[From Manx Soc vol 16, 1869]
On old Hollantide Eve, the 11th of November, it is the custom, particularly in country districts, for boys to go from house to house shouting out the above word accompanied with any quantity of question and answer as follows-
Hop-tu-naa-This is old Hollantide night:
Trolla-laa,--The moon shines fair and bright.
Hop-tu-naa--I went to the well,
Trolla-laa,--And drank my fill;
Hop-t u-naa-On my way back
Trolla-laa-I met a witch-cat;
Hop-tu-naa-The cat began to grin,
Trolla-laa-And I began to run.
Hop-tu-naa-Where did you run to?
Trolla~laa,---I ran to Scotland.
Hop-tu-naa-What were they doing there?
Trolla-laa,-Baking bannocks and roasting collops.
If you are going to give us anything, give us it soon,
Or we'll be away by the light of the moon-Hop-tu-naa!
It is curious to note how words that belong to ages far remote, and expressing some definite meaning in their day, should become mixed up with a boyish pastime in our own, and the very words so transformed as to be scarcely understood or explained from the dialects now spoken in Europe,. This has been attempted by vaxious writers, and that learned antiquary, Dr. Jamieson, was not satisfied -with the explanation of the word "Hogmanay," which he gave in his Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, when, quoting from an ingenious essay on the word which appeared in the Caledonian Mercury" for January 2, 1792. In Menage's Dictionaxy (tom. i.) we find, " En basse Normandie, les pauvres, le dernier jour de l'an, er demandant 1'aumosne, disent Hoguinanno ; " and at the same season in France it was the Druidical custom, as remarked by Selden, on going out to cut the mistletoe, for the young country fellows about New Year's tide in every village to give the wish of good fortune at the inhabitants' doors, saying, "Au guy l'an neuf," which is a corruption of the old formula.
The Scottish cry on New Year's Eve of,
Give us your white bread,
And none of your gray,"
was quite as much as the common people could recollect of words no longer intelligible. These expressions have come down to the Manx from their Scottish and Norwegian progenitors, and have, consequently, in the lapse of time, become altered and their meaning lost.
That this formula of words was an invocation of goodwill to all, and particularly addressed to the good genii of the place, is evident from what will be hereafter shown. At this season of the year it was the popular belief that the Hogmen, i.e. Hillmen, or Elves, removed their quarters, and a general " flitting " took place, and were to be met with in all directions, hence the wish to propitiate them. This is quaintly alluded to by Naogeorgus, thus translated by Barnabee Googe in the "Popish Kingdome."
Three weekes before the day whereon was borne the Lorde of grace,
And on the Thursdaye boyes and girls do runne in every place,
And bounce and beate at every deore with blowes and lustie
And crie, the Advent of the Lorde not borne as yet perhaps,
And wishing to the neighbours all that * in the houses dwell,
A happie yeaxe, -and everything to spring and prosper well;
Here have they peares, and plumbs, and pence, ech man gives
For these three nights are alwayes thought unfortunate to bee;
Wherein they axe afrayde of sprites and cankred witches spight,
And dreadfull devils blacke and grim, that then have chiefest might."
In the transition to Hollantide night in the Isle of Man, at which time the custom prevails, is easily to be accounted for; on that night it was the universal belief that all fairies, phinnodderees, witches, or by whatever name they might be called, good, bad, or indilfereni, were permitted to roam abroad, and became the more dangerous-therefore the greater necessity for being guarded and conciliatory. In the Manx doggerel lines it will be seen that on returning from the well, a " witchcat." is met, and becomes an object of dread.
That the expression more particularly refers to the elves or fairies in whom most northern nations had an implicit belief, and were used as a means of propitiating a continuance of their good favour during the next year, is excellently set forth by Thorl. G. Repp, F.S.A- Scot. in the Transactions of the Society of Antiqueries of Scotland (voL iv. p. 202, 1831), who says " That the words 'Hogmanaye, Trollalay,' are entirely founded on fairy lore." The formula-
Hogman (properly Hogmen) aye
Troll a lay,"
contains two words in the former line, and three in the latter, signifying- The elves for ever,
The trolles (ie. the evil genii) into the sea,
the whole of the formula being good Anglo-Saxon. Hogh or Hog is Anglo-Saxon, meaning a hill, and Hoghmen, hillmen, for the elves were by all northern nations believed to reside in hills-which is well known to every one who is at all acquainted with fairy mythology, and that Hogmen aye means The Elves for ever. Trolle are evil genii, a giant, witch, etc. A lay is derived from two Norse words, á lae, in Icelandic pronounced ow lay, the former word being a preposition meaning in or into, and the latter the sea.
The interpretation, therefore, which I have given above of this hitherto mystic formula will, it is hoped, both on philological and on historical grounds, stand the test of the most rigid criticism; seeing that, while it is now shown to have an obvious meaning in the northern languages, it at the same time rests on well authenticated popular traditions, believed and prevalent in all the northern countries."
It must be borne in mind that the Hogmen, elves, or fairies were spoken of in the Isle of Man as "The good people," and, therefore, the greater reason to exclaim, " The elves for ever!"
see Manx Ballads