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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

June,   pp. [unnumbered]-832 PDF (75.4 MB)

Page 719

MARRIAGE SUPERSTITIONS                  JUNE.                            AND CUSTOMS.
damage of the buds of the fruit-trees. Never-
theless, June is the month of greatest summer
beauty--the month during which the trees are
in their best and freshest garniture. ' The leafy
month of June,' Coleridge well calls it, the month
when the flowers are at the r.chest in hue and
profusion. In English landscape, the conical
clusters of the chesnut buds, and the tassels of
the laburnum and lilac, vie above with the varie-
gated show of wild flowers below. Nature is
now a pretty maiden of seventeen; she may
show maturer charms afterwards, but she can
never be again so gaily, so freshly beautiful.
Dr Aiken says justly that June is in reality, in
this climate, what the poets only dream May to
be. The mean temperature of the air was given
by an observer in Scotland as 590 Fahrenheit,
against 60' for August and 610 for July.
The sun, formally speaking, reaches the most
northerly point in the zodiac, and enters the
constellation of Cancer, on the 21st of June;
but for several days about that time there is no
observable difference in his position, or his hours
of rising and setting. At Greenwich he is above
the horizon from 3.43 morning, to 8.17 evening,
thus making a day of 16h. 26m. At Edinburgh,
the longest day is about 17' hours. At that
season, in Scotland, there is a glow equal to
dawn, in the north, through the whole of the brief
night. The present writer was able at Edin-
burgh to read the title-page of a book, by the
light of the northern sky, at midnight of the 14th
of June 1849. In Shetland, the light at mid-
night is like a good twilight, and the text of any
ordinary book may then be easily read. It is
even alleged that, by the aid of refraction, and
in favourable circumstances, the body of the sun
has been seen at that season, from the top of a
hill in Orkney, though the fact cannot be said to
be authenticated.
Djarriage superstitions anb #ustoms.
was the month
which the Ro-
mans considered
the most propi-
tious season of
the year for con-
tracting matrimonial en-
gagements, especially if
the day chosen were that
of the full moon or the
conjunction of the sun
and moon; the month of
May was especially to be
avoided, as under the influence of
spirits adverse to happy households.
All these pagan superstitions were
retained in the Middle Ages, with many others
which belonged more particularly to the spirit of
Christianity: people then had recourse to all kinds
of divination, love philters, magical invocations,
prayers, fastings, and other follies, which were
modified according to the country and the indi-
vidual. A girl had only to agitate the water in
a bucket of spring-water with her hand, or to
throw broken eggs over another person's head, if
she wished to see the image of the man she
should marry. A union could never be happy if
the bridal party, in going to church, met a monk,
a priest, a hare, a dog, cat, lizard, or serpent;
while all would go well if it were a wolf, a
spider, or a toad. Nor was it an unimportant
matter to choose the wedding day carefully ; the
feast of Saint Joseph was especially to be avoided,
and it is supposed, that as this day fell in mid-
Lent, it was the reason why all the councils and
synods of the church forbade marriage during
that season of fasting; indeed, all penitential
days and vigils throughout the year were con-
sidered unsuitable for these joyous ceremonies.
The church blamed those husbands who married
early in the morning, in dirty or negligent
attire, reserving their better dresses for balls
and feasts; and the clergy were forbidden to
celebrate the rites after sunset, because the crowd
often carried the party by main force to the ale-
house, or beat them and hindered their departure
from the church until they had paid a ransom.
The people always manifested a strong aversion
for badly assorted marriages. In such cases, the
procession would be accompanied to the altar in
the midst of a frightful concert of bells, sauce-
pans, and frying-pans, or this tumult was reserved
for the night, when the happy couple were settled
in their own house. The church tried in vain to
defend widowers and widows who chose to enter
the nuptial bonds a second time; a synodal order
of the Archbishop of Lyons, in 1577, thus
describes  the  conduct it excommunicated :
'Marching in masks, throwing poisons, horrible
and dangerous liquids before the door, sounding
tambourines, doing all kinds of dirty things they
can think of, until they have drawn from the
husband large sums of money by force.'
A considerable sum of money was anciently
put into a purse or plate, and presented by the
bridegroom to the bride on the wedding-night, as a
sort of purchase of her person; a custom com-
mon to the Greeks as well as the Romans, and
which seems to have prevailed among the Jews
and many Eastern nations. It was changed in
the Middle Ages, and in the north of Europe, for
the morgengabe, or morning present; the bride
having the privilege, the morning after the wed-
ding-day, of asking for any sum of money or any
estate that she pleased, and which could not in
honour be refused by her husband. The demand
at times became really serious, if the wife were of
an avaricious temper. Something of the same
kind prevailed in England under the name of
the Dow Purse. A trace of this is still kept up
in Cumberland, where the bridegroom provides
himself with gold and crown pieces, and, when
the service reaches the point, ' With all my
worldly goods I thee endow,' he takes up the
money, hands the clergyman his fee, and pours
the rest into a handkerchief which is held by the
bridesmaid for the bride. When Clovis was
married to the Princess Clotilde, he offered, by
his proxy, a son and a denier, which became the
marriage offering by law in France; and to this
day pieces of money are given to the bride, vary-
ing only in value according to the rank of the
How the ring came to be used is not well
ascertained, as in former days it did not occuyy
AD cusTom1s.

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