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This custom is mentioned by Hospinian. de Orig. Pestor. Christianor. fol. 160 b.
“Hujus lanienæ truculentissimæ ut pueri Christianorum recordentur et simul discant odium, persecutionem, crucem, exilium, egestatemque statim cum nato Christo incipere, virgis cædi solent in aurora hujus Diei adhuc in lectulis jacentes à parentibus suis.”
Naogeorgus in his Regnum Papisticum, lib. iv. shews it to have been still more extensively practised.
Clement Marot has an Epigram on this subject (Epig. cxxxv.) upon which Dufressus his Editor has the following Note :
“ INNOCENTEs. Allusion à un usage pratiqué lors en France, où les jeunes personnes qu'on pouvoit suprendre au lit le jour des Innocens, recevoient sur le derrière quelques claques, et quelquefois un peu plus, quand le sujet en valoit la peine. Cela ne se pratique plus aujourd'hui : nous sommes bien plus sages et plus resservés que nos pères.
Dugdale, in his Origines Juridiciales, p. 247, speaking of the Christmas Festivities kept in Lincoln's Inn, cites an order dated 9th Hen. VIII. “ that the King of Cockneys, on Childermass Day, should sit and have due service; and that he and all his officers should use honest manner and good order, without any waste or destruction making in wine, brawn, chely, or other vitails : as also that he, and his marshal, butler, and constable marshal, should have their lawful and honest commandments by delivery of the officers of Christmas, and that the said King of Cockneys, ne pone of his officers medyl neither in the buttery, nor in the Stuard of Christmass his office, upon pain of 40s. for every such medling: and lastly, that Jack Straw, and all his adherents, should be thenceforth utterly banisht and no more to be used in this house, upon pain to forfeit, for every time, five pounds, to be levied on every Fellow hapning to offend against this rule.”
The Processions of Children on this Day have been forbidden by King Henry the Eighth's proclamation of July 22d, 1540.
Many superstitions respecting today have arisen from accidents; we shall mention one related by a writer of the present day :
“ In the year 1819, on the Eve of the Holy Innocents, the wick of a candle, left for a long time unsnuffed, had, by degrees, assumed a completely cruciform shape, which being viewed by the common people a standing up amidst the gloomy light of the candle, was fearfully set down by them as a memento of the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the Cross,
who, as they fancied, mysteriously declared thus again by appearing in a flame-I am the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The fearful appearance of this phaenomenon was rendered more impressive to the minds of the credulous, in consequence of its happening on the Vigil of Childermass, which has been ever regarded a day of unlucky omens.”
Numerous were the omens attached by credulous persons, in former days, to the manner in which candles burned, and particularly to the colour of their flames. When they burned' blue, it was accounted ill luck, or else that some ghostly Apparition was announced. Now, when the brain and nervous system are in a certain state peculiarly favourable to Spectral Illusions, the imagination may easily colour the flame of a candle, without its really changing its tint: just as, in fevers, people see spots of colours on the wall, or imagine insects on the bedclothes.
For the same morbid condition of the animal system, which may cause persons to see the spectral prognostic, would, in this case, cause them to behold the subsequent phantom, and thus the omen and its awful consequence would be viewed together to the support of superstition. Besides this, the particular mode of burning observed in the wicks of lamps and candles, is really found to be caused by atmospherical peculiarities, and is a sure sign of Rain.
The Ocular Spectra of children, who go to bed with too full stomachs or with irritable nervous systems, are to be referred to modifications of the real impressions of objects seen in the day time, such as the passage of uncouth faces by the bed at night. The forms of specks and freckles, which pass in imagination before us with closed eyes at night, and which continually change their shapes, are referrible to the previous impression made on the retina and its auxiliary nervous parts, by accidentally beholding the figured paperings of rooms or the patterns of printed calicoes during the day.
COELUM.--The weather is usually either very frosty and cold, with Snow and Northerly winds, or else dark, clouded, and wet, with gales from the South and West, at this time. The latter weather is the most common. In the night following this day, in 1821, the Barometer fell to 28.17, and even lower in some parts of England. The weather was wet, with violent gales from the South and South South East. Blowing and showery weather was the characteristic of that Winter. It seldom happens that continued frost and snow set in before January.
Hic mensis Saturno sacer. Macrob.-Rom. Cal.
There is an obscure coincidence of dates to be noticed today between the Pagan and Christian festivals. Saturn's being obliged to forego the bringing up of any male children by Coelus is well known, and it is curious that he should have a feast on the same day as the destruction of the male children by Herod is noticed. This is rendered more curious, when we recollect the number of coincidences of dates of a similar but yet more striking kind, which any comparison of the Antient and Modern Roman Calendar will furnish. Thus the Februata Juno and the Purificata Virgo Maria correspond. See February 2d, obs. ať p. 46; also September 29, December 25, and our Index. For an account of Saturn, see September 25, page 503. On Coincidences consult November 23d.
December 29. St. Thomas Becket Martyr. St.
Marcellus Abbot and Confessor. St. Evroul
Vestae verò tutela Vet.-Rom. Cal.
