Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/524

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

466 Correspondence.

Morgins are devout Roman Catholics, and, in addition to other sacred or secular emblems, the cross or crucifix, large or small, adorns nearly every chalet, being erected, painted, carved, or incised on the woodwork of the houses. I noticed that a cross (a Latin cross) was often carved or hung over the principal door of the chalet.

In most cases there also was nailed on to the outside of the house, and most usually over the chief entrance, a cross rudely formed of two dried whisps of the goat's beard spiraea (spircea aruncus), which is one of the handsomest wild plants of the mountain woods. Mixed with this were dried sprays of astrantia major, also a common Alpine flower. The crosses were formed simply by two little bunches of the plants, about eight or nine inches to a foot long, laid across each other and fastened by a whisp of grass in the middle, making the arms of equal length. As the composition of these roughly-made crosses seemed to vary little I guessed that they might be used as charms, and asked an old peasant woman their meaning. She said, " We of Morgins make these crosses every year on the Eve of St. John. They are made from the flower that we call St. John's Beard " {barbe de Saint Jean), " and with it we put some of the flower, I cannot now remember what its name is, but it is the flower " (astrantia major) " which has crimson stains upon it, because it is said that Christ's blood dropped upon it. On St. John's Day we take these crosses to church, where the priest blesses them. We then nail them on to the outside of our chalets, and they protect the house from lightning, fire, storm, and such calamities. In time of severe thunder- storm or danger from fire, the people will take a whisp of the cross and burn it to avert the misfortune." When I said that these pretty old customs should be remembered, she added, " Yes, it is good that these pious things should continue, and that youth should learn them, for one must teach children so/ne- thing." From a Morgins peasant man I learned the same concerning these crosses.

I was only a few days at Morgins, so had not time to make more than superficial enquiries and observations, but in none of the valleys immediately adjoining could I see these charms