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Title: The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion (Vol. 1 of 2)

Author: James George Frazer

Release date: October 16, 2012 [eBook #41082]

Language: English

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GOLDEN BOUGH: A STUDY IN COMPARATIVE RELIGION (VOL. 1 OF 2) ***


The Golden Bough

A Study in Comparative Religion

By

James George Frazer, M.A.

Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge

In Two Volumes.

Vol. I.

New York and London

MacMillan and Co.

1894


Cover Art

[Transcriber's Note: The above cover image was produced by the submitter at Distributed Proofreaders, and is being placed into the public domain.]

Frontispiece
[pg v]

Dedication.

To My Friend

WILLIAM ROBERTSON SMITH

In Gratitude And Admiration

[pg vii]

Preface.

For some time I have been preparing a general work on primitive superstition and religion. Among the problems which had attracted my attention was the hitherto unexplained rule of the Arician priesthood; and last spring it happened that in the course of my reading I came across some facts which, combined with others I had noted before, suggested an explanation of the rule in question. As the explanation, if correct, promised to throw light on some obscure features of primitive religion, I resolved to develop it fully, and, detaching it from my general work, to issue it as a separate study. This book is the result.

Now that the theory, which necessarily presented itself to me at first in outline, has been worked out in detail, I cannot but feel that in some places I may have pushed it too far. If this should prove to have been the case, I will readily acknowledge and retract my error as soon as it is brought home to me. Meantime my essay may serve its purpose as a first attempt to solve a difficult problem, and to bring a variety of scattered facts into some sort of order and system.

A justification is perhaps needed of the length at which I have dwelt upon the popular festivals observed [pg viii] by European peasants in spring, at midsummer, and at harvest. It can hardly be too often repeated, since it is not yet generally recognised, that in spite of their fragmentary character the popular superstitions and customs of the peasantry are by far the fullest and most trustworthy evidence we possess as to the primitive religion of the Aryans. Indeed the primitive Aryan, in all that regards his mental fibre and texture, is not extinct. He is amongst us to this day. The great intellectual and moral forces which have revolutionised the educated world have scarcely affected the peasant. In his inmost beliefs he is what his forefathers were in the days when forest trees still grew and squirrels played on the ground where Rome and London now stand.

Hence every inquiry into the primitive religion of the Aryans should either start from the superstitious beliefs and observances of the peasantry, or should at least be constantly checked and controlled by reference to them. Compared with the evidence afforded by living tradition, the testimony of ancient books on the subject of early religion is worth very little. For literature accelerates the advance of thought at a rate which leaves the slow progress of opinion by word of mouth at an immeasurable distance behind. Two or three generations of literature may do more to change thought than two or three thousand years of traditional life. But the mass of the people who do not read books remain unaffected by the mental revolution wrought by literature; and so it has come about that in Europe at the present day the superstitious beliefs and practices which have been handed [pg ix] down by word of mouth are generally of a far more archaic type than the religion depicted in the most ancient literature of the Aryan race.

It is on these grounds that, in discussing the meaning and origin of an ancient Italian priesthood, I have devoted so much attention to the popular customs and superstitions of modern Europe. In this part of my subject I have made great use of the works of the late W. Mannhardt, without which, indeed, my book could scarcely have been written. Fully recognising the truth of the principles which I have imperfectly stated, Mannhardt set himself systematically to collect, compare, and explain the living superstitions of the peasantry. Of this wide field the special department which he marked out for himself was the religion of the woodman and the farmer, in other words, the superstitious beliefs and rites connected with trees and cultivated plants. By oral inquiry, and by printed questions scattered broadcast over Europe, as well as by ransacking the literature of folk-lore, he collected a mass of evidence, part of which he published in a series of admirable works. But his health, always feeble, broke down before he could complete the comprehensive and really vast scheme which he had planned, and at his too early death much of his precious materials remained unpublished. His manuscripts are now deposited in the University Library at Berlin, and in the interest of the study to which he devoted his life it is greatly to be desired that they should be examined, and that such portions of them as he has not utilised in his books should be given to the world.

[pg x]

Of his published works the most important are, first, two tracts, Roggenwolf und Roggenhund, Danzig 1865 (second edition, Danzig, 1866), and Die Korndämonen, Berlin, 1868. These little works were put forward by him tentatively, in the hope of exciting interest in his inquiries and thereby securing the help of others in pursuing them. But, except from a few learned societies, they met with very little attention. Undeterred by the cold reception accorded to his efforts he worked steadily on, and in 1875 published his chief work, Der Baumkultus der Germanen und ihrer Nachbarstämme. This was followed in 1877 by Antike Wald- und Feldkulte. His Mythologische Forschungen, a posthumous work, appeared in 1884.1

Much as I owe to Mannhardt, I owe still more to my friend Professor W. Robertson Smith. My interest in the early history of society was first excited by the works of Dr. E. B. Tylor, which opened up a mental vista undreamed of by me before. But it is a long step from a lively interest in a subject to a systematic study of it; and that I took this step is due to the influence of my friend W. Robertson Smith. The debt which I owe to the vast stores of his knowledge, the abundance and fertility of his ideas, and his unwearied kindness, can scarcely be overestimated. Those who know his writings may form some, though a very inadequate, conception of the extent to which I have been influenced by him. The views of sacrifice set forth in his article “Sacrifice” in the Encyclopaedia [pg xi]Britannica, and further developed in his recent work, The Religion of the Semites, mark a new departure in the historical study of religion, and ample traces of them will be found in this book. Indeed the central idea of my essay—the conception of the slain god—is derived directly, I believe, from my friend. But it is due to him to add that he is in no way responsible for the general explanation which I have offered of the custom of slaying the god. He has read the greater part of the proofs in circumstances which enhanced the kindness, and has made many valuable suggestions which I have usually adopted; but except where he is cited by name, or where the views expressed coincide with those of his published works, he is not to be regarded as necessarily assenting to any of the theories propounded in this book.

The works of Professor G. A. Wilken of Leyden have been of great service in directing me to the best original authorities on the Dutch East Indies, a very important field to the ethnologist. To the courtesy of the Rev. Walter Gregor, M.A., of Pitsligo, I am indebted for some interesting communications which will be found acknowledged in their proper places. Mr. Francis Darwin has kindly allowed me to consult him on some botanical questions. The manuscript authorities to which I occasionally refer are answers to a list of ethnological questions which I am circulating. Most of them will, I hope, be published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.

The drawing of the Golden Bough which adorns the cover is from the pencil of my friend Professor J. H. Middleton. The constant interest and sympathy [pg xii] which he has shown in the progress of the book have been a great help and encouragement to me in writing it.

The Index has been compiled by Mr. A. Rogers, of the University Library, Cambridge.

J. G. FRAZER.

Trinity College, Cambridge,
8th March 1890.

[pg 001]

Chapter I. The King Of The Wood.

The still glassy lake that sleeps
Beneath Aricia's trees—
Those trees in whose dim shadow
The ghastly priest doth reign,
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.
Macaulay.

§ 1.—The Arician Grove.

Who does not know Turner's picture of the Golden Bough? The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi, “Diana's Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian villages which slumber on its banks, and the equally Italian palazzo whose terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Dian herself might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands wild.

[pg 002]

In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood.2 The lake and the grove were sometimes known as the lake and grove of Aricia.3 But the town of Aricia (the modern La Riccia) was situated about three miles off, at the foot of the Alban Mount, and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day and probably far into the night a strange figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy.4 He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him he held office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier.

This strange rule has no parallel in classical antiquity, and cannot be explained from it. To find an explanation we must go farther afield. No one will probably deny that such a custom savours of a barbarous [pg 003] age and, surviving into imperial times, stands out in striking isolation from the polished Italian society of the day, like a primeval rock rising from a smooth-shaven lawn. It is the very rudeness and barbarity of the custom which allow us a hope of explaining it. For recent researches into the early history of man have revealed the essential similarity with which, under many superficial differences, the human mind has elaborated its first crude philosophy of life. Accordingly if we can show that a barbarous custom, like that of the priesthood of Nemi, has existed elsewhere; if we can detect the motives which led to its institution; if we can prove that these motives have operated widely, perhaps universally, in human society, producing in varied circumstances a variety of institutions specifically different but generically alike; if we can show, lastly, that these very motives, with some of their derivative institutions, were actually at work in classical antiquity; then we may fairly infer that at a remoter age the same motives gave birth to the priesthood of Nemi. Such an inference, in default of direct evidence as to how the priesthood did actually arise, can never amount to demonstration. But it will be more or less probable according to the degree of completeness with which it fulfils the conditions indicated above. The object of this book is, by meeting these conditions, to offer a fairly probable explanation of the priesthood of Nemi.

I begin by setting forth the few facts and legends which have come down to us on the subject. According to one story the worship of Diana at Nemi was instituted by Orestes, who, after killing Thoas, King of the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea), fled with his sister to Italy, bringing with him the image of the Tauric Diana. The bloody ritual which legend ascribed to that goddess [pg 004] is familiar to classical readers; it is said that every stranger who landed on the shore was sacrificed on her altar. But transported to Italy, the rite assumed a milder form. Within the sanctuary at Nemi grew a certain tree of which no branch might be broken. Only a runaway slave was allowed to break off, if he could, one of its boughs. Success in the attempt entitled him to fight the priest in single combat, and if he slew him he reigned in his stead with the title of King of the Wood (Rex Nemorensis). Tradition averred that the fateful branch was that Golden Bough which, at the Sibyl's bidding, Aeneas plucked before he essayed the perilous journey to the world of the dead. The flight of the slave represented, it was said, the flight of Orestes; his combat with the priest was a reminiscence of the human sacrifices once offered to the Tauric Diana. This rule of succession by the sword was observed down to imperial times; for amongst his other freaks Caligula, thinking that the priest of Nemi had held office too long, hired a more stalwart ruffian to slay him.5

Of the worship of Diana at Nemi two leading features can still be made out. First, from the votive-offerings found in modern times on the site, it appears that she was especially worshipped by women desirous of children or of an easy delivery.6 Second, fire seems [pg 005] to have played a foremost part in her ritual. For during her annual festival, celebrated at the hottest time of the year, her grove was lit up by a multitude of torches, whose ruddy glare was reflected by the waters of the lake; and throughout the length and breadth of Italy the day was kept with holy rites at every domestic hearth.7 Moreover, women whose prayers had been heard by the goddess brought lighted torches to the grove in fulfilment of their vows.8 Lastly, the title of Vesta borne by the Arician Diana9 points almost certainly to the maintenance of a perpetual holy fire in her sanctuary.

At her annual festival all young people went through a purificatory ceremony in her honour; dogs were crowned; and the feast consisted of a young kid, wine, and cakes, served up piping hot on platters of leaves.10

But Diana did not reign alone in her grove at Nemi. Two lesser divinities shared her forest sanctuary. One was Egeria, the nymph of the clear water which, bubbling from the basaltic rocks, used to fall in graceful cascades into the lake at the place called Le Mole.11 According to one story the grove was first consecrated to Diana by a Manius Egerius, who was the ancestor of a long and distinguished line. Hence the proverb “There are many Manii at Ariciae.” Others explained the proverb very differently. They said it meant that there were a great many ugly and [pg 006] deformed people, and they referred to the word Mania which meant a bogey or bugbear to frighten children.12

The other of these minor deities was Virbius. Legend had it that Virbius was the youthful Greek hero Hippolytus, who had been killed by his horses on the sea-shore of the Saronic Gulf. Him, to please Diana, the leech Aesculapius brought to life again by his simples. But Jupiter, indignant that a mortal man should return from the gates of death, thrust down the meddling leech himself to Hades; and Diana, for the love she bore Hippolytus, carried him away to Italy and hid him from the angry god in the dells of Nemi, where he reigned a forest king under the name of Virbius. Horses were excluded from the grove and sanctuary, because horses had killed Hippolytus.13 Some thought that Virbius was the sun. It was unlawful to touch his image.14 His worship was cared for by a special priest, the Flamen Virbialis.15

Such then are the facts and theories bequeathed to us by antiquity on the subject of the priesthood of Nemi. From materials so slight and scanty it is impossible to extract a solution of the problem. It remains to try whether the survey of a wider field may not yield us the clue we seek. The questions to be answered are two: first, why had the priest to slay his predecessor? and second, why, before he slew him, had he to pluck the Golden Bough? The rest of this book will be an attempt to answer these questions.

[pg 007]

§ 2.—Primitive man and the supernatural.

The first point on which we fasten is the priest's title. Why was he called the King of the Wood? why was his office spoken of as a Kingdom?16

The union of a royal title with priestly duties was common in ancient Italy and Greece. At Rome and in other Italian cities there was a priest called the Sacrificial King or King of the Sacred Rites (Rex Sacrificulus or Rex Sacrorum), and his wife bore the title of Queen of the Sacred Rites.17 In republican Athens the second magistrate of the state was called the King, and his wife the Queen; the functions of both were religious.18 Many other Greek democracies had titular kings, whose duties, so far as they are known, seem to have been priestly.19 At Rome the tradition was that the Sacrificial King had been appointed after the expulsion of the kings in order to offer the sacrifices which had been previously offered by the kings.20 In Greece a similar view appears to have prevailed as to the origin of the priestly kings.21 In itself the view is not improbable, and it is borne out by the example of Sparta, the only purely Greek state which retained the kingly form of government in historical times. For in Sparta all state sacrifices were offered by the kings as descendants of the god.22 This combination of priestly functions with royal authority is familiar to every one. Asia Minor, for example, was the seat of various great religious capitals peopled [pg 008] by thousands of “sacred slaves,” and ruled by pontiffs who wielded at once temporal and spiritual authority, like the popes of mediaeval Rome. Such priest-ridden cities were Zela and Pessinus.23 Teutonic kings, again, in the old heathen days seem to have stood in the position, and exercised the powers of high priests.24 The Emperors of China offer public sacrifices, the details of which are regulated by the ritual books.25 It is needless, however, to multiply examples of what is the rule rather than the exception in the early history of the kingship.

But when we have said that the ancient kings were commonly priests also, we are far from having exhausted the religious aspect of their office. In those days the divinity that hedges a king was no empty form of speech but the expression of a sober belief. Kings were revered, in many cases not merely as priests, that is, as intercessors between man and god, but as themselves gods, able to bestow upon their subjects and worshippers those blessings which are commonly supposed to be beyond the reach of man, and are sought, if at all, only by prayer and sacrifice offered to superhuman and invisible beings. Thus kings are often expected to give rain and sunshine in due season, to make the crops grow, and so on. Strange as this expectation appears to us, it is quite of a piece with early modes of thought. A savage hardly conceives the distinction commonly drawn by more advanced peoples between the natural and the supernatural. To him the world is mostly worked by supernatural agents, that is, by personal beings [pg 009] acting on impulses and motives like his own, liable like him to be moved by appeals to their pity, their fears, and their hopes. In a world so conceived he sees no limit to his power of influencing the course of nature to his own advantage. Prayers, promises, or threats may secure him fine weather and an abundant crop from the gods; and if a god should happen, as he sometimes believes, to become incarnate in his own person, then he need appeal to no higher power; he, the savage, possesses in himself all the supernatural powers necessary to further his own well-being and that of his fellow men.

This is one way in which the idea of a man-god is reached. But there is another. Side by side with the view of the world as pervaded by spiritual forces, primitive man has another conception in which we may detect a germ of the modern notion of natural law or the view of nature as a series of events occurring in an invariable order without the intervention of personal agency. The germ of which I speak is involved in that sympathetic magic, as it may be called, which plays a large part in most systems of superstition. One of the principles of sympathetic magic is that any effect may be produced by imitating it. To take a few instances. If it is wished to kill a person an image of him is made and then destroyed; and it is believed that through a certain physical sympathy between the person and his image, the man feels the injuries done to the image as if they were done to his own body, and that when it is destroyed he must simultaneously perish. Again, in Morocco a fowl or a pigeon may sometimes be seen with a little red bundle tied to its foot. The bundle contains a charm, and it is believed that as the charm is kept in constant motion by the bird a corresponding [pg 010] restlessness is kept up in the mind of him or her against whom the charm is directed.26 In Nias when a wild pig has fallen into the pit prepared for it, it is taken out and its back is rubbed with nine fallen leaves, in the belief that this will make nine more wild pigs fall into the pit just as the nine leaves fell from the tree.27 When a Cambodian hunter has set his nets and taken nothing, he strips himself naked, goes some way off, then strolls up to the net as if he did not see it, lets himself be caught in it and cries, “Hillo! what's this? I'm afraid I'm caught.” After that the net is sure to catch game.28 In Thüringen the man who sows flax carries the seed in a long bag which reaches from his shoulders to his knees, and he walks with long strides, so that the bag sways to and fro on his back. It is believed that this will cause the flax crop to wave in the wind.29 In the interior of Sumatra the rice is sown by women who, in sowing, let their hair hang loose down their back, in order that the rice may grow luxuriantly and have long stalks.30 Again, magic sympathy is supposed to exist between a man and any severed portion of his person, as his hair or nails; so that whoever gets possession of hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the person from whom they were cut. This superstition is world-wide. Further, the sympathy in question exists between friends and relations, especially at critical times. Hence, for example, the elaborate code of rules which [pg 011] regulates the conduct of persons left at home while a party of their friends is out fishing or hunting or on the war-path. It is thought that if the persons left at home broke these rules their absent friends would suffer an injury, corresponding in its nature to the breach of the rule. Thus when a Dyak is out head-hunting, his wife or, if he is unmarried, his sister, must wear a sword day and night in order that he may always be thinking of his weapons; and she may not sleep during the day nor go to bed before two in the morning, lest her husband or brother should thereby be surprised in his sleep by an enemy.31 In Laos when an elephant hunter is setting out for the chase he warns his wife not to cut her hair or oil her body in his absence; for if she cut her hair the elephant would burst the toils, if she oiled herself it would slip through them.32

In all these cases (and similar instances might be multiplied indefinitely) an action is performed or avoided, because its performance is believed to entail good or bad consequences of a sort resembling the act itself. Sometimes the magic sympathy takes effect not so much through an act as through a supposed resemblance of qualities. Thus some Bechuanas wear a ferret as a charm because, being very tenacious of life, it will make them difficult to kill.33 Others wear a certain insect, mutilated but living, for a similar purpose.34 Other Bechuana warriors wear the hair of an ox among their own hair and the skin of a frog on their mantle, because a frog is slippery and the ox from [pg 012] which the hair has been taken has no horns and is therefore hard to catch; so the warrior who is provided with these charms believes that he will be as hard to hold as the ox and the frog.35

Thus we see that in sympathetic magic one event is supposed to be followed necessarily and invariably by another, without the intervention of any spiritual or personal agency. This is, in fact, the modern conception of physical causation; the conception, indeed, is misapplied, but it is there none the less. Here, then, we have another mode in which primitive man seeks to bend nature to his wishes. There is, perhaps, hardly a savage who does not fancy himself possessed of this power of influencing the course of nature by sympathetic magic; a man-god, on this view, is only an individual who is believed to enjoy this common power in an unusually high degree. Thus, whereas a man-god of the former or inspired type derives his divinity from a deity who has taken up his abode in a tabernacle of flesh, a man-god of the latter type draws his supernatural power from a certain physical sympathy with nature. He is not merely the receptacle of a divine spirit. His whole being, body and soul, is so delicately attuned to the harmony of the world that a touch of his hand or a turn of his head may send a thrill vibrating through the universal framework of things; and conversely his divine organism is acutely sensitive to such slight changes of environment as would leave ordinary mortals wholly unaffected. But the line between these two types of man-god, however sharply we may draw it in theory, is seldom to be traced with precision in practice, and in what follows I shall not insist on it.

To readers long familiarised with the conception of [pg 013] natural law, the belief of primitive man that he can rule the elements must be so foreign that it may be well to illustrate it by examples. When we have seen that in early society men who make no pretence at all of being gods do nevertheless commonly believe themselves to be invested with supernatural powers, we shall have the less difficulty in comprehending the extraordinary range of powers ascribed to individuals who are actually regarded as divine.

Of all natural phenomena there are perhaps none which civilised man feels himself more powerless to influence than the rain, the sun, and the wind. Yet all these are commonly supposed by savages to be in some degree under their control.

To begin with rain-making. In a village near Dorpat in Russia, when rain was much wanted, three men used to climb up the fir-trees of an old sacred grove. One of them drummed with a hammer on a kettle or small cask to imitate thunder; the second knocked two fire-brands together and made the sparks fly, to imitate lightning; and the third, who was called “the rain-maker,” had a bunch of twigs with which he sprinkled water from a vessel on all sides.36 This is an example of sympathetic magic; the desired event is supposed to be produced by imitating it. Rain is often thus made by imitation. In Halmahera (Gilolo), a large island to the west of New Guinea, a wizard makes rain by dipping a branch of a particular kind of tree in water and sprinkling the ground with it.37 In Ceram it is enough to dedicate the bark of a certain tree to the spirits and lay it in water.38 In New Britain [pg 014] the rain-maker wraps some leaves of a red and green striped creeper in a banana-leaf, moistens the bundle with water and buries it in the ground; then he imitates with his mouth the plashing of rain.39 Amongst the Omaha Indians of North America, when the corn is withering for want of rain, the members of the sacred Buffalo Society fill a large vessel with water and dance four times round it. One of them drinks some of the water and spirts it into the air, making a fine spray in imitation of a mist or drizzling rain. Then he upsets the vessel, spilling the water on the ground; whereupon the dancers fall down and drink up the water, getting mud all over their faces. Lastly they spirt the water into the air, making a fine mist. This saves the corn.40 Amongst the Australian Wotjobaluk the rain-maker dipped a bunch of his own hair in water, sucked out the water and squirted it westward, or he twirled the ball round his head making a spray like rain.41 Squirting water from the mouth is also a West African way of making rain.42 Another mode is to dip a particular stone in water or sprinkle water on it. In a Samoan village a certain stone was carefully housed as the representative of the rain-making god; and in time of drought his priests carried the stone in procession, and dipped it in a stream.43 In the Ta-ta-thi tribe of New South Wales the rain-maker breaks off a piece of quartz crystal and spits it towards the sky; the rest of the crystal he wraps in emu feathers, soaks both crystal and feathers in water, and carefully hides them.44 [pg 015] In the Keramin tribe of New South Wales the wizard retires to the bed of a creek, drops water on a round flat stone, then covers up and conceals it.45 The Fountain of Baranton, of romantic fame, in the forest of Brécilien, used to be resorted to by peasants when they needed rain; they caught some of the water in a tankard and threw it on a slab near the spring.46 When some of the Apache Indians wish for rain, they take water from a certain spring and throw it on a particular point high up on a rock; the clouds then soon gather and rain begins to fall.47 There is a lonely tarn on Snowdon called Dulyn or the Black Lake, lying “in a dismal dingle surrounded by high and dangerous rocks.” A row of stepping stones runs out into the lake; and if any one steps on the stones and throws water so as to wet the farthest stone, which is called the Red Altar, “it is but a chance that you do not get rain before night, even when it is hot weather.”48 In these cases it is probable that, as in Samoa, the stone is regarded as in some sort divine. This appears from the custom sometimes observed of dipping the cross in the Fountain of Baranton, to procure rain; for this is plainly a substitute for the older way of throwing the water on the stone.49 In Mingrelia, to get rain they dip a holy image in water daily till it rains.50 In Navarre the image of St. Peter was taken to a river, where some prayed to him for rain, but others called out to duck him in the water.51 Here the dipping in [pg 016] the water is used as a threat; but originally it was probably a sympathetic charm, as in the following instance. In New Caledonia the rain-makers blackened themselves all over, dug up a dead body, took the bones to a cave, jointed them, and hung the skeleton over some taro leaves. Water was poured over the skeleton to run down on the leaves. “They supposed that the soul of the departed took up the water, made rain of it, and showered it down again.”52 The same motive comes clearly out in a mode of making rain which is practised by various peoples of South Eastern Europe. In time of drought the Servians strip a girl, clothe her from head to foot in grass, herbs, and flowers, even her face being hidden with them. Thus disguised she is called the Dodola, and goes through the village with a troop of girls. They stop before every house; the Dodola dances, while the other girls form a ring round her singing one of the Dodola songs, and the housewife pours a pail of water over her.

One of the songs they sing runs thus—

We go through the village;
The clouds go in the sky;
We go faster,
Faster go the clouds;
They have overtaken us,
And wetted the corn and the vine.

A similar custom is observed by the Greeks, Bulgarians, and Roumanians.53 In such customs the leaf-dressed girl represents the spirit of vegetation, and drenching her with water is an imitation of rain. In Russia, in the Government of Kursk, when rain is much wanted, the women seize a passing stranger and [pg 017] throw him into the river, or souse him from head to foot.54 Later on we shall see that a passing stranger is often, as here, taken for a god or spirit. Amongst the Minahassa of North Celebes the priest bathes as a rain-charm.55 In the Caucasian Province of Georgia, when a drought has lasted long, marriageable girls are yoked in couples with an ox-yoke on their shoulders, a priest holds the reins, and thus harnessed they wade through rivers, puddles, and marshes, praying, screaming, weeping, and laughing.56 In a district of Transylvania, when the ground is parched with drought, some girls strip themselves naked, and, led by an older woman, who is also naked, they steal a harrow and carry it across the field to a brook, where they set it afloat. Next they sit on the harrow and keep a tiny flame burning on each corner of it for an hour. Then they leave the harrow in the water and go home.57 A similar rain-charm is resorted to in India; naked women drag a plough across the field by night.58 It is not said that they plunge the plough into a stream or sprinkle it with water. But the charm would hardly be complete without it.

Sometimes the charm works through an animal. To procure rain the Peruvians used to set a black sheep in a field, poured chica over it, and gave it nothing to eat till rain fell.59 In a district of Sumatra all the women of the village, scantily clad, go to the river, wade into it, and splash each other with the water. A black cat is thrown into the water and made to swim about for a while, then allowed to escape to the [pg 018] bank, pursued by the splashing of the women.60 In these cases the colour of the animal is part of the charm; being black it will darken the sky with rain-clouds. So the Bechuanas burn the stomach of an ox at evening, because they say, “the black smoke will gather the clouds, and cause the rain to come.”61 The Timorese sacrifice a black pig for rain, a white or red one for sunshine.62 The Garos offer a black goat on the top of a very high mountain in time of drought.63

Sometimes people try to coerce the rain-god into giving rain. In China a huge dragon made of paper or wood, representing the rain-god, is carried about in procession; but if no rain follows, it is cursed and torn in pieces.64 In the like circumstances the Feloupes of Senegambia throw down their fetishes and drag them about the fields, cursing them till rain falls.65 Some Indians of the Orinoco worshipped toads and kept them in vessels in order to obtain from them rain or sunshine as might be required; when their prayers were not answered they beat the toads.66 Killing a frog is a European rain-charm.67 When the spirits withhold rain or sunshine, the Comanches whip a slave; if the gods prove obstinate, the victim is almost flayed alive.68 Here the human being may represent the god, like the leaf-clad Dodola. When the rice-crop is endangered by long drought, the governor of [pg 019] Battambang, a province of Siam, goes in great state to a certain pagoda and prays to Buddha for rain. Then accompanied by his suite and followed by an enormous crowd he adjourns to a plain behind the pagoda. Here a dummy figure has been made up, dressed in bright colours, and placed in the middle of the plain. A wild music begins to play; maddened by the din of drums and cymbals and crackers, and goaded on by their drivers, the elephants charge down on the dummy and trample it to pieces. After this, Buddha will soon give rain.69

Another way of constraining the rain-god is to disturb him in his haunts. This seems the reason why rain is supposed to be the consequence of troubling a sacred spring. The Dards believe that if a cowskin or anything impure is placed in certain springs, storms will follow.70 Gervasius mentions a spring into which if a stone or a stick were thrown, rain would at once issue from it and drench the thrower.71 There was a fountain in Munster such that if it were touched or even looked at by a human being, it would at once flood the whole province with rain.72 Sometimes an appeal is made to the pity of the gods. When their corn is being burnt up by the sun, the Zulus look out for a “heaven-bird,” kill it, and throw it into a pool. Then the heaven melts with tenderness for the death of the bird; “it wails for it by raining, wailing a funeral wail.”73 In times of drought the Guanches of Teneriffe led their sheep to sacred ground, and there [pg 020] they separated the lambs from their dams, that their plaintive bleating might touch the heart of the god.74 A peculiar mode of making rain was adopted by the heathen Arabs. They tied two sorts of bushes to the tails and hind-legs of their cattle, and setting fire to the bushes drove the cattle to the top of a mountain, praying for rain.75 This may be, as Wellhausen suggests,76 an imitation of lightning on the horizon. But it may also be a way of threatening the sky; as some West African rain-makers put a pot of inflammable materials on the fire and blow up the flames, threatening that if heaven does not soon give rain they will send up a flame which will set the sky on fire.77 The Dieyerie of South Australia have a way of their own of making rain. A hole is dug about twelve feet long and eight or ten broad, and over this hole a hut of logs and branches is made. Two men, supposed to have received a special inspiration from Mooramoora (the Good Spirit), are bled by an old and influential man with a sharp flint inside the arm; the blood is made to flow on the other men of the tribe who sit huddled together. At the same time the two bleeding men throw handfuls of down, some of which adheres to the blood, while the rest floats in the air. The blood is thought to represent the rain, and the down the clouds. During the ceremony two large stones are placed in the middle of the hut; they stand for gathering clouds and presage rain. Then the men who were bled carry away the stones for about fifteen miles and place them as high as they can in the tallest tree. Meanwhile, the other men gather gypsum, pound [pg 021] it fine, and throw it into a water-hole. This the Mooramoora is supposed to see, and at once he causes the clouds to appear in the sky. Lastly, the men surround the hut, butt at it with their heads, force their way in, and reappear on the other side, repeating this till the hut is wrecked. In doing this they are forbidden to use their hands or arms; but when the heavy logs alone remain, they are allowed to pull them out with their hands. “The piercing of the hut with their heads symbolises the piercing of the clouds; the fall of the hut, the fall of rain.”78 Another Australian mode of rain-making is to burn human hair.79

Like other peoples the Greeks and Romans sought to procure rain by magic, when prayers and processions80 had proved ineffectual. For example, in Arcadia, when the corn and trees were parched with drought, the priest of Zeus dipped an oak branch into a certain spring on Mount Lycaeus. Thus troubled, the water sent up a misty cloud, from which rain soon fell upon the land.81 A similar mode of making rain is still practised, as we have seen, in Halmahera near New Guinea. The people of Crannon in Thessaly had a bronze chariot which they kept in a temple. When they desired a shower they shook the chariot and the shower fell.82 Probably the rattling of the chariot was meant to imitate thunder; we have already seen that in Russia mock thunder and lightning form part of a rain-charm. The mythical Salmoneus of Thessaly made mock thunder by dragging bronze kettles behind his chariot or by driving over a bronze bridge, while [pg 022] he hurled blazing torches in imitation of lightning. It was his impious wish to mimic the thundering car of Zeus as it rolled across the vault of heaven.83 Near a temple of Mars, outside the walls of Rome, there was kept a certain stone known as the lapis manalis. In time of drought the stone was dragged into Rome and this was supposed to bring down rain immediately.84 There were Etruscan wizards who made rain or discovered springs of water, it is not certain which. They were thought to bring the rain or the water out of their bellies.85 The legendary Telchines in Rhodes are described as magicians who could change their shape and bring clouds, rain, and snow.86

Again, primitive man fancies he can make the sun to shine, and can hasten or stay its going down. At an eclipse the Ojebways used to think that the sun was being extinguished. So they shot fire-tipped arrows in the air, hoping thus to rekindle his expiring light.87 Conversely during an eclipse of the moon some Indian tribes of the Orinoco used to bury lighted brands in the ground; because, said they, if the moon were to be extinguished, all fire on earth would be extinguished with her, except such as was hidden from her sight.88 In New Caledonia when a wizard desires to make sunshine, he takes some plants and corals to the burial-ground, and makes them into a bundle, adding two locks of hair cut from a living child (his own child if [pg 023] possible), also two teeth or an entire jawbone from the skeleton of an ancestor. He then climbs a high mountain whose top catches the first rays of the morning sun. Here he deposits three sorts of plants on a flat stone, places a branch of dry coral beside them, and hangs the bundle of charms over the stone. Next morning he returns to this rude altar, and at the moment when the sun rises from the sea he kindles a fire on the altar. As the smoke rises, he rubs the stone with the dry coral, invokes his ancestors and says: “Sun! I do this that you may be burning hot, and eat up all the clouds in the sky.” The same ceremony is repeated at sunset.89 When the sun rises behind clouds—a rare event in the bright sky of Southern Africa—the Sun clan of the Bechuanas say that he is grieving their heart. All work stands still, and all the food of the previous day is given to matrons or old women. They may eat it and may share it with the children they are nursing, but no one else may taste it. The people go down to the river and wash themselves all over. Each man throws into the river a stone taken from his domestic hearth, and replaces it with one picked up in the bed of the river. On their return to the village the chief kindles a fire in his hut, and all his subjects come and get a light from it. A general dance follows.90 In these cases it seems that the lighting of the flame on earth is supposed to rekindle the solar fire. Such a belief comes naturally to people who, like the Sun clan of the Bechuanas, [pg 024] deem themselves the veritable kinsmen of the sun. The Melanesians make sunshine by means of a mock sun. A round stone is wound about with red braid and stuck with owl's feathers to represent rays; it is then hung on a high tree. Or the stone is laid on the ground with white rods radiating from it to imitate sunbeams.91 Sometimes the mode of making sunshine is the converse of that of making rain. Thus we have seen that a white or red pig is sacrificed for sunshine, as a black one is sacrificed for rain.92 Some of the New Caledonians drench a skeleton to make rain, but burn it to make sunshine.93

In a pass of the Peruvian Andes stand two ruined towers on opposite hills. Iron hooks are clamped into their walls for the purpose of stretching a net from one tower to the other. The net is intended to catch the sun.94

On the top of a small hill in Fiji grew a patch of reeds, and travellers who feared to be belated used to tie the tops of a handful of reeds together to detain the sun from going down.95 The intention perhaps was to entangle the sun in the reeds, just as the Peruvians try to catch him in the net. Stories of men who have caught the sun in a noose are widely spread.96 Jerome of Prague, travelling among the heathen Lithuanians early in the fifteenth century, found a tribe who worshipped the sun and venerated a large iron hammer. The priests told him that once the sun had been invisible for several months, because a powerful [pg 025] king had shut it up in a strong tower; but the signs of the zodiac had broken open the tower with this very hammer and released the sun. Therefore they adored the hammer.97 When an Australian blackfellow wishes to stay the sun from going down till he gets home, he places a sod in the fork of a tree, exactly facing the setting sun.98 For the same purpose an Indian of Yucatan, journeying westward, places a stone in a tree or pulls out some of his eyelashes and blows them towards the sun.99 South African natives, in travelling, will put a stone in a branch of a tree or place some grass on the path with a stone over it, believing that this will cause their friends to keep the meal waiting till their arrival.100 In these, as in previous examples, the purpose apparently is to retard the sun. But why should the act of putting a stone or a sod in a tree be supposed to effect this? A partial explanation is suggested by another Australian custom. In their journeys the natives are accustomed to place stones in trees at different heights from the ground in order to indicate the height of the sun in the sky at the moment when they passed the particular tree. Those who follow are thus made aware of the time of day when their friends in advance passed the spot.101 Possibly the natives, thus accustomed to mark the sun's progress, may have slipped into the confusion of imagining that to mark the sun's progress was to arrest it at the point marked. On the other hand, to make it go down faster, the Australians throw sand into the air and blow with their mouths towards the sun.102

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Once more, the savage thinks he can make the wind to blow or to be still. When the day is hot and a Yakut has a long way to go, he takes a stone which he has chanced to find in an animal or fish, winds a horse-hair several times round it, and ties it to a stick. He then waves the stick about, uttering a spell. Soon a cool breeze begins to blow.103 The Wind clan of the Omahas flap their blankets to start a breeze which will drive away the mosquitoes.104 When a Haida Indian wishes to obtain a fair wind, he fasts, shoots a raven, singes it in the fire, and then going to the edge of the sea sweeps it over the surface of the water four times in the direction in which he wishes the wind to blow. He then throws the raven behind him, but afterwards picks it up and sets it in a sitting posture at the foot of a spruce-tree, facing towards the required wind. Propping its beak open with a stick, he requests a fair wind for a certain number of days; then going away he lies covered up in his mantle till another Indian asks him for how many days he has desired the wind, which question he answers.105 When a sorcerer in New Britain wishes to make a wind blow in a certain direction, he throws burnt lime in the air, chanting a song all the time. Then he waves sprigs of ginger and other plants about, throws them up and catches them. Next he makes a small fire with these sprigs on the spot where the lime has fallen thickest, and walks round the fire chanting. Lastly, he takes the ashes and throws them on the water.106 On the altar of Fladda's chapel, in the island of Fladdahuan (one of [pg 027] the Hebrides), lay a round bluish stone which was always moist. Windbound fishermen walked sunwise round the chapel and then poured water on the stone, whereupon a favourable breeze was sure to spring up.107 In Finnland wizards used to sell wind to storm-staid mariners. The wind was enclosed in three knots; if they undid the first knot, a moderate wind sprang up; if the second, it blew half a gale; if the third, a hurricane.108 The same thing is said to have been done by wizards and witches in Lappland, in the island of Lewis, and in the Isle of Man.109 A Norwegian witch has boasted of sinking a ship by opening a bag in which she had shut up a wind.110 Ulysses received the winds in a leather bag from Aeolus, King of the Winds.111 So Perdoytus, the Lithuanian wind-god, keeps the winds enclosed in a leather bag; when they escape from it he pursues them, beats them, and shuts them up again.112 The Motumotu in New Guinea think that storms are sent by an Oiabu sorcerer; for each wind he has a bamboo which he opens at pleasure.113 But here we have passed from custom (with which alone we are at present concerned) into mythology. Shetland seamen still buy winds from old women who claim to rule the storms. There are now in Lerwick old women who live by selling wind.114 When the Hottentots wish to make the wind drop, they take one of their fattest skins and hang it on the end of a pole, [pg 028] believing that by blowing the skin down the wind will lose all its force and must itself fall.115 In some parts of Austria, during a heavy storm, it is customary to open the window and throw out a handful of meal, chaff, or feathers, saying to the wind, “There, that's for you, stop!”116 Once when north-westerly winds had kept the ice long on the coast, and food was getting scarce, the Eskimos of Alaska performed a ceremony to make a calm. A fire was kindled on the shore and the men gathered round it and chanted. An old man then stepped up to the fire and in a coaxing voice invited the demon of the wind to come under the fire and warm himself. When he was supposed to have arrived, a vessel of water, to which each man present had contributed, was thrown on the fire by an old man, and immediately a flight of arrows sped towards the spot where the fire had been. They thought that the demon would not stay where he had been so badly treated. To complete the effect, guns were discharged in various directions, and the captain of a European vessel was asked to fire on the wind with cannon.117 When the wind blows down their huts, the Payaguas in South America snatch up firebrands and run against the wind menacing it with the blazing brands, while others beat the air with their fists to frighten the storm.118 When the Guaycurus are threatened by a severe storm the men go out armed, and the women and children scream their loudest to intimidate the demon.119 During a tempest the inhabitants of a Batta village in Sumatra have been seen to [pg 029] rush from their houses armed with sword and lance. The Raja placed himself at their head, and with shouts and yells they hewed and hacked at the invisible foe. An old woman was observed to be especially active in defending her house, slashing the air right and left with a long sabre.120

In the light of these examples a story told by Herodotus, which his modern critics have treated as a fable, is perfectly credible. He says, without however vouching for the truth of the tale, that once in the land of the Psylli, the modern Tripoli, the wind blowing from the Sahara had dried up all the water-tanks. So the people took counsel and marched in a body to make war on the south wind. But when they entered the desert, the simoom swept down on them and buried them to a man.121 The story may well have been told by one who watched them disappearing, in battle array, with drums and cymbals beating, into the red cloud of whirling sand. It is still said of the Bedouins of Eastern Africa that “no whirlwind ever sweeps across the path without being pursued by a dozen savages with drawn creeses, who stab into the centre of the dusty column in order to drive away the evil spirit that is believed to be riding on the blast.”122 So in Australia the huge columns of red sand that move rapidly across a desert tract are thought by the blackfellows to be spirits passing along. Once an athletic young black ran after one of these moving columns to kill it with boomerangs. He was away two or three hours and came back very weary, saying he had killed Koochee (the demon), but that Koochee [pg 030] had growled at him and he must die.123 Even where these dust columns are not attacked they are still regarded with awe. In some parts of India they are supposed to be bhuts going to bathe in the Ganges.124 Californian Indians think that they are happy souls ascending to the heavenly land.125

When a gust lifts the hay in the meadow, the Breton peasant throws a knife or a fork at it to prevent the devil from carrying off the hay.126 German peasants throw a knife or a hat at a whirlwind because there is a witch or a wizard in it.127

§ 3.—Incarnate gods.

