Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Please to see the king"

Hey, guys. I'm as busy as you are, so I'll make this short and sweet. A bit of traditional verse, with explication lifted from a Web page:

The old English custom of hunting the wren on this day [December 26] may be the remnant of an ancient midwinter sacrifice. The official explanation given is that wrens are hunted on St Stephen's Day because their chattering in the bushes gave away the saint's hiding place, leading to his martyrdom. The usually sacred and protected bird was ceremonially hunted and its decorated corpse carried about to bring luck.

The custom still survives in Ireland and the Isle of Man where the bird's corpse is replaced by a potato stuck with feathers.

And here's the poem:

The Wren, the Wren, the King of all Birds
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze
Although he be little, his honor is great
Therefore, good people, give us a treat.

So, okay. You guessed this day of slaughter was not really a Christian tradition. In fact, on St. Stephen's Day (the day after Christmas), children would go out hunting until they caught a wren (or, depending on location, some other animal) and kill it. Then they'd hang it from a stick and go door-to-door with the greeting, "Please to see the king." And people would have to give them sweets, food, even small coins.

Much like Halloween, only with real (but small) corpses.

Ah, the good old days! We made our own amusements, then. Not like you young folks, with your video games and rubber balls.

All best,


No comments: