Social life & Traditions
Today you might send a Valentine card to someone you admire, but in the past it was common to send an intricately woven harvest knot made of straw. Girls wore harvest knots in their hair and it was usual for them to incorporate the heads of grain. The knots worn by men were somewhat simpler.
Sadly our modern world has witnessed a decline in many such traditional rural practices, but at one time making objects from straw was a common folkcraft in county Armagh. It was associated with a variety of local customs, particularly at harvest time. This versatile material was also put to practical use for household and farm items. There is even a 'kishan' or hens nest on display at the museum.
Similar skills were used to make St Brigid's crosses, which were hung inside the house until they fell apart. A belief existed that it was unlucky to throw them away. The making and giving of such crosses is said to have honored the saint and strengthened the friendship between maker and receiver.
Another ancient custom was mumming. Mummers dressed up and wore elaborate straw masks then danced, recited rhymes and sang songs. TGF Patterson, the first Curator of Armagh County Museum, wrote about many of these traditions in the book Harvest Home
Gossiping women meet their match!A bizarre form of punishment reserved exclusively for women was the wearing of the iron scold's bridle. Resembling a muzzle or cage for the head it had a padlock at the rear and a projecting spike that would have been held firmly inside the mouth when the bridle w...
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