These examples, drawn from the beliefs and practices of rude peoples all over the world, may suffice to prove that the savage, whether European or otherwise, fails to recognise those limitations to his power over nature which seem so obvious to us. In a society where every man is supposed to be endowed more or less with powers which we should call supernatural, it is plain that the distinction between gods and men is somewhat blurred, or rather has scarcely emerged. The conception of gods as supernatural beings entirely distinct from and superior to man, and wielding powers to which he possesses nothing comparable in degree and hardly even in kind, has been slowly evolved in the course of history. At first the supernatural agents are not regarded as greatly, if [pg 031] at all, superior to man; for they may be frightened and coerced by him into doing his will. At this stage of thought the world is viewed as a great democracy; all beings in it, whether natural or supernatural, are supposed to stand on a footing of tolerable equality. But with the growth of his knowledge man learns to realise more clearly the vastness of nature and his own littleness and feebleness in presence of it. The recognition of his own helplessness does not, however, carry with it a corresponding belief in the impotence of those supernatural beings with which his imagination peoples the universe. On the contrary it enhances his conception of their power. For the idea of the world as a system of impersonal forces acting in accordance with fixed and invariable laws has not yet fully dawned or darkened upon him. The germ of the idea he certainly has, and he acts upon it, not only in magic art, but in much of the business of daily life. But the idea remains undeveloped, and so far as he attempts consciously to explain the world he lives in, he pictures it as the manifestation of conscious will and personal agency. If then he feels himself to be so frail and slight, how vast and powerful must he deem the beings who control the gigantic machinery of nature! Thus as his old sense of equality with the gods slowly vanishes, he resigns at the same time the hope of directing the course of nature by his own unaided resources, that is, by magic, and looks more and more to the gods as the sole repositories of those supernatural powers which he once claimed to share with them. With the first advance of knowledge, therefore, prayer and sacrifice assume the leading place in religious ritual; and magic, which once ranked with them as a legitimate equal, is gradually relegated to the background [pg 032] and sinks to the level of a black art. It is now regarded as an encroachment, at once vain and impious, on the domain of the gods, and as such encounters the steady opposition of the priests, whose reputation and influence gain or lose with those of their gods. Hence, when at a late period the distinction between religion and superstition has emerged, we find that sacrifice and prayer are the resource of the pious and enlightened portion of the community, while magic is the refuge of the superstitious and ignorant. But when, still later, the conception of the elemental forces as personal agents is giving way to the recognition of natural law; then magic, based as it implicitly is on the idea of a necessary and invariable sequence of cause and effect, independent of personal will, reappears from the obscurity and discredit into which it had fallen, and by investigating the causal sequences in nature, directly prepares the way for science. Alchemy leads up to chemistry.

The notion of a man-god or of a human being endowed with divine or supernatural powers, belongs essentially to that earlier period of religious history in which gods and men are still viewed as beings of much the same order, and before they are divided by the impassable gulf which, to later thought, opens out between them. Strange, therefore, as may seem to us the idea of a god incarnate in human form, it has nothing very startling for early man, who sees in a man-god or a god-man only a higher degree of the same supernatural powers which he arrogates in perfect good faith to himself. Such incarnate gods are common in rude society. The incarnation may be temporary or permanent. In the former case, the incarnation—commonly known as inspiration or possession—reveals [pg 033] itself in supernatural knowledge rather than in supernatural power. In other words, its usual manifestations are divination and prophesy rather than miracles. On the other hand, when the incarnation is not merely temporary, when the divine spirit has permanently taken up its abode in a human body, the god-man is usually expected to vindicate his character by working miracles. Only we have to remember that by men at this stage of thought miracles are not considered as breaches of natural law. Not conceiving the existence of natural law, primitive man cannot conceive a breach of it. A miracle is to him merely an unusually striking manifestation of a common power.

The belief in temporary incarnation or inspiration is world-wide. Certain persons are supposed to be possessed from time to time by a spirit or deity; while the possession lasts, their own personality lies in abeyance, the presence of the spirit is revealed by convulsive shiverings and shakings of the man's whole body, by wild gestures and excited looks, all of which are referred, not to the man himself, but to the spirit which has entered into him; and in this abnormal state all his utterances are accepted as the voice of the god or spirit dwelling in him and speaking through him. In Mangaia the priests in whom the gods took up their abode from time to time were called “god-boxes” or, for shortness, “gods.” Before giving oracles as gods, they drank an intoxicating liquor, and in the frenzy thus produced their wild words were received as the voice of the god.128 But examples of such temporary inspiration are so common in every part of the world [pg 034] and are now so familiar through books on ethnology, that it is needless to cite illustrations of the general principle.129 It may be well, however, to refer to two particular modes of producing temporary inspiration, because they are perhaps less known than some others, and because we shall have occasion to refer to them later on. One of these modes of producing inspiration is by sucking the fresh blood of a sacrificed victim. In the temple of Apollo Diradiotes at Argos, a lamb was sacrificed by night once a month; a woman, who had to observe a rule of chastity, tasted the blood of the lamb, and thus being inspired by the god she prophesied or divined.130 At Aegira in Achaea the priestess of Earth drank the fresh blood of a bull before she descended into the cave to prophesy.131 In Southern India a devil-dancer “drinks the blood of the sacrifice, putting the throat of the decapitated goat to his mouth. Then, as if he had acquired new life, he begins to brandish his staff of bells, and to dance with a quick but wild unsteady step. Suddenly the afflatus descends. There is no mistaking that glare, or those frantic leaps. He snorts, he stares, he gyrates. The demon has now taken bodily possession of him; and, though he retains the power of utterance and of motion, both are under the demon's control, and his separate consciousness is in abeyance.... The devil-dancer is now worshipped as a present deity, and every bystander consults him respecting his disease, his wants, the welfare of his absent relatives, the offerings to be made for the accomplishment of his [pg 035] wishes, and, in short, respecting everything for which superhuman knowledge is supposed to be available.”132 At a festival of the Minahassa in northern Celebes, after a pig has been killed, the priest rushes furiously at it, thrusts his head into the carcass and drinks of the blood. Then he is dragged away from it by force and set on a chair, whereupon he begins to prophesy how the rice crop will turn out that year. A second time he runs at the carcass and drinks of the blood; a second time he is forced into the chair and continues his predictions. It is thought there is a spirit in him which possesses the power of prophecy.133 At Rhetra, a great religious capital of the Western Slavs, the priest tasted the blood of the sacrificed oxen and sheep in order the better to prophesy.134 The true test of a Dainyal or diviner among some of the Hindoo Koosh tribes is to suck the blood from the neck of a decapitated goat.135 The other mode of producing temporary inspiration, to which I shall here refer, is by means of a branch or leaves of a sacred tree. Thus in the Hindoo Koosh a fire is kindled with twigs of the sacred cedar; and the Dainyal or sibyl, with a cloth over her head, inhales the thick pungent smoke till she is seized with convulsions and falls senseless to the ground. Soon she rises and raises a shrill chant, which is caught up [pg 036] and loudly repeated by her audience.136 So Apollo's prophetess ate the sacred laurel before she prophesied.137 It is worth observing that many peoples expect the victim as well as the priest or prophet to give signs of inspiration by convulsive movements of the body; and if the animal remains obstinately steady, they esteem it unfit for sacrifice. Thus when the Yakuts sacrifice to an evil spirit, the beast must bellow and roll about, which is considered a token that the evil spirit has entered into it.138 Apollo's prophetess could give no oracles unless the victim to be sacrificed trembled in every limb when the wine was poured on its head. But for ordinary Greek sacrifices it was enough that the victim should shake its head; to make it do so, water was poured on it.139 Many other peoples (Tonquinese, Hindoos, Chuwash, etc.) have adopted the same test of a suitable victim; they pour water or wine on its head; if the animal shakes its head it is accepted for sacrifice; if it does not, it is rejected.140

The person temporarily inspired is believed to acquire, not merely divine knowledge, but also, at least occasionally, divine power. In Cambodia, when an epidemic breaks out, the inhabitants of several villages unite and go with a band of music at their head to look for the man whom the local god is [pg 037] believed to have chosen for his temporary incarnation. When found, the man is taken to the altar of the god, where the mystery of incarnation takes place. Then the man becomes an object of veneration to his fellows, who implore him to protect the village against the plague.141 The image of Apollo at Hylæ in Phocis was believed to impart superhuman strength. Sacred men, inspired by it, leaped down precipices, tore up huge trees by the roots, and carried them on their backs along the narrowest defiles.142 The feats performed by inspired dervishes belong to the same class.

Thus far we have seen that the savage, failing to discern the limits of his ability to control nature, ascribes to himself and to all men certain powers which we should now call supernatural. Further, we have seen that over and above this general supernaturalism, some persons are supposed to be inspired for short periods by a divine spirit, and thus temporarily to enjoy the knowledge and power of the indwelling deity. From beliefs like these it is an easy step to the conviction that certain men are permanently possessed by a deity, or in some other undefined way are endued with so high a degree of supernatural powers as to be ranked as gods and to receive the homage of prayer and sacrifice. Sometimes these human gods are restricted to purely supernatural or spiritual functions. Sometimes they exercise supreme political power in addition. In the latter case they are kings as well as gods, and the government is a theocracy. I shall give examples of both.

In the Marquesas Islands there was a class of men who were deified in their life-time. They were supposed [pg 038] to wield a supernatural power over the elements; they could give abundant harvests or smite the ground with barrenness; and they could inflict disease or death. Human sacrifices were offered to them to avert their wrath. There were not many of them, at the most one or two in each island. They lived in mystic seclusion. Their powers were sometimes, but not always, hereditary. A missionary has described one of these human gods from personal observation. The god was a very old man who lived in a large house within an enclosure. In the house was a kind of altar, and on the beams of the house and on the trees round it were hung human skeletons, head down. No one entered the enclosure, except the persons dedicated to the service of the god; only on days when human victims were sacrificed might ordinary people penetrate into the precinct. This human god received more sacrifices than all the other gods; often he would sit on a sort of scaffold in front of his house and call for two or three human victims at a time. They were always brought, for the terror he inspired was extreme. He was invoked all over the island, and offerings were sent to him from every side.143 Again, of the South Sea Islands in general we are told that each island had a man who represented or personified the divinity. Such men were called gods, and their substance was confounded with that of the deity. The man-god was sometimes the king himself; oftener he was a priest or subordinate chief.144 Tanatoa, King of Raiatea, was deified by a certain ceremony performed at the chief temple. “As one of the divinities of his subjects, [pg 039] therefore, the king was worshipped, consulted as an oracle and had sacrifices and prayers offered to him.”145 This was not an exceptional case. The kings of the island regularly enjoyed divine honours, being deified at the time of their accession.146 At his inauguration the king of Tahiti received a sacred girdle of red and yellow feathers, “which not only raised him to the highest earthly station, but identified him with their gods.”147 The gods of Samoa generally appeared in animal form, but sometimes they were permanently incarnate in men, who gave oracles, received offerings (occasionally of human flesh), healed the sick, answered prayers, and so on.148 In regard to the old religion of the Fijians, and especially of the inhabitants of Somo-somo, it is said that “there appears to be no certain line of demarcation between departed spirits and gods, nor between gods and living men, for many of the priests and old chiefs are considered as sacred persons, and not a few of them will also claim to themselves the right of divinity. ‘I am a god,’ Tuikilakila would say; and he believed it too.”149 In the Pelew Islands it is believed that every god can take possession of a man and speak through him. The possession may be either temporary or permanent; in the latter case the chosen person is called a korong. The god is free in his choice, so the position of korong is not hereditary. After the death of a korong the god is for some time unrepresented, until he suddenly makes his appearance in a new Avatar. The person thus chosen gives signs [pg 040] of the divine presence by behaving in a strange way; he gapes, runs about, and performs a number of senseless acts. At first people laugh at him, but his sacred mission is in time recognised, and he is invited to assume his proper position in the state. Generally this position is a distinguished one and confers on him a powerful influence over the whole community. In some of the islands the god is political sovereign of the land; and hence his new incarnation, however humble his origin, is raised to the same high rank, and rules, as god and king, over all the other chiefs.150 In time of public calamity, as during war or pestilence, some of the Molucca Islanders used to celebrate a festival of heaven. If no good result followed, they bought a slave, took him at the next festival to the place of sacrifice, and set him on a raised place under a certain bamboo-tree. This tree represented heaven and had been honoured as its image at previous festivals. The portion of the sacrifice which had previously been offered to heaven was now given to the slave, who ate and drank it in the name and stead of heaven. Henceforth the slave was well treated, kept for the festivals of heaven, and employed to represent heaven and receive the offerings in its name.151 In Tonquin every village chooses its guardian spirit, often in the form of an animal, as a dog, tiger, cat, or serpent. Sometimes a living person is selected as patron-divinity. Thus a beggar persuaded the people of a village that he was their guardian spirit; so they loaded him with honours and entertained him with their best.152 In India “every [pg 041] king is regarded as little short of a present god.”153 The Indian law-book of Manu goes farther and says that “even an infant king must not be despised from an idea that he is a mere mortal; for he is a great deity in human form.”154 There is said to be a sect in Orissa who worship the Queen of England as their chief divinity. And to this day in India all living persons remarkable for great strength or valour or for supposed miraculous powers run the risk of being worshipped as gods. Thus, a sect in the Punjaub worshipped a deity whom they called Nikkal Sen. This Nikkal Sen was no other than the redoubted General Nicholson, and nothing that the general could do or say damped the enthusiasm of his adorers. The more he punished them, the greater grew the religious awe with which they worshipped him.155 Amongst the Todas, a pastoral people of the Neilgherry Hills of Southern India, the dairy is a sanctuary, and the milkman (pâlâl) who attends to it is a god. On being asked whether the Todas salute the sun, one of these divine milkmen replied, “Those poor fellows do so, but I,” tapping his chest, “I, a god! why should I salute the sun?” Every one, even his own father, prostrates himself before the milkman, and no one would dare to refuse him anything. No human being, except another milkman, may touch him; and he gives oracles to all who consult him, speaking with the voice of a god.156

The King of Iddah told the English officers of the Niger Expedition, “God made me after his own [pg 042] image; I am all the same as God; and He appointed me a king.”157

Sometimes, at the death of the human incarnation, the divine spirit transmigrates into another man. In the kingdom of Kaffa, in Eastern Africa, the heathen part of the people worship a spirit called Deòce, to whom they offer prayer and sacrifice, and whom they invoke on all important occasions. This spirit is incarnate in the grand magician or pope, a person of great wealth and influence, ranking almost with the king, and wielding the spiritual, as the king wields the temporal, power. It happened that, shortly before the arrival of a Christian missionary in the kingdom, this African pope died, and the priests, fearing that the missionary would assume the position vacated by the deceased pope, declared that the Deòce had passed into the king, who henceforth, uniting the spiritual with the temporal power, reigned as god and king.158 Before beginning to work at the salt-pans in a Laosian village, the workmen offer sacrifice to a local divinity. This divinity is incarnate in a woman and transmigrates at her death into another woman.159 In Bhotan the spiritual head of the government is a person called the Dhurma Raja, who is supposed to be a perpetual incarnation of the deity. At his death the new incarnate god shows himself in an infant by the refusal of his mother's milk and a preference for that of a cow.160 The Buddhist Tartars believe in a great number of living Buddhas, who officiate as Grand Lamas at the head of the most [pg 043] important monasteries. When one of these Grand Lamas dies his disciples do not sorrow, for they know that he will soon reappear, being born in the form of an infant. Their only anxiety is to discover the place of his birth. If at this time they see a rainbow they take it as a sign sent them by the departed Lama to guide them to his cradle. Sometimes the divine infant himself reveals his identity. “I am the Grand Lama,” he says, “the living Buddha of such and such a temple. Take me to my old monastery. I am its immortal head.” In whatever way the birthplace of the Buddha is revealed, whether by the Buddha's own avowal or by the sign in the sky, tents are struck, and the joyful pilgrims, often headed by the king or one of the most illustrious of the royal family, set forth to find and bring home the infant god. Generally he is born in Tibet, the holy land, and to reach him the caravan has often to traverse the most frightful deserts. When at last they find the child they fall down and worship him. Before, however, he is acknowledged as the Grand Lama whom they seek he must satisfy them of his identity. He is asked the name of the monastery of which he claims to be the head, how far off it is, and how many monks live in it; he must also describe the habits of the deceased Grand Lama and the manner of his death. Then various articles, as prayer-books, tea-pots, and cups, are placed before him, and he has to point out those used by himself in his previous life. If he does so without a mistake his claims are admitted, and he is conducted in triumph to the monastery.161 At the head of all the Lamas is the Dalai Lama of Lhasa, the Rome of Tibet. He is regarded as a living god [pg 044] and at death his divine and immortal spirit is born again in a child. According to some accounts the mode of discovering the Dalai Lama is similar to the method, already described, of discovering an ordinary Grand Lama. Other accounts speak of an election by lot. Wherever he is born, the trees and plants, it is said, put forth green leaves; at his bidding flowers bloom and springs of water rise; and his presence diffuses heavenly blessings. His palace stands on a commanding height; its gilded cupolas are seen sparkling in the sunlight for miles.162

Issuing from the sultry valleys upon the lofty plateau of the Colombian Andes, the Spanish conquerors were astonished to find, in contrast to the savage hordes they had left in the sweltering jungles below, a people enjoying a fair degree of civilisation, practising agriculture, and living under a government which Humboldt has compared to the theocracies of Tibet and Japan. These were the Chibchas, Muyscas, or Mozcas, divided into two kingdoms, with capitals at Bogota and Tunja, but united apparently in spiritual allegiance to the high pontiff of Sogamozo or Iraca. By a long and ascetic novitiate, this ghostly ruler was reputed to have acquired such sanctity that the waters and the rain obeyed him, and the weather depended on his will.163 Weather kings are common in Africa. Thus the [pg 045] Waganda of Central Africa believe in a god of Lake Nyanza, who sometimes takes up his abode in a man or woman. The incarnate god is much feared by all the people, including the king and the chiefs. He is consulted as an oracle; by his word he can inflict or heal sickness, withhold rain, and cause famine. Large presents are made him when his advice is sought.164 Often the king himself is supposed to control the weather. The king of Loango is honoured by his people “as though he were a god; and he is called Sambee and Pango, which mean god. They believe that he can let them have rain when he likes; and once a year, in December, which is the time they want rain, the people come to beg of him to grant it to them.” On this occasion the king, standing on his throne, shoots an arrow into the air, which is supposed to bring on rain.165 Much the same is said of the king of Mombaza.166 The king of Quiteva, in Eastern Africa, ranks with the deity; “indeed, the Caffres acknowledge no other gods than their monarch, and to him they address those prayers which other nations are wont to prefer to heaven.... Hence these unfortunate beings, under the persuasion that their king is a deity, exhaust their utmost means and ruin themselves in gifts to obtain with more facility what they need. Thus, prostrate at his feet, they implore of him, when the weather long continues dry, to intercede with heaven that they may have rain; and when too much [pg 046] rain has fallen, that they may have fair weather; thus, also, in case of winds, storms, and everything, they would either deprecate or implore.”167 Amongst the Barotse, a tribe on the upper Zambesi, “there is an old, but waning belief, that a chief is a demigod, and in heavy thunderstorms the Barotse flock to the chief's yard for protection from the lightning. I have been greatly distressed at seeing them fall on their knees before the chief, entreating him to open the water-pots of heaven and send rain upon their gardens.... The king's servants declare themselves to be invincible, because they are the servants of God (meaning the king).”168 The chief of Mowat, New Guinea, is believed to have the power of affecting the growth of crops for good or ill, and of coaxing the dugong and turtle to come from all parts and allow themselves to be taken.169

Amongst the Antaymours of Madagascar the king is responsible for the growth of the crops and for every misfortune that befalls the people.170 In many places the king is punished if rain does not fall and the crops do not turn out well. Thus, in some parts of West Africa, when prayers and offerings presented to the king have failed to procure rain, his subjects bind him with ropes and take him by force to the grave of his forefathers, that he may obtain from them the needed rain.171 It appears that the Scythians also, when food was scarce, put their king in bonds.172 The Banjars in [pg 047] West Africa ascribe to their king the power of causing rain or fine weather. So long as the weather is fine they load him with presents of grain and cattle. But if long drought or rain threatens to spoil the crops, they insult and beat him till the weather changes.173 When the harvest fails or the surf on the coast is too heavy to allow of fishing, the people of Loango accuse their king of a “bad heart” and depose him.174 On the Pepper Coast the high priest or Bodio is responsible for the health of the community, the fertility of the earth, and the abundance of fish in the sea and rivers; and if the country suffers in any of these respects the Bodio is deposed from his office.175 So the Burgundians of old deposed their king if the crops failed.176 Some peoples have gone further and killed their kings in times of scarcity. Thus, in the time of the Swedish king Domalde a mighty famine broke out, which lasted several years, and could be stayed by the blood neither of beasts nor of men. So, in a great popular assembly held at Upsala, the chiefs decided that king Domalde himself was the cause of the scarcity and must be sacrificed for good seasons. So they slew him and smeared with his blood the altars of the gods. Again, we are told that the Swedes always attributed good or bad crops to their kings as the cause. Now, in the reign of King Olaf, there came dear times and famine, and the people thought that the fault was the king's, because he was sparing in his sacrifices. So, mustering an army, they marched against him, surrounded [pg 048] his dwelling, and burned him in it, “giving him to Odin as a sacrifice for good crops.”177 In 1814, a pestilence having broken out among the reindeer of the Chukch, the Shamans declared that the beloved chief Koch must be sacrificed to the angry gods; so the chief's own son stabbed him with a dagger.178 On the coral island of Niuē, or Savage Island, in the South Pacific, there formerly reigned a line of kings. But as the kings were also high priests, and were supposed to make the food grow, the people became angry with them in times of scarcity and killed them; till at last, as one after another was killed, no one would be king, and the monarchy came to an end.179 As in these cases the divine kings, so in ancient Egypt the divine beasts, were responsible for the course of nature. When pestilence and other calamities had fallen on the land, in consequence of a long and severe drought, the priests took the sacred animals secretly by night, and threatened them, but if the evil did not abate they slew the beasts.180

From this survey of the religious position occupied by the king in rude societies we may infer that the claim to divine and supernatural powers put forward by the monarchs of great historical empires like those of Egypt, Mexico, and Peru, was not the simple outcome of inflated vanity or the empty expression of a grovelling adulation; it was merely a survival and extension of the old savage apotheosis of living kings. [pg 049] Thus, for example, as children of the Sun the Incas of Peru were revered like gods; they could do no wrong, and no one dreamed of offending against the person, honour, or property of the monarch or of any of the royal race. Hence, too, the Incas did not, like most people, look on sickness as an evil. They considered it a messenger sent from their father the Sun to call his son to come and rest with him in heaven. Therefore the usual words in which an Inca announced his approaching end were these: “My father calls me to come and rest with him.” They would not oppose their father's will by offering sacrifice for recovery, but openly declared that he had called them to his rest.181 The Mexican kings at their accession took an oath that they would make the sun to shine, the clouds to give rain, the rivers to flow, and the earth to bring forth fruits in abundance.182 By Chinese custom the emperor is deemed responsible if the drought be at all severe, and many are the self-condemnatory edicts on this subject published in the pages of the Peking Gazette. However it is rather as a high priest than as a god that the Chinese emperor bears the blame; for in extreme cases he seeks to remedy the evil by personally offering prayers and sacrifices to heaven.183 The Parthian monarchs of the Arsacid house styled themselves brothers of the sun and moon and were worshipped as deities. It was esteemed sacrilege to strike even a private member of the Arsacid family in a brawl.184 The kings of Egypt were deified in their lifetime, and their worship was celebrated in special temples and by [pg 050] special priests. Indeed the worship of the kings sometimes cast that of the gods into the shade. Thus in the reign of Merenra a high official declared that he had built many holy places in order that the spirits of the king, the ever-living Merenra, might be invoked “more than all the gods.”185 The King of Egypt seems to have shared with the sacred animals the blame of any failure of the crops.186 He was addressed as “Lord of heaven, lord of earth, sun, life of the whole world, lord of time, measurer of the sun's course, Tum for men, lord of well-being, creator of the harvest, maker and fashioner of mortals, bestower of breath upon all men, giver of life to all the host of gods, pillar of heaven, threshold of the earth, weigher of the equipoise of both worlds, lord of rich gifts, increaser of the corn” etc.187 Yet, as we should expect, the exalted powers thus ascribed to the king differed in degree rather than in kind from those which every Egyptian claimed for himself. Tiele observes that “as every good man at his death became Osiris, as every one in danger or need could by the use of magic sentences assume the form of a deity, it is quite comprehensible how the king, not only after death, but already during his life, was placed on a level with the deity.”188

Thus it appears that the same union of sacred [pg 051] functions with a royal title which meets us in the King of the Wood at Nemi, the Sacrificial King at Rome and the King Archon at Athens, occurs frequently outside the limits of classical antiquity and is a common feature of societies at all stages from barbarism to civilisation. Further, it appears that the royal priest is often a king in fact as well as in name, swaying the sceptre as well as the crosier. All this confirms the tradition of the origin of the titular and priestly kings in the republics of ancient Greece and Italy. At least by showing that the combination of spiritual and temporal power, of which Graeco-Italian tradition preserved the memory, has actually existed in many places, we have obviated any suspicion of improbability that might have attached to the tradition. Therefore we may now fairly ask, May not the King of the Wood have had an origin like that which a probable tradition assigns to the Sacrificial King of Rome and the King Archon of Athens? In other words, may not his predecessors in office have been a line of kings whom a republican revolution stripped of their political power, leaving them only their religious functions and the shadow of a crown? There are at least two reasons for answering this question in the negative. One reason is drawn from the abode of the priest of Nemi; the other from his title, the King of the Wood. If his predecessors had been kings in the ordinary sense, he would surely have been found residing, like the fallen kings of Rome and Athens, in the city of which the sceptre had passed from him. This city must have been Aricia, for there was none nearer. But Aricia, as we have seen, was three miles off from his forest sanctuary by the lake shore. If he reigned, it was not in the city, but in the greenwood. Again [pg 052] his title, King of the Wood, hardly allows us to suppose that he had ever been a king in the common sense of the word. More likely he was a king of nature, and of a special side of nature, namely, the woods from which he took his title. If we could find instances of what we may call departmental kings of nature, that is of persons supposed to rule over particular elements or aspects of nature, they would probably present a closer analogy to the King of the Wood than the divine kings we have been hitherto considering, whose control of nature is general rather than special. Instances of such departmental kings are not wanting.

On a hill at Bomma (the mouth of the Congo) dwells Namvulu Vumu, King of the Rain and Storm.189 Of some of the tribes on the Upper Nile we are told that they have no kings in the common sense; the only persons whom they acknowledge as such are the Kings of the Rain, Mata Kodou, who are credited with the power of giving rain at the proper time, that is in the rainy season. Before the rains begin to fall at the end of March the country is a parched and arid desert; and the cattle, which form the people's chief wealth, perish for lack of grass. So, when the end of March draws on, each householder betakes himself to the King of the Rain and offers him a cow that he may make the rain to fall soon. If no shower falls, the people assemble and demand that the king shall give them rain; and if the sky still continues cloudless, they rip up his belly in which he is believed to keep the storms. Amongst the Bari tribe one of these Rain Kings made rain [pg 053] by sprinkling water on the ground out of a hand-bell.190

Among tribes on the outskirts of Abyssinia a similar office exists and has been thus described by an observer. “The priesthood of the Alfai, as he is called by the Barea and Kunáma, is a remarkable one; he is believed to be able to make rain. This office formerly existed among the Algeds and appears to be still common to the Nuba negroes. The Alfai of the Bareas, who is also consulted by the northern Kunáma, lives near Tembádere on a mountain alone with his family. The people bring him tribute in the form of clothes and fruits, and cultivate for him a large field of his own. He is a kind of king, and his office passes by inheritance to his brother or sister's son. He is supposed to conjure down rain and to drive away the locusts. But if he disappoints the people's expectation and a great drought arises in the land, the Alfai is stoned to death, and his nearest relations are obliged to cast the first stone at him. When we passed through the country, the office of Alfai was still held by an old man; but I heard that rain-making had proved too dangerous for him and that he had renounced his office.”191

In the backwoods of Cambodia live two mysterious sovereigns known as the King of the Fire and the King of the Water. Their fame is spread all over the south of the great Indo-Chinese peninsula; but only a faint echo of it has reached the West. No European, so far as is known, has ever seen them; and their very existence might have passed for a fable, were it not [pg 054] that till a few years ago communications were regularly maintained between them and the King of Cambodia, who year by year exchanged presents with them. The Cambodian gifts were passed from tribe to tribe till they reached their destination; for no Cambodian would essay the long and perilous journey. The tribe amongst whom the Kings of Fire and Water reside is the Chréais or Jaray, a race with European features but a sallow complexion, inhabiting the forest-clad mountains and high plateaux which separate Cambodia from Annam. Their royal functions are of a purely mystic or spiritual order; they have no political authority; they are simple peasants, living by the sweat of their brow and the offerings of the faithful. According to one account they live in absolute solitude, never meeting each other and never seeing a human face. They inhabit successively seven towers perched upon seven mountains, and every year they pass from one tower to another. People come furtively and cast within their reach what is needful for their subsistence. The kingship lasts seven years, the time necessary to inhabit all the towers successively; but many die before their time is out. The offices are hereditary in one or (according to others) two royal families, who enjoy high consideration, have revenues assigned to them, and are exempt from the necessity of tilling the ground. But naturally the dignity is not coveted, and when a vacancy occurs, all eligible men (they must be strong and have children) flee and hide themselves. Another account, admitting the reluctance of the hereditary candidates to accept the crown, does not countenance the report of their hermit-like seclusion in the seven towers. For it represents the people [pg 055] as prostrating themselves before the mystic kings whenever they appear in public, it being thought that a terrible hurricane would burst over the country if this mark of homage were omitted.

The same report says that the Fire King, the more important of the two, and whose supernatural powers have never been questioned, officiates at marriages, festivals, and sacrifices in honour of the Yan. On these occasions a special place is set apart for him; and the path by which he approaches is spread with white cotton cloths. A reason for confining the royal dignity to the same family is that this family is in possession of certain famous talismans which would lose their virtue or disappear if they passed out of the family. These talismans are three: the fruit of a creeper called Cui, gathered ages ago but still fresh and green; a rattan, also very old and still not dry; lastly a sword containing a Yan or spirit, who guards it constantly and works miracles with it. To this wondrous brand sacrifices of buffaloes, pigs, fowls, and ducks are offered for rain. It is kept swathed in cotton and silk; and amongst the annual presents sent by the King of Cambodia were rich stuffs to wrap the sacred sword.

In return the Kings of Fire and Water sent him a huge wax candle and two calabashes, one full of rice and the other of sesame. The candle bore the impress of the Fire King's middle finger. Probably the candle was thought to contain the seed of fire, which the Cambodian monarch thus received once a year fresh from the Fire King himself. The holy candle was kept for sacred uses. On reaching the capital of Cambodia it was entrusted to the Brahmans, [pg 056] who laid it up beside the regalia, and with the wax made tapers which were burned on the altars on solemn days. As the candle was the special gift of the Fire King, we may conjecture that the rice and sesame were the special gift of the Water King. The latter was doubtless king of rain as well as of water, and the fruits of the earth were boons conferred by him on men. In times of calamity, as during plague, floods, and war, a little of this sacred rice and sesame was scattered on the ground “to appease the wrath of the maleficent spirits.”192

These, then, are examples of what I have called departmental kings of nature. But it is a far cry to Italy from the forests of Cambodia and the sources of the Nile. And though Kings of Rain, Water and Fire have been found, we have still to discover a King of the Wood to match the Arician priest who bore that title. Perhaps we shall find him nearer home.

§ 4.—Tree-worship.

In the religious history of the Aryan race in Europe the worship of trees has played an important part. Nothing could be more natural. For at the dawn of history Europe was covered with immense primeval forests, in which the scattered clearings must have appeared like islets in an ocean of green. Down to the first century before our era the Hercynian forest stretched eastward from [pg 057] the Rhine for a distance at once vast and unknown; Germans whom Caesar questioned had travelled for two months through it without reaching the end.193 In our own country the wealds of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex are remnants of the great forest of Anderida, which once clothed the whole of the south eastern portion of the island. Westward it seems to have stretched till it joined another forest that extended from Hampshire to Devon. In the reign of Henry II the citizens of London still hunted the wild bull and the boar in the forest of Hampstead. Even under the later Plantagenets the royal forests were sixty-eight in number. In the forest of Arden it was said that down to modern times a squirrel might leap from tree to tree for nearly the whole length of Warwickshire.194 The excavation of prehistoric pile-villages in the valley of the Po has shown that long before the rise and probably the foundation of Rome the north of Italy was covered with dense forests of elms, chestnuts, and especially of oaks.195 Archaeology is here confirmed by history; for classical writers contain many references to Italian forests which have now disappeared.196 In Greece the woods of the present day are a mere fraction of those which clothed great tracts in antiquity, and which at a more remote epoch may have spanned the Greek peninsula from sea to sea.197

From an examination of the Teutonic words for “temple” Grimm has made it probable that amongst [pg 058] the Germans the oldest sanctuaries were natural woods.198 However this may be, tree-worship is well attested for all the great European families of the Aryan stock. Amongst the Celts the oak-worship of the Druids is familiar to every one.199 Sacred groves were common among the ancient Germans, and tree-worship is hardly extinct amongst their descendants at the present day.200 At Upsala, the old religious capital of Sweden, there was a sacred grove in which every tree was regarded as divine.201 Amongst the ancient Prussians (a Slavonian people) the central feature of religion was the reverence for the sacred oaks, of which the chief stood at Romove, tended by a hierarchy of priests who kept up a perpetual fire of oak-wood in the holy grove.202 The Lithuanians were not converted to Christianity till towards the close of the fourteenth century, and amongst them at the date of their conversion the worship of trees was prominent.203 Proofs of the prevalence of tree-worship in ancient Greece and Italy are abundant.204 Nowhere, perhaps, in the ancient world was this antique form of religion better preserved than in the heart of the great metropolis itself. In the Forum, the busy centre of Roman life, the sacred fig-tree of Romulus was worshipped down to the days of the empire, and the withering of its trunk was enough to spread consternation through the city.205 Again, on the [pg 059] slope of the Palatine Hill grew a cornel-tree which was esteemed one of the most sacred objects in Rome. Whenever the tree appeared to a passer-by to be drooping, he set up a hue and cry which was echoed by the people in the street, and soon a crowd might be seen running from all sides with buckets of water, as if (says Plutarch) they were hastening to put out a fire.206

But it is necessary to examine in some detail the notions on which tree-worship is based. To the savage the world in general is animate, and trees are no exception to the rule. He thinks that they have souls like his own and he treats them accordingly. Thus the Wanika in Eastern Africa fancy that every tree and especially every cocoa-nut tree has its spirit: “the destruction of a cocoa-nut tree is regarded as equivalent to matricide, because that tree gives them life and nourishment, as a mother does her child.”207 Siamese monks, believing that there are souls everywhere and that to destroy anything whatever is forcibly to dispossess a soul, will not break a branch of a tree “as they will not break the arm of an innocent person.”208 These monks, of course, are Buddhists. But Buddhist animism is not a philosophical theory. It is simply a common savage dogma incorporated in the system of an historical religion. To suppose with Benfey and others that the theories of animism and transmigration current among rude peoples of Asia are derived from Buddhism is to reverse the facts. Buddhism in this respect borrowed from savagery, not savagery from Buddhism. Again, the Dyaks ascribe souls to trees and do not dare to cut down an old tree. In some [pg 060] places, when an old tree has been blown down, they set it up, smear it with blood, and deck it with flags “to appease the soul of the tree.”209 People in Congo place calabashes of palm-wine at the foot of certain trees for the trees to drink when they are thirsty.210 In India shrubs and trees are formally married to each other or to idols.211 In the North West Provinces of India a marriage ceremony is performed in honour of a newly-planted orchard; a man holding the Salagram represents the bridegroom, and another holding the sacred Tulsi (Ocymum sanctum) represents the bride.212 On Christmas Eve German peasants used to tie fruit-trees together with straw ropes to make them bear fruit, saying that the trees were thus married.213

In the Moluccas when the clove-trees are in blossom they are treated like pregnant women. No noise must be made near them; no light or fire must be carried past them at night; no one must approach them with his hat on, but must uncover his head. These precautions are observed lest the tree should be frightened and bear no fruit, or should drop its fruit too soon, like the untimely delivery of a woman who has been frightened in her pregnancy.214 So when the paddy (rice) is in bloom the Javanese say it is pregnant and make no noises (fire no guns, etc.) near [pg 061] the field, fearing that if they did so the crop would be all straw and no grain.215 In Orissa, also, growing rice is “considered as a pregnant woman, and the same ceremonies are observed with regard to it as in the case of human females.”216

Conceived as animate, trees are necessarily supposed to feel injuries done to them. When an oak is being felled “it gives a kind of shriekes or groanes, that may be heard a mile off, as if it were the genius of the oake lamenting. E. Wyld, Esq., hath heard it severall times.”217 The Ojebways “very seldom cut down green or living trees, from the idea that it puts them to pain, and some of their medicine-men profess to have heard the wailing of the trees under the axe.”218 Old peasants in some parts of Austria still believe that forest-trees are animate, and will not allow an incision to be made in the bark without special cause; they have heard from their fathers that the tree feels the cut not less than a wounded man his hurt. In felling a tree they beg its pardon.219 So in Jarkino the woodman craves pardon of the tree he cuts down.220 Again, when a tree is cut it is thought to bleed. Some Indians dare not cut a certain plant, because there comes out a red juice which they take for the blood of the plant.221 In Samoa there was a grove of trees which no one dared cut. Once some strangers tried to do so, but blood flowed from the tree, and the sacrilegious strangers fell ill and died.222 Till 1855 there was a sacred larch-tree at Nauders, in the Tyrol, [pg 062] which was thought to bleed whenever it was cut; moreover the steel was supposed to penetrate the woodman's body to the same depth that it penetrated the tree, and the wound on the tree and on the man's body healed together.223

Sometimes it is the souls of the dead which are believed to animate the trees. The Dieyerie tribe of South Australia regard as very sacred certain trees, which are supposed to be their fathers transformed; hence they will not cut the trees down, and protest against the settlers doing so.224 Some of the Philippine Islanders believe that the souls of their forefathers are in certain trees, which they therefore spare. If obliged to fell one of these trees they excuse themselves to it by saying that it was the priest who made them fell it.225 In an Annamite story an old fisherman makes an incision in the trunk of a tree which has drifted ashore; but blood flows from the cut, and it appears that an empress with her three daughters, who had been cast into the sea, are embodied in the tree.226 The story of Polydorus will occur to readers of Virgil.

