Villagers on their way to church, Simon Bening, c.1550 ‘The candlelit procession inside the church, as well as the candles held by the approaching villagers, suggest the celebration of Candlemas.’ J. Paul Getty Museum.


Candlemas was once a festival of light, a beacon in the midst of the dark days of winter. In the early Christian Church, Candlemas was the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, the day on which the infant Christ was presented in the temple, and his mother cleansed of childbirth, 40 days after the nativity. The story is told in the Gospel of Luke 2 22:40. The infant Jesus Christ is recognized by Simeon as the anointed one, the bringer of the ‘light’, which is symbolized in candles at the feast of Candlemas. It is said to have its root in the ancient Roman festival where tapers were lit to honour Februa, a double affront to the Protestant Church, compounding Roman Catholic faults with Roman pagan ones.

In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the craftsmen of Aberdeen performed, among their several  pageants and processions, Candlemas ‘plays’, and the corporations were required to provide wax candles for the Mass. There were penalties for those who failed to take part, ‘in their best array’. In 1523, one John Pill was tried and convicted for not joining in the Candlemas procession, with ‘his token and sign of his craft’. Compounding his offence by rudeness to the Bailies, John Pill was sentenced to appear barefoot and bareheaded at the kirk with a candle of wax in his hand.[1]

The Candlemas pageants, like the May folk games and Robin Hood plays[2], were driven out at the Reformation, when the tables turned. Sanctions were imposed on those who took part, as opposed to on those who shunned the celebrations. But the Kirk had a battle to dispel the old beliefs. In our present month of February, 1588, the General Assembly made report of Fife, ‘No resorting to the Kirk in many places. The kirks ruinous and destitute of Pastours and provision. There is superstitious keiping of the Yule, Pasche, &c’.[3] In 1591 the Kirk was still denouncing plays of Robin Hood, and asking that the acts of Parliament against them be put into effect[4], while in Aberdeen, the candlelit processions celebrating Candlemas were taken up by schoolchildren and were carried on through the eighteenth century.[5]

The Kirk appears to have distanced itself, too, from the second part to Candlemas (if the first is the presentation in the temple of the Christ child, the bringer of the light), that is, the feast of the purification. The commentators to the Geneva Bible were careful to explain the meaning of the verse: And when the days of her purification, after the Law of Moses, were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord’ with the note ‘This is meant, for the fulfilling of the Law: for otherwise the virgin was not defiled, nor unclean, by the birth of this child’. The book of Common Order – the liturgy that John Knox introduced to Scotland in 1564 – contains no service for the thanksgiving of women after childbirth, unlike the English Book of Common Prayer which it replaced.[6] Presbyteries should be ‘careful to remove superstition…in kirking of women after childbirth’ notes the Synod of Moray in 1656.[7] Despite this, the ‘kirking’ of women after childbed (and also after marriage) appears to have continued into the late nineteenth century, long after the practice in England had died out. Deep-set superstitions can be hard to shift, even for a zealous and persistent church.

Bleis-silver and the Candlemas dividend


It was the custom at Candlemas for students to take candles into schools, or pay money in lieu, for lighting the school room. This developed over time into a gratuity paid to the schoolmaster, known as ‘bleis-silver’, which local burgh councils attempted to suppress.  The Edinburgh council in 1598 motioned to discharge ‘all masters, regents and teachers of bairns in their grammar school of all craving and receiving of any blaze silver’[8], while at the grammar school in Aberdeen in 1604, the master David Wedderburn was accused of ‘causing bairns to pay silver at Candlemas for their Candlemas candle against all form and order, whereas the old form was to take only candle’.[9] The new form, once established, would not be reversed. The masters proved unwilling to give up their perquisites. The tradition was alive and well in St Andrews in 1794, where the child whose parents could afford to pay the most was rewarded with the crown of the king of Candlemas, which came with an impressive range of special pleas and privileges, the kind of licence that would have the ghosts of the reformers turning in their graves.[10]  The ‘Candlemas bleeze’ continued well into the nineteenth century.[11]

