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tie failure of the old custom of giving Apostle spoons, &c., at christenings :
“ Especially since gossips now
Eat more at christnings, than bestow.'
'Tis well now if our own be left." With respect to the “crisome pye,” it is well known that “crisome signifies properly the white cloth, which is set by the minister of baptism upon the head of a child newly anointed with chrism (a kind of hallowed ointment used by Roman Catholics in the sacrament of baptism and for certain other unctions, composed of oyl and balm) after his baptism. Now it is vulgarly taken for the white cloth put about or upon a child newly christened, in token of his baptism ; wherewith the women used to shroud the child, if dying within the month; otherwise it is usually brought to church at the day of purification.”2 Blount's Glossographia, in v.
We find, ibid., under Natal or Natalitious Gifts, among the Grecians, “ the fifth day after the child's birth, the neighbours sent in gifts or small tokens ; from which custom, that among Christians of the godfathers sending gifts to the baptised infant is thought to have flown ; and that also of the neighbours sending gifts to the mother of it, as is still used in North Wales.” In the Comforts of Wooing, p. 163, “ The godmother hearing when the child's to be coated, brings it a gilt coral, a silver spoon, and porringer, and a brave new tankard
I M. Stevenson, in the Twelve Moneths, 1661, p. 37, speaking of the mouth of August, observes : “ The new wheat makes the gossips cake, and the bride-cup is carried above the heads of the whole parish."
2 In Strype, i. 215, A.D. 1560, it is said to have been enjoined that, " to avoid contention, let the curate have the value of the chrisome, not under the value of 4d. and above as they can agree, and as the state of the parents may require." In the account of Dunton church, in Barnstable Ilundred, in Morant's Essex, i. 219, is the following remark: “Here has been a custom, time out of mind, at the churching of a woman, for her to give a white cambric handkerchief to the minister as an offering. This is observed by Mr. Lewis in his History of the Isle of Thanet, where the same custom is kept up." In Articles to be inquired of in Chichester Diocese, a.d. 1638, occurs the following: “Doth the woman who is to be churched use the ancient accustomed habit in such cases, with a white veil or kerchiefe upon her head ?"
of the same metal. The godfathers come too, the one with a whole piece of flowered silk, the other with a set of gilt spoons, the gifts of Lord Mayors at several times.”
In Howe's edition of Stow's Chronicle, 1631, p. 1039, speaking of the life and reign of King James, he observes : “At this time, and for many yeares before, it was not the use and custome (as now it is) for godfathers and godmothers generally to give plate at the baptisme of children (as spoones, cupps, and such like), but onely to give christening shirts, with little bands and cuffs, wrought either with silke or blew threed, the best of them, for chiefe persons weare, edged with a small lace of blacke silke and gold, the highest price of which for great men's children was seldom above a noble, and the common sort, two, three, or foure, and five shillings a piece.”
Strype in his Annals of the Reformation, i. 196, A.D. 1559, informs us that “on the 27th of October that year, the Prince of Sweden, the Lord Robert and the Lady Marchioness of Northampton, stood sureties at the christening of Sir Thomas Chamberlayne's son, who was baptised at St. Benet's church, at Paul's Wharf. The church was hung with cloth of arras; and, after the christening, were brought wafers, comfits, and divers banquetting dishes, and hypocras and Muscadine wine, to entertain the guests.”
There was formerly a custom of having sermons at christenings. I had the honour of presenting to the Earl of Leicester one preached at the baptism of Theophilus Earl of Huntingdon.
The well-known toy, with bells, &c., and a piece of coral at the end, which is generally suspended from the necks of infants to assist them in cutting their teeth, is with the greatest probability supposed to have had its origin in an ancient superstition, which considered coral as an amulet or defensative against fascination ; for this we have the authority of Pliny: “ Aruspices religiosum coralli gestamen amoliendis periculis arbitrantur ; et surculi infantiæ alligati tutelam habere creduntur.” It was thought, too, to preserve and fasten the teeth in men. Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 166, says : “ The coral preserveth such as bear it from fascination or bewitching, and in this respect they are hanged About children's necks. But from whence that superstition is derived, or who invented the lye, I know not; but I see
how ready the people are to give credit thereunto by the multitude of corrals that were employed.”
Stevens informs us that there appears to have been an old superstition that coral would change its colour and look pale when the wearer of it was sick. So in the Three Ladies of London, 1584:
“ You may say jet will take up a straw,
Amber will make one fat,
Chrystal will stanch blood."
In Bartholomeus de Proprietatibus Rerum, edit. 1536, fol. 229, we read : “Wytches tell, that this stone (coral) withstondeth lyghtenynge.—It putteth of lyghtenyng, whirlewynde, tempeste and stormes fro shyppes and houses that it is in. The red (coral) helpeth ayenst the fendes gyle and scorne, and ayenst divers wonderous doyng, and multiplieth fruite, and spedeth begynnyng and ending of causes and of nedes.”
