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length, when he thought he had got a good quantity of it, and secured it in papers and a box, when he came home, he found both empty."
Another superstition, of a nature highly impressive and terrible, consists in the idea that any person fasting on Midsummer-Eve, and sitting in the church-porch, will at midnight see the spirits of those who are to die in the parish during that year, approach and knock at the church door, precisely in the order of time in which they are doomed to depart. It is related, by the author of Pandemonium, that one of the company of watchers, on this night, having fallen into a profound sleep, his ghost or spirit, whilst he lay in this state, was seen by the rest of his companions, knocking at the church-door. +
of these wild traditions of the “olden time" Collins has made a most striking use in his Ode to Fear:
“ Ne'er be I found, by thee o'eraw'd,
In that thrice-hallow'd eve, abroad,
Or mine, or flood, the walks of men!” The observance of Midsummer-Eve by rejoicings, spells, and charms, has continued until within these fifty years, especially in Cornwall, in the North of England, and in Scotland. Bourne, in 1725, tells us, that“on the Eve of St.John Baptist, commonly called Midsummer-Eve, it is usual in the most of country places, and also here and there in towns and cities, for both old and young to meet together, and be merry over a large fire, which is made in the open street. Over this they frequently leap and play at various games, such as running, wrestling, dancing, etc. But this is generally the exercise of the younger sort; for the old ones, for the most part, sit by as spectators, and enjoy themselves and their bottle. And thus they spend their time till midnight, and sometimes till cock-crow;" # and Borlase, in his History of Cornwall, about thirty years later, states, that “the Cornish make bonfires in every village on the Eve of St. John Baptist's and St. Peter's Days."S
It was a common superstition in the days of Shakspeare, and for two centuries preceding him, that the future husband or wife might be discovered on this Eve or on St. Agnes' night, by due fasting and by certain ceremonies; thus, if a maiden, fasting on Midsummer-Eve, laid a clean cloth at midnight, with bread, cheese, and ale, and sate down, with the street-door open, the person whom she is fated to marry will enter the room, fill the glass, drink to her, bow, and retire.* A similar effect, as to the visionary appearance of the destined bridegroom, was supposed to follow the sowing of hempseed on this night, either in the field or church-yard. Mr. Strutt, depicting the manners of the fifteenth century, has given this latter superstition, from the mouth of an imaginary witch, in the following rhymes :
“ Around the church see that you go,
With kirtle white and girdle blue,
Thus shalt thou say;
Shall follow me and mow :"4+
• Grose's Provincial Glossary, p. 299.
+ Ibid. p. 285 Bourne's Ant quities, p. 301.
Stowe also mentions, that bonfires and rejoicings were observed on the Eve of St. Peter and Paul the Apostles; be gives likewise a curious account of the Marching Watches which had been regularly kept on Midsumner-Eve, time out of mind, by the citizens of London and other large towns; but these had ceased before the age of Shakspeare, the last having been appointed by Sir John Gresham, in 1548, though an attempt was made to procure their revival, by John Montgomery in 1585, who published a book on the subject, dedicated to Sir Thos. Pullison, then Lord Mayor; this offer however did not succeed. Grose's Provincial Glossary, p. 285.
tt Queenhoo-Hall, vol. i. p. 136.
a charm which appears to have been in vogue even in the time of Gay, who, in his Shepherd's Week, makes Hobnelia say,
“ At eve last midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hempseed brought;
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth."--The Spell, line 27. Another mode, which prevailed in the 16th and 17th centuries, of procuring similar information on this festival, through the medium of dreams, consisted in digging for what was called the plaintain coal; the search was to commence exactly at noon, and the material, when found, to be placed on the pillow at night. Of a wild-goose expedition of this kind Aubrey reports himself
to have been a spectator. 6. The last summer,” says he, “ on the day of St. John Baptist, 1694, I accidentally was walking in the pasture behind Montague-house: it was twelve o'clock. I saw there about two or three-and-twenty young women, most of them well habited, on their knees, very busy, as if they had been weeding. I could not presently learn what the matter was; at last, a young man told me that they were looking for a coal under the root of a plaintain to put under their heads that night, and they should dream who would be their husbands: it was to be found that day and hour.” He adds, “the women have several magical secrets handed down to them by tradition for this purpose, as, on St. Agnes' night, 21st January, take a row of pins, and pull out every one, one after another, saying a paternoster, or our father,' sticking a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry;" * spells to which Ben Jonson alludes, when he says,
“On sweet St. Agnes' night
That it was the custom, in Elizabeth's and James's days, to tell tales or perform plays and masques on Christmas-Eve, on Twelfth Night, and on Midsummer-Eve, may be drawn from the dramas of Shakspeare, and the masques of Jonson. The Midsummer-Night's Dream of the former, appears to have been so called, because its exhibition was to take place on that night, for the time of action of the piece itself is the vigil of May-Day, as is that of the Winter's Tale the period of sheep-shearing. It is probable also, as Mr. Steevens has observed, that Shakspeare might have been influenced in his choice of the fancisul machinery of this play, by the recollection of the proverb attached to the season, and which he has himself introduced in the Twelfth-Night, where Olivia remarks of Malvolio's apparent distraction, that it “is a very Midsummer madness ;” an adage founded on the common opinion, that the brain, being heated by the intensity of the sun's rays, was more susceptible of those flights of imagination which border on insanity, than at any other period of the year.