The sense of entitlement to Candlemas gratuities is apparent in a scandal that took place at St Andrews University, in the 1820s. In 1747, the colleges of St Leonard’s and St Salvator’s (see  Whitsunday story and end notes; St Mary’s was preserved as the college of divinity) were joined to form the ‘United College’, and the ancient ‘regent’ system, threatened with reform since 1579,[12] was finally replaced with a body of professors expert in their fields. The professorial salaries were fixed at that time, at £160 a year for the principal, and £80 a year for the foundation professors, as they were called. This meagre wage was supplemented by a ‘Candlemas dividend’ portioned by the senate of the professoriate, on their own account and of their own accord, from the college revenues, which were set aside for upkeep and repairs. By the end of the century, the professorial salaries had expanded in proportion as the fabric of the colleges had fallen into ruin. The salary for a foundation professor had risen to £111 a year, including ‘diet money’ payed for rents at Lammas, but the ‘Candlemas dividend’ brought in an average £150 per annum extra per professor, and in one year, £220. This anomaly was brought to light in 1826 before the king’s commissioners by the Reverend Dr Thomas Chalmers, who in 1823 had been appointed as professor of moral philosophy, and who took his job description seriously. Dr Chalmers had pursued, relentlessly, the source of the ‘Candlemas dividend’ enjoyed by his colleagues and refused to take his share. He asked for his resistance to it to be put on record, and at first it was; then mysteriously, the record was removed from Edinburgh to St Andrews, where it was altered to include Dr Chalmers in the list of culprits. (It’s hard to imagine he made many friends in the college buttery). The commissioners themselves, wittingly or not, colluded in this act.

Dr Chalmers spent some time trying to restore his personal reputation. In 1832, the genteel Glasgow journal ‘The Day’ took up the cause, and published an indignant appraisal of the facts. The author of the piece concluded darkly, ‘the question of chapel attendance, and the reply of the Professors, we will, perhaps, consider on some future occasion’. [13]


‘Marrow-melting luminants’: Candlemakers and their trade

The candlemaker John Blair first appears in Hue & Cry, where he serves as beadle in the Kirk of Holy Trinity. He is plaiting hemp for wicks while he takes his turn to ‘watch and wake’ a woman warded in the church, suspected for a witch. John Blair, and his shop towards the west sands in St Andrews, are inventions. Though they have no basis in the records of the town (St Andrews burgh records from the time are scant)[14] their presence there is plausible. Like the dyer’s trade in Hue & Cry, tallow candle making produced noxious fumes – as well as presenting a fire hazard – and was relegated to the periphery of populated areas. The references to candlemakers in existing records emphasize the unpleasant aspects of the trade.  Candlemakers ‘through rinding and melting of their tallow in their shop fronts and houses’ stirred up such ‘vile savours’ that Edinburgh council ruled in 1593 that ‘no manner of persons’ were ‘to rind or melt any tallow or cracklings…where the savour there of may come to the…common streets’.[15]

