Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/49

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

is called "burning owd Barle."[1] Obviously it cannot be accounted for by any post-Christian form of cult. It is a survival of something earlier, which has outlasted more than one set of beliefs, so that we have here in the Church-Wake an archaic survival and a survival from culture, meeting and coalescing in a single rite.

So great is the difference between Then and Now that I need hardly, I think, enter into any defence of the use of the word "survival" with reference to these old church dedications. What significance have the names of St. Pancras and St. Vedast to the ordinary Londoner of the present day } Even the best-known and best-authenticated saints are now, for the most part, regarded from a point of view widely different from that of the men who placed our ancient churches under their protecting care. I should like to say a great deal as to these subsidiary cults of mediæval Christendom, but I must not detain you too long. I will only point out that the dedication of a church usually reveals the approximate date of the establishment of a site of Christian worship on the spot, together with the special form and bias of the newly introduced cult. There were fashions in saints in the Middle Ages, as there were in the architecture and in armour. The Roman and Celtic missions, the British and the Anglo-Saxon Church, all had their special saints. The Norman Conquest introduced others, and the Crusades others again. Even the reasons which determined the choice of a particular saintly guardian may sometimes be discovered by local investigation.

On the other side, the barbaric or archaic side of the survival, I will remind you that we have historical evidence that the feasts of Pagandom were of set policy taken over and

  1. The authority for these details is only the local guide-book (The Green Dale of Wensley, by Edmund Bogg: Elliot Stock, 1909, p. 156), and it is not stated whether the custom is still observed. Any one who would make a pilgrimage to Wensleydale next August, and investigate the matter on local-historical and economic lines would deserve the thanks of all folklorists.