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while celebrating mass, doubted the conversion of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ, whereupon blood immediately began to flow from the wafer in his hand.* The tidings of so great a miracle having reached Pope Urban, he in consequence established the festival of Corpus Christi. This legend however has been denied by others, who have imagined that the feast was instituted upon the petition of Thomas Aquinas, although no grounds have been assigned for such a supposition. But, whenever or however this day came to be honoured as a festival, one thing at least is certain,-in the time of Roman Catholic predominance it used to be celebrated with flowers, and lights, and music, and with the theatrical performances of those days, which have come down to us under the name of mysteries. Of this last fact we have a sufficient proof in the pages of Sir William Dugdale, who says that "before the suppression of the monasteries this city (Coventry) was very famous for the pageants that were played therein upon Corpus Christi day; which occa

Ex hujus ergo superstiosulæ mulieris diabolica illusione originem habuisse videtur hoc sacramenti solenne festum. Scriptorum Illustr. majoris Britanniæ Catalogus - Autore Joanne Baleo. Centuria Quarta. cap. xxxviii. p. 324. folio. Basileæ.-No date.


Hospinian, quoting Panvinius, says "propter miraculum quoddam quod Vulsiniis, quam alii Bulsenam vocant, in diœcesi et ditione Urbevetanâ in Ecclesiâ S. Christianæ acciderit, ab Urbano IV. institutum fuisse. Nam dum sacrificulus quispiam sacra missarum solennia celebraret, sacramento jam confecto, de panis et vini transubstatione et Christi corpore dubitavit. Unde statim ex hostia, quam in manibus tenebat, vivus sanguis manare cæpit et totam mappam, quam corporale vocant, tinxit. Quo miraculo attonitus Pontifex Urbanus IV. corporale primum ad se ab episcopo loci cu processione in Urbevetere transferri voluit, et illud solennitate institutâ in Ecclesia Urbevetana recōdidit ut in ea corp. Christi majori coleretur honore qua in quotidianis missarù solenniis. Hospin. De Festis Christ. p. 88.

sioning very great confluence of people thither from far and near, was of no small benefit thereto; which pageants being acted with mighty state and reverence by the Friars of this house (The Gray Friars) had theaters for the several scenes, very large and high, placed upon wheels, and drawn to all the eminent parts of the city for the better advantage of spectators; and contained the story of the (Old and) New Testament, composed into English rithme, as appeareth by an antient MS. entitled Ludus Corporis Christi, or Ludus Coventriæ.*”

The twenty-first of this month is the estival or summer solstice, so called because the sun, which has now entered the first degree of Cancer, and is at its greatest distance from the equator, appears to stand still. It is of course the longest day in the year, and makes the beginning of the real or astronomical summer.

MIDSUMMER EVE, the Vigil of Saint John the Baptist's Day-June 23. Properly speaking, Midsummer Day denotes the time of the summer solstice, and is not, as many from its name have supposed, connected at all with the idea of middle, though it seems hardly possible to assign any thing like a rational derivation to the word mid. In old English, as in the German mit, from which it may have been derived, mid signified with, and adopting Horne Tooke's mode of viewing the prepositions, it had possibly some relation to commencement. Be this as it

may, Midsummer Day is now generally understood to imply the twenty-fourth, this change having arisen from the errors and improvements in the calendar, though, as we shall presently see, all the ceremonies, appropriated to it by the Catholics, are in reality nothing more than the old Pagan mode of celebrating the return of summer. On the eve of Saint John it was customary, among

* Sir W. Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire - Knightlow Hundred, p. 183, fol. London, 1730.

other observances, to light large bonfires, which at one time were chiefly made of bones and other impurities, if we may believe the Catholic writers on the subject. With them indeed these bonfires had an especial meaning, or perhaps I should rather say they endeavoured to make of the custom a Christian type and symbol, in order to conceal its Pagan origin. For the existence of it we have authorities innumerable. To quote from one only; Durandus has recorded,* that men and boys collect bones and other impurities, which they burn, and also carry about burning torches. But it is in the reasons assigned for these observances that we are most called upon to admire the inexhaustible fertility of the author's inventive powers, and his determination at any price to

