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The Golden Bough/The Corn-Spirit as an Animal

The physical item used to create this digital version is out of copyright. Music discipline Bagpipes Scottish Irish.

To find similar items, select the checkboxes next to the characteristics you are interested in, then select the 'Find similar' button. Scottish songs and music of the 18th and early 19th centuries, including music for the Highland bagpipe. There are more than publications contained in about selected from the collection of John Glen Also available are a few manuscripts, some treatises, and other books on the subject.

Glen collection as part of the NLS special named and printed collections. Then on Sunday it is roasted and eaten as a holiday dish. In the Vosges Mountains the close of haymaking or harvest is called "catching the cat," "killing the dog," or more rarely "catching the hare. The man who cuts the last handful of hay or of wheat is said to catch the cat or the hare or to kill the dog.

In some parts of Prussia, when the corn bends before the wind, they say, "The Goats are chasing each other," "the wind is driving the Goats through the corn," "the Goats are browsing there," and they expect a very good harvest. Again they say, "The Oats-goat is sitting in the oats-field," "the Corn-goat is sitting in the rye-field. When a harvester is taken sick or lags behind his fellows at their work, they call out, "The Harvest-goat has pushed him," "he has been pushed by the Corn-goat.

When a reaper in the middle has not finished reaping his piece after his neighbours have finished theirs, they say of him, "He remains on the island. Near Straubing, in Lower Bavaria, it is said of the man who cuts the last corn that "he has the Corn-goat, or the Wheat-goat, or the Oats-goat," according to the crop. Moreover, two horns are set up on the last heap of corn, and it is called "the horned Goat. Ears of oats are inserted in its nostrils and mouth, and it is adorned with garlands of flowers.

It is set up on the field and called the Oats-goat. When the reaping approaches an end, each reaper hastens to finish his piece first; he who is the last to finish gets the Oats-goat. Again, the last sheaf is itself called the Goat. Thus, in the valley of the Wiesent, Bavaria, the last sheaf bound on the field is called the Goat, and they have a proverb, "The field must bear a goat.

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Sometimes the last sheaf is made up in the form of a goat, and they say, "The Goat is sitting in it. Thus, in parts of Mecklenburg they call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, "You are the Harvest-goat. About Luneburg, also, the woman who binds the last corn is decked with a crown of corn-ears and is called the Corn-goat.

In the Canton St. Gall, Switzerland, the person who cuts the last handful of corn on the field, or drives the last harvest-waggon to the barn, is called the Corn-goat or the Rye-goat, or simply the Goat. In the Canton Thurgau he is called Corn-goat; like a goat he has a bell hung round his neck, is led in triumph, and drenched with liquor. In parts of Styria, also, the man who cuts the last corn is called Corn-goat, Oats-goat, or the like.

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As a rule, the man who thus gets the name of Corn-goat has to bear it a whole year till the next harvest. According to one view, the corn-spirit, who has been caught in the form of a goat or otherwise, lives in the farmhouse or barn over winter. Thus, each farm has its own embodiment of the corn-spirit. But, according to another view, the corn-spirit is the genius or deity, not of the corn of one farm only, but of all the corn.

Hence when the corn on one farm is all cut, he flees to another where there is still corn left standing. This idea is brought out in a harvest-custom which was formerly observed in Skye.


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The farmer who first finished reaping sent a man or woman with a sheaf to a neighbouring farmer who had not finished; the latter in his turn, when he had finished, sent on the sheaf to his neighbour who was still reaping; and so the sheaf made the round of the farms till all the corn was cut. The custom appears not to be extinct at the present day, for it was reported from Skye not very many years ago.

The corn-spirit was probably thus represented as lame because he had been crippled by the cutting of the corn. Sometimes the old woman who brings home the last sheaf must limp on one foot. But sometimes the corn-spirit, in the form of a goat, is believed to be slain on the harvest-field by the sickle or scythe. Thus, in the neighbourhood of Bernkastel, on the Moselle, the reapers determine by lot the order in which they shall follow each other.

