No matter what nationality you are, it is a safe bet you believe the customs of others to be rather ridiculous. Some scoff at the mere customs other cultures practice. Usually, this is from an abundance of ignorance and lack of intelligence. There is usually a reason behind many of the customs. Not always, but usually.
It is why I enjoy Jeffrey Kacirk’s Forgotten English so much. It highlights vanishing vocabulary and folklore and was given to me in 2006. It is one of few reading documents I keep and treasure. It is loaded with incredibly bizarre customs English customs. My ancestry.
Now, if you thought customs from Asia and Africa were weird, here a few to ponder.
Maiden rents were paid by every tenant to the manor of Builth, in Radnor (Wales) at their marriage. Maiden rents were given to the lord for his omitting the custom of – ready for this! – Marcheta, where some believed he was to have the first night’s lodging with his tenant’s wife.
The bizarre custom was further described in Blount’s dictionary.
“By the custom of the Manor of Dinevor, in the county of Carmarthen, every tenant at the marriage of his daughter pays 10 shillings to the lord which, in the British language is called Gwabr-Merched, a “maid’s fee.” The custom for the lord to lay the first night with the bride of his new tenant was very common in Scotland, and in the north parts of England.”
This custom was repealed by Malcolm III at the insistence of the queen, and instead a mark was paid to the lord by the bridegroom. From whence it is called Marcheta muleris.
Imagine what a field day the lawyers would have today if a landlord ever tried that!
Then there was the issue of trigamy, or the act of having three wives or three husbands at the same time.
There have been occasions when bigamy (marriage to more than one woman) was allowed in certain countries after war to replenish the population. So many men were lost even the government deemed it necessary to allow the practice.
In the ancient church, trigamy was only allowed to spouses who had no children by their former marriages.
Not related to trigamy but an odd case in Ireland occurred May 15, 1811. Henry Morris and Anne Murphy were married in Dublin. It proved to be Morris’s undoing when it was discovered he was legally married to Maria Fontaine. Seems they tied the knot five years earlier. No mention of babies.
Off to court Morris went where he was convicted. What is bizarre is the sentence he received – one very common at the time. Morris was sentenced to seven years of “transportation” meaning he was merely sent to a distant shore. Probably to repeat his deed!
Upon the verdict, the wife (Murphy) let go an emotional burst that might have persuaded a soft judge to reconsider. She picked the wrong judge and was told he had sent other men to the gallows for lesser offences.
And here is one for all the unlucky guys out there. Years ago in England they had a custom called Kissing Friday, which followed Shrove Tuesday.
During this day and one day only, English schoolboys were entitled to kiss any girls in their class without fear of punishment. Or rejection! The poor girls had no say and had to obey the custom.
This custom lasted until the 1940s.
Apparently, kissing has a purpose. It was a custom mothers did to reduce their child’s discomfort.
“We find all over the world this primitive cure by sucking out the evil, which perhaps among ourselves lingers among nurses and children in the universal nursery remedy of kiss and make it well.”
There is one custom I think we can all agree on!
by Chris Clegg