The Bride Cake
"In Northeastern Scotland, when the bride passed over the threshold, there was held over her head a sieve containing bread and cheese, which were distributed among the guests or sometimes scattered around her, in which case there was a scramble by the young folks to secure a piece. At times an oatmeal cake was broken over her head, and in later days a thin cake of shortbread, called the bride cake, was substituted for it. This, too, was distributed among the guests, who carefully preserved it, particularly the unmarried."
"It is customary for the mother, or some other near female relative of the bridegroom, to attend at his house to receive the newly-married pair. She meets them at the door with a currant bun, which she breaks over the head of the bride before entering the house. It is considered very unlucky if the bun by mistake should be broken over the head of any person other than the bride."
Marriage and Age
"It was customary in Scotland for marriages to take place when the parties were at a very early age. An Act of Assembly in 1600 endeavored to stop untimely unions by interdicting men from marrying under the age of fourteen years, and women under the age of twelve years; but there are several recorded instances of marriage in Scotland, in the seventeenth century, by persons at the age of eleven and thirteen years."
Apparently, before the Act of 1600, people were marrying at an even younger age than fourteen and twelve, but why did the General Assembly choose those two ages? I assume (and I think I'm right) that the General Assembly simply chose the ages that were considered proper and acceptable by the majority of people at the time.
Bridal Kisses (and Things)
In some parts of Scotland, the bride and her bridesmaids, after the ceremony, would proceed around the wedding company, and kiss every one of the men present. A dish was then passed around in which those kissed would place money.
"The parson who presided over the marriage ceremony uniformly claimed it as his inalienable privilege to have a smack at the lips of the bride immediately after the performance of his official duties." (Fielding) It was believed that the happiness of the bride depended a good deal upon the pastoral kiss.
"In early times," (the Middle Ages) "the Scottish lairds and barons regulated the marriages of their vassals, and had the right to sleep with the wife of any of them on the first night after the marriage."
This ordinance was begun by Eugenius III, and ended with King Malcolm III who decided the groom should, instead, pay the Laird a gift in gold, sometimes called a bed tribute or a virgin tax. With the end of feudalism, the right was exercised, for a time, symbolically, by the Laird's laying of a leg across the bride's bed.
[Ed. Note: Lest this all seem terribly removed from our time, our Chronicler once met a man from the isolated back country of Tasmania, where a great many Scots had settled after the Jacobite risings of the 1700's and the Highland Clearances. According to this fellow, as late as the 1950's the two-feathered local "Chieftain" of his Clan still claimed the bride-right, as well as a great many other chiefly prerogatives.]
Beltane is the name for May 1st. Beltane means “Bright Fire” or possibly “lucky fire” and bonfires were central to the festival. It marks the midpoint between Spring and Summer, the lighter half of the year. We celebrate life, growth, love, fertility, and sexuality with blazing fires, golden flowers, and May Poles. It is the warming of the year, the flowering of trees and plants as summer is arriving.