CHAPTER III.

MARRIAGE.

THE next very important event in man's life is marriage, and naturally, therefore, to this event there attached a multitude of superstitious notions and practices, many of which, indeed, do still exist. The time when marriage took place was of considerable importance. One very prevalent superstition, common alike to all classes in the community, and whose force is not yet spent, was the belief that it was unlucky to marry in the month of May. The aversion to marrying in May finds expression in the very ancient and well-known proverb, " Marry in May,
rue for aye," and thousands still avoid marrying in this month who can render no more solid reason for their
aversion than the authority of this old proverb. But in former times there were reasons given, varying, however, in different localities. Some of the reasons given were the following:—That parties so marrying would be childless, or, if they had children, that the first-born would be an idiot, or have some physical deformity; or that the married couple would not lead a happy life, and would soon tire of each other's society. The origin of this
superstition is to be found in ancient heathen religious beliefs and practices. We have already noticed the
ancient belief that the spirits of dead ancestors haunted
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the living, and I have given a formula whereby a single person could exorcise the ghosts of his departed relativ£s, and I have also mentioned that national festivals to propitiate the spirits of the dead were appointed by some nations. Now, we find that among the Romans this national festival was held during the month of May, and
during its continuance all other forms of worship were suspended, and the temples shut; and further, for any
couple to contract marriage during this season was held
to be a daring of the Fates which few were found hardy
enough to venture. Ovid says—

"Pause while we keep these rites, ye widowed dames, 
The marriage time a purer season claims; 
Pause, ye fond mothers, braid not yet her hair, 
Nor the ripe virgin for her lord prepare. 
O, light not. Hymen, now your joyous fires, 
Another torch nor yours the tomb requires!
Close all the temples on these mourning days. 
And dim each altar's spicy, steaming blaze;
For now around us roams a spectred brood.
Craving and keen, and snuffing mortal food: 
They feast and revel, nor depart again.
Till to the month but ten days more remain."