To Vesta was dedicated the month of December; and it seems, by the notation in the Calendar, that the Romans had some kind of festival in her honour today. We have described Vesta in our account of March 6, p. 95; and we beg to refer our readers to what we have there said of the origin of the Deities in general. After Mythology had
a local habitation and a name," she was deified, and her regular pedigree was made out : according to which Vesta was daughter of Rhea and Saturn, and sister to Ceres and Juno. She is often confounded by the mythologists with Rhea, Ceres, Cybele, Proserpine, Hecate, and Tellus. When considered as the mother of the Gods, she is the mother of Rhea and Saturn; and when considered as the patroness of the Vestal Virgins and the Goddess of Fire, she is called the daughter of Saturn and Rhea. Under this last name she was worshipped by the Romans. Aeneas was the first who introduced her mysteries into Italy; and Numa built her a temple, where no males were permitted to go. The palladium of Troy was supposed to be preserved within her sanctuary, and a fire was continually kept lighted, by a
certain number of virgins who had dedicated themselves to the service.
As the Priestesses of this Goddess, called Vestals, from which the Christians appear to bave derived their nunneries and vestal seclusions, must excite some interest, we shall subjoin some account of them. It seems that their office was very ancient, as the mother of Romulus was one of the vestals. Aeneas is supposed to have first chosen the vestals. Numa first appointed four, to which number Tarquin added two. They were always chosen by the monarchs, but after the expulsion of the Tarquins, the high priest was entrusted with the care of them. “As they were to be virgins, they were chosen young, from the age of six to ten ; and if there was not a sufficient number that presented themselves as candidates for the office, twenty virgins were selected, and they upon whom the lot fell were obliged to become priestesses. Plebeians as well as Patricians were permitted to propose themselves; but it was required that they should be born of a good family, and be without blemish or deformity, in every part of their body. For thirty years they were to remain in the greatest continence; the first ten years were spent in learning the duties of the order; the ten following were employed in discharging them with fidelity and sanctity, and the ten last in instructing such as had entered the noviciate. When the thirty years were elapsed, they were permitted to marry, or if they still preferred celibacy, they waited upon the rest of the vestals. As soon as a vestal was initiated, her head was shaved, to intimate the liberty of her person, as she was then free from the shackles of parental authority, and she was permitted to dispose of her possessions as she pleased. The employment of the vestals was to take care that the sacred fire of Vesta was not extinguished, for if it ever happened, it was deemed the prognostic of great calamities to the state ; the offender was punished for her negligence, and severely scourged by the High Priest. In such a case all was consternation at Rome, and the fire was again kindled by glasses with the rays of the sun. Their declarations in trials were received without the formality of an oath, they were chosen as arbiters in causes of moment, and in the execution of wills; and so great was the deference paid them by the magistrates, as well as by the people, that the Consuls themselves made way for them, and bowed their fasces when they passed before them. To insult them was a capital crime; and whoever attempted to violate their chastity, was beaten to death with scourges. If any of them diedwhile in office,
their body was buried within the walls of the city : an honour granted to few. Such of the vestals as proved incontinent were punished in the most rigorous manner. Numa ordered them to be stoned; but Tarquin the elder dug a large hole under the earth, where a bed was placed with a little bread, wine, water, and oil, and a lighted lamp, and the guilty vestal was stripped of the habit of her order, and compelled to descend into the subterraneous cavity, which was immediately shut, and she was left to die through hunger. Few of the vestals were guilty of incontinence; and for the space of one thousand years, during which the order continued established from the reign of Numa, only eighteen were punished for the violation of their vow. The vestals were abolished by Theodosius the Great, and the fire of Vesta extinguished. The dress of the vestals was peculiar; they wore a white vest with purple borders, a white linen surplice called linteum supernum, above which was a great purple mantle which fowed to the ground, and which was tucked up when they offered sacrifices. They had a close covering on their head, called infula, from which hung ribands, or vittæ. Their manner of living was sumptuous, as they were maintained at the public expense, and though originally satisfied with the simple diet of the Romans, their tables soon after displayed the luxuries and
the superfluities of the great and opulent. Liv. 2, &c.—Plut. in Num. &c. Val. Mar. 1, c. 1.-Cic. de Nat. D. 3. c. 30.-Flor. 1.- Propert, 4, el, 11.-Tacit. 4. c. 10.
There is no doubt that vestal institutions had their origin in the very ancient worship of the Sun, and of the Spirit of Fire.
Regarding Vesta as the figurative representative of Fire in general, we shall take occasion from today to notice several miscellaneous antiquities respecting Fire and Illumination.
Closely connected with this subject is the Dedication of the Metals to those Gods and Goddesses which represent the Sun, Moon, and Planets : as Leadh to Saturn, slowly revolving in his distant orbit; Tin 4 to Jupiter, Gold O to the Sun, Silver to the Moon, Copper & to Venus, Iron 8 to Mars, and Brass and the mixed metals to Mercury. Vesta e, had she been then discovered as a Planet, might have had the Cast Iron, perhaps.
There is certainly some connexion between all this fable and the real Heavenly Bodies. The Romans represented the concentric orbits of the Planets by Seven Stars. And Celsus thought that from them was borrowed the idea.