APRIL-FOOLS’ DAY, or All-Fools’ Day, the name given to the 1st of April in allusion to the custom of playing practical jokes on friends and neighbours on that day, or sending them on fools’ errands. The origin of this custom has been much disputed, and many ludicrous solutions have been suggested, e.g. that it is a farcical commemoration of Christ being sent from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate, the crucifixion having taken place about the 1st of April. What seems certain is that it is in some way or other a relic of those once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which, beginning on old New Year’s day, the 25th of March, ended on the 1st of April. This view gains support from the fact that the exact counterpart of April-fooling is found to have been an immemorial custom in India. The festival of the spring equinox is there termed the feast of Huli, the last day of which is the 31st of March, upon which the chief amusement is the befooling of people by sending them on fruitless errands. It has been plausibly suggested that Europe derived its April-fooling from the French. They were the first nation to adopt the reformed calendar, Charles IX. in 1564 decreeing that the year should begin with the 1st of January. Thus the New Year’s gifts and visits of felicitation which had been the feature of the 1st of April became associated with the first day of January, and those who disliked the change were fair butts for those wits who amused themselves by sending mock presents and paying calls of pretended ceremony on the 1st of April. Though the 1st of April appears to have been anciently observed in Great Britain as a general festival, it was apparently not until the beginning of the 18th century that the making of April-fools was a common custom. In Scotland the custom was known as “hunting the gowk,” i.e. the cuckoo, and April-fools were “April-gowks,” the cuckoo being there, as it is in most lands, a term of contempt. In France the person befooled is known as poisson d’avril. This has been explained from the association of ideas arising from the fact that in April the sun quits the zodiacal sign of the fish. A far more natural explanation would seem to be that the April fish would be a young fish and therefore easily caught.
A PRIORI (Lat. a, from, prior, prius, that which is before, precedes), (1) a phrase used popularly of a judgment based on general considerations in the absence of particular evidence; (2) a logical term first used, apparently, by Albert of Saxony (14th century), though the theory which it denotes is as old as Aristotle. In the order of human knowledge the particular facts of experience come first and are the basis of generalized laws or causes (the Scholastic notiora nobis); but in the order of nature the latter rank first as the self-existent, fundamental truths of existence (notiora naturae). Thus to Aristotle the a priori argument is from law or cause to effect, as opposed to what we call a posteriori (posterior, subsequent, derived), from effect to cause. Since Kant the two phrases have become purely adjectival (instead of adverbial) with a technical controversial sense, closely allied to the Aristotelian, in relation to knowledge and judgments generally. A priori is applied to judgments which are regarded as independent of experience, and belonging to the essence of thought; a posteriori to those which are derived from particular observations. The distinction is analogous to that between analysis and synthesis, deduction and induction (but there may be a synthesis of a priori judgments, cf. Kant’s “Synthetic Judgment a priori”). Round this distinction a rather barren controversy has raged, and almost all modern philosophers have labelled themselves either “Intuitionalist” (a priori) or “Empiricist” (a posteriori) according to the view they take of knowledge. In fact, however, the rival schools are generally arguing at cross purposes; there is a knowledge based on particulars, and also a knowledge of laws or causes. But the two work in different spheres, and are complementary. The observation of isolated particulars gives not necessity, but merely strong probability; necessity is purely intellectual or “transcendental.” If the empiricist denies the intellectual element in scientific knowledge, he must not claim absolute validity for his conclusions; but he may hold against the intuitionalist that absolute laws are impossible to the human intellect. On the other hand, pure a priori knowledge can be nothing more than form without content (e.g. formal logic, the laws of thought). The simple fact at the bottom of the controversy is that in all empirical knowledge there is an intellectual element, without which there is no correlation of empirical data, and every judgment, however simple, postulates a correlation of some sort if only that between the predicate and its contradictory.
APRON (a corruption arising from a wrong division of “a napron” into “an apron,” from the Fr. naperon, napperon, a diminutive of nappe, Lat. mappa, a napkin), an article of costume used to protect the front of the clothes. It forms part of the ceremonial dress of Freemasons. The “apron” worn by church dignitaries is a shortened cassock (q.v.). The word has many technical uses, as for the protecting slope in front of the sill of dock-gates, or at the foot of weirs.
APSARAS, in Hindu mythology, a female spirit of the clouds and waters. In the Rig-Veda there is one Apsaras, wife of Gandharva; in the later scriptures there are many Apsaras who act as the handmaidens of Indra and dance before his throne. They are able to change their form, and specially rule over the fortunes of gaming. One of their duties is to guide to paradise the heroes who fall in battle, whose wives they then become. They are distinguished as daivika (“divine”) or laukika (“worldly”).
APSE (Gr. ἁψίς, a fastening, especially the felloe of a wheel; Lat. absis), in architecture, a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault. The term is applied also to the termination to the choir, transept or aisle of any church which is either semicircular or polygonal in plan, whether vaulted or covered with a timber roof; a church is said to be “apsidal” when it terminates in an apse.
The earliest example of an apse is found in the temple of Mars Ultor at Rome (2 B.C.), and it formed afterwards the favourite feature terminating the rear of any temple, and one which gave importance to the statue of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated. Its use by the Romans was not confined to the temples, as it is found in the palaces on the Palatine Hill, the great Thermae (Baths) and other monuments. In the civil basilicas the apse was screened off by columns, and constituted the court of justice. In the Ulpian (Trajan’s) Basilica the apses at each end were of such great dimensions as to come better under the definition of hemicycles (q.v.). In these apses the floor was raised, and had an altar placed in the centre of its chord, where sacrifices were made prior to the sittings. The only other two Roman basilicas in which the semicircular apse can still be traced are that commenced by Maxentius and completed by Constantine at Rome and the basilica at Trier (Trèves).
In the earliest Christian basilica, St Peter’s at Rome, built 330 A.D., the apse, 57 ft. in diameter, raised above the confessio or crypt, was placed at the west end of the church. This orientation was originally followed in the churches of St Paul and St Lawrence (S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura), both outside the walls of Rome, and is found in most of the churches at Rome. On the other hand, in the Byzantine church, the apse was built at the east end of the church.
During the reign of Justin the Second (A.D. 565–574), owing to a change in the liturgy, two more apses were added, one on each side of the central apse. These in the Greek Church were provided not to hold altars but for ceremonial purposes. One of the earliest examples is found in the church of St Nicholas at Myra of the 6th century, and the basilica erected in the great court of the temple at Baalbek shows the triple apse. The earliest example in Rome is found in the church of Sta Maria in Cosmedin (772–795), built probably by Greek craftsmen, who had been exiled by the Iconoclasts. Other triapsal choirs are found in the cathedral of Parenzo (542 A.D.), in St Mark’s, Venice, in Sta Fosca and the Duomo at Torcello, and in numerous examples throughout Italy and Germany. In central Syria there is one example only, at Kalat Seman, where the side apses were a later addition.