Superstitions of this sort linger much longer in the country than in towns, and the larger the town the more speedily do they die out; but, judging from the statistics of late years, this superstition has still a firm hold of the inhabitants of Glasgow, the second city of the Empire. During the year 1874 the marriages in May were only 204, against 703 in June; but as the removal term occurs at the end of May, that must materially affect the relations, in this respect, between May and June, and accounts, in part, for the great excess of marriages in June.
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But if the average of the eleven months, excluding May,
be taken, then during that year there was a monthly average of 441, against 204 in May—being rather more than double. For the ten years preceding 1874, the average of the eleven months was 388, against 203 in May. As if to compensate for the restraint put upon the people in May, Juno, the wife of Jupiter, after whom June was named, and whose influence was paramount during that month, took special guardianship over births and marriages; hence June was a lucky month to be born in or get married in, and thus June is known as the
marrying month. Here, again, our registers show that the number of marriages are in June nearly double the average of the other months, excluding May and June. The average during the ten years is, for the ten months, 375 per month, whilst the average for June is 598. It may be noticed in passing that, in Glasgow, January and July stand as high as June, owing, doubtless, to the holidays which occur during these two months making marriage at those times more convenient for the working classes. 
There were many marriage observances of a religious or superstitious character practised in ancient Rome which were quite common among us within this century, especially in the country districts, but which now are either extinct or fast dying out. When a Roman girl was betrothed, she received from her intended a ring which she wore as evidence of her betrothal. When betrothed she laid aside her girlish or maiden dress, some parts of which were offered as a sacrifice to the household gods, and she was then clothed in the dress of a wife, and secluded from her former
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companions, and put under training for her new duties. When the time drew near for the consummation of the ceremony, it became an important consideration to fix upon a lucky day and hour for the knot to be tied. With this object astrologers, soothsayers, and others of that class were consulted, who, by certain divinations ascertained the most auspicious time for the union to take place in. When the day arrived every occurrence was watched for omens. A crow or turtle dove appearing near was a good omen : for these birds symbolized conjugal fidelity. The ceremony was begun by sacrificing a sheep to Juno, the fleece being spread upon two chairs on which the bride and bridegroom sat: then a prayer was said over them. The young wife, carrying a distaff and spindle filled with wool, was conducted to her house, a cake, baked by the vestal virgins, being carried before her. The threshold of the house was disenchanted by charms, and by anointing it with certain unctuous perfumes; but as it was considered unlucky for the new-made wife to tread upon the threshold on first entering her house, she was lifted over it and seated upon a piece of wool, a symbol of domestic industry. The keys of the house were then put into her hand, and the cake was divided among the guests. The first work of the young wife was to spin new garments for her husband. It will be seen that many of these practices were mixed up with superstitious notions, many of which were prevalent in this country sixty years ago, and some of which still remain in country districts. Sixty years ago when a young woman became a bride, she in a great measure secluded herself from society, and mixed but little even with her companions,
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and on no account would she show herself at church until after her marriage, as that was considered very unlucky. The evening before the marriage her presents and outfit were conveyed to her future home under the superintendence of the best maid (bridesmaid), who carried with her a certain domestic utensil filled with salt, which was the first article of the bride's furnishing taken into the house. A portion of the salt was sprinkled over the floor as a protection against an evil eye. The house being set in order, the best maid returned to the bride's house where a company of the bride's companions were met, and then occurred the ceremony of washing
the bride's feet. This was generally the occasion of much mirth. And this was in all probability a survival of an old Scandinavian custom under which the Norse bride was conducted by her maiden friends to undergo a bath, called the bride's bath, a sort of religious purification. On the marriage day, every trifling circumstance which would have passed without notice at other times was noted and scanned for omens of good or evil. If the morning was clear and shining, this betokened a happy cheerful life ; if dull and raining, the contrary result might be anticipated. I have known the following incidents cause grave concern about the future prospects of the young couple:—A clot of soot coming down the chimney and spoiling the breakfast; the bride accidentally breaking a dish; a bird sitting on the
window sill chirping for some time; the bird in the cage dying that morning ; a dog howling, and the postman
forgetting to deliver a letter to the bride until he was a good way off, and had to return. Some of these were defined for good, but most of them were evil omens.
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and took her away by force from her home, or he gained the right to make her his bride by success in battle with his opponents. Often, however, one who was no hero might gain the consent of the parents to his marriage with their daughter, she having little or no voice in the matter ; and when she and her friends were on their way to the church, some heroic but unapproved admirer, determined to win her by force of arms, having collected his followers and friends who were ever ready for a fight, would fall upon the marriage cortege, and carry off the
bride. Under those circumstances there was often great anxiety on the part of both the groom's and bride's relations, who remained at home when they had reason to apprehend that such attack might be made, and so, whenever the marriage ceremony was over, some of the company hasted home with the glad news; but commonly youths stationed themselves at the church-door, ready to run the moment the ceremony was over, and whether on foot or horseback, the race became an exciting one. He who first brought the good news received as a reward a bowl of brose, and such brose as was made in those days for this occasion was an acceptable prize. Although the necessity for running ceased, the sport occasioned by these contentions was too good and exciting to be readily given up, but it came to be confined to those who were at the wedding, and many young men looked forward eagerly to taking part in the sport. The prize which originally was brose, came to be changed to something more congenial to the tastes and usages of the times, viz., a bottle of whiskey. In this way, I think, we may account for the custom of "running the braize." It has been mentioned already that the best man went with the bride
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to the minister. His duty it was to take charge of the bride and hand her over to the bridegroom, a duty now performed by the bride's father, and in this now obsolete custom, I think we may find a still further proof that the
management and customs of the marriage procession were founded upon the old practice of wife-capture. The best man is evidently just the bridegroom's friend, who, in the absence of the bridegroom, undertakes to protect the bride against a raid until she reaches the church, when he hands her over to his friend the bride groom. 
To meet a funeral either in going to or coming from marriage was very unlucky. If the funeral was that of a female, the young wife would not live long ; if a male, the bridegroom would die soon. 
After partaking of the braizis hospitality,—for the bottle of whiskey was his by right,—the wedding party proceeded to the house of the young couple, and in some parts of Scotland, at the beginning of the century, the young wife was lifted over the threshold, or first step of the door, lest any witchcraft or ill e'e should be cast upon and influence her. Just at the entering of the house, the young man's mother broke a cake of bread, prepared for the occasion, over the young wife's head.
She was then led to the hearth, and the poker and tongs —in some places the broom also—were put into her hands, as symbols of her office and duty. After this, her mother-in-law handed her the keys of the house and furniture, thus transferring the mother's rights over her son to his wife. Again the glass went round, and each
guest drank and wished happiness to the young pair. The cake which was broken over the young wife's head
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was now gathered and distributed among the unmarried female guests, and by them retained to be placed under their pillows, so that they might dream of their future husbands. This is a custom still practised, but what is now the bridescake is not a cake broken over the bride's head, but a larger and more elaborately-prepared article, which is cut up and distributed immediately after the marriage ceremony. Young girls still put a piece of it under their pillows in order to obtain prophetic dreams. In some cases, this is done by a friend writing the names of three young men on a piece of paper, and the cake, wrapped in it, is put under the pillow for three nights in succession before it is opened. Should the owners of the cake have dreamed of one of the three young men therein written, it is regarded as a sure proof that he is to be her future husband. After drinking to the health and happiness of the young couple, the wedding party then went to the house of the bridegroom's father where they partook of supper, generally a very substantial meal; and this being finished, the young people of the party became restless for a change of amusement, and generally all then repaired to some hall or bam, and there spent the night in dancing. It was the custom for the young couple, with their respective parents and the best man and the best maid, to lead off by dancing the first reel.
Should the young couple happen to have either brothers or sisters older than themselves, but unmarried, these
unfortunate brethren danced the first reel without their shoes. Probably this has its origin in the old Jewish
custom of giving up the shoe or sandal when the right or priority passed from one to another. For an instance of this see Ruth iv. 7. Having danced till far on in the
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morning of next day, the young couple were then conducted home. The young wife, assisted by her female friends, undressed and got to bed, then the young man was sent into bed by his friends, and then all the marriage party entered the bedroom, when the young wife took one of her stockings, which had been put in bed with her, and threw it among the company. The person who got this was to be the first married. The best man then handed round the glass, and when all had again drank to the young couple, the company retired. This custom was termed the bedding, and was regarded as a ceremony necessary to the completion of the marriage; and there can be little doubt that it is a survival of a very ancient ceremony of the same family as the old Grecian custom of removing the bride's coronet and putting her to bed. This particular form of ceremony was also found in Scotland, and continued to comparatively modern times. Young Scotch maidens formerly wore a snood, a sort of coronet, open at the top, called
the virgin snood, and before being put to bed on the marriage night this snood was removed by the young women of the party. This custom is referred to in an ancient ballad.