In these cases the spirit is viewed as incorporate in the tree; it animates the tree and must suffer and die with it. But, according to another and no doubt later view, the tree is not the body, but merely the abode of the tree-spirit, which can quit the injured tree as men quit a dilapidated house. Thus when the Pelew Islanders are felling a tree, they conjure the spirit of [pg 063] the tree to leave it and settle on another.227 The Pádams of Assam think that when a child is lost it has been stolen by the spirits of the wood. So they retaliate on the spirits by cutting down trees till they find the child. The spirits, fearing to be left without a tree in which to lodge, give up the child, and it is found in the fork of a tree.228 Before the Katodis fell a forest-tree, they choose a tree of the same kind and worship it by presenting a cocoa-nut, burning incense, applying a red pigment, and begging it to bless the undertaking.229 The intention, perhaps, is to induce the spirit of the former tree to shift its quarters to the latter. In clearing a wood, a Galeleze must not cut down the last tree till the spirit in it has been induced to go away.230 The Mundaris have sacred groves which were left standing when the land was cleared, lest the sylvan gods, disquieted at the felling of the trees, should abandon the place.231 The Miris in Assam are unwilling to break up new land for cultivation so long as there is fallow land available; for they fear to offend the spirits of the woods by cutting down trees unnecessarily.232

In Sumatra, so soon as a tree is felled, a young tree is planted on the stump; and some betel and a few small coins are also placed on it.233 Here the purpose is unmistakable. The spirit of the tree is offered a new home in the young tree planted on the stump of the old one, and the offering of betel and money is meant [pg 064] to compensate him for the disturbance he has suffered. So in the island of Chedooba, on felling a large tree, one of the woodmen was always ready with a green sprig, which he ran and placed on the middle of the stump the instant the tree fell.234 For the same purpose German woodmen make a cross upon the stump while the tree is falling, in the belief that this enables the spirit of the tree to live upon the stump.235

Thus the tree is regarded, sometimes as the body, sometimes as merely the house of the tree-spirit; and when we read of sacred trees which may not be cut down because they are the seat of spirits, it is not always possible to say with certainty in which way the presence of the spirit in the tree is conceived. In the following cases, perhaps, the trees are conceived as the dwelling-place of the spirits rather than as their bodies. The old Prussians, it is said, believed that gods inhabited high trees, such as oaks, from which they gave audible answers to inquirers; hence these trees were not felled, but worshipped as the homes of divinities.236 The great oak at Romove was the especial dwelling-place of the god; it was veiled with a cloth, which was, however, removed to allow worshippers to see the sacred tree.237 The Battas of Sumatra have been known to refuse to cut down certain trees because they were [pg 065] the abode of mighty spirits which would resent the injury.238 The Curka Coles of India believe that the tops of trees are inhabited by spirits which are disturbed by the cutting down of the trees and will take vengeance.239 The Samogitians thought that if any one ventured to injure certain groves, or the birds or beasts in them, the spirits would make his hands or feet crooked.240

Even where no mention is made of wood-spirits, we may generally assume that when a grove is sacred and inviolable, it is so because it is believed to be either inhabited or animated by sylvan deities. In Livonia there is a sacred grove in which, if any man fells a tree or breaks a branch, he will die within the year.241 The Wotjaks have sacred groves. A Russian who ventured to hew a tree in one of them fell sick and died next day.242 Sacrifices offered at cutting down trees are doubtless meant to appease the wood-spirits. In Gilgit it is usual to sprinkle goat's blood on a tree of any kind before cutting it down.243 Before thinning a grove a Roman farmer had to sacrifice a pig to the god or goddess of the grove.244 The priestly college of the Arval Brothers at Rome had to make expiation when a rotten bough fell to the ground in the sacred grove, or when an old tree was blown down by a storm or dragged down by a weight of snow on its branches.245

When a tree comes to be viewed, no longer as the body of the tree-spirit, but simply as its dwelling-place which it can quit at pleasure, an important advance [pg 066] has been made in religious thought. Animism is passing into polytheism. In other words, instead of regarding each tree as a living and conscious being, man now sees in it merely a lifeless, inert mass, tenanted for a longer or shorter time by a supernatural being who, as he can pass freely from tree to tree, thereby enjoys a certain right of possession or lordship over the trees, and, ceasing to be a tree-soul, becomes a forest god. As soon as the tree-spirit is thus in a measure disengaged from each particular tree, he begins to change his shape and assume the body of a man, in virtue of a general tendency of early thought to clothe all abstract spiritual beings in concrete human form. Hence in classical art the sylvan deities are depicted in human shape, their woodland character being denoted by a branch or some equally obvious symbol.246 But this change of shape does not affect the essential character of the tree-spirit. The powers which he exercised as a tree-soul incorporate in a tree, he still continues to wield as a god of trees. This I shall now prove in detail. I shall show, first, that trees considered as animate beings are credited with the power of making the rain to fall, the sun to shine, flocks and herds to multiply, and women to bring forth easily; and, second, that the very same powers are attributed to tree-gods conceived as anthropomorphic beings or as actually incarnate in living men.

First, then, trees or tree-spirits are believed to give rain and sunshine. When the missionary Jerome of Prague was persuading the heathen Lithuanians to fell their sacred groves, a multitude [pg 067] of women besought the Prince of Lithuania to stop him, saying that with the woods he was destroying the house of god from which they had been wont to get rain and sunshine.247 The Mundaris in Assam think if a tree in the sacred grove is felled, the sylvan gods evince their displeasure by withholding rain.248 In Cambodia each village or province has its sacred tree, the abode of a spirit. If the rains are late, the people sacrifice to the tree.249 To extort rain from the tree-spirit a branch is sometimes dipped in water, as we have seen above.250 In such cases the spirit is doubtless supposed to be immanent in the branch, and the water thus applied to the spirit produces rain by a sort of sympathetic magic, exactly as we saw that in New Caledonia the rain-makers pour water on a skeleton, believing that the soul of the deceased will convert the water into rain.251 There is hardly room to doubt that Mannhardt is right in explaining as a rain-charm the European custom of drenching with water the trees which are cut at certain popular festivals, as midsummer, Whitsuntide, and harvest.252

Again, tree-spirits make the crops to grow. Amongst the Mundaris every village has its sacred grove, and “the grove deities are held responsible for the crops, and are especially honoured at all the great agricultural festivals.”253 The negroes of the Gold Coast are in the habit of sacrificing at the foot of certain tall trees, and they think that if one of these [pg 068] trees were felled, all the fruits of the earth would perish.254 Swedish peasants stick a leafy branch in each furrow of their corn-fields, believing that this will ensure an abundant crop.255 The same idea comes out in the German and French custom of the Harvest-May. This is a large branch or a whole tree, which is decked with ears of corn, brought home on the last waggon from the harvest-field, and fastened on the roof of the farmhouse or of the barn, where it remains for a year. Mannhardt has proved that this branch or tree embodies the tree-spirit conceived as the spirit of vegetation in general, whose vivifying and fructifying influence is thus brought to bear upon the corn in particular. Hence in Swabia the Harvest-May is fastened amongst the last stalks of corn left standing on the field; in other places it is planted on the cornfield and the last sheaf cut is fastened to its trunk.256 The Harvest-May of Germany has its counterpart in the eiresione of ancient Greece.257 The eiresione was a branch of olive or laurel, bound about with ribbons and hung with a variety of fruits. This branch was carried in procession at a harvest festival and was fastened over the door of the house, where it remained for a year. The object of preserving the Harvest-May or the eiresione for a year is that the life-giving virtue of the bough may foster the growth of the crops throughout the year. By the end of the year the virtue of the bough is supposed to be exhausted and it is replaced by a new one. Following a similar train of thought some of the Dyaks of Sarawak are [pg 069] careful at the rice harvest to take up the roots of a certain bulbous plant, which bears a beautiful crown of white and fragrant flowers. These roots are preserved with the rice in the granary and are planted again with the seed-rice in the following season; for the Dyaks say that the rice will not grow unless a plant of this sort be in the field.258

Customs like that of the Harvest-May appear to exist in India and Africa. At a harvest festival of the Lhoosai of S. E. India the chief goes with his people into the forest and fells a large tree, which is then carried into the village and set up in the midst. Sacrifice is offered, and spirits and rice are poured over the tree. The ceremony closes with a feast and a dance, at which the unmarried men and girls are the only performers.259 Among the Bechuanas the hack-thorn is very sacred, and it would be a serious offence to cut a bough from it and carry it into the village during the rainy season. But when the corn is ripe in the ear the people go with axes, and each man brings home a branch of the sacred hack-thorn, with which they repair the village cattle-yard.260 Many tribes of S. E. Africa will not cut down timber while the corn is green, fearing that if they did so, the crops would be destroyed by blight, hail, or early frost.261

Again, the fructifying power of the tree is put forth at seed-time as well as at harvest. Among the Aryan tribes of Gilgit, on the north-western frontier of India, the sacred tree is the Chili, a species of cedar (Juniperus excelsa). At the beginning of wheat-sowing [pg 070] the people receive from the Raja's granary a quantity of wheat, which is placed in a skin mixed with sprigs of the sacred cedar. A large bonfire of the cedar wood is lighted, and the wheat which is to be sown is held over the smoke. The rest is ground and made into a large cake, which is baked on the same fire and given to the ploughman.262 Here the intention of fertilising the seed by means of the sacred cedar is unmistakable. In all these cases the power of fostering the growth of crops, and, in general, of cultivated plants, is ascribed to trees. The ascription is not unnatural. For the tree is the largest and most powerful member of the vegetable kingdom, and man is familiar with it before he takes to cultivating corn. Hence he naturally places the feebler and, to him, newer plant under the dominion of the older and more powerful.

Again, the tree-spirit makes the herds to multiply and blesses women with offspring. The sacred Chili or cedar of Gilgit was supposed to possess this virtue in addition to that of fertilising the corn. At the commencement of wheat-sowing three chosen unmarried youths, after undergoing daily washing and purification for three days, used to start for the mountain where the cedars grew, taking with them wine, oil, bread, and fruit of every kind. Having found a suitable tree they sprinkled the wine and oil on it, while they ate the bread and fruit as a sacrificial feast. Then they cut off the branch and brought it to the village, where, amid general rejoicing, it was placed on a large stone beside running water. “A goat was then sacrificed, its blood poured over the cedar branch, and a [pg 071] wild dance took place, in which weapons were brandished about, and the head of the slaughtered goat was borne aloft, after which it was set up as a mark for arrows and bullet-practice. Every good shot was rewarded with a gourd full of wine and some of the flesh of the goat. When the flesh was finished the bones were thrown into the stream and a general ablution took place, after which every man went to his house taking with him a spray of the cedar. On arrival at his house he found the door shut in his face, and on his knocking for admission, his wife asked, ‘What have you brought?’ To which he answered, ‘If you want children, I have brought them to you; if you want food, I have brought it; if you want cattle, I have brought them; whatever you want, I have it.’ The door was then opened and he entered with his cedar spray. The wife then took some of the leaves and pouring wine and water on them placed them on the fire, and the rest were sprinkled with flour and suspended from the ceiling. She then sprinkled flour on her husband's head and shoulders, and addressed him thus: ‘Ai Shiri Bagerthum, son of the fairies, you have come from far!’ Shiri Bagerthum, ‘the dreadful king,’ being the form of address to the cedar when praying for wants to be fulfilled. The next day the wife baked a number of cakes, and taking them with her, drove the family goats to the Chili stone. When they were collected round the stone, she began to pelt them with pebbles, invoking the Chili at the same time. According to the direction in which the goats ran off, omens were drawn as to the number and sex of the kids expected during the ensuing year. Walnuts and pomegranates were then placed on the Chili stone, the cakes were distributed and [pg 072] eaten, and the goats followed to pasture in whatever direction they showed a disposition to go. For five days afterwards this song was sung in all the houses:—

Dread Fairy King, I sacrifice before you,
How nobly do you stand! you have filled up my house,
You have brought me a wife when I had not one,
Instead of daughters you have given me sons.
You have shown me the ways of right,
You have given me many children. ”263

Here the driving of the goats to the stone on which the cedar had been placed is clearly meant to impart to them the fertilising influence of the cedar. In Europe the May-tree (May-pole) is supposed to possess similar powers over both women and cattle. In some parts of Germany on the 1st of May the peasants set up May-trees at the doors of stables and byres, one May-tree for each horse and cow; this is thought to make the cows yield much milk.264 Camden says of the Irish, “They fancy a green bough of a tree, fastened on May-day against the house, will produce plenty of milk that summer.”265

On the 2d of July some of the Wends used to set up an oak-tree in the middle of the village with an iron cock fastened to its top; then they danced round it, and drove the cattle round it to make them thrive.266

Some of the Esthonians believe in a mischievous spirit called Metsik, who lives in the forest and has the weal of the cattle in his hands. Every year a new image of him is prepared. On an appointed day all the villagers assemble and make a straw man, dress [pg 073] him in clothes, and take him to the common pasture land of the village. Here the figure is fastened to a high tree, round which the people dance noisily. On almost every day of the year prayer and sacrifice are offered to him that he may protect the cattle. Sometimes the image of Metsik is made of a corn-sheaf and fastened to a tall tree in the wood. The people perform strange antics before it to induce Metsik to guard the corn and the cattle.267

The Circassians regard the pear-tree as the protector of cattle. So they cut down a young pear-tree in the forest, branch it, and carry it home, where it is adored as a divinity. Almost every house has one such pear-tree. In autumn, on the day of the festival, it is carried into the house with great ceremony to the sound of music and amid the joyous cries of all the inmates, who compliment it on its fortunate arrival. It is covered with candles, and a cheese is fastened to its top. Round about it they eat, drink, and sing. Then they bid it good-bye and take it back to the courtyard, where it remains for the rest of the year, set up against the wall, without receiving any mark of respect.268

The common European custom of placing a green bush on May Day before the house of a beloved maiden probably originated in the belief of the fertilising power of the tree-spirit.269 Amongst the Kara-Kirgiz barren women roll themselves on the ground under a solitary apple-tree, in order to obtain offspring.270 [pg 074] Lastly, the power of granting to women an easy delivery at child-birth is ascribed to trees both in Sweden and Africa. In some districts of Sweden there was formerly a bårdträd or guardian-tree (lime, ash, or elm) in the neighbourhood of every farm. No one would pluck a single leaf of the sacred tree, any injury to which was punished by ill-luck or sickness. Pregnant women used to clasp the tree in their arms in order to ensure an easy delivery.271 In some negro tribes of the Congo region pregnant women make themselves garments out of the bark of a certain sacred tree, because they believe that this tree delivers them from the dangers that attend child-bearing.272 The story that Leto clasped a palm-tree and an olive-tree or two laurel-trees when she was about to give birth to Apollo and Artemis perhaps points to a similar Greek belief in the efficacy of certain trees to facilitate delivery.273

From this review of the beneficent qualities commonly ascribed to tree-spirits, it is easy to understand why customs like the May-tree or May-pole have prevailed so widely and figured so prominently in the popular festivals of European peasants. In spring or early summer or even on Midsummer Day, it was and still is in many parts of Europe the custom to go out to the woods, cut down a tree and bring it into the village, where it is set up amid general rejoicings. Or the people cut branches in the woods, and fasten them on every house. The intention of these customs is to bring home to the village, and to each house, the blessings which the tree-spirit has in its power to bestow. [pg 075] Hence the custom in some places of planting a May-tree before every house, or of carrying the village May-tree from door to door, that every household may receive its share of the blessing. Out of the mass of evidence on this subject a few examples may be selected.

Sir Henry Piers, in his Description of Westmeath, writing in 1682 says: “On May-eve, every family sets up before their door a green bush, strewed over with yellow flowers, which the meadows yield plentifully. In countries where timber is plentiful, they erect tall slender trees, which stand high, and they continue almost the whole year; so as a stranger would go nigh to imagine that they were all signs of ale-sellers, and that all houses were ale-houses.”274 In Northamptonshire a young tree ten or twelve feet high used to be planted before each house on May Day so as to appear growing.275 “An antient custom, still retained by the Cornish, is that of decking their doors and porches on the 1st of May with green boughs of sycamore and hawthorn, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses.”276 In the north of England it was formerly the custom for young people to rise very early on the morning of the 1st of May, and go out with music into the woods, where they broke branches and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. This done, they returned about sunrise and fastened the flower-decked branches over the doors and windows of their houses.277 At Abingdon in Berkshire young people formerly went about in groups on May morning, singing a carol of which the following are some of the verses—

[pg 076]
We've been rambling all the night;
And sometime of this day;
And now returning back again,
We bring a garland gay.
A garland gay we bring you here;
And at your door we stand;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of our Lord's hand.278

At the villages of Saffron Walden and Debden in Essex on the 1st of May little girls go about in parties from door to door singing a song almost identical with the above and carrying garlands; a doll dressed in white is usually placed in the middle of each garland.279 At Seven Oaks on May Day the children carry boughs and garlands from house to house, begging for pence. The garlands consist of two hoops interlaced crosswise, and covered with blue and yellow flowers from the woods and hedges.280 In some villages of the Vosges Mountains on the first Sunday of May young girls go in bands from house to house, singing a song in praise of May, in which mention is made of the “bread and meal that come in May.” If money is given them, they fasten a green bough to the door; if it is refused, they wish the family many children and no bread to feed them.281 In Mayenne (France), boys who bore the name of Maillotins used to go about from farm to farm on the 1st of May singing carols, for which they received money or a drink; they planted a small tree or a branch of a tree.282

On the Thursday before Whitsunday the Russian villagers “go out into the woods, sing songs, weave [pg 077] garlands, and cut down a young birch-tree, which they dress up in woman's clothes, or adorn with many-coloured shreds and ribbons. After that comes a feast, at the end of which they take the dressed-up birch-tree, carry it home to their village with joyful dance and song, and set it up in one of the houses, where it remains as an honoured guest till Whitsunday. On the two intervening days they pay visits to the house where their ‘guest’ is; but on the third day, Whitsunday, they take her to a stream and fling her into its waters,” throwing their garlands after her. “All over Russia every village and every town is turned, a little before Whitsunday, into a sort of garden. Everywhere along the streets the young birch-trees stand in rows, every house and every room is adorned with boughs, even the engines upon the railway are for the time decked with green leaves.”283 In this Russian custom the dressing of the birch in woman's clothes shows how clearly the tree is conceived as personal; and the throwing it into a stream is most probably a rain-charm. In some villages of Altmark it was formerly the custom for serving-men, grooms, and cowherds to go from farm to farm at Whitsuntide distributing crowns made of birch-branches and flowers to the farmers; these crowns were hung up in the houses and left till the following year.284

In the neighbourhood of Zabern in Alsace bands of people go about carrying May-trees. Amongst them is a man dressed in a white shirt, with his face blackened; in front of him is carried a large May-tree, but each member of the band also carries a smaller one. One of the company carries a huge basket in which he [pg 078] collects eggs, bacon, etc.285 In some parts of Sweden on the eve of May Day lads go about carrying each a bunch of fresh-gathered birch twigs, wholly or partially in leaf. With the village fiddler at their head they go from house to house singing May songs; the purport of which is a prayer for fine weather, a plentiful harvest, and worldly and spiritual blessings. One of them carries a basket in which he collects gifts of eggs and the like. If they are well received they stick a leafy twig in the roof over the cottage door.286

But in Sweden midsummer is the season when these ceremonies are chiefly observed. On the Eve of St. John (23d June) the houses are thoroughly cleansed and garnished with green boughs and flowers. Young fir-trees are raised at the door-way and elsewhere about the homestead; and very often small umbrageous arbours are constructed in the garden. In Stockholm on this day a leaf-market is held at which thousands of May-poles (Maj Stănger) six inches to twelve feet high, decorated with leaves, flowers, slips of coloured paper, gilt egg-shells, strung on reeds, etc. are exposed for sale. Bonfires are lit on the hills and the people dance round them and jump over them. But the chief event of the day is setting up the May-pole. This consists of a straight and tall spruce-pine tree, stripped of its branches. “At times hoops and at others pieces of wood, placed crosswise, are attached to it at intervals; whilst at others it is provided with bows, representing so to say, a man with his arms akimbo. From top to bottom not only the ‘Maj Stăng’ (May-pole) itself, but the hoops, bows, etc. are ornamented with leaves, [pg 079] flowers, slips of various cloth, gilt egg-shells, etc.; and on the top of it is a large vane, or it may be a flag.” The raising of the May-pole, the decoration of which is done by the village maidens, is an affair of much ceremony; the people flock to it from all quarters and dance round it in a great ring.287 In some parts of Bohemia also a May-pole or midsummer-tree is erected on St. John's Eve. The lads fetch a tall fir or pine from the wood and set it up on a height, where the girls deck it with nosegays, garlands, and red ribbons. Then they pile brushwood, dry wood, and other combustible materials about the tree, and, when darkness has fallen, set the whole on fire. While the fire was burning the lads used to climb up the tree and fetch down the garlands and ribbons which the girls had fastened to it; but as this led to accidents, the custom has been forbidden. Sometimes the young people fling burning besoms into the air, or run shouting down hill with them. When the tree is consumed, the young men and their sweethearts stand on opposite sides of the fire, and look at each other through garlands and through the fire, to see whether they will be true lovers and will wed. Then they throw the garlands thrice across the smouldering fire to each other. When the blaze has died down, the couples join hands and leap thrice across the glowing embers. The singed garlands are taken home, and kept carefully in the house throughout the year. Whenever a thunder-storm bursts, part of the garlands are burned on the hearth; and when the cattle are sick or are calving, they get a portion of the garlands to eat. The charred embers of the bonfire are stuck in the cornfields and meadows and [pg 080] on the roof of the house, to keep house and field from bad weather and injury.288

It is hardly necessary to illustrate the custom of setting up a village May-tree or May-pole on May Day. One point only—the renewal of the village May-tree—requires to be noticed. In England the village May-pole seems as a rule, at least in later times, to have been permanent, not renewed from year to year.289 Sometimes, however, it was renewed annually. Thus, Borlase says of the Cornish people: “From towns they make incursions, on May-eve, into the country, cut down a tall elm, bring it into the town with rejoicings, and having fitted a straight taper pole to the end of it, and painted it, erect it in the most public part, and upon holidays and festivals dress it with garlands of flowers or ensigns and streamers.”290 An annual renewal seems also to be implied in the description by Stubbs, a Puritanical writer, of the custom of drawing home the May-pole by twenty or forty yoke of oxen.291 In some parts of Germany and Austria the May-tree or Whitsuntide-tree is renewed annually, a fresh tree being felled and set up.292

We can hardly doubt that originally the practice everywhere was to set up a new May-tree every year. As the object of the custom was to bring in the fructifying spirit of vegetation, newly awakened in spring, the end would have been defeated if, instead of a living tree, green and sappy, an old withered one had been erected year after year or allowed to stand permanently. When, however, the meaning of the [pg 081] custom had been forgotten, and the May-tree was regarded simply as a centre for holiday merrymaking, people saw no reason for felling a fresh tree every year, and preferred to let the same tree stand permanently, only decking it with fresh flowers on May Day. But even when the May-pole had thus become a fixture, the need of giving it the appearance of being a green tree, not a dead pole, was sometimes felt. Thus at Weverham in Cheshire “are two May-poles, which are decorated on this day (May Day) with all due attention to the ancient solemnity; the sides are hung with garlands, and the top terminated by a birch or other tall slender tree with its leaves on; the bark being peeled, and the stem spliced to the pole, so as to give the appearance of one tree from the summit.”293 Thus the renewal of the May-tree is like the renewal of the Harvest-May; each is intended to secure a fresh portion of the fertilising spirit of vegetation, and to preserve it throughout the year. But whereas the efficacy of the Harvest-May is restricted to promoting the growth of the crops, that of the May-tree or May-branch extends also, as we have seen, to women and cattle. Lastly, it is worth noting that the old May-tree is sometimes burned at the end of the year. Thus in the district of Prague young people break pieces off the public May-tree and place them behind the holy pictures in their rooms, where they remain till next May Day, and are then burned on the hearth.294 In Würtemberg the bushes which are set up on the houses on Palm Sunday are sometimes left there for a year and then burnt.295 The [pg 082] eiresione (the Harvest-May of Greece) was perhaps burned at the end of the year.296

So much for the tree-spirit conceived as incorporate or immanent in the tree. We have now to show that the tree-spirit is often conceived and represented as detached from the tree and clothed in human form, and even as embodied in living men or women. The evidence for this anthropomorphic representation of the tree-spirit is largely to be found in the popular customs of European peasantry.

There is an instructive class of cases in which the tree-spirit is represented simultaneously in vegetable form and in human form, which are set side by side as if for the express purpose of explaining each other. In these cases the human representative of the tree-spirit is sometimes a doll or puppet, sometimes a living person; but whether a puppet or a person, it is placed beside a tree or bough; so that together the person or puppet, and the tree or bough, form a sort of bilingual inscription, the one being, so to speak, a translation of the other. Here, therefore, there is no room left for doubt that the spirit of the tree is actually represented in human form. Thus in Bohemia, on the fourth Sunday in Lent, young people throw a puppet called Death into the water; then the girls go into the wood, cut down a young tree, and fasten to it a puppet dressed in white clothes to look like a woman; with this tree and puppet they go from house to house collecting gratuities and singing songs with the refrain—

We carry Death out of the village,
We bring Summer into the village.297
[pg 083]

Here, as we shall see later on, the “Summer” is the spirit of vegetation returning or reviving in spring. In some places in this country children go about asking for pence with some small imitations of May-poles, and with a finely dressed doll which they call the Lady of the May.298 In these cases the tree and the puppet are obviously regarded as equivalent.

At Thann, in Alsace, a girl called the Little May Rose, dressed in white, carries a small May-tree, which is gay with garlands and ribbons. Her companions collect gifts from door to door, singing a song—

Little May Rose turn round three times,
Let us look at you round and round!
Rose of the May, come to the greenwood away,
We will be merry all.
So we go from the May to the roses.

In the course of the song a wish is expressed that those who give nothing may lose their fowls by the marten, that their vine may bear no clusters, their tree no nuts, their field no corn; the produce of the year is supposed to depend on the gifts offered to these May singers.299 Here and in the cases mentioned above, where children go about with green boughs on May Day singing and collecting money, the meaning is that with the spirit of vegetation they bring plenty and good luck to the house, and they expect to be paid for the service. In Russian Lithuania, on the 1st of May, they used to set up a green tree before the village. Then the rustic swains chose the prettiest girl, crowned her, swathed her in birch branches and set her beside the May-tree, where they danced, sang, and shouted [pg 084] “O May! O May!”300 In Brie (Isle de France) a May-tree is set up in the midst of the village; its top is crowned with flowers; lower down it is twined with leaves and twigs, still lower with huge green branches. The girls dance round it, and at the same time a lad wrapt in leaves and called Father May is led about.301 In Bavaria, on the 2d of May, a Walber (?) tree is erected before a tavern, and a man dances round it, enveloped in straw from head to foot in such a way that the ears of corn unite above his head to form a crown. He is called the Walber, and used to be led in solemn procession through the streets, which were adorned with sprigs of birch.302 In Carinthia, on St. George's Day (24th April), the young people deck with flowers and garlands a tree which has been felled on the eve of the festival. The tree is then carried in procession, accompanied with music and joyful acclamations, the chief figure in the procession being the Green George, a young fellow clad from head to foot in green birch branches. At the close of the ceremonies the Green George, that is an effigy of him, is thrown into the water. It is the aim of the lad who acts Green George to step out of his leafy envelope and substitute the effigy so adroitly that no one shall perceive the change. In many places, however, the lad himself who plays the part of Green George is ducked in a river or pond, with the express intention of thus ensuring rain to make the fields and meadows green in summer. In some places the cattle are crowned and driven from their stalls to the accompaniment of a song—

[pg 085]
Green George we bring,
Green George we accompany,
May he feed our herds well,
If not, to the water with him.303

Here we see that the same powers of making rain and fostering the cattle, which are ascribed to the tree-spirit regarded as incorporate in the tree, are also attributed to the tree-spirit represented by a living man.

An example of the double representation of the spirit of vegetation by a tree and a living man is reported from Bengal. The Oraons have a festival in spring while the sál trees are in blossom, because they think that at this time the marriage of earth is celebrated and the sál flowers are necessary for the ceremony. On an appointed day the villagers go with their priest to the Sarna, the sacred grove, a remnant of the old sál forest in which a goddess Sarna Burhi, or woman of the grove, is supposed to dwell. She is thought to have great influence on the rain; and the priest arriving with his party at the grove sacrifices to her five fowls, of which a morsel is given to each person present. Then they gather the sál flowers and return laden with them to the village. Next day the priest visits every house, carrying the flowers in a wide open basket. The women of each house bring out water to wash his feet as he approaches, and kneeling make him an obeisance. Then he dances with them and places some of the sál flowers over the door of the house and in the women's hair. No sooner is this done than the women empty their water-jugs over him, drenching him to the skin. A feast follows, and the young people, with sál flowers in their hair, dance all night on the village green.304 Here, the equivalence of the flower-bearing [pg 086] priest to the goddess of the flowering-tree comes out plainly. For she is supposed to influence the rain, and the drenching of the priest with water is, doubtless, like the ducking of the Green George in Bavaria, a rain-charm. Thus the priest, as if he were the tree goddess herself, goes from door to door dispensing rain and bestowing fruitfulness on each house, but especially on the women.

Without citing more examples to the same effect, we may sum up the result of the preceding paragraphs in the words of Mannhardt. “The customs quoted suffice to establish with certainty the conclusion that in these spring processions the spirit of vegetation is often represented both by the May-tree and in addition by a man dressed in green leaves or flowers or by a girl similarly adorned. It is the same spirit which animates the tree and is active in the inferior plants and which we have recognised in the May-tree and the Harvest-May. Quite consistently the spirit is also supposed to manifest his presence in the first flower of spring and reveals himself both in a girl representing a May-rose, and also, as giver of harvest, in the person of the Walber. The procession with this representative of the divinity was supposed to produce the same beneficial effects on the fowls, the fruit-trees, and the crops as the presence of the deity himself. In other words, the mummer was regarded not as an image but as an actual representative of the spirit of vegetation; hence the wish expressed by the attendants on the May-rose and the May-tree that those who refuse them gifts of eggs, bacon, etc. may have no share in the blessings which it is in the power of the itinerant spirit to bestow. We may conclude that these begging processions with May-trees or May-boughs from door [pg 087] to door (‘bringing the May or the summer’) had everywhere originally a serious and, so to speak, sacramental significance; people really believed that the god of growth was present unseen in the bough; by the procession he was brought to each house to bestow his blessing. The names May, Father May, May Lady, Queen of the May, by which the anthropomorphic spirit of vegetation is often denoted, show that the conception of the spirit of vegetation is blent with a personification of the season at which his powers are most strikingly manifested.”305

Thus far we have seen that the tree-spirit or the spirit of vegetation in general is represented either in vegetable form alone, as by a tree, bough, or flower; or in vegetable and human form simultaneously, as by a tree, bough, or flower in combination with a puppet or a living person. It remains to show that the representation of him by a tree, bough, or flower is sometimes entirely dropped, while the representation of him by a living person remains. In this case the representative character of the person is generally marked by dressing him or her in leaves or flowers; sometimes too it is indicated by the name he or she bears.

We saw that in Russia at Whitsuntide a birch-tree is dressed in woman's clothes and set up in the house. Clearly equivalent to this is the custom observed on Whit-Monday by Russian girls in the district of Pinsk. They choose the prettiest of their number, envelop her in a mass of foliage taken from the birch-trees and maples, and carry her about through the village. In a district of Little Russia they take round a “poplar,” represented by a girl wearing bright flowers in her hair.306 [pg 088] In the Département de l'Ain (France) on the 1st of May eight or ten boys unite, clothe one of their number in leaves, and go from house to house begging.307 At Whitsuntide in Holland poor women used to go about begging with a little girl called Whitsuntide Flower (Pinxterbloem, perhaps a kind of iris); she was decked with flowers and sat in a waggon. In North Brabant she wears the flowers from which she takes her name and a song is sung—

Whitsuntide Flower
Turn yourself once round.308

In Ruhla (Thüringen) as soon as the trees begin to grow green in spring, the children assemble on a Sunday and go out into the woods, where they choose one of their playmates to be the Little Leaf Man. They break branches from the trees and twine them about the child till only his shoes peep out from the leafy mantle. Holes are made in it for him to see through, and two of the children lead the Little Leaf Man that he may not stumble or fall. Singing and dancing they take him from house to house, asking for gifts of food (eggs, cream, sausage, cakes). Lastly they sprinkle the Leaf Man with water and feast on the food they have collected.309 In England the best-known example of these leaf-clad mummers is the Jack-in-the-Green, a chimney-sweeper who walks encased in a pyramidal-shaped framework of wicker-work, which is covered with holly and ivy, and surmounted by a crown of flowers and ribbons. Thus arrayed he dances on May Day at the head of a troop [pg 089] of chimney-sweeps, who collect pence.310 In some parts also of France a young fellow is encased in a wicker framework covered with leaves and is led about.311 In Frickthal (Aargau) a similar frame of basketwork is called the Whitsuntide Basket. As soon as the trees begin to bud, a spot is chosen in the wood, and here the village lads make the frame with all secrecy, lest others should forestall them. Leafy branches are twined round two hoops, one of which rests on the shoulders of the wearer, the other encircles his calves; holes are made for his eyes and mouth; and a large nosegay crowns the whole. In this guise he appears suddenly in the village at the hour of vespers, preceded by three boys blowing on horns made of willow bark. The great object of his supporters is to set up the Whitsuntide Basket beside the village well, and to keep it and him there, despite the efforts of the lads from neighbouring villages, who seek to carry off the Whitsuntide Basket and set it up at their own well.312 In the neighbourhood of Ertingen (Würtemberg) a masker of the same sort, known as the Lazy Man (Latzmann), goes about the village on Midsummer Day; he is hidden under a great pyramidal or conical frame of wicker-work, ten or twelve feet high, which is completely covered with sprigs of fir. He has a bell which he rings as he goes, and he is attended by a suite of persons dressed up in character—a footman, a colonel, a butcher, an angel, the devil, the doctor, etc. They march in Indian file and halt before every house, where each of them speaks in character, except the Lazy Man, [pg 090] who says nothing. With what they get by begging from door to door they hold a feast.313

In the class of cases of which the above are specimens it is obvious that the leaf-clad person who is led about is equivalent to the May-tree, May-bough, or May-doll, which is carried from house to house by children begging. Both are representatives of the beneficent spirit of vegetation, whose visit to the house is recompensed by a present of money or food.

