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"Late, late, yestreen, I saw the new moone
Wi' the auld moone in her arme;
And I feir, I feir, my deir master,
That we will come to harme."]
Bailey tells us that the common people, in some counties of England, are accustomed at the prime of the moon to say: "It is a fine moon, God bless her;" which some imagine to proceed from a blind zeal, retained from the ancient Irish, who worshipped the moon, or from a custom in Scotland (particularly in the Highlands), where the women make a courtesy to the new moon; and some Englishwomen still retain a touch of this gentilism, who getting up upon, and sitting astride on, a gate or stile, the first night of the new moon, thus invoke its influence
"All hail to the moon, all hail to thee!
I prithee, good moon, declare to me,
The person, says Grose, must presently after go to bed, when they will dream of the person destined to be their future husband or wife. In Yorkshire they kneel on a ground-fast stone.
Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, gives the following account of the superstition: "At the first appearance of the new moon after New Year's Day (some say any other new moon is as good), go out in the evening and stand over the spars of a gate or stile, looking on the moon and say—
All hail to the moon, all hail to thee!
I prithee, good moon, reveal to me
This night who my husband (wife) shall be.
You must presently after go to bed. I knew two gentlewomen," says our credulous author, "that did this when they were young maids, and they had dreams of those that married them." [In Yorkshire, according to the same authority, when they practise this expedient, "they kneel on a ground-fast stone."]
Dr. Jamieson has quoted these words as used in Scotland, in a different form, from the Rev. J. Nichol's Poems, i. 31, 32:
"O, new moon, I hail thee!
And gif I'm ere to marry man,
Or man to marry me,
His face turn'd this way fasts ye can,
Let me my true love see
This blessed night!
A note adds: "As soon as you see the first new moon of the new year, go to a place where you can set your feet upon a stone naturally fixed in the earth, and lean your back against a tree; and in that posture hail or address the moon in the words of the poem. If ever you are to be married, you will then see an apparition exactly resembling the future partner of your joys and sorrows.'
[In some parts of the country, even at the present day, it is supposed to be unlucky to look at the new moon for the first time through a window.]
In the Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 62, we read, in the chapter on omens: "To see a new moon the first time after her change on the right hand, or directly before you, betokens the utmost good fortune that month; as to have her on your left, or behind you, so that in turning your head back you happen to see her, foreshews the worst: as also they say, to be without gold in your pocket at that time is of very bad consequence.'
In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, xii., 8vo. Edinb. 1794, p. 457, the minister of Kirkmichael, under the head of Superstitions, &c., says: "That fear and ignorance incident to a rude state have always been productive of opinions, rites, and observances which enlightened reason disclaims. But among the vulgar, who have not an opportunity of cultivating this faculty, old prejudices, endeared to them by the creed of their ancestors, will long continue to maintain their influence. It may therefore be easily imagined that this country has its due proportion of that superstition which generally prevails over the Highlands. Unable to
account for the cause, they consider the effects of times and seasons as certain and infallible. The moon in her increase, full growth, and in her wane, are, with them, the emblems of a rising, flourishing, and declining fortune. At the last period of her revolution they carefully avoid to engage in any business of importance; but the first and middle they seize with avidity, presaging the most auspicious issue to their undertakings. Poor Martinus Scriblerus never more anxiously watched the blowing of the west wind to secure an heir to his genius, than the love-sick swain and his nymph for the coming of the new moon to be noosed together in matrimony. Should the planet happen to be at the height of her splendour
when the ceremony is performed, their future life will be a scene of festivity, and all its paths strewed over with rosebuds of delight. But when her tapering horns are turned towards the north, passion becomes frost-bound, and seldom thaws till the genial season again approaches. From the moon they not only draw prognostications of the weather, but, according to their creed, also discover future events. There they are dimly pourtrayed, and ingenious illusion never fails in the explanation. The veneration paid to this planet, and the opinion of its influences, are obvious from the meaning still affixed to some words of the Gaelic language."