The next season distinguished by any very remarkable tincture of the popular creed, is Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael and all angels. Whenever this day comes, says Bourne, “it brings into the minds of the people, that old opinion of Tutelar Angels, that every man has his Guardian Angel ; that is one particular angel who attends him from his coming in, till his going out of life, who guides him through the troubles of the world, and strives as much as he can, to bring him to heaven.”
That the doctrine of the ministry of angels, and their occasional interference with the affairs of man, is an old opinion, cannot be denied. It pervades the whole of the Old and New Testaments, and appears to have been an article of the patriarchal creed; for from the Book of Job, perhaps the oldest which exists, may be drawn not only the doctrine of the ministration of angels, but that of their division into certain distinct orders, such as angels, intercessors, destroyers, etc.* With this general information we ought to have been content: but superstition has been busy in promulgating hierarchies, the offspring of its own heated imagination ; in minutely ascertaining the numbers and offices of angels in heaven and on earth; and in naming and appropriating certain of them as the guardians and protectors of kingdoms, cities, families, and individuals. The mythologies of Persia, Arabia, and Greece abound with these arbitrary arrangements; Hesiod declares that the angels appointed to watch over the earth, amount exactly to thirty-thousand ; t and Plato divides the world of spirits good and bad into nine classes, in which he has been followed by some of the philosophising Christians. The angelic hierarchy of Dionysius, however, is the one usually adopted; he professes to interfere only with good spirits, and divides his angels, perhaps in imitation of Plato, into nine orders; the first he terms seraphim, the second cherubim, the third thrones, the fourth dominations, the fifth virtues, the sixth powers, the seventh principalities, the eighth archangels, and the ninth angels. Not content with this, he goes still farther, and has assigned to every country, and almost to every person of eminence, a peculiar angel ; thus to Adam he gives Razael; to Abraham, Zakiel; to Isaiah, Raphael ; to Jacob, Peliel ; to Moses, Metraton, etc., speaking, as Calvin observes, not as if by report, but as though he had slipped down from heaven, and told of the things which he had seen there. S
of this systematic hierarchy the greater portion formed, during the age of Shakspeare, and for nearly a century afterwards, an important part of the popular creed, as may be ascertained from an inspection of Scot on Witchcraft in 1584, Heywood's' “ Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells, their Names, Orders, and Offices,” in 1635, and from Burton's Anatomie of Melancholy, which, though first published in 1617, continued to re-appear in frequent editions until the close of the seventeenth century.
The doctrine of Guardian Angels, as appropriated to individuals, more especially appears to have been entertained by Shakspeare and his contemporaries ; an idea pleasing to the human mind, though, in the opinion of the most acute theologians, not warranted by Scripture ; where only the general ministry of angels is recorded; and, accordingly, the collect of the day, in our admirable Liturgy, merely refers to, and prays for, such general interference in our behalf.
The assignment of a good angel, or of a good and bad angel to every individual, as soon as created, is supported by the English Lavaterus in 1572, and recorded as the general object of belief, by the rational Scot, in his interesting discourse on spirits.
“ Saint Herome in his Commentaries," says Lavaterus, “ and other fathers do conclude, that God doth assigne unto every soule as soone as he createth him his peculiar Angell, wbich taketh care of him. But whether that every one of the elect have bys proper angell, or many angells be appoynted unto him, it is not expresly selle foorih, yet this is most sure and certayne, that God hath given his angells in charge to have regard and care over us. Daniel witnesselh in bis lentb
* Vide Job, chap xxxii. v. 22, 23.
† Opera et Dies, vol. i. 246. | Dionys. in Cælest. Hierarch. cap. ix. X.
Calv. Lib. Instit. I. c. xiv. li'is worthy of remark, that Reginald Scot, from whose “Discoverie of Witchcraft,” p. 500., this account of the hierarchy of Dionysius is taken, has brought forward a passage from his kinsman Edward Deering, which broaches the same doctrine as that held by Bishop Horsley in the last sermon which he ever wrote. “If you read Deering,” says Scot,“ upon the first chapter to the Hebrues, you shall see this matter (the angelic theory of Dionysius) notablie handled; where he saith, that whensoever archangell is mentioned in the Scriptures it signifieth our Saviour Christ, and no creature." p. 501.— Now in the sermon alluded to by Horsley, the text which is Dan. iv. 17, he affirms, that the term "Michael,” or “ Michael the Archangel,” wherever it occurs, is nothing more than a name for our Saviour. Vide Sermons, vol. ii. p. 376.
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le in pomagaling kerarchies, the olepring of its own estiline
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