Christmas in Killarney

Leggi in italiano

“Christmas in Killarney” combines a festive music with the most genuine Christmas tradition in South Ireland.

The text was composed in 1950 by the Americans John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon, but Killarney is a tourist town (perhaps too crowded in the summer season) located in Ireland, in the county of Kerry, province of Munster: the town is pretty, “very picturesque” surrounded by the Killarney National Park , a true paradise, with breathtaking waterfalls and lakes and the inevitable castle, the Ross Castle.
The Christmas celebrations are particularly lively with float parades, an always open ice rink, Santa’s House and Christmas market stalls, and lots of music.

CHRISTMAS CANDLE

In Ireland it was customary to put a lighted candle in front of the window on Christmas Eve to welcome Mary and Joseph. It was also the way to signal to priests, in the period in which it was forbidden, that in that house they could enter to give the blessing.
Tradition has it that the candle is lit by the youngest member of the family and turned off by a girl named “Mary” (at one time the name was very common in Irish families). After dinner on the eve the table is prepared again with cumin and raisin bread in the middle, a jug of milk and a lit candle, leaving the front door ajar, so that Mary and Joseph or any tramp, can come in and sit down table to have a refreshment.

Irish Rovers

Barra McNeils


CHORUS
The holly green, the ivy green (1)
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home.
It’s nice, you know, to kiss your beau
While cuddling under the mistletoe (2)
And Santa Claus you know, of course
Is one of the boys from home.
I
The door is always open (3)
The neighbors pay a call
And Father John before he’s gone
Will bless the house and all (4).
Our Hearts are light, our spirits bright
We’ll celebrate our joy tonight
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
II
We’ll decorate the Christmas tree (5)
While all the family’s here
Around a roaring fire (6)
We will raise a cup of cheer (7)
There’s gifts to bring and songs to sing
And laughs to make the rafters ring
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
III
We’ll take the Horse and Sleigh (8)
All across the fields of snow
Listening to the jingle bells
And everywhere we go
How grand it feels to click your heels (9)
And dance away to the jigs and reels
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
IV
The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
I’m handing you no blarney
No matter where you roam
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
NOTE
1) decorating the house for the festivities of mid-winter is an ancient custom, maintained in the Middle Ages, till today (cf)
2) the kiss under the mistletoe has remote origins, perhaps dating back to the Saturnalia or the Celts. Of all the hypotheses, all what refers to the Scandinavian myth of Balder’s death is the most likely. The custom, as an auspicious gesture, is historically found in the Tudor era in the twelve days of Christmas. In the nineteenth century when it was a curse for women to remain unmarried, there were many superstitious gestures to be observed all year round, but in particular on New Year’s Eve: that of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe with anyone who came within range was auspicious for an imminent engagement and if you did it with your boyfriend you were already certain of the wedding!
Once you could give as many kisses as the berries of the mistletoe bush, but now you can kiss at will without removing the berries to count the kisses.
3) we refer not only to the exchange of visits between neighbors and acquaintances, but also to the generosity towards the most needy and the poor who went around the houses with begging songs (cf)
4) in the homes of Catholics the priest used to blessing the rooms and the people gathered together at Christmas
5) Christmas tree was a typically Germanic custom introduced in England in 1840 by Queen Victoria, in love with her handsome prince Albert. Already the Romans for the Saturnalia and the Calendae decorated the house with fir branches, fertility spirits that they remained laden with leaves even in the middle of winter. And yet it is not possible to trace the passage from these twigs to the Christmas tree.
A legend tells of Wilfred of Credition a Christian priest of the 8th century, missionary in Germany: to dissuade the “pagans” in the ritual practices in honor of the old gods he had an oak, the sacred plant of Odin, cut down. But a fir tree was born nearby so Wilfred proclaimed it the emblem of the new faith.
6) Christmas log (what remains of the ancient tradition of Yule) a large trunk brought home on Christmas day which was to burn slowly for the 12 nights of the feast cf
7) toast of the wassail, the ancient cult of trees that became an auspicious drink (cf)
8) the horse-drawn buggies, in winter they were equipped with skates to slide on the snow. There were essentially two models, a small two or four-seater, a small intimate and comfortable sled, the second was a taller, bigger and sturdy sled to accommodate a family (which at the time was quite numerous among children and relatives) or a friends’ group. The bells were a sign of allert to prevent accidents between the sledges: especially with the haze and darkness the sound of bells alerted the approach of a sled; in the Christmas context the clinking recalls the Santa’s sleigh (Jingle bells)
10) typical way of dancing in Ireland

Skeklers from Shetland

Leggi in italiano

From the Shetland Islands come the “straw men” called skeklers, “masks” who played a specific role in the celebrations of Halloween, New Year and even in peasant marriages.

They are fertility “wheat spirits”, the local version of the “begging eggs” tradition spread throughout Europe: “Skekling is an old Shetland folk tradition. A Skekler is the name for a type of disguised person dressed in a distinctive straw costume; it is a variant of the term ‘guiser’. Skeklers would go round the houses at Halloween, New Year, and turn up at weddings in small groups performing fiddle music in return for food and drink.”

Gemma Ovens

Singing the eggs” was part of the ritual beginning of the new year still widespread in Piedmont (although moved to March-April) and of a consolidated tradition in the Italian South (singing of the Strina): the eggs are certainly symbols of rebirth, good health and good harvest, it is the so-called “sympathetic magic” but it makes me think of the use (extensively documented in legends and fairy tales) of egg shells as “exorcism” against fairy pranks and in particular of the Servan ( silvanotti, sarvanot, sarvan, the peasant goblins), in the old days the peasants scattered the shells in front of the doors of the stables to prevent fairy jokes to the cattle; or the boiling eff shells in “counter-spell” against the Changeling. Furthermore the Irish leprechaun, elf of the woods, is master (or guardian) of great quantities of gold – just as it is said of the wild man.

THE WILD MAN

The straw man’s mask (with the blackened face) and the disguised voice was described by Samuel Hibbert in his Description of the Shetland Islands in 1822, when the tradition was already dying out. Here is an accurate description dating back to 1850: “The kitchen was full of beings, whose appearance, being so unearthly, shook the gravity of my muscles and forced a cold sweat to ooze from every pore in my body… [they] stood like statues. One was far above the rest and of gigantic dimensions. eyes, mouth, or noses they had none, nor at least a trace of their countenance.
They kept up an incessant grunt — a noise partly resembling a swine or turkey cock. Their outer garments were as white as snow ans consisted of petticoats below and shirts on the outside with sleeves and collars. They were veiled and their headdresses or caps were about 18 inches in height and made of straw twisted and plaited. each cap terminated in three or four cones of a crescent shape, all pointing backwards and downwards with bunches of ribbons of every colour raying from the points of the cones.”
(from here)

We are in the presence of the umpteenth variant of the Wild Man between myth and ritual, here in his vegetable exception of Man of the Woods (a Jack in the Green of the dark part of the year) that at the end of winter “wakes” the wheat and promotes the germination. Thus the mask of the “straw man” screams (in a beastly way, not a human one) and brings confusion by becoming an instrument of the magic ritual.
There is also a photographic record of these magical creatures, a group of boys photographed in Fetlar in 1909 while there is evidence of tradition up until 1958, the tail of a ritual whose meaning was lost.

Children from Fetlar dressed as skeklers, Shetland, 1909. © Shetland Museum.

Da Skeklers

A lost tradition that in many parts of Shetland is trying to revive (see the photo shoot by Gemma Ovens )
A significant contribution comes from the musical group “Fiddlers’ Bid” that have included in their album “All dressed in Yellow” (2009) the traditional song Da Skeklers and reconstructed the straw costumes of these disturbing masks.
The melody is in set with “Aamer August” (Estonia), the march “Hunter’s Hill” (Scotland); “Sigurd ‘or Gord’s Spring” (from the Shetland Islands played by Catriona McKay’s harp); From Skeklers (from the Shetland Islands ).
So they write in the notes “People like these turning up at your isolated house in the middle of the winter. They would have been good enough to open the door?

