Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/50

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Presidential Address.

adopted by the Church. As a matter of fact, local annual feasts which we cannot but call pre-Christian still linger, independently of churches or parishes, in the well-dressings of the north of England and the hill-wakes of my own special county, Shropshire.[1] There was usually some special rite to be performed at these hill-wakes, and even sometimes a mythic pretext for the ascent of the hill. At Pontesford Hill wakes, which were kept up on Palm Sunday within living memory, and perhaps linger still, the excuse was the search for a golden arrow, dropped by a nameless king in battle, and only to be found by the predestined person, upon which event some curse was to be removed, or some great estate was to change hands. The story varies. A "haunted yew-tree" grew,—no doubt still grows,—upon the hill, and the first spray gathered from it on this day was held to be a talisman against all misfortune for the year, and, if any one could run down the steep side of the hill and dip a finger into a pool at the foot, reputed to be bottomless, he or she would inevitably marry the first person of the opposite sex encountered after the feat. I must not omit to add the historical fact that a battle was really fought on or beneath Pontesford Hill in the year 661, between the West Saxons and the Welsh. There is a Saxon or British camp on the hill, and there is some earthwork or other early monument on the site of, I think, every hill-wake I have heard of.

Into some such environment as this were the saintly patrons imported. The hill-wakes, whose raison d'être in some vanished social system is now absolutely forgotten, and probably indiscoverable, are now mere survivals, if indeed they still survive at all. The church-wakes, wanting the living religious belief which once animated them, are also only survivals. But the way in which, even in survival,

  1. I know of but two or three hill-wakes in other counties, but there must surely be others still unrecorded.