St. Luke's Day: Divination, Dog-Whipping and Horns Oct 18, 2020 1:37:09 GMT -5 Sam and jane like this
Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 18, 2020 1:37:09 GMT -5
St. Luke’s Day (October 18): Divination, Dog-Whipping and Horns
St. Luke (aka Luke the Evangelist), whose name means “bringer of light,” wrote the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Said to have been both an artist and physician – in fact the first known Christian doctor – he is the patron saint of artists, bachelors, bookbinders, brewers, butchers, doctors, glass makers, glass-workers, gold workers, goldsmiths, lace-makers, lace workers, notaries, painters, physicians, sculptors, stained glass workers and surgeons. His symbol is a winged ox or bull, denoting sacrifice, service and strength, and his special flower is the marigold, which blooms in the fall.
Legend has it that he was born to pagan parents and became one of the earliest converts to Christianity and the only Gentile to author any of the books of the New Testament. Although he did not personally know Jesus Christ and wasn’t an apostle, he was a companion to St. Paul and some believe he used his medical skills to treat his friend’s injuries when he was attacked and stoned or beaten by those who resisted the teachings of the new religion. Because he was a physician, St. Luke often uses medical terms in his Biblical writings. For example, when he describes the illness plaguing the father of Publius, he explains the man suffered from fever and dysentery. According to St. Jerome, St. Luke died in Greece at the age of 84, however, it isn’t known if he died a martyr’s death.
St. Luke’s feast day is October 18 and the summer-like days that sometimes take place in mid-October are called Saint Luke’s Little Summer.
Divining One’s Future Husband. Presumably because St. Luke is the patron saint of bachelors (unmarried men), some came to believe that October 18 was an auspicious day for young women to attempt to ascertain the identities of their future husbands. Accordingly, in some locations it was believed if a girl anointed her lips, breasts and stomach with a powder of dried marigold flowers, marjoram, thyme and wormwood simmered in virgin honey and white vinegar, while intoning the following rhyme, she would dream of the man she would marry:
St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me
In dreams let me my true love see.
But this ritual came with a word of caution. The maidens were instructed to watch and remember the visage of the man who appeared in their dreams. If he was smiling, it was said, he would be a loving partner, but if he was frowning, rude or uncivil, the girl would rue the day she said “I do.”
Dog-Whipping. While visions of future husbands danced in the heads of young women, the men and boys of the village were more concerned with whipping dogs. No one knows how St. Luke came to be associated with ridding towns and villages of bothersome canines, but according to one tale, the practice originated after a dog swallowed a consecrated wafer during a service in York Minster, the Church of Saint Peter in York, North Yorkshire.
Dogs were such a problem during church services that dog-whippers were employed to chase the disruptive animals from the building. Although dogs weren’t allowed in larger city churches, because the parasitic creatures are wont to follow the person who feeds them and often accompanied their masters to church, they were permitted in rural houses of worship as long as they lay quietly beneath their owner’s seat. The primary reason for this was more than likely because any fleas and ticks in the building would be more attracted to the dogs than they were to the congregants. However, if a dog barked, whimpered, growled or refused to stay put, it was in for a whipping.
The individual who kept order among the dogs in church was also charged with awakening any sluggards, i.e., those who fell asleep during services. The man who filled the position of dog-whipper and sluggard-waker was of such importance that some well-off parishioners felt it their duty to leave a little money from their estates to pay for his services. For example, in 1859, one Richard Rovey of the congregation at Claverley, Shropshire, left certain rental property to the church with the stipulation that eight shillings a year be paid to a poor man to awaken sleepers and drive out dogs.
During medieval times and, in fact, up until the latter part of the 20th century, the majority of owners expected dogs to earn their keep. People kept them as watchdogs and used them for hunting, but the animals multiplied quickly and stray mutts were a menace. Strays chased and killed livestock, threatened and attacked humans, spread disease and basically wreaked havoc, making it necessary to reduce their numbers. Accordingly, in many locations, come St. Luke’s Day, boys procured whips, cut sturdy switches and chased and whipped all stray dogs out of the village.
Another version of the practice contends that during pre-Reformation days, a Catholic priest accidentally dropped the Eucharist while celebrating mass on the Feast Day of St. Luke and naturally, one of the four-legged abominations skulking about in the church gobbled it up before anyone could react. The offending mutt was promptly slaughtered and all its brethren were doomed to a periodic flagellation in memory of the sacrilege.
A third story comes from Hull, East Yorkshire, where it seems that before the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541), it was customary for monks to provide for the poor attending the fair, which fell on October 11. On this particular day, a dog somehow got into the larder and snatched a joint of meat. The cooks raised the alarm and the thieving cur “was intercepted by a crowd of suppliants at the gate, who beat him soundly and rescued the meat.” Thereafter, when a dog appeared while the feast for the poor was being prepared, it was instantly beaten off and chased away. This practice was soon expanded and every October 10, the local lads set upon any roaming dogs, viciously whipping them out of the area.
Dog-whipping seemed to be more prevalent in Yorkshire. For instance, the York Dish Fair (so named because of the proliferation of wooden dishes offered for sale) held on St. Luke’s Day, was also known as Whip-Dog Day.
Vestiges of dog-whipping are still around as evidenced by certain place names. There’s a plot of land known as Dog-Whipper’s Marsh in Chislet, Kent, from which a payment of ten shillings a year was to be paid to a man to keep order during worship. Additionally, there’s a location called Dog Whipper’s Flat in Exeter, Devonshire, and St. Margaret’s Church in Wrenbury, Cheshire, still boasts a Dog Whipper’s Pew.
Horns! Horns! Another curious St. Luke’s Day custom, this one involving horns and men wearing women’s clothing (shades of The Wicker Man), took place at Charlton, London. The celebration was exceptionally rowdy for almost all attending wore masks. Booths were set up on the fair grounds from which hawkers sold the horns of various beasts as they loudly proclaimed, “Horns! Horns!” It is believed the horns represented those of the ox associated with St. Luke, but no one has been able to figure out why men chose to dress as women.
Sources: Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances and Miscellaneous Antiquities by William Shepard Walsh; Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult Sciences by Charles McClellan Stevens; Folklore Calendar, Project Britain; Magnificat; Traditional Customs and Ceremonies; The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Curiosities of Popular Customs by William Walsh; School of the Seasons; Rebecca Gordon, "From Pests to Pets," Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 2017; St. Luke: Apostle and Physician; Catholic Culture; and Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.