Often the leaf-clad person who represents the spirit of vegetation is known as the king or the queen; thus, for example, he or she is called the May King, Whitsuntide King, Queen of May, and so on. These titles, as Mannhardt observes, imply that the spirit incorporate in vegetation is a ruler, whose creative power extends far and wide.314

In a village near Salzwedel a May-tree is set up at Whitsuntide and the boys race to it; he who reaches it first is king; a garland of flowers is put round his neck and in his hand he carries a May-bush, with which, as the procession moves along, he sweeps away the dew. At each house they sing a song, wishing the inmates good luck, referring to the “black cow in the stall milking white milk, black hen on the nest laying white eggs,” and begging a gift of eggs, bacon, etc.315 In some villages of Brunswick at Whitsuntide a May King is completely enveloped in a May-bush. In some parts of Thüringen also they have a May King at Whitsuntide, but he is got up rather differently. A frame of wood is made in which [pg 091] a man can stand; it is completely covered with birch boughs and is surmounted by a crown of birch and flowers, in which a bell is fastened. This frame is placed in the wood and the May King gets into it. The rest go out and look for him, and when they have found him they lead him back into the village to the magistrate, the clergyman, and others, who have to guess who is in the verdurous frame. If they guess wrong, the May King rings his bell by shaking his head, and a forfeit of beer or the like must be paid by the unsuccessful guesser.316 In some parts of Bohemia on Whit-Monday the young fellows disguise themselves in tall caps of birch bark adorned with flowers. One of them is dressed as a king and dragged on a sledge to the village green, and if on the way they pass a pool the sledge is always overturned into it. Arrived at the green they gather round the king; the crier jumps on a stone or climbs up a tree and recites lampoons about each house and its inmates. Afterwards the disguises of bark are stripped off and they go about the village in holiday attire, carrying a May-tree and begging. Cakes, eggs, and corn are sometimes given them.317 At Grossvargula, near Langensalza, in last century a Grass King used to be led about in procession at Whitsuntide. He was encased in a pyramid of poplar branches, the top of which was adorned with a royal crown of branches and flowers. He rode on horseback with the leafy pyramid over him, so that its lower end touched the ground, and an opening was left in it only for his face. Surrounded by a cavalcade of [pg 092] young fellows, he rode in procession to the town hall, the parsonage, etc., where they all got a drink of beer. Then under the seven lindens of the neighbouring Sommerberg, the Grass King was stripped of his green casing; the crown was handed to the Mayor, and the branches were stuck in the flax fields in order to make the flax grow tall.318 In this last trait the fertilising influence ascribed to the representative of the tree-spirit comes out clearly. In the neighbourhood of Pilsen (Bohemia) a conical hut of green branches, without any door, is erected at Whitsuntide in the midst of the village. To this hut rides a troop of village lads with a king at their head. He wears a sword at his side and a sugar-loaf hat of rushes on his head. In his train are a judge, a crier, and a personage called the Frog-flayer or Hangman. This last is a sort of ragged merryandrew, wearing a rusty old sword and bestriding a sorry hack. On reaching the hut the crier dismounts and goes round it looking for a door. Finding none, he says, “Ah, this is perhaps an enchanted castle; the witches creep through the leaves and need no door.” At last he draws his sword and hews his way into the hut, where there is a chair, on which he seats himself and proceeds to criticise in rhyme the girls, farmers, and farm-servants of the neighbourhood. When this is over, the Frog-flayer steps forward and, after exhibiting a cage with frogs in it, sets up a gallows on which he hangs the frogs in a row.319 In the neighbourhood of Plas the ceremony differs in some points. The king and his soldiers are completely clad in bark, adorned [pg 093] with flowers and ribbons; they all carry swords and ride horses, which are gay with green branches and flowers. While the village dames and girls are being criticised at the arbour, a frog is secretly pinched and poked by the crier till it quacks. Sentence of death is passed on the frog by the king; the hangman beheads it and flings the bleeding body among the spectators. Lastly, the king is driven from the hut and pursued by the soldiers.320 The pinching and beheading of the frog are doubtless, as Mannhardt observes,321 a rain-charm. We have seen322 that some Indians of the Orinoco beat frogs for the express purpose of producing rain, and that killing a frog is a German rain-charm.

Often the spirit of vegetation in spring is represented by a queen instead of a king. In the neighbourhood of Libchowic (Bohemia), on the fourth Sunday in Lent, girls dressed in white and wearing the first spring flowers, as violets and daisies, in their hair, lead about the village a girl who is called the Queen and is crowned with flowers. During the procession, which is conducted with great solemnity, none of the girls may stand still, but must keep whirling round continually and singing. In every house the Queen announces the arrival of spring and wishes the inmates good luck and blessings, for which she receives presents.323 In German Hungary the girls choose the prettiest girl to be their Whitsuntide Queen, fasten a towering wreath on her brow, and carry her singing through the streets. At every house they stop, sing old ballads, and receive presents.324 In the [pg 094] south-east of Ireland on May Day the prettiest girl used to be chosen Queen of the district for twelve months. She was crowned with wild flowers; feasting, dancing, and rustic sports followed, and were closed by a grand procession in the evening. During her year of office she presided over rural gatherings of young people at dances and merrymakings. If she married before next May Day her authority was at an end, but her successor was not elected till that day came round.325 The May Queen is common in France326 and familiar in England.

Again the spirit of vegetation is sometimes represented by a king and queen, a lord and lady, or a bridegroom and bride. Here again the parallelism holds between the anthropomorphic and the vegetable representation of the tree-spirit, for we have seen above that trees are sometimes married to each other.327 In a village near Königgrätz (Bohemia) on Whit-Monday the children play the king's game, at which a king and a queen march about under a canopy, the queen wearing a garland, and the youngest girl carrying two wreaths on a plate behind them. They are attended by boys and girls called groom's men and bridesmaids, and they go from house to house collecting gifts.328 Near Grenoble, in France, a king and queen are chosen on the 1st of May and are set on a throne for all to see.329 At Headington, near Oxford, children used to carry garlands from door to door on [pg 095] May Day. Each garland was carried by two girls, and they were followed by a lord and lady—a boy and girl linked together by a white handkerchief, of which each held an end, and dressed with ribbons, sashes, and flowers. At each door they sang a verse—

Gentlemen and ladies,
We wish you happy May;
We come to show you a garland,
Because it is May-day.

On receiving money the lord put his arm about his lady's waist and kissed her.330 In some Saxon villages at Whitsuntide a lad and a lass disguise themselves and hide in the bushes or high grass outside the village. Then the whole village goes out with music “to seek the bridal pair.” When they find the couple they all gather round them, the music strikes up, and the bridal pair is led merrily to the village. In the evening they dance. In some places the bridal pair is called the prince and the princess.331

In the neighbourhood of Briançon (Dauphiné) on May Day the lads wrap up in green leaves a young fellow whose sweetheart has deserted him or married another. He lies down on the ground and feigns to be asleep. Then a girl who likes him, and would marry him, comes and wakes him, and raising him up offers him her arm and a flag. So they go to the alehouse, where the pair lead off the dancing. But they must marry within the year, or they are treated as old bachelor and old maid, and are debarred the company of the young folk. The lad is called the bridegroom of the month of May (le fiancé du mois de May). In the alehouse he puts off his garment of leaves, out of [pg 096] which, mixed with flowers, his partner in the dance makes a nosegay, and wears it at her breast next day, when he leads her again to the alehouse.332 Like this is a Russian custom observed in the district of Nerechta on the Thursday before Whitsunday. The girls go out into a birch-wood, wind a girdle or band round a stately birch, twist its lower branches into a wreath, and kiss each other in pairs through the wreath. The girls who kiss through the wreath call each other gossips. Then one of the girls steps forward, and mimicking a drunken man, flings herself on the ground, rolls on the grass, and feigns to go fast asleep. Another girl wakens the pretended sleeper and kisses him; then the whole bevy trips singing through the wood to twine garlands, which they throw into the water. In the fate of the garlands floating on the stream they read their own.333 In this custom the rôle of the sleeper was probably at one time sustained by a lad. In these French and Russian customs we have a forsaken bridegroom, in the following a forsaken bride. On Shrove Tuesday the Slovenes of Oberkrain drag a straw puppet with joyous cries up and down the village; then they throw it into the water or burn it, and from the height of the flames they judge of the abundance of the next harvest. The noisy crew is followed by a female masker, who drags a great board by a string and gives out that she is a forsaken bride.334

Viewed in the light of what has gone before, the awakening of the forsaken sleeper in these ceremonies probably represents the revival of vegetation in spring. But it is not easy to assign their respective [pg 097] rôles to the forsaken bridegroom and to the girl who wakes him from his slumber. Is the sleeper the leafless forest or the bare earth of winter? Is the girl who wakens him the fresh verdure or the genial sunshine of spring? It is hardly possible, on the evidence before us, to answer these questions. The Oraons of Bengal, it may be remembered, celebrate the marriage of earth in the springtime, when the sál-tree is in blossom. But from this we can hardly argue that in the European ceremonies the sleeping bridegroom is “the dreaming earth” and the girl the spring blossoms.

In the Highlands of Scotland the revival of vegetation in spring used to be graphically represented as follows. On Candlemas day (2d February) in the Hebrides “the mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats, and dress it up in women's apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Brüd's bed; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, Brüd is come, Brüd is welcome. This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Brüd's club there; which if they do they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.”335 The same custom is described by another witness thus: “Upon the night before Candlemas it is usual to make a bed with corn and hay, over which some blankets are laid, in a part of the house near the door. When it is ready, a person goes out and repeats three times, ... ‘Bridget, [pg 098] Bridget, come in; thy bed is ready.’ One or more candles are left burning near it all night.”336

Often the marriage of the spirit of vegetation in spring, though not directly represented, is implied by naming the human representative of the spirit “the Bride,” and dressing her in wedding attire. Thus in some villages of Altmark at Whitsuntide, while the boys go about carrying a May-tree or leading a boy enveloped in leaves and flowers, the girls lead about the May Bride, a girl dressed as a bride with a great nosegay in her hair. They go from house to house, the May Bride singing a song in which she asks for a present, and tells the inmates of each house that if they give her something they will themselves have something the whole year through; but if they give her nothing they will themselves have nothing.337 In some parts of Westphalia two girls lead a flower-crowned girl called “the Whitsuntide Bride” from door to door, singing a song in which they ask for eggs.338 In Bresse in the month of May a girl called la Mariée is tricked out with ribbons and nosegays and is led about by a gallant. She is preceded by a lad carrying a green May-tree, and appropriate verses are sung.339

§ 5.—Tree-worship in antiquity.

Such then are some of the ways in which the tree-spirit or the spirit of vegetation is represented [pg 099] in the customs of our European peasantry. From the remarkable persistence and similarity of such customs all over Europe we are justified in concluding that tree-worship was once an important element in the religion of the Aryan race in Europe, and that the rites and ceremonies of the worship were marked by great uniformity everywhere, and did not substantially differ from those which are still or were till lately observed by our peasants at their spring and midsummer festivals. For these rites bear internal marks of great antiquity, and this internal evidence is confirmed by the resemblance which the rites bear to those of rude peoples elsewhere.340 Therefore it is hardly rash to infer, from this consensus of popular customs, that the Greeks and Romans, like the other Aryan peoples of Europe, once practised forms of tree-worship similar to those which are still kept up by our peasantry. In the palmy days of ancient civilisation, no doubt, the worship had sunk to the level of vulgar superstition and rustic merrymaking, as it has done among ourselves. We need not therefore be surprised that the traces of such popular rites are few and slight in ancient literature. They are not less so in the polite literature of modern Europe; and the negative argument cannot be allowed to go for more in the one case than in the other. Enough, however, of positive evidence remains to confirm the presumption drawn from analogy. Much of this evidence has been collected and analysed with his usual learning and judgment by W. Mannhardt.341 Here I shall content myself with citing certain Greek festivals which seem to be [pg 100] the classical equivalents of an English May Day in the olden time.

Every few years the Boeotians of Plataea held a festival which they called the Little Daedala. On the day of the festival they went out into an ancient oak forest, the trees of which were of gigantic girth. Here they set some boiled meat on the ground, and watched the birds that gathered round it. When a raven was observed to carry off a piece of the meat and settle on an oak, the people followed it and cut down the tree. With the wood of the tree they made an image, dressed it as a bride, and placed it on a bullock-cart with a bridesmaid beside it. It seems then to have been drawn to the banks of the river Asopus and back to the town, attended by a piping and dancing crowd. After the festival the image was put away and kept till the celebration of the Great Daedala, which fell only once in sixty years. On this great occasion all the images that had accumulated from the celebrations of the Little Daedala were dragged on carts in solemn procession to the river Asopus, and then to the top of Mount Cithaeron. Here an altar had been constructed of square blocks of wood fitted together and surmounted by a heap of brushwood. Animals were sacrificed by being burned on the altar, and the altar itself, together with the images, were consumed by the flames. The blaze, we are told, rose to a prodigious height and was seen for many miles. To explain the origin of the festival it was said that once upon a time Hera had quarrelled with Zeus and left him in high dudgeon. To lure her back Zeus gave out that he was about to marry the nymph Plataea, daughter of the river Asopus. He caused a wooden image to be made, dressed and veiled as a bride, and conveyed on [pg 101] a bullock-cart. Transported with rage and jealousy, Hera flew to the cart, and tearing off the veil of the pretended bride, discovered the deceit that had been practised on her. Her rage was now changed to laughter, and she became reconciled to her husband Zeus.342

The resemblance of this festival to some of the European spring and midsummer festivals is tolerably close. We have seen that in Russia at Whitsuntide the villagers go out into the wood, fell a birch-tree, dress it in woman's clothes, and bring it back to the village with dance and song. On the third day it is thrown into the water.343 Again, we have seen that in Bohemia on Midsummer Eve the village lads fell a tall fir or pine-tree in the wood and set it up on a height, where it is adorned with garlands, nosegays, and ribbons, and afterwards burnt.344 The reason for burning the tree will appear afterwards; the custom itself is not uncommon in modern Europe. In some parts of the Pyrenees a tall and slender tree is cut down on May Day and kept till Midsummer Eve. It is then rolled to the top of a hill, set up, and burned.345 In Angoulême on St. Peter's Day, 29th June, a tall leafy poplar is set up in the market-place and burned.346 In Cornwall “there was formerly a great bonfire on midsummer-eve; a large summer pole was fixed in the centre, round which the fuel was heaped up. It had a large bush on the top of it.”347 In Dublin on May-morning boys used to go out and cut a May-bush, bring it back to town, and then burn it.348

[pg 102]

Probably the Boeotian festival belonged to the same class of rites. It represented the marriage of the powers of vegetation in spring or midsummer, just as the same event is represented in modern Europe by a King and Queen or a Lord and Lady of the May. In the Boeotian, as in the Russian, ceremony the tree dressed as a woman represents the English May-pole and May-queen in one. All such ceremonies, it must be remembered, are not, or at least were not originally, mere spectacular or dramatic exhibitions. They are magical charms designed to produce the effect which they dramatically represent. If the revival of vegetation in spring is represented by the awakening of a sleeper, the representation is intended actually to quicken the growth of leaves and blossoms; if the marriage of the powers of vegetation is represented by a King and Queen of May, the idea is that the powers so represented will really be rendered more productive by the ceremony. In short, all these spring and midsummer festivals fall under the head of sympathetic magic. The event which it is desired to bring about is represented dramatically, and the very representation is believed to effect, or at least to contribute to, the production of the desired event. In the case of the Daedala the story of Hera's quarrel with Zeus and her sullen retirement may perhaps without straining be interpreted as a mythical expression for a bad season and the failure of the crops. The same disastrous effects were attributed to the anger and seclusion of Demeter after the loss of her daughter Proserpine.349 Now the institution of a festival is often explained by a mythical story of the occurrence upon a particular occasion of those very calamities which it is the real [pg 103] object of the festival to avert; so that if we know the myth told to account for the historical origin of the festival, we can often infer from it the real intention with which the festival was celebrated. If, therefore, the origin of the Daedala was explained by a story of a failure of crops and consequent famine, we may infer that the real object of the festival was to prevent the occurrence of such disasters; and, if I am right in my interpretation of the festival, the object was supposed to be effected by a dramatic representation of the marriage of the divinities most concerned with the production of vegetation.350 The marriage of Zeus and Hera was dramatically represented at annual festivals in various parts of Greece,351 and it is at least a fair conjecture that the nature and intention of these ceremonies were such as I have assigned to the Plataean festival of the Daedala; in other words, that Zeus and Hera at these festivals were the Greek equivalents of the Lord and Lady of the May. Homer's glowing picture of Zeus and Hera couched on fresh hyacinths and crocuses,352 like Milton's description of the dalliance of Zephyr and Aurora, “as he met her once a-Maying,” was perhaps painted from the life.

Still more confidently may the same character be vindicated for the annual marriage at Athens of the [pg 104] Queen to Dionysus in the Flowery Month (Anthesterion) of spring.353 For Dionysus, as we shall see later on, was essentially a god of vegetation, and the Queen at Athens was a purely religious or priestly functionary.354 Therefore at their annual marriage in spring he can hardly have been anything but a King, and she a Queen, of May. The women who attended the Queen at the marriage ceremony would correspond to the bridesmaids who wait on the May-queen.355 Again, the story, dear to poets and artists, of the forsaken and sleeping Ariadne waked and wedded by Dionysus, resembles so closely the little drama acted by French peasants of the Alps on May Day356 that, considering the character of Dionysus as a god of vegetation, we can hardly help regarding it as the description of a spring ceremony corresponding to the French one. In point of fact the marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne is believed by Preller to have been acted every spring in Crete.357 His evidence, indeed, is inconclusive, but the view itself is probable. If I am right in instituting the comparison, the chief difference between the French and the Greek ceremonies must have been that in the former the sleeper was the forsaken bridegroom, in the latter the forsaken bride; and the group of stars in the sky, in which fancy saw Ariadne's wedding-crown,358 could only have been a translation to heaven of the garland worn by the Greek girl who played the Queen of May.

On the whole, alike from the analogy of modern [pg 105] folk-custom and from the facts of ancient ritual and mythology, we are justified in concluding that the archaic forms of tree-worship disclosed by the spring and midsummer festivals of our peasants were practised by the Greeks and Romans in prehistoric times. Do then these forms of tree-worship help to explain the priesthood of Aricia, the subject of our inquiry? I believe they do. In the first place the attributes of Diana, the goddess of the Arician grove, are those of a tree-spirit or sylvan deity. Her sanctuaries were in groves, indeed every grove was her sanctuary,359 and she is often associated with the wood-god Silvanus in inscriptions.360 Like a tree-spirit, she helped women in travail, and in this respect her reputation appears to have stood high at the Arician grove, if we may judge from the votive offerings found on the spot.361 Again, she was the patroness of wild animals;362 just as in Finland the wood-god Tapio was believed to care for the wild creatures that roamed the wood, they being considered his cattle.363 So, too, the Samogitians deemed the birds and beasts of the woods sacred, doubtless because they were under the protection of the god of the wood.364 Again, there are indications that domestic cattle were protected by Diana,365 as they certainly were supposed to be by Silvanus.366 But we have seen that special influence over cattle is ascribed to wood-spirits; in Finland the herds enjoyed the protection of the wood-gods both while they were [pg 106] in their stalls and while they strayed in the forest.367 Lastly, in the sacred spring which bubbled, and the perpetual fire which seems to have burned in the Arician grove,368 we may perhaps detect traces of other attributes of forest gods, the power, namely, to make the rain to fall and the sun to shine.369 This last attribute perhaps explains why Virbius, the companion deity of Diana at Nemi, was by some believed to be the sun.370

Thus the cult of the Arician grove was essentially that of a tree-spirit or wood deity. But our examination of European folk-custom demonstrated that a tree-spirit is frequently represented by a living person, who is regarded as an embodiment of the tree-spirit and possessed of its fertilising powers; and our previous survey of primitive belief proved that this conception of a god incarnate in a living man is common among rude races. Further we have seen that the living person who is believed to embody in himself the tree-spirit is often called a king, in which respect, again, he strictly represents the tree-spirit. For the sacred cedar of the Gilgit tribes is called, as we have seen, “the Dreadful King”;371 and the chief forest god of the Finns, by name Tapio, represented as an old man with a brown beard, a high hat of fir-cones and a coat of tree-moss, was styled the Wood King, Lord of the Woodland, Golden King of the Wood.372 May not then the King of the Wood in the Arician grove have been, like the King of May, the Grass King, and the like, an incarnation of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation? His title, his sacred [pg 107] office, and his residence in the grove all point to this conclusion, which is confirmed by his relation to the Golden Bough. For since the King of the Wood could only be assailed by him who had plucked the Golden Bough, his life was safe from assault so long as the bough or the tree on which it grew remained uninjured. In a sense, therefore, his life was bound up with that of the tree; and thus to some extent he stood to the tree in the same relation in which the incorporate or immanent tree-spirit stands to it. The representation of the tree-spirit both by the King of the Wood and by the Golden Bough (for it will hardly be disputed that the Golden Bough was looked upon as a very special manifestation of the divine life of the grove) need not surprise us, since we have found that the tree-spirit is not unfrequently thus represented in double, first by a tree or a bough, and second by a living person.

On the whole then, if we consider his double character as king and priest, his relation to the Golden Bough, and the strictly woodland character of the divinity of the grove, we may provisionally assume that the King of the Wood, like the May King and his congeners of Northern Europe, was deemed a living incarnation of the tree-spirit. As such he would be credited with those miraculous powers of sending rain and sunshine, making the crops to grow, women to bring forth, and flocks and herds to multiply, which are popularly ascribed to the tree-spirit itself. The reputed possessor of powers so exalted must have been a very important personage, and in point of fact his influence appears to have extended far and wide. For373 in the days when the champaign country around was [pg 108] still parcelled out among the petty tribes who composed the Latin League, the sacred grove on the Alban Mountain is known to have been an object of their common reverence and care. And just as the kings of Cambodia used to send offerings to the mystic Kings of Fire and Water far in the dim depths of the tropical forest, so, we may well believe, from all sides of the broad Latian plain the eyes and steps of Italian pilgrims turned to the quarter where, standing sharply out against the faint blue line of the Apennines or the deeper blue of the distant sea, the Alban Mountain rose before them, the home of the mysterious priest of Nemi, the King of the Wood.

[pg 109]

Chapter II. The Perils Of The Soul.

O liebe flüchtige Seele
Dir ist so bang und weh!

Heine.

§ 1.—Royal and priestly taboos.

In the preceding chapter we saw that in early society the king or priest is often thought to be endowed with supernatural powers or to be an incarnation of a deity; in consequence of which the course of nature is supposed to be more or less under his control, and he is held responsible for bad weather, failure of the crops, and similar calamities. Thus far it appears to be assumed that the king's power over nature, like that over his subjects and slaves, is exerted through definite acts of will; and therefore if drought, famine, pestilence, or storms arise, the people attribute the misfortune to the negligence or guilt of their king, and punish him accordingly with stripes and bonds, or, if he remains obdurate, with deposition and death. Sometimes, however, the course of nature, while regarded as dependent on the king, is supposed to be partly independent of his will. His person is considered, if we may express it so, as the [pg 110] dynamical centre of the universe, from which lines of force radiate to all quarters of the heaven; so that any motion of his—the turning of his head, the lifting of his hand—instantaneously affects and may seriously disturb some part of nature. He is the point of support on which hangs the balance of the world; and the slightest irregularity on his part may overthrow the delicate equipoise. The greatest care must, therefore, be taken both by and of him; and his whole life, down to its minutest details, must be so regulated that no act of his, voluntary or involuntary, may disarrange or upset the established order of nature. Of this class of monarchs the Mikado or Dairi, the spiritual emperor of Japan, is a typical example. He is an incarnation of the sun goddess, the deity who rules the universe, gods and men included; once a year all the gods wait upon him and spend a month at his court. During that month, the name of which means “without gods,” no one frequents the temples, for they are believed to be deserted.374

The following description of the Mikado's mode of life was written about two hundred years ago:375

“Even to this day the princes descended of this family, more particularly those who sit on the throne, are looked upon as persons most holy in themselves, and as Popes by birth. And, in order to preserve these advantageous notions in the minds of their subjects, they are obliged to take an uncommon care of their sacred persons, and to do such things, which, examined according to the customs of other nations, [pg 111] would be thought ridiculous and impertinent. It will not be improper to give a few instances of it. He thinks that it would be very prejudicial to his dignity and holiness to touch the ground with his feet; for this reason, when he intends to go anywhere, he must be carried thither on men's shoulders. Much less will they suffer that he should expose his sacred person to the open air, and the sun is not thought worthy to shine on his head. There is such a holiness ascribed to all the parts of his body, that he dares to cut off neither his hair, nor his beard, nor his nails. However, lest he should grow too dirty, they may clean him in the night when he is asleep; because, they say, that which is taken from his body at that time hath been stolen from him, and that such a theft doth not prejudice his holiness or dignity. In ancient times, he was obliged to sit on the throne for some hours every morning, with the imperial crown on his head, but to sit altogether like a statue, without stirring either hands or feet, head or eyes, nor indeed any part of his body, because, by this means, it was thought that he could preserve peace and tranquillity in his empire; for if, unfortunately, he turned himself on one side or the other, or if he looked a good while towards any part of his dominions, it was apprehended that war, famine, fire, or some great misfortune was near at hand to desolate the country. But it having been afterwards discovered that the imperial crown was the palladium which by its mobility could preserve peace in the empire, it was thought expedient to deliver his imperial person, consecrated only to idleness and pleasures, from this burthensome duty, and therefore the crown is at present placed on the throne for some hours every morning. His victuals must be dressed [pg 112] every time in new pots, and served at table in new dishes: both are very clean and neat, but made only of common clay; that without any considerable expense they may be laid aside, or broken, after they have served once. They are generally broke, for fear they should come into the hands of laymen, for they believe religiously that if any layman should presume to eat his food out of these sacred dishes, it would swell and inflame his mouth and throat. The like ill effect is dreaded from the Dairi's sacred habits; for they believe that if a layman should wear them, without the Emperor's express leave or command, they would occasion swellings and pains in all parts of his body.” To the same effect an earlier account of the Mikado says: “It was considered as a shameful degradation for him even to touch the ground with his foot. The sun and moon were not even permitted to shine upon his head. None of the superfluities of the body were ever taken from him, neither his hair, his beard, nor his nails were cut. Whatever he eat was dressed in new vessels.”376

Similar priestly or rather divine kings are found, at a lower level of barbarism, on the west coast of Africa. At Shark Point near Cape Padron, in Lower Guinea, lives the priestly king Kukulu, alone in a wood. He may not touch a woman nor leave his house; indeed he may not even quit his chair, in which he is obliged to sleep sitting, for if he lay down no wind would arise and navigation would be stopped. He regulates storms, and in general maintains a wholesome and [pg 113] equable state of the atmosphere.377 In the kingdom of Congo (West Africa) there was a supreme pontiff called Chitomé or Chitombé, whom the negroes regarded as a god on earth and all powerful in heaven. Hence before they would taste the new crops they offered him the first-fruits, fearing that manifold misfortunes would befall them if they broke this rule. When he left his residence to visit other places within his jurisdiction, all married people had to observe strict continence the whole time he was out; for it was supposed that any act of incontinence would prove fatal to him. And if he were to die a natural death, they thought that the world would perish, and the earth, which he alone sustained by his power and merit, would immediately be annihilated.378 Amongst the semi-barbarous nations of the New World, at the date of the Spanish conquest, there were found hierarchies or theocracies like those of Japan. Some of these we have already noticed.379 But the high pontiff of the Zapotecs in Southern Mexico appears to have presented a still closer parallel to the Mikado. A powerful rival to the king himself, this spiritual lord governed Yopaa, one of the chief cities of the kingdom, with absolute dominion. It is impossible, we are told, to over-rate the reverence in which he was held. He was looked on as a god whom the earth was not worthy to hold nor the sun to shine upon. He profaned his sanctity if he even touched the ground with his foot. The officers who bore his palanquin on their shoulders were members of the highest families; he hardly deigned to look on anything [pg 114] around him; and all who met him fell with their faces to the earth, fearing that death would overtake them if they saw even his shadow. A rule of continence was regularly imposed on the Zapotec priests, especially upon the high pontiff; but “on certain days in each year, which were generally celebrated with feasts and dances, it was customary for the high priest to become drunk. While in this state, seeming to belong neither to heaven nor to earth, one of the most beautiful of the virgins consecrated to the service of the gods was brought to him.” If the child she bore him was a son, he was brought up as a prince of the blood, and the eldest son succeeded his father on the pontifical throne.380 The supernatural powers attributed to this pontiff are not specified, but probably they resembled those of the Mikado and Chitomé.

Wherever, as in Japan and West Africa, it is supposed that the order of nature, and even the existence of the world, is bound up with the life of the king or priest, it is clear that he must be regarded by his subjects as a source both of infinite blessing and of infinite danger. On the one hand, the people have to thank him for the rain and sunshine which foster the fruits of the earth, for the wind which brings ships to their coasts, and even for the existence of the earth beneath their feet. But what he gives he can refuse; and so close is the dependence of nature on his person, so delicate the balance of the system of forces whereof he is the centre, that the slightest irregularity on his part may set up a tremor which shall shake the earth to its foundations. And [pg 115] if nature may be disturbed by the slightest involuntary act of the king, it is easy to conceive the convulsion which his death might occasion. The death of the Chitomé, as we have seen, was thought to entail the destruction of the world. Clearly, therefore, out of a regard for their own safety, which might be imperilled by any rash act of the king, and still more by his death, the people will exact of their king or priest a strict conformity to those rules, the observance of which is necessary for his own preservation, and consequently for the preservation of his people and the world. The idea that early kingdoms are despotisms in which the people exist only for the sovereign, is wholly inapplicable to the monarchies we are considering. On the contrary, the sovereign in them exists only for his subjects; his life is only valuable so long as he discharges the duties of his position by ordering the course of nature for his people's benefit. So soon as he fails to do so the care, the devotion, the religious homage which they had hitherto lavished on him, cease and are changed into hatred and contempt; he is dismissed ignominiously, and may be thankful if he escapes with his life. Worshipped as a god by them one day, he is killed by them as a criminal the next. But in this changed behaviour of the people there is nothing capricious or inconsistent. On the contrary, their conduct is entirely of a piece. If their king is their god, he is or should be also their preserver; and if he will not preserve them, he must make room for another who will. So long, however, as he answers their expectations, there is no limit to the care which they take of him, and which they compel him to take of himself. A king of this sort lives hedged in by a ceremonious [pg 116] etiquette, a network of prohibitions and observances, of which the intention is not to contribute to his dignity, much less to his comfort, but to restrain him from conduct which, by disturbing the harmony of nature, might involve himself, his people, and the universe in one common catastrophe. Far from adding to his comfort, these observances, by trammelling his every act, annihilate his freedom and often render the very life, which it is their object to preserve, a burden and sorrow to him.

Of the supernaturally endowed kings of Loango it is said that the more powerful a king is, the more taboos is he bound to observe; they regulate all his actions, his walking and his standing, his eating and drinking, his sleeping and waking.381 To these restraints the heir to the throne is subject from infancy; but as he advances in life the number of abstinences and ceremonies which he must observe increases, “until at the moment that he ascends the throne he is lost in the ocean of rites and taboos.”382 The kings of Egypt, as we have seen,383 were worshipped as gods, and the routine of their daily life was regulated in every detail by precise and unvarying rules. “The life of the kings of Egypt,” says Diodorus,384 “was not like that of other monarchs who are irresponsible and may do just what they choose; on the contrary, everything was fixed for them by law, not only their official duties, but even the details of their daily life.... The hours both of day and night were arranged at which the king had to do, not what he pleased, but what was prescribed for him.... For not only were the times [pg 117] appointed at which he should transact public business or sit in judgment; but the very hours for his walking and bathing and sleeping with his wife, and, in short, performing every act of life, were all settled. Custom enjoined a simple diet; the only flesh he might eat was veal and goose, and he might only drink a prescribed quantity of wine.” Of the taboos imposed on priests, the rules of life observed by the Flamen Dialis at Rome furnish a striking example. As the worship of Virbius at Nemi was conducted, as we have seen,385 by a Flamen, who may possibly have been the King of the Wood himself, and whose mode of life may have resembled that of the Roman Flamen, these rules have a special interest for us. They were such as the following: The Flamen Dialis might not ride or even touch a horse, nor see an army under arms, nor wear a ring which was not broken, nor have a knot on any part of his garments; no fire except a sacred fire might be taken out of his house; he might not touch wheaten flour or leavened bread; he might not touch or even name a goat, a dog, raw meat, beans, and ivy; he might not walk under a vine; the feet of his bed had to be daubed with mud; his hair could be cut only by a free man and with a bronze knife, and his hair and nails when cut had to be buried under a lucky tree; he might not touch a dead body nor enter a place where one was burned; he might not see work being done on holy days; he might not be uncovered in the open air; if a man in bonds were taken into his house, he had to be unbound and the cords had to be drawn up through a hole in the roof and so let down into the street. His wife, the Flaminica, had to observe nearly the same rules, and others of her own [pg 118] besides. She might not ascend more than three steps of the kind of staircase called Greek; at a certain festival she might not comb her hair; the leather of her shoes might not be made from a beast that had died a natural death, but only from one that had been slain or sacrificed; if she heard thunder she was tabooed till she had offered an expiatory sacrifice.386

The burdensome observances attached to the royal or priestly office produced their natural effect. Either men refused to accept the office, which hence tended to fall into abeyance; or accepting it, they sank under its weight into spiritless creatures, cloistered recluses, from whose nerveless fingers the reigns of government slipped into the firmer grasp of men who were often content to wield the reality of sovereignty without its name. In some countries this rift in the supreme power deepened into a total and permanent separation of the spiritual and temporal powers, the old royal house retaining their purely religious functions, while the civil government passed into the hands of a younger and more vigorous race.

To take examples. We saw387 that in Cambodia it is often necessary to force the kingships of Fire and Water upon the reluctant successors, and that in Savage Island the monarchy actually came to an end because at last no one could be induced to accept the dangerous distinction.388 In some parts of West Africa, when the king dies, a family council is secretly held to determine his successor. He on whom the choice falls is suddenly seized, bound, and [pg 119] thrown into the fetish-house, where he is kept in durance till he consents to accept the crown. Sometimes the heir finds means of evading the honour which it is sought to thrust upon him; a ferocious chief has been known to go about constantly armed, resolute to resist by force any attempt to set him on the throne.389 The Mikados of Japan seem early to have resorted to the expedient of transferring the honours and burdens of supreme power to their infant children; and the rise of the Tycoons, long the temporal sovereigns of the country, is traced to the abdication of a certain Mikado in favour of his three-year-old son. The sovereignty having been wrested by a usurper from the infant prince, the cause of the Mikado was championed by Yoritomo, a man of spirit and conduct, who overthrew the usurper and restored to the Mikado the shadow, while he retained for himself the substance, of power. He bequeathed to his descendants the dignity he had won, and thus became the founder of the line of Tycoons. Down to the latter half of the sixteenth century the Tycoons were active and efficient rulers; but the same fate overtook them which had befallen the Mikados; entangled in the same inextricable web of custom and law, they degenerated into mere puppets, hardly stirring from their palaces and occupied in a perpetual round of empty ceremonies, while the real business of government was managed by the council of state.390 In Tonquin the monarchy ran a similar course. Living like his predecessors in effeminacy and sloth, the king was driven from the throne by an ambitious adventurer named Mack, who from a fisherman had risen to be [pg 120] Grand Mandarin. But the king's brother Tring put down the usurper and restored the king, retaining, however, for himself and his descendants the dignity of general of all the forces. Thenceforward the kings or dovas, though vested with the title and pomp of sovereignty, ceased to govern. While they lived secluded in their palaces, all real political power was wielded by the hereditary generals or chovas.391 The custom regularly observed by the Tahitian kings of abdicating on the birth of a son, who was immediately proclaimed sovereign and received his father's homage, may perhaps have originated, like the similar custom occasionally practised by the Mikados, in a wish to shift to other shoulders the irksome burden of royalty; for in Tahiti as elsewhere the sovereign was subjected to a system of vexatious restrictions.392 In Mangaia, another Polynesian island, religious and civil authority were lodged in separate hands, spiritual functions being discharged by a line of hereditary kings, while the temporal government was entrusted from time to time to a victorious war-chief, whose investiture, however, had to be completed by the king. To the latter were assigned the best lands, and he received daily offerings of the choicest food.393 American examples of the partition of authority between an emperor and a pope have already been cited from the early history of Mexico and Colombia.394

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§ 2.—The nature of the soul.

But if the object of the taboos observed by a divine king or priest is to preserve his life, the question arises, How is their observance supposed to effect this end? To understand this we must know the nature of the danger which threatens the king's life, and which it is the intention of the taboos to guard against. We must, therefore, ask: What does early man understand by death? To what causes does he attribute it? And how does he think it may be guarded against?

As the savage commonly explains the processes of inanimate nature by supposing that they are produced by living beings working in or behind the phenomena, so he explains the phenomena of life itself. If an animal lives and moves, it can only be, he thinks, because there is a little animal inside which moves it. If a man lives and moves, it can only be because he has a little man inside who moves him. The animal inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. And as the activity of an animal or man is explained by the presence of the soul, so the repose of sleep or death is explained by its absence; sleep or trance being the temporary, death being the permanent absence of the soul. Hence if death be the permanent absence of the soul, the way to guard against it is either to prevent the soul from leaving the body, or, if it does depart, to secure that it shall return. The precautions adopted by savages to secure one or other of these ends take the form of prohibitions or taboos, which are nothing but rules intended to ensure either the continued presence or the return of the soul. In short, they are life-preservers or life-guards. [pg 122] These general statements will now be illustrated by examples.

Addressing some Australian blacks, a European missionary said, “I am not one, as you think, but two.” Upon this they laughed. “You may laugh as much as you like,” continued the missionary, “I tell you that I am two in one; this great body that you see is one; within that there is another little one which is not visible. The great body dies, and is buried, but the little body flies away when the great one dies.” To this some of the blacks replied, “Yes, yes. We also are two, we also have a little body within the breast.” On being asked where the little body went after death, some said it went behind the bush, others said it went into the sea, and some said they did not know.395 The Hurons thought that the soul had a head and body, arms and legs; in short, that it was a complete little model of the man himself.396 The Eskimos believe that “the soul exhibits the same shape as the body it belongs to, but is of a more subtle and ethereal nature.”397 So exact is the resemblance of the mannikin to the man, in other words, of the soul to the body, that, as there are fat bodies and thin bodies, so there are fat souls and thin souls;398 as there are heavy bodies and light bodies, long bodies and short bodies, so there are heavy souls and light souls, long souls and short souls. The people of Nias (an island to the west of Sumatra) think that every man, before he is born, is asked how long or how heavy a soul he would like, and a soul of the desired weight or length is measured out to him. [pg 123] The heaviest soul ever given out weighs about ten grammes. The length of a man's life is proportioned to the length of his soul; children who die young had short souls.399 Sometimes, however, as we shall see, the human soul is conceived not in human but in animal form.

