[From Train's History, 1845]


NOTE 1.—PAGE 155.


Schools and public offices are generally closed in Great Britain on Saturday after-noon ; but the Isle of Man is now perhaps the only place where labour is even partially suspended on account of the near approach of the Sabbath : the custom is of high antiquity, and the observance of it was enforced by law.

Bonnie, the learned antiquary, observes that in his time it was usual in the country villages, where the politeness of the age had made no great conquest, to pay a greater deference to Saturday afternoon than to any of the other working days of the week.—Antiquitates Vulgares, Newcastle, edition 1725, cap. xii.

So early as A. D. 958, king Edgar made an ecclesiastical law that Sabbath or Sunday should be observed from Saturday at noon till light should appear on Monday morning.—Selden Angl. lib. ii, cap. vil.

In the year 1203, William, king of Scotland, called a council of the chief men of his kingdom, at which was present the pope’s legate, where it was determined that Saturday, after the twelfth hour, should be kept holy, and that the people should be put in mind thereof by the tolling of the bell, that they should be present at sermon and bear vespers, and whoever acted otherwise should be severely punished.—Bœtius jib. de Scot. ex Hospinian, p. 176.

In A. D. 1332, it was appointed by the provincial council, held at Magfield by archbishop Mepham, among other things relative to holy days, that " the solemnity for Sunday should commence upon Saturday in the evening, and not before, to prevent the misconstruction of keeping a Judaical Sabbath."—Collier’s Ecclesiastical History, voL i, p. 531.

By an act of Tynwald in 1610, it was ordained by the Manks legislature " that none shall be admitted to fish from Saturday morning till Sunday at night, after sun-set, upon pain of forfeiture of his boat and nets."—Mills’s Laws, p. 502.

It appears to be in observance yet of these obsolete laws, although dread of the fairies is assigned as the cause, that the Manks spinster refrains from her wheel and the Manks fisherman from plying his avocation at sea on Saturday evening.




History is full of these instances of barbarity. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, persecutions foi’ witchcraft spread over Europe. By a bull of Pope Innocent VIII, in 1484, death was, for the first time, denounced against all who could be convicted of witchcraft or of dealings with Satan. Alexander VII and Leo X lent their aid in accelerating the course of this havoc. Contemporary historians say " Europe became, as it were, a large suburb of Pandemonium." About the year 1515, five hundred witches were executed at Geneva in three months. A thousand were executed in one year in the diocese of Como. In Lorraine, from the year 1580 to 1595, Remigius boasts of their having been nine hundred burnt. In France, about the year 1520, one historian says " there was an almost infinite number of sorcerers put to death." In Germany, the number of victims was upwards of an hundred thousand. England was not free from the same madness ; three thousand victims were executed during the reign of the long parliament alone. Barrington, in his Observations on the Statute 20 Henry VI, estimates the number of persons put to death in England, on a charge of witchcraft, at thirty thousand. Scotland, too, is stained with these bloody doings ; soon after the reformation, a thirst for the destruction of supposed witches commenced. About the close of the reign of James VI, thirty-five individuals were publicly burned to death on charge of witchcraft ; and between the years 1649 and 1660, thirty persons were condemned on similar charges. On one circuit made by the lords of justiciary in 1659, seventeen persons were convicted and burnt to death for witchcraft. Numerous, however, as the cases in the justiciary records appear, they are far short of the multitudes put to death throughout Scotland, under the commission issued by the privy council. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland took place at Dornock, in i 722 : the statutes were finally repealed in 1735.—Foreign Quarterly Review, No. xi, ap. Combe’s Constitution of Man.




Of all the multifarious ingredients of superstitious ceremony, none has been considered more essential than salt. In an early age of the world, the high priest of the Jews was enjoined to season all offerings with salt—Leviticus, ii, 13 ; ‘ ‘ and salt was used in all sacrifices by the express command of the true God."—Selden’s Notes on the PolyoThion, song xi. Nor was salt ever deficient in the sacrifices of the Romans from the earliest times.—Pliny’s Hist. Nat., lib. xxx, cap. xli. Fossil salt, to be used in sacrifice by the Egyptians, was procured by the priests of Jupiter Ammon from the deserts around the temple of this divinity, as preferable to that of the sea. —Arrian de Expeditione Alexandri, lib. iii, cap. i, ap. Dalyell’s Darker Superstitions, p. 97.

At a later period, salt was deemed, by the fathers of the christian church, an acceptable portion of all oblations made by the inmates of the monastic institutions. Great coincidences may be recognised between the pagan customs and those of the early christians.—Brand’s Preface to Observations on Bourne’s Antiquities. The Decretalia explains that the use of the consecrated salt in the mouth of one about to be baptised is for rendering the rite more efficacious ; but it is rather understood literally as for averting demoniac influence.—Gration Decretalia, part iii. Both Greeks and Romans, in their lustrations, made use of salt and water ; hence the origin of the holy water of after times.—Brand by Ellis, vol iii, p. 82.

The celebration of baptism in Scotland, by a layman, was afterwards confirmed by a priest, who taking a bit of salt out of a little silver box, kept for the purpose, said " Receive the salt of wisdom, and may it be a propitiation to thee for eternal life." —Stewart’s Conformity between Popery and Paganism, p. 50, ap. Ellis, vol. iii, p. 84. The use of salt in baptism is yet preserved by the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic church, it being the single ingredient employed in compounding holy water, esteemed of such importance in sanctifying the rites of that church and of such in-effable virtue in expelling demons.—Records of Orkney, anno 1629, ap. Dalyell’s Darker Superstitions, p. 98.

In Ireland, " before the seed is put into the ground the mistress of the family sends salt into the field" for the purpose of counteracting the power of the witches and fairies.—Gough’s Camden, folio, 1789, vol. iii, p. 659.

As a preventive from disease, salt was put into a cloth and bound to a cow’s horn. It was put into milk when first drawn from the cow after calving.—Sir John Sinclair’s Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. v, cap. xvi, p. 121. The Manks people yet throw salt into the churn " lest the production of butter may be prevented by the fairies, for whom, after the churning is finished, a certain portion of butter is left stuck against the wall,"—MS. Account of Manks Customs.

The efficacy of salt and brandy, as a panacea for all diseases, is at present in high repute in the Isle of Man. The dread of spilling salt, as in the Isle of Man, is a generally known superstition elsewhere, even the falling of a particle of salt at table is "received as a presage of some future calamity, to avert which it is customary to fling some salt into the fire over the shoulder."—Pennant’s Journey from Chester to London, p. 31.

Salt was an Egyptian hieroglyphic representation of life ; and was placed by christians on the breast of a corpse as an emblem of the immortality of the soul, which superstitious practice has only recently disappeared in the Isle of Man.—Brand’s Observations on Bourne’s Antiquities, Newcastle, edition 1777, p. 24.

 " To trace the connexion of nations by their usages, and the similarity of the implements which they employ, has been long my favourite study. Everything that can illustrate such connexions is most valuable to me."—Sir Walter Scott’s Antiquary, cap. xxx.


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