British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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April 24.]                   st, marks eve.                                 199
April 24.]              ST. MARK'S EVE.
In Poor Robins Almanac for 1770 is the following:—
"On St. Mark's Eve, at twelve o'clock, The fair maid will watch her smock, To find her husband in the dark, By praying unto good St. Mark."
Ass-ridlin is another superstition practised in the northern counties. The ashes being riddled or sifted on the hearth, if any of the family be to die within the year the mark of the shoe, it is supposed, will be impressed on the ashes; and many a mischievous wight has made some of the cre­dulous family miserable by slyly coming down stairs, after the rest have retired to bed, and marking the ashes with the shoe of one of the members.—Jamieson, Etymol. Diet.
On St. Mark's Eve it is customary in this county for young maidens to make the dumb-cake, a mystical ceremony which has lost its origin. The number of the party never exceeds three; they meet in silence to make the cake, and as soon as the clock strikes twelve, they each break a portion off to eat, and when done they walk up to bed backwards without speaking a word, for if one speaks the spell is broken. Those that are to be married see the likeness of their sweethearts hurrying after them, as if wishing to catch them before they get into bed ; but the maids being apprised of this beforehand (by the cautions of old women who have tried it), take care to unpin their clothes before they start, and are ready to slip into bed before they are caught by the pursuing shadow. If nothing is seen, the desired token may be a knocking at the doors, or a rustling in the house, as soon as they have retired. To be convinced that it comes from nothing else but the desired cause, they are always particular in turning out the cats and dogs before the ceremony begins. Those that are to die unmarried neither see nor hear anything ; but they have terrible dreams, which are sure to be of newly-made graves,
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