British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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360                               st. Helen's day.                     [Aug. 18.
his body smeared with soap, and his nose filled with pepper, was let loose, and if the surrounding minstrels could succeed in cutting off a piece of his skin before he crossed the river Dove into Derbyshire, he became the property of the king of music, but if not he was returned to the prior again. After becoming the king's own, he was brought to the High Street, and there baited with dogs three times. It has been supposed that John of Gaunt, who assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon, introduced this sport in imitation of the Spanish bull-fights. In course of time, however, the pursuit of the bull, which had been confined to the minstrels, became general, and the multitude promiscuously joined in the barbarous sport, which sometimes terminated in broken heads. In 1778 the custom was abolished by the Duke of Devonshire, after lasting four hundred years.—See Pitt's History of Staffordshire, 1817, p. 49; Archceologia, vol. ii. p. 86; Plot, Natural History of Staffordshire, 1686, p. 439; Shauff, History of Staffordshire, vol. i. p. 52.
Aug. i 6.]                 ST. EOCHE'S DAY.
This day was anciently kept like a wake, or general harvest-home, with dances in the churchyard in tHe evening.— Fosbrooke, Diet. Antiq.
Aug. i 8.]                ST. HELEN'S DAY.
This saint gives name to numerous wells in the north of England. Dr. Kuerden, in the middle of the seventeenth century, describing one in the parish of Brindle, says: " To it the vulgar neighbouring people of the Red Letter do much resort with pretended devotion, on each year upon St. Ellin's Day, where and when, out of a foolish ceremony, they offer, or throw into the well, pins, which, there being left, may be seen a long time after by any visitor of that fountain," A
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