From Old Church Lore by William Andrews; William Andrews & Co., The Hull Press; London, 1891; pp. 240-243.

stylized border engraving of flowers and interlacing vines [240]

Curious Symbols of the Saints.

manuscript letter S OME curious symbols of the saints were carved on ancient clog-almanacks which were in use before the introduction of printing. Even as late as the year 1686, when Dr. Robert Plot compiled his “Natural History of Staffordshire,” he tells us that the clog-almanack was “in use among the meaner sort of people.” It was largely employed in the northern counties, but Plot failed to trace it further south than the county of Stafford. In Denmark, it was in use in bygone times, and it is supposed to have been introduced into this country by the Danish invaders.

The almanack was usually a square stick made of box or other hard wood, about eight inches in length, and often having a ring at the top for suspending it in a room. It occasionally formed part of a walking stick.


The days of the years are represented by notches running along the angles of the square stick, and in each angle three months are indicated. It will be seen from the picture which forms the frontispiece to this work, that Sunday is marked with a somewhat broader notch than the other days. Its chief interest, however, is on account of representing emblems of the saints, and a few of the more important may be mentioned. On January 13th, is the feast of St. Hilary, and there is a cross or badge of a bishop. An axe, on January 25th, indicates St. Paul’s Day. It was with that implement that St. Paul suffered martyrdom. On St. Valentine’s Day, is a true lover’s knot. Fro the Patron Saint of Wales, St. David, is a harp. It was on that instrument that he praised God. On March 2nd, the notch ends with a bough, and it is the day set apart to the memory of St. Chad. It is a symbol of the hermit’s life he led in the woods near Lichfield. A bough also appears on May 1st, the popular day for bringing home May blossoms. A harvest rake is figured on June 11th, which is St. Barnabas’ Day. It denotes the time of hay harvest. A sword on June 24th, marks St. John the Baptist’s Day. He was beheaded with 242 that weapon. St. Peter’s Day falls on June 29th, and there are two keys shewn in allusion to his being recognised as the janitor of Heaven. On St. Laurence’s Day, August 10th, is a gridiron. He displayed firmness and constancy under great suffering. He was laid on a gridiron and broiled to death over a fire. A wheel, on which St. Catherine suffered death, represents the day set apart to her memory. A decussated cross, on which St. Andrew was crucified, indicates his day. His death was rendered more lingering by tying him with cords to the cross. He may fairly be regarded as one of the most popular of our saints; some six hundred churches have been dedicated to his memory. This saint is always represented in pictures as an old man with a long flowing beard. On October 25th, is St. Crispin’s Day, the Patron Saint of shoemakers, and, most appropriately, a pair of shoes marks his day. The Feast of St. Clement, November 23rd, is indicated with a pot. They symbol is an allusion to the old custom of going about on that night begging drink to make merry with. Christmas Day is marked with a horn, which has reference to the custom of the Danes wassailing or drinking healths, “signifying to us, that this is the time 243 we ought to rejoice and make merry.” We must not omit to add that for the Purification, Annunciation, and all other feasts of our Lady, there is always the figure of a heart.

A careful study of the picture of the clog almanack will reveal other curious matters of interest.