The first is called the fore-reaper, the last the tail-bearer. If a reaper overtakes the man in front he reaps past him, bending round so as to leave the slower reaper in a patch by himself. This patch is called the Goat; and the man for whom "the Goat is cut" in this way, is laughed and jeered at by his fellows for the rest of the day.

When the tail-bearer cuts the last ears of corn, it is said, "He is cutting the Goat's neck off.


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The reapers chase it and try to catch it. When it is caught, the farmer's wife holds it fast while the farmer cuts off its head. The goat's flesh serves to furnish the harvest-supper. A piece of the flesh is pickled and kept till the next harvest, when another goat is killed. Then all the harvesters eat of the flesh. On the same day the skin of the goat is made into a cloak, which the farmer, who works with his men, must always wear at harvest-time if rain or bad weather sets in.

But if a reaper gets pains in his back, the farmer gives him the goat-skin to wear. The reason for this seems to be that the pains in the back, being inflicted by the corn-spirit, can also be healed by it. Similarly, we saw that elsewhere, when a reaper is wounded at reaping, a cat, as the representative of the corn-spirit, is made to lick the wound. Esthonian reapers of the island of Mon think that the man who cuts the first ears of corn at harvest will get pains in his back, probably because the corn-spirit is believed to resent especially the first wound; and, in order to escape pains in the back, Saxon reapers in Transylvania gird their loins with the first handful of ears which they cut.

Here, again, the corn-spirit is applied to for healing or protection, but in his original vegetable form, not in the form of a goat or a cat. Further, the corn-spirit under the form of a goat is sometimes conceived as lurking among the cut corn in the barn, till he is driven from it by the threshing-flail. Thus in Baden the last sheaf to be threshed is called the Corn-goat, the Spelt-goat, or the Oats-goat according to the kind of grain.

They are laid in a great heap on the open field and threshed by two rows of men standing opposite each other, who, as they ply their flails, sing a song in which they say that they see the Straw-goat amongst the corn-stalks. The last Goat, that is, the last sheaf, is adorned with a wreath of violets and other flowers and with cakes strung together.

The Hare In The Corn | MandoLessons

It is placed right in the middle of the heap. Some of the threshers rush at it and tear the best of it out; others lay on with their flails so recklessly that heads are sometimes broken. At Oberinntal, in the Tyrol, the last thresher is called Goat. So at Haselberg, in West Bohemia, the man who gives the last stroke at threshing oats is called the Oats-goat. In this custom it is implied that the corn is inhabited by a pair of corn-spirits, male and female. Further, the corn-spirit, captured in the form of a goat at threshing, is passed on to a neighbour whose threshing is not yet finished.

He must give them wine or money in return. The man who gives the last stroke with the flail must carry the Goat to the barn of a neighbour who is still threshing and throw it down on the floor; if he is caught in the act, they tie the Goat on his back. A similar custom is observed at Indersdorf, in Upper Bavaria; the man who throws the straw Goat into the neighbour's barn imitates the bleating of a goat; if they catch him, they blacken his face and tie the Goat on his back. At Saverne, in Alsace, when a farmer is a week or more behind his neighbours with his threshing, they set a real stuffed goat or fox before his door.

Sometimes the spirit of the corn in goat form is believed to be killed at threshing. In the district of Traunstein, Upper Bavaria, they think that the Oats-goat is in the last sheaf of oats. He is represented by an old rake set up on end, with an old pot for a head. The children are then told to kill the Oats-goat. When the wind sweeps over the corn they say at Conitz, in West Prussia, "The Steer is running in the corn"; when the corn is thick and strong in one spot, they say in some parts of East Prussia, "The Bull is lying in the corn. This figure is called the Old Man.

In some parts of Bohemia the last sheaf is made up in human form and called the Buffalo-bull. These cases show a confusion of the human with the animal shape of the corn-spirit. The confusion is like that of killing a wether under the name of a wolf. All over Swabia the last bundle of corn on the field is called the Cow; the man who cuts the last ears "has the Cow," and is himself called Cow or Barley-cow or Oats-cow, according to the crop; at the harvest-supper he gets a nosegay of flowers and corn-ears and a more liberal allowance of drink than the rest.

