shepherds


shepherds
   The nature of their work kept shepherds somewhat apart from other farmworkers, and they had various traditions of their own: they continued wearing smocks when other labourers had long abandoned them, and they favoured regional differences in the design of crooks and sheep bells. To pass the time while guarding the flock, and to earn extra money, some snared wild birds, and others did elaborate woodcarving. It was customary for a shepherd to be buried with a tuft of wool in his hands, so that at Doomsday he could prove what his calling had been, and so be excused for often missing Sunday church.
   The fact that in Sussex fossil sea-urchins found on the Downs were called 'shepherds' crowns' may imply they collected them for sale. They were often displayed on cottage mantlepieces or windowsills, sometimes being blackened with boot polish; the general belief was that they acted as *thunder-stones, to keep *thunder away and so prevent milk from turning sour, and some thought they also kept witches away. They were regarded as lucky, and whoever found one must spit on it and toss it over his left shoulder.
   See also *sheep-shearing, *shepherds' score.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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