In the occasion of the most important festival of the archipelago, Up Helly Aa , a team had the idea of recovering the straw man’s mask; already in 2007 for the opening of the new Shetland Museum, Euan Balfours had recreated the costume based on the photographic archives: the peculiarity of the costume lies in the conical straw hat with woven tip and decorated with ribbons, so it was discovered that the old men still remembered how the various ways of weaving the costume were synonymous with a typicality of the community; we also learn that the face of the mask had to be concealed, not simply dyed black, but veiled (cf)

Clutching at Straws (Clint Watt)

LINK
Massimo Centini “L’uomo selvatico” (1989)
http://www.knitbritish.net/clutching-at-straws-fragments-of-a-shetland-tradition/
http://www.documentscotland.com/skeklers-skekling-shetland-scottish-photography/
http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/news/skekler-costume-on-loan/

Poor old horse: winter hoodening

Leggi in italiano
Samhain (the New Year of the Celts) ended on 11 November with a pagan festival still practiced in the early Middle Ages, to which the Church superimposed the feast of Saint Martin. (see first part)

THE CULT OF HORSE

For the Celts the horse was a sacred animal, a symbol of royalty and attribute of various deities.
Symbol of wealth and buried together with his master (or worthy of a ritual burial if he fell in battle) the white one was raised by the Druids and used for prophecies and sacrificial rites.
Totemic animal for many Celtic tribes that take its name, its flesh was taboo except in particular ritual times. 

THE WINTER TRADITION

The soulers and the wassailers or more generally the gangs of young people who went around the farms as beggars during the winter festivals were once (and still today) accompanied by the hobby horse.
The spirits of the Earth who govern fertility were depicted as a horse and associated with the young women not yet married (fertility carriers). An even more Celtic connotation is the identification of the “hobby horse” with the Goddess Mare (the Earth Goddess): we find it in the myth of the Welsh goddess Rhiannon and the northern Italian goddess Epona.

MARTINMASS & HOODENING

obby_oss_sHistorical references to the hobby horse date back to the late Middle Ages (early 1500s) with traces still in the Victorian era: in 1803 the presence of a horse made with the skin of a stallion with a man spraying water on the crowd is documented.
In the Middle Ages the “cavallino” was a character of the cheerful brigade of Robin Hood and was connected with the fertility rituals of the spring festival and the May dances, but also with the Christmas celebrations.
Some scholars trace the ritual back to pre-Christian celebrations connected with the Beltane Celtic festival. But equally numerous are the references to the winter rituals of Samhain.
In the ritual of hoodening a man wears a blanket or a white sheet that covers him entirely and carries a horse’s head on a stick, most commonly a wooden head with jaws with hinges so that it can be maneuvered to open and close ( once a real horse skull). Sometimes a burning candle is placed in the skull with very disturbing effects.

LÁIR BHÁN

At Samhain in Ireland, appalling parades took place in the countryside and in medieval villages, led by Láir Bhán (the white mare) followed by a band of young men waving horns and asking for offers for Muck Olla.
William Hackett  wrote (1853): ‘It is not many years since on Samhain’s eve, 31st October, a rustic procession perambulated the district between Ballycotton and Trabolgan, along the coast. The parties represented themselves as messengers of Muck Olla, in whose name they levied contributions on farmers; as usual they were accompanied by sundry youths, sounding lustily on cows’ horns; at the head of the procession was a figure enveloped in a white robe or sheet, having, as it were, the head of a mare, this personage was called the Láir Bhán, “the white mare,” he was a sort of president or master of ceremonies. A long string of verses was recited at each house. (from here)

by Niamh Ní Ruairc

MARI LWYD

Mari Lwyd, or “Y Fari Lwyd” (in English Gray Mare) is the Welsh version of the hooden horse. Tradition still practiced in central and southern Wales, in particular at Llantrisant and Pontyclun at New Year. The mask consists of a horse’s head (a real skull) with a movable jaw and disquieting eyes made from two pieces of green bottle, decorated with colored ribbons and carried on a pole by a person hidden under a large white cloak. The beggars stop to sing in front of the doors of the houses and call the mistress and challenge her in a pwnco (a challenge in verse). The victory of the singing challenge allows the beggars to enter the house to eat sweets and drink beer.
As can be seen in the illustration by Paul Bommer, the landlady is holding a broom and does not want the group to enter because it is a bringer of disorder. In fact, once the company was entered, the mare would go around the room chasing the women; the mare is clearly a monstrous and otherworldly creature that must be appeased with some offerings and sometimes a small child could calm the beast with a treat.

English translation
I
Here we come
Dear friends
To ask permissions to sing
II
If we don’t have permission,
Let us know in song
How we should go away tonight
III
I have no dinner
Or money to spend
To give you welcome tonight
Welsh gaelic
I
Wel dyma ni’n dwad
Gyfeillion diniwad
I ofyn am gennod i ganu
II
Os na chawn ni gennad
Rhowch wybod ar ganiad
Pa fodd mae’r ‘madawiad, nos heno
III
‘Does genni ddim cinio
Nac arian iw gwario
I wneud i chwi roeso, nos heno

NOTE
1) if the people were defeated in the poetic battle, Mari Lwyd claimed the right to stay at dinner with all her followers. Alternatively they offered a glennig (a small tip), a glass of glaster (water and milk) or beer.

HOODEN HORSE

In Kent the Heningening groups have returned (in the villages of San Nicola-a-Wade, Nether Hale, Sarre), in particular the tradition is very rooted in San Nicola-a-Wade where the hooden horse is called Dobbin, an old man poor horse exhausted by the labor of work: a sort of “sacred representation” is staged with various characters and songs; once the teams of hoodening went from house to house with musicians and the clatter of bells: the horse was accompanied by a group of peasants, one who holds the reins (the tamer), the other who carries a basket of fruit an another on the back, there is also “Mollie” or the “old lady” who carries a broom. Here the master knocks and as soon as the door is opened the horse kicks and scares, opening his mouth wide, while Mollie fucks the feet of one who has opened the door.. (see more)

The Horse regularly appeared through the year at, especially in Midwinter (Hallowtide, the Twelve Days of Christmas, et al). The Horse was a man dressed as an animal, covered in blanket and carrying a horse’s head, with reins, on a pole. The head was sometimes wooden but usually a real horse skull – hinged jaws allowed the mouth to snap open and shut. Along with other young men the horse ‘galloped’ and visited houses as a ‘lick-bringer’. This was not always successful and in 1839 at Broadstairs a woman was so terrified coming face-to-face with the ‘horse’ she died of fright. The custom was subsequently forbidden by local magistrates.
In East Kent Hoodening took place at Christmas. The Horse had a wooden head and sometimes a lighted candle was placed in the mouth. Farmworkers walked with the horse, one leading it by the reins or a rope and carrying a whip, and another worker light enough to ride on the horse’s back. A third known as Mollie or Old Woman was in female attire and carried a broom or besom.
In Reculver, only men who had worked with horses during the year were allowed to partake.  (in “A Dictionary of British Folk Customs” di Christina Hole, 1995 from here)

POOR OLD HORSE

There are many versions of the song, which was a part of the Mummers play, who staged the death and resurrection of the horse

Shirley Collins from “False True Lovers” 1959

I
My clothing was once of a linsey-woolsey fine,
My mane it was sleek
and my body it did shine.
But now I’m getting old
and I’m going to decay,
Me master frowns upon me
and thus they all do say, “Poor old horse.”
II
My living was once to the best of corn and hay
As ever grew in England,
and that they all did say.
But now there’s no such comfort
as I can find at all.
I’m forced to nab the short grass
that grows against the wall,
“Poor old horse.”
NOYE
This version is only a fragment and the initial part is missing in which the mummers / soulers ask to be welcomed at home