" They've ta'en the bride to the bridal bed. 
'To loose her snood nae mind they had.
'I'll loose it,' quo John."

On the morning after some of the married women of the neighbourhood met in the young wife's house and
put on her the curtch or closs cap {mutch), a token of the marriage state. In my young days unmarried women
went with the head uncovered ; but after marriage, never
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were seen without a cap. On the morning after marriage the best man and maid breakfasted with the young couple, after which they spent the day in the country, or if they lived in the country, they went to town for
a change. Weddings were invariably celebrated on a Friday,—the reason for this preference being, as is supposed, that Friday was the day dedicated by the Norsemen to the goddess, Friga, the bestower of joy and happiness. The wedding day being Friday, the walking day was a Saturday ; and on Sunday the young couple, with their best man and best maid, attended church in the forenoon, and took a walk in the afternoon, then spent the evening in the house of one of their parents, the meeting there being closed by family worship, and a
pious advice to the young couple to practise this in their own house.
If the bride had been courted by other sweethearts than he who was now her husband, there was a fear that those discarded suitors might entertain unkindly feelings towards her, and that their evil wishes might supematurally influence her, and affect her first-born. This evil result was sought to be averted by the bride wearing a sixpence in her left shoe till she was kirked; but should the bride have made a vow to any other, and broken it, this wearing of the sixpence did not prevent the evil consequences from falling upon her first-born. Many instances were currently quoted among the people of firstborn children, under such circumstances, having been born of such unnatural shapes and natures that, with the sanction of the minister and the relations, the monster birth was put to death. Captain Burt, in his letters from the Highlands, written early in the eighteenth century.
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says that " soon after the wedding day the newly-married wife sets herself about spinning her winding sheet, and a husband that shall sell or pawn it is esteemed among all men one of the most profligate." And Dr. Jamieson says—" When a woman of the lower class in Scotland, however poor, or whether married or single, commences housekeeping, her first care, after what is absolutely necessary for the time, is to provide death linen for herself and those who look to her for that office, and her next to earn, save, and lay up (not put out to interest) such money as may decently serve for funeral expenses. And many keep secret these honorable deposits and salutary mementoes for two or threescore years." 
This practice was continued within my recollection. The first care of the young married wife was still, in my young days, to spin and get woven sufficient linen to make for herself and her husband their dead dates. I can well remember the time when, in my father's house, these things were spread out to air before the fire. This was done periodically, and these were days when mirth was banished from the household, and everything was done in a solemn mood. The day was kept as a Sabbath. The reader will not fail to observe in some of these modern customs and beliefs modified survivals of the old Roman practices and superstitious beliefs.


Folk Lore

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