Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Brutal Pancakes

If you had pancakes last night while dabbling with the idea to either give up chocolate or wine or something similarly mundane you couldn't have been further away from some of the more brutal Shrovetide customs. In order to expel as much energy and celebration as possible before the pious and sparse Lent it seemed that Football and brutality towards cockerels were the order of the day.Pancakes where but one way to use up the egg and milk that were to be banished over lent...if you could not have eggs then one would not need a hen so why not kill it and have some fun in the process? 'Cock Threshing' as it was known thankfully was banned and out of favour by the mid 1800's while football remained a suitable release for sadistic impulses ' with the added attraction that the victims where human and the drawback that they might include one's self'. The traditional game lacked rules or goals, and merely rotated around the fighting for the possesion of the ball under some sense of licensed misrule. Hopefully more subdues games are still played in Alnwick, Ashbourne and Atherstone.

A much more gentle custom was 'egg shackling', where like conkers the best egg was found by either being the largest, roundest, brownest, whitest or strongest. One could always go 'Shroving' also, this begging custom like trick o' treating would be legitimised by the regaling of a rhyme,

"Shroving Shroving, I come a shroving.
White bread and apple pie,
My mouth is very dry;
I wish I were as well a-wet,
As I could sing for a nut."

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