Chapter 48. The Corn-Spirit as an Animal : Section 8. The Corn-spirit as a Horse or Mare.
Chapter 48. The Corn-Spirit as an Animal.
Section 8. The Corn-spirit as a Horse or Mare.
SOMETIMES the corn-spirit appears in the shape of a horse or mare. Between Kalw and Stuttgart, when the corn bends before the wind, they say, There runs the Horse. At Bohlingen, near Radolfzell in Baden, the last sheaf of oats is called the Oats-stallion. In Hertfordshire, at the end of the reaping, there is or used to be observed a ceremony called crying the Mare. The last blades of corn left standing on the field are tied together and called the Mare. The reapers stand at a distance and throw their sickles at it; he who cuts it through has the prize, with acclamations and good cheer. After it is cut the reapers cry thrice with a loud voice, I have her! Others answer thrice, What have you? A Mare! a Mare! a Mare! Whose is she? is next asked thrice. A. B.s, naming the owner thrice. Whither will you send her? To C. D., naming some neighbour who has not reaped all his corn. In this custom the corn-spirit in the form of a mare is passed on from a farm where the corn is all cut to another farm where it is still standing, and where therefore the corn-spirit may be supposed naturally to take refuge. In Shropshire the custom is similar. The farmer who finishes his harvest last, and who therefore cannot send the Mare to any one else, is said to keep her all winter. The mocking offer of the Mare to a laggard neighbour was sometimes responded to by a mocking acceptance of her help. Thus an old man told an inquirer, While we wun at supper, a mon cummd wi a autar [halter] to fatch her away. At one place a real mare used to be sent, but the man who rode her was subjected to some rough treatment at the farmhouse to which he paid his unwelcome visit. 1
In the neighbourhood of Lille the idea of the corn-spirit in horse form in clearly preserved. When a harvester grows weary at his work, it is said, He has the fatigue of the Horse. The first sheaf, called the Cross of the Horse, is placed on a cross of boxwood in the barn, and the youngest horse on the farm must tread on it. The reapers dance round the last blades of corn, crying, See the remains of the Horse. The sheaf made out of these last blades is given to the youngest horse of the parish (commune) to eat. This youngest horse of the parish clearly represents, as Mannhardt says, the corn-spirit of the following year, the Corn-foal, which absorbs the spirit of the old Corn-horse by eating the last corn cut; for, as usual, the old corn-spirit takes his final refuge in the last sheaf. The thresher of the last sheaf is said to beat the Horse. 2