Kate Rusby from Sweet Bells 2008


I
We’ve got a poor old horse,
He’s standing at your door,
And if you’ll only let him in,
He’ll please you all (1) I’m sure (x2)
II
Now that he’s grown old
And nature doth decay,
My master frowns upon him now,
These words I’ve heard him say (x2)
III
Now that he’s grown old
And scarcely can he crawl,
He’s forced to eat the coarsest grass
That grows against the wall (x2)
IV
This poor horse was once young,
And in his youthful prime
My master used to ride on him,
He thought him very fine (x2)
NOTE
1) in the verse the song is highlighted as a begging song with propitiatory ritual

Paying off the dead horse: sea shanty version

THE SUMMER TRADITION

oldossOSS
On the streets of Padstow, a small fishing port in North Cornwall on the mouth of the Camel River, now a tourist destination, each May Day is celebrated with the Obby Oss Festival (continua)

LINK
http://ontanomagico.altervista.org/epona.html
http://paleopix.com/blog/2013/10/31/lair-bhan-and-the-mast-beast/
https://thefadingyear.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/origins-of-trick-or-treating/
https://www.omniglot.com/songs/bcc/marilwyd.php
http://www.folkwales.org.uk/arctd9a.html
http://hoodening.org.uk/hooden-horses.html
http://www.hoodening.org.uk/hoodening-history1.html http://paulbommer.blogspot.it/2010/12/advent-calendar-22nd-mari-lwyd.html http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cy/279/
http://mainlynorfolk.info/shirley.collins/songs/pooroldhorse.html

Ankou, a Breton myth

Leggi in Italiano

In Brittany in winter nights the Ankou travels in search of souls, on his squeaky cart pulled by two black emaciated horses; he is the Companion, the one who leads souls from one world to another. In folk tales he looks like a lanky farmer-carter and with a big hat on his head that obscures his face, sometimes he is accompanied by two helpers, also dressed in black.
Sometimes riding sometimes as a cart driver (le Carrier an Ankou) he leads the souls (or waits for them) to the door of Hell which in Brittany opens in the Yeun Ellez in the Mounts of Arrée (in the center of Finistère), a swampy depression in the middle of the Mountains, dominated by the Mont Saint-Michel de Brasparts on which the chapel of Saint Michael was built (not surprisingly).
The bog in the form of lush fields hides its pitfalls from the unwary travelers who leave the paths and end up drowning imprisoned by the slime.

AN INELUDIBLE CART

No force can stop the cart, which is often empty or full of people, some say that on the cart there is also a musical band that plays a suave song. When the cart stops or when it is heard passing (and for this reason the wheels squeak) the own eath or the death of a relative or an acquaintance, it’s near.
“It is along particular paths that you can meet this dismal crew: they are usually ancient streets abandoned by the usual traffic and cut off from everyday life. The paths of Death are called in Breton by henkou ar Maro; it is inconvenient and dangerous to close them, because you can disturb the passage of Ankou. In the areas along the coast, the Master, as he is also called, likes to travel by sea using a boat, the bag-noz or the night boat. On the boat or with the wagon, anyone who meets him, returns home to lie down and disappear from this world a few days later
(translated from here).

In the Breton depictions (mostly sculptures and bas-reliefs but also wall paintings) Ankou is a skeleton that holds an arrow, a spade or a sickle, which are not offensive instruments but rather symbols, it is in fact a peaceful figure , an integral part of community life.
Ankou is similar to the Greek Charon and as the mute ferryman of Souls, but it is also the skeleton of the Macabre Dance and as Alessio Tanfoglio writes in his essay “Ankou e la danza macabra di Clusone” (2016) it is “the skeleton or the representation of the reality of death in its objective form, without deception or masking “.

In some Breton tales the Ankou is of few words and fortunately the legends have been transcribed by Anatole Le Braz in the late nineteenth century collected from the last living storytellers during the veillées, the nocturnal vigils in the isolated farms that he was visiting by bicycle: “La Légende de la Mort chez les Bretons armoricains”

Marjanig, O, put your little foot,

Ankou is the main subject of a nursery rhyme for children entitled “O, lakait ho troadig” (O, put your little foot, in French O, mettez votre petit pied) structured as a progressive count in which the choir introduces a new word which becomes the first of the new series. The song dates back to the 16th century

Christophe Kergourlay

O, lakait ho troadig,
ma dousig Marjanig

O, lakait ho troadig e-kichen va hini
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou
O, lakait ho karig, ma dousig Marjanig
O, lakait ho karig e-kichen va hini
Ni vo karig hon-daou
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou
Ni vo klinig hon-daou
Ni vo karig hon-daou
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou
Ni vo dornig hon-daou,
Ni vo klinig hon-daou
Ni vo karig hon-daou
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou
Ni vo jodig hon-daou,
Ni vo dornig hon-daou,
Ni vo klinig hon-daou
Ni vo karig hon-daou
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou
Ni vo begig hon-daou,
Ni vo jodig hon-daou,
Ni vo dornig hon-daou,
Ni vo klinig hon-daou
Ni vo karig hon-daou
Ni vo troadig hon-daou
Ken na teuy an Ankou
Da gerc’hat ac’hanomp hon-daou

English translation
Chorus
O, put your little foot,
my sweet Mary Jane

O, put your little foot beside mine.
I
We’ll be foot to foot
Until Death
Comes to fetch us
II
We’ll be leg to leg
We’ll be foot to foot
Until Death
Comes to fetch us
We’ll be knee to knee…
We’ll be hand to hand …
We’ll be cheek to cheek …
We’ll be mouth to mouth …

LINK
Alessio Tanfoglio: “Quaderno 4. Lo spettacolo della Morte: il cadavere e lo scheletro”, “Ankou e la danza macabra di Clusone” (2016)
http://perstorie-eieten.blogspot.it/2010/09/la-leggenda-dell-ankou-il-rapporto-dei.html
http://per.kentel.pagesperso-orange.fr/o_lakait_ho_troadig1.htm
http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=66
http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=fs&p=66
http://stq4s52k.es-02.live-paas.net/items/show/42662
http://www.arcadia93.org/bretoni.html
https://to.kan.bzh/chant-01341.html

The Shaking Of The Sheets: a macabre dance

Leggi in italiano

danza-macabra-clusone
Clusone, Bergamo (Italy): fresco of the Shaking of the Sheet

In the Middle Ages to exorcise the fear of death, they danced with her, the living and the keletons are depicted all in a row in an endless farandola to leave life at dance step.
The most widespread theme in the early Middle Ages, however, was the Universal Judgment, a Memento Mori (As I am, you will be) that passed to the theme of the “Triumph of Death” as Danse Macabre. In the Danse Macabre all the social categories of the time are represented, starting with the powerful and the rich bourgeois and then gradually the artisans, the peasants and the poor.
With death crowned to direct the great ball and its attendants to throw the darts (or to shoot with the rifle as in the fresco of Clusone) or to play some musical instruments. Perhaps a sort of social satire, but it was rather a reflection on vanitas (of power and wealth)

Corvus Corax “Saltatio Mortis A.D.Mm” from “Mille anni passi sunt“, 2000

Angelo Branduardi  “Ballo in fa diesis minore” from “La pulce d’acqua” 1997: if the text follows the motif of the medieval macabre dance, the music is instead a medieval tune reported by Giorgio Mainerio in his “Il primo libro dei balli accomodati per cantar et sonar d’ogni sorte de instromenti ” (1578) and it was more properly a “rain dance” here
Guest of the album, the Sardinian musician Luigi Lai, virtuoso of the “launeddas“, very ancient wind instrument (here).


