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67-69 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1259062 . Accessed: 15/01/2012 19:12
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UNDER THEPLOUGH. GEORGE THE PATTERN EWART EVANS.London, By
Faber& Faber, 1966.Pp. 269. 35s-
MR Ewart Evans has now produced a third most valuable addition to his previous records of the old rural community of East Anglia.x Before describing some of the more specific contributions to be found here, an interesting general opinion may be noted. This concerns the success of some of the old folklore remedies: wart charms, for instance, for whose success there is no scientific explanation. The author thinks it may be that: 'The patient cures himself under the stimulus of a subtly impersonal suggestion that seems to by-pass the conscious mind and to operate independently of his reason.... All the hocus-pocus was an instinctive attempt to stimulate the patient's own healing force.' Mr Evans goes on to condemn one of the worst banes of modern medicine. 'The old medicine had the least success with the infectious diseases which modern medicine has to a large extent tamed. Science isolates the bacillus or the virus that causes the disease and then proceeds to render it ineffective. And its very success in this field has caused a contradictory and ultimately harmful trend in modern medicine, especially in hospitals where various technical improvements, the specialization in different skills, the better equipment, and improved drugs, are all tending to emphasize the treatment of a patient as a moreor-less depersonalized case, thus ignoring or undervaluing an important therapeutic factor - the force within the patient himself that can greatly help his own recovery.' The old cures, on the other hand, were addressed to the whole man, not merely to his disease; and those who administered
them appearto have had an instinctive knowledgeof how to stimulate the patient'shope and desireto be well. One matterof interest,which the authordescribesin detail, concerns certain old methods of house-building. The purpose of much of this detail was laterforgottenand abandoned.Unlike modernarchitects,the Tudor builders provided insulationof both heat and sound. This they achievedby packingthe spaces between the floorjoists on the first and second floors with materialssuch as oat husks, walnut shells and sea shells. In the course of 'reconstructionand improvement' such old insulationmaterialwas often removed and nothing put back to replace
1 Ask the Fellows who cut the Hay, Faber, 1956. The Horse in the Furrow, Faber, 1960.
it. In consequence the rooms would appear, at a later stage, to be badly insulated, although they had not been so when the houses were built. One is tempted to wonder whether such old buildings were in other respects as uncomfortable to live in as they sometimes appear to be now, after centuries of ignorant tampering. Walnut shells and sea shells were also, of course, fertility symbols; and their presence in a family dwelling would be thought to contribute more than a purely practical architectural device. This interweaving of the practical and of the magical occurs again and again throughout Mr Evans' book. The bay-tree, being an evergreen, was one of the sacred trees. Mr Evans records that a Suffolk woman had a bay-tree transplanted when she moved house. 'She said that she wouldn't have been comfortable in the new house without it.' She may also, of course, although Mr Evans does not record this, have prized her bay-tree for its culinary contribution. While speaking of trees, Mr Evans states in a footnote that 'there is a tradition in Suffolk that the elder is a good tree to have growing outside a dairy as its bitter smell keeps flies away'. It is possible, however, that more was needed than the mere presence of the tree. Probably the leaves would have been plucked, bruised and then hung up in the dairy, perhaps near the doorway. I remember advice given me in the early twenties by estate workers of the Earl of Lytton. While riding in the park of Knebworth House during the hot summer months, clouds of flies (commoner then than they are today) used to pursue both ponies and riders. We were advised to put sprigs of elder in bridles, saddles and hats, having first bruised the leaves; and this remedy seemed to be at least partially effective. But the bruising was essential. The juice had to be forced out of the leaf, just as it must be wrung out of the dock leaf before it is rubbed on flesh stung by a nettle. Bees are another insect with an aversion to certain smells. One beekeeper told Mr Evans: 'I know from experience that if I approached their hives with scented lotion on my hair it would make them angry.' In fact, an extremely heightened degree of olefactory perception in some animals lies behind many old beliefs and magical practices. Biologists are now beginning to turn their attention to a field with which country people have long been familiar. Among other animals, the horse has an acute sense of smell and his reactions to certain smells are extreme. In some racing stables, it used to be the practice to place a billy-goat in the stable of a race-horse who had become unmanageable. It was always thought, somewhat vaguely, that this unusual companion had a soothing effect upon the upset horse, without the mechanism of this effect being understood. Now Mr Evans refers to 'the malodorous flank gland of the 68
billy-goat' and suggests that possibly 'the goat's smell masked another odour, undetectable by the human nose, but which was particularly offensive to the horse. . .'. We now come to the most original content of Mr Evans' book: his discoveries regarding horse magic. It is impossible to do more than to summarize briefly some of his remarkable finds in this field. The secrets of the Horse Whisperer are revealed. The secret words he used were of no importance. He tamed the horse by something which the horse liked to smell. On the other hand, horses 'bewitched', and apparently unable to move, were held so by the presence of some substance whose smell was repellent to them. As to the Brotherhood of the Horseman's Word, I had previously supposed that, if indeed it had ever existed, it had been extinct for too many centuries to yield more than an occasional trace-memory. Mr Evans has discovered not only that it existed but that it still exists. He knows of it as The Horseman's Society and has published as many of its secrets as he may. By revealing two details of the extant ceremony, the author makes it apparent that the cult of the horned god still flourishes - in conditions of extreme secrecy. Its survival in remote places such as north-east Scotland, and through the medium of what may have been a craftmen's guild, suggest a continuation of something ancient. Protected as these survivals are by remoteness and secrecy, there is no chance of their being confused with, or contaminated by, the drugcrazed caperings of our contemporary 'witch-coven' cult. Finally the Horseman's word was not what the horse-whisperers whispered. This secret word of power was central and integral to the cult: it was the essence of it. Mr Evans' excellent book should find a wide reading public. It will have an especial interest for those who study the old rural life of East Anglia. But it will appeal to many other folklorists and also to those interested in the care and welfare of the horse. These last may find some useful recipes, here published for the first time, but known and used for centuries, for 'calling' and 'drawing' horses to them, as well as for taming and calming them. H. A. BEECHAM THE BLACK CAVENDISH. ARTS.By RICHARD Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1967. Pp. 373- 42s. THE author states his attitude toward Magic, and many other practices associated with it, in his first pages. We are clearly warned that this is a study of Evil working among humans. The attitude is supported by ample documentation, but one remembers that most of the older documents are from one side of the argument and belong to an outbreak 69
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