Such prohibitions led to the establishment of Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh in the seventeenth century. Here, we are talking specifically of tallow candles, the most common kind. Wax making was a separate trade, and wax candles were a luxury, not a staple product. Meg will make her own later in the year with the wax from the bees which begin to stir at the start of February, when the weaker stocks will be removed. Tallow candles too could be made at home, typically at Martinmas, which was slaughter time, and itinerant candlemakers travelled round the country, to assist with this task. It’s unlikely that domestic manufacture could produce enough to last a household through the winter; even in the market place, candles were in limited supply. Only those freemen who were brethren of the guild could sell them in the burgh markets, and they were prohibited from selling them outside. Though candles were essential, a requisite for life – it is difficult to overstate the effects on human kind of several hours a day of penetrating darkness, before there was a constant source of artificial light – candlemakers had a relatively lowly place among the trade and craft guilds, reflecting perhaps the relative simplicity of the skills required, as well as the ‘noisum’[16] nature of their work. In Edinburgh, they were confirmed in their rights and obligations by a charter of 1517, yet had ‘no part in the joint affairs of the incorporated crafts’.[17] They had close links with the fleshers, who supplied them with their raw materials. The prices they could charge were fixed by burgh statute, and varied according to the price of tallow, which was also regulated. This chained the crafts together in a forced dependency, which neither could control, and which often brought them in dispute. The fleshers were obliged by law to offer tallow first to the burgh candlemakers (and to other freemen who used it in their craft) at a lower price than it could fetch elsewhere. They were accused by the candlemakers of adulterating fat, which was sold by weight, in order to make for up the profits they had lost. They countered by accusing the candlemakers of artificially inflating the profit from their candles, by exaggerating the amount of waste (for which there was allowance) the tallow had produced. And so their interests were locked, in a bitter bond. The provision of a ‘mort cloth’ (used to drape the coffin of a brother of the guild) by the more prestigious fleshers to the Edinburgh candlemakers is a grim reflection of the law that bound them, even after death.

In early modern Scots, a ‘chandler’ is a candlestick or chandelier, not, as in English of the period, a maker or seller of candles. An old Scots proverb, perhaps one of the ‘empty vessel’ sort, refers to a ‘chandler’ of a standing kind: ‘Stand chandlers and ye faw [fall] ye will rattle’[18]. Early ones had prickets or spikes, to hold the candle in place, and dishes to collect the melting fat. The candles they contained, of the tallow kind, could be made in moulds, but more commonly were dipped, like the ones shown here.

The Candlemaker/de kaarsenmaker, Jan Luyken, 1690 Rijksmuseum

Candlemakers dipping rows of candles into melted fat. The process began with the making of wicks from twisted strands of flax or rush. The finished wicks were stretched over wooden rods, and a number of these rods were suspended in a frame, before the tallow was prepared.

Tallow is, confusingly, the name for both the raw and the rendered product. Raw tallow (sheep or ox suet) was supplied by the flesher with the membrane still attached. To remove the membrane and any other debris, the tallow was ‘rynded’ or rendered by melting in a pot, and the refuse of ‘cracklings’ filtered out. Where possible, this took place out of doors, to protect the candlemaker (though not his neighbours) from the noxious fumes. The residue remaining, once the tallow was expressed, was fed to animals or domestic birds. This method rarely rid the fat of all of its impurities, and those that remained caused the candles to smell foul, as well as to gutter and spit.

Once clarified, the tallow was transferred into a trough into which the wicks, suspended from the rods, would be dipped in batches. Here, it was kept at a constant temperature, either by a fire underneath the trough, or by topping up with more molten fat. The candles would be set on the frame to cool each time they were dipped, until they had built up gradually in layers to the size required, each pair of candles  joined at the wick.

A single candlemaker could make, using this method, five or six hundred pounds of candle in a single day [19] – candles were sold by the pound, not the dozen, and were often referred to as a singular commodity. The candle seller was subject to the same obligations as the other traders not to give short weight.

The finished product was foul-smelling, soft (tallow candles melted in the sun) and perishable. Wicks, unlike the ones in the candles we have today, did not fall back with the flame, but had to be constantly trimmed, up to a dozen times in a single hour. The scissor-shaped candle snuffers of the 16th century [candill scheris in Scots], some of which are beautifully ornate, were designed for this purpose. The candles, even trimmed, gave off little light, and with the most attentive care did not last for long.

