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OATS AND BEANS AND BARLEY—OBADIAH 13
Mr. Baker, and this is an important illustration of the descent of children's games from customs. As soon as it has become a child's game, however, the process of decadence sets in. Thus, besides verbal alterations, the lines relating to farming-have dropped out of the Wakefield version. It is abundantly clear from the more perfect game-rhymes that the waiting for a partner is an episode in the harvest customs, as if, when the outdoor business of the season was finished, the domestic element becomes the next important transaction in the year's proceedings. The curious four-lined formula applicable to the duties of married life may indeed be a relic of those rhythmical formulae which are found throughout all early legal ceremonies. A reference to Mr. Ralston's section on marriage songs, in his Songs of the Russian People, makes it clear that marriages in Russia were contracted at the gatherings called Besyedas (p. 264), which were social gatherings held during October after the completion of the harvest; and the practice is, of course, not confined to Russia.
It is also probable that this game may have preserved the tradition of a formula sung at the sowing of grain, in order to propitiate the earth goddess to promote and quicken the growth of the crops. Turning around or bowing to fields and lands and pantomimic actions in imitation of those actually required, are very general in the history of sympathetic magic among primitive peoples, as reference to Mr. Frazer's Golden Bough will prove; and taking the rhyming formula together with the imitative action, I am inclined to believe that-in this game we may have the last relics of a very ancient agricultural rite.
The players stand in a row. The child at the head of the row says, " My son Obadiah is going to be married, twiddle your thumbs," suiting the action to the word by clasping the fingers of both hands together, and rapidly " twiddling " the thumbs. The next child repeats both words and actions, and so on all along the row, all the players continuing the " twiddling." The top child repeats the words, adding (very gravely), " Fall on one knee," the whole row follows suit as before (still