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Fit Washin' Night

The next important day leading up to the islanders' wedding went by the name of fit-washin' night, or feet washing night.

On this evening, the bridegroom and his friends would pay another visit to the minister and session-clerk, this time to to arrange for the proclamation of wedding banns.

But the night took its name from a frenzied ceremony that occurred while the young men were away.

At the bride's house, a number of the local girls would prepare a tub of water in which to wash the bride's feet. In more affluent households, wine was used instead of water.

Seated on a stool to the left of the tub, the bride-to-be's shoes were carefully removed by her father.

Her mother would then remove the girl's stockings before pulling her bare feet over the water in a sunwise direction. She then patted each foot, while pronouncing a blessing on her daughter, finally plunging the girl's feet into the water.

This was the sign for all the waiting women to surround the tub and help to scrub the bride's feet. During the feet washing, they would search frantically for a ring which had been dropped into the tub by the bride's mother. The finder of the ring would be declared to be the first of the gathering who would marry.

Although the fit-washin' ceremony degenerated into a mere frolic over the years, with much hilarity during the attempt to locate the prized ring, certain accounts of early wedding traditions have the fit-washin' ceremony taking place the night before the wedding. These also show that the bridegroom was also expected to take part in a similar feet washing ritual.

From this, it seems likely that there was a time when, in a more solemn ceremony, the bride and groom's feet were washed at the same time. The origin of these foot washing traditions is unclear but it has been suggested that they may incorporate elements of pagan sun and water worship.

After the fit-washin' frolics, the emptied tub had to stand in sunlight for 12 hours and an unusual restriction placed upon it - no dog could be allowed to look into it. Again, the reason for this has been lost but it was once important enough to ensure that all the dogs in the vicinity of the bride's house were securely shut away for the day.

Section Contents
Customs and First Steps
Fit Washin' Night
Saltwater and freshwater
Kissing Meat
Biddin' da Folk
The Blackening
The Wedding Day Arrives...
The Wedding Feast
The Wedding Cogs
After the Wedding

See Also
Wedding Traditions and the Odin Stone
Marriage Divination
Courtship, love and marriage in Viking Scandinavia

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