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Mrs Finnegan’s Almanac – the Secret of the Witches of Hove

A cold May is kindly,
And fills the barn nicely.
A wet May Makes a big load of hay

An ancient adage created by our forefathers to allow us to hang onto hope in the face of an East wind

How to Sweeten Tainted Meat

Mr D Cussons intends to include the following advice in Cussons’ Horncastle Compendium, due to be published next year. I was given an early copy and asked to give my opinion

When meat and fish from intense heat, or long keeping, are likely to pass into a state of corruption, a simple and pure mode of keeping sound & healthful is by by putting a few pieces of charcoal, each about the size of an egg, into a pot or saucepan wherein the meat or fish is to be boiled.

Among others, an experiment of this kind was tried on a turbot, which appeared to be too far gone to be eatable; the cook, as advised, put four pieces of charcoal under the strainer of the fish kettle: after boiling it for the proper time, the turbot came to to the table sweet and firm.

After careful deliberation I can say with all sincerity that I would not eat at the Cusson’s table, not if I had missed a week of breakfasts, gone without dinner too and five guineas was mentioned.

Tainted meat cannot be untainted unless charcoal has the power to make time run backwards. You can hide the taste of tainted meat and the smell, but you can not make it fresh again.

If charcoal can do all that Mr Cusson’s claims I suggest rather than publish a compendium he would better off pounding a quantity to dust, mixing it with lard and bottling it. Surely no lady over a certain age could resist spreading it on her face?

Saint of the Week

St Rita of Cascia – Patron Saint of the Impossible (also Hopeless Circumstances and Disappointing Lives)

Rita was a 14th century Italian girl desperately eager to become a nun, but to PLEASE her parents agreed to an arranged marriage at the age of 12.

Her husband was cruel, although he softened a bit with the passage of time and the WEIGHT of her prayers. They had two sons she loved dearly. However, when their father was killed in a vendetta with another family she knew they were intent on avenging him. So she prayed that they would be spared committing such a terrible deed and sure enough within a year they both got sick and died.

Now the time was RIGHT for Rita to enter a convent but alas some of the other nuns belonged to the family who had killed her husband and didn’t want her to join their small community.

I don’t know what she prayed for THIS TIME but she waited and eventually she was allowed to enter the convent and spent the next 40 years there. She was known for her DEVOTION and was rewarded by a stigmata to the forehead. (See the picture above). That is a open wound that never heals which replicates the crown of thorns.

I’m inclined to think St Rita could also be the patron saint of people who should be careful what they wish for.

Feast Day May 22

Witches in Hove

Hove is a dull, dusty little village overshadowed by the magnificence of its sister township of Brighton, but 248 years ago two Hove women were ACCUSED of witchcraft and taken to the Court in Lewes.

On May 21st 1588 mother and daughter Margery and Joane Banger were charged with BEING ‘vehemently suspected to be notorious witches and common practises of the same’

I do not know WHY they were accused, but I do know a trial by compurgation was ordered. What vile ORDEAL was that? you may wonder.

My thoughts precisely until I discovered that Mistress Bager and her daughter were REQUIRED to defend themselves by swearing a SOLEMN oath they were not witches, had never been witches and would prefer to eat straw, drink ditch water and wear a bodice the wrong way round rather than consort with any. (That may not have been exact wording. I am just imagining what I would put if ever in the same situation)

Then – and this is the compurgation part – they had to get people who knew them to stand up (it’s possible chairs were also provided) and say they believed them. According to the books I looked at in the Master’s library (he’s NEVER home and when he is ONLY uses it to sleep off the worst of the previous night’s excess. I might as well call it my library) that it was an ancient legal custom that usually REQUIRED 11 or 12 men to support the accused.

Yet in this instance it appears that only FOUR came forward and they were all women:

Elizabeth Collen of Brighthelmstone,
Joane Alley of Hove,
Joane Bradford (no place given)
Margaret Burton (no place given).

And it was enough. On June 18 mother and daughter were released.

And the secret of Hove witches?

There never have been any, not now, not ever.

Do you know, this story makes me feel much WARMER towards the village, although I still maintain that while Brunswick Square may technically be within the parish boundaries it is VERY MUCH Brighton in spirit.

Improve your Vocabulary One Word at a Time

Apanthropy: the desire to be away from other people.

I think I might make this a regular feature. What do you think?

I shall continue to only include words that are USEFUL in everyday life. I myself have employed apanthropy on several occasions this past week when asked to account for the expression on my face.

I have an invitation to have tea later today…

and must remember to eat well before I go. She is a dear lady but the last time I was there I was served a large portion of Hooting Pudding which is plum pudding containing so few plums that they can be heard hooting at one another across the vast emptiness. Perhaps you’ve had one of those.

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8 comments on “Mrs Finnegan’s Almanac – the Secret of the Witches of Hove

  1. beth
    May 16, 2023

    while not a fan of tainted meat, no matter the attempt to ‘reinvigorate’ it, I am a fan of st. Rita, as we all need to call on her from time to time

    • bridget whelan
      May 16, 2023

      At last! A saint I can relate too but she always seemed to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop

  2. Cathy Cade
    May 16, 2023

    I, also wouldn’t risk the tainted meat and fish – especially fish (assuming it is actually smelly, and not just past that date advised on its packaging). BUT I will mention that when one of my dogs ate a sachet of rat poison (yes – the entire sachet), the veterinarian, after inducing the usual unpleasantnesses, sent us away with (among other things) charcoal to add to his food for several days, to absorb any taint that might still remain in his digestive tract.

    • bridget whelan
      May 16, 2023

      Charcoal has a lot of digestive uses I think but bad fish is just bad…Poor dog, it sounds as though he was very fortunate that you discovered what he eaten so soon.

      • Cathy Cade
        May 16, 2023

        I was chasing him to get it from him… and then it was gone!

  3. Sarah Waldock
    May 16, 2023

    Ah, a name for my personal feelings – Apanthropy.
    Having once suffered a dodgy sausage roll [served in a hospital cafeteria no less] I strongly advise against any attempts to make tainted meat ‘palatable.’ It’s dangerous.
    I am most impressed that a compurgation of only four, and women at that, was needed. An oath on the Bible of innocence and 12 good men and true were usually required, in the naive belief that this didn’t mean, in the case of wealthy malefactors, that the 12 good men were bribed. Mind, 1588 was the time of Good Queen Bess, and a period of relative enlightenment as far as witchcraft trials were concerned; it took the superstitious James 1 to really start persecuting people. When he was James VI of Scotland, he had two hundred women tortured and executed because when at sea he ran into a bit of a blow and was sick, and concluded that this must have been caused by witchcraft, because he was too much of a snowflake to take it like a man.

    • bridget whelan
      May 16, 2023

      I think Sussex has a pretty good record as far as witch hunts are concerned. It looks as though only one woman was executed (but another died because of her injuries while in the stocks). It would make a fascinating PhD study if it hasn’t already been done.

      • Sarah Waldock
        May 16, 2023

        It would, wouldn’t it? we, in East Anglia, had the personal attentions of Matthew Hopkins, a dark era in our history, along with the nasty and regular outbreaks of burning heretics. It’s something which irritates me in Harry Potter; witches were not burned, witches were hanged. Heretics were burned [and women guilty of petty treason.]

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2023 by in Almanac and tagged , , , , , , .


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