Folkways in Thomas Hardy (Firor, Ruth)

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A veritable source book of superstition, this volume seeks out the abundant examples of belief in the forces of magic and the survival of old customs among the Wessex peasantry as revealed in the works of Thomas Hardy.

the fear of falling mirrors and single magpies; the belief that horses found in a sweat in the morning have been "hag-ridden" all night; the notion that cattle kneel in their stalls on Christmas Eve; the credulous use of "corpse cures" and love potions—all are but individual expressions of the complete acceptance of the supernatural by a people who still think in a way we consider unsophisticated.

A delightful portion of the book is devoted to descriptions of the great trade hiring-and-firing fairs, May festivals, country dances, caroling and wassailing, and to the legends of "Druidical Stones" on Egdon Heath and Roman roads through Wessex. In addition the study covers a wealth of related subjects, including English sheep-shearing songs; the ancient tradition of the magic powers of the mandrake, originally identified with the Black Aphrodite; the ritual significance of the Mummer's play; the medieval absurdity of the "Vegetable Lamb," which lived suspended from a tree by a flexible stalk; the survival of the moon cult of Astarte in the Isle of Slingers, and many other equally absorbing topics.