hearbs), the reason may be easily understood why spittle should do such strange things, and destroy some creatures." Secret Miracles of Nature, English Transl. fol. Lond. 1658, p. 164.

Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, p. 152, leaves it undecided whether the fasting spittle of man be poison unto snakes and vipers, as experience hath made us doubt. In Browne's Map of the Microcosme, 1642, speaking of lust, the author says: "Fewell also must bee withdrawne from this fire, fasting spittle must kill this serpent."

The boys in the north of England have a custom amongst themselves of spitting their faith (or, as they call it in the northern dialect, "their saul," i. e. soul), when required to make asseverations in matters which they think of consequence.

In combinations of the colliers, &c., about Newcastle-uponTyne, for the purpose of raising their wages, they are said to spit upon a stone together, by way of cementing their confederacy. Hence the popular saying, when persons are of the same party, or agree in sentiments, that " they spit upon the same stone." The following is in Plaine Percevall the Peace Maker of England, 4to.: " Nay, no further, Martin, thou maist spit in that hole, for I'll come no more there."

Park, in his Travels in the Interior of Africa, has the following passage: "They had not travelled far before the attendants insisted upon stopping, to prepare a saphie or charm, to ensure a good journey: this was done by muttering a few sentences, and spitting upon a stone which was laid upon the ground. The same ceremony was repeated three times, after which the negroes proceeded with the greatest confidence."

In the Life of a Satirical Puppy called Nim, 1657, p. 35, I find the following passage: "One of his guardians (being fortified with an old charm) marches cross-legged, spitting three times, east, south, west; and afterwards prefers his vallor to a catechising office. In the name of God, quoth he, what art thou? whence dost thou come? &c., seeing something that he supposed to be a ghost."

Fishwomen generally spit upon their handsel, i. e. the first money they take, for good luck. Grose mentions this as a common practice among the lower class of hucksters, pedlars,

and dealers in fruit or fish, on receiving the price of the first goods they sell.

It is still customary in the west of England, when the conditions of a bargain are agreed upon, for the parties to ratify it by joining their hands, and at the same time for the purchaser to give an earnest.

Of the handsel, Misson, in his Travels in England, p. 192, observes as follows: "Une espèce de pourvoyeuse me disoit l'autre jour, que les bouchères de Londres, les femmes qui apportent de la volaille au marché, du beurre, des œufs, &c., et toutes sortes des gens, font un cas particulier de l'argent qu'ils reçoivent de la première vente qu'ils font. Ils le baisent en le recevant, crachent dessus, et le mettent dans une poche apart." Thus translated by Ozell, p. 130: "A woman that goes much to market told me t'other day that the butcherwomen of London, those that sell fowls, butter, eggs, &c., and in general most tradespeople, have a particular esteem for what they call a handsel; that is to say, the first money they receive in a morning; they kiss it, spit upon it, and put it in a pocket by itself."

Lemon explains handsel, in his Dictionary, "The first money received at market, which many superstitious people will spit on, either to render it tenacious that it may remain with them, and not vanish away like a fairy gift, or else to render it propitious and lucky, that it may draw more money to it." This word is explained in all its senses in Halliwell's Dictionary, p. 433, where may be seen a very curious extract from MS. Harl. 1701, on the subject.

In Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, b. i. p. 129, there is an account of the difficulty a blacksmith has to shoe "a stubborne nagge of Galloway: "

"Or unback'd jennet, or a Flaunders mare,

That at the forge stand snuffing of the ayre;
The swarty smith spits in his buckhorne fist,
And bids his man bring out the five-fold twist," &c.

The following is in Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 137: "To heal the king or queen's evil, or any other soreness in the throat, first touch the place with the hand of one that died an untimely death: otherwise let a virgin fasting lay her hand on the sore, and say-Apollo denyeth that the heat of the plague can increase where a naked virgin quencheth it;

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and spet three times upon it." Scot, p. 152, prescribes the subsequent charm against witchcraft: "To unbewitch the bewitched, you must spit in the pot where you have made water. Otherwise spit into the shoe of your right foot before you put it on; and that Vairus saith is good and wholesome to do before you go into any dangerous place." Spitting in the right shoe is in Mons. Oufle, p. 282, notes.

Delrio, in his Disquisitiones Magicæ, lib. vi. c. 2, sect. 1, quæst. 1, mentions the following, which with great propriety he calls: "Excogitata nugasissimæ superstitiones-de iis qui crines pectinando evulsos non nisi ter consputos adjiciunt;" i. e. that upon those hairs which come out of the head in combing they spit thrice before they throw them away. This is mentioned also in the History of Mons. Oufle, p. 282, notes.


Grose tells us of a singular superstition in the army, where we shall hope it is not without its use. Cagg, to cagg," says he, "is a military term used by the private soldiers, signifying a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a certain time, or, as the term is, till their cagg is out; which vow is commonly observed with the strictest exactness. Ex. 'I have cagged myself for six months. Excuse me this time, and I will cagg myself for a year.' This term is also used in the same sense among the common people in Scotland, where it is performed with divers ceremonies." Vallancey, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. x. p. 490, tells us: "That cag is an old English word for fasting, or abstaining from meat or drink."


IN setting a hen, says Grose, the good women hold it an indispensable rule to put an odd number of eggs. All sorts of remedies are directed to be taken three, seven, or nine times. Salutes with cannon consist of an odd number. A royal salute is thrice seven, or twenty-one guns. [The reader will recollect that Falstaff, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, v. 1, is entrapped a third time in the hope of there being luck or divinity in odd numbers.]