The soul is commonly supposed to escape by the natural openings of the body, especially the mouth and nostrils. Hence in Celebes they sometimes fasten fish-hooks to a sick man's nose, navel, and feet, so that if his soul should try to escape it may be hooked and held fast.400 One of the “properties” of a Haida medicine-man is a hollow bone, in which he bottles up departing souls, and so restores them to their owners.401 The Marquesans used to hold the mouth and nose of a dying man, in order to keep him in life, by preventing his soul from escaping.402 When any one yawns in their presence the Hindus always snap their thumbs, believing that this will hinder the soul from issuing through the open mouth.403 The Itonamas in South America seal up the eyes, nose, and mouth of a dying person, in case his ghost should get out and carry off other people.404 In Southern Celebes, to prevent the escape of a woman's soul at childbirth, the nurse ties a band as tightly as possible round the body of the expectant mother.405 And lest the soul of the babe should [pg 124] escape and be lost as soon as it is born, the Alfoers of Celebes, when a birth is about to take place, are careful to close every opening in the house, even the keyhole; and they stop up every chink and cranny in the walls. Also they tie up the mouths of all animals inside and outside the house, for fear one of them might swallow the child's soul. For a similar reason all persons present in the house, even the mother herself, are obliged to keep their mouths shut the whole time the birth is taking place. When the question was put, Why they did not hold their noses also, lest the child's soul should get into one of them? the answer was that breath being exhaled as well as inhaled through the nostrils, the soul would be expelled before it could have time to settle down.406

Often the soul is conceived as a bird ready to take flight. This conception has probably left traces in most languages,407 and it lingers as a metaphor in poetry. But what is metaphor to a modern European poet was sober earnest to his savage ancestor, and is still so to many people. The Malays carry out the conception in question to its practical conclusion. If the soul is a bird on the wing, it may be attracted by rice, and so prevented from taking its perilous flight. Thus in Java when a child is placed on the ground for the first time (a moment which uncultured people seem to regard as especially dangerous), it is put in a hen-coop and the mother makes a clucking sound, as if she were calling hens.408 Amongst the Battas of Sumatra, when a man returns from a dangerous enterprise, grains of rice are placed on his head, and these grains are [pg 125] called padiruma tondi, that is, “means to make the soul (tondi) stay at home.” In Java also rice is placed on the head of persons who have escaped a great danger or have returned home unexpectedly after it had been supposed that they were lost.409 In Celebes they think that a bridegroom's soul is apt to fly away at marriage, so coloured rice is scattered over him to induce it to stay. And, in general, at festivals in South Celebes rice is strewed on the head of the person in whose honour the festival is held, with the object of detaining his soul, which at such times is in especial danger of being lured away by envious demons.410

The soul of a sleeper is supposed to wander away from his body and actually to visit the very places of which he dreams. But this absence of the soul has its dangers, for if from any cause it should be permanently detained away from the body, the person, deprived of his soul, must die.411 Many causes may detain the sleeper's soul. Thus, his soul may meet the soul of another sleeper and the two souls may fight; if a Guinea negro wakens with sore bones in the morning, he thinks that his soul has been thrashed by another soul in sleep.412 Or it may meet the soul of a person just deceased and be carried off by it; hence in the Aru Islands the inmates of a house will not sleep the night after a death has taken place in it, because the soul of the deceased is supposed to be still in the house [pg 126] and they fear to meet it in a dream.413 Again, the soul may be prevented by physical force from returning. The Santals tell how a man fell asleep, and growing very thirsty, his soul, in the form of a lizard, left his body and entered a pitcher of water to drink. Just then the owner of the pitcher happened to cover it; so the soul could not return to the body and the man died. While his friends were preparing to burn the body some one uncovered the pitcher to get water. The lizard thus escaped and returned to the body, which immediately revived; so the man rose up and asked his friends why they were weeping. They told him they thought he was dead and were about to burn his body. He said he had been down a well to get water but had found it hard to get out and had just returned. So they saw it all.414 A similar story is reported from Transylvania as follows. In the account of a witch's trial at Mühlbach last century it is said that a woman had engaged two men to work in her vineyard. After noon they all lay down to rest as usual. An hour later the men got up and tried to waken the woman, but could not. She lay motionless with her mouth wide open. They came back at sunset and still she lay like a corpse. Just at that moment a big fly came buzzing past, which one of the men caught and shut up in his leathern pouch. Then they tried again to waken the woman but could not. Afterwards they let out the fly; it flew straight into the woman's mouth and she awoke. On seeing [pg 127] this the men had no further doubt that she was a witch.415

It is a common rule with primitive people not to waken a sleeper, because his soul is away and might not have time to get back; so if the man wakened without his soul, he would fall sick. If it is absolutely necessary to waken a sleeper, it must be done very gradually, to allow the soul time to return.416 In Bombay it is thought equivalent to murder to change the appearance of a sleeper, as by painting his face in fantastic colours or giving moustaches to a sleeping woman. For when the soul returns, it will not be able to recognise its body and the person will die.417 The Servians believe that the soul of a sleeping witch often leaves her body in the form of a butterfly. If during its absence her body be turned round, so that her feet are placed where her head was before, the butterfly soul will not find its way back into her body through the mouth, and the witch will die.418

But in order that a man's soul should quit his body, it is not necessary that he should be asleep. [pg 128] It may quit him in his waking hours, and then sickness or (if the absence is prolonged) death will be the result. Thus the Mongols sometimes explain sickness by supposing that the patient's soul is absent, and either does not care to return to its body or cannot find the way back. To secure the return of the soul it is therefore necessary on the one hand to make its body as attractive as possible, and on the other hand to show it the way home. To make the body attractive all the sick man's best clothes and most valued possessions are placed beside him; he is washed, incensed, and made as comfortable as possible; and all his friends march thrice round the hut calling out the sick man's name and coaxing his soul to return. To help the soul to find its way back a coloured cord is stretched from the patient's head to the door of the hut. The priest in his robes reads a list of the horrors of hell and the dangers incurred by souls which wilfully absent themselves from their bodies. Then turning to the assembled friends and the patient he asks, “Is it come?” All answer Yes, and bowing to the returning soul throw seed over the sick man. The cord which guided the soul back is then rolled up and placed round the patient's neck, who must wear it for seven days without taking it off. No one may frighten or hurt him, lest his soul, not yet familiar with its body, should again take flight.419 In an Indian story a king conveys his soul into the dead body of a Brahman, and a hunchback conveys his soul into the deserted body of the king. The hunchback is now king and the king is a Brahman. However, [pg 129] the hunchback is induced to show his skill by transferring his soul to the dead body of a parrot, and the king seizes the opportunity to regain possession of his own body.420 In another Indian story a Brahman reanimates the dead body of a king by conveying his own soul into it. Meantime the Brahman's body has been burnt, and his soul is obliged to remain in the body of the king.421

The departure of the soul is not always voluntary. It may be extracted from the body against its will by ghosts, demons, or sorcerers. Hence, when a funeral is passing the house, the Karens of Burma tie their children with a special kind of string to a particular part of the house, in case the souls of the children should leave their bodies and go into the corpse which is passing. The children are kept tied in this way until the corpse is out of sight.422 And after the corpse has been laid in the grave, but before the earth has been filled in, the mourners and friends range themselves round the grave, each with a bamboo split lengthwise in one hand and a little stick in the other; each man thrusts his bamboo into the grave, and drawing the stick along the groove of the bamboo points out to his soul that in this way it may easily climb up out of the grave. While the earth is being filled in, the bamboos are kept out of the way, lest the souls should be in them, and so should be inadvertently buried with the earth as it is being thrown into the grave; and when the people leave the spot they carry away the bamboos, begging their souls to come with [pg 130] them.423 Further, on returning from the grave each Karen provides himself with three little hooks made of branches of trees, and calling his spirit to follow him, at short intervals, as he returns, he makes a motion as if hooking it, and then thrusts the hook into the ground. This is done to prevent the soul of the living from staying behind with the soul of the dead.424 When a mother dies leaving a young baby, the Burmese think that the “butterfly” or soul of the baby follows that of the mother, and that if it is not recovered the child must die. So a wise woman is called in to get back the baby's soul. She places a mirror near the corpse, and on the mirror a piece of feathery cotton down. Holding a cloth in her open hands at the foot of the mirror, she with wild words entreats the mother not to take with her the “butterfly” or soul of her child, but to send it back. As the gossamer down slips from the face of the mirror she catches it in the cloth and tenderly places it on the baby's breast. The same ceremony is sometimes observed when one of two children that have played together dies, and is thought to be luring away the soul of its playmate to the spirit-land. It is sometimes performed also for a bereaved husband or wife.425 In the Island of Keisar (East Indies) it is thought imprudent to go near a grave at night, lest the ghosts should catch and keep the soul of the passer-by.426 The Key Islanders believe that the souls of their forefathers, angry at not receiving food, make people sick by detaining their souls. So they lay offerings of food [pg 131] on the grave and beg their ancestors to allow the soul of the sick to return or to drive it home speedily if it should be lingering by the way.427

In Bolang Mongondo, a district in the west of Celebes, all sickness is ascribed to the ancestral spirits who have carried off the patient's soul. The object therefore is to bring back the patient's soul and restore it to the sufferer. An eye-witness has thus described the attempted cure of a sick boy. The priestesses, who acted as physicians, made a doll of cloth and fastened it to the point of a spear, which an old woman held upright. Round this doll the priestesses danced, uttering charms, and chirruping as when one calls a dog. Then the old woman lowered the point of the spear a little, so that the priestesses could reach the doll. By this time the soul of the sick boy was supposed to be in the doll, having been brought into it by the incantations. So the priestesses approached it cautiously on tiptoe and caught the soul in the many-coloured cloths which they had been waving in the air. Then they laid the soul on the boy's head, that is, they wrapped his head in the cloth in which the soul was supposed to be, and stood still for some moments with great gravity, holding their hands on the patient's head. Suddenly there was a jerk, the priestesses whispered and shook their heads, and the cloth was taken off—the soul had escaped. The priestesses gave chase to it, running round and round the house, clucking and gesticulating as if they were driving hens into a poultry-yard. At last they recaptured the soul at the foot of the stair and restored it to its owner as before.428 Much in the same way an Australian [pg 132] medicine-man will sometimes bring the lost soul of a sick man into a puppet and restore it to the patient by pressing the puppet to his breast.429 In Uea, one of the Loyalty Islands, the souls of the dead seem to have been credited with the power of stealing the souls of the living. For when a man was sick the soul-doctor would go with a large troop of men and women to the graveyard. Here the men played on flutes and the women whistled softly to lure the soul home. After this had gone on for some time they formed in procession and moved homewards, the flutes playing and the women whistling all the way, leading back the wandering soul and driving it gently along with open palms. On entering the patient's dwelling they commanded the soul in a loud voice to enter his body.430 In Madagascar, when a sick man had lost his soul, his friends went to the family tomb, and making a hole in it, begged the soul of the patient's father to give them a soul for his son, who had none. So saying they clapped a bonnet on the hole, and folding up the soul in the bonnet, brought it to the patient, who put the bonnet on his head, and thus received a new soul or got back his old one.431

Often the abduction of a man's soul is set down to demons. The Annamites believe that when a man meets a demon and speaks to him, the demon inhales the man's breath and soul.432 When a Dyak is about to leave a forest through which he has been walking alone, he never forgets to ask the demons to give him back his soul, for it may be that some forest-devil has [pg 133] carried it off. For the abduction of a soul may take place without its owner being aware of his loss, and it may happen either while he is awake or asleep.433 In the Moluccas when a man is unwell it is thought that some devil has carried away his soul to the tree, mountain, or hill where he (the devil) dwells. A sorcerer having pointed out the devil's abode, the friends of the patient carry thither cooked rice, fruit, fish, raw eggs, a hen, a chicken, a silken robe, gold, armlets, etc. Having set out the food in order they pray, saying: “We come to offer to you, O devil, this offering of food, clothes, gold, etc.; take it and release the soul of the patient for whom we pray. Let it return to his body and he who now is sick shall be made whole.” Then they eat a little and let the hen loose as a ransom for the soul of the patient; also they put down the raw eggs; but the silken robe, the gold, and the armlets they take home with them. As soon as they are come to the house they place a flat bowl containing the offerings which have been brought back at the sick man's head, and say to him: “Now is your soul released, and you shall fare well and live to gray hairs on the earth.”434 A more modern account from the same region describes how the friend of the patient, after depositing his offerings on the spot where the missing soul is supposed to be, calls out thrice the name of the sick person, adding, “Come with me, come with me.” Then he returns, making a motion with a cloth as if he had caught the soul in it. He must not look to right or left or speak a word to any one he meets, but must go straight to the patient's house. At the door he stands, and calling out the sick [pg 134] person's name, asks whether he is returned. Being answered from within that he is returned, he enters and lays the cloth in which he has caught the soul on the patient's throat, saying, “Now you are returned to the house.” Sometimes a substitute is provided; a doll, dressed up in gay clothing and tinsel, is offered to the demon in exchange for the patient's soul with these words, “Give us back the ugly one which you have taken away and receive this pretty one instead.”435 Similarly the Mongols make up a horse of birch-bark and a doll, and invite the demon to take the doll instead of the patient and to ride away on the horse.436

Demons are especially feared by persons who have just entered on a new house. Hence at a house-warming among the Alfoers of Celebes the priest performs a ceremony for the purpose of restoring their souls to the inmates. He hangs up a bag at the place of sacrifice and then goes through a list of the gods. There are so many of them that this takes him the whole night through without stopping. In the morning he offers the gods an egg and some rice. By this time the souls of the household are supposed to be gathered in the bag. So the priest takes the bag, and holding it on the head of the master of the house says, “Here you have your soul—go (soul) to-morrow away again.” He then does the same, saying the same words, to the housewife and all the other members of the family.437 Amongst the same Alfoers one way of [pg 135] recovering a sick man's soul is to let down a bowl by a belt out of a window and fish for the soul till it is caught in the bowl and hauled up.438 Among the same people, when a priest is bringing back a sick man's soul which he has caught in a cloth, he is preceded by a girl holding the large leaf of a certain palm over his head as an umbrella to keep him and the soul from getting wet, in case it should rain; and he is followed by a man brandishing a sword to deter other souls from any attempt at rescuing the captured soul.439

The Samoans tell how two young wizards, passing a house where a chief lay very sick, saw a company of gods from the mountain sitting in the doorway. They were handing from one to another the soul of the dying chief. It was wrapped in a leaf, and had been passed from the gods inside the house to those sitting in the doorway. One of the gods handed the soul to one of the wizards, taking him for a god in the dark, for it was night. Then all the gods rose up and went away; but the wizard kept the chief's soul. In the morning some women went with a present of fine mats to fetch a famous physician. The wizards were sitting on the shore as the women passed, and they said to the women, “Give us the mats and we will heal him.” So they went to the chief's house. He was very ill, his jaw hung down, and his end seemed near. But the wizards undid the leaf and let the soul into him again, and forthwith he brightened up and lived.440

The Battas of Sumatra believe that the soul of a [pg 136] living man may transmigrate into the body of an animal. Hence, for example, the doctor is sometimes desired to extract the patient's soul from the body of a fowl, in which it has been hidden away by an evil spirit.441

Sometimes the lost soul is brought back in a visible shape. In Melanesia a woman knowing that a neighbour was at the point of death heard a rustling in her house, as of a moth fluttering, just at the moment when a noise of weeping and lamentation told her that the soul was flown. She caught the fluttering thing between her hands and ran with it, crying out that she had caught the soul. But though she opened her hands above the mouth of the corpse, it did not revive.442 The Salish or Flathead Indians of Oregon believe that a man's soul may be separated for a time from his body without causing death and without the man being aware of his loss. It is necessary, however, that the lost soul should be soon found and restored to the man or he will die. The name of the man who has lost his soul is revealed in a dream to the medicine-man, who hastens to inform the sufferer of his loss. Generally a number of men have sustained a like loss at the same time; all their names are revealed to the medicine-man, and all employ him to recover their souls. The whole night long these soulless men go about the village from lodge to lodge, dancing and singing. Towards daybreak they go into a separate lodge, which is closed up so as to be [pg 137] totally dark. A small hole is then made in the roof, through which the medicine-man, with a bunch of feathers, brushes in the souls, in the shape of bits of bone and the like, which he receives on a piece of matting. A fire is next kindled, by the light of which the medicine-man sorts out the souls. First he puts aside the souls of dead people, of which there are usually several; for if he were to give the soul of a dead person to a living man, the man would die instantly. Next he picks out the souls of all the persons present, and making them all to sit down before him, he takes the soul of each, in the shape of a splinter of bone, wood, or shell, and placing it on the owner's head, pats it with many prayers and contortions till it descends into the heart and so resumes its proper place.443 In Amboina the sorcerer, to recover a soul detained by demons, plucks a branch from a tree, and waving it to and fro as if to catch something, calls out the sick man's name. Returning he strikes the patient over the head and body with the branch, into which the lost soul is supposed to have passed, and from which it returns to the patient.444 In the Babar Islands offerings for evil spirits are laid at the root of a great tree (wokiorai), from which a leaf is plucked and pressed on the patient's forehead and breast; the lost soul, which is in the leaf, is thus restored to its owner.445 In some other islands of the same seas, when a man returns ill and speechless from the forest, it is inferred that the evil spirits which dwell in the great trees have caught and kept his [pg 138] soul. Offerings of food are therefore left under a tree and the soul is brought home in a piece of wax.446 Amongst the Dyaks of Sarawak the priest conjures the lost soul into a cup, where it is seen by the uninitiated as a lock of hair, but by the initiated as a miniature human being. This is supposed to be thrust by the priest into a hole in the top of the patient's head.447 In Nias the sick man's soul is restored to him in the shape of a firefly, visible only to the sorcerer, who catches it in a cloth and places it on the forehead of the patient.448

Again, souls may be extracted from their bodies or detained on their wanderings not only by ghosts and demons but also by men, especially by sorcerers. In Fiji if a criminal refused to confess, the chief sent for a scarf with which “to catch away the soul of the rogue.” At the sight, or even at the mention of the scarf the culprit generally made a clean breast. For if he did not, the scarf would be waved over his head till his soul was caught in it, when it would be carefully folded up and nailed to the end of a chief's canoe; and for want of his soul the criminal would pine and die.449 The sorcerers of Danger Island used to set snares for souls. The snares were made of stout cinet, about fifteen to thirty feet long, with loops on either side of different sizes, to suit the different sizes of souls; for fat souls there were large loops, for thin souls there were small ones. When a man was sick against whom the sorcerers had a grudge, they set up these soul-snares [pg 139] near his house and watched for the flight of his soul. If in the shape of a bird or an insect it was caught in the snare the man would infallibly die.450 Among the Sereres of Senegambia, when a man wishes to revenge himself on his enemy he goes to the Fitaure (chief and priest in one), and prevails on him by presents to conjure the soul of his enemy into a large jar of red earthenware, which is then deposited under a consecrated tree. The man whose soul is shut up in the jar soon dies.451 Some of the Congo negroes think that enchanters can get possession of human souls, and enclosing them in tusks of ivory, sell them to the white man, who makes them work for him in his country under the sea. It is believed that very many of the coast labourers are men thus obtained; so when these people go to trade they often look anxiously about for their dead relations. The man whose soul is thus sold into slavery will die “in due course, if not at the time.”452

In Hawaii there were sorcerers who caught souls of living people, shut them up in calabashes, and gave them to people to eat. By squeezing a captured soul in their hands they discovered the place where people had been secretly buried.453 Amongst the Canadian Indians, when a wizard wished to kill a man, he sent out his familiar spirits, who brought him the victim's soul in the shape of a stone or the like. The wizard struck the soul with a sword or an axe till it bled profusely, and as it bled the man to whom it belonged languished and died.454 In Amboina if a doctor is convinced [pg 140] that a patient's soul has been carried away by a demon beyond recovery, he seeks to supply its place with a soul abstracted from another man. For this purpose he goes by night to a house and asks, “Who's there?” If an inmate is incautious enough to answer, the doctor takes up from before the door a clod of earth, into which the soul of the person who replied is believed to have passed. This clod the doctor lays under the sick man's pillow, and performs certain ceremonies by which the stolen soul is conveyed into the patient's body. Then as he goes home the doctor fires two shots to frighten the soul from returning to its proper owner.455 A Karen wizard will catch the wandering soul of a sleeper and transfer it to the body of a dead man. The latter, therefore, comes to life as the former dies. But the friends of the sleeper in turn engage a wizard to steal the soul of another sleeper, who dies as the first sleeper comes to life. In this way an indefinite succession of deaths and resurrections is supposed to take place.456

The Indians of the Nass River, British Columbia, think that a doctor may swallow his patient's soul by mistake. A doctor who is believed to have done so is made by the other doctors to stand over the patient, while one of them thrusts his fingers down the doctor's throat, another kneads him in the stomach with his knuckles, and a third slaps him on the back. If the soul is not in him after all, and if the same process has been repeated upon all the doctors without success, it is concluded that the soul must be in the head-doctor's box. A party of doctors, therefore, waits upon him at [pg 141] his house and requests him to produce his box. When he has done so and arranged its contents on a new mat, they take him and hold him up by the heels with his head in a hole in the floor. In this position they wash his head, and “any water remaining from the ablution is taken and poured upon the sick man's head.”457

Other examples of the recall and recovery of souls will be found referred to beneath.458

But the spiritual dangers I have enumerated are not the only ones which beset the savage. Often he regards his shadow or reflection as his soul, or at all [pg 142] events as a vital part of himself, and as such it is necessarily a source of danger to him. For if it is trampled upon, struck, or stabbed, he will feel the injury as if it were done to his person; and if it is detached from him entirely (as he believes that it may be) he will die. In the island of Wetar there are magicians who can make a man ill by stabbing his shadow with a pike or hacking it with a sword.459 After Sankara had destroyed the Buddhists in India, it is said that he journeyed to Nepaul, where he had some difference of opinion with the Grand Lama. To prove his supernatural powers, he soared into the air. But as he mounted up, the Grand Lama, perceiving his shadow swaying and wavering on the ground, struck his knife into it and down fell Sankara and broke his neck.460 In the Babar Islands the demons get power over a man's soul by holding fast his shadow, or by striking and wounding it.461 There are stones in Melanesia on which, if a man's shadow falls, the demon of the stone can draw out his soul.462 In Amboina and Uliase, two islands near the equator, and where, therefore, there is little or no shadow cast at noon, it is a rule not to go out of the house at mid-day, because it is supposed that by doing so a man may lose the shadow of his soul.463 The Mangaians tell of a mighty warrior, Tukaitawa, whose strength waxed and waned with the length of his shadow. In the morning, when his shadow fell longest, his strength was greatest; but as the shadow shortened towards noon his strength ebbed with it, till exactly at noon it reached its lowest [pg 143] point; then, as the shadow stretched out in the afternoon, his strength returned. A certain hero discovered the secret of Tukaitawa's strength and slew him at noon.464 It is possible that even in lands outside the tropics the fact of the diminished shadow at noon may have contributed, even if it did not give rise, to the superstitious dread with which that hour has been viewed by various peoples, as by the Greeks, ancient and modern, and by the Roumanians of Transylvania.465 In this fact, too, we may perhaps detect the reason why noon was chosen by the Greeks as the hour for sacrificing to the shadowless dead.466 The ancients believed that in Arabia if a hyaena trod on a man's shadow it deprived him of the power of speech and motion; and that if a dog, standing on a roof in the moonlight, cast a shadow on the ground and a hyaena trod on it, the dog would fall down as if dragged with a rope.467 Clearly in these cases the shadow, if not equivalent to the soul, is at least regarded as a living part of the man or the animal, so that injury done to the shadow is felt by the person or animal as if it were done to his body. Whoever entered the sanctuary of Zeus on Mount Lycaeus in Arcadia was believed to lose his shadow and to die within the year.468 Nowhere, perhaps, does the equivalence of the shadow to the life or soul come out more clearly than in some [pg 144] customs practised to this day in South-Eastern Europe. In modern Greece, when the foundation of a new building is being laid, it is the custom to kill a cock, a ram, or a lamb, and to let its blood flow on the foundation stone, under which the animal is afterwards buried. The object of the sacrifice is to give strength and stability to the building. But sometimes, instead of killing an animal, the builder entices a man to the foundation stone, secretly measures his body, or a part of it, or his shadow, and buries the measure under the foundation stone; or he lays the foundation stone upon the man's shadow. It is believed that the man will die within the year.469 The Bulgarians still observe a similar custom. If they cannot get a human shadow they measure the shadow of the first animal that comes that way.470 The Roumanians of Transylvania think that he whose shadow is thus immured will die within forty days; so persons passing by a building which is in course of erection may hear a warning cry, “Beware lest they take thy shadow!” Not long ago there were still shadow-traders whose business it was to provide architects with the shadows necessary for securing their walls.471 In these cases the measure of the shadow is looked on as equivalent to the shadow itself, and to bury it is to bury the life or soul of the man, who, deprived of it, must die. Thus the custom is a substitute for the old custom of immuring a living person in the walls, or crushing him under the foundation stone of a new building, in order to give strength and durability to the structure.

As some peoples believe a man's soul to be in his [pg 145] shadow, so other (or the same) peoples believe it to be in his reflection in water or a mirror. Thus “the Andamanese do not regard their shadows but their reflections (in any mirror) as their souls.”472 Some of the Fijians thought that man has two souls, a light one and a dark one; the dark one goes to Hades, the light one is his reflection in water or a mirror.473 When the Motumotu of New Guinea first saw their likenesses in a looking-glass they thought that their reflections were their souls.474 The reflection-soul, being external to the man, is exposed to much the same dangers as the shadow-soul. As the shadow may be stabbed, so may the reflection. Hence an Aztec mode of keeping sorcerers from the house was to leave a vessel of water with a knife in it behind the door. When a sorcerer entered he was so much alarmed at seeing his reflection in the water transfixed by a knife that he turned and fled.475 The Zulus will not look into a dark pool because they think there is a beast in it which will take away their reflections, so that they die.476 The Basutos say that crocodiles have the power of thus killing a man by dragging his reflection under water.477 In Saddle Island (Melanesia) there is a pool “into which if any one looks he dies; the malignant spirit takes hold upon his life by means of his reflection on the water.”478

[pg 146]

We can now understand why it was a maxim both in ancient India and ancient Greece not to look at one's reflection in water, and why the Greeks regarded it as an omen of death if a man dreamed of seeing himself so reflected.479 They feared that the water-spirits would drag the person's reflection (soul) under water, leaving him soulless to die. This was probably the origin of the classical story of the beautiful Narcissus, who pined and died in consequence of seeing his reflection in the water. The explanation that he died for love of his own fair image was probably devised later, after the old meaning of the story was forgotten. The same ancient belief lingers, in a faded form, in the English superstition that whoever sees a water-fairy must pine and die.

Alas, the moon should ever beam
To show what man should never see!—
I saw a maiden on a stream,
And fair was she!
I staid to watch, a little space,
Her parted lips if she would sing;
The waters closed above her face
With many a ring.
I know my life will fade away,
I know that I must vainly pine,
For I am made of mortal clay,
But she's divine!

Further, we can now explain the widespread custom of covering up mirrors or turning them to the wall after a death has taken place in the house. It is feared that the soul, projected out of the person in the shape of his reflection in the mirror, may be carried off by the ghost of the departed, which is commonly supposed to linger about the house till the burial. The custom [pg 147] is thus exactly parallel to the Aru custom of not sleeping in a house after a death for fear that the soul, projected out of the body in a dream, may meet the ghost and be carried off by it.480 In Oldenburg it is thought that if a person sees his image in a mirror after a death he will die himself. So all the mirrors in the house are covered up with white cloth.481 In some parts of Germany after a death not only the mirrors but everything that shines or glitters (windows, clocks, etc.) is covered up,482 doubtless because they might reflect a person's image. The same custom of covering up mirrors or turning them to the wall after a death prevails in England, Scotland, and Madagascar.483 The Suni Mohammedans of Bombay cover with a cloth the mirror in the room of a dying man and do not remove it until the corpse is carried out for burial. They also cover the looking-glasses in their bedrooms before retiring to rest at night.484 The reason why sick people should not see themselves in a mirror, and why the mirror in a sick-room is therefore covered up,485 is also plain; in time of sickness, when the soul might take flight so easily, it is particularly dangerous to project the soul out of the body by means of the reflection in a mirror. The rule is therefore precisely parallel to the rule observed by some peoples of not allowing sick people to sleep;486 for in sleep the soul is projected out of the body, and there is always a risk that it may not return. “In the opinion of the Raskolniks a mirror is an accursed thing, invented by [pg 148] the devil,”487 perhaps on account of the mirror's supposed power of drawing out the soul in the reflection and so facilitating its capture.

As with shadows and reflections, so with portraits; they are often believed to contain the soul of the person portrayed. People who hold this belief are naturally loth to have their likenesses taken; for if the portrait is the soul, or at least a vital part of the person portrayed, whoever possesses the portrait will be able to exercise a fatal influence over the original of it. Thus the Canelos Indians of South America think that their soul is carried away in their picture. Two of them having been photographed were so alarmed that they came back next day on purpose to ask if it were really true that their souls had been taken away.488 When Mr. Joseph Thomson tried to photograph some of the Wa-teita in Eastern Africa, they imagined that he was a magician trying to get possession of their souls, and that if he got their likenesses they themselves would be entirely at his mercy.489 An Indian, whose portrait the Prince of Wied wished to get, refused to let himself be drawn, because he believed it would cause his death.490 The Mandans also thought that they would soon die if their portrait was in the hands of another; they wished at least to have the artist's picture as a kind of antidote or guarantee.491 The same belief still lingers in various parts of Europe. Some old women in the Greek island of Carpathus were very angry a few years ago at having their likenesses drawn, [pg 149] thinking that in consequence they would pine and die.492 Some people in Russia object to having their silhouettes taken, fearing that if this is done they will die before the year is out.493 There are persons in the West of Scotland “who refuse to have their likeness taken lest it prove unlucky; and give as instances the cases of several of their friends who never had a day's health after being photographed.”494

§ 3.—Royal and priestly taboos (continued).

So much for the primitive conceptions of the soul and the dangers to which it is exposed. These conceptions are not limited to one people or country; with variations of detail they are found all over the world, and survive, as we have seen, in modern Europe. Beliefs so deep-seated and so widespread must necessarily have contributed to shape the mould in which the early kingship was cast. For if every individual was at such pains to save his own soul from the perils which threatened it from so many sides, how much more carefully must he have been guarded upon whose life hung the welfare and even the existence of the whole people, and whom therefore it was the common interest of all to preserve? Therefore we should expect to find the king's life protected by a system of precautions or safeguards still more numerous and minute than those which in primitive society every man adopts [pg 150] for the safety of his own soul. Now in point of fact the life of the early kings is regulated, as we have seen and shall see more fully presently, by a very exact code of rules. May we not then conjecture that these rules are the very safeguards which on à priori grounds we expect to find adopted for the protection of the king's life? An examination of the rules themselves confirms this conjecture. For from this it appears that some of the rules observed by the kings are identical with those observed by private persons out of regard for the safety of their souls; and even of those which seem peculiar to the king, many, if not all, are most readily explained on the hypothesis that they are nothing but safeguards or lifeguards of the king. I will now enumerate some of these royal rules or taboos, offering on each of them such comments and explanations as may serve to set the original intention of the rule in its proper light.

As the object of the royal taboos is to isolate the king from all sources of danger, their general effect is to compel him to live in a state of seclusion, more or less complete, according to the number and stringency of the taboos he observes. Now of all sources of danger none are more dreaded by the savage than magic and witchcraft, and he suspects all strangers of practising these black arts. To guard against the baneful influence exerted voluntarily or involuntarily by strangers is therefore an elementary dictate of savage prudence. Hence before strangers are allowed to enter a district, or at least before they are permitted to mingle freely with the people of the district, certain ceremonies are often performed by the natives of the country for the purpose of disarming the strangers of their magical powers, of counteracting the [pg 151] baneful influence which is believed to emanate from them, or of disinfecting, so to speak, the tainted atmosphere by which they are supposed to be surrounded. Thus in the island of Nanumea (South Pacific) strangers from ships or from other islands were not allowed to communicate with the people until they all, or a few as representatives of the rest, had been taken to each of the four temples in the island, and prayers offered that the god would avert any disease or treachery which these strangers might have brought with them. Meat offerings were also laid upon the altars, accompanied by songs and dances in honour of the god. While these ceremonies were going on, all the people except the priests and their attendants kept out of sight.495 On returning from an attempted ascent of the great African mountain Kilimanjaro, which is believed by the neighbouring tribes to be tenanted by dangerous demons, Mr. New and his party, as soon as they reached the border of the inhabited country, were disenchanted by the inhabitants, being sprinkled with “a professionally prepared liquor, supposed to possess the potency of neutralising evil influences, and removing the spell of wicked spirits.”496 In the interior of Yoruba (West Africa) the sentinels at the gates of towns often oblige European travellers to wait till nightfall before they admit them, the fear being that if the strangers were admitted by day the devils would enter behind them.497 Amongst the Ot Danoms of Borneo it is the custom that strangers entering the territory should pay to [pg 152] the natives a certain sum, which is spent in the sacrifice of animals (buffaloes or pigs) to the spirits of the land and water, in order to reconcile them to the presence of the strangers, and to induce them not to withdraw their favour from the people of the land, but to bless the rice-harvest, etc.498 The men of a certain district in Borneo, fearing to look upon a European traveller lest he should make them ill, warned their wives and children not to go near him. These who could not restrain their curiosity killed fowls to appease the evil spirits and smeared themselves with the blood.499 In Laos before a stranger can be accorded hospitality the master of the house must offer sacrifice to the ancestral spirits; otherwise the spirits would be offended and would send disease on the inmates.500 In the Mentawej Islands when a stranger enters a house where there are children, the father or other member of the family takes the ornament which the children wear in their hair and hands it to the stranger, who holds it in his hands for a while and then gives it back to him. This is thought to protect the children from the evil effect which the sight of a stranger might have upon them.501 At Shepherd's Isle Captain Moresby had to be disenchanted before he was allowed to land his boat's crew. When he leaped ashore a devil-man seized his right hand and waved a bunch of palm leaves over the captain's head. Then “he placed the leaves in my left hand, putting a small green twig into his mouth, still holding me fast, and then, as if with great effort, drew the twig from his mouth—this was extracting the evil [pg 153] spirit—after which he blew violently, as if to speed it away. I now held a twig between my teeth, and he went through the same process.” Then the two raced round a couple of sticks fixed in the ground and bent to an angle at the top, which had leaves tied to it. After some more ceremonies the devil-man concluded by leaping to the level of Captain Moresby's shoulders (his hands resting on the captain's shoulders) several times, “as if to show that he had conquered the devil, and was now trampling him into the earth.”502 North American Indians “have an idea that strangers, particularly white strangers, are ofttimes accompanied by evil spirits. Of these they have great dread, as creating and delighting in mischief. One of the duties of the medicine chief is to exorcise these spirits. I have sometimes ridden into or through a camp where I was unknown or unexpected, to be confronted by a tall, half-naked savage, standing in the middle of the circle of lodges, and yelling in a sing-song, nasal tone, a string of unintelligible words.”503 When Crevaux was travelling in South America he entered a village of the Apalai Indians. A few moments after his arrival some of the Indians brought him a number of large black ants, of a species whose bite is painful, fastened on palm leaves. Then all the people of the village, without distinction of age or sex, presented themselves to him, and he had to sting them all with the ants on their faces, thighs, etc. Sometimes when he applied the ants too tenderly they called out “More! more!” and were not satisfied till their skin was thickly studded with tiny swellings like what might have been produced by whipping them [pg 154] with nettles.504 The object of this ceremony is made plain by the custom observed in Amboina and Uliase of sprinkling sick people with pungent spices, such as ginger and cloves, chewed fine, in order by the prickling sensation to drive away the demon of disease which may be clinging to their persons.505 With a similar intention some of the natives of Borneo and Celebes sprinkle rice upon the head or body of a person supposed to be infested by dangerous spirits; a fowl is then brought, which, by picking up the rice from the person's head or body, removes along with it the spirit or ghost which is clinging like a burr to his skin. This is done, for example, to persons who have attended a funeral, and who may therefore be supposed to be infested by the ghost of the deceased.506 Similarly Basutos, who have carried a corpse to the grave, have their hands scratched with a knife from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the forefinger, and magic stuff is rubbed into the wound,507 for the purpose, no doubt, of removing the ghost which may be adhering to their skin. The people of Nias carefully scrub and scour the weapons and clothes which they buy, in order to efface all connection between the things and the persons from whom they bought them.508 It is probable that the same dread of strangers, rather than any desire to do them honour, is the motive of certain ceremonies which are sometimes observed at their reception, but of which the intention is not directly [pg 155] stated. In Afghanistan and in some parts of Persia the traveller, before he enters a village, is frequently received with a sacrifice of animal life or food, or of fire and incense. The recent Afghan Boundary Mission, in passing by villages in Afghanistan, was often met with fire and incense.509 Sometimes a tray of lighted embers is thrown under the hoofs of the traveller's horse, with the words, “You are welcome.”510 On entering a village in Central Africa Emin Pasha was received with the sacrifice of two goats; their blood was sprinkled on the path and the chief stepped over the blood to greet Emin.511 Amongst the Eskimos of Cumberland Inlet, when a stranger arrives at an encampment, the sorcerer goes out to meet him. The stranger folds his arms and inclines his head to one side, so as to expose his cheek, upon which the sorcerer deals a terrible blow, sometimes felling him to the ground. Next the sorcerer in his turn presents his cheek and receives a buffet from the stranger. Then they kiss each other, the ceremony is over, and the stranger is hospitably received by all.512 Sometimes the dread of strangers and their magic is too great to allow of their reception on any terms. Thus when Speke arrived at a certain village the natives shut their doors against him, “because they had never before seen a white man nor the tin boxes that the men were carrying: ‘Who knows,’ they said, ‘but that these very boxes are the plundering Watuta transformed and come to kill us? You cannot be admitted.’ No [pg 156] persuasion could avail with them, and the party had to proceed to the next village.”513

The fear thus entertained of alien visitors is often mutual. Entering a strange land, the savage feels that he is treading enchanted ground, and he takes steps to guard against the demons that haunt it and the magical arts of its inhabitants. Thus on going to a strange land the Maoris performed certain ceremonies to make it noa (common), lest it might have been previously tapu (sacred).514 When Baron Miklucho-Maclay was approaching a village on the Maclay Coast of New Guinea, one of the natives who accompanied him broke a branch from a tree and going aside whispered to it for a while; then going up to each member of the party, one after another, he spat something upon his back and gave him some blows with the branch. Lastly, he went into the forest and buried the branch under withered leaves in the thickest part of the jungle. This ceremony was believed to protect the party against all treachery and danger in the village they were approaching.515 The idea probably was that the malignant influences were drawn off from the persons into the branch and buried with it in the depths of the forest. In Australia, when a strange tribe has been invited into a district and is approaching the encampment of the tribe which owns the land, “the strangers carry lighted bark or burning sticks in their hands, for the purpose, they say, of clearing and purifying the air.”516 So when two Greek armies were [pg 157] advancing to the onset, sacred men used to march in front of each, bearing lighted torches, which they flung into the space between the hosts and then retired unmolested.517

