The Origins Of Popular Superstitions And Customs  ~ Magick7





The custom of giving children apostle spoons is no longer in vogue, the present-day godfather and godmother usually selecting some article of silver--a mug, accompanied perhaps by a spoon, though not one of the apostle variety. In the old days sponsors would give the whole twelve of apostles' spoons; those in middling circumstances would give four;

the poorer people would give one, exhibiting the figure of any saint in honour of whom the child received its name. The only origin we can imagine such a practice to have had, lies in the sense of dedication, i.e. a giving of the child to a life designed on Christian lines; and in a sense of benefit or protection, as symbolised by the presence of the twelve apostles. But the origin of the well-known toy with bells and a piece of coral at the end (generally suspended from the necks of infants to assist them in cutting their teeth), is with the greatest probability supposed to lie in the belief that coral was considered an amulet or defence against "fascination." Pliny supports this view. And Plat, in his Jewel-House of Art and Nature, 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 simpathy 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" Scott, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, remarks:--"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 corals that were employed."

The truth about the coral belongs to the chemist and not the antiquarian.