Coles, in his Adam in Eden, speaking of coral, says: “ It helpeth children to breed their teeth, their gums being rubbed therewith ; and to that purpose they have it fastened at the ends of their mantles.” And Plat, in his Jewel-House of Art and Nature, p. 232, says: “Coral is good to be hanged about children's necks, as well to rub their gums as to preserve them from the falling sickness; it hath also some special sympathy with nature, for the best coral, being worn about the neck, will turn pale and wan if the party that wears it be sick, and comes to its former colour again as they recover health.”
In a most rare work, entitled the French Garden for English Ladyes and Gentlewomen to walke in : or a Sommer Dayes Labour, &c., by Peter Erondell and John Fabre, 1621, in a dialogue relative to the dress of a child, we have another proof of the long continuance of this custom : “You need not give him his corall with the small golden chayne, for I beleeve it is better to let him sleepe untill the afternoone."
In a curious old book, 12mo. 1554, entitled A Short Description of Antichrist, is this passage: “I note all their Popishe traditions of confirmacion of yonge children with oynting of oyle and creame, and with a ragge knitte about the necke of the younge babe.”
[Good Friday and Easter Sunday are both considered lucky days for changing the caps of young children. If a child tooths first in the upper jaw, it is considered ominous of its dying in its infancy.]
BETROTHING CUSTOMS. Most profusely various have been the different rites, ceremonies, and customs, adopted by the several nations of the Christian world, on the performance of that most sacred of institutions, by which the Maker of mankind has directed us to transmit our race. The inhabitants of this island do not appear to have been exceeded by any other people on this occasion.
Before we enter upon the discussion of these, it will be necessary to consider distinctly the several ceremonies peculiar to betrothing by a verbal contract of marriage, and promises of love previously to the marriage union.
There was a remarkable kind of marriage-contract among the ancient Danes called hand-festing. It is mentioned in Ray's Glossarium Northanhymbricum, in his collection of local words. Strong traces of this remain in our villages in many parts of the kingdom. I have been more than once assured from credible authority on Portland Island, that something very like it is still practised there very generally, where the inhabitants seldom or never intermarry with any on the main-land, and where the young women, selecting lovers of the same place (but with what previous rites, ceremonies, or engagements, I could never learn), account it no disgrace to allow them every favour, and that, too, from the fullest confidence of being made wives the moment such consequences of their stolen embraces begin to be too visible to be any longer concealed.
In the Christen State of Matrimony, 1543, p. 43, we read: “Yet in thys thynge also must I warne everye reasonable and
1 “ Hand-fæstning, promissio, quæ fit stipulata manu, sive cives fidem suam principi spondeant, sive mutuam inter se, matrimonium inituri, a phrasi fæsta hand, quæ notat dextram dextræ jungere.”—Glossar. SuioGothicum, auctore I. Ihre in voce. Vid. ibid. in v. Bröllop, Brudkaup.
honest parson to beware, that in contractyng of maryage they dyssemble not, nor set forthe any lye. Every man lykewyse must esteme the parson to whom he is hand-fasted, none otherwyse than for his owne spouse, though as yet it be not done in the church ner in the streate. After the hand-fastynge and makyng of the contracte, the churchgoying and weddyng shuld not be differred to longe, lest the wickedde sowe hys ungracious sede in the meane season. Into this dysh hath the Dyvell put his foote, and mengled it wythe many wycked uses and coustumes. For in some places ther is such a maner, wel worthy to be rebuked, that at the HANDEFASTING ther is made a greate feaste and superfluous bancket, and even the same night are the two handfasted personnes brought and layed together, yea certan wekes afore they go to the chyrch.”
In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, 1794, xii. 615, the minister of Eskdalemuir, co. Dumfries, mentioning an annual fair, held time out of mind at the meeting of the Black and White Esks, now entirely laid aside, says : “At that fair it was the custom for the unmarried persons of both sexes to choose a companion according to their liking, with whom they were to live till that time next year. This was called hand-fasting, or hand in fist. If they were pleased with each other at that time, then they continued together for life: if not, they separated, and were free to make another choice as at the first. The fruit of the connexion (if there were any) was always attached to the disaffected person. In later times,
when this part of the country belonged to the Abbacy of • Melrose, a priest to whom they gave the name of Book i'
Bosom (either because he carried in his bosom a Bible, or perhaps a register of the marriages), came from time to time to confirm the marriages. This place is only a small distance from the Roman encampment of Castle-oe'r. May not the fair have been first instituted when the Romans resided there? and may not the handfasting' have taken its rise from their manner of celebrating marriage, ex usu, by which, if a woman, with the consent of her parents or guardians, lived with a man for a year, without being absent three nights, she became his wife? Perhaps, when Christianity was introduced, this form of marriage may have been looked upon as imperfect without confirmation by a priest, and therefore one may have been sent from time to time for this purpose.”