Again, it is thought that a man who has been on a journey may have contracted some magic evil from the strangers with whom he has been brought into contact. Hence on returning home, before he is readmitted to the society of his tribe and friends, he has to undergo certain purificatory ceremonies. Thus the Bechuanas “cleanse or purify themselves after journeys by shaving their heads, etc., lest they should have contracted from strangers some evil by witchcraft or sorcery.”518 In some parts of Western Africa when a man returns home after a long absence, before he is allowed to visit his wife, he must wash his person with a particular fluid, and receive from the sorcerer a certain mark on his forehead, in order to counteract any magic spell which a stranger woman may have cast on him in his absence, and which might be communicated through him to the women of his village.519 Two Hindoo ambassadors, who had been sent to England by a native prince and had returned to India, were considered to have so polluted themselves by contact with strangers that nothing but being born again could restore them to purity. “For the purpose of regeneration it is directed to make an image of pure gold of the female power of nature, in the shape either of a woman or of a cow. In this statue the person to be regenerated is enclosed, and dragged through the [pg 158] usual channel. As a statue of pure gold and of proper dimensions would be too expensive, it is sufficient to make an image of the sacred Yoni, through which the person to be regenerated is to pass.” Such an image of pure gold was made at the prince's command, and his ambassadors were born again by being dragged through it.520 When Damaras return home after a long absence, they are given a small portion of the fat of particular animals which is supposed to possess certain virtues.521 In some of the Moluccas, when a brother or young blood-relation returns from a long journey, a young girl awaits him at the door with a caladi leaf in her hand and water in the leaf. She throws the water over his face and bids him welcome.522 The natives of Savage Island (South Pacific) invariably killed, not only all strangers in distress who were drifted to their shores, but also any of their own people who had gone away in a ship and returned home. This was done out of dread of disease. Long after they began to venture out to ships they would not immediately use the things they obtained from them, but hung them up in quarantine for weeks in the bush.523

When precautions like these are taken on behalf of the people in general against the malignant influence supposed to be exercised by strangers, we shall not be surprised to find that special measures are adopted to protect the king from the same insidious danger. In the middle ages the envoys who visited a Tartar Khan were obliged to pass between two fires before they were admitted to his presence, and the gifts they brought were also carried between the fires. The [pg 159] reason assigned for the custom was that the fire purged away any magic influence which the strangers might mean to exercise over the Khan.524 When subject chiefs come with their retinues to visit Kalamba (the most powerful chief of the Bashilange in the Congo Basin) for the first time or after being rebellious, they have to bathe, men and women together, in two brooks on two successive days, passing the nights in the open air in the market-place. After the second bath they proceed, entirely naked, to the house of Kalamba, who makes a long white mark on the breast and forehead of each of them. Then they return to the market-place and dress, after which they undergo the pepper ordeal. Pepper is dropped into the eyes of each of them, and while this is being done the sufferer has to make a confession of all his sins, to answer all questions that may be put to him, and to take certain vows. This ends the ceremony, and the strangers are now free to take up their quarters in the town for as long as they choose to remain.525 At Kilema, in Eastern Africa, when a stranger arrives, a medicine is made out of a certain plant or a tree fetched from a distance, mixed with the blood of a sheep or goat. With this mixture the stranger is besmeared or besprinkled before he is admitted to the presence of the king.526 The King of Monomotapa (South-East Africa) might not wear any foreign stuffs for fear of their being poisoned.527 The [pg 160] King of Kakongo (West Africa) might not possess or even touch European goods, except metals, arms, and articles made of wood and ivory. Persons wearing foreign stuffs were very careful to keep at a distance from his person, lest they should touch him.528 The King of Loango might not look upon the house of a white man.529

In the opinion of savages the acts of eating and drinking are attended with special danger; for at these times the soul may escape from the mouth, or be extracted by the magic arts of an enemy present. Precautions are therefore taken to guard against these dangers. Thus of the Battas of Sumatra it is said that “since the soul can leave the body, they always take care to prevent their soul from straying on occasions when they have most need of it. But it is only possible to prevent the soul from straying when one is in the house. At feasts one may find the whole house shut up, in order that the soul (tondi) may stay and enjoy the good things set before it.”530 In Fiji persons who suspected others of plotting against them avoided eating in their presence, or were careful to leave no fragment of food behind.531 The Zafimanelo in Madagascar lock their doors when they eat, and hardly any one ever sees them eating.532 The Warua will not allow any one to see them eating and drinking, being doubly particular that no person of the opposite [pg 161] sex shall see them doing so. “I had to pay a man to let me see him drink; I could not make a man let a woman see him drink.” When offered a drink of pombe they often ask that a cloth may be held up to hide them whilst drinking. Further, each man and woman must cook for themselves; each person must have his own fire.533 If these are the ordinary precautions taken by common people, the precautions taken by kings are extraordinary. The King of Loango may not be seen eating or drinking by man or beast under pain of death. A favourite dog having broken into the room where the king was dining, the king ordered it to be killed on the spot. Once the king's own son, a boy of twelve years old, inadvertently saw the king drink. Immediately the king ordered him to be finely apparelled and feasted, after which he commanded him to be cut in quarters, and carried about the city with a proclamation that he had seen the king drink. “When the king has a mind to drink, he has a cup of wine brought; he that brings it has a bell in his hand, and as soon as he has delivered the cup to the king he turns his face from him and rings the bell, on which all present fall down with their faces to the ground, and continue so till the king has drank.... His eating is much in the same style, for which he has a house on purpose, where his victuals are set upon a bensa or table: which he goes to and shuts the door; when he has done, he knocks and comes out. So that none ever see the king eat or drink. For it is believed that if any one should, the king shall immediately die.”534 The rules [pg 162] observed by the neighbouring King of Kakongo were similar; it was thought that the king would die if any of his subjects were to see him drink.535 It is a capital offence to see the King of Dahomey at his meals. When he drinks in public, as he does on extraordinary occasions, he hides himself behind a curtain, or handkerchiefs are held up round his head, and all the people throw themselves with their faces to the earth.536 Any one who saw the Muato Jamwo (a great potentate in the Congo Basin) eating or drinking would certainly be put to death.537 When the King of Tonga ate all the people turned their backs to him.538 In the palace of the Persian kings there were two dining-rooms opposite each other; in one of them the king dined, in the other his guests. He could see them through a curtain on the door, but they could not see him. Generally the king took his meals alone; but sometimes his wife or some of his sons dined with him.539

In these cases, however, the intention may perhaps be to hinder evil influences from entering the body rather than to prevent the escape of the soul. To the former rather than to the latter motive is to be ascribed the custom observed by some African sultans of veiling their faces. The Sultan of Darfur wraps up his face with a piece of white muslin, which goes round his head several times, covering his mouth and nose first, and then his forehead, so that only his eyes are visible. The same custom of veiling the face as a mark of sovereignty is said to be observed in other [pg 163] parts of Central Africa.540 The Sultan of Wadai always speaks from behind a curtain; no one sees his face except his intimates and a few favoured persons.541 Amongst the Touaregs of the Sahara all the men (but not the women) keep the lower part of their face, especially the mouth, veiled constantly; the veil is never put off, not even in eating or sleeping.542 In Samoa a man whose family god was the turtle might not eat a turtle, and if he helped a neighbour to cut up and cook one he had to wear a bandage tied over his mouth, lest an embryo turtle should slip down his throat, grow up, and be his death.543 In West Timor a speaker holds his right hand before his mouth in speaking lest a demon should enter his body, and lest the person with whom he converses should harm the speaker's soul by magic.544 In New South Wales for some time after his initiation into the tribal mysteries, a young blackfellow (whose soul at this time is in a critical state) must always cover his mouth with a rug when a woman is present.545 Popular expressions in the language of civilised peoples, such as to have one's heart in one's mouth, show how natural is the idea that the life or soul may escape by the mouth or nostrils.546

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By an extension of the like precaution kings are sometimes forbidden ever to leave their palaces; or, if they are allowed to do so, their subjects are forbidden to see them abroad. We have seen that the priestly king at Shark Point, West Africa, may never quit his house or even his chair, in which he is obliged to sleep sitting.547 After his coronation the King of Loango is confined to his palace, which he may not leave.548 The King of Ibo (West Africa) “does not step out of his house into the town unless a human sacrifice is made to propitiate the gods: on this account he never goes out beyond the precincts of his premises.”549 The kings of Aethiopia were worshipped as gods, but were mostly kept shut up in their palaces.550 The kings of Sabaea (Sheba), the spice country of Arabia, were not allowed to go out of their palaces; if they did so, the mob stoned them to death.551 But at the top of the palace there was a window with a chain attached to it. If any man deemed he had suffered wrong, he pulled the chain, and the king perceived him and called him in and gave judgment.552 So to this day the kings of Corea, whose persons are sacred and receive “honours almost divine,” are shut up in their palace from the age of twelve or fifteen; and if a suitor wishes to obtain justice of the king he sometimes lights a great bonfire on a mountain facing the palace; the king sees the fire and informs himself of the case.553 The [pg 165] King of Tonquin was permitted to appear abroad twice or thrice a year for the performance of certain religious ceremonies; but the people were not allowed to look at him. The day before he came forth notice was given to all the inhabitants of the city and country to keep from the way the king was to go; the women were obliged to remain in their houses and durst not show themselves under pain of death, a penalty which was carried out on the spot if any one disobeyed the order, even through ignorance. Thus the king was invisible to all but his troops and the officers of his suite.554 In Mandalay a stout lattice-paling, six feet high and carefully kept in repair, lined every street in the walled city and all those in the suburbs through which the king was likely at any time to pass. Behind this paling, which stood two feet or so from the houses, all the people had to stay when the king or any of the queens went out. Any one who was caught outside it by the beadles after the procession had started was severely handled, and might think himself lucky if he got off with a beating. No one was supposed to look through the holes in the lattice-work, which were besides partly stopped up with flowering shrubs.555

Again, magic mischief may be wrought upon a man through the remains of the food he has partaken of, or the dishes out of which he has eaten. Thus the Narrinyeri in South Australia think that if a man eats of the sacred animal (totem) of his tribe, and an enemy gets hold of a portion of the flesh, the latter [pg 166] can make it grow in the inside of the eater, and so cause his death. Therefore when a man eats of his totem he is careful to eat it all or else to conceal or destroy the remains.556 In Tana, one of the New Hebrides, people bury or throw into the sea the leavings of their food, lest these should fall into the hands of the disease-makers. For if a disease-maker finds the remnants of a meal, say the skin of a banana, he picks it up and burns it slowly in the fire. As it burns the person who ate the banana falls ill and sends to the disease-maker, offering him presents if he will stop burning the banana skin.557 Hence no one may touch the food which the King of Loango leaves upon his plate; it is buried in a hole in the ground. And no one may drink out of the king's vessel.558 Similarly no man may drink out of the same cup or glass with the King of Fida (in Guinea); “he hath always one kept particularly for himself; and that which hath but once touched another's lips he never uses more, though it be made of metal that may be cleansed by fire.”559 Amongst the Alfoers of Celebes there is a priest called the Leleen, whose duty appears to be to make the rice grow. His functions begin about a month before the rice is sown, and end after the crop is housed. During this time he has to observe certain taboos; amongst others he may not eat or drink with any one else, and he may drink out of no vessel but his own.560

We have seen that the Mikado's food was cooked [pg 167] every day in new pots and served up in new dishes; both pots and dishes were of common clay, in order that they might be broken or laid aside after they had been once used. They were generally broken, for it was believed that if any one else ate his food out of these sacred dishes his mouth and throat would become swollen and inflamed. The same ill effect was thought to be experienced by any one who should wear the Mikado's clothes without his leave; he would have swellings and pains all over his body.561 In the evil effects thus supposed to follow upon the use of the Mikado's vessels or clothes we see that other side of the divine king's or god-man's character to which attention has been already called. The divine person is a source of danger as well as of blessing; he must not only be guarded, he must also be guarded against. His sacred organism, so delicate that a touch may disorder it, is also electrically charged with a powerful spiritual force which may discharge itself with fatal effect on whatever comes in contact with it. Hence the isolation of the man-god is quite as necessary for the safety of others as for his own. His divinity is a fire, which, under proper restraints, confers endless blessings, but, if rashly touched or allowed to break bounds, burns and destroys what it touches. Hence the disastrous effects supposed to attend a breach of taboo; the offender has thrust his hand into the divine fire, which shrivels up and consumes him on the spot. To take an example from the taboo we are considering. It happened that a New Zealand chief of high rank and great sanctity had left the remains of his dinner by the wayside. A slave, a [pg 168] stout, hungry fellow, coming up after the chief had gone, saw the unfinished dinner, and ate it up without asking questions. Hardly had he finished when he was informed by a horror-stricken spectator that the food of which he had eaten was the chief's. “I knew the unfortunate delinquent well. He was remarkable for courage, and had signalised himself in the wars of the tribe.... No sooner did he hear the fatal news than he was seized by the most extraordinary convulsions and cramp in the stomach, which never ceased till he died, about sundown the same day. He was a strong man, in the prime of life, and if any pakeha [European] freethinker should have said he was not killed by the tapu [taboo] of the chief, which had been communicated to the food by contact, he would have been listened to with feelings of contempt for his ignorance and inability to understand plain and direct evidence.”562 This is not a solitary case. A Maori woman having eaten of some fruit, and being afterwards told that the fruit had being taken from a tabooed place, exclaimed that the spirit of the chief whose sanctity had been thus profaned would kill her. This was in the afternoon, and next day by twelve o'clock she was dead.563 An observer who knows the Maoris well, says, “Tapu [taboo] is an awful weapon. I have seen a strong young man die the same day he was tapued; the victims die under it as though their strength ran out as water.”564 A Maori chief's tinder-box was once the means of killing several persons; for having been lost by him, and found by some men who used it to [pg 169] light their pipes, they died of fright on learning to whom it had belonged. So too the garments of a high New Zealand chief will kill any one else who wears them. A chief was observed by a missionary to throw down a precipice a blanket which he found too heavy to carry. Being asked by the missionary why he did not leave it on a tree for the use of a future traveller, the chief replied that “it was the fear of its being taken by another which caused him to throw it where he did, for if it were worn, his tapu” (i.e. his spiritual power communicated by contact to the blanket and through the blanket to the man) “would kill the person.”565

No wonder therefore that the savage should rank these human divinities amongst what he regards as the dangerous classes, and should impose exactly the same restraints upon the one as upon the other. For instance, those who have defiled themselves by touching a dead body are regarded by the Maoris as in a very dangerous state, and are sedulously shunned and isolated. But the taboos observed by and towards these defiled persons (e.g. they may not touch food with their hands, and the vessels used by them may not be used by other people) are identical with those observed by and towards sacred chiefs.566 And, in general, the prohibition to use the dress, vessels, etc., of certain persons and the effects supposed to follow an infraction of the rule are exactly the same whether the persons to whom the things belong are sacred or what we might call unclean and polluted. As the garments which have been touched by a sacred chief [pg 170] kill those who handle them, so do the things which have been touched by a menstruous woman. An Australian blackfellow, who discovered that his wife had lain on his blanket at her menstrual period, killed her and died of terror himself within a fortnight.567 Hence Australian women at these times are forbidden under pain of death to touch anything that men use. They are also secluded at child-birth, and all vessels used by them during their seclusion are burned.568 Amongst some of the Indians of North America also women at menstruation are forbidden to touch men's utensils, which would be so defiled by their touch that their subsequent use would be attended by certain mischief or misfortune.569 Amongst the Eskimo of Alaska no one will willingly drink out of the same cup or eat out of the same dish that has been used by a woman at her confinement until it has been purified by certain incantations.570 Amongst some of the Tinneh Indians of North America the dishes out of which girls eat during their seclusion at puberty “are used by no other person, and wholly devoted to their own use.”571 Again amongst some Indian tribes of North America men who have slain enemies are considered to be in a state of uncleanness, and will not eat or drink out of any dish or smoke out of any pipe but their own for a considerable time after the slaughter, and no one will willingly use their dishes or pipes. They live in a kind of seclusion during this time, at the end of which all [pg 171] the dishes and pipes used by them during their seclusion are burned.572 Amongst the Kafirs, boys at circumcision live secluded in a special hut, and when they are healed all the vessels which they had used during their seclusion and the boyish mantles which they had hitherto worn are burned together with the hut.573 When a young Indian brave is out on the war-path for the first time the vessels he eats and drinks out of must be touched by no one else.574

Thus the rules of ceremonial purity observed by divine kings, chiefs, and priests, by homicides, women at child-birth, and so on, are in some respects alike. To us these different classes of persons appear to differ totally in character and condition; some of them we should call holy, others we might pronounce unclean and polluted. But the savage makes no such moral distinction between them; the conceptions of holiness and pollution are not yet differentiated in his mind. To him the common feature of all these persons is that they are dangerous and in danger, and the danger in which they stand and to which they expose others is what we should call spiritual or supernatural, that is, imaginary. The danger, however, is not less real because it is imaginary; imagination acts upon man as really as does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid. To seclude these persons from the rest of the world so that the dreaded spiritual danger shall neither reach them, nor spread from them, is the object of the taboos which they have to observe. [pg 172] These taboos act, so to say, as electrical insulators to preserve the spiritual force with which these persons are charged from suffering or inflicting harm by contact with the outer world.575

No one was allowed to touch the body of the King or Queen of Tahiti;576 and no one may touch the King of Cambodia, for any purpose whatever, without his express command. In July 1874 the king was thrown from his carriage and lay insensible on the ground, but not one of his suite dared to touch him; a European coming to the spot carried the injured monarch to his palace.577 No one may touch the King of Corea; and if he deigns to touch a subject, the spot touched becomes sacred, and the person thus honoured must wear a visible mark (generally a cord of red silk) for the rest of his life. Above all, no iron may touch the king's body. In 1800 King Tieng-tsong-tai-oang died of a tumour in the back, no one dreaming of employing the lancet, which would probably have saved his life. It is said that one king suffered terribly from an abscess in the lip, till his physician called in a jester, whose antics made the king laugh heartily, and so the abscess burst.578 Roman and Sabine priests might not be shaved with iron but only with bronze razors or shears;579 and whenever an iron graving-tool was brought into the sacred grove of the Arval Brothers at Rome for the purpose of cutting an inscription in stone, an expiatory sacrifice of a lamb and a pig was offered, which was repeated when the graving-tool was removed from the [pg 173] grove.580 In Crete sacrifices were offered to Menedemus without the use of iron, because, it was said, Menedemus had been killed by an iron weapon in the Trojan war.581 The Archon of Plataeae might not touch iron; but once a year, at the annual commemoration of the men who fell at the battle of Plataeae, he was allowed to carry a sword wherewith to sacrifice a bull.582 To this day a Hottentot priest never uses an iron knife, but always a sharp splint of quartz in sacrificing an animal or circumcising a lad.583 Amongst the Moquis of Arizona stone knives, hatchets, etc., have passed out of common use, but are retained in religious ceremonies.584 Negroes of the Gold Coast remove all iron or steel from their person when they consult their fetish.585 The men who made the need-fire in Scotland had to divest themselves of all metal.586 In making the clavie (a kind of Yule-tide fire-wheel) at Burghead, no hammer may be used; the hammering must be done with a stone.587 Amongst the Jews no iron tool was used in building the temple at Jerusalem or in making an altar.588 The old wooden bridge (Pons Sublicius) at Rome, which was considered sacred, was made and had to be kept in repair without the use of iron or bronze.589 It was expressly provided by law that the temple of Jupiter Liber at Furfo might be repaired [pg 174] with iron tools.590 The council chamber at Cyzicus was constructed of wood without any iron nails, the beams being so arranged that they could be taken out and replaced.591 The late Raja Vijyanagram, a member of the Viceroy's Council, and described as one of the most enlightened and estimable of Hindu princes, would not allow iron to be used in the construction of buildings within his territory, believing that its use would inevitably be followed by small-pox and other epidemics.592

This superstitious objection to iron perhaps dates from that early time in the history of society when iron was still a novelty, and as such was viewed by many with suspicion and dislike. For everything new is apt to excite the awe and dread of the savage. “It is a curious superstition,” says a recent pioneer in Borneo, “this of the Dusuns, to attribute anything—whether good or bad, lucky or unlucky—that happens to them to something novel which has arrived in their country. For instance, my living in Kindram has caused the intensely hot weather we have experienced of late.”593 The first introduction of iron ploughshares into Poland having been followed by a succession of bad harvests, the farmers attributed the badness of the crops to the iron ploughshares, and discarded them for the old wooden ones.594 The general dislike of innovation, which always makes itself strongly felt in the sphere of religion, is sufficient by itself to [pg 175] account for the superstitious aversion to iron entertained by kings and priests and attributed by them to the gods; possibly this aversion may have been intensified in places by some such accidental cause as the series of bad seasons which cast discredit on iron ploughshares in Poland. But the disfavour in which iron is held by the gods and their ministers has another side. The very fact that iron is deemed obnoxious to spirits furnishes men with a weapon which may be turned against the spirits when occasion serves. As their dislike of iron is supposed to be so great that they will not approach persons and things protected by the obnoxious metal, iron may obviously be employed as a charm for banning ghosts and other dangerous spirits. And it often is so used. Thus when Scotch fishermen were at sea, and one of them happened to take the name of God in vain, the first man who heard him called out “Cauld airn,” at which every man of the crew grasped the nearest bit of iron and held it between his hands for a while.595 In Morocco iron is considered a great protection against demons; hence it is usual to place a knife or dagger under a sick man's pillow.596 In India “the mourner who performs the ceremony of putting fire into the dead person's mouth carries with him a piece of iron: it may be a key or a knife, or a simple piece of iron, and during the whole time of his separation (for he is unclean for a certain time, and no one will either touch him or eat or drink with him, neither can he change his clothes597) he carries the piece of iron about with [pg 176] him to keep off the evil spirit. In Calcutta the Bengali clerks in the Government Offices used to wear a small key on one of their fingers when they had been chief mourners.”598 In the north-east of Scotland immediately after a death had taken place, a piece of iron, such as a nail or a knitting-wire, used to be stuck into all the meal, butter, cheese, flesh, and whisky in the house, “to prevent death from entering them.” The neglect of this precaution is said to have been closely followed by the corruption of the food and drink; the whisky has been known to become as white as milk.599 When iron is used as a protective charm after a death, as in these Hindu and Scotch customs, the spirit against which it is directed is the ghost of the deceased.600

There is a priestly king to the north of Zengwih in Burma, revered by the Sotih as the highest spiritual and temporal authority, into whose house no weapon or cutting instrument may be brought.601 This rule may perhaps be explained by a custom observed by various peoples after a death; they refrain from the use of sharp instruments so long as the ghost of the deceased is supposed to be near, lest they should wound it. Thus after a death the Roumanians of Transylvania are careful not to leave a knife lying with the sharp edge uppermost as long as the corpse remains in the house, “or else the soul will be forced to ride on the blade.”602 For seven days [pg 177] after a death, the corpse being still in the house, the Chinese abstain from the use of knives and needles, and even of chopsticks, eating their food with their fingers.603 Amongst the Innuit (Eskimos) of Alaska for four days after a death the women in the village do no sewing, and for five days the men do not cut wood with an axe.604 On the third, sixth, ninth, and fortieth days after the funeral the old Prussians and Lithuanians used to prepare a meal, to which, standing at the door, they invited the soul of the deceased. At these meals they sat silent round the table and used no knives, and the women who served up the food were also without knives. If any morsels fell from the table they were left lying there for the lonely souls that had no living relations or friends to feed them. When the meal was over the priest took a broom and swept the souls out of the house, saying, “Dear souls, ye have eaten and drunk. Go forth, go forth.”605 In cutting the nails and combing the hair of a dead prince in South Celebes only the back of the knife and of the comb may be used.606 The Germans say that a knife should not be left edge upwards, because God and the spirits dwell there, or because it will cut the face of God and the angels.607 We can now understand why no cutting instrument may be taken into the house of the Burmese pontiff. Like so many priestly kings, he is probably regarded as divine, [pg 178] and it is therefore right that his sacred spirit should not be exposed to the risk of being cut or wounded whenever it quits his body to hover invisible in the air or to fly on some distant mission.

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to touch or even name raw flesh.608 In the Pelew Islands when a raid has been made on a village and a head carried off, the relations of the slain man are tabooed and have to submit to certain observances in order to escape the wrath of his ghost. They are shut up in the house, touch no raw flesh, and chew beetel over which an incantation has been uttered by the exorcist. After this the ghost of the slaughtered man goes away to the enemy's country in pursuit of his murderer.609 The taboo is probably based on the common belief that the soul or spirit of the animal is in the blood. As tabooed persons are believed to be in a perilous state—for example, the relations of the slain man are liable to the attacks of his indignant ghost—it is especially necessary to isolate them from contact with spirits; hence the prohibition to touch raw meat. But as usual the taboo is only the special enforcement in particular circumstances of a general rule; in other words, its observance is particularly enjoined in circumstances which are supposed especially to call for its application, but apart from such special circumstances the prohibition is also observed, though less strictly, as an ordinary rule of life. Thus some of the Esthonians will not taste blood because they believe that it contains the animal's soul, which would enter the body of the person who [pg 179] tasted the blood.610 Some Indian tribes of North America, “through a strong principle of religion, abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the beast.” These Indians “commonly pull their new-killed venison (before they dress it) several times through the smoke and flame of the fire, both by the way of a sacrifice and to consume the blood, life, or animal spirits of the beast, which with them would be a most horrid abomination to eat.”611 Many of the Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians scruple to taste the blood of game; hunters of the former tribes collect the blood in the animal's paunch and bury it in the snow.612 Jewish hunters poured out the blood of the game they had killed and covered it up with dust. They would not taste the blood, believing that the soul or life of the animal was in the blood, or actually was the blood.613 The same belief was held by the Romans,614 and is shared by the Arabs,615 and by some of the Papuan tribes of New Guinea.616

It is a common rule that royal blood must not be shed upon the ground. Hence when a king or one of his family is to be put to death a mode of execution is devised by which the royal blood shall not be spilt upon the earth. About the year 1688 the generalissimo of the army rebelled against the King of Siam and put him to death “after the manner of royal criminals, or as princes of the blood are treated when [pg 180] convicted of capital crimes, which is by putting them into a large iron caldron, and pounding them to pieces with wooden pestles, because none of their royal blood must be spilt on the ground, it being, by their religion, thought great impiety to contaminate the divine blood by mixing it with earth.”617 Other Siamese modes of executing a royal person are starvation, suffocation, stretching him on a scarlet cloth and thrusting a billet of odoriferous “saunders wood” into his stomach,618 or lastly, sewing him up in a leather sack with a large stone and throwing him into the river; sometimes the sufferer's neck is broken with sandal-wood clubs before he is thrown into the water.619 When Kublai Khan defeated and took his uncle Nayan, who had rebelled against him, he caused Nayan to be put to death by being wrapt in a carpet and tossed to and fro till he died, “because he would not have the blood of his Line Imperial spilt upon the ground or exposed in the eye of Heaven and before the Sun.”620 “Friar Ricold mentions the Tartar maxim: ‘One Khan will put another to death to get possession of the throne, but he takes great care that the blood be not spilt. For they say that it is highly improper that the blood of the Great Khan should be spilt upon the ground; so they cause the victim to be smothered somehow or other.’ The like feeling prevails at the court of Burma, where a peculiar mode of execution without bloodshed is reserved for princes of the blood.”621 In Tonquin the ordinary mode of execution is beheading, but persons of [pg 181] the blood royal are strangled.622 In Ashantee the blood of none of the royal family may be shed; if one of them is guilty of a great crime he is drowned in the river Dah.623 In Madagascar the blood of nobles might not be shed; hence when four Christians of that class were to be executed they were burned alive.624 When a young king of Uganda comes of age all his brothers are burnt except two or three, who are preserved to keep up the succession.625 The reluctance to shed royal blood seems to be only a particular case of a general reluctance to shed blood or at least to allow it to fall on the ground. Marco Polo tells us that in his day persons found on the streets of Cambaluc (Pekin) at unseasonable hours were arrested, and if found guilty of a misdemeanour were beaten with a stick. “Under this punishment people sometimes die, but they adopt it in order to eschew bloodshed, for their Bacsis say that it is an evil thing to shed man's blood.”626 When Captain Christian was shot by the Manx Government at the Restoration in 1660, the spot on which he stood was covered with white blankets, that his blood might not fall on the ground.627 Amongst some primitive peoples, when the blood of a tribesman has to be shed it is not suffered to fall upon the ground, but is received upon the bodies of his fellow tribesmen. Thus in some Australian tribes boys who are being circumcised are laid on a platform, formed by the living bodies of the tribesmen;628 and when a boy's tooth [pg 182] is knocked out as an initiatory ceremony, he is seated on the shoulders of a man, on whose breast the blood flows and may not be wiped away.629 When Australian blacks bleed each other as a cure for headache, and so on, they are very careful not to spill any of the blood on the ground, but sprinkle it on each other.630 We have already seen that in the Australian ceremony for making rain the blood which is supposed to imitate the rain is received upon the bodies of the tribesmen.631 In South Celebes at child-birth a female slave stands under the house (the houses being raised on posts above the ground) and receives in a basin on her head the blood which trickles through the bamboo floor.632 The unwillingness to shed blood is extended by some peoples to the blood of animals. When the Wanika in Eastern Africa kill their cattle for food, “they either stone or beat the animal to death, so as not to shed the blood.”633 Amongst the Damaras cattle killed for food are suffocated, but when sacrificed they are speared to death.634 But like most pastoral tribes in Africa, both the Wanika and Damaras very seldom kill their cattle, which are indeed commonly invested with a kind of sanctity.635 In killing an animal for food the Easter Islanders do not shed its blood, but stun it [pg 183] or suffocate it in smoke.636 The explanation of the reluctance to shed blood on the ground is probably to be found in the belief that the soul is in the blood, and that therefore any ground on which it may fall necessarily becomes taboo or sacred. In New Zealand anything upon which even a drop of a high chief's blood chances to fall becomes taboo or sacred to him. For instance, a party of natives having come to visit a chief in a fine new canoe, the chief got into it, but in doing so a splinter entered his foot, and the blood trickled on the canoe, which at once became sacred to him. The owner jumped out, dragged the canoe ashore opposite the chief's house, and left it there. Again, a chief in entering a missionary's house knocked his head against a beam, and the blood flowed. The natives said that in former times the house would have belonged to the chief.637 As usually happens with taboos of universal application, the prohibition to spill the blood of a tribesman on the ground applies with peculiar stringency to chiefs and kings, and is observed in their case long after it has ceased to be observed in the case of others.

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was not allowed to walk under a trellised vine.638 The reason for this prohibition was perhaps as follows. It has been shown that plants are considered as animate beings which bleed when cut, the red juice which exudes from some plants being regarded as the blood of the plant.639 The juice of the grape is therefore naturally conceived as the blood of the vine.640 And since, as we have just [pg 184] seen, the soul is often believed to be in the blood, the juice of the grape is regarded as the soul, or as containing the soul, of the vine. This belief is strengthened by the intoxicating effects of wine. For, according to primitive notions, all abnormal mental states, such as intoxication or madness, are caused by the entrance of a spirit into the person; such mental states, in other words, are regarded as forms of possession or inspiration. Wine, therefore, is considered on two distinct grounds as a spirit or containing a spirit; first because, as a red juice, it is identified with the blood of the plant, and second because it intoxicates or inspires. Therefore if the Flamen Dialis had walked under a trellised vine, the spirit of the vine, embodied in the clusters of grapes, would have been immediately over his head and might have touched it, which for a person like him in a state of permanent taboo641 would have been highly dangerous. This interpretation of the prohibition will be made probable if we can show, first, that wine has been actually viewed by some peoples as blood and intoxication as inspiration produced by drinking the blood; and, second, that it is often considered dangerous, especially for tabooed persons, to have either blood or a living person over their heads.

With regard to the first point, we are informed by Plutarch that of old the Egyptian kings neither drank wine nor offered it in libations to the gods, because they held it to be the blood of beings who had once fought against the gods, the vine having sprung from their rotting bodies; and the frenzy of intoxication was explained by the supposition that the drunken man was [pg 185] filled with the blood of the enemies of the gods.642 The Aztecs regarded pulque or the wine of the country as bad, on account of the wild deeds which men did under its influence. But these wild deeds were believed to be the acts, not of the drunken man, but of the wine-god by whom he was possessed and inspired; and so seriously was this theory of inspiration held that if any one spoke ill of or insulted a tipsy man, he was liable to be punished for disrespect to the wine-god incarnate in his votary. Hence, says Sahagun, it was believed, not without ground, that the Indians intoxicated themselves on purpose to commit with impunity crimes for which they would certainly have been punished if they had committed them sober.643 Thus it appears that on the primitive view intoxication or the inspiration produced by wine is exactly parallel to the inspiration produced by drinking the blood of animals.644 The soul or life is in the blood, and wine is the blood of the vine. Hence whoever drinks the blood of an animal is inspired with the soul of the animal or of the god, who, as we have seen,645 is often supposed to enter into the animal before it is slain; and whoever drinks wine drinks the blood, and so receives into himself the soul or spirit, of the god of the vine.

With regard to the second point, the fear of passing under blood or under a living person, we are told that some of the Australian blacks have a dread of passing under a leaning tree or even under the rails of a fence. The reason they give is that a woman may [pg 186] have been upon the tree or fence, and some blood from her may have fallen on it and might fall from it on them.646 In Ugi, one of the Solomon Islands, a man will never, if he can help it, pass under a tree which has fallen across the path, for the reason that a woman may have stepped over it before him.647 Amongst the Karens of Burma “going under a house, especially if there are females within, is avoided; as is also the passing under trees of which the branches extend downwards in a particular direction, and the butt-end of fallen trees, etc.”648 The Siamese think it unlucky to pass under a rope on which women's clothes are hung, and to avert evil consequences the person who has done so must build a chapel to the earth-spirit.649

Probably in all such cases the rule is based on a fear of being brought into contact with blood, especially the blood of women. From a like fear a Maori will never lean his back against the wall of a native house.650 For the blood of women is believed to have disastrous effects upon males. In the Encounter Bay tribe of South Australia boys are warned that if they see the blood of women they will early become gray-headed and their strength will fail prematurely.651 Men of the Booandik tribe think that if they see the blood of their women they will not be able to fight against their enemies and will be killed; if the sun dazzles their eyes at a fight, the first woman they afterwards meet is sure to get a blow from their club.652 In the [pg 187] island of Wetar it is thought that if a man or a lad comes upon a woman's blood he will be unfortunate in war and other undertakings, and that any precautions he may take to avoid the misfortune will be vain.653 The people of Ceram also believe that men who see women's blood will be wounded in battle.654 Similarly the Ovahereró (Damaras) of South Africa think that if they see a lying-in woman shortly after child-birth they will become weaklings and will be shot when they go to war.655 It is an Esthonian belief that men who see women's blood will suffer from an eruption on the skin.656

Again, the reason for not passing under dangerous objects, like a vine or women's blood, is a fear that they may come in contact with the head; for among primitive people the head is peculiarly sacred. The special sanctity attributed to it is sometimes explained by a belief that it is the seat of a spirit which is very sensitive to injury or disrespect. Thus the Karens suppose that a being called the tso resides in the upper part of the head, and while it retains its seat no harm can befall the person from the efforts of the seven Kelahs, or personified passions. “But if the tso becomes heedless or weak certain evil to the person is the result. Hence the head is carefully attended to, and all possible pains are taken to provide such dress and attire as will be pleasing to the tso.”657 The Siamese think that a spirit called Khuan, or Chom Kuan, dwells in the human head, of which it is the [pg 188] guardian spirit. The spirit must be carefully protected from injury of every kind; hence the act of shaving or cutting the hair is accompanied with many ceremonies. The Khuan is very sensitive on points of honour, and would feel mortally insulted if the head in which he resides were touched by the hand of a stranger. When Dr. Bastian, in conversation with a brother of the king of Siam, raised his hand to touch the prince's skull in order to illustrate some medical remarks he was making, a sullen and threatening murmur bursting from the lips of the crouching courtiers warned him of the breach of etiquette he had committed, for in Siam there is no greater insult to a man of rank than to touch his head. If a Siamese touch the head of another with his foot, both of them must build chapels to the earth-spirit to avert the omen. Nor does the guardian spirit of the head like to have the hair washed too often; it might injure or incommode him. It was a grand solemnity when the king of Burmah's head was washed with water taken from the middle of the river. Whenever the native professor, from whom Dr. Bastian took lessons in Burmese at Mandalay, had his head washed, which took place as a rule once a month, he was generally absent for three days together, that time being consumed in preparing for, and recovering from, the operation of head-washing. Dr. Bastian's custom of washing his head daily gave rise to much remark.658

Again, the Burmese think it an indignity to have any one, especially a woman, over their heads, and for this reason Burmese houses have never more than one story. The houses are raised on posts above the ground, and whenever anything fell through the floor [pg 189] Dr. Bastian had always difficulty in persuading a servant to fetch it from under the house. In Rangoon a priest, summoned to the bedside of a sick man, climbed up a ladder and got in at the window rather than ascend the staircase, to reach which he must have passed under a gallery. A pious Burman of Rangoon, finding some images of Buddha in a ship's cabin, offered a high price for them, that they might not be degraded by sailors walking over them on the deck.659 Similarily the Cambodians esteem it a grave offence to touch a man's head; some of them will not enter a place where anything whatever is suspended over their heads; and the meanest Cambodian would never consent to live under an inhabited room. Hence the houses are built of one story only; and even the Government respects the prejudice by never placing a prisoner in the stocks under the floor of a house, though the houses are raised high above the ground.660 The same superstition exists amongst the Malays; for an early traveller reports that in Java people “wear nothing on their heads, and say that nothing must be on their heads ... and if any person were to put his hand upon their head they would kill him; and they do not build houses with storeys, in order that they may not walk over each other's heads.”661 It is also found in full force throughout Polynesia. Thus of Gattanewa, a Marquesan chief, it is said that “to touch the top of his head, or any thing which had been on his head was sacrilege. To pass over his head [pg 190] was an indignity never to be forgotten. Gattanewa, nay, all his family, scorned to pass a gateway which is ever closed, or a house with a door; all must be as open and free as their unrestrained manners. He would pass under nothing that had been raised by the hand of man, if there was a possibility of getting round or over it. Often have I seen him walk the whole length of our barrier, in preference to passing between our water-casks; and at the risk of his life scramble over the loose stones of a wall, rather than go through the gateway.”662 Marquesan women have been known to refuse to go on the decks of ships for fear of passing over the heads of chiefs who might be below.663 But it was not the Marquesan chiefs only whose heads were sacred; the head of every Marquesan was taboo, and might neither be touched nor stepped over by another; even a father might not step over the head of his sleeping child.664 No one was allowed to be over the head of the king of Tonga.665 In Hawaii (the Sandwich Islands) if a man climbed upon a chief's house or upon the wall of his yard, he was put to death; if his shadow fell on a chief, he was put to death; if he walked in the shadow of a chief's house with his head painted white or decked with a garland or wetted with water, he was put to death.666 In Tahiti any one who stood over the king or queen, or passed his hand over their heads, might be put to death.667 Until certain rites were performed over it, a Tahitian infant was [pg 191] especially taboo; whatever touched the child's head, while it was in this state, became sacred and was deposited in a consecrated place railed in for the purpose at the child's house. If a branch of a tree touched the child's head, the tree was cut down; and if in its fall it injured another tree so as to penetrate the bark, that tree also was cut down as unclean and unfit for use. After the rites were performed, these special taboos ceased; but the head of a Tahitian was always sacred, he never carried anything on it, and to touch it was an offence.668 The head of a Maori chief was so sacred that “if he only touched it with his fingers, he was obliged immediately to apply them to his nose, and snuff up the sanctity which they had acquired by the touch, and thus restore it to the part from whence it was taken.”669 In some circumstances the tabooed person is forbidden to touch his head at all. Thus in North America, Tinneh girls at puberty, Creek lads during the year of their initiation into manhood, and young braves on their first war-path, are forbidden to scratch their heads with their fingers, and are provided with a stick for the purpose.670 But to return to the Maoris. On account of the sacredness of his head “a chief could not blow the fire with his mouth, for the breath being sacred, communicated his sanctity to it, and a brand might be taken by a slave, or a man of another tribe, or the fire might be used for other purposes, [pg 192] such as cooking, and so cause his death.”671 It is a crime for a sacred person in New Zealand to leave his comb, or anything else which has touched his head, in a place where food has been cooked, or to suffer another person to drink out of any vessel which has touched his lips. Hence when a chief wishes to drink he never puts his lips to the vessel, but holds his hands close to his mouth so as to form a hollow, into which water is poured by another person, and thence is allowed to flow into his mouth. If a light is needed for his pipe, the burning ember taken from the fire must be thrown away as soon as it is used; for the pipe becomes sacred because it has touched his mouth; the coal becomes sacred because it has touched the pipe; and if a particle of the sacred cinder were replaced on the common fire, the fire would also become sacred and could no longer be used for cooking.672 Some Maori chiefs, like other Polynesians, object to go down into a ship's cabin from fear of people passing over their heads.673 Dire misfortune was thought by the Maoris to await those who entered a house where any article of animal food was suspended over their heads. “A dead pigeon, or a piece of pork hung from the roof was a better protection from molestation than a sentinel.”674 If I am right, the reason for the special objection to having animal food over the head is the fear of bringing the sacred head into contact with the spirit [pg 193] of the animal; just as the reason why the Flamen Dialis might not walk under a vine was the fear of bringing his sacred head into contact with the spirit of the vine.