I(1)
Sono io la Morte, e porto corona
Io son di tutti voi signora e padrona
E così sono crudele,
così forte sono e dura
Che non mi fermeranno le tue mura
II
Sono io la Morte, e porto corona
Io son di tutti voi signora e padrona
E davanti alla mia falce
il capo tu dovrai chinare
E dell’oscura morte al passo andare
III (2)
Sei l’ospite d’onore del ballo che per te suoniamo
Posa la falce e danza tondo a tondo
Il giro di una danza e poi un altro ancora
E tu del tempo non sei più signora
English translation *
I
I am Death and wear a crown,
I am for all of you lady and mistress
and I am so cruel,
so strong and harsh
that your walls won’t stop me.
II
I am Death and wear a crown,
I am for all of you lady and mistress
and in front of my scythe
you’ll have to bow your head
and walk to the gloomy Death’s pace.
III
You are the guest of honor
at the dance we are playing for you,
put your scythe down and dance round and round
a round of dancing and then one more,
and you’ll be no longer the lady of time.

NOTE
from here
1) The text partly reproduces the inscription frescoed in the macabre dance of the Pinzolo Cemetery in Val Redena
Io sont la Morte che porto corona
Sonte Signora de ognia persona
At cossi son fiera forte et dura
Che trapaso le porte et ultra le mura
Et son quela che fa tremare el mondo
Revolgendo una falze atondo atondo
Ovvio taco col mio strale
Sapienza, beleza forteza niente vale
2) men invite Death to dance so that he forget about his mission

Thomas Rowlandson – The English Dance of Death, 1815-1816

THE SHAKING OF THE SHEETS

“Shaking of the Sheets” was published in 1568 in “Popular Music of the Old Time” (Chappell) (cf). In the English Dancing Master, Playford transcribed the melody, let’s hear it performed by the Baltimore Consort

The song, however, re-proposed in a folk-rock key by the Steeleye Span follows some sixteenth-century stanzas but the music was composed by Robert “Bob” Johnson and mixed with a country dance titled Black Joke (Joack) from the village of Adderbury in Oxfordshire. Black Joak was transcribed by Cecil Sharp from the bearer John Mason of Stow-on-the-Wold, a traditional melody of the Morris Dance with the sticks of the same name.

Lester Bailey

Steeleye Span (Robert “Bob” Johnson voice) from “Tempted and Tried” 1989

Faran Flad live 

Chorus:
Dance, dance the shaking of the sheets,
Dance, dance when you hear the piper playing,
Everyone must dance
The Shaking of the Sheets with me.
I
Bring away the beggar,
bring away the king,
And every man in his degree.
Bring away the oldest
and the youngest thing,
Come to death and follow me.
II
Bring away the merchant
who made his money in France,
And the crafty banker too,
When you hear the piper,
you and I must dance
The dance that everyone must do.
[Chorus]
III
I’ll find you in the courtrooms,
I’ll find you in the schools,
When you hear the piper play.
I’ll take away the wise men,
I’ll take away the fools
And bring their bodies all to clay.
IV
All the politicians of high and low degree,
Lords and ladies, great and small.
Don’t think that you’ll escape
and need not dance with me,
I’ll make you come when I do call.
[Chorus X 2]
V
It may be in the day, it may be in the night,
Prepare yourselves to dance and pray.
That when the piper plays
“The Shaking of the Sheets”
You may to Heaven dance the way.
[Chorus]

THE GREAT PLAGUE

The spread of so many depictions of macabre dances on the walls of all Europe is traced back to the passage of the great plague of 1348 which decimated the populations without knowing boundaries. Never before had Europe known such a pestilence, though devastated by war and famine: entire villages disappeared and the fields filled with weeds because there was no one left to cultivate them. The chroniclers of the time wrote “A third of the world died”.
On the other hand, a “street” liturgical drama functional to preaching and perhaps related to the “Dance of the Maccabees” (chorea machabaeorum) in which the participants danced holding hands was already widespread at the level of the Sacred Drama (Morality Play). and they were taken away one by one by disturbing characters wrapped in a sheet.

Ad mortem festinamus

oratorio dei Disciplini, Clusone (Bergamo, Italy)

MACABRE DANCE: la FARANDOLA

La farandola is a medieval dance with a single basic step (mostly skipped), in which the row leader chooses the changes of direction, he makes and undoes just like the Norns with the thread of destiny. And therefore the farandola is the ritual dance in the celebrations of Samahin because it is the dance of death: everyone must travel the same path abandoning themselves to the will of those who lead the dance, to symbolize chained humanity that can only follow the path traced, and however a sort of collective journey through the experiences of life, towards its mysterious center. The farandola is probably the oldest dance so tied to the primitive agrarian rites: it is the dance of the labyrinth with its snail and snake figures, the dance around the fire, the sacred center of village life. Thus the labyrinth always has an exit and the dance is a dance of death and rebirth to symbolize the concept of eternal return.

Tomba delle Danzatrici, Ruvo di Puglia (Bari – Italy), V sec. a.C. – Napoli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale

The farandola is probably the oldest dance in the world dedicated to the Lady of the Labyrinth which we find in the Minoan culture of 1400 BC, a dance connected to the mysteries of fertility and described by Homer in the shield of Achilles.

carola-medioevoIn the figure (from the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti- Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Siena – Italy) the two women leaders raised their arms in an arc to let pass below the rest of the chain (which was already drawing a sinuous serpentine movement), just a tambourine and the voice to cadence the rhythm and from the lightness with which the dancers move it would seem that they dance on tiptoe without lean their heel.

The dance has kept its legacy in Provence as the traditional dance par excellence (for every occasion).

Su ballo tondo- from Sardigna (Italy)

http://www.sardegnadigitallibrary.it/index.php?xsl=2436&id=1132

Ankou 
Ad Mortem Festinamus

LINK
http://gianfrancomarini.blogspot.it/2011/09/danza-macabra-sciarazula-marazula-e.html
http://lanimadelmostro.blogspot.it/2016/11/danza-di-ossa-novembrine-parte-i.html
http://lanimadelmostro.blogspot.it/2016/11/danza-di-ossa-novembrine-parte-ii-danze.html
http://lanimadelmostro.blogspot.it/2016/11/danza-di-ossa-novembrine-parte-iii.html
http://www.mariateresalupo.it/simbolimitialchimiafiabe/labirinto.html
http://www.kronic.it/artGet.aspx?cID=12746
http://www.latelanera.com/abisso/articolo.asp?id=183 http://www.8notes.com/scores/6264.asp http://mainlynorfolk.info/steeleye.span/songs/shakingofthesheets.html
http://thesession.org/tunes/7110
http://www.famedisud.it/arte-da-sud-la-misteriosa-danza-delle-nove-donne-di-ruvo-al-museo-archeologico-di-napoli/

Kellyburn Braes by Robert Burns

Leggi in italiano

The theme of the Devil who tries to take a sinner to hell is a classic of the Celtic tales. In the ballad “Devil and the Farmer’s wife” dating back to 1600, the woman deserves the hell for her spiteful and disrespectful behavior; but the devil himself cannot tame her, indeed he risks losing his tranquility. 

LITTLE DEVILS

The ballad has spread widely in England, Ireland, Scotland and America with fairly similar text versions, albeit with melodies declined in a different way.
THE DEVIL AND THE PLOWMAN (english version)
Lilli burlero
THE FARMER’S CURSED WIFE (american version)
KILLYBURN BRAE (Irish version)
KELLYBURN BRAES (Scottish version)

Robert Burns rewrote the song from a traditional local version, but also published another version more similar to the one released in Ireland.

