untold antiquity

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novice_81

Senior Member
German
Hi

Scott Cunningham in his book The Magical Household writes about different customs linked to different seasons.
He says:

When we look at the dried corn piled on the table on September 21, we're instantly aware of the significance of the day. Through this symbol, we're linked with harvest rituals of untold antiquity.

Does "untold" mean here "inexpressible"? I guess it just means "very old".
 
  • Thelb4

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Either it means that Cunningham's source did not tell him the antiquity of the rituals, or it means "inexpressible".
    My intuition says it's the latter meaning, but I find it difficult to explain why. It is not a word I would have a problem with understanding if I came upon it in this context.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    An obsolete meaning of 'tell' is "count, number". This still survives in some derived forms and set expressions, including 'untold' = "numberless, vast, infinite" (untold riches, untold ages, an untold number of things), as well as a bank teller, a parliamentary teller for the ayes, to tell one's beads (recite a rosary, counting off the prayers), and 'all told' (= "altogether", as in 'over a hundred of them all told').
     
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