* In quibusdam partib. ex antiquâ observatione colligunt hōies et pueri ossa et quædam alia immunda et insimul cremant ut exinde fumum in aere producāt. Ferunt etiam brandas, sive faces, et cum illis circuunt arva. Tertium est, quia rotam volvunt. Qui immunda cremant et fumum in altum produci faciunt, habet hoc a Gentibus. Antiquitus ñ dracones, hoc tempore ad libidinem propter calorem excitati, volando per aerem frequéter in puteos et fontes spermizabāt, ex quo inficiebātur aquæ, et tuc erat annus lætalis ex aeris et aquarum corruptione, quia quicunque inde bibebant, moriebantur aut gravem morbum patiebatur, qd attendentes philosophi, ignem jussernt frequéter et passim circa puteas et fontes fieri, et immuda, et quæcunque immüdum redderēt fumu ibi cremari. Nanque per talem fumum sciebant posse fugari dracones, et qā tali hoc tepore maxime fiebant, ideo hoc adhuc ab aliquibus observatur... Est etiam alia ratio quare ossa animalium comburuntur, videlicet in memoriamossa Joannis Baptista a Gentibus in civitate Sebasta combusta fuerut. Vel potest hoc referri ad Novum Testamentum; abjiciunt ñ pueri vetera et cōburunt ad significandum q adveniente nova lege vetus testamentum debet cessare. Dictù est n vetustissima veterum non comederis et novis superveniētibus vetera projicietis. Feruntur quoq. brandæ, seu faces ardentes, et fiunt ignes, qui significat sanctum Joannem, qui fuit lumen et lucerna ardens, et præcedens et præcursor veræ lucis, quæ illuminat omnem homine venientem in hunc mundum. Durand. lib. vii. cap. 14. p. 292.

convert Paganism into Christianity. Thus he supposes that these bonfires might be lighted to drive away the dragons, who at this time of the year are flying about in swarms, and who might else drop their spawn into the rivers to the great detriment of water-drinkers and the poisoning of the air in general-or it might be that such conflagrations were intended as a memorial that the

heathens burnt the

bones of Saint John at Sebaste-or it might signify that on the coming of the new law, the old should cease. Then again the torches are borne about to signify that John was a burning light himself,* and the preserver of the light that was to illuminate all, a mode of argument that is absolutely unanswerable.

I have quoted this learned trash merely because a portion of it has a shadowy-and perhaps accidental-allusion to the ancient myth. The notion of lighting fires to keep off the dragons bears, or seems to bear, a striking analogy to the old solstitial creed, as typified by Hercules slaying the dragons. This matter has been well explained by Gebelin.† The solstices were called the

* This too was the opinion of the late Roman Catholic bishop, Dr. Milner, a man of considerable learning and ingenuity, but not over-scrupulous as to truth when it was opposed to his own peculiar tenets. In the teeth of all reason and sound argument he maintains that the Irish never worshipped Baal. See "An Inquiry into certain vulgar opinions concerning the Catholic Inhabitants and the Antiquities of Ireland." 8vo. London, 1808.

"Nous avons donc ici une allégorie fortement caracterisée par tous ces traits.

1° Deux Dragons étranglés par Hercule.

2° A'l'age de dix mois.

3o A minuit.

4° Et jettés dans un feu avec des ceremonies propitiatoires.

A ces characteres, on ne peut manquer le mot de l'enigme.

L'on se rapellera sans doute que le symbole de Mercure, le Caducée, est composé de deux Dragons etranglés par le milieu, l'un male

head and tail of the dragon, and the caduceus of Mercury is composed of two dragons strangled at the middle, the one male, the other female; the point of union was called Hercules, and Mercury was the inventor of astronomy. The strangling of the two dragons then by Hercules is an allegory relative to the caduceus, or the subject represented by it, and is intimately connected with the year of the agriculturist, of which it makes the commencement. Now if we adopt this ingenious solution of the classic allegory, we can not fail to see the connection between the old and the more modern superstition. The dragons of Hercules were but types of the solstices, and the dragons of popery, borrowed from the same fable, are but emblems of the same thing. The fires of course were intended, as Gebelin well observes, to express the joy of the people at the commencement of the year, for June in the early times was considered to be its commencement. But I cannot agree with him that the custom, which prevailed of dancing about the fires and leaping over them was in early times * the

l'autre femelle; que leur point de réunion s'apelloit Hercule; et que Mercure fut l'inventeur de l'astronomie ou du Calendrier.

L'etranglement de deux dragons par Hercule n'est donc qu'une allegorie relative au Caducée, ou à l'objet qu'il peignoit, et lié étroitement avec l'année du laboureur dont il faisoit l'ouverture.

Mais à quel jour de l'année, à quel moment est attaché le Caducée ? Les anciens nous l'apprennent, en apellant les Solstices, Tete et quene de Dragon."-Monde Primitif par M. C. De Gebelin -Histoire D'Hercule, p. 203. 4to. Paris, 1773.

I do not, however mean to dispute, that when the original signification of these bonfires had been forgotten, the custom was retained merely by way of a joyful festival. The proofs of this are abundant in our own country. The popular expression of “Dance round our coal-fire" is a vestige of it; and so late as 1733 the practice was observed at an entertainment in the Inner Temple Hall, as we read in Wynne's Eunomus (vol. iv. p. 107.)-"After the play, the Lord

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