Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
bullocks and a half, but the other half we had to leave running about field : we can fetch it if it's wanted. Remember it's—
' Hoose agin hoose, toon agin toon, And if you meet a man knock him doon.'"
Then, in an open field, the hoods—there are six of them, one apparently for each of the chief hamlets round—are thrown up and struggled for. "The object is to carry them off the field away from the boggans. If any of these can get hold of them, or even touch them, they have to be given up, and carried back to My Lord. For every one carried ofF the field the boggans forfeit half-a-crown, which is spent in beer, doubtless by the men of the particular hamlet who have carried off the hood." The great event of the day is the struggle for the last hood—made of leather—between the men of Haxey and the men of Westwood-side—" that is to say really between the customers of the public-houses there—each party trying to get it to his favourite ' house.' The publican at the successful house stands beer." 47
Mr. Chambers regards the fool's strange speech as preserving the tradition that the hood is the half of a bullock—the head of a sacrificial victim, and he explains both the Haxey game and also the familiar games of hockey and football as originating in a struggle between the people of two villages to get such a head, with all its fertilizing properties, over their own boundary.48 At Hornchurch in Essex, if we may trust a note given by Hone, an actual boar's head was wrestled for on Christmas Day, and after­wards feasted upon at one of the public-houses by the victor and his friends.49
One more feature of the Haxey celebration must be mentioned (it points apparently to a human sacrifice) : the fool, the morning after the game, used to be " smoked " over a straw fire. " He was suspended above the fire and swung backwards and forwards over it until almost suffocated ; then allowed to drop into the smouldering straw, which was well wetted, and to scramble out as he could." 5°
Returning to the subject of football, I may here condense an
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