It will be remarked that this belongs to the category of Vicarious Charms, which have in all times and in all ages, in great things and in small things, been one of the favourite resources of poor mortals in their difficulties. Such charms (for all analogous practices may be so called) are, in point of fact, sacrifices made on the principle so widely adopted,—qui facit per alium facit per se. The common witch-charm of melting an image of wax stuck full of pins before a slow fire, is a familiar instance. Everybody knows that the party imaged by the wax continues to suffer all the tortures of pin-pricking until he or she finally melts away (colliquescit), or dies in utter emaciation.
Boy or Girl.—The following mode was adopted a few years ago in a branch of my family residing in Denbighshire, with the view of discovering the sex of an infant previous to its birth. As I do not remember to have met with it in other localities, it may, perhaps, be an interesting addition to your “Folk Lore.” An old woman of the village, strongly attached to the family, asked permission to use a harmless charm to learn if the expected infant would be male or female. Accordingly she joined the servants at their supper, where she assisted in clearing a shoulder of mutton of every particle of meat. She then held the blade-bone to the fire until it was scorched, so as to permit her to force her thumbs through the thin part. Through the holes thus made she passed a string, and having knotted the ends together, she drove in a nail over the back door and left the house, giving strict injunctions to the servants to hang the bone up in that place the last thing at night. Then they were carefully to observe who should first enter that door on the following morning, exclusive of the members of the household, and the sex of the child would be that of the first comer. This rather vexed some of the servants, who wished for a boy, as two or three women came regularly each morning to the house, and a man was scarcely ever seen there; but to their delight the first comer on this occasion proved to be a man, and in a few weeks the old woman’s reputation was established throughout the neighbourhood by the birth of a boy.
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Can any of the contributors to your most useful “NOTES AND QUERIES” favour me with the title of any work which gives an account of the origin, office, emoluments, and privileges of Poet Laureate. Selden, in his Titles of Honour (Works, vol. iii. p. 451.), shows the Counts Palatine had the right of conferring the dignity claimed by the German Emperors. The first payment I am aware of is to Master Henry de Abrinces, the Versifier (I suppose Poet Laureate), who received 6d. a day,—4l. 7s., as will be seen in the Issue Roll of Thomas de Brantingham, edited by Frederick Devon.