The candlemaker sold other products in his shop, including soap. He supplied rendered tallow to the apothecary, as a base for ointments, and candle for suppositories. In Newcastle, both wax and tallow chandlers (and later the periwig makers) were incorporated with the barber surgeons.[20] Candlemakers took part in embalming and the funeral trade, at considerable risk to themselves: in medieval London, almost the entire company of wax chandlers was wiped out in the Black Death[21]. For sealing wounds, and worse, their wares were in demand. The Lord High Treasurer’s accounts for Scotland, Jan 1567/68 include entries for the cost of sending body parts from Lord Darnley’s murderers for exhibit on the spikes of various burgh gates: ‘Item, to three boys passing from Edinburgh with the rest of their arms and legs, to the burghs of Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Elgin, and Inverness  . . .  Item, for creels and tursing [transportation] of the said heads, legs, and arms; and candle for packing thereof, 10 s.’.[22]

For one who brings the light – a ‘marrow melting luminant’ the owl says in his almanac [23] – the candle maker is uncannily familiar with the dark.

‘No Vein let bleed’: On Medicine and astrology

Early modern almanacs came with medical advice. The ‘physic notes’ at the beginning of Walter Gray’s prognostication for 1588 mark the days ‘good to let blood’ separately for those of a predominantly sanguine, choleric, melancholic or phlegmatic disposition.[24] Candlemas that year is ill-starred for all of them, though a good day to ‘purge the head by sneezing’.[25] On February 2nd, 1588, the moon is in Leo. The Scottish almanac warns that ‘these signs are most dangerous for bloodletting, the moon being therein, Taurus, Gemini, Leo, Virgo and Capricorn, with the last half of Libra and Scorpio. The rest are all good, so the moon bear no dominion in the member that ye cut, as declared before in the anatomy’.[26] The almanacs, with their simplistic and rigid representations of astrology, were ridiculed in parodies, the most exuberantly comical of which is the ‘Owles Almanacke’ of 1618, by ‘Mr Jocundary Merry Braines’. The parodies made fun of reductions such as this, the ‘anatomy’ to which Leonard Digges refers:

‘The dominion of the Moone in mans bodye’ from Digges’ Prognostication, 1555

The figure of the ‘astrological man’, a commonplace that crops up time and time again, was pilloried by Dekker in his ‘Ravenes Almanacke’ of 1609: ‘it is the fashion to have the body of a man drawn as you see, and not only baited, but bitten and shot at by wild beasts and monsters. And this fellow, they that lie all the year long, (that is to say those that deal with calendars) call the man of the moon, or the moon’s man, or the man to whom the moon is mistress’.[27]

‘Is a man such an ass?’ Dekker asks, ‘that he cannot find his own self without so many signs?’

This is the example, over all examples, of familiarity fostering contempt. But Dekker’s ‘grim joke’[28] that the moon’s man is labelled like a corpse for dissection ‘like a thief begged for an anatomy in surgeon’s hall (so many barbers figured in those beasts, slashing and slicing and cutting him up)’ cuts a little closer to the bone. There were few medical practitioners, surgeons or physicians, in the 16th century who did not believe that illness and disease were governed by astrology. The almanacs presented, in a pocket form, the popular conception of a kind of ‘science’ that was practised and believed. The mathematician Leonard Digges was an accomplished astronomer, whose son Thomas was the first to present to an English speaking audience  –  in an appendix to the 1576 edition of his father’s everlasting almanac –  Corpernicus’ vision of a heliocentric cosmos, which would change the world. Leonard Digges is circumspect in his own prescriptions, which he qualifies: ‘The learned physician will consider, beside all that is said, the conjunctions, oppositions, and quadrate aspects of the planets, with many other things astronomical, most necessary… in bloodletting, purging…& c.’.[29]