FIRST VERSION

Robert Burns in “Scots Musical Museum” 1792 No. 379: There lived a carl in Kelly burn braes. Tune: Kellyburn braes
Alan Reid from The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Vol I, 2009


There lived a carl  (1)
in Kellyburn Braes,
Hey and the rue
grows bonie wi’ thyme; (2)

And he had a wife
was the plague o’ his days,
And the thyme it is wither’d
and rue is in prime

Ae day as the carl
gaed up the lang-glen,
He met with the devil,
says, how do you fen?
I’ve got a bad wife, Sir,
that’s a’ my complaint,
For, savin your presence,
to her ye’re a saint,
It’s neither your stot
nor your staig I shall crave,
But gie me your wife, man,
for her I must have,
O, welcome most kindly!
the blythe carl said;
But if ye can match her –
ye’re waur than ye’re ca’d,
The devil has got
the auld wife on his back,
And like a poor pedlar
he’s carried his pack,
He’s carried her hame
to his ain hallan-door, (3)
Syne bade her gae in,
for a bitch, and a whore,
Then straight he makes fifty,
the pick o’ his band,
Turn out on her guard
in the clap of a hand,
The carlin gaed thro’ them
like ony wud bear,
Whae’er she gat hands on,
cam near her nae mair,
A reekit wee devil
looks over the wa’,
O help, Master, help!
or she’ll ruin us a’,
The devil he swore
by the edge o’ his knife, (4)
He pitied the man
that was ty’d to a wife,
The Devil he swore
by the kirk and the bell,
He was not in wedlock, thank Heav’n,
but in hell,
Then Satan has travell’d
again wi’ his pack,
And to her auld husband
he’s carried her back,
I hae been a Devil
the feck  o’ my life,
But ne’er was in hell
till I met wi’ a wife
NOTE
1) Carl: old fellow
2)it is a typical nursery rhyme on the magic herbs present in many ballads The officinal herbs in the medieval garden were the main ingredients of the filters of love or amulets cast out devils to undo curses and evil spells.
3) hallan: Partition between cottage door and fireplace
4) For the Celts iron is the blood of the earth and has always had a magical meaning, a metal brings good fortune for its strength; the power of iron or its magic was such that it succeeded in destroying evil or distancing spirits and making them return to their world.

SECOND VERSION

Robert Burns in “Scots Musical Museum” 1796, No. 448: Kellyburnbraes. Tune: The lass that made the bed to me

Stewart Cameron live


Thair wis an auld carle on Kellyburn Braes (ritefal, ritefal, tittie fal day)
Thair wis an auld carle on Kellyburn Braes
He mairriet a wife an he rued the day (wi ma rite falal, tittie falal, ritefal, ritefal, tittie falay)
Ae day the auld fairmer wis haudin the plou
Whan up jumps Auld Nick(1) an says “Hou dae ye do?”
Says the Deil tae the fairmer, “A’ve come for yer wife,
For A hear she’s the bane an the curse o yer life”
At this the auld fairmer he dances a reel
Cryin, “Tak her, O, tak her, O, tak her tae Hell”
The Deil he humphit her up oan his back/ Whan thae landit in Hell, lat her doun wi a crack
Thair wis seiven wee deivils wis hingin in chains
She picked up a stick an she scattert thair brains
The ither wee deivils aa stertit tae bawl
“O, tak her back, daddie, she’ll murder us aa”
Sae the Deil he humphs her again oan his back
Whan he got tae the tap, flung her doun wi a crack
He says, “A’ve been the Deivil for maist o ma life
But a ne’er wis in Hell til A met wi yer wife”
Nou, it’s true at the weemin is worse than the men
For thae gang doun tae Hell an get flung out again!
NOTE
1) nickname for the devil
2) typical dance tune in 4/4 of the Celtic areaa
3) Evidently hell is under the ground and to return to the surface the devil must go up

LINK
http://wikilivres.ca/wiki/Songs_of_Robert_Burns/
https://wikilivres.ca/wiki/Songs_of_Robert_Burns/There_lived_a_carl_in_Kelly_burn_braes
http://thesession.org/tunes/1200
http://www.dickgaughan.co.uk/songs/texts/kellybur.html

Kellyburn Braes

Read the post in English

Il tema del Diavolo che cerca di portarsi all’inferno il peccatore, è un classico dei racconti popolari di area celtica. Nella ballata risalente al 1600 è la donna, per il suo comportamento bisbetico e irrispettoso, a meritarsi l’inferno; ma lo stesso diavolo non riesce a domarla, anzi rischia di perdere la sua tranquillità.

LITTLE DEVILS

La ballata ha avuto una grande diffusione in Inghilterra, Irlanda, Scozia e America con versioni testuali abbastanza simili seppure con melodie declinate in modo diverso.
THE DEVIL AND THE PLOWMAN (english version)
Lilli burlero
THE FARMER’S CURSED WIFE (american version)
KILLYBURN BRAE (Irish version)
KELLYBURN BRAES (Scottish version)

La versione di Robert Burns

Robert Burns ha riscritto il brano da una versione tradizionale locale, ma ha pubblicato anche un’altra versione più simile a quella diffusa in Irlanda.

PRIMA VERSIONE

Robert Burns in “Scots Musical Museum” 1792 No. 379, titolo: There lived a carl in Kelly burn braes. Melodia: Kellyburn braes
Alan Reid in The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Vol I, 2009


There lived a carl  (1)
in Kellyburn Braes,
Hey and the rue
grows bonie wi’ thyme; (2)

And he had a wife
was the plague o’ his days,
And the thyme it is wither’d
and rue is in prime

Ae day as the carl
gaed up the lang-glen,
He met with the devil,
says, how do you fen?
I’ve got a bad wife, Sir,
that’s a’ my complaint,
For, savin your presence,
to her ye’re a saint,
It’s neither your stot
nor your staig I shall crave,
But gie me your wife, man,
for her I must have,
O, welcome most kindly!
the blythe carl said;
But if ye can match her –
ye’re waur than ye’re ca’d,
The devil has got
the auld wife on his back,
And like a poor pedlar
he’s carried his pack,
He’s carried her hame
to his ain hallan-door, (3)
Syne bade her gae in,
for a bitch, and a whore,
Then straight he makes fifty,
the pick o’ his band,
Turn out on her guard
in the clap of a hand,
The carlin gaed thro’ them
like ony wud bear,
Whae’er she gat hands on,
cam near her nae mair,
A reekit wee devil
looks over the wa’,
O help, Master, help!
or she’ll ruin us a’,
The devil he swore
by the edge o’ his knife, (4)
He pitied the man
that was ty’d to a wife,
The Devil he swore
by the kirk and the bell,
He was not in wedlock, thank Heav’n,
but in hell,
Then Satan has travell’d
again wi’ his pack,
And to her auld husband
he’s carried her back,
I hae been a Devil
the feck  o’ my life,
But ne’er was in hell
till I met wi’ a wife
Traduzione italiano di  Cattia Salto
Viveva un vecchietto 
a Kellyburn Braes,
fieno e ruta
crescono belli con il timo 

e aveva una moglie
che era la rovina della sua vita.
e il timo è appassito
e la ruta è in sboccio
Un giorno, mentre il vecchietto
andava per la valle,
ha incontrato il diavolo,
e gli dice: “Come và? 
“Ho una cattiva moglie, signore,
che è tutta la mia disperazione,
e in confronto a lei,
voi siete un santo.”
“Non voglio né il tuo vitello,
né il tuo puledro,
ma dammi tua moglie, uomo,
è lei che devo avere”
“O, siate il benvenuto! –
tutto contento il vecchietto disse-
ma se non riuscirete a domarla,
di sicuro sarete fritto”.
Il diavolo si carica
la vecchia moglie sulla schiena,
come un povero viandante
con il suo fagotto,
se la porta
al cancello di casa.
poi le ordina “Entra,
porca puttana”.
Allora fece comparire una cinquantina
tra i migliori della sua combriccola
per la sua sorveglianza
con un battito di mani  .
La vecchia moglie si getta tra loro
come un orso impazzito,
chiunque le arrivasse tra le mani ,
non le andava più vicino!
Un diavoletto scuro
guarda oltre il muro,
“O aiuto, Padrone, aiuto!
o lei sarà la nostra rovina!”
Il diavolo ha giurato
sulla lama del suo coltello
di compatire l’uomo
che è stato legato a una moglie.
Il diavolo ha giurato
sulla chiesa e la campana,  
di non essere in un  matrimonio,
grazie al Cielo, ma all’inferno.
Poi Satana ha riportato
indietro il suo fagotto,
al vecchio marito
l’ha restituita!
“Sono stato un diavolo
per la maggior parte del tempo,
ma non sono mai stato all’inferno
finchè non ho incontrato tua moglie”

NOTE
1) Carl: old fellow
2) fieno e ruta crescono belli con il timo .. e il timo è appassito e la ruta è in sboccio: è una tipica filastrocca sulle erbe magiche presente in molte ballate Le erbe officinali immancabili nell’orto dei Semplici, erano gli ingredienti principali dei filtri d’amore o degli amuleti scaccia diavoli in grado di annullare le maledizioni e gli incantesimi malvagi.
3) hallan: Partition between cottage door and fireplace
4) Per i Celti il ferro è il sangue della terra ed ha sempre avuto un significato magico, un metallo porta fortuna, perchè la forza del ferro poteva contrastava gli spiriti che volevano fare del male; il potere del ferro o la sua magia era tale che riusciva a distruggere il male o allontanava gli spiriti e li faceva ritornare nel loro mondo.

