236.—Saxon Emblems of the Month of Marchdetails

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236.—Saxon Emblems of the Month of March

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Here we see a hunter with a horn and spear; a man pruning trees with a scythe (or possibly climbing fences with a banana); a man digging with a spade in the field, loosening the soil; another with a pick-axe; and a barefoot man scattering seeds. One is reminded of the parable of the seeds that fell on stony ground! I am also reminded of the Anglo-Saxon ploughman [US: plowman] who complained of the “muckle cold”!


The picture in the Saxon Calendar (Fig. 236) now gives us distinctly the seed-time. But the tools of the labourers are the spade and the pickaxe. We are looking upon the garden operations of our industrious forefathers. They called this month “Lenet-monat,” length-month (from the lengthening of the days); “and this month being by our ancestors so called when they received Christianity, and consequently therewith the ancient Christian custom of fasting, they called this chief season of fasting the fast of Lenet, because of the Lenet-monat, wherein the most part of the time of this fasting always fell.”

The great season of abstinence from flesh, and the regular recurrence through the year of days of fasting, rendered a provision for the supply of fish to the population a matter of deep concern to their ecclesiastical instructors. In the times when the Pagan Saxons were newly converted to Christianity, the missionaries were the great civilizers, and taught the people how to avail themselves of the abundant supply of food which the sea offered to the skilful and the enterprising. Bede tells us that Wilfred so taught the people of Sussex. “The bishop, when he came into the province, and found so great misery of famine, taught them to get their food by fishing. Their sea and rivers abounded in fish, and yet the people had no skill to take them, except only eels. The bishop’s men having gathered eel-nets everywhere, cast them into the sea, and by the help of God took three hundred fishes of several sorts, the which being divided into three parts, they gave a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those of whom they had the nets, and kept a hundred for their own use.” The Anglo-Saxons had oxen and sheep: but their chief reliance for flesh meat, especially through the winter season, was upon the swine, which, although private property, fed by thousands in the vast woods with which the country abounded. Our word Bacon is “of the beechen-tree, anciently called bucon, and whereas swine’s flesh is now called by the name of bacon, it grew only at the first unto such as were fatted with bucon or beech mast.” As abundant as the swine were the eels that flourished in thier [sic] ponds and ditches. The consumption of this species of fish appears

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