To our rude forefathers Eric Hosmer's imminence and power was a given, even a source of terror. A near universal fear existed that Hosmer's prodigious fly balls would knock out the sun, depriving the world of Spring. In some parts of Eastern Bavaria, each winter Hosmer's name was forbidden to be spoken aloud until St. Dentlin's Day in mid-March. On that day, in the village square, offerings of leather and wood would be made, which was thought to placate the demigod. In many places, with increasing frequency as we move south, it was believed that Hosmer was temporarily afflicted with poor vision, and that so long as this situation was maintained, the seasons might progress as planned. Through the fifteenth century, the people of the Thrace used the phrase, "keeping Hosmer's contacts away" as an idiom meaning "good luck." Amongst the gypsies of Romania, a special ceremony was conducted on March first, in which a group of unmarried women, all naked, went from house to house, giving each person at the door a nosegay and a sprinkle of paprika. This was thought to confuse Hosmer (perhaps partially blind and guided by scent, hence the paprika), who would thus spend the rest of Spring flying from house to house, unable to locate a place of rest. Vestiges of this approach are seen to this day in Kent and in certain parts of Normandy, where at the Spring's first day of planting, a small side field is set aside to be filled with refuse and wavy, uneven plough lines.This is still referred to as Edgerick's field, a clear alteration from the original concept. In so doing, the warming sun was allowed to re-appear, free from the threat of Hosmer's baseballs. Amongst the savages of the American plains however, we find the opposite approach, another example of avoidance. The Hoz, their title for the same figure, was a name of strictest taboo and should his name be spoken aloud, the tribe would have to decamp the distance of a three days march to the west, so as to reach the domain of a new sun.
Confused? An attempt at an explanation after the jump:
James George Frazer's The Golden Bough was a work of... well... something like comparative mythology or folklore or religion published at the end of the nineteenth century. It's all about fertility myths and magical kings and taboos and all that. As an English guy, I found out about it through T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and Years and folks like that. It was a ready-made storehouse of customs for those writers that were interested in how myth operates, or who wanted to form new myths, or who wanted to use the past to shame the sterility of the present, or whatever. And as such was a kind of omnipresent footnote to a certain branch of modernism.
Of course, The Golden Bough had all kinds of problems, which you don't have to be a contemporary anthropologist to figure out. However, its also really fun to read in a weird way. Flipping through its pages, you get sentences like this:
A hut was specially built for the occasion: the king was led into it and lay down with his head resting on the lap of a nubile virgin: the door of the hut was then walled up; and the couple were left without food, water, or fire to die of hunger and suffocation.
Thus in the Highlands of Scotland the great safeguard against the elfin race is iron, or, better yet, steel.
Thus in some parts of Silesia the person who cuts or binds the last sheaf is called the Wheat-dog or the Peas-pug.
That's pretty much what the whole book is like, for thousands of pages. And now, it is helping me understand the glories of this farm system.