SECONDA VERSIONE

Robert Burns in “Scots Musical Museum” 1796, No. 448, titolo: Kellyburnbraes. Melodia: The lass that made the bed to me

Stewart Cameron live


Thair wis an auld carle on Kellyburn Braes (ritefal, ritefal, tittie fal day)
Thair wis an auld carle on Kellyburn Braes
He mairriet a wife an he rued the day (wi ma rite falal, tittie falal, ritefal, ritefal, tittie falay)
Ae day the auld fairmer wis haudin the plou
Whan up jumps Auld Nick(1) an says “Hou dae ye do?”
Says the Deil tae the fairmer, “A’ve come for yer wife,
For A hear she’s the bane an the curse o yer life”
At this the auld fairmer he dances a reel
Cryin, “Tak her, O, tak her, O, tak her tae Hell”
The Deil he humphit her up oan his back/ Whan thae landit in Hell, lat her doun wi a crack
Thair wis seiven wee deivils wis hingin in chains
She picked up a stick an she scattert thair brains
The ither wee deivils aa stertit tae bawl
“O, tak her back, daddie, she’ll murder us aa”
Sae the Deil he humphs her again oan his back
Whan he got tae the tap, flung her doun wi a crack
He says, “A’ve been the Deivil for maist o ma life
But a ne’er wis in Hell til A met wi yer wife”
Nou, it’s true at the weemin is worse than the men
For thae gang doun tae Hell an get flung out again!
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
C’era un vecchietto a Kellyburn Braes
(ritefal, ritefal, tittie fal day)
C’era un vecchietto a Kellyburn Braes
che si era sposato e la moglie comandava la sua vita.
(wi ma rite falal, tittie falal, ritefal, ritefal, tittie falay)
Un giorno il vecchio contadino stava tirando l’aratro,
che salta fuori in Vecchio Nick (1) e dice “Come stai?
Dice il Diavolo al Contadino: “Sono venuto per tua moglie
perchè ho saputo che lei è la rovina e la maledizione della tua vita!”
Così il vecchio contadino si mette a ballare un reel(2)
gridando” Prendila, prendila e portala all’Inferno!
Il diavolo se la carica sulla schiena
e quando atterrano all’Inferno la butta giù con un botto.
C’erano sette diavoletti che portavano le catene,
e lei prese un bastone e ne spappolò le cervella.
Gli altri diavoletti allora si misero a piangere
Riportala indietro, paparino, o ci ucciderà tutti!
Così il diavolo se la rimise sulla schiena.
Quando arrivò in cima (3) la gettò giù in un botto
Sono stato il Diavolo per la maggior parte del tempo,
ma non ero mai stato all’inferno fino a quando non ho conosciuto tua moglie!
Il che dimostra che le donne sono peggiori degli uomini,
quando vanno all’inferno sono buttate fuori di nuovo!

NOTE
1) nomignolo per il diavolo
2) tipica melodia da danza in 4/4 di area celtica
3) evidentemente l’inferno si trova sotto terra e per ritornare in superficie il diavolo deve salire

FONTI
http://wikilivres.ca/wiki/Songs_of_Robert_Burns/
There_lived_a_carl_in_Kelly_burn_braes

http://thesession.org/tunes/1200
http://www.dickgaughan.co.uk/songs/texts/kellybur.html

Killyburn brae, Jack O’Lantern in a dress

Leggi in italiano

The theme of the Devil who tries to take a sinner to hell is a classic of the Celtic tales. In the ballad “Devil and the Farmer’s wife” dating back to 1600, the woman deserves the hell for her spiteful and disrespectful behavior; but the devil himself cannot tame her, indeed he risks losing his tranquility. 

LITTLE DEVILS

The ballad has spread widely in England, Ireland, Scotland and America with fairly similar text versions, albeit with melodies declined in a different way.
THE DEVIL AND THE PLOWMAN (english version)
Lilli burlero
THE FARMER’S CURSED WIFE (american version)
KILLYBURN BRAE (Irish version)
KELLYBURN BRAES (Scottish version)

The song is also known as “The Women Are Worse Than The Men” already recorded by Tommy Mackem in “From The Archives”, but these hills do not exist in Ireland as the name is a distortion of the Scottish one. The hills of Kellyburn are mounds in Scotland that separate the northern part of Ayrshire from Renfrew.

The Dubliners in A Parcel of Rouges 1976

Tommy Makem

The Irish Rovers in “The Boys Come Rollin’ Home”.


There was an old man
in the Killieburn Brae
riful riful tidifol-dey
there was an old man
in the Killieburn Brae
had a curse of the wife
for the most of his days(1)
with me foldadle-dah diddyfol-dah
foldadle-dal-da-daldadle-day
One day as this man
he walked out in the glen
well he met the devil
says how are you
The devil he says
” I have come for your wife
for I hear she’s the curse
and the bane of your life”
So the devil he hoisted her
up on his back(2)
and away off to hell
with her he did whack
And when at last
they came to hell’s gate
well she lifted her stick
and she battered his pate
There were two little devils(3)
there tied up in chains
she lifted her stick
and she scattered their brains
There were two other devils
there roaring like bulls
well she lifted her stick
and she battered their skulls
There were two other devils
there playing at ball
well she lifted her stick
and she battered them all
So the devil he hoisted her
up on his back
they were seven years(5) coming
and days going back
And when they came back
to Killieburn Brae
well the devil he cried
and shouted hooray
Says he “my good man
here’s your wife safe and well
for the likes of herself
we would not have been hell”
Which proves that the women
are worse than the men
when they go to the hell
they’re thrown out again
NOTE
1) the sentence wants to underline the less than submissive character of the woman!
2) the image is supported by a vast iconography dating back to the Middle Ages of women straddling the devil
3) the image of the devils literally massacred by the woman is very funny, unfortunately the domestic reality was very different and in general it was women who suffered mistreatment and violences.
4) the game with the ball is a common place of classical ballads that even hell does not escape
5) presumably the old man during the umpteenth quarrel with his wife called the devil to take her to hell; the two must have entered into a seven-year agreement.

Jack O’Lantern in a dress

Leggi in italiano

The theme of the Devil who tries to take a sinner to hell is a classic of the Celtic tales, made exemplary in the story of Jack O’Lantern: on the night of Halloween the Devil walks the earth to reclaim the souls of men, but Stingy Jack was able to decive him with some tricks; and for two years in a row! At last the Devil, scornfully, gives up Jack’s soul for another ten years. When Jack dies for his too many vices both the doors of Paradise and those of hell are barred for him; forced to wander in the dark, he receives as a gift from the Devil a ember to illuminate his path; since then Jack continues to roam the Limbo in search of a dwelling he will never find, with his pumpkin-shaped lantern (which originally, before the story landed in America, was a turnip (see HOP TU NAA Isle of Manx)

Devil and the Farmer’s wife

In the ballad “Devil and the Farmer’s wife” (also known as the Little Devils-Jean Ritchie) dating back to 1600, the woman deserves the hell for her spiteful and disrespectful behavior; but the devil himself cannot tame her, indeed he risks losing his tranquility. The similarity between the two stories occurs in one of the nineteenth-century versions (Macmath Manuscript 1862 cf) in which the devil says referring to the woman: “O what to do with her I cane weel tell; she’s no fit for heaven, and she’ll no bide in hell! ” just like Jack who found both the Gate of Heaven and Hell to be closed.
The ballad is probably even older, and some scholars link it to Chaucer’s Tales of Canterbury (Waltz and Engle).

