British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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258                                     may day.                              [May i.
One was not many years ago remaining by Hucknall Fol-kard, and at the top were portions of the ironwork and decorations still in being. The morris-dance was unques­tionably one of the most popular of the many games incident to this season, and was very generally prevalent through­out this county, and many are the ballads dedicated to its observance. The following is of 1614 :—
" It was my hap of late by chance To meet a country morris-dance, When, chiefest of them all, the foole Plaid with a ladle and a toole; When every younker shak't his hels, And fine Maid Marian with her smoile, Showed how a rascal plaid the voile, And when the hobby-horse did wihy, Then all the wenches gave a tihy," &c.
May-day, although a day of general holiday and rejoicing, is nevertheless considered, as is the whole of the month, un­lucky for marriage, and few are celebrated on this day; more weddings being hastened, so as to be over before this day, than postponed until June. This does not apply to divinations for future partners, for in some parts of the county it is usual to prepare a sweet mixture on the first of May, composed of new milk, cakes, wine, and spice, and for the assembled company to fish with a ladle for a ring and a sixpence, which have been dropped into the bowl; the young man who gains the ring and the young woman the sixpence being supposed to be intended for each other.—Jour, of Arch Assoc. 1853, vol. viii. p. 234.
Previous to the Eeformation a requiem mass is said to have been performed every May-morning at an early hout on the top of Magdalen tower, Oxford, for the repose of the soul of Henry VII., who had honoured that college with a visit in 1486-7. The choristers continue to execute in tho same place, at five o'clock in the morning of the same day, certain pieces of choir-music, for which service the rectory of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire pays the yearly sum of £10. The ceremony has encouraged the notion that Heniy
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