The Everyday Lore Project

10 May 2020 – Battledore and Shuttlefeathers

10 May 2020 – Battledore and Shuttlefeathers

Today’s folklore started with an exorcism, continued with a missed knob-eating opportunity, and finished with some shuttlecock divination. Whoever said folklore was dull, was not paying attention.

Lemuralia Pt 2
At midnight I performed the Lemuralia ritual to rid the house of any iffy spirits. As I found out yesterday, there was quite a bit to prepare. Since you’re not supposed to look back during the ceremony in case you spy a bean picking ghost, and because I was required to wash my hands at either end, I had to plot a route that started and finished with water. And with the beans needing to be slung nine times, I also had to work out maximum coverage tossing points. Next was finding the copper to clash together. Had my neighbours known what I was up to, I’m sure they would have been profoundly grateful that the only clashers I could find were two pre-1992 tuppences (at 97% copper each), which were then set in the kitchen. While the actual ritual wasn’t particularly complicated, I thought it best to write everything out on a cue card, as the chances of me remembering what to chant and when were virtually nil. 

So, with dimmed lights (I am Russ Abbot in all things atmosphere), a bowl of water, a dish of black beans, and a set of instructions on my desk, I went to bed, only to rise six minutes later on the beat of midnight. Making the mano fica with my left hand, I washed both hands in the bowl three times. Then stuffing the instruction card into my closed fist, I picked up a handful of beans with my right.

Now, as the instructions had not been clear, I’d taken some executive decisions: only one hand warding, and to toss rather than spit, given that spitting a gobful of beans while intoning is not a skill I’ve mastered. I then proceeded to promenade, chucking and chanting until I got to the kitchen, where I washed my hands again three times and replaced the instruction card with a tuppence. Clashing my copper in time to asking my ancestors to vacate, when the nine implorations were complete, I finally looked behind me to finish the ritual. There were a lot of beans on the floor. Plus somewhere along the line, the whole thing had become unintentionally intense with a vague feeling of being disrespectful. 

I hadn’t really connected the Lemuralia ritual with performing an exorcism, in my mind there’s a big difference between Hansel and Gretelling a ghost, and dressing as Max Von Sydow. But reading that someone else had, did freak me out a little. Having said that, I did manage to fall asleep with indecent haste on returning to bed.

Knob-Eating Competition
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my act together in time to register for the annual Dorset Knob-Eating Competition held virtually today. But huge thanks to the lovely Jenny O’Sullivan who flagged it up! Luckily, there’s always next year, plus the added bonus of the return of the Dorset knob-throwing festival. Knob being a bun shaped biscuit, obviously. 

Shuttlecock Divination
The second Sunday in May is traditionally a day to play battledores and shuttlefeathers, a precursor to badminton. If playing solo, it was also an excuse for a bit of shuttle (or shittle) cock divination. The trick is to ask a question and the number of times you manage to keep your cock up gives you your answer. There are lots of rhymes you can use like:

Grandmother, Grandmother
Tell me no lie
How many children
Before I die?
1, 2, 3, 4…

But I wasn’t in the mood to go off half-cocked, so after grabbing my everso slightly dusty racket and shuttlefeather, I went for the septuple forecast, the approach taken when I was a lass. The results were, well, hmm:

Blackcurrant, redcurrant, raspberry tart
Tell me the name of my sweetheart:  F

And what profession shall my true love have?
Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief

And when shall we be married?
This year, next year, some time, never

And what day?

And what cloth shall my wedding dress be?
Silk, satin, cotton, rags

And how shall I be getting to the civil ceremony?
Coach, carriage, wheelbarrow, donkey-cart

And where shall we live?
Big house, little house, pigsty, barn

As if I don’t have enough to organise this year. Although I’m tempted to think today’s results may speak more to my sporting prowess than my future.

Tatty Tracker
The is a lot of dying going on. I pulled up one of the stems that was painfully dead and all I could hear were ripping roots. Still, there are some flowers which gives me hope for a Whitsunday dinner. But not much.

The Onion Update
The ones in the grow bag are definitely deceased, they just don’t know it yet. On advice, I moved the pot to the window sill and there’s been a tiny improvement. 

Botanical Briefing
We were due to have a special guest this week, the lovely Hildegunn Traa with her herbs, but I messed up so you’ll have to wait until next week to see her brilliant growing. Meanwhile my mint hasn’t made an entrance but the rest are pootling along quite nicely. However, the garlic is going great guns! 


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Gomme, A.B. (1898) The Traditional Games Of England, Scotland And Ireland: With Tunes, Singing Rhymes And Methods Of Playing According To The Variants Extant And Recorded In Different Parts Of The Kingdom, London, David Nutt

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.