In the daily cycle of *time, midnight represents the deepest point of negativity, when *ghosts, demons, and all uncanny beings are most active. It is prescribed for many *magic rituals and *divinations. In modern times it is mathematically defined, so one is told that such-and-such will happen 'when the clock strikes twelve'; regarded thus, it derives much of its significance from its ambiguous status - does it belong to the day that has just ended or to that which is beginning? However, in earlier centuries the term was more loosely applied, to a period rather than a point of time; it is not clear how long this was considered to be, but all supernatural evil forces were supposed to vanish when the *cocks first crowed.
   Confusingly, midnight is also a time for certain celebratory rites, such as *first footing and seeing the *New Year in. This is because by modern reckoning a day begins at midnight (not at sunset, as in ancient cultures), so the day which inaugurates a new cycle must be launched with joyful and luck-bringing rituals at the earliest opportunity.
   For powers attributed to those born at midnight, see *chime hours.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


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