LITTLE DEVILS

The ballad has spread widely in England, Ireland, Scotland and America with fairly similar text versions, albeit with melodies declined in a different way.
THE DEVIL AND THE PLOWMAN (english version)
Lilli burlero
THE FARMER’S CURSED WIFE (american version)
KILLYBURN BRAE (Irish version)
KELLYBURN BRAES (Scottish version)

THE DEVIL AND THE PLOWMAN

The ballad appears in print in London in 1630 with the title “The Devill and the Scold” to the tune “The Seminary Priest” cf
Of this ballad there are two extant editions, the earlier being in the Roxburghe Collection. The second is in the Rawlinson Collection, No. 169, published by Coles, Vere, and other stationers– a trade edition, of the reign of Charles II. Mr. Payne Collier includes “The Devil and the Scold” in his volume of Eoxburghe Ballads, and says: “This is certainly an early ballad: the allusion, in the second room, to Tom Thumb and Robin Goodfellow (whose ‘Mad Pranks’ had been published before 1588) is highly curious, and one proof of its antiquity ..
The ballad is often printed in broadside throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and collected in two textual variants in “The English And Scottish Popular Ballads” (1882-1898) by Francis James Child  at number 278 with the title “The Farmer’s Curst Wife “.

The song was collected in 1903 by Henry Burstow, Sussex and published in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd (1959). Very similar to the text version reported by James Henry Dixon in “Ancient Poems, Ballads and Song” (1846) (Child # 278 version A cf).
Thus writes A.L. Lloyd in 1960 in the liner notes of “A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs”, echoing the notes reported by Child himself: The tale of the shrewish wife who terrifies even the demons is ancient and widespread. The Hindus have it in a sixth century fable collection, the Panchatantra. It seems to have traveled westward by Persia, and to have spread to almost every European country. In the early versions, the farmer makes a pact with his wife in return for a pair of plow oxen. Vaughan Williams got the present ballad from the Horsham shoemaker and bell-ringer, Henry Burstow. Mr Burstow whistled the refrains that in our performance are played by the concertina. Whistling was a familiar way of calling up the Devil (hence the sailors who whistling may raise a storm). (from here)

The shrewish wife is taken back to her husband who believed he had succeeded in making fun of the devil! Given the subject is among the most popular ballads in medieval festivals and pirate gatherings !!

from Kellyburn Braes, Sorche Nic Leodhas, illustrated by Evaline Ness, 1968

A.L. Lloyd

Kim Lowings & The Greenwood from This Life, 2012


There was an old farmer in Sussex did dwell/ And he’d a bad wife as many knew well(1)
To me fal-de-ral little law-day.(2)
The Devil he came to the old man at plough,
Saying. ‘One of your family I must have now.
‘Now it isn’t for you nor yet for your son,
But that scolding old wife as you’ve got at home.’
Oh take her, oh take her with all of my heart,/ And I wish she and you may never more part.’
So the devil he took the old wife on his back(3),
And lugged her along like a pedlar’s pack./
He trudged along till he reached his front gate,
Says: ‘Here, take in an old   Sussex chap’s mate.
There was thirteen imps(4) all dancing in chains;
She up with her pattens and beat out their brains.
Two more little devils jumped over the wall,
Saying: ‘Turn her out, father, she’ll murder us all.’
So he bundled her up on his back again,/ And to her old husband he took her again.
I’ve been a tormentor the whole of my life,
But I was never tormented till I met your wife.’
And now to conclude and make an end,/ You see that the women is worse than the men,
If they got sent to Hell, they get kicked back again (5)

NOTE
1) the sentence wants to underline the less than submissive character of the woman!
2) Whistling was a way to summon the devil!
3) the image of women straddling the devil is supported by a vast iconography dating back to the Middle Ages
4) the image of the devils literally massacred by the woman is very funny, unfortunately the domestic reality was very different and in general it was women who suffered mistreatment and violence.
5)  Kim edited the final verse to show the strength of women:
And now to conclude and make an end
you see that us women are strong
even when we get sent to hell,
we come  straight back again

THE FARMER’S CURSED WIFE: american version

Here too we find an almost identical textual version declined however with bluegrass melodies. The ending is very hilarious and often without the moral: the old farmer, seeing his wife return, rejected by the devil himself, decides to run and never go home again!

Heather Dale from Perpetual Gift 2012.

Jean Ritchie, British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains, Volume 2


Well there was an old man living up on the hill/ If he ain’t moved on, he’s a livin’ there still
CHORUS Hi diddle ai diddle hi fi, diddle ai diddle ai day
Now the Devil he came to him one day
said “One of your kin I’m gonna take away“/ He said “Oh please don’t take my only son/ There’s work on the farm that’s gotta be done.
Oh but you can have my nagging wife
I swear by God, she’s the curse of my life”
So they marched on down to the gates of hell/ He Said “Kick on the fire boys, we’ll roast her well”
Out came a little devil with a spit and chain
that she upped with her foot and knocked out his brain
Out came a dozen demons then a dozen more
But when she was done they was flat on the floor

So all those little demons went scrambling up the wall
saying “tale her back, daddy, she’ll murder us all
So the Farmer woke up and he looked out the crack/ and he saw that devil bringing her back!
He said:”Here’s your wife both sound and well/ if I kept her any longer she’d’ve tore up the hell
The old man jumped and he bit his tongue
then he ran for the hills in a flat out run
He was heard to yell, as he ran o’er the hill/ “if the devil won’t have her, ‘be damned if I will

LINK
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=17306

Souling songs

Leggi in italiano

Souling songs are the songs of begging that the poor (mostly children) sang going from house to house during the evenings between the end of October and the beginning of November in the event of the celebration of All Saints (All Hallows Day = All- Souls’ eve) and the Feast of the Dead.

The banquet of the dead

Halloween is a pale echo of Samahin (Samain or Samhain), which in Gaelic means “End of the Summer”, or the Celtic New Year, a magical night in which the gods were asked for protection againts the coming of Winter.
Formerly it was customary to move from house to house during the celebrations of All Saints’ Eve with a small procession of masked people led by the “Ambassador of the dead” to ask for the donation of ritual food for the banquet of the Dead in which the whole community would have celebrated the anniversary.
In the Middle Ages in Ireland and Great Britain there was the custom of preparing a soul cake of round form as an offering to satiate the hunger of the dead who were believed to visit the living during Samain: to keep them good throughout the coming year, the housewives prepared some special sweets, which soon ended up satisfying the much more earthy and voracious appetites of the poor! These cakes were distributed in charity or given to the Soulers.
Even in certain regions of Italy (Emilia Romagna, or Sardinia and more generally in southern Italy) the practice of food begging was widespread among the poor and children: “Ceci cotti per l’anima dei morti” [“Chickpeas cooked for the soul of the dead“], they sang armed of spoons and bowls, in front of the gentry’ s houses.

SOULING

The tradition of “a-souling” or “a-soalin” is identical to wassailing and Christmas caroling (see), but here in exchange for cakes, often called Soul, the beggars promised to recite prayers for the dead. More prosaically it was said that every cake eaten represented a soul freed from Purgatory. The custom is often seen as the origin of the modern “Trick or Treating” of children masked by ghosts or monsters that play at the doors of the houses asking for “some good thing to eat”.
Already at the end of the 1800s the tradition of the soul cake had faded, and where the begging tradition still survived, the children were given apples or coins: in general the children did their begging by day.
CHORUS
Soul! soul! for a soul-cake;
Pray, good mistress, for a soul-cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Them who made us all.
Soul! soul! for an apple or two;
If you’ve got no apples, pears will do.
Up with your kettle, and down with your pan;
Give me a good big one, and I’ll be gone.
An apple or pear, a plum or a cherry,
Is a very good thing to make us merry.

