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exploded. The fires were quenched in all the churches, and kindled anew from the flint, which being hallowed by the priest every one would take home a brand to be lighted, when occasion required, as a preservative against tempests. A large taper, called the paschal taper, was consecrated and incensed, and allowed to burn night and day as a sign that Christ had conquered hell, after which it was plunged into the holy water, always consecrated at this season, with a view to its lasting till the return of Easter.
Easter-Day; Asturday; Paschal Sabbath; Eucharist; Qoddes Sunday.—The term Easter is derived, as some say, from the Saxon oster, "to rise," this being the day of Christ's rising from the dead. But as the month appears to have had its name of Easter long before the introduction of Christianity, we must look to some other source for the origin of the term; and where does it seem so visible as in the word Eostre, (the Saxon goddess,) a corruption in all likelihood of Astarte, the name under which the Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, and the most ancient nations of the East worshipped the moon, in like manner as they adored the sun, under the name of Baal.
It was customary, also, at this time, for the bishops and archbishops to play at dice or ball with their subordinates, and to lay aside all the pomp and distance belonging to their station, a manifest imitation of the Saturnalia. Moreover, the whole body of the ecclesiastics were now wont to shave the head and beard, to bathe and to indue the white stole; and to each of these actions was supposed to attach a spiritual type,—the use of the bath signifying that the soul should, in like manner, be purified; the shaving, that our vices should be laid aside; while the white vestments might refer either to the appearance of the angels, or to a firm expectation of the robe of immortality ; or it might allude to the severity of penance being over. Above all, it was requisite that no one on Easter Day should eat anything that had not been blessed by the priest, or at least without first making the sign of the cross over it; for the devil just then was held to be particularly on the watch for souls.
A variety of sports characterised the Easter holidays among the people. In Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and some other counties, the custom of heaving or St. Mark's Eye. 187
lifting prevailed; the men heaving or lifting the women in a chair on Easter Monday, and the women doing the same by the men on the Tuesday following. At the end of the ceremony, the person lifted was duly kissed by his lifters, and obliged to pay a forfeit. Sometimes this took place within, but more frequently out of doors; the custom in some places being to place the victim upright in a chair, while in others he was laid horizontally on the bearers' hands, and raised above their heads. At another period, or perhaps at a different part of the country, the men took the Duckies on Monday from the shoes of the women, who the next day returned the compliment, a forfeit having to be paid in either case for the redemption of the plundered article.
St. Mart's Day, or Eve—was observed, April 25th, not as a fast, but as a day of abstinence, which in the Church of Rome meant very different things.
In Hone's "Every Day Book" we find the following superstitious customs connected with St. Mark's Eve chronicled by a correspondent out of Northamptonshire, in 1826.
"On St. Mark's Eve, it is still a custom about us for young maidens to make a dumb-cake, a mystical ceremony which has lost its origin, and in some counties may have ceased altogether. The number of the party never exceeds three; they meet in silence to make the cake, and as soon as the clock strikes twelve, they each break a portion off to eat, and when done they walk up to bed backwards without speaking a word, for if one speaks the spell is broken. Those that are to be married see the likeness of their sweethearts hurrying after them. If nothing is seen, the desired token may be a knocking at the doors, or a rustling in the house, as soon as they have retired. To be convinced that it comes from nothing else but the desired cause they are always particular in turning out the cats and dogs before the ceremony begins. Those that are to die unmarried neither see nor hear anything; but they have terrible dreams, which are sure to be of new-made graves, winding-sheets, and churchyards, and of rings that will fit no finger; or which if they do, crumble into dust as soon as put on. There is another dumb-ceremony of eating the yolk of an egg in silence, and then filling the shell with salt, when the sweetheart is sure to make his visit, in some shape or other, before morning. On the same night, too, the stout-hearted watch the church-porch; they go in the evening and lay in the church-porch a branch of a tree, or a flower, large enough to be readily found in the dark, and then return home to wait the approach of midnight. They are to proceed to the church again, before the clock strikes twelve, and to remain in it till it has struck; as many as choose accompany the maid who took the flower, and is to fetch it again, as far as the church gate, and there wait till their adventuring companion returns, who, if she is to be married within the year, is to see a marriage-procession pass by her, with a bride in her own likeness hanging on the arm of her future husband; as many bridesmen and maidens as appear to follow them so many months is the maid to wait before her marriage. If she is to die unmarried, then the procession is to be a funeral consisting of a coffin covered with a white sheet, borne on the shoulders of shadows seen without heads.
Upon a sabbath-day it fell, Twice holy was the sabbath-bell That called the folks to evening prayer; The city streets were clean and fair From wholesome drench of April rains;And on the western window-panes The chilly sunset faintly told Of unmatured green vallies cold;Of the green thorny bloomless hedge, With rivers new with spring-tides edge;Of primroses by sheltered rills, And daisies on the aguish hills:Twice holy was the sabbath-bell, The silent streets were crowded well With staid and pious companies, Warm from their fire-side orat'ries;And moving, with demurest air, To even-song and vesper-prayer, Each arched porch, and entry low, Was filled with patient folk and slow; With whispers hush, and shuffling feet, While played the organ loud and sweet.