Withershins

A singular circumstance has been related to me as having occurred a few years ago at a funeral, in the village of Stranton, near West Hartlepool.

The vicar was standing at the churchyard gate awaiting the arrival of the funeral party, when to his surprise the whole group, who had arrived within a few yards of him, suddenly wheeled round and made the circuit of the churchyard wall, thus traversing its west, north, and east boundaries, and making the distance some five or six times greater than was necessary. The vicar, astonished at the proceeding, asked the sexton the reason of so extraordinary a movement. The reply was as follows: “Why, ye wad no hae them carry the dead again the sun; the dead maun ay go wi’ the sun.”

solar

This custom is doubtless an ancient British or Celtic one, and corresponds with the Highland usage of making the deazil, or walking three time’s round a person according to the course of the sun. Old Highlanders will still make the deazil around those to whom they wish well. To go round the person in the opposite direction, or ” withershins,” is an evil incantation, and brings ill fortune.

Notes on the folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders

William Henderson 1879

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