The general rule, in Digges, is ‘Let blood at no time, without great cause, for it bringeth weakness and many infirmities’.[30] This seems, on any view, quite sensible advice. The conditions under which phlebotomy is favourable, or not, in relation to the motion of the planets, the time of the year and the health and disposition of the individual, in the English Phlebotomy of 1592,[31] runs to many pages. There was no doubt sound empirical evidence for the conclusion that bloodletting is less dangerous at more temperate times of year (spring was most auspicious) and (as a prophylactic) when the patient is in the peak of health. Less convincing, perhaps, is it is use at all, in balancing the ‘humours’ of which the body was believed to be composed. Yet the advice in the almanacs on bleeding, purging, bathing, and even the cutting of hair (mocked by the Owl: ‘Let blood when you have a pig to be killed … cut hair if it be too long’)[32] is based on what were taken to be scientific principles. We should not be misled by mockery of those who followed it too slavishly, or of those who peddled them a calendar of ‘lies’, into thinking that it was not based upon philosophies and precepts taken at the time to be universal truths. The Owl’s advice is anarchy at play: the mocking of an order which is overthrown, rather than an order than does not exist.

A seated man holds his arm out in preparation for bleeding. A boy holds a bowl under the arm to catch the blood. © Wellcome Library From: Le chirurgie françoise recueillie des antiens médecins et chirurgiens. Avec plusieurs figures des instrumens necesseres pour l’opération manuelle By: Jacques Guillemeau Published: Ches N. Gilles, Paris : 1594.

Lenten Fare

In 1588, Feb 21st is Ash Wednesday in Scotland, and the beginning of Lent. Prohibitions on eating meat at this time of year continued after the Reformation, in order to protect and replenish dwindling stocks [the ‘sparing of young flesh in the spring’][33], and to support the fishermen and maintain  their fleets, which were vital also for defence.

In addition to the period of fasting during Lent, there were three official flesh days every week. In 1584, the Scottish Parliament deplored ‘the great abuse and disorder standing amongst his highness’s subjects of all degrees in the licentious eating of flesh every day, which, beside other great inconveniences, is the occasion of great dearth…for remedy whereof, it is statute and ordained … that no manner of person nor persons … of what[ever] estate, degree or condition that ever they be of, shall presume or take upon hand to eat any manner of flesh in time coming on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday or in the time of Lent.’[34]

In 1587, the act was ratified: no one was to eat meat on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, or at any time during Lent, without a note from a doctor or a parish minister; certificates of medical exemption were granted at a cost of twenty pounds, while a flesher or a cook providing for this market had to pay a hundred for a licence to supply.[35] Red meat was thought to be more beneficial to health than any kind of fish, vegetables or fruits.

‘Fishes for the most part are not wholesome’ and ‘being new and fresh’ are ‘not to be eaten but of them which haue very hot stomachs, because they be very cold and moist. Being salted they are hot and dry, and therefore for them that be phlegmatic it is better to eat them salted, and in winter or at the beginning of spring: but for choleric persons and in hot seasons they are best when they be new and moist, but the surest and best way is altogether to abstain from them’, advises a ‘direction for the health of students’ in 1574.[36] Small wonder that Giles Locke looks gloomily on Lent.

Those who found the fast days left them full of phlegm [which is bred by ‘fruits, potages, cheese, fish, herbs, water, sadness, and much sleep’][37] could resort to roast puffin or barnacle goose, both of which counted as fish.


The barnacle goose, bizarrely, was once believed to grow on a tree in the Orkney Islands: ‘There are found in the North parts of Scotland and the Islands adjacent, called Orchades, certain trees whereon do grow certaine shells of a white colour tending to russet, wherein are contained living creatures: which shells in time of maturitie do open, and out of them grow those living things, which falling into the water do become fowles, which we call Barnakles…but the others that fall upon the land perish and come to nothing’ [38]

Lore of the Land

‘As lang’s the liverock sings afore can’lemas, it greets aifter’t’[39]

The skylark should be careful not to sing too soon. Candlemas day was the point in the year at which the winter would either let go of its grip, or redouble in strength. A dark sky boded well, and a clear one ill, for:

If Can’lemas is fair and clear

There’ll be twa winters in the year[40]

