was accounted a lucky omen at weddings.

In the north of, and perhaps all over England, as has been already noticed, slices of the bride-cake are thrice, some say nine times, put through the wedding-ring, which are afterwards by young persons laid under their pillows when they go to bed, for the purpose of making them dream of their lovers, or of exciting prophetic dreams of love and marriage. Thus Humphrey Clinker, iii. 265, edit. 1771: “A cake being, broken over the head of Mrs. Tabitha Lismahago, the frag

| Vallancey adds : “ This is now played as a game by the youths of hoth sexes in Ireland. The Irish Seic Seona (Shec Shona) was readily turned into Jack Stones by an English ear, by which name this game is now known by the English in Ireland. It has another name among the sulgar, viz. Gob-stones."

ments were distributed among the bystanders, according to the custom of the ancient Britons, on the supposition that every person who ate of this hallowed cake should that night have a vision of the man or woman whom Heaven designed should be his or her wedded mate.” So the Spectator : “ The writer resolved to try his fortune, fasted all day, and, that he might be sure of dreaming upon something at night, procured a handsome slice of bridecake, which he placed very conveniently under his pillow."

The Connoisseur, also, notices the practice, No. 56: “Cousin Debby was married a little while ago, and she sent me a piece of bridecake to put under my pillow, and I had the sweetest dream ; I thought we were going to be married together.” The following occurs in the Progress of Matrimony, 1733,

p. 30 :

[blocks in formation]

In the St. James's Chronicle, from April 16th to April 18th, 1799, are the following lines on the Wedding Cake :

“Enlivening source of hymeneal mirth,

All hail the blest receipt that gave thee birth!
Tho' Flora culls the fairest of her ers,
And strews the path of Hymen with her flowers,
Not half the raptures give her scatter'd sweets ;
The cake far kinder gratulation meets.
The bridemaid's eyes with sparkling glances beam,
She views the cake, and greets the promis'd dream.
For, when endow'd with necromantic spell,
She knows what wondrous things the cake will tell.
When from the altar comes the pensive bride,
With downcast looks, her partner at her side,
Soon from the ground these thoughtful looks arise,
To meet the cake that gayer thoughts supplies.
With her own hand she charms each destin'd slice,
And thro' the ring repeats the trebled thrice.
The hallow'd ring, infusing magic pow'r,
Bids Hymen's visions wait the midnight hour;
The mystic treasure, plac'd beneath her head,
Will tell the fair if haply she may wed.

These mysteries portentous lie conceal'd,
Till Morpheus calls and bids them stand reveal'd;
The future husband that night's dream will bring,
Whether a parson, soldier, beggar, king,
As partner of her life the fair must take,

Irrevocable doom of bridal cake."
For the sun to shine upon the bride was a good omen.
Thus Herrick's Hesperides, p. 152 :

" While that others do divine,
Blest is the bride on whom the sun doth shine."

It was formerly a custom among the noble Germans, at weddings, for the bride, when she was conducted to the bridechamber, to take off her shoe and throw it among the bystanders, which every one strove to catch, and whoever got it thought it an omen that they themselves would shortly be happily married.

Hutchinson, in his History of Durham, i. 33, speaking of a cross near the ruins of the church in Holy Island, says: “ It is now called the Petting Stone. Whenever a marriage is solemnised at the church, after the ceremony the bride is to step npon it; and if she cannot stride to the end thereof, it is said the marriage will prove unfortunate.” The etymology there given is too ridiculous to be remembered : it is called petting, lest the bride should take pet with her supper.

Grose tells us of a vulgar superstition, that holds it unlucky to walk under a ladder, as it may prevent your being married that year. Our rustics retain to this day many superstitious notions concerning the times of the year when it is accounted lucky or otherwise to marry.

It has been remarked in the former volume of this work, that none are ever married on Childermas Day; for whatever cause, this is a black day in the calendar of impatient lovers. See Aubrey's Miscell. edit. 1748, p. 5. Randle Holme, too, in his Academy of Armory and Blazon, edit. 1688, B. iii. cap. 3. p. 131, telis us: “ Innocence Day, on what day of the week soever it lights upon, that day of the week is by astronomers taken to be a cross-day all the year through.” The following proverb, from Ray, marks another ancient conceit on this head :

| Antiquitat. Convivial., f. 229. There was an ancient superstition, that for a bride to have good fortune it was necessary at her marriage that she should enter the house under two drawn swords placed in the manner of a St. Andrew's cross. Si sponsa debet habere bonam fortunam, oportet quod in nuptiis ingrediatur domum sub duobus evaginatis gladiis, positis ad modum crucis S. Andreæ. Delrio Disquisit. Magic. p. 454, from Beezius.

“ Who marries between the sickle and the scythe

Will never thrive." We gather from the author of the Convivial Antiquities, that the heathen Romans were not without their superstitions on this subject. The month of May has been already noticed from Ovid's Fasti as a time which was considered particularly unlucky for the celebration of marriage. In the Roman Calendar in my library, so often quoted, several days are marked as unfit for marriages : Nuptiæ non fiunt,” i. e. “Feb. 11, June 2, Nov. 2, Decemb. 1.” On the 16th of September, it is noted, “ Tobiæ sacrum. Nuptiarum ceremoniæ a nuptiis deductæ, videlicet de ense, de pisce, de pompa, et de pedibus levandis."

In a curious old Almanac for the year 1559, “ by Lewes Vaughan, made for the merydian of Gloucestre,” are noted as follow : “The tymes of weddinges when it begynneth and endeth. Jan. 14, weding begin. Jan. 21, weddinge goth ont. April 3, wedding be. April 29, wedding goeth out. May 22, wedding begyn.” And in another almanac, for 1655, by Andrew Waterman, mariner, we have pointed out to us, in the last page, the following days as “good to marry, or contract a wife (for then women will be fond and loving), viz. January 2, 4, 11, 19, and 21. Feb. 1, 3, 10, 19, 21. March 3, 5, 12, 20, 23. April 2, 4, 12, 20, and 22. May 2, 4, 12, 20, 23. June 1, 3, 11, 19, 21. July 1, 3, 12, 19, 21, 31. August 2, 11, 18, 20, 30. Sept. 1, 9, 16, 18, 28. Octob. I,

I "Tempus quoque nuptiarum celebrandarum," says Stuckius, “ certum a veteribus definitum et constitutum esse invenio. Concilii Ilerdensis, xxxiii. 9, 4. Et in Decreto Ivonis, lib. 6, non oportet a Septuagesima usque in Octavam Paschæ, et tribus Hebdomadibus ante Festivitatem S. Joannis Baptistæ, et ab adventu Domini usque post Epiphaniam, nuptias celebrare. Quod si factum fuerit, separentur.” Antiquitat. Conviv. p. 72. See also the Formula in the Append. to Hearne's Hist. and Antiq. of Glastonbury, p. 309.

De tempore prohibiti matrimonii.
“ Conjugium adventus tollit, sed stella reducit,

Mox cineres stringunt, lux pascha octava relaxat.”

« PreviousContinue »