Tuesday, 8 November 2011




Charlotte Latham’s work was published in the first edition of the Folklore Record as long ago as 1878. A vicar's wife, she had an insatiable desire to learn about the parishioners' lives and to record what she was told.. The Devil and babies figured frequently in local tales.

The baptismal ceremony was not regarded simply as a welcoming into the Christian community but it also contained an element of exorcism, the expulsion of the Devil from the newborn child. The north door of churches – the so-called Devil’s Door - was left open on these occasions for the Devil to make his exit though some churches blocked up the north door to prevent the Devil's entry.

One lady told Mrs Latham the following anecdote:
‘I was lately present at a christening when a lady of the party, who was a godmother of the child, whispered in a voice of anxiety. “The child never cried. Why did not the nurse rouse it up?” After we had left the church, she said to her, “Oh nurse, why did you not pinch baby?” and, when the baby's good behaviour was afterwards commented upon, she observed with a very serious air, “I wish that he had cried.”’

And why? Because with the crying the Devil would have been expelled from the child's body, original sin wiped out with one nip of the child's flesh.


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