Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twelfth Day

Twelve days after Christmas, Christians celebrate the visit of the Three Wise Men.  This feast was a much more festive occasion in the years preceding the English Civil Wars.  One English custom was to elect a "King of Beans", where a bean was placed inside a cake, and whoever ended up with the piece with the bean was honored as king (or queen) for the day.  Twelfth day was celebrated at all levels of society, with reports of Charles II, Mary Queen of Scots, and many others enjoying the festivities.

Walter Scott reports a more superstitious aspect of this feast in his "Letters on demonology and witchcraft".  The story involves floating dishes, glasses, etc., which excited an English village:

"In 1772, a train of transactions, commencing on Twelfth Day, threw the utmost consternation into the village of Stockwell, near London, and impressed on some of its inhabitants the inevitable belief that they were produced by invisible agents.  The plates, dishes, china, and glass-ware and small movables of every kind, contained in the house of Mrs. Golding, and elderly lady, seemed to become animated, shifted their places, flew through the room, and were broken into pieces...Amidst this combustion, a young woman, Mrs. Golding's maid named Anne Robinson, was walking backwards and forwards, nor could she be prevailed on to sit down for a moment excepting when the family were at prayers, during which time no disturbance happened..."

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