judgements and Providence


judgements and Providence
   Belief in God's 'judgements' - dramatic calamities sent to punish sinful individuals or communities, and to warn others - which was prominent from medieval till Victorian times, has shaped much folklore (Thomas, 1971: 79-112, 472-3). It is obvious in many landscape legends (e.g.
   'Long Meg, 'Semerwater, 'Stanton Drew), in some accounts of 'monstrous births, in beliefs about 'Gabriel Ratchets and the 'Wild Hunt, in cautionary pamphlets about the 'Black Dog of Bungay or the 'Mowing Devil, and even in the tale of the 'Lambton Worm. The role of the Devil in many such tales corresponds to an old belief that he was the agent for God's judgements. The sins thus punished include ' Sabbath-breaking, blasphemy, rash mention of the Devil, lack of charity, theft, murder, and injustice towards a labourer. According to a plaque on the market cross at Devizes (Devon), in 1753 a woman who said 'she wished she might drop down dead' if she had cheated on a purchase, 'instantly fell down and expired, having the money in her hand'.
   Providential deliverances and blessings did not stimulate popular imagination so much. However, Providence may be implied by the astonishing good fortune of Dick 'Whit-tington and the Pedlar of 'Swaffham; it underlies the widespread tale of a lost traveller saved by a curfew bell, who then donates land for its upkeep. It is also manifestly the point of the 'Angels of Mons rumour.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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