British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

200                                st. mark's day.                    [April 25.
winding-sheets, and churchyards, and of rings that will fit no finger, or which, if they do, crumble into dust as soon as put on. There is another dumb ceremony, of eating the yolk of an egg in silence and then filling the shell with salt, when the sweetheart is sure to make his visit in some way or other before morning.Every Day Book, vol. i. p. 523.
In Yorkshire it is usual for the common people to sit and watch in the church-porch from eleven o'clock at night until one in the morning. In the third year, for this must be done thrice, it is supposed that they will see the ghosts of all those who are to die the next year pass into the church. When any one sickens, who is thought to have been seen in this manner, it is presently whispered about that he will not recover, for that such a one who has watched St. Mark's Eve, says so. The superstition is in such force that, if the patients themselves hear of it, they almost despair of recovery, and many are actually said to have died by the influence of their imaginations on this occasion.
"Tis now,' replied the village belle, 1 St. Mark's mysterious Eve; And all that old traditions tell I tremblingly believe.
'How, when the midnight signal tolls, Along the churchyard green A mournful train of sentenced souls In winding-sheets are seen!
4 The ghosts of all whom Death shall doom Within the coming year, In pale procession walk the gloom Amid the silence drear."' Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 192; J. Montgomery, Vigil of St. Murk.
April 25.]                 ST. MARK'S DAY.
This day is distinguished in old kalendars by a second appellation, Litania Major, which had reference to the prayers, and solemn processions of covered crosses on this day. It was
Previous Contents Next