Another Soulers song was transcribed by John Brand in his “Popular Antiquities” (1777) taken directly from the lips of “the merry pack, who sing from door to door, on the eve of All – Soul’s Day, in Cheshire
Chorus
“Soul day, soul day, Saul
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.
Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your keys,
Go down into the cellar, bring up what you please;
A glass of your wine, or a cup of your beer,
And we’ll never come souling till this time next year.
We are a pack of merry boys, all in a mind,
We are come a souling for what we can find,
Soul, soul, sole of my shoe,
If you have no apples, money will do;
Up with your kettle and down with your pan,
Give us an answer and let us be gone
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing that will make us all merry.

SOUL CAKE

The song “Soul cake” also known as “A Soalin”, “Souling Song Cheshire” “Hey ho, nobody home” was published (text and melody) by Lucy Broadwood and JA Fuller Maitland in the English County Songs in 1893, reporting the tradition still alive in Cheshire and Shropshire (West Midlands) of “souling”: the transcription was a few years earlier at the hands of Rev. MP Holme of Tattenhall, Cheshire as he had heard it from a local school girl. In 1963, the American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a version of this traditional song, entitled “A ‘Soalin”, reworking the song dating back to the Elizabethan era “Hey ho, nobody home”.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, depending to the county or local customs, the quest was made by the poorest on the evening of Saint Stephen or Christmas Eve and it was a bad omen to send the beggars away empty-handed.

HEY HO, NOBODY HOME

Sung As a Round (XVI sec)
Voice 1: Hey, ho, nobody home;
Voice 1: Meat nor drink nor money have I none,
Voice 2 : Hey, ho, nobody home;
Voice 1: Yet will I be merry.
Voice 2: Meat nor drink nor money have I none,
Voice 3: Hey, ho, nobody home;
Voice 1: Hey, ho, nobody home;
Voice 2: Yet wiIll be merry.
Voice 3: Meat nor drink nor money have I none,
Voice 1: Meat nor drink nor money have I none,
Voice 2: Yet will I be merry.
Voice 1: Yet will be merry.

Peter, Paul & Mary from “A Holiday Celebration” 1988

Sting live (from II to IV)

Sting in If on a Winter’s Night 2009

Lothlorien

I
Hey ho, nobody home,
meat nor drink nor money have I none
Yet shall we be merry,
hey ho, nobody home
Meat nor drink nor money have I none
Yet shall we be merry,
Hey ho, nobody home
CHORUS
A soul, a soul cake,
please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,

A soul, a soul cake,
please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul, (1)
three for Him who made us all.
II
God bless the master of this house,
and the mistress also.
And all the little children
that round your table grow.
The cattle in your stable
and the dog by your front door. (2)
And all that dwell within your gates
we wish you ten times more.
III
Go down into the cellar
and see what you can find.
If the barrels are not empty
we hope you will be kind.
We hope you will be kind
with your apple and strawber’ (3)
For we’ll come no more a ‘soalin’
till Xmas time next year.
IV (4)
The streets are very dirty,
my shoes are very thin
I have a little pocket
to put a penny in
If you haven’t got a penny,
a ha’ penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’ penny
then God bless you
V(5)
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas,
of beauty and of grace
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
(FOOTNOTE)
1) Peter and Paul are the saints of the Roman Church: Peter, the apostle indicated in the Gospels as the canonical stone on which the Church is founded and Paul, who spread Catholicism among the Gentiles
2) or “Likewise young men and maidens, Your cattle and your store”
3) strong beer=strawber: Sitng sings “pear”
4) a typical wassail stanza
5) the verse added by Paul Stookey comes from Carol “God rest you Merry Gentlemen” (whose melody intertwines with that of Soul Cake) see

Kristen Lawrence from A broom with a view 2014: All Hallows Version- Kristen writes and arranges music she calls her Halloween Carols

Chorus 
Soul Day, Soul Day, we be come a’ souling.
Pray, good people, remember the poor,
And give us a soul cake.
Soul, soul, a soul cake!
Please, good lady, a soul cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Soul, soul, a soul cake!
Pray we for a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
And three for Him who made us all.
I
God bless the master of this house,
the mistress also,
And all the little children
who ‘round your table grow.
Likewise, your men and maidens,
your cattle and your store,
And all that dwell within your gates,
we wish you ten times more.
I bridge
Souling Day,
so we pray for the souls departed.
Pray give us a cake,
For we are all poor people
well-known to you before.
II bridge
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate,
Crying for butter, to butter his cake.
Up with your kettles, and down with your pans,
Give us our souling, and we’ll be gone.
II
Down into the cellar,
and see what you can find.
If your barrels are not empty,
we hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind
with your apples and your grain,
And we’ll come no more a’ souling
‘til this month comes again.
III
Soul Day, Soul Day, we have been praying
For the souls departed, so pray good people, give us a cake.
So give us a cake for charity’s sake
And our blessing we’ll leave at your door.

Samhain version

Chorus
Soul, soul, soul cakes!
We come hunting for soul cakes!
We are dead, but like we said,
On this night we’ll take your bread
And while you’re out of your abode,
Lighting fires of Samhain old,
Think of us, out of body
As we are, you, too, shall be.
I
Samhain Night, at long last,
We parade from ages past
A journey from the Otherworld
Oh, the hairs that we have curled!
CHORUS
II
Winter’s Eve surrounds us,
Its open portal astounds us.
We creep into the living sphere,
And see where memories summon here.
III
Find us in this coldness,
Visiting with much boldness.
Share your food; we’ll share our power
To discern a future hour.
IV
Summer’s End, Summer’s End
Will the sun return, vital warmth to send?
Summer’s End, Summer’s End
Darkness lengthens in its stride
across the sleeping land.
V
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate,
Offering goblins and demons his cake.
Up with the chill and down with the sun,
Waning and waning, the Dark Half’s begun.
VI
All this night as boundaries untie,
Visitors friendly and frightful stop by.
Up with your mask and down with your feet,
Marching and marching to lead out the fleet.
VII
How about this dwelling?
Its offerings are compelling,
With drinks and cakes and porridge,
And cherries and berries from storage.
VIII
Rattles at your door!
Don’t be scared, but give us some more!
A banshee (1) or a fershee (2) might delight
by new firelight.
CHORUS

NOTE
1) “woman of the fairies”
2) Fer-side [Fershee], a male fairy

Some recipes

With the name of Soul Cake we indicate many variations of traditional sweets from sweet bun to dried fruit cake.

Parkin cakeSoul-mass Cake
http://oakden.co.uk/harcake-soul-mass-cake/
http://oakden.co.uk/yorkshire-parkin/

In Italy the tradition is mainly based on biscuits vaguely reminiscent of the bones of the dead or the fingers of hands. In Piedmont they are the “ossa d’mort”, a base of almonds, but they can also be a variant of offelle with dried figs, almonds and sultanas (Lombardy and Tuscany) or in the form of horses (Trentino Alto Adige).
FAVE E OSSA D’MORT:
http://www.lericettedellavale.com/biscotti-ossa-di-morto-1657.html
http://cookingbreakdown.blogspot.it/2011/10/ognissanti-e-il-nostro-halloween-fave.html
PANE DEI MORTI:
http://www.ricettemania.it/ricetta-pane-dei-morti-443.html

LINK
http://ontanomagico.altervista.org/samain.htm
http://www.taccuinistorici.it/ita/news/antica/
http://www.taccuinistorici.it/ita/news/moderna/feste-e-tradizioni/santi-e-morti-e-le-fave-nere.htmlusi—curiosita/Cibo-per-i-morti.html

http://www.joe-offer.com/folkinfo/songs/216.html
http://www.mayflowerchorus.org/pdf/A%20Soalin.pdf
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/hey_ho_nobody_home.htm
http://paulbommer.blogspot.it/2010/12/advent-calendar-22nd-mari-lwyd.html
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cy/279/