Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/326

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First-Footing in Aberdeenshire.

was engaged on. These were: Going to or from a wedding; after the birth of a child; taking a child to church to be baptised; when "streckan" the plough in spring, i.e., taking the first yoking; when going fishing or fowling; generally when undertaking anything the success of which depended on luck.

In the case of weddings, I am informed that it was not unusual for the party to carry a whisky-bottle, and treat the first person they met. I have myself seen this done near Braemar, within the last twenty years, but, as far as I remember, everyone they met got a sip.

In carrying a child to be baptised I find it was once very general for the mother to carry bread and cheese or oatcake, wrapped up in the folds of the infant's dress, to give to the first-foot, partly with a view, no doubt, to propitiating him, and partly from the belief that lavishness on the part of the infant on this occasion would ensure his always having plenty through his life. Down near Coupar Angus, in Perthshire, I have heard of this christening custom having been practised by one family very recently, and as the mother was known to carry sweet biscuits in place of oatcake, the boys in the neighbourhood used to look forward to the baptisms of successive members of the family with much interest, and lie in ambush for the party, in order to obtain the good things.

My inquiry as to what persons or things are or were considered lucky or unlucky, as first-footers or to first-footers, has resulted in a somewhat long list. The following were considered lucky: Friends, neighbours, and all well-wishers; a kind man; a good man; a sweetheart; people who spread out their feet (Old Machar); those who were born with their feet foremost (Old Machar); a man on horseback; a man with a horse and cart; the minister (?); a hen.

One of the clearest cases of the luck considered to attend the meeting of a horse and cart comes to me from New Machar. On the 16th December 1841, the old lady to