(See St. Sitha)
of stables and cowhouses have not unfrequently, even at the
present day, a stone with a hole through it and a piece of horn
attached to the handle. This is a relic of an ancient superstition. The hag, halig, or holy stone was looked upon as a talisman which kept
off the fiendish Mara or night-mare; and the horn was supposed to
ensure the protection of the god of cattle, called by the Romans Pan.
Key as an emblem.
St. Peter is always represented in Christian art with two keys in
his hand; they are consequently the insignia of the Papacy, and are
borne saltire-wise, one of gold and the other of silver.
They are the emblems also of St. Servatius, St. Hippolytus, St.
Geneviève. St. Petronilla, St. Osyth, St. Martha, and St. Germanus of
The Bishop of Winchester bears two keys and sword in saltire.
The bishops of St. Asaph, Gloucester, Exeter, and Peterborough bear
two keys in saltire.
The Cross Keys.
A public-house sign; the arms of the Archbishop of York. The
key shall be upon his shoulder. He shall have the dominion. The
ancient keys were instruments about a yard long, made of wood or metal.
On public occasions the steward slung his key over his shoulder, as our
mace-bearers carry their mace. Hence, to have the key upon one's
shoulder means to be in authority, to have the keeping of something. It
is said of Eliakim, that God would lay upon his shoulder the key of the
house of David (Isa. xxii. 22); and of our Lord that “the government
should be upon His shoulder” (Isa. ix. 6). The chamberlain of the court
used to bear a key as his insignia.
The power of the keys- i.e.
the supreme authority vested in the pope as successor of St. Peter.
The phrase is derived from St. Matt. xvi. 19. (Latin, Potestas
To throw the keys into the pit.
To disclaim a debt; to refuse to pay the debts of a deceased
husband. This refers to an ancient French custom. If a deceased husband
did not leave his widow enough for her aliment and the payment of his
debts, the widow was to throw the bunch of house-keys which she
carried at her girdle into the grave, and this answered the purpose of
a public renunciation of all further ties. No one after this could come
on her for any of her late husband's debts.
(The House of). One of the three estates of the Isle of
Man. The Crown in council, the governor and his council, and the House
of Keys, constitute what is termed “the court of Tynwald.” The House of
Keys consists of twenty-four representatives selected by their own
body, vacancies are filled up by the House presenting to the governor
“two of the eldest and worthiest men of the isle,” one of which the
governor nominates. To them an appeal may be made against the verdicts
of juries, and from their decision there is no appeal, except to the
Crown in council. (Manx, kiare-as-feed, four-and-twenty.)
The governor and his council consists of the governor, the bishop,
the attorney-general, two deemsters (or judges), the clerk of the
rolls, the water bailiff, the archdeacon, and the vicar-general.
The House of Keys.
The board of landed proprietors referred to above, or the house in
which they hold their sessions.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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