This piece of ancient lore recurs in various forms throughout the northern hemisphere. It appears as a fool proof way to forecast the weather for the year to come, in Digges’ Scottish almanac:

If the day of Candlemas be cleare,

The Winter shal be greater and worse that yere[41]

According to the Gardener’s Labyrinth of 1577, ‘The yearely Almanackes doe maruellouslie helpe the Gardners in the election of tymes, or sowing, planting, and grafting, but especially in obseruing the Moone, about the bestowing of plantes’.[42]

In Meg’s garden in this month, the primroses are peeping through. They will be eaten as a pot herb, or boiled in white wine as a remedy ‘for one that cannot make water’. A little later in the year they may be made into a ‘spring tart’ like this 17th century one:

Gather what buds are not bitter, also the leaves of Primroses, Violets and Strawberries, with young Spinage, and boil them, and put them into a Cullender, then chop your Herbs very small, and boil them over again in Cream, add thereunto so many yolks with the whites, as will sufficiently thicken your Cream, to which you must add some grated Naples bisket, colour all green with the juyce of Spinage, and season it with Sugar, Cinamon, Nutmeg, and a little Salt, you may bake it in Puff-paste or otherways.[43]

Also flowering now is the lesser celandine, a member of the buttercup family taking its name from the Greek word for swallow: ‘the small Celandyne was so called, bycause that it beginneth to spring & to floure, at the comming of the Swallowes, and withereth at their returne’.[44]

Celandines are said to be good for the eyes: ‘I sau celidone, that is gude to help the sycht of the ene’[45]

Considered ‘hot and dry in the third degree’, celandine is also prescribed for toothache, haemorrhoids, jaundice, ‘naughtie fleume’ and ‘evil humours’, while the juice of the roots ‘mingled with honie, and snifte or drawen vp into the nose, purgeth the brayne from superfluous moystures, and openeth the stoppings of the nose.’[46]

In the physic garden, hellebore is flowering too. White hellebore is used with care:                                                   ‘Hippocrates in procuring a Vomit did very much use white Hellebore, which is poisonous and strangling’[47]

As a purge in treating ‘quartain’ fevers: ‘After meate, you must prouoke vomite (if nothing let it) with white hellebore first commixed with radishe which if it worke litle or nothing, you must minister hellebore by it selfe’ [48] [radishes, luckily, are in season too].

Also used in sneezing powders, for the apoplectic patient:  ‘provoke him to sneezing with white hellabore’[49] – we remember that the almanac for 1588 marked February 2nd as a good day to ‘purge the head by neesing’ – or as a cure for lethargy.  And to flush away the winter blues, the dried root of black hellebore is a ‘safe remedy’ for ‘any infirmitie, that hath his originall, of a melancholicke cause.’[50]


[1] Aberdeen Council Register, quoted in William Kennedy, Annals of Aberdeen, vol. 1 p.480. London, 1818. This reference may in fact be January 1524.

Further on this, the Candlemas pageants and Robin Hood plays, see Anna Jean Mill, Mediæval Plays in Scotland. New York, 1969.

[2] See below, on Whitsunday.

[3] Acts and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, 1569–1618. Maitland Club, Edinburgh 1839. [February 1587/88] Pasche = Easter. See below, on Yule.

[4] Acts and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, [July 1591]. See also Whitsunday.

[5] William Kennedy, Aberdeen Council Annals of Aberdeen: From the Reign of King William the Lion, to the End of the Year 1818; with an Account of the City, Cathedral and University of Old Aberdeen. London, 1818.

[6] The 1637 Book of Common Prayer, which Charles 1st attempted to force upon the Kirk, did contain the service, and was later adopted in Scotland by the Episcopalian Church. The Geneva bible quoted here is the 1599 edition.

[7] Extracts from the Records of the Synod of Moray, ed. W. Cramond, p.121 [1656]. Elgin, 1906.

