Thursday, 3 November 2016

Sieve and Let Sieve

Our old Hallowe'en post gained a couple of new comments when we re-tweeted it at the start of the week. One comment asked about the significance of the sieve and knife used by brave lasses trying to divine the identity of their future husband.

I had a look back at the Ernest Walker Marwick notes we had looked at before and the full extract reads:

"How would you like to sit in a dark barn, with all the doors open, when all the bogles are around, winnowing with an empty sieve on which you placed a knife, and knowing that an apparition having the appearance of your future partner would pass the door?"

'Winnowing' means to sift or sort the wheat from the chaff and I wonder if shaking the sieve around with a reflective blade on the top was meant to bounce any moonlight that made its way through the open bar door, thus producing a fleeting 'apparition'?

I found another reference to a sieve in the same record in an extract discussing old fashioned medical treatments:

Orkney Archive Reference D31/72/1/22

I seem to recall a few witchy stories involving sieves too which I shall try and unearth in the next week or so. To be continued...

See also these weird sieve-related punishments as unearthed by dusty. Here and here.

Does anyone have any more sieve stories to share?

1 comment:

  1. No sieve stories, but the American folk hero Johnny Appleseed wore a tin pan on his head as he travelled the wilderness scattering appleseeds and giving more seeds to farmers he met. Johnny Appleseed is portrayed as a very kind, simple man (of the Swedenborgian faith), who had lots of animal friends and was beloved by all who met him. So probably his tin pot was not in the same category as the sieve.



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