perform their christening. In Cornwall the injunction covers St James's Day (25 July), when they say they get their final blessing (Vickery. 1995), and apples should only be picked at the "shrinking of the moon" (Notes and Queries. 1st series. vol 10; 1854p156). And never plant a rowan near an apple tree, as one will kill the other (Tongue). But there are some lucky omens; for instance, it is lucky to see the sun through the apple branches on Christmas Day (Baker. 1980). But it is really Old Christmas Day (6 January) that is the important time, for then it means a good apple crop to come (Vickery. 1995). Put into rhyme on Dorset, the belief is:
If Old Christmas Day be fair and bright, You'll have apples to your heart's delight.
Old Christmas Day is the great apple wassailing time. Wassail literally means 'good health', and to wassail a tree implies going through some ceremony that will ensure its health and ability to produce an abundant crop.
Wassail the trees, that they may bear You many a plum and many a pear; For more or less fruit they will bring, As you do them wassailing.
There was nearly always a rhyme to be said or a song to be sung, the best known being:
Here's to thee, old apple tree;
Whence you may bud, and whence you may blow.
And whence you may bear apples enow
Hats full, caps full,
Bushel-bushel sacks full,
And my pockets full, too (Brand).
If the parson happened to be popular, the line:
Old parson's breeches full was added (Ditchfield.1891).
In the areas of east Cornwall and west Devonshire the custom was to take a milkpanful of cider, into which roasted apples had been chopped, into the orchard. This was put as near as possible dead centre of the orchard, and each person (and it was important that everyone partook; the children were brought out, and so were the sick and invalids, for if anyone were missing, the charm would not be effective (Whitlock. 1977) ) would take a cup of the drink, and go to each separate tree, and say the ritual formula. Part of the cupful of cider was drunk as a health to the tree. But the rest was thrown at it (Hunt. 1881). The throwing is deliberate, and acts as a warning to the tree. Guns are actually fired into the branches, and before guns were common, the trees were beaten with sticks (Whitlock. 1977). The Hampshire advice to knock a rusty nail into the tree if it is not bearing (Hampshire FWI) is another example of this threatening or warning behaviour towards the tree. After all, a good apple crop is important enough in the cider-producing areas (Leather) to take whatever steps are necessary as insurance (see also WASSAIL).
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is a very well known prescription, varying slightly in different regions. In Herefordshire it was:
Take an apple going to bed,
'Twill make the doctors beg their bread (Leather).
However, it is not often that they are linked with any particular ailment, (Galen prescribed apple wine as a cure-all (Krymow)), although advice from the Highlands of Scotland enjoins a decoction of apples and rowan, sweetened with brown sugar to be taken for whooping cough (Beith). A Yorkshire practice was to use a poultice of rotten apples for what were known as botches, described as small boils (Gutch. 1911). American opinion suggested that apples would relieve rheumatism (Thomas & Thomas), and another American domestic remedy is a lotion to cure dandruff, made of one part of apple juice to three parts of water (H M Hyatt).
There are one or two charms recorded, like this Devonshire wart cure: cut an apple in two, rub one half on the wart. Give it to the pig to eat, and eat the other half yourself (Choape). More widespread was a similar one for warts, which were rubbed nine times with an apple cut in two. The sections were re-united and buried where no human foot was likely to tread. In Northumberland the warts were opened to the quick, or until they bled, and then they were rubbed well with the juice of a sour apple. The apple was then buried (Drury. 1991). These are all simple transference charms, but there is one more, for rheumatism this time, that merely involved carrying half an apple in the pocket (Foster). Half a potato is more usual than an apple for this purpose, but a hazel nut is sometimes used instead.
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