When the head was considered so sacred that it might not even be touched without grave offence, it is obvious that the cutting of the hair must have been a delicate and difficult operation. The difficulties and dangers which, on the primitive view, beset the operation are of two kinds. There is first the danger of disturbing the spirit of the head, which may be injured in the process and may revenge itself upon the person who molests him. Secondly, there is the difficulty of disposing of the shorn locks. For the savage believes that the sympathetic connection which exists between himself and every part of his body continues to exist even after the physical connection has been severed, and that therefore he will suffer from any harm that may befall the severed parts of his body, such as the clippings of his hair or the parings of his nails. Accordingly he takes care that these severed portions of himself shall not be left in places where they might either be exposed to accidental injury or fall into the hands of malicious persons who might work magic on them to his detriment or death. Such dangers are common to all, but sacred persons have more to fear from them than ordinary people, so the precautions taken by them are proportionately stringent. The simplest way of evading the danger is of course not to cut the hair at all; and this is the expedient adopted where the danger is thought to be more than usually great. The Frankish kings were not allowed to cut their hair.675 A Haida medicine-man may neither cut [pg 194] nor comb his hair, so it is always long and tangled.676 Amongst the Alfoers of Celebes the Leleen or priest who looks after the rice-fields may not cut his hair during the time that he exercises his special functions, that is, from a month before the rice is sown until it is housed.677 In Ceram men do not cut their hair: if married men did so, they would lose their wives; if young men did so, they would grow weak and enervated.678 In Timorlaut, married men may not cut their hair for the same reason as in Ceram, but widowers and men on a journey may do so after offering a fowl or a pig in sacrifice.679 Here men on a journey are specially permitted to cut their hair; but elsewhere men travelling abroad have been in the habit of leaving their hair uncut until their return. The reason for the latter custom is probably the danger to which, as we have seen, a traveller is believed to be exposed from the magic arts of the strangers amongst whom he sojourns; if they got possession of his shorn hair, they might work his destruction through it. The Egyptians on a journey kept their hair uncut till they returned home.680 “At Tâif when a man returned from a journey his first duty was to visit the Rabba and poll his hair.”681 The custom of keeping the hair unshorn during a dangerous expedition seems to have been observed, at least occasionally, by the Romans.682 Achilles kept unshorn his yellow hair, [pg 195] because his father had vowed to offer it to the river Sperchius if ever his son came home from the wars beyond the sea.683 Again, men who have taken a vow of vengeance sometimes keep their hair unshorn till they have fulfilled their vow. Thus of the Marquesans we are told that “occasionally they have their head entirely shaved, except one lock on the crown, which is worn loose or put up in a knot. But the latter mode of wearing the hair is only adopted by them when they have a solemn vow, as to revenge the death of some near relation, etc. In such case the lock is never cut off until they have fulfilled their promise.”684 Six thousand Saxons once swore that they would not cut their hair nor shave their beards until they had taken vengeance on their enemies.685 On one occasion a Hawaiian taboo is said to have lasted thirty years “during which the men were not allowed to trim their beards, etc.”686 While his vow lasted, a Nazarite might not have his hair cut: “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head.”687 Possibly in this case there was a special objection to touching the tabooed man's head with iron. The Roman priests, as we have seen, were shorn with bronze knives. The same feeling probably gave rise to the European rule that a child's nails should not be cut during the first year, but that if it is absolutely necessary to shorten them they should be bitten off by the mother or nurse.688 For [pg 196] in all parts of the world a young child is believed to be especially exposed to supernatural dangers, and particular precautions are taken to guard it against them; in other words, the child is under a number of taboos, of which the rule just mentioned is one. “Among Hindus the usual custom seems to be that the nails of a first-born child are cut at the age of six months. With other children a year or two is allowed to elapse.”689 The Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians of North America do not cut the nails of female children till they are four years of age.690 In some parts of Germany it is thought that if a child's hair is combed in its first year the child will be unlucky;691 or that if a boy's hair is cut before his seventh year he will have no courage.692

But when it is necessary to cut the hair, precautions are taken to lessen the dangers which are supposed to attend the operation. Amongst the Maoris many spells were uttered at hair-cutting; one, for example, was spoken to consecrate the obsidian knife with which the hair was cut; another was pronounced to avert the thunder and lightning which hair-cutting was believed to cause.693 “He who has had his hair cut is in the immediate charge of the Atua (spirit); he is removed from the contact and society of [pg 197] his family and his tribe; he dare not touch his food himself; it is put into his mouth by another person; nor can he for some days resume his accustomed occupations or associate with his fellow men.”694 The person who cuts the hair is also tabooed; his hands having been in contact with a sacred head, he may not touch food with them or engage in any other employment; he is fed by another person with food cooked over a sacred fire. He cannot be released from the taboo before the following day, when he rubs his hands with potato or fern root which has been cooked on a sacred fire; and this food having been taken to the head of the family in the female line and eaten by her, his hands are freed from the taboo. In some parts of New Zealand the most sacred day of the year was that appointed for hair-cutting; the people assembled in large numbers on that day from all the neighbourhood.695 It is an affair of state when the king of Cambodia's hair is cut. The priests place on the barber's fingers certain old rings set with large stones, which are supposed to contain spirits favourable to the kings, and during the operation the Brahmans keep up a noisy music to drive away the evil spirits.696 The hair and nails of the Mikado could only be cut while he was asleep,697 perhaps because his soul being then absent from his body, there was less chance of injuring it with the shears.

But even when the hair and nails have been safely cut, there remains the difficulty of disposing of them, [pg 198] for their owner believes himself liable to suffer from any harm that may befall them. Thus, an Australian girl, sick of a fever, attributed her illness to the fact that some months before a young man had come behind her and cut off a lock of her hair; she was sure he had buried it and that it was rotting. “Her hair,” she said, “was rotting somewhere, and her Marm-bu-la (kidney fat) was wasting away, and when her hair had completely rotted, she would die.”698 A Marquesan chief told Lieutenant Gamble that he was extremely ill, the Happah tribe having stolen a lock of his hair and buried it in a plantain leaf for the purpose of taking his life. Lieut. Gamble argued with him, but in vain; die he must unless the hair and the plantain leaf were brought back to him; and to obtain them he had offered the Happahs the greater part of his property. He complained of excessive pain in the head, breast and sides.699 When an Australian blackfellow wishes to get rid of his wife, he cuts off a lock of her hair in her sleep, ties it to his spear-thrower, and goes with it to a neighbouring tribe, where he gives it to a friend. His friend sticks the spear-thrower up every night before the camp fire, and when it falls down it is a sign that his wife is dead.700 The way in which the charm operates was explained to Mr. Howitt by a Mirajuri man. “You see,” he said, “when a blackfellow doctor gets hold of something belonging to a man and roasts it with things, and sings over it, the fire catches hold of the smell of the man, and that settles the poor fellow.”701 In Germany it is a common [pg 199] notion that if birds find a person's cut hair, and build their nests with it, the person will suffer from headache;702 sometimes it is thought that he will have an eruption on the head.703 Again it is thought that cut or combed out hair may disturb the weather by producing rain and hail, thunder and lightning. We have seen that in New Zealand a spell was uttered at hair-cutting to avert thunder and lightning. In the Tirol, witches are supposed to use cut or combed out hair to make hail-stones or thunder-storms with.704 Thlinket Indians have been known to attribute stormy weather to the fact that a girl had combed her hair outside of the house.705 The Romans seem to have held similar views, for it was a maxim with them that no one on shipboard should cut his hair or nails except in a storm,706 that is, when the mischief was already done. In West Africa, when the Mani of Chitombe or Jumba died, the people used to run in crowds to the corpse and tear out his hair, teeth, and nails, which they kept as a rain-charm, believing that otherwise no rain would fall. The Makoko of Anzikos begged the missionaries to give him half their beards as a [pg 200] rain-charm.707 In some Victorian tribes the sorcerer used to burn human hair in time of drought; it was never burned at other times for fear of causing a deluge of rain. Also when the river was low, the sorcerer would place human hair in the stream to increase the supply of water.708

To preserve the cut hair and nails from injury and from the dangerous uses to which they may be put by sorcerers, it is necessary to deposit them in some safe place. Hence the natives of the Maldives carefully keep the cuttings of their hair and nails and bury them, with a little water, in the cemeteries; “for they would not for the world tread upon them nor cast them in the fire, for they say that they are part of their body and demand burial as it does; and, indeed, they fold them neatly in cotton; and most of them like to be shaved at the gates of temples and mosques.”709 In New Zealand the severed hair was deposited on some sacred spot of ground “to protect it from being touched accidentally or designedly by any one.”710 The shorn locks of a chief were gathered with much care and placed in an adjoining cemetery.711 The Tahitians buried the cuttings of their hair at the temples.712 The cut hair and nails of the Flamen Dialis were buried under a lucky tree.713 The hair of the Vestal virgins was hung upon an ancient lotus-tree.714 In Germany [pg 201] the clippings of hair used often to be buried under an elder-bush.715 In Oldenburg cut hair and nails are wrapt in a cloth which is deposited in a hole in an elder-tree three days before the new moon; the hole is then plugged up.716 In the West of Northumberland it is thought that if the first parings of a child's nails are buried under an ash-tree, the child will turn out a fine singer.717 In Amboina before a child may taste sago-pap for the first time, the father cuts off a lock of the child's hair which he buries under a sago palm.718 In the Aru Islands, when a child is able to run alone, a female relation cuts off a lock of its hair and deposits it on a banana-tree.719 In the island of Roti it is thought that the first hair which a child gets is not his own and that, if it is not cut off, it will make him weak and ill. Hence, when the child is about a month old, his hair is cut off with much ceremony. As each of the friends who are invited to the ceremony enters the house he goes up to the child, cuts off a little of its hair and drops it into a cocoa-nut shell full of water. Afterwards the father or another relation takes the hair and packs it into a little bag made of leaves, which he fastens to the top of a palm-tree. Then he gives the leaves of the palm a good shaking, climbs down, and goes home without speaking to any one.720 Indians of the Yukon territory, Alaska, do not throw away their cut hair and nails, but tie them up in little bundles and place them in the crotches of trees or anywhere where they will [pg 202] not be disturbed by animals. For “they have a superstition that disease will follow the disturbance of such remains by animals.”721 The clipped hair and nails are often buried in any secret place, not necessarily in a temple or cemetery or under a tree, as in the cases already mentioned. In Swabia it is said that cut hair should be buried in a place where neither sun nor moon shines, therefore in the ground, under a stone, etc.722 In Danzig it is buried in a bag under the threshold.723 In Ugi, one of the Solomon Islands, men bury their hair lest it should fall into the hands of an enemy who would make magic with it and so bring sickness or calamity on them.724 The Zend Avesta directs that the clippings of hair and the parings of nails shall be placed in separate holes, and that three, six, or nine furrows shall be drawn round each hole with a metal knife.725 In the Grihya-Sûtras it is provided that the hair cut from a child's head at the end of the first, third, fifth, or seventh year shall be buried in the earth at a place covered with grass or in the neighbourhood of water.726 The Madi or Moru tribe of Central Africa bury the parings of their nails in the ground.727 The Kafirs carry still further this dread of allowing any portion of themselves to fall into the hands of an enemy; for not only do they bury their cut hair and nails in a sacred place, but when one of them cleans the head of another he preserves the insects which he [pg 203] finds, “carefully delivering them to the person to whom they originally appertained, supposing, according to their theory, that as they derived their support from the blood of the man from whom they were taken, should they be killed by another the blood of his neighbour would be in his possession, thus placing in his hands the power of some superhuman influence.”728 Amongst the Wanyoro of Central Africa all cuttings of the hair and nails are carefully stored under the bed and afterwards strewed about among the tall grass.729 In North Guinea they are carefully hidden (it is not said where) “in order that they may not be used as a fetish for the destruction of him to whom they belong.”730 In Bolang Mongondo (Celebes) the first hair cut from a child's head is kept in a young cocoa-nut, which is commonly hung on the front of the house, under the roof.731

Sometimes the severed hair and nails are preserved, not to prevent them from falling into the hands of a magician, but that the owner may have them at the resurrection of the body, to which some races look forward. Thus the Incas of Peru “took extreme care to preserve the nail-parings and the hairs that were shorn off or torn out with a comb; placing them in holes or niches in the walls, and if they fell out, any other Indian that saw them picked them up and put them in their places again. I very often asked different Indians, at various times, why [pg 204] they did this, in order to see what they would say, and they all replied in the same words, saying, ‘Know that all persons who are born must return to life’ (they have no word to express resuscitation), ‘and the souls must rise out of their tombs with all that belonged to their bodies. We, therefore, in order that we may not have to search for our hair and nails at a time when there will be much hurry and confusion, place them in one place, that they may be brought together more conveniently, and, whenever it is possible, we are also careful to spit in one place.’ ”732 In Chile this custom of stuffing the shorn hair into holes in the wall is still observed, it being thought the height of imprudence to throw the hair away.733 Similarly the Turks never throw away the parings of their nails, but carefully keep them in cracks of the walls or of the boards, in the belief that they will be needed at the resurrection.734 Some of the Esthonians keep the parings of their finger and toe nails in their bosom, in order to have them at hand when they are asked for them at the day of judgment.735 The Fors of Central Africa object to cut any one else's nails, for should the part cut off be lost and not delivered into its owner's hands, it will have to be made up to him somehow or other after death. The parings are buried in the ground.736 To spit upon the hair before throwing it away is thought in some parts of Europe sufficient to prevent [pg 205] its being used by witches.737 Spitting as a protective charm is well known.

Some people burn their loose hair to save it from falling into the power of sorcerers. This is done by the Patagonians and some of the Victorian tribes.738 The Makololo of South Africa either burn it or bury it secretly,739 and the same alternative is sometimes adopted by the Tirolese.740 Cut and combed out hair is burned in Pomerania and sometimes at Liége.741 In Norway the parings of nails are either burned or buried, lest the elves or the Finns should find them and make them into bullets wherewith to shoot the cattle.742 This destruction of the hair or nails plainly involves an inconsistency of thought. The object of the destruction is avowedly to prevent these severed portions of the body from being used by sorcerers. But the possibility of their being so used depends upon the supposed sympathetic connection between them and the man from whom they were severed. And if this sympathetic connection still exists, clearly these severed portions cannot be destroyed without injury to the man.

Before leaving this subject, on which I have perhaps dwelt too long, it may be well to call attention to the motive assigned for cutting a young child's hair in Roti.743 In that island the first hair is regarded as a danger to the child, and its removal is intended to avert the danger. The reason of this may be that as a [pg 206] young child is almost universally supposed to be in a tabooed or dangerous state, it is necessary, in removing the taboo, to destroy the separable parts of the child's body on the ground that they are infected, so to say, by the virus of the taboo and as such are dangerous. The cutting of the child's hair would thus be exactly parallel to the destruction of the vessels which have been used by a tabooed person.744 This view is borne out by a practice, observed by some Australians, of burning off part of a woman's hair after childbirth as well as burning every vessel which has been used by her during her seclusion.745 Here the burning of the woman's hair seems plainly intended to serve the same purpose as the burning of the vessels used by her; and as the vessels are burned because they are believed to be tainted with a dangerous infection, so, we must suppose, is also the hair. We can, therefore, understand the importance attached by many peoples to the first cutting of a child's hair and the elaborate ceremonies by which the operation is accompanied.746 Again, we can understand why a man should poll his head after a journey.747 For we have seen that a traveller is often believed to contract a dangerous infection from strangers and that, therefore, on his return home he is obliged to submit to various purificatory ceremonies before he is allowed to mingle freely with his own people.748 On my hypothesis the polling of the hair is simply one of these purificatory or disinfectant ceremonies. The cutting of the hair after a vow may have the same meaning. It is a way of ridding the [pg 207] man of what has been infected by the dangerous state of taboo, sanctity, or uncleanness (for all these are only different expressions for the same primitive conception) under which he laboured during the continuance of the vow. Similarly at some Hindu places of pilgrimage on the banks of rivers men who have committed great crimes or are troubled by uneasy consciences have every hair shaved off by professional barbers before they plunge into the sacred stream, from which “they emerge new creatures, with all the accumulated guilt of a long life effaced.”749

As might have been expected, the superstitions of the savage cluster thick about the subject of food; and he abstains from eating many animals and plants, wholesome enough in themselves, but which for one reason or another he considers would prove dangerous or fatal to the eater. Examples of such abstinence are too familiar and far too numerous to quote. But if the ordinary man is thus deterred by superstitious fear from partaking of various foods, the restraints of this kind which are laid upon sacred or tabooed persons, such as kings and priests, are still more numerous and stringent. We have already seen that the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to eat or even name several plants and animals, and that the flesh diet of the Egyptian kings was restricted to veal and goose.750 The Gangas or fetish priests of the Loango Coast are forbidden to eat or even see a variety of animals and fish, in consequence of which their flesh diet is extremely limited; often they live only on herbs and roots, though they may drink fresh blood.751 The heir to the throne of [pg 208] Loango is forbidden from infancy to eat pork; from early childhood he is interdicted the use of the cola fruit in company; at puberty he is taught by a priest not to partake of fowls except such as he has himself killed and cooked; and so the number of taboos goes on increasing with his years.752 In Fernando Po the king after installation is forbidden to eat cocco (arum acaule), deer, and porcupine, which are the ordinary foods of the people.753 Amongst the Murrams of Manipur (a district of Eastern India, on the border of Burma), “there are many prohibitions in regard to the food, both animal and vegetable, which the chief should eat, and the Murrams say the chief's post must be a very uncomfortable one.”754 To explain the ultimate reason why any particular food is prohibited to a whole tribe or to certain of its members would commonly require a far more intimate knowledge of the history and beliefs of the tribe than we possess. The general motive of such prohibitions is doubtless the same which underlies the whole taboo system, namely, the conservation of the tribe and the individual.

It would be easy to extend the list of royal and priestly taboos, but the above may suffice as specimens. To conclude this part of our subject it only remains to state summarily the general conclusions to which our inquiries have thus far conducted us. We have seen that in savage or barbarous society there are often found men to whom the superstition of their fellows ascribes a controlling influence over the general course of nature. Such men are accordingly adored and treated as gods. Whether these human divinities [pg 209] also hold temporal sway over the lives and fortunes of their fellows, or whether their functions are purely spiritual and supernatural, in other words, whether they are kings as well as gods or only the latter, is a distinction which hardly concerns us here. Their supposed divinity is the essential fact with which we have to deal. In virtue of it they are a pledge and guarantee to their worshippers of the continuance and orderly succession of those physical phenomena upon which mankind depends for subsistence. Naturally, therefore, the life and health of such a god-man are matters of anxious concern to the people whose welfare and even existence are bound up with his; naturally he is constrained by them to conform to such rules as the wit of early man has devised for averting the ills to which flesh is heir, including the last ill, death. These rules, as an examination of them has shown, are nothing but the maxims with which, on the primitive view, every man of common prudence must comply if he would live long in the land. But while in the case of ordinary men the observance of the rules is left to the choice of the individual, in the case of the god-man it is enforced under penalty of dismissal from his high station, or even of death. For his worshippers have far too great a stake in his life to allow him to play fast and loose with it. Therefore all the quaint superstitions, the old-world maxims, the venerable saws which the ingenuity of savage philosophers elaborated long ago, and which old women at chimney corners still impart as treasures of great price to their descendants gathered round the cottage fire on winter evenings—all these antique fancies clustered, all these cobwebs of the brain were spun about the path of the old king, the human god, who, immeshed in them like [pg 210] a fly in the toils of a spider, could hardly stir a limb for the threads of custom, “light as air but strong as links of iron,” that crossing and recrossing each other in an endless maze bound him fast within a network of observances from which death or deposition alone could release him.

To students of the past the life of the old kings and priests thus teems with instruction. In it was summed up all that passed for wisdom when the world was young. It was the perfect pattern after which every man strove to shape his life; a faultless model constructed with rigorous accuracy upon the lines laid down by a barbarous philosophy. Crude and false as that philosophy may seem to us, it would be unjust to deny it the merit of logical consistency. Starting from a conception of the vital principle as a tiny being or soul existing in, but distinct and separable from, the living being, it deduces for the practical guidance of life a system of rules which in general hangs well together and forms a fairly complete and harmonious whole. The flaw—and it is a fatal one—of the system lies not in its reasoning, but in its premises; in its conception of the nature of life, not in any irrelevancy of the conclusions which it draws from that conception. But to stigmatise these premises as ridiculous because we can easily detect their falseness, would be ungrateful as well as unphilosophical. We stand upon the foundation reared by the generations that have gone before, and we can but dimly realise the painful and prolonged efforts which it has cost humanity to struggle up to the point, no very exalted one after all, which we have reached. Our gratitude is due to the nameless and forgotten toilers, whose patient thought and active exertions have largely made [pg 211] us what we are. The amount of new knowledge which one age, certainly which one man, can add to the common store is small, and it argues stupidity or dishonesty, besides ingratitude, to ignore the heap while vaunting the few grains which it may have been our privilege to add to it. There is indeed little danger at present of undervaluing the contributions which modern times and even classical antiquity have made to the general advancement of our race. But when we pass these limits, the case is different. Contempt and ridicule or abhorrence and denunciation are too often the only recognition vouchsafed to the savage and his ways. Yet of the benefactors whom we are bound thankfully to commemorate, many, perhaps most, were savages. For when all is said and done our resemblances to the savage are still far more numerous than our differences from him; and what we have in common with him, and deliberately retain as true and useful, we owe to our savage forefathers who slowly acquired by experience and transmitted to us by inheritance those seemingly fundamental ideas which we are apt to regard as original and intuitive. We are like heirs to a fortune which has been handed down for so many ages that the memory of those who built it up is lost, and its possessors for the time being regard it as having been an original and unalterable possession of their race since the beginning of the world. But reflection and inquiry should satisfy us that to our predecessors we are indebted for much of what we thought most our own, and that their errors were not wilful extravagances or the ravings of insanity, but simply hypotheses, justifiable as such at the time when they were propounded, but which a fuller experience has proved to be inadequate. It is only by the [pg 212] successive testing of hypotheses and rejection of the false that truth is at last elicited. After all, what we call truth is only the hypothesis which is found to work best. Therefore in reviewing the opinions and practices of ruder ages and races we shall do well to look with leniency upon their errors as inevitable slips made in the search for truth, and to give them the benefit of that indulgence which we may one day stand in need of ourselves: cum excusatione itaque veteres audiendi sunt.

[pg 213]

Chapter III. Killing The God.

Sed adhuc supersunt aliae superstitiones, quarum secreta pandenda sunt, ... ut et in istis profanis religionibus sciatis mortes esse hominum consecratas.Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum, c. 6.

§ 1.—Killing the divine king.

Lacking the idea of eternal duration primitive man naturally supposes the gods to be mortal like himself. The Greenlanders believed that a wind could kill their most powerful god, and that he would certainly die if he touched a dog. When they heard of the Christian God, they kept asking if he never died, and being informed that he did not, they were much surprised and said that he must be a very great god indeed.755 In answer to the inquiries of Colonel Dodge, a North American Indian stated that the world was made by the Great Spirit. Being asked which Great Spirit he meant, the good one or the bad one, “Oh, neither of them replied he, “the Great Spirit that made the world is dead long ago. He could not possibly have lived as long as this.”756 A tribe in the Philippine Islands told the Spanish conquerors that the grave of [pg 214] the Creator was upon the top of Mount Cabunian.757 Heitsi-eibib, a god or divine hero of the Hottentots, died several times and came to life again. His graves are generally to be met with in narrow passes between mountains.758 The grave of Zeus, the great god of Greece, was shown to visitors in Crete as late as about the beginning of our era.759 The body of Dionysus was buried at Delphi beside the golden statue of Apollo, and his tomb bore the inscription, “Here lies Dionysus dead, the son of Semele.”760 According to one account, Apollo himself was buried at Delphi; for Pythagoras is said to have carved an inscription on his tomb, setting forth how the god had been killed by the python and buried under the tripod.761 Cronus was buried in Sicily,762 and the graves of Hermes, Aphrodite, and Ares were shown in Hermopolis, Cyprus, and Thrace.763

If the great invisible gods are thus supposed to die, it is not to be expected that a god who dwells in the flesh and blood of a man should escape the same fate. Now primitive peoples, as we have seen, sometimes believe that their safety and even that of the world is bound up with the life of one of these god-men or human incarnations of the divinity. Naturally, therefore, they take the utmost care of his life, out of a regard for their own. But no amount of care and precaution will prevent the man-god from growing old and feeble and at last dying. His worshippers have [pg 215] to lay their account with this sad necessity and to meet it as best they can. The danger is a formidable one; for if the course of nature is dependent on the man-god's life, what catastrophes may not be expected from the gradual enfeeblement of his powers and their final extinction in death? There is only one way of averting these dangers. The man-god must be killed as soon as he shows symptoms that his powers are beginning to fail, and his soul must be transferred to a vigorous successor before it has been seriously impaired by the threatened decay. The advantages of thus putting the man-god to death instead of allowing him to die of old age and disease are, to the savage, obvious enough. For if the man-god dies what we call a natural death, it means, according to the savage, that his soul has either voluntarily departed from his body and refuses to return, or more commonly that it has been extracted or at least detained in its wanderings by a demon or sorcerer.764 In any of these cases the soul of the man-god is lost to his worshippers; and with it their prosperity is gone and their very existence endangered. Even if they could arrange to catch the soul of the dying god as it left his lips or his nostrils and so transfer it to a successor, this would not effect their purpose; for, thus dying of disease, his soul would necessarily leave his body in the last stage of weakness and exhaustion, and as such it would continue to drag out a feeble existence in the body to which it might be transferred. Whereas by killing him his worshippers could, in the first place, make sure of catching his soul as it escaped and transferring it to a suitable successor; and, in the second place, by killing him before his natural force [pg 216] was abated, they would secure that the world should not fall into decay with the decay of the man-god. Every purpose, therefore, was answered, and all dangers averted by thus killing the man-god and transferring his soul, while yet at its prime, to a vigorous successor.

Some of the reasons for preferring a violent death to the slow death of old age or disease are obviously as applicable to common men as to the man-god. Thus the Mangaians think that “the spirits of those who die a natural death are excessively feeble and weak, as their bodies were at dissolution; whereas the spirits of those who are slain in battle are strong and vigorous, their bodies not having been reduced by disease.”765 Hence, men sometimes prefer to kill themselves or to be killed before they grow feeble, in order that in the future life their souls may start fresh and vigorous as they left their bodies, instead of decrepit and worn out with age and disease. Thus in Fiji, “self-immolation is by no means rare, and they believe that as they leave this life, so they will remain ever after. This forms a powerful motive to escape from decrepitude, or from a crippled condition, by a voluntary death.”766 Or, as another observer of the Fijians puts it more fully, “the custom of voluntary suicide on the part of the old men, which is among their most extraordinary usages, is also connected with their superstitions respecting a future life. They believe that persons enter upon the delights of their elysium with the same faculties, mental and physical, that they possess at the hour of death, in short, that the spiritual life commences where the corporeal existence terminates. [pg 217] With these views, it is natural that they should desire to pass through this change before their mental and bodily powers are so enfeebled by age as to deprive them of their capacity for enjoyment. To this motive must be added the contempt which attaches to physical weakness among a nation of warriors, and the wrongs and insults which await those who are no longer able to protect themselves. When therefore a man finds his strength declining with the advance of age, and feels that he will soon be unequal to discharge the duties of this life, and to partake in the pleasures of that which is to come, he calls together his relations, and tells them that he is now worn out and useless, that he sees they are all ashamed of him, and that he has determined to be buried.” So on a day appointed they meet and bury him alive.767 In Vaté (New Hebrides) the aged were buried alive at their own request. It was considered a disgrace to the family of an old chief if he was not buried alive.768 Of the Kamants, a Jewish tribe in Abyssinia, it is reported that “they never let a person die a natural death, but if any of their relatives is nearly expiring, the priest of the village is called to cut his throat; if this be omitted, they believe that the departed soul has not entered the mansions of the blessed.”769

But it is with the death of the god-man—the divine king or priest—that we are here especially concerned. The people of Congo believed, as we have seen, that if their pontiff the Chitomé were to die a natural death, [pg 218] the world would perish, and the earth, which he alone sustained by his power and merit, would immediately be annihilated. Accordingly when he fell ill and seemed likely to die, the man who was destined to be his successor entered the pontiff's house with a rope or a club and strangled or clubbed him to death.770 The Ethiopian kings of Meroe were worshipped as gods; but whenever the priests chose, they sent a messenger to the king, ordering him to die, and alleging an oracle of the gods as their authority for the command. This command the kings always obeyed down to the reign of Ergamenes, a contemporary of Ptolemy II, King of Egypt. Having received a Greek education which emancipated him from the superstitions of his countrymen, Ergamenes ventured to disregard the command of the priests, and, entering the Golden Temple with a body of soldiers, put the priests to the sword.771 In the kingdom of Unyoro in Central Africa, custom still requires that as soon as the king falls seriously ill or begins to break up from age, he shall be killed by his own wives; for, according to an old prophecy, the throne will pass away from the dynasty in the event of the king dying a natural death.772 When the king of Kibanga, on the Upper Congo, seems near his end, the sorcerers put a rope round his neck, which they draw gradually tighter till he dies.773 It seems to have been a Zulu custom to put the king to death as soon as he began to have wrinkles or gray hairs. At least this seems implied in the following [pg 219] passage, written by one who resided for some time at the court of the notorious Zulu tyrant Chaka, in the early part of this century: “The extraordinary violence of the king's rage with me was mainly occasioned by that absurd nostrum, the hair oil, with the notion of which Mr. Farewell had impressed him as being a specific for removing all indications of age. From the first moment of his having heard that such a preparation was attainable, he evinced a solicitude to procure it, and on every occasion never forgot to remind us of his anxiety respecting it; more especially on our departure on the mission his injunctions were particularly directed to this object. It will be seen that it is one of the barbarous customs of the Zoolas in their choice or election of their kings that he must neither have wrinkles nor gray hairs, as they are both distinguishing marks of disqualification for becoming a monarch of a warlike people. It is also equally indispensable that their king should never exhibit those proofs of having become unfit and incompetent to reign; it is therefore important that they should conceal these indications so long as they possibly can. Chaka had become greatly apprehensive of the approach of gray hairs; which would at once be the signal for him to prepare to make his exit from this sublunary world, it being always followed by the death of the monarch.”774

The custom of putting kings to death as soon as they suffered from any personal defect prevailed two centuries ago in the Kafir kingdoms of Sofala, to the north of the present Zululand. These kings of Sofala, as we have seen,775 were regarded as gods by their people, being entreated to give rain or sunshine, according as each might [pg 220] be wanted. Nevertheless a slight bodily blemish, such as the loss of a tooth, was considered a sufficient cause for putting one of these god-men to death, as we learn from the following passage of an old historian. “Contiguous to the domains of the Quiteva [the king of the country bordering on the river Sofala], are those of another prince called Sedanda. This prince becoming afflicted with leprosy, resolved on following implicitly the laws of the country, and poisoning himself, conceiving his malady to be incurable, or at least that it would render him so loathsome in the eyes of his people that they would with difficulty recognise him. In consequence he nominated his successor, holding as his opinion that sovereigns who should serve in all things as an example to their people ought to have no defect whatever, even in their persons; that when any defects may chance to befall them they cease to be worthy of life and of governing their dominions; and preferring death in compliance with this law to life, with the reproach of having been its violator. But this law was not observed with equal scrupulosity by one of the Quitevas, who, having lost a tooth and feeling no disposition to follow the practice of his predecessors, published to the people that he had lost a front tooth, in order that when they might behold, they yet might be able to recognise him; declaring at the same time that he was resolved on living and reigning as long as he could, esteeming his existence requisite for the welfare of his subjects. He at the same time loudly condemned the practice of his predecessors, whom he taxed with imprudence, nay, even with madness, for having condemned themselves to death for casual accidents to their persons, confessing plainly that it would be with much regret, even when the course of [pg 221] nature should bring him to his end, that he should submit to die. He observed, moreover, that no reasonable being, much less a monarch, ought to anticipate the scythe of time; and, abrogating this mortal law, he ordained that all his successors, if sane, should follow the precedent he gave, and the new law established by him.”776

This King of Sofala was, therefore, a bold reformer like Ergamenes, King of Ethiopia. We may conjecture that the ground for putting the Ethiopian kings to death was, as in the case of the Zulu and Sofala kings, the appearance on their person of any bodily defect or sign of decay; and that the oracle which the priests alleged as the authority for the royal execution was to the effect that great calamities would result from the reign of a king who had any blemish on his body; just as an oracle warned Sparta against a “lame reign,” that is, the reign of a lame king.777 This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that the kings of Ethiopia were chosen for their size, strength, and beauty long before the custom of killing them was abolished.778 To this day the Sultan of Wadâi must have no obvious bodily defect, and a king of Angoy cannot be crowned if he has a single blemish, such as a broken or filed tooth or the scar of an old wound.779 It is only natural, therefore, to suppose, especially [pg 222] with the other African examples before us, that any bodily defect or symptom of old age appearing on the person of the Ethiopian monarch was the signal for his execution. At a later time it is recorded that if the King of Ethiopia became maimed in any part of his body all his courtiers had to suffer the same mutilation.780 But this rule may perhaps have been instituted at the time when the custom of killing the king for any personal defect was abolished; instead of compelling the king to die because, e.g., he had lost a tooth, all his subjects would be obliged to lose a tooth, and thus the invidious superiority of the subjects over the king would be cancelled. A rule of this sort is still observed in the same region at the court of the Sultans of Darfur. When the Sultan coughs, every one makes the sound ts ts by striking the tongue against the root of the upper teeth; when he sneezes, the whole assembly utters a sound like the cry of the jeko; when he falls off his horse, all his followers must fall off likewise; if any one of them remains in the saddle, no matter how high his rank, he is laid on the ground and beaten.781 At the court of the King of Uganda in Central Africa, when the king laughs, every one laughs; when he sneezes, every one sneezes; when he has a cold, every one pretends to have a cold; when he has his hair cut, so has every one.782 At the court of Boni in Celebes it is a rule that whatever the king does all the courtiers must do. If he stands, they stand; if he sits, they sit; [pg 223] if he falls off his horse, they fall off their horses; if he bathes, they bathe, and passers-by must go into the water in the dress, good or bad, which they happen to have on.783 But to return to the death of the divine man. The old Prussians acknowledged as their supreme lord a ruler who governed them in the name of the gods, and was known as God's Mouth (Kirwaido). When he felt himself weak and ill, if he wished to leave a good name behind him, he had a great heap made of thorn-bushes and straw, on which he mounted and delivered a long sermon to the people, exhorting them to serve the gods and promising to go to the gods and speak for the people. Then he took some of the perpetual fire which burned in front of the holy oak-tree, and lighting the pile with it burned himself to death.784

In the cases hitherto described, the divine king or priest is suffered by his people to retain office until some outward defect, some visible symptom of failing health or advancing age warns them that he is no longer equal to the discharge of his divine duties; but not until such symptoms have made their appearance is he put to death. Some peoples, however, appear to have thought it unsafe to wait for even the slightest symptom of decay and have preferred to kill the king while he was still in the full vigour of life. Accordingly, they have fixed a term beyond which he might not reign, and at the close of which he must die, the term fixed upon being short enough to exclude the probability of his degenerating physically in the interval. In some parts of Southern India the period fixed was twelve years. [pg 224] Thus, according to an old traveller, in the province of Quilacare “There is a Gentile house of prayer, in which there is an idol which they hold in great account, and every twelve years they celebrate a great feast to it, whither all the Gentiles go as to a jubilee. This temple possesses many lands and much revenue; it is a very great affair. This province has a king over it; who has not more than twelve years to reign from jubilee to jubilee. His manner of living is in this wise, that is to say, when the twelve years are completed, on the day of this feast there assemble together innumerable people, and much money is spent in giving food to Bramans. The king has a wooden scaffolding made, spread over with silken hangings; and on that day he goes to bathe at a tank with great ceremonies and sound of music, after that he comes to the idol and prays to it, and mounts on to the scaffolding, and there before all the people he takes some very sharp knives and begins to cut off his nose, and then his ears and his lips and all his members and as much flesh of himself as he can; and he throws it away very hurriedly until so much of his blood is spilled that he begins to faint, and then he cuts his throat himself. And he performs this sacrifice to the idol; and whoever desires to reign other twelve years, and undertake this martyrdom for love of the idol, has to be present looking on at this; and from that place they raise him up as king.”785

Formerly the Samorin or King of Calicut, on the Malabar coast, had also to cut his throat in public at the end of a twelve years' reign. But towards the end of the seventeenth century the rule had been [pg 225] modified as follows: “A new custom is followed by the modern Samorins, that jubilee is proclaimed throughout his dominions, at the end of twelve years, and a tent is pitched for him in a spacious plain, and a great feast is celebrated for ten or twelve days, with mirth and jollity, guns firing night and day, so at the end of the feast any four of the guests that have a mind to gain a crown by a desperate action, in fighting their way through 30 or 40,000 of his guards, and kill the Samorin in his tent, he that kills him succeeds him in his empire. In anno 1695, one those jubilees happened, and the tent pitched near Pennany, a sea-port of his, about fifteen leagues to the southward of Calicut. There were but three men that would venture on that desperate action, who fell in, with sword and target among the guard, and, after they had killed and wounded many were themselves killed. One of the desperados had a nephew of fifteen or sixteen years of age, that kept close by his uncle in the attack on the guards, and, when he saw him fall, the youth got through the guards into the tent, and made a stroke at his Majesty's head, and had certainly despatched him, if a large brass lamp which was burning over his head, had not marred the blow; but, before he could make another he was killed by the guards; and, I believe, the same Samorin reigns yet. I chanced to come that time along the coast and heard the guns for two or three days and nights successively.”786

In some places it appears that the people could not trust the king to remain in full bodily and mental vigour for more than a year; hence at the end of a year's reign he was put to death, and a new king [pg 226] appointed to reign in his turn a year, and suffer death at the end of it. At least this is the conclusion to which the following evidence points. According to the historian Berosus, who as a Babylonian priest spoke with ample knowledge, there was annually celebrated in Babylon a festival called the Sacaea. It began on the 16th day of the month Lous, and lasted for five days. During these five days masters and servants changed places, the servants giving orders and the masters obeying them. A prisoner condemned to death was dressed in the king's robes, seated on the king's throne, allowed to issue whatever commands he pleased, to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, and to lie with the king's concubines. But at the end of the five days he was stripped of his royal robes, scourged, and crucified.787 This custom might perhaps have been explained as merely a grim jest perpetrated in a season of jollity at the expense of an unhappy criminal. But one circumstance—the leave given to the mock king to enjoy the king's concubines—is decisive against this interpretation. Considering the jealous seclusion of [pg 227] an oriental despot's harem we may be quite certain that permission to invade it would never have been granted by the despot, least of all to a condemned criminal, except for the very gravest cause. This cause could hardly be other than that the condemned man was about to die in the king's stead, and that to make the substitution perfect it was necessary he should enjoy the full rights of royalty during his brief reign. There is nothing surprising in this substitution. The rule that the king must be put to death either on the appearance of any symptom of bodily decay or at the end of a fixed period is certainly one which, sooner or later, the kings would seek to abolish or modify. We have seen that in Ethiopia and Sofala the rule was boldly set aside by enlightened monarchs; and that in Calicut the old custom of killing the king at the end of twelve years was changed into a permission granted to any one at the end of the twelve years' period to attack the king, and, in the event of killing him, to reign in his stead; though, as the king took care at these times to be surrounded by his guards, the permission was little more than a form. Another way of modifying the stern old rule is seen in the Babylonian custom just described. When the time drew near for the king to be put to death (in Babylon this appears to have been at the end of a single year's reign) he abdicated for a few days, during which a temporary king reigned and suffered in his stead. At first the temporary king may have been an innocent person, possibly a member of the king's own family; but with the growth of civilisation the sacrifice of an innocent person would be revolting to the public sentiment, and accordingly a condemned criminal would be invested with the brief and fatal sovereignty. In [pg 228] the sequel we shall find other examples of a dying criminal representing a dying god. For we must not forget that the king is slain in his character of a god, his death and resurrection, as the only means of perpetuating the divine life unimpaired, being deemed necessary for the salvation of his people and the world.