In Druidic mythology, when the circle of the moon was complete, fortune then promised to be the most propitious. Agreeably to this idea, rath, which signifies in Gaelic a wheel or circle, is transferred to signify fortune. They say "ata rath air," he is fortunate. The wane, when the circle is diminishing, and consequently unlucky, they call mi-rath. Of one that is unfortunate they say, "ata mi-rath air.”
In the same work, the minister of Portpatrick tell us: "A cave in the neighbourhood of Dunskey ought also to be mentioned, on account of the great veneration in which it is held by the people. At the change of the moon (which is still considered with superstitious reverence) it is usual to bring, even from a great distance, infirm persons, and particularly rickety children, whom they suppose bewitched, to bathe in a stream which pours from the hill, and then dry them in the cave;" and in the parishes of Kirkwall and St. Ola, co. of Orkney, "They do not marry but in the waxing of the moon. They would think the meat spoiled, were they to kill the cattle when that luminary is wanting... On going to sea, they would reckon themselves in the most imminent danger, were they by accident to turn their boat in opposition to the sun's course.'
Dr. Jamieson says: "This superstition, with respect to the fatal influence of a waning moon, seems to have been general in Scotland. In Angus, it is believed that if a child be put from the breast during the waning of the moon, it will decay all the time that the moon continues to wane. In Sweden great influence is ascribed to the moon, not only as regulating the weather, but as influencing the affairs of human life in general. The superstitions of our own countrymen, and of
the Swedes, on this head, equally confirm the account given by Cæsar concerning the ancient Germans, the forefathers of both. 'As it was the custom with them,' he says, 'that their matrons, by the use of lots and prophecies, should declare whether they should join in battle or not, they said that the Germans could not be victorious if they should engage before the new moon.' (Bell. Gall. 1. i. c. 50.) They reckoned new or full moon the most auspicious season for entering on any business." The Swedes do not carry this farther than they did, for Tacitus assures us that they commenced undertakings at the period of full or new moon, considering those the most auspicious times.
A similar superstition prevailed amongst the Irish, for, according to Duchesne,' when they saw the new moon, they knelt down, recited the Lord's Prayer, at the end of which they cried, with a loud voice, "May thou leave us as safe as thou hast found us."
Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, speaking of the Mandingoe tribe of Indians, says: "On the first appearance of a new moon they view it as newly created, and say short prayer: this seems to be the only visible adoration those negroes who are not Mahometans offer to the Deity. This prayer is pronounced in a whisper, the person holding up his hands before his face; at the conclusion they spit upon their hands, and rub them over their faces. They think it very unlucky to begin a journey, or any other work of consequence, in the last quarter of the moon. An eclipse, whether of sun or moon, is supposed to be effected by witchcraft. The stars are very little regarded; and the whole study of astronomy they view as dealing in magic . If they are asked for what reason they pray to the new moon, they answer, because their fathers did so before them."
He tells us, in another place: "When the Mahometan Feast of Rhamadan was ended, the priests assembled to watch for the appearance of the new moon, but the evening being cloudy, they were for some time disappointed; on a sudden, this delightful object showed her sharp horns from behind a cloud, and was welcomed with the clapping of hands, beating of drums, firing of muskets, and other marks of rejoicing."
Histoire d'Angleterre, p. 18. Vallancey offers us testimony to the same purpose.
Butler, in his Hudibras, part ii. canto iii. I. 239, touches on the subject of lunar superstitions; speaking of his conjuror, he tells us :
"But with the moon was more familiar
Than e'er was almanac well-willer;
Who first found out the man i' th' moon,
That to the ancients was unknown."
It appears that corns ought to be cut after the moon has been at full; at least, so we are told in the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1710, No. x.:
M. Stevenson, in the Twelve Moneths, 4to. Lond. 1661, p. 19, tell us that "horses and mares must be put together in the increase of the moone, for foales got in the wane are not accounted strong and healthfull."
In Thomas Lodge's Incarnate Divells, 4to. Lond. 1596, p. 44, is the following notice of a curious lunar superstition : "When the moone appeareth in the spring time, the one horne spotted, and hidden with a blacke and great cloud, from the first day of his apparition to the fourth day after, it