Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/32

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Presidential Address.

have, further, not quite a taboo, strictly so-called, but a customary prohibition. For in Herefordshire and the adjacent counties the willow may not be used as a whip for chastising children or animals; because, says one informant, our Saviour was beaten with it by His Mother,—(here we have the myth alleged as a reason for the custom); because it will stunt their growth, says another; because it will give them internal pains, says a third. Here we meet with the world-wide belief that the qualities of any given object may be imparted to another by simple contact. The scientific call that "sympathetic magic," but there is little or no magic about it in the eyes of the simple folk who hold the belief To them it is merely a natural law to be reckoned with or utilized as occasion demands. They reason, I imagine,—or their forefathers did,—on the analogy of disease. If that can be communicated by contact, why not anything else? At all events willow-rods may not be used in chastisement on the Welsh Marches, and neither (in Salop, at least) may the low-growing broom, on the same plea that it will stunt the victim's growth. The mountain-ash, sovereign against witchcraft, is there, as in Scotland, considered the proper wood for carters' whip-stocks.[1] The popular use of the tall and slender birch is known to every one (painfully well known, it may be, to some!). The ground-ash, too, probably owes much of its credit as an instrument of punishment to its straight and noble growth, A Scottish schoolmaster migrated to Cheshire and imported with him the national attribute of his office, the tawse. Public opinion was greatly incensed by his choice of a weapon, and the village black-smith spoke out. "Hey, gaffer," he said firmly to the Dominie, "thou'st been a-'ammerin' our Tom wi' a strap

  1. In Somerset, the hazel is used for the purpose, as Mr. Lovett informed us at our last meeting (Dec. 14, 1910), and in South Devon the holly. A stick of holly thrown after a runaway beast will bring it back, according to his informant.