Friday, 9 February 2018

St Apollonia's Day and a cure for toothache!

The 9th February is St Appollonia's Day, and is dedicated to the memory of 
an aged Christian matron of Alexandria. She was one of a group of virgin 
martyrs who were persecuted during a local uprising against the Christians 
prior to the persecution by Decius, who was Roman Emperor from 249 to 251.
According to legend her torture included having all of her teeth pulled out 
or shattered. 

"Her persecutors seized her and by repeated blows broke all her teeth, then then erected outside the city gates a great  pile of faggots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to renounce her faith. Given at her own request a little freedom she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death."
Taken fr om an account written in 1260

For this she has become the patron saint of dentists and those suffering with toothache.

A sure cure for toothache taken from The Homish Apothocary 1561

"The grey worms breeding beneath wood or stones and having many feet, and 
when they be touched they do cluster together like porkenpicks. These pierced 
through with a bodkin and put into the tooth that aceth allayeth the pain."

This is an American advert from 1885 offering the Cocaine toothpaste for sale which gives  an ‘instantaneous cure’

Cocaine was the first local anesthetic to be used but with its addictive side effects it its use was soon abandoned by health care professionals.

The first written mention of toothache was found on a Sumerian clay tablet which dates from around 5000BC. The tablet is now referred to as ‘The Legend of the Worm’ as in ancient civilisations it was believed that tooth decay and dental pain was caused by tooth worms. This belief persisted until the Age of Enlightenment which was an intellectual movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century.

A priest -physician Andrew Boorde in the 15th cen-tury recommended a de worming technique for the teeth. ‘ And if the toothache do come by worms make a candle of wax with Henbane seeds and light it and let the  perfume of the candle enter the tooth and gape over a dish of cold water and then you may take the worms out of the water and kill them on your nail.’

Leo Kanner in his article The folkore of the Teeth cites the following remedy from Brandenburg 
‘ One takes a mouthful of salt and goes with it in the evening silently, without greeting or addressing any-one to the churchyard. There make a hole over the last grave, cross two blades of straw over the hole and spit the salt upon it. Then close the hole with mud and the patient goes home as silently as he came. The toothache will disappear and never come back’

Or another recommendation from the same area in Germany is that the toothache can be relieved by kissing a donkey!

Not recommended by modern day Dentists!

Ancient Greeks similarly believed that a mouth wash made from donkey milk would help promote strong teeth and gums.
If you don’t fancy kissing a donkey there are few other remedies like spitting into the mouth of a frog in the hope that it will take the pain from you or you could suck on the freshly extracted tooth from a corpse!
Or visit your local Blacksmith as they used to perform dental work as well as tending to your horse...

I think that's enough about teeth!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


 One of the first flowers of spring, and
  commonly known as the flower of hope. 
   Although its beauty symbolises purity,
 it is widely regarded as a omen of death and as such
is considered to be unlucky to take into 
the house of anybody who is sick, except
in Shropshire where bunches of the flowers are 
taken into the house to purify it.

After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve stood
 weeping and surveying the  snowy wilderness to which they had been sent 
when an angel appeared. 
The glowing figure caught a falling snowflake, breathed on it and then
 handed it to Eve:

‘This is an earnest wish, Eve to thee
That sun and summer soon shall be’

The angel vanished and where she had stood the snow had turned 
into a carpet of snowdrops.

From 'Faerie Flora'

Candlemas: St Mary's Feast of the Candles

The 2nd of February is officially the Feast of Purification and the presentation of Christ in the Temple.
Forty day s after Jesus's birth Mary ritually cleansed herself and presented her child in the Temple at Jerusalem. During this visit she met Simeon who prophesied that Jesus would  be a light to lighten the Gentiles. So it is tradition on this day that lights and candles are blessed in church and candlelit services and processions are held.

Candlemas Day, plant beans in the day

Put candles and candlesticks away.
If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won't come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight

This ancient festival also marks the midway point of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.

Apart from the weather superstitions a few more abound around Candlemas; anybody who hears funeral bells on Candlemas will soon hear of a death of a  close friend or relative; each bell that tolls represent  a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is heard.
Sailors who are always very superstitious are reluctant to set sail on this day as they believe that any voyage begun today will end in disaster.

