April starts tomorrow. Will you be hunting-the-gowk?
Hunting for a book bargain or maybe a giveaway?
Leave a comment on this post and you could win a hand crafted, antique-style Celtic pendant and earrings.
HIGHLAND QUEST, BOOK 2 OF THE FRASER BROTHER TRILOGY IS ON SALE THIS WEEK FOR ONLY 99 CENTS from March 31 thru April 6th.
This is no April fool prank!
What on earth is a Gowk you might ask.
Gowk in Scots refers to the Cuckoo bird. Believed to be fairy-touched and often associated with simpletons, their call was said to beckon the souls of the dead. It was also believed the cuckoo had the ability to travel back and forth between the worlds of the living & the dead.
Originally the hunting the gowk was celebrated on April 13, associated with the first call of the cuckoo, who also brought with it a ‘Gowk Storm’ and the start of Spring rain.
Cuckoos were also believed to possess the power of prophesy and could foretell a person’s lifespan, the number of their children and when they would marry.
Gowk also meant a stupid person or fool. It came from the Old Norse ‘gaukr’, a cuckoo. The word can also be traced back to Anglo-Saxon (Old English) ‘gouk’ and was replaced by the French word ‘coucou’ after the Norman Conquest.
In Scotland April fool’s day is known as Hunt-the-Gowk Day, April Gowk or Gowkie day. Unlike the one-day custom of playing pranks on friends and family the jocularity continues for two days.
On these two days, the Scottish embrace April Fool’s Day and the tradition known as ‘hunting the gowk’. To be sent on a ‘gowk hunt’ meant to be sent on a fool’s errand. While today is celebrated primarily with simple pranks, it used to be common to select a victim and asked him/her to deliver a sealed note requesting help or a favor. But the note actually read, “Dinna laugh, dinna smile, Hunt the gowk another mile.” Recipients of this note would tell the messenger they can’t help without another person’s assistance and send the messenger somewhere else where they would get the same response. This continued until the poor messenger had been run all over town.
The Scottish continue the foolery by celebrating Taily Day on April 2nd. On this day the pranks continue and often includes sticking a paper tail on the back for their victim. Kind of like the more modern prank of a ‘kick me’ sign.
There has always been a rule that while the trickery could begin at midnight of April 1, it had to end by noon. Those who failed to observe this rule themselves became the April Fools.
Why April 1st?
April Fool’s day or the origin of the term can be traced back to Roman and Biblical times. The Roman legend when Pluto abducted Proserpina and took her to live in the underworld. Her mother, Ceres, the goddess of grain, upon hearing the echo of her daughter’s cry for help searched but in vain. A fools errand commemorated during the Roman festival of Cerealia at the beginning of April.
Biblical ties refer to the day Noah sent a dove to search for land before the flood water resided and it never returned. A fool’s errand. Or the time when Jesus was sent from Pilate to Herod and back, fostering the old term Sending a man from Pilate to Herod” sending someone on a fool’s errand.
One theory is that April Fool’s Day began in the mid to late 1500s when the pope ordered the calendar changed from the Julian Calendar to the Georgian Calendar. This meant New Year moved from between March 25th and April 1st to Jan 1st. But not all embraced the idea and those who clung to the old ways were subject to ridicule and pranks. In France where the changes first took place, paper fish were stuck to the back of unsuspecting victims and called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish. This later became April Fool.
But the fact it coincides with the spring festival the feast of fools Festus Fatuorum Can’t be discounted. Participants in this festival elect a Lord of Misrule or Lord of Mayhem and they mimicked many religious practices. This festival was banned by the church between the 15th and 16th century because it mocked religious practices.
In Britain the legends go back to the 13oos when it was declared that any road the king set his foot on became his property. In the village of Gotham, when they heard King John planned a trip through their area, the villagers decided to deny him entry for fear of losing their land. When the king found out, he sent his army to end the defiance. They arrived to find the town members partaking in pranks and foolish acts like trying to drown fish or to hold a bird captive in a roofless pen. Deemed a village of fools, too insane to be punished they were spared. Since then they celebrate April Fool’s day.