Jack o' Lent


Jack o' Lent
   In Tudor and Jacobean London, this was the name for gaunt puppets made of straw, rags, and herring skins, personifying the Lenten fast, which boys set up on Ash Wednesday and pelted with heavy sticks, and finally burnt before Easter. He could also be impersonated by living actors; a London pageant just before Easter 1553 showed a richly dressed Lord of Misrule, symbol of the coming feast, contrasted with Jack on his deathbed, with a 'priest' shriving him and a 'wife' begging doctors to save his life for Ј1,000.
   In Oxfordshire in the 17th century, schoolchildren breaking up for the Easter holidays went from house to house rattling wooden clappers and singing:
   Harings harings white and red Ten a penny Lent's dead Rise dame and give an egg Or else a piece of bacon One for Peter two for Paul Three for Jack a Lents all Away Lent away
   If they got none, they would 'commonly cut the latch of ye door, or stop the keyhole wth dirt, or leave some more nasty token of displeasure' (White Kennett's note in Aubrey, 1686/1880: 161-2).
   Effigies were made, paraded, and burnt at Polperro (Cornwall) early in the 19th century; the image was called 'Jack-o-Lent', but popularly supposed to represent *Judas. So was the effigy which used to be set up at Boston (Lincolnshire) in the 1920s, and pelted with muck from Ash Wednesday till the end of Lent (Sutton, 1997: 55). In some country districts, a jackalent is a scarecrow.
   ■ Wright and Lones, 1936: i. 39-40; Hutton, 1996: 172-3.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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