[8] The council ‘Discharges all maisters, regents and teachers of bayrnis in thair grammer schole of all craving and resaving of any bleyis syluer of thair bayrnis and scholers’. Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, vol. 6 1589–1603 p.226. Edinburgh, 1927.

[9] ‘Item, for causing bairnis pay siluer at Candilmes for thair Candilmes candill, aganis all forme and ordour, quhairas the auld forme wes to tak onlie candill and navayes siluer’. Complaint against David Wedderburn, master of the grammar school, on October 24 1604. Extracts from the Council Register of the Burgh of Aberdeen, 1570–1625. Vol 2 p.263. Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1848.

[10] At the grammar school: ‘the scholars pay…a Candlemas gratuity, according to their rank and fortune, from 5 s. even as far as 5 guineas, when there is a keen competition for the Candlemas crown. The king, i.e. he who pays the most, reigns for 6 weeks, during which period he is not only intitled to demand an afternoon’s play for the scholars once a week, but he has also the royal privilege of remitting all punishments’. The Statistical Account of Scotland, ed. Sir John Sinclair, vol. 13 p.211 [St Andrews].  Edinburgh, 1794.

[11] ‘The master receives the “Candlemas bleeze” from each pupil with condescending and familiar kindness.’ William Hone, The Year Book [s.v. February 2nd]. London, 1832.

The online Dictionary of the Scots Language records entries [s.v. Can’lemas] until the 1880s.

[12] See Whitsunday, ‘The New Foundation’, below.

[13] ‘Dr Chalmers and the Royal Commission,’ in The Day, ‘a morning journal of literature, fine arts, fashion, &c.’ Glasgow, Saturday March 17, 1832.

See also Volume lll, St Andrews, of Evidence, Oral and Documentary, taken and received by the King’s Commissioners, appointed by his Majesty George IV … for Visiting the Universities of Scotland. London 1837.

[14] ‘With the exception of a Burgh Court Book, 1589–92, all the early continuous burgh records have been lost.’ [Mill, Mediaeval Plays in Scotland p.283]. There is, though, a wealth of manuscript material in St Andrews University Library Special Collections, waiting to be tapped. A rich resource includes the early modern crafts books, the subject of an ongoing project led by Dr Claire Hawes on The Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present: The library has recently made digitized copies of the guild books of the Hammermen, Baxters and Fleshers available to view online:

[15] Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1589–1701, vol. v p. 83. Modernized here.

[16] Noisum: Harmful.

[17] W. Forbes Gray, ‘The Incorporation of the Candlemakers of Edinburgh, 1517–1884’ in The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, vol xvii. 1930.

[18] The James Carmichaell Collection of Proverbs in Scots, from the original manuscript in the Edinburgh University library, ed. M. L. Anderson. Folio 15B 1396.  Edinburgh University Press, 1957.  See Lore of the land, Yule, for Carmichaell.

[19]Edward Hazen, ‘The Candle-maker’, Popular Technology, or Professions and Trades, p.131. New York, 1857.

[20] National Archives. .The Incorporated Company of Barber Surgeons, Wax and Tallow Chandlers and Periwig Makers records date from 1616. The Company (minus the periwig makers) was formed in 1442.

[21] Chronology of the history of The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, at

[22] ‘Item, to thre boyis passand of Edr with the rest of thair Armes and leggis, to the Burrowis of Perthe, Dundee, Abirdene, Elgin, and Inverness …. Item, for crelis and tursing of the saidis heidis, leggis, and armis; and candle for paking thairof, 10 s.’    Modernised from Pitcairn, Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland, vol. 1. Part ll. 1542–1584, p.49. Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh 1833.

