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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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Sheep, Hay, and Rushes

Sheep, Hay, and Rushes

(p.322) 31 Sheep, Hay, and Rushes
The Stations of the Sun

Ronald Hutton

Oxford University Press

Around the important ecclesiastical, municipal, and popular ceremonies of June were undertaken a pair of major tasks in agriculture, which in some districts were so central to the economy that they involved their own formalities of organization and celebration. The first was sheep-shearing. Just over 100 years later, a ballad would describe the shearer's feast in almost identical terms, and in its essentials it hardly altered down to the middle of the nineteenth century. Its most famous literary portrayal is in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. Alongside this work the hay harvest was proceeding but, unlike that of cereals, it seems to have been little attended by ritual. Only in the nineteenth-century Warwickshire Cotswolds was any such recorded, the mowers going to work with a posy of flowers pinned to the smock of each by a wife or sweetheart.

Keywords:   agriculture, economy, celebration, sheep-shearing, feast, Thomas Hardy, hay, Warwickshire, Cotswolds

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