|     ||I have celebrated Roc Day/St. Distaff's Day with my first guild for 15+ years the first week of January. We get together and have a big spin-in, bring left over Christmas cookies. door prizes, and our Christmas money to spend on more fiber from all the vendors that are invited! It has become my way of starting the new year. I love it because it is a chance to visit with all my spinning friends that I have not seen much due to the holiday season. Friends come from near and far! Now I celebrate with my new spinning friends in Texas. It is great to carry on the tradition no matter where you live.
A couple of years ago my guild (Northwest Regional Spinner's Assoc. Area 2010 "The Fiberholics"-Western Washington State) put together a little write-up on the reason for the event and I thought I would share it with you. You may copy this as long as credit is given to the Fiberholics as contributors.
Of course there was no such saint! St. Distaff's Day, the "first free day after Twelve-Eve Christmas," was a holiday of transition from Christmas revelries to the round of everyday work. It is suspected that St. Distaff was invented by the poet Herrick, who dedicated some lines to her:
Ye must on St. Distaff's Day;
Give St. Distaffe all the right,
Women did not spin during the twelve days of Christmas in old England and this was their day to get back to work.
They were not without their troubles, however, for the plowmen thought it sport to set fire to the flax and tow. Pails of water were kept handy and as fast as the farm hands started their fires, maidens put them out with liberal "bewashings." When the flax was scorched and men and maidens thoroughly drenched the day was properly observed. After that the farmwomen could spin without interruption.
English plowmen went back to work on the first Monday after the Twelfth -day. They took their time about resuming farm routine and spent their day in more boisterous foolery. If they arose betimes it was because they strove to bring their whips or plow staves to the hearth before the farm maidens could put on their kettles. If the plowmen succeeded the master owed them fine cocks at Shrovetide. Later they put on their white smocks, bedecked themselves with bright ribbons and, in groups of thirty or forty, went shouting and singing through the village, dragging the plow. One in each group was always dressed as an old crone and called ' The Bessy.' 'She' carried the moneybox. Another, garbed in bedraggled skins and with a dangling tail was called the 'Fool Plow' and amused everyone with this antics. As they sang at the top of their lungs, the plowmen performed a sort of' morris' or sword dance and 'Bessy' proffered her moneybox. It was best to drop in the coins when the plowmen shouted, "God speed the plow!", lest one's dooryard be plowed under. The coins were supposed to be for a fund to pay for 'plow-lights' -candles burned in the church to invoke blessings. Some of the fund seems occasionally to have gone for ale and beer for the Plow Monday Dinner too, although traditionally the master was supposed to attend to that. The Lord Mayor of London gave a Plow Monday Supper too, but did not entertain any plowmen. They got along nicely on the farms.
"The crown of France never fails to the distaff." - Kersey.
To have tow on the distaff. To have work in hand. Froissart says, "Il aura en bref temps autres estoupes en sa quenouille. "
"He baddëeore tow on his distaf Than Gerveys knew." Chaucer: Canterbury Tales. 3.772.
St. Distaff's Day. The 7th of January. So called because the Christmas festival terminated on Twelfth Day, and on the day following the women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock. "In old times they used to spin with rocks." (Aubrey. Wilts. )
"Give St. Distaff all the right, Then give Christmas sport good night, And next morrow every one To his own vocatiön." (1657)
"What! shall a woman with a rock drive thee away? Fye on thee, traitor' " Digby: Mysteries, p.11.
Spinster An unmarried woman. The fleece which was brought home by the Anglo-Saxons in summer, was spun into clothing by the female part of each family during the winter. King Edward the Elder commanded his daughters to be instructed in the use of the distaff. Alfred the Great, in his will, calls the female part of his family the spindle side; and it was a regularly received axiom with our frugal forefathers, that no young woman was fit to be a wife till she had spun for herself a set of body, table, and bed linen.. Hence the maiden was termed a spinner or spinster, and the married woman a wife or ``one who has been a spinner.'' (Anglo-Saxon, wif, from the verb wyfan or wefan, to weave.) The armorial bearings of women are not painted on a shield, like those of men, but on a spindle (called a ``lozenge''). Among the Romans the bride carried a distaff, and Homer tells us that Kryseis was to spin and share the king's bed.
Here are some more links about Roc Day
Roc Day celebrations in Texas for 2011.
Heritage Arts is once again hosting Roc Day! Here is what Lorelei says:
Roc Day Celebration hosted by The Over The Wheel Gang
In the mean time join up on the Texas Fiber Guild yahoo group and get all the latest fiber goings on in Texas and surrounding states.