The Origins Of Popular Superstitions And Customs  ~ Magick7





W. C. Hazlitt quotes from The Times of 1888 an interesting account of the Penrhyn quarrymen:--"Yesterday, being Ascension Day, work was entirely suspended at Lord Penrhyn's extensive slate quarries near Bangor. The cessation of work is not due to any religious regard for the day, but is attributable to a susperstition, which has long lingered in the district, that if work is continued an accident is inevitable. Some years ago the management succeeded in overcoming this feeling, and in inducing the men to work. But each year there was a serious accident, and now all the men keep at a distance from the quarries on Ascension Day." It is difficult to account for this attitude on the part of the quarrymen, except that they are, by heredity and instinct, a superstitious race, well able to establish a local cult of their own. There is admittedly some logic in the argument that since Ascension Day has been a time of holiday festivity, at first religious, and afterwards secular, therefore work on that day savours of sacrilege. But in view of the immunity from accidents in other callings, it is not remarkable that fatalities should occur in somewhat dangerous occupations like quarrying.

Penrhyn is not alone in having a local superstition, or, perhaps, I ought to say, a custom based on an old superstition. Sir Henry Ellis says Shaftesbury had its own method of celebration (probably now discontinued), wherein the inhabitants paid a yearly tribute of acknowledgment to the Lord of Gillingham Manor for the water supplied from his estate. The tribute took the form of a calf's head and pair of gloves. "Riding the Marches" is said to be still prevalent in Scotland, and is celebrated on the day after Whitsunday fair by the Magistrates and Burgesses, called the Landsmark, or Langemark Day, from the Saxon Langemark. At Tissington, County Derby, the inhabitants were wont to decorate their well on Ascension Day.