The Snowdrop in purest white arraie
First rears her head on Candlemas daie
circa 1500

Monday, 11 December 2017

St Andrew' Day, Old style 11th Dec

A very interesting custom takes place in Northamptonshire on this date; at midnight
 a very noisy Tin Can Band makes its way around the villages of this area. 
It harks back to the old custom of 'Riding the Stang' or the 'Skimmington Ride'.
This was always used as a way for the locals to register disapproval of wife beaters. 
adulterers and other like offenders. Either the guilty person would be caught or 
a straw dummy used in their place and be paraded through the streets astride 
a 'stang' or pole.
 Behind this the Tin Can Band would march, beating pans and kettles, blowing horns
 and singing insulting songs. 
Once the offenders home was reached a speech was delivered recounting their crimes 
and sometimes the straw effigy was burnt for good measure.
The ceremony was often repeated three nights in a row, the result being the offender 
usually left the village.

"There is a man in our town,
Who often beats his wife,
So if he does it any more,
We'll pull his nose right out before,
Holler boys, holler boys,
Make the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys,
God save the King"

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Pack Rag Day

 So many interesting days to recount!...
This is the day when hiring fairs were held through out the north of the country.
It was called pack rag day because the servants who were seeking new 
places would carry their possessions with them as they visited the fairs 
in search of employment.  

"Servant men, stand up for your wages
When the hirings you do go
For you must work all sorts of weather
Both cold and wet and snow."

Traditional Ballad from Shropshire

Hiring Fairs date from the time of Edward III, and his attempts to regulate 
the labour market by the Statute of Labourers in 1351 at a time of serious national shortage of workers after the Black death decimated the population.

The hopefuls would gather in the street, sporting some sort of badge or tool to signify their speciality. Shepherds held a crook or a tuft of wool, cowmen brought wisps of straw, dairymaids carried a milking stool or pail and housemaids held a  broom or mop. This is why sometimes the fairs a re known as mop fairs.
If they fitted the employers requirements a shilling would be handed over to seal the bargain for the coming year.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Stir up Sunday 21st November

 This event is the last Sunday before advent and is traditionally the day on 
which Noah entered the Ark. 
The collect from the Church of England begins " Stir, we beseech you, O Lord, the 
will of the faithful people..."

This was always taken as a reminder to 'stir up' the mixture for the 
Christmas pudding and pies.

" Stir up we beseech thee
The pudding in the pot
And when we do get home
We'll eat it piping hot."

Sorry this little gem is a bit late if you are intending to make Christmas 
pudding, if you do get round to it remember that the mixture must be stirred
 clockwise with a wooden spoon. All present must take a turn and make a wish.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The 20th November is the Feast of St Edmund of East Anglia

Edmund, King of East Anglia was born of Saxon stock and brought up as a Christian. He became King before 855 until his death in 869. An army of vikings, led by Ingwar, invaded East Anglia  and he led his army out to meet them but was defeated and captured. He refused to renounce the Christian faith and was killed, some believe he was shot with arrows then beheaded. His body was buried in a small wooden chapel near where he died. Around 915 his body was discovered to be incorrupt and so was taken to Bedricsworth later called Bury St Edmunds where a community was founded in 925 to take care of the shrine. His body was later relocated to a large new Norman church and re-enshrined in 1198.
Folklore relates that his head fell into a thron bush and was hidden and when his followers sought it, the head itself called out to them crying 'here, here.' It was found being guarded between the paws of a giant  white wolf.
A miraculous freshwater spring  broke through the soil where the head had lain. Near the site of a Benedictine Monastery near Hoxne is a deep moat enclosing a small island where the spring is said to be located. The ill and infirm visited the spot during the middle ages believing the waters were healing.

Just south of the village of Hoxne which is believed to be the spot where he was killed is a stone cross that marks the spot of the oak to which Edmund was tied, The memorial reads...'St Edmund the Martyr, Ad 870 Oak tree fell August 1848 by its own weight.'
Near Hoxne lies the Goldbrook Bridge where Edmund is said to have hidden from the Danes. According to legend a pair of newly weds  spotted his spurs glistening in the sunlight and as the Danes dragged him away Edmund put a curse on all bridal couples who ever crossed the bridge. Up until the 19th century many wedding parties refused to cross the bridge and took the long way round rather than chance the curse.