[23] The Owles Almanacke, ed. Neil Rhodes, in Thomas Middleton: The Collected Words, Clarendon, Oxford 2010 p.1298

[24] The ‘four humours’ of which the body was believed to be composed were blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. Blood is ‘warm and moist’; a predominance of this creates a sanguine disposition. Yellow bile is ‘warm and dry’ and creates a choleric or angry disposition. Black bile is ‘cold and dry’, corresponding to a melancholic disposition, while phlegm is ‘cold and moist’, and corresponds to a phlegmatic one. Sickness resulting from ‘imbalance’ in the humours was treated through the use of purging and phlebotomy.

[25]An almanacke and prognostication, made for the yeere of our Lord M.D.LXXXVIII. Being leape yeere. Rectified for the […] of Dorchester, seruing most aptly for the […] and generally for all Englande. By Walter Gray, Gentleman. London, 1588. ‘Good: to purge the head by Neesing’.

[26] A general prognostication for ever. Imprinted at Edinburgh, By Andro Hart, 1619. Modernized.

[27]Quoted in modernized form from Thomas Dekker, The ravens almanacke, 1609

[28] Neil Rhodes, introduction to The Owles Almanacke, in Thomas Middleton: the collected works, Clarendon, Oxford 2007

[29] Digges, A Prognostication, London, 1555. Modernized.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Nicholas Gyer, The English phlebotomy: or, Method and way of healing by letting of blood Very profitable in this spring time for the preseruatiue intention, and most needful al the whole yeare beside, for the curatiue intention of phisick. Collected out of good & approued authors at times of leasure from his other studies, and compiled in that order that it is: by N.G.  London, 1592’

[32] The Owles Almanacke, in Thomas Middleton: the collected works, Clarendon, Oxford 2007

[33] Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, ‘Anent the certane tyme of Lentren, sparing of young flesche in the spring and brekaris of Lentren and ether dayis forbiddin to eit flesche’ 1594/4/42. Translation: University of St Andrews

[34] ‘Ane act prohibiting the eatting of flesche thrie dayis everie oulk’ 1584/5/86. Translation: University of St Andrews

[35] ‘Aganis eitting of flesche in Lentren and uther dayes forbiddin’ 1587/7/52. Translation: University of St Andrews

[36] Guglielmo Gratarolo, A Direction for the Health of Magistrates and Studentes… Written in Latin by Guilielmus Gratarolus, and Englished, by T.N. London, 1574

[37] Peter Lowe, The Whole Course of Chirurgerie, London, 1597.

[38] John Gerard, The Herbal or Generall History of Plants. London, 1597. Illustration from the 1633 edition, The herball or, generall historie of plantes / Gathered by John Gerarde … Very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson. Wellcome Library, London.

[39] Walter Gregor, Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, p.139, ‘The Lark’. Folk-Lore Society, London 1881. ‘liverock’ = ‘skylark’ from Old Scots laverok/lawrok, ‘lark’.

[40] William Hone, The Year Book…a Complete History of the Year and a Perpetual Key to the Almanack, 140: ‘Candlemas in Scotland’.  London, 1838.

[41] Leonard Digges, ‘Other Short Observations of the Weather’, A generall prognostication for ever…  Imprinted at Edinburgh, By Andro Hart, 1619.

[42] Thomas Hill, The Gardeners Labyrinth, London 1577.

[43] Anon., The Compleat Cook: or, the Whole Art of Cookery, London 1694. ‘Naples’ biscuit was flavoured with rose water.

[44] Rembert Dodoens, A Newe Herball, trans. By Henry Lyte. London [Antwerp], 1578.

[45] Sir David Lyndsay, The Complaynte of Scotland, 1549. [quoted in DoST].

[46] Dodoens, A Newe Herball.

[47] Theophile Bonet, A Guide to the Practical Physician, London, 1686.

[48] Philip Barrough, The Methode of Phisick, 1583. ‘Quartain’ fevers recur at intervals of 72hrs, i.e. on the fourth day.

[49] Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Last Legacy. London, 1655.

[50] John Hester, The Pearle of Practise, or Practisers Pearle, for Phisicke and Chirurgerie, London, 1594.