Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 446
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 446
 
considerable distance sometimes.” Again, Mrs. Bray tells how, travelling in Devonshire, “she saw a party of reapers standing in a circle on a rising ground, holding their sickles aloft. One in the middle held up some ears of corn tied together with flowers, and the party shouted three times (what she writes as) ‘Arnack, arnack, arnack, we haven, we haven, we haven.’ They went home, accompanied by women and children carrying boughs of flowers, shouting and singing. The manservant who attended Mrs. Bray said ‘it was only the people making their games, as they always did, to the spirit of harvest.’” Here, as Miss Burne remarks, “‘arnack, we haven!’ is obviously in the Devon dialect, ‘a neck (or nack)! we have un!’”
  Another account of this old custom, written at Truro in 1839, runs thus: “Now, when all the corn was cut at Heligan, the farming men and maidens come in front of the house, and bring with them a small sheaf of corn, the last that has been cut, and this is adorned with ribbons and flowers, and one part is tied quite tight, so as to look like a neck. Then they cry out ‘Our (my) side, my side,’ as loud as they can; then the dairymaid gives the neck to the head farming-man. He takes it, and says, very loudly three times, ‘I have him, I have him, I have him.’ Then another farming-man shouts very loudly, ‘What have ye? what have ye? what have ye?’ Then the first says, ‘A neck, a neck, a neck.’ And when he has said this, all the people make a very great shouting. This they do three times, and after one famous shout go away and eat supper, and dance, and sing songs.” According to another account, “all went out to the field when the last corn was cut, the ‘neck’ was tied with ribbons and plaited, and they danced round it, and carried it to the great kitchen, where by-and-by the supper was. The words were as given in the previous account, and ‘Hip, hip, hack, heck, I have ’ee, I have ’ee, I have ‘ee.’ It was hung up in the hall.” Another account relates that one of the men rushed from the field with the last sheaf, while the rest pursued him with vessels of water, which they tried to throw over the sheaf before it could be brought into the barn.
  In the foregoing customs a particular bunch of ears, generally the last left standing, is conceived as the neck of the corn-spirit, who is consequently beheaded when the bunch is cut down. Similarly in Shropshire the name “neck,” or “the gander’s neck,” used to be commonly given to the last handful of ears left standing in the middle of the field when all the rest of the corn was cut. It was plaited together, and the reapers, standing ten or twenty paces off, threw their sickles at it. Whoever cut it through was said to have cut off the gander’s neck. The “neck” was taken to the farmer’s wife, who was supposed to keep it in the house for good luck till the next harvest came round. Near Trèves, the man who reaps the last standing corn “cuts the goat’s neck off.” At Faslane, on the Gareloch (Dumbartonshire), the last handful of standing corn was sometimes called the “head.” At Aurich, in East Friesland, the man who reaps the last corn “cuts the hare’s tail off.” In mowing down the last corner of a

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