Although I have finished my thirty posts in thirty days challenge, there was one title on the list which was rather ambiguous, #Folklore Thursday. I wrote about it, fulfilling my aim of writing about each of a subject on a list I had found, but it didn’t seem very satisfactory, and I committed myself to write another post, just about Thursday. So, here it is:
I read an interesting article in ‘Irish Archaeology’, about the defeat of the Vikings in Dublin by the great Irish king, Brian Bóruma (Boru) in 999. After his victory over Sigtrygg II – Silkbeard Olafsson (who reigned 989/995–1036), at the Battle of Glen Máma, instead of marching straight in to ravish Dublin, Brian diverted some of his troops to go and burn down Caill Tomair, a sacred grove. The story is interesting enough, but with my interest in words and names, I found it fascinating that a clue to the fact this wood was a sacred grove was in its name. The Gaelic word for forest, coill, is added to the Irish version of the Viking god Thor (þórr), to give Caill Tomair. Brian Boru was a Christian, so destroying a pagan sacred place was greatly significant.
Looking at Old Norse place names, any one with the word lundr attached to it, as in þórr’slundr, means a place where there is a grove. Animals and even humans could be sacrificed in these places, sometimes being hung in the trees… rather gruesome! Another link with Thor in Viking Dublin has been suggested by the number of amulets in the shape of Thor’s hammer which have been found. Thursday was named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Thursday comes from ‘Thor’s Day’ which in Old English was Þūnresdæg (Thunresday) which developed into Middle English Thuresday. Some time ago I wrote about a recipe for Thor’s cake:
I came across a delightful book by Alison Uttley. ‘Recipes From an Old Farmhouse‘, and one of the cakes mentioned was the mysterious Thor cake. Whether there is any connection with the Norse god I don’t know, but it is more likely that the name derives from the Old English, þeorf, meaning plain… but candied peel, spices and treacle doesn’t sound a plain cake to me, especially with lashings of butter! It was also called Thar cake by some people and originates in Derbyshire where it was made and eaten in the autumn, especially for Guy Fawkes Day. It is a very old recipe… and may even have been made to celebrate Halloween pre-Fawkes! The name also might be related to the word ‘parkin’, that gorgeous gingerbread made in the north of England!
In the north of England there used to be annual week’s holidays called Wakes Week; in Oldham where I lived for many years it was in the summer, last week in June, first in July, where traditionally the mills would be shut for the workers to have a well-deserved rest. In Derbyshire, according to Mrs Uttley it was in November and a fair would come to the village with swings and merry-go-rounds. This was when Thor Cake would be made and eaten as a morning snack, spread with butter.
Thor Cake… according to Alison Uttley:
- ½ lb oatmeal
- ½ butter
- ½ lb Demerara sugar
- 4 oz black treacle
- ½ oz ground ginger
- pinch of salt, mace and nutmeg
- 4 oz candied peel
- 1 egg
- Warm the butter and treacle together
- mix with the dry ingredients and the egg
- mix thoroughly then knead it like bread
- roll out to a thickness of about 2 inches
- place on a greased and lined tin
- cook for about ¾ hour at 190C, 375F, or gas mark 5 until the cake is done
- cut into slices as needed, butter, eat, enjoy!
I have seen other recipes where it is put in a loaf tin and then sliced when cold, but some of those recipes add self-raising flour… there are plenty of other recipes available if you’re interested, but this is Alison Uttley’s version!
My featured image is of The Ha’penny Bridge – officially the Liffey Bridge in Dublin.