This predilection for odd numbers is very ancient, and is mentioned by Virgil in his eighth Eclogue, where many spells and charms, still practised, are recorded; but, notwithstanding these opinions in favour of odd numbers, the number thirteen is considered as extremely ominous, it being held that, when thirteen persons meet in a room, one of them will die within a year.

A person under the signature of Camilla, in the Gent. Mag. for August 1796, lxvi. 683, suggests that "the ancient popular superstition that it is unlucky to make one in a company of thirteen persons may probably have arisen from the Paschal Supper. We can none of us forget what succeeded that repast, and that thirteen persons were present at it."2

Fuller, in his Mixt Contemplations on these Times, part ii. 8vo. 1660, p. 53, says: "A covetous courtier complained to King Edward the Sixt of Christ Colledge in Cambridge, that it was a superstitious foundation, consisting of a master and twelve fellowes, in imitation of Christ and his twelve apostles.

1 "Numero Deus impare gaudet. Aut quemcumque superorum, juxta Pythagoreos, qui ternarium numerum perfectum summo Deo assignant, à quo initium, et medium, et finis est: aut revera Hecaten dicit, cujus triplex potestas esse perhibetur: unde est tria virginis ora Dianæ. Quamvis omnium prope Deorum potestas triplici signo ostendatur, ut Jovis trifidum fulmen, Neptuni tridens, Plutonis canis triceps. Apollo idem sol, idem liber, vel quod omnia ternario numero continentur, ut Parcæ, Furiæ, Hercules etiam trinoctio conceptus. Musæ ternæ aut impari quemadmodumcumque: nam septem chordæ, septem planetæ, septem dies nominibus Deorum, septem stellæ in septentrione, et multa his similia: et impar numerus immortalis, quia dividi integer non potest, par numerus mortalis, quia dividi potest; licet Varro dicat Pythagoreos putare imparem numerum habere finem, parem esse infinitum; ideo medendi causa multarumque rerum impares numeros servari." Servius in P. Virgil. Eclog. viii. ed. varior. In Censorinus De Die Natali, 8vo. Cantab. 1695, p. 121, is the following passage: "Ea superstitione que impar numerus plenus et magis faustus habebatur." On which is this note, p. 124: "Vid. Servium ad illud Virgilii Eclog. viii. 'Numero Deus impare gaudet.' Macrob. lib. i. Saturnal. cap. xiii. Solin. cap. iii." In Ravenscroft's comedy of Mamamouchi, or the Citizen turn'd Gentleman, 1675, p. 32, Trickmore, habited as a physician, says: "Let the number of his bleedings and purgations be odd, numero Deus impare gaudet."

2 So Petri Molinæi Vates, p. 219: "Si in convivio sunt tredecim convivæ, creditur intra annum aliquem de istis moriturum; totidem enim personæ accumbebant mensæ, quando Christus celebravit eucharistiam pridie quàm mortuus est. Sic inter superstitiosos trigesimus numerus ominosus est, quia Christus triginta denariis venditus est."

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

He advised the king also to take away one or two fellowships, so to discompose that superstitious number. 'Oh no,' said the king, 'I have a better way than that to mar their conceit, I will add a thirteenth fellowship unto them;' which he did accordingly, and so it remaineth unto this day."

In the Gent. Mag. for July 1796, lxvi. 573, is an account of a dinner-party consisting of thirteen, and of a maiden lady's observation, that, as none of her married friends were likely to make an addition to the number, she was sure that one of the company would die within the twelvemonth. Another writer in the same journal for 1798, lxviii. 423, says: "The superstition that, where a company of persons amount to thirteen, one of them will die within the twelvemonth afterwards, seems to have been founded on the calculation adhered to by the insurance-offices, which presume that, out of thirteen people taken indiscriminately, one will die within a year." Insurance-offices, however, are not of such remote antiquity.

Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man, Works, 1731, p. 104, speaking of a crypt, or souterrain chapel, near Peel Castle, says: "Within it are thirteen pillars, on which the whole chapel is supported. They have a superstition that whatsoever stranger goes to see this cavern out of curiosity, and omits to count the pillars, shall do something to occasion being confined there."

The seventh son of a seventh son is accounted an infallible doctor. Lupton, in his second book of Notable Things,

edit. 1660, p. 25, No. 2, says: "It is manifest, by experience, that the seventh male child, by just order (never a girle or wench being born between), doth heal only with touching (through a natural gift) the king's evil which is a special gift of God, given to kings and queens, as daily experience doth witnesse."l

We read in the Traité des Superstitions, &c., par M. Jean Baptiste Thiers, 12mo. 1679, i. 436-7: "Plusieurs croyent qu'en France les septiemes garçons, nez de legitimes mariages, sans que la suitte des sept ait, esté interrompue par la naissance d'aucune fille, peuvent aussi guerir des fievres tierces, des fievres quartes, et mesme des ecrouelles, aprés avoir jeûné trois ou neuf jours avant que de toucher les malades. Mais ils font trop de fond sur le nombre septenaire, en attribuant au septieme garçon, preferablement a tous autres, une puissance qu'il y a autant de raison d'attribuer au sixieme ou au huitieme, sur le nombre de trois, et sur celuy de neuf, pour ne pas s'engager dans la superstition. Joint que de trois

« VorigeDoorgaan »