Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/56

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now which spelling is meant. In speaking of witches she says they often turn themselves into hares, so that perhaps it should be hare, as it might be a witch was in the last sheaf.[1]

"Last week here a field of corn was cut, and all the maids went up to see it done. The machine could not cut it, as the corn was much laid. Caldwell knew how to shear with the hook, so she showed the others the way to do it. They left the last sheaf standing in the middle of the field, and when all the rest was cut they went to it and plaited it as it stood. Then all the men in turn tried to cut it. Each went up to it in turn, then stepped backwards a good long way, and threw the hook at the sheaf. The hook has to be held flat by the back of the blade, not by the handle. No one succeeded in cutting it, so one of the maids ran in and cut it down at one blow. She held its head. The men were not very well pleased at this proceeding; however, she carried it home in triumph, and hung it up over the door. The first one coming in after that was supposed to have the same name as her future husband. The sheaf is now all destroyed, as the servants began to play pranks with it, and it was torn to bits."

The Rev. W. Cunningham, rector of Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, tells me that to the best of his memory, the custom of plaiting the last handful of standing corn, and cutting it by throwing sickles at it, was observed in his youth in Dumfriesshire; but the introduction of scythes for cutting the corn had gone some way towards abolishing the latter part of the custom. Thus in the Ayrshire observance, already reported, the throwing the sickles would seem to be the revival of an old custom, for in Ayrshire also the scythe appears to have ousted the sickle.

  1. The analogy of the German Hase which is applied to the last sheaf in some parts of Germany (see W. Mannhardt, Die Korndämonen, p. 3) makes it almost certain that the Ayrshire name is hare. Animal names for the last sheaf, though common in Germany, are not common in this country. In Hertfordshire and Shropshire the last sheaf was called the Mare; Brand, Popular Antiquities, ii. p. 24 (Bohn's ed.). In Devon and Cornwall it was called the Craw (crow); J. H. Dixon and R. Bell, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England, p. 159. [J. G. F.]