But he is teased and laughed at; so no one likes to be the Cow. The Cow was sometimes represented by the figure of a woman made out of ears of corn and corn-flowers. It was carried to the farmhouse by the man who had cut the last handful of corn. The children ran after him and the neighbours turned out to laugh at him, till the farmer took the Cow from him.

Here again the confusion between the human and the animal form of the corn-spirit is apparent. In various parts of Switzerland the reaper who cuts the last ears of corn is called Wheat-cow, Corn-cow, Oats-cow, or Corn-steer, and is the butt of many a joke. On the other hand, in the district of Rosenheim, Upper Bavaria, when a farmer is later of getting in his harvest than his neighbours, they set up on his land a Straw-bull, as it is called.

This is a gigantic figure of a bull made of stubble on a framework of wood and adorned with flowers and leaves.

Attached to it is a label on which are scrawled doggerel verses in ridicule of the man on whose land the Straw-bull is set up. Again, the corn-spirit in the form of a bull or ox is killed on the harvest-field at the close of the reaping. At Pouilly, near Dijon, when the last ears of corn are about to be cut, an ox adorned with ribbons, flowers, and ears of corn is led all round the field, followed by the whole troop of reapers dancing.

Then a man disguised as the Devil cuts the last ears of corn and immediately slaughters the ox. Part of the flesh of the animal is eaten at the harvest-supper; part is pickled and kept till the first day of sowing in spring. The calf chosen for this ceremony is the calf which was born first on the farm in the spring of the year. It is followed by all the reapers with their tools. Then it is allowed to run free; the reapers chase it, and whoever catches it is called King of the Calf.

Sometimes again the corn-spirit hides himself amongst the cut corn in the barn to reappear in bull or cow form at threshing. He is entirely enveloped in straw; his head is surmounted by sticks in imitation of horns, and two lads lead him by ropes to the well to drink. On the way thither he must low like a cow, and for a long time afterwards he goes by the name of the Cow.

At Obermedlingen, in Swabia, when the threshing draws near an end, each man is careful to avoid giving the last stroke. He who does give it "gets the Cow," which is a straw figure dressed in an old ragged petticoat, hood, and stockings. It is tied on his back with a straw-rope; his face is blackened, and being bound with straw-ropes to a wheelbarrow he is wheeled round the village.

Here, again, we meet with that confusion between the human and animal shape of the corn-spirit which we have noted in other customs. In the last-mentioned district he is wrapt in straw and bound to one of the trees in the orchard. At Arad, in Hungary, the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is enveloped in straw and a cow's hide with the horns attached to it. At Pessnitz, in the district of Dresden, the man who gives the last stroke with the flail is called Bull. He must make a straw-man and set it up before a neighbour's window.

Here, apparently, as in so many cases, the corn-spirit is passed on to a neighbour who has not finished threshing. The man who throws it in cries, "There is the Cow for you. In these latter customs the confusion between the human and the animal shape of the corn-spirit meets us again. Further, the corn-spirit in bull form is sometimes believed to be killed at threshing. At Auxerre, in threshing the last bundle of corn, they call out twelve times, "We are killing the Bull.

When the last stroke is given at threshing they say that "the Ox is killed"; and immediately thereupon a real ox is slaughtered by the reaper who cut the last corn. The flesh of the ox is eaten by the threshers at supper.

The Hare In the Corn/The Frost Is all Over/The Gander In the Pratiehole

We have seen that sometimes the young corn-spirit, whose task it is to quicken the corn of the coming year, is believed to be born as a Corn-baby on the harvest-field. Similarly in Berry the young corn-spirit is sometimes supposed to be born on the field in calf form; for when a binder has not rope enough to bind all the corn in sheaves, he puts aside the wheat that remains over and imitates the lowing of a cow. Being a grand selection of favourite tunes both Scotch and Irish, adapted for the pipes, flute, flageolet and violin: Some of which was never before published: With some favourite duets for the above instruments.

The physical item used to create this digital version is out of copyright. Music discipline Bagpipes Scottish Irish. To find similar items, select the checkboxes next to the characteristics you are interested in, then select the 'Find similar' button. Scottish songs and music of the 18th and early 19th centuries, including music for the Highland bagpipe.