St Mark's Eve

St Mark's Eve
(24/5 April)
   This was the night for keeping watch to see the *wraiths of those who would die during the year. The practice has been recorded throughout England from the 17th century till late in the 19th century, especially in northern and western counties. The first reference to it is in 1608, when a woman in Walesbie (Nottinghamshire) was charged before a church court 'for watching upon Saint Markes even at Nighte laste in the Church porche to presage by divelishe demonstracion the deathe of somme neighbours within this yeere' (Transactions of the Thoroton Society 30: 12, cited in Opie and Tatem, 1989: 80). In 1673, a Yorkshire vicar said it 'was frequently practised by those poor ignorant souls' who waited in pairs in the churchyard to see the wraiths pass into the church, in the order in which they will dye, 'and when they are all in they hear a murmuring noise in church for a while' (Gutch, 1912: 44).
   There are variations of detail; some sources say the watcher must be fasting, others that he must circle the church before taking up his position; some say he will see headless or rotting corpses approaching, or coffins, but most describe identifiable wraiths. 'Those who are to die soon, enter the first, and those who will almost survive the year do not approach until nearly one o'clock If the person is to be drowned, his representative will come as if struggling and splashing in water, and so on for other cases of premature death,' wrote a Yorkshire correspondent to Hone's Every-Day Book in 1827 (cols. 548-9). Those who would become gravely but not fatally ill, he added, would approach the church and peep in, but not enter. There are several tales of watchers who saw their own wraith, and died not long after.
   This date was also, though less often, chosen for *love divinations; in a lawsuit in 1827, a woman was reported as saying: 'I'll tell you what I did to know if I could have Mr Barker. On St Mark's night I ran round a haystack nine times, with a ring in my hand, calling out, "Here's the sheath, but where's the knife?", and when I was running round the ninth time, I thought I saw Mr Barker coming home' (Hone, 1827: ii. 159).
   One Lincolnshire writer says a girl who picks twelve leaves of *sage while the clock strikes midnight will see her future husband, and anyone can become 'as wise as the devil' by catching *fernseed (J. A. Penny, Lincolnshire N&Q 3 (1892-3), 209). Another was told that every year witches and others who have sold themselves to the Devil must go round the church backwards three times, look in at the keyhole, and say certain words, or lose their power (Rudkin, 1936: 73).
   ■ S. P. Menefee, in The Seer, ed. Hilda Ellis Davidson (1989), 80-99.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • St Mark's Eve — St. Mark s Eve is the day before the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist. In liturgical Christian churches, this feast is observed on April 25 of each year; thus St. Mark s Eve is April 24. English folklore On St. Mark s Eve it was the custom in …   Wikipedia

  • Mark Price (musician) — Mark Gerard Price (born 10 August 1959, Burnley, Lancashire) is an English drummer, who is known for being the first full time drummer for All About Eve[1] and being the percussionist of Del Amitri between 1997 and 2002. His first son Joe (1990)… …   Wikipedia

  • Mark Wood (violinist) — Mark Wood Background information Origin Port Washington, New York, USA Genres Symph …   Wikipedia

  • Eve's Diary — is a comic short story by Mark Twain. It was first published in the 1905 Christmas issue of the magazine Harper s Bazaar, and in book format in June 1906 by Harper and Brothers publishing house. It is written in the style of a diary kept by the… …   Wikipedia

  • Mark Essex — Background information Birth name Mark James Robert Essex Born August 12, 1949 Emporia, Kansas, United States Died January 7, 1973 (aged 23) New Orleans, Louisiana, United States Cause of death Shot by …   Wikipedia

  • Mark Anthony Fernandez — Born Mark Anthony Lacsamana Fernandez January 16, 1979 (1979 01 16) (age 32) Manila, Philippines Other names M.A. Fernandez Occupation Actor and …   Wikipedia

  • Eve Torres — Eve Marie Torres Eve Torres le 4 décembre 2008, lors d une séance de signature d autographes. Données générales Nom complet …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eve torres — Pseudo(s) de lutte Eve Torres Taille 173 cm (5 8 ) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eve Langley — (* 1. September 1908; † Juni 1974), mit bürgerlichem Namen Ethel Jane Langley, war eine australische Schriftstellerin. Ihre Romane gehören zu jenem Traditionsstrang australischer Schriftstellerinnen, die die Konflikte der weiblichen Künstlerinnen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mark Osborne (filmmaker) — Mark Osborne Born Mark Randolph Osborne September 17 1968 [age 42] Trenton, New Jersey, USA Occupation Film director, Film producer, Screenwriter, Animator, Actor Years active 1993 Present …   Wikipedia