Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 134
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 134
 
observed in the district of Nerechta on the Thursday before Whitsunday. The girls go out into a birch-wood, wind a girdle or band round a stately birch, twist its lower branches into a wreath, and kiss each other in pairs through the wreath. The girls who kiss through the wreath call each other gossips. Then one of the girls steps forward, and mimicking a drunken man, flings herself on the ground, rolls on the grass, and feigns to fall fast asleep. Another girl wakens the pretended sleeper and kisses him; then the whole bevy trips singing through the wood to twine garlands, which they throw into the water. In the fate of the garlands floating on the stream they read their own. Here the part of the sleeper was probably at one time played by a lad. In these French and Russian customs we have a forsaken bridegroom, in the following a forsaken bride. On Shrove Tuesday the Slovenes of Oberkrain drag a straw puppet with joyous cries up and down the village; then they throw it into the water or burn it, and from the height of the flames they judge of the abundance of the next harvest. The noisy crew is followed by a female masker, who drags a great board by a string and gives out that she is a forsaken bride.
  Viewed in the light of what has gone before, the awakening of the forsaken sleeper in these ceremonies probably represents the revival of vegetation in spring. But it is not easy to assign their respective parts to the forsaken bridegroom and to the girl who wakes him from his slumber. Is the sleeper the leafless forest or the bare earth of winter? Is the girl who awakens him the fresh verdure or the genial sunshine of spring? It is hardly possible, on the evidence before us, to answer these questions.
  In the Highlands of Scotland the revival of vegetation in spring used to be graphically represented on St. Bride’s Day, the first of February. Thus in the Hebrides “the mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats, and dress it up in women’s apparel, put it in a large basket and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid’s bed; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, ‘Briid is come, Briid is welcome.’ This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid’s club there; which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.” The same custom is described by another witness thus: “Upon the night before Candlemas it is usual to make a bed with corn and hay, over which some blankets are laid, in a part of the house, near the door. When it is ready, a person goes out and repeats three times, … ‘Bridget, Bridget, come in; thy bed is ready.’ One or more candles are left burning near it all night.” Similarly in the Isle of Man “on the eve of the first of February, a festival was formerly kept, called, in the Manks language, Laa’l Breeshey, in honour of the Irish lady who went over to the Isle of Man to receive the veil from St. Maughold. The custom was to gather a bundle of green rushes, and standing with them in the hand on the threshold of the door, to invite the holy Saint Bridget to come

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