In some places this modified form of the old custom has been further softened down. The king still abdicates annually for a short time and his place is filled by a more or less nominal sovereign; but at the close of his short reign the latter is no longer killed, though sometimes a mock execution still survives as a memorial of the time when he was actually put to death. To take examples. In the month of Méac (February) the King of Cambodia annually abdicated for three days. During this time he performed no act of authority, he did not touch the seals, he did not even receive the revenues which fell due. In his stead there reigned a temporary king called Sdach Méac, that is, King February. The office of temporary king was hereditary in a family distantly connected with the royal house, the sons succeeding the fathers and the younger brothers the elder brothers, just as in the succession to the real sovereignty. On a favourable day fixed by the astrologers the temporary king was conducted by the mandarins in triumphal procession. He rode one of the royal elephants, seated in the royal palanquin, and escorted by soldiers who, dressed in appropriate costumes, represented the neighbouring peoples of Siam, Annam, Laos, and so on. Instead of the golden crown he wore a peaked white cap, and his regalia, instead of being of gold encrusted with diamonds, were of rough wood. After paying homage to the real king, from whom he received the sovereignty for three days, [pg 229] together with all the revenues accruing during that time (though this last custom has been omitted for some time), he moved in procession round the palace and through the streets of the capital. On the third day, after the usual procession, the temporary king gave orders that the elephants should trample under foot the “mountain of rice,” which was a scaffold of bamboo surrounded by sheaves of rice. The people gathered up the rice, each man taking home a little with him to secure a good harvest. Some of it was also taken to the king, who had it cooked and presented to the monks.788

In Siam on the sixth day of the moon in the sixth month (the end of April) a temporary king is appointed, who for three days enjoys the royal prerogatives, the real king remaining shut up in his palace. This temporary king sends his numerous satellites in all directions to seize and confiscate whatever they can find in the bazaar and open shops; even the ships and junks which arrive in harbour during the three days are confiscated to him and must be redeemed. He goes to a field in the middle of the city, whither is brought a gilded plough drawn by gaily-decked oxen. After the plough has been anointed and the oxen rubbed with incense, the mock king traces nine furrows with the plough, followed by aged dames of the palace scattering the first seed of the season. As soon as the nine furrows are drawn, the crowd of spectators rushes in and scrambles for the seed which has just been sown, believing that, mixed with the seed-rice, it will ensure a plentiful crop. Then the oxen are unyoked, and [pg 230] rice, maize, sesame, sago, bananas, sugar-cane, melons, etc. are set before them; whatever they eat first will, it is thought, be dear in the year following, though some people interpret the omen in the opposite sense. During this time the temporary king stands leaning against a tree with his right foot resting on his left knee. From standing thus on one foot he is popularly known as King Hop; but his official title is Phaya Phollathep, “Lord of the Heavenly Hosts.”789 He is a sort of Minister of Agriculture; all disputes about fields, rice, and so on, are referred to him. There is moreover another ceremony in which he personates the king. It takes place in the second month (which falls in the cold season) and lasts three days. He is conducted in procession to an open place opposite the Temple of the Brahmans, where there are a number of poles dressed like May-poles, upon which the Brahmans swing. All the while that they swing and dance, the Lord of the Heavenly Hosts has to stand on one foot upon a seat which is made of bricks plastered over, covered with a white cloth, and hung with tapestry. He is supported by a wooden frame with a gilt canopy, and two Brahmans stand one on each side of him. The dancing Brahmans carry buffalo horns with which they draw water from a large copper caldron and sprinkle it on the people; this is supposed to bring good luck, causing the people to dwell in peace and quiet, health and prosperity. The time during which the Lord of the Heavenly Hosts has to stand on one foot is about three hours. This is thought “to prove the dispositions of the Devattas and spirits.” If he lets his foot down [pg 231] “he is liable to forfeit his property and have his family enslaved by the king; as it is believed to be a bad omen, portending destruction to the state, and instability to the throne. But if he stand firm he is believed to have gained a victory over evil spirits, and he has moreover the privilege, ostensibly at least, of seizing any ship which may enter the harbour during these three days, and taking its contents, and also of entering any open shop in the town and carrying away what he chooses.”790

In Upper Egypt on the first day of the solar year by Coptic reckoning, that is on 10th September, when the Nile has generally reached its highest point, the regular government is suspended for three days and every town chooses its own ruler. This temporary lord wears a sort of tall fool's cap and a long flaxen beard, and is enveloped in a strange mantle. With a wand of office in his hand and attended by men disguised as scribes, executioners, etc., he proceeds to the Governor's house. The latter allows himself to be deposed; and the mock king, mounting the throne, holds a tribunal, to the decisions of which even the governor and his officials must bow. After three days the mock king is condemned to death; the envelope or shell in which he was encased is committed to the flames, and from its ashes the Fellah creeps forth.791

Sometimes the temporary king occupies the throne, not annually, but once for all at the beginning of each reign. Thus in the kingdom of Jambi (in Sumatra) it is the custom that at the beginning of a new reign a man of the people should occupy the throne and [pg 232] exercise the royal prerogatives for a single day. The origin of the custom is explained by a tradition that there were once five royal brothers, the four elder of whom all declined the crown on the ground of various bodily defects, leaving it to their youngest brother. But the eldest occupied the throne for one day, and reserved for his descendants a similar privilege at the beginning of every reign. Thus the office of temporary king is hereditary in a family akin to the royal house.792 In Bilaspur it seems to be the custom, after the death of a Rajah, for a Brahman to eat rice out of the dead Rajah's hand, and then to occupy the throne for a year. At the end of the year the Brahman receives presents and is dismissed from the territory, being forbidden apparently to return. “The idea seems to be that the spirit of the Rájá enters into the Bráhman who eats the khír (rice and milk) out of his hand when he is dead, as the Brahman is apparently carefully watched during the whole year, and not allowed to go away.” The same or a similar custom is believed to obtain among the hill states about Kángrá.793 At the installation of a prince of Carinthia a peasant, in whose family the office was hereditary, ascended a marble stone which stood surrounded by meadows in a spacious valley; on his right stood a black mother-cow, on his left an ugly mare. A rustic crowd gathered about him. Then the future prince, dressed as a peasant and carrying a shepherd's staff, drew near, attended by courtiers and magistrates. On perceiving him the peasant called out, “Who is this whom I see coming so proudly along?” The people answered, “The [pg 233] prince of the land.” The peasant was then prevailed on to surrender the marble seat to the prince on condition of receiving sixty pence, the cow and mare, and exemption from taxes. But before yielding his place he gave the prince a light blow on the cheek.794

Some points about these temporary kings deserve to be specially noticed before we pass to the next branch of the evidence. In the first place, the Cambodian and Siamese examples bring clearly out the fact that it is especially the divine or supernatural functions of the king which are transferred to his temporary substitute. This appears from the belief that by keeping up his foot the temporary king of Siam gained a victory over the evil spirits; whereas by letting it down he imperilled the existence of the state. Again, the Cambodian ceremony of trampling down the “mountain of rice,” and the Siamese ceremony of opening the ploughing and sowing, are charms to produce a plentiful harvest, as appears from the belief that those who carry home some of the trampled rice or of the seed sown will thereby secure a good crop. But the task of making the crops grow, thus deputed to the temporary kings, is one of the supernatural functions regularly supposed to be discharged by kings in primitive society. The rule that the mock king must stand on one foot upon a raised seat in the rice-field was perhaps originally meant as a charm to make the crop grow high; at least this was the object of a similar ceremony observed by the old Prussians. The tallest girl, standing on one foot upon a seat, with her lap full of cakes, a cup of brandy in her right hand and a piece of elm-bark [pg 234] or linden-bark in her left, prayed to the god Waizganthos that the flax might grow as high as she was standing. Then, after draining the cup, she had it refilled, and poured the brandy on the ground as an offering to Waizganthos, and threw down the cakes for his attendant sprites. If she remained steady on one foot throughout the ceremony, it was an omen that the flax crop would be good; but if she let her foot down, it was feared that the crop might fail.795 The gilded plough with which the Siamese mock king opens the ploughing may be compared with the bronze ploughs which the Etruscans employed at the ceremony of founding cities;796 in both cases the use of iron was probably forbidden on superstitious grounds.797

Another point to notice about these temporary kings is that in two places (Cambodia and Jambi) they come of a stock which is believed to be akin to the royal family. If the view here taken of the origin of these temporary kingships is correct, the fact that the temporary king is sometimes of the same race as the real king admits of a ready explanation. When the king first succeeded in getting the life of another accepted as a sacrifice in lieu of his own, he would have to show that the death of that other would serve the purpose quite as well as his own would have done. Now it was as a god that the king had to die; therefore the substitute who died for him had to be invested, at least for the occasion, with the divine attributes of the king. This, as we have just seen, was certainly the case with the temporary kings of Siam and Cambodia; [pg 235] they were invested with the supernatural functions, which in an earlier stage of society were the special attributes of the king. But no one could so well represent the king in his divine character as his son, who might be supposed to share the divine afflatus of his father. No one, therefore, could so appropriately die for the king and, through him, for the whole people, as the king's son. There is evidence that amongst the Semites of Western Asia (the very region where the redemption of the king's life by the sacrifice of another comes out so unmistakably in the Sacaean festival) the king, in a time of national danger, sometimes gave his own son to die as a sacrifice for the people. Thus Philo of Byblus, in his work on the Jews, says: “It was an ancient custom in a crisis of great danger that the ruler of a city or nation should give his beloved son to die for the whole people, as a ransom offered to the avenging demons; and the children thus offered were slain with mystic rites. So Cronus, whom the Phoenicians call Israel, being king of the land and having an only-begotten son called Jeoud (for in the Phoenician tongue Jeoud signifies ‘only-begotten’), dressed him in royal robes and sacrificed him upon an altar in a time of war, when the country was in great danger from the enemy.”798 When the King of Moab was besieged by the Israelites and hard beset, he took his eldest son, who should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall.799 But amongst the Semites the practice of sacrificing their children was not confined to kings. In times of great calamity, such as pestilence, drought, or defeat in war, the Phoenicians [pg 236] used to sacrifice one of their dearest to Baal. “Phoenician history,” says an ancient writer, “is full of such sacrifices.”800 When the Carthaginians were defeated and besieged by Agathocles, they ascribed their disasters to the wrath of Baal; for whereas in former times they had been wont to sacrifice to him their own children, they had latterly fallen into the habit of buying children and rearing them to be victims. So, to appease the angry god, two hundred children of the noblest families were picked out for sacrifice, and the tale of victims was swelled by not less than three hundred more who volunteered to die for the fatherland. They were sacrificed by being placed, one by one, on the sloping hands of the brazen image, from which they rolled into a pit of fire.801 If an aristocracy thus adopted the practice of sacrificing other people's children instead of their own, kings may very well have followed or set the example. A final mitigation of the custom would be the substitution of condemned criminals for innocent victims. Such a substitution is known to have taken place in the human sacrifices annually offered in Rhodes to Baal.802

The custom of sacrificing children, especially the first born, is not peculiarly Semitic. In some tribes of New South Wales the first-born child of every woman was eaten by the tribe as part of a religious ceremony.803 The Indians of Florida sacrificed their first-born male children.804 Amongst the people of Senjero in Eastern Africa we are told that many families “must offer up their first-born sons as sacrifices, [pg 237] because once upon a time, when summer and winter were jumbled together in a bad season, and the fruits of the earth would not ripen, the soothsayers enjoined it. At that time a great pillar of iron is said to have stood at the entrance of the capital, which by the advice of the soothsayers was broken down by order of the king, upon which the seasons became regular again. To avert the recurrence of such a confusion of the seasons, the soothsayers are reported to have enjoined the king to pour human blood once a year on the base of the broken shaft of the pillar, and also upon the throne. Since then certain families are obliged to deliver up their first-born sons, who are sacrificed at an appointed time.”805 The heathen Russians often sacrificed their first-born to the god Perun.806

The condemnation and pretended death by fire of the mock king in Egypt is probably a reminiscence of a real custom of burning him. Evidence of a practice of burning divine personages will be forthcoming later on. In Bilaspur the expulsion of the Brahman who had occupied the king's throne for a year is perhaps a substitute for putting him to death.

The explanation here given of the custom of killing divine persons assumes, or at least is readily combined with, the idea that the soul of the slain divinity is transmitted to his successor. Of this transmission I have no direct proof; and so far a link in [pg 238] the chain of evidence is wanting. But if I cannot prove by actual examples this succession to the soul of the slain god, it can at least be made probable that such a succession was supposed to take place. For it has been already shown that the soul of the incarnate deity is often supposed to transmigrate at death into another incarnation;807 and if this takes place when the death is a natural one, there seems no reason why it should not take place when the death is a violent one. Certainly the idea that the soul of a dying person may be transmitted to his successor is perfectly familiar to primitive peoples. In Nias the eldest son usually succeeds his father in the chieftainship. But if from any bodily or mental defect the eldest son is incapacitated from ruling, the father determines in his life-time which of his sons shall succeed him. In order, however, to establish his right of succession it is necessary that the son upon whom his father's choice falls shall catch in his mouth or in a bag the last breath, and with it the soul, of the dying chief. For whoever catches his last breath is chief equally with the appointed successor. Hence the other brothers, and sometimes also strangers, crowd round the dying man to catch his soul as it passes. The houses in Nias are raised above the ground on posts, and it has happened that when the dying man lay with his face on the floor, one of the candidates has bored a hole in the floor and sucked in the chief's last breath through a bamboo tube. When the chief has no son, his soul is caught in a bag, which is fastened to an image made to represent the deceased; the [pg 239] soul is then believed to pass into the image.808 Amongst the Takilis or Carrier Indians of North-West America, when a corpse is burned the priest pretends to catch the soul of the deceased in his hands, which he closes with many gesticulations. He then communicates the captured soul to the dead man's successor by throwing his hands towards and blowing upon him. The person to whom the soul is thus communicated takes the name and rank of the deceased. On the death of a chief the priest thus fills a responsible and influential position, for he may transmit the soul to whom he will, though, doubtless, he generally follows the regular line of succession.809 Algonkin women who wished to become mothers flocked to the side of a dying person in the hope of receiving and being impregnated by the passing soul. Amongst the Seminoles of Florida when a woman died in childbed the infant was held over her face to receive her parting spirit.810 The Romans caught the breath of dying friends in their mouths, and so received into themselves the soul of the departed.811 The same custom is said to be still practised in Lancashire.812 We may therefore fairly suppose that when the divine king or priest is put to death his spirit is believed to pass into his successor.

[pg 240]

§ 2.—Killing the tree-spirit.

It remains to ask what light the custom of killing the divine king or priest sheds upon the subject of our inquiry. In the first chapter we saw reason to suppose that the King of the Wood was regarded as an incarnation of the tree-spirit or of the spirit of vegetation, and that as such he would be endowed, in the belief of his worshippers, with a supernatural power of making the trees to bear fruit, the crops to grow, and so on. His life must therefore have been held very precious by his worshippers, and was probably hedged in by a system of elaborate precautions or taboos like those by which, in so many places, the life of the god-man has been guarded against the malignant influence of demons and sorcerers. But we have seen that the very value attached to the life of the man-god necessitates his violent death as the only means of preserving it from the inevitable decay of age. The same reasoning would apply to the King of the Wood; he too had to be killed in order that the divine spirit, incarnate in him, might be transferred in unabated vigour to his successor. The rule that he held office till a stronger should slay him might be supposed to secure both the preservation of his divine life in full vigour and its transference to a suitable successor as soon as that vigour began to be impaired. For so long as he could maintain his position by the strong hand, it might be inferred that his natural force was not abated; whereas his defeat and death at the hands of another proved that his strength was beginning to fail and that it was time his divine life should be lodged in a less [pg 241] dilapidated tabernacle. This explanation of the rule that the King of the Wood had to be slain by his successor at least renders that rule perfectly intelligible. Moreover it is countenanced by the analogy of the Chitombé, upon whose life the existence of the world was supposed to hang, and who was therefore slain by his successor as soon as he showed signs of breaking up. Again, the terms on which in later times the King of Calicut held office are identical with those attached to the office of King of the Wood, except that whereas the former might be assailed by a candidate at any time, the King of Calicut might only be attacked once every twelve years. But as the leave granted to the King of Calicut to reign so long as he could defend himself against all comers was a mitigation of the old rule which set a fixed term to his life, so we may conjecture that the similar permission granted to the King of the Wood was a mitigation of an older custom of putting him to death at the end of a set period. In both cases the new rule gave to the god-man at least a chance for his life, which under the old rule was denied him; and people probably reconciled themselves to the change by reflecting that so long as the god-man could maintain himself by the sword against all assaults, there was no reason to apprehend that the fatal decay had set in.

The conjecture that the King of the Wood was formerly put to death at the expiry of a set term, without being allowed a chance for his life, will be confirmed if evidence can be adduced of a custom of periodically killing his counterparts, the human representatives of the tree-spirit, in Northern Europe. Now in point of fact such a custom has left unmistakable [pg 242] traces of itself in the rural festivals of the peasantry. To take examples.

In Lower Bavaria the Whitsuntide representative of the tree-spirit—the Pfingstl as he was called—was clad from top to toe in leaves and flowers. On his head he wore a high pointed cap, the ends of which rested on his shoulders, only two holes being left in it for his eyes. The cap was covered with water flowers and surmounted with a nosegay of peonies. The sleeves of his coat were also made of water-plants, and the rest of his body was enveloped in alder and hazel leaves. On each side of him marched a boy holding up one of the Pfingstl's arms. These two boys carried drawn swords, and so did most of the others who formed the procession. They stopped at every house where they hoped to receive a present; and the people, in hiding, soused the leaf-clad boy with water. All rejoiced when he was well drenched. Finally he waded into the brook up to his middle; whereupon one of the boys, standing on the bridge, pretended to cut off his head.813 At Wurmlingen in Swabia a score of young fellows dress themselves on Whit-Monday in white shirts and white trousers, with red scarves round their waists and swords hanging from the scarves. They ride on horse-back into the wood, led by two trumpeters blowing their trumpets. In the wood they cut down leafy oak branches, in which they envelop from head to foot him who was the last of their number to ride out of the village. His legs, however, are encased separately, so that he may be able to mount his horse again. Further, they give him a long artificial neck, with an [pg 243] artificial head and a false face on the top of it. Then a May-tree is cut, generally an aspen or beech about ten feet high; and being decked with coloured handkerchiefs and ribbons it is entrusted to a special “May-bearer.” The cavalcade then returns with music and song to the village. Amongst the personages who figure in the procession are a Moorish king with a sooty face and a crown on his head, a Dr. Iron-Beard, a corporal, and an executioner. They halt on the village green, and each of the characters makes a speech in rhyme. The executioner announces that the leaf-clad man has been condemned to death and cuts off his false head. Then the riders race to the May-tree, which has been set up a little way off. The first man who succeeds in wrenching it from the ground as he gallops past keeps it with all its decorations. The ceremony is observed every second or third year.814

In Saxony and Thüringen there is a Whitsuntide ceremony called “chasing the Wild Man out of the bush,” or “fetching the Wild Man out of the wood.” A young fellow is enveloped in leaves or moss and called the Wild Man. He hides in the wood and the other lads of the village go out to seek him. They find him, lead him captive out of the wood, and fire at him with blank muskets. He falls like dead to the ground, but a lad dressed as a doctor bleeds him, and he comes to life again. At this they rejoice and binding him fast on a waggon take him to the village, where they tell all the people how they have caught the Wild Man. At every house they receive a gift.815 In [pg 244] the Erzgebirge the following custom was annually observed at Shrovetide about the beginning of the seventeenth century. Two men disguised as Wild Men, the one in brushwood and moss, the other in straw, were led about the streets, and at last taken to the market-place, where they were chased up and down, shot and stabbed. Before falling they reeled about with strange gestures and spirted blood on the people from bladders which they carried. When they were down, the huntsmen placed them on boards and carried them to the alehouse, the miners marching beside them and winding blasts on their mining tools as if they had taken a noble head of game.816 A very similar Shrovetide custom is still observed in the neighbourhood of Schluckenau (Bohemia). A man dressed up as a Wild Man is chased through several streets till he comes to a narrow lane across which a cord is stretched. He stumbles over the cord and, falling to the ground, is overtaken and caught by his pursuers. The executioner runs up and stabs with his sword a bladder filled with blood which the Wild Man wears round his body; so the Wild Man dies, while a stream of blood reddens the ground. Next day a straw-man, made up to look like the Wild Man, is placed on a litter, and, accompanied by a great crowd, is taken to a pool into which it is thrown by the executioner. The ceremony is called “burying the Carnival.”817

In Semic (Bohemia) the custom of beheading the King is observed on Whit-Monday. A troop of young people disguise themselves; each is girt with a girdle of bark and carries a wooden sword and a [pg 245] trumpet of willow-bark. The King wears a robe of tree-bark adorned with flowers, on his head is a crown of bark decked with flowers and branches, his feet are wound about with ferns, a mask hides his face, and for a sceptre he has a hawthorn switch in his hand. A lad leads him through the village by a rope fastened to his foot, while the rest dance about, blow their trumpets, and whistle. In every farmhouse the King is chased round the room, and one of the troop, amid much noise and outcry, strikes with his sword a blow on the King's robe of bark till it rings again. Then a gratuity is demanded.818 The ceremony of decapitation, which is here somewhat slurred over, is carried out with a greater semblance of reality in other parts of Bohemia. Thus in some villages of the Königgrätz district on Whit-Monday the girls assemble under one lime-tree and the young men under another, all dressed in their best and tricked out with ribbons. The young men twine a garland for the Queen and the girls for the King. When they have chosen the King and Queen they all go in procession, two and two, to the alehouse, from the balcony of which the crier proclaims the names of the King and Queen. Both are then invested with the insignia of their dignity and are crowned with the garlands, while the music plays up. Then some one gets on a bench and accuses the King of various offences, such as ill-treating the cattle. The King appeals to witnesses and a trial ensues, at the close of which the judge, who carries a white wand as his badge of office, pronounces a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the verdict is “guilty” the judge breaks his wand, the [pg 246] King kneels on a white cloth, all heads are bared, and a soldier sets three or four hats, one above the other, on the King's head. The judge then pronounces the word “guilty” thrice in a loud voice, and orders the crier to behead the King. The crier obeys by striking off the King's hats with his wooden sword.819

But perhaps, for our purpose, the most instructive of these mimic executions is the following Bohemian one, which has been in part described already.820 In some places of the Pilsen district (Bohemia) on Whit-Monday the King is dressed in bark, ornamented with flowers and ribbons; he wears a crown of gilt paper and rides a horse, which is also decked with flowers. Attended by a judge, an executioner and other characters, and followed by a train of soldiers, all mounted, he rides to the village square, where a hut or arbour of green boughs has been erected under the May-trees, which are firs, freshly cut, peeled to the top, and dressed with flowers and ribbons. After the dames and maidens of the village have been criticised and a frog beheaded, in the way already described, the cavalcade rides to a place previously determined upon, in a straight, broad street. Here they draw up in two lines and the King takes to flight. He is given a short start and rides off at full speed, pursued by the whole troop. If they fail to catch him he remains King for another year, and his companions must pay his score at the alehouse in the evening. But if they overtake and catch him he is scourged with hazel rods or beaten with the wooden swords and compelled to dismount. Then the executioner asks, “Shall I behead this King?” The answer is given, “Behead him;” the executioner [pg 247] brandishes his axe, and with the words, “One, two, three, let the King headless be!” he strikes off the King's crown. Amid the loud cries of the bystanders the King sinks to the ground; then he is laid on a bier and carried to the nearest farmhouse.821

In the personages who are thus slain in mimicry it is impossible not to recognise representatives of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation, as he is supposed to manifest himself in spring. The bark, leaves, and flowers in which the actors are dressed, and the season of the year at which they appear, show that they belong to the same class as the Grass King, King of the May, Jack-in-the-Green, and other representatives of the vernal spirit of vegetation which we examined in the first chapter. As if to remove any possible doubt on this head, we find that in two cases822 these slain men are brought into direct connection with May-trees, which are (as we have seen) the impersonal, as the May King, Grass King, etc., are the personal representatives of the tree-spirit. The drenching of the Pfingstl with water and his wading up to the middle into the brook are, therefore, no doubt rain-charms like those which have been already described.823

But if these personages represent, as they certainly do, the spirit of vegetation in spring, the question arises, Why kill them? What is the object of slaying the spirit of vegetation at any time and above all in spring, when his services are most wanted? The only answer to this question seems to be given in the explanation already proposed of the custom of killing the divine king or priest. The divine life, incarnate in a material and mortal body, is liable [pg 248] to be tainted and corrupted by the weakness of the frail medium in which it is for a time enshrined; and if it is to be saved from the increasing enfeeblement which it must necessarily share with its human incarnation as he advances in years, it must be detached from him before, or at least as soon as, he exhibits signs of decay, in order to be transferred to a vigorous successor. This is done by killing the old representative of the god and conveying the divine spirit from him to a new incarnation. The killing of the god, that is, of his human incarnation, is, therefore, only a necessary step to his revival or resurrection in a better form. Far from being an extinction of the divine spirit, it is only the beginning of a purer and stronger manifestation of it. If this explanation holds good of the custom of killing divine kings and priests in general, it is still more obviously applicable to the custom of annually killing the representative of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation in spring. For the decay of vegetation in winter is readily interpreted by primitive man as an enfeeblement of the spirit of vegetation; the spirit has (he thinks) grown old and weak and must therefore be renovated by being slain and brought to life in a younger and fresher form. Thus the killing of the representative of the tree-spirit in spring is regarded as a means to promote and quicken the growth of vegetation. For the killing of the tree-spirit is associated always (we must suppose) implicitly, and sometimes explicitly also, with a revival or resurrection of him in a more youthful and vigorous form. Thus in the Saxon and Thüringen custom, after the Wild Man has been shot he is brought to life again by a doctor;824 and in the Wurmlingen ceremony there [pg 249] figures a Dr. Iron-Beard, who probably once played a similar part; certainly in another spring ceremony (to be described presently) Dr. Iron-Beard pretends to restore a dead man to life. But of this revival or resurrection of the god we shall have more to say anon.

The points of similarity between these North European personages and the subject of our inquiry—the King of the Wood or priest of Nemi—are sufficiently striking. In these northern maskers we see kings, whose dress of bark and leaves, along with the hut of green boughs and the fir-trees under which they hold their court, proclaim them unmistakably as, like their Italian counterpart, Kings of the Wood. Like him they die a violent death; but like him they may escape from it for a time by their bodily strength and agility; for in several of these northern customs the flight and pursuit of the king is a prominent part of the ceremony, and in one case at least if the king can outrun his pursuers he retains his life and his office for another year. In this last case, in fact, the king holds office on condition of running for his life once a year, just as the King of Calicut in later times held office on condition of defending his life against all comers once every twelve years, and just as the priest of Nemi held office on condition of defending himself against any assault at any time. In all these cases the life of the god-man is prolonged on condition of showing, in a severe physical contest of fight or flight, that his bodily strength is not decayed, and that, therefore, the violent death, which sooner or later is inevitable, may for the present be postponed. With regard to flight it is noticeable that flight figured conspicuously both in the legend and the practice of the King of the Wood. He [pg 250] had to be a runaway slave (fugitivus) in memory of the flight of Orestes, the traditional founder of the worship; hence the Kings of the Wood are described by an ancient writer as “both strong of hand and fleet of foot.”825 Perhaps if we knew the ritual of the Arician grove fully we might find that the king was allowed a chance for his life by flight, like his Bohemian brother. We may conjecture that the annual flight of the priestly king at Rome (regifugium)826 was at first a flight of the same kind; in other words, that he was originally one of those divine kings who are either put to death after a fixed period or allowed to prove by the strong hand or the fleet foot that their divinity is vigorous and unimpaired. One more point of resemblance may be noted between the Italian King of the Wood and his northern counterparts. In Saxony and Thüringen the representative of the tree-spirit, after being killed, is brought to life again by a doctor. This is exactly what legend affirmed to have happened to the first King of the Wood at Nemi, Hippolytus or Virbius, who after he had been killed by his horses was restored to life by the physician Aesculapius.827 Such a legend tallies well with the theory that the slaying of the King of the Wood was only a step to his revival or resurrection in his successor.

It has been assumed that the mock killing of the Wild Man and of the King in North European folk-custom is a modern substitute for an ancient custom of killing them in earnest. Those who best know the tenacity of life possessed by folk-custom and its tendency, with the growth of civilisation, to dwindle from solemn ritual into mere pageant and pastime, will be [pg 251] least likely to question the truth of this assumption. That human sacrifices were commonly offered by the ancestors of the civilised races of North Europe (Celts, Teutons, and Slavs) is certain.828 It is not, therefore, surprising that the modern peasant should do in mimicry what his forefathers did in reality. We know as a matter of fact that in other parts of the world mock human sacrifices have been substituted for real ones. Thus Captain Bourke was informed by an old chief that the Indians of Arizona used to offer human sacrifices at the Feast of Fire when the days are shortest. The victim had his throat cut, his breast opened, and his heart taken out by one of the priests. This custom was abolished by the Mexicans, but for a long time afterwards a modified form of it was secretly observed as follows. The victim, generally a young man, had his throat cut, and blood was allowed to flow freely; but the medicine-men sprinkled “medicine” on the gash, which soon healed up, and the man recovered.829 So in the ritual of Artemis at Halae in Attica, a man's throat was cut and the blood allowed to gush out, but he was not killed.830 At the funeral of a chief in Nias slaves are sacrificed; a little of their hair is cut off, and then they are beheaded. The victims are generally purchased for the purpose, and their number is proportioned to the wealth and power of the deceased. But if the number required is excessively great or cannot be procured, some of the chief's own slaves undergo a sham sacrifice. They are told, and believe, that [pg 252] they are about to be decapitated; their heads are placed on a log and their necks struck with the back of a sword. The fright drives some of them crazy.831 When a Hindoo has killed or ill-treated an ape, a bird of prey of a certain kind, or a cobra capella, in the presence of the worshippers of Vishnu, he must expiate his offence by the pretended sacrifice and resurrection of a human being. An incision is made in the victim's arm, the blood flows, he grows faint, falls, and feigns to die. Afterwards he is brought to life by being sprinkled with blood drawn from the thigh of a worshipper of Vishnu. The crowd of spectators is fully convinced of the reality of this simulated death and resurrection.832 Sometimes the mock sacrifice is carried out, not on a living person but on an image. Thus an Indian law-book, the Calica Puran, prescribes that when the sacrifice of lions, tigers, or human beings is required, an image of a lion, tiger, or man shall be made with butter, paste, or barley meal, and sacrificed instead.833 Some of the Gonds of India formerly offered human sacrifices; they now sacrifice straw-men instead.834 Colonel Dalton was told that in some of their villages the Bhagats (Hindooised Oraons) “annually make an image of a man in wood, put clothes and ornaments on it, and present it before the altar of a Mahádeo. The person who officiates as priest on the occasion says: ‘O, Mahádeo, we sacrifice this man to you according to ancient customs. Give us rain in due season, and a [pg 253] plentiful harvest.’ Then with one stroke of the axe the head of the image is struck off, and the body is removed and buried.”835

§ 3.—Carrying out Death.

Thus far I have offered an explanation of the rule which required that the priest of Nemi should be slain by his successor. The explanation claims to be no more than probable; our scanty knowledge of the custom and of its history forbids it to be more. But its probability will be augmented in proportion to the extent to which the motives and modes of thought which it assumes can be proved to have operated in primitive society. Hitherto the god with whose death and resurrection we have been chiefly concerned has been the tree-god. Tree-worship may perhaps be regarded (though this is a conjecture) as occupying an intermediate place in the history of religion, between the religion of the hunter and shepherd on the one side, whose gods are mostly animals, and the religion of the husbandman on the other hand, in whose worship the cultivated plants play a leading part. If then I can show that the custom of killing the god and the belief in his resurrection originated, or at least existed, in the hunting and pastoral stage of society, when the slain god was an animal, and survived into the agricultural stage, when the slain god was the corn or a human being representing the corn, the probability of my explanation will have been considerably increased. This I shall attempt to do in the remainder of this chapter, in the course of which [pg 254] I hope to clear up some obscurities which still remain, and to answer some objections which may have suggested themselves to the reader.

We start from the point at which we left off—the spring customs of European peasantry. Besides the ceremonies already described there are two kindred sets of observances in which the simulated death of a divine or supernatural being is a leading feature. These observances are commonly known as “Burying the Carnival,” and “Driving or carrying out Death.” Both customs are chiefly practised, or at least best known, on German and Slavonic ground. The former custom is observed on the last day of the Carnival, namely, Shrove Tuesday (Fastnacht), or on the first day of Lent, namely, Ash Wednesday. The latter custom is commonly observed on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, which hence gets the name of Dead Sunday (Todtensonntag); but in some places it is observed a week earlier; in others again, as amongst the Czechs of Bohemia, a week later. Originally the date of the celebration of the “Carrying out Death” appears not to have been fixed, but to have depended on the appearance of the first swallow or of some other natural phenomenon.836 A Bohemian form of the custom of “Burying the Carnival” has been already described.837 The following Swabian form is obviously similar. In the neighbourhood of Tübingen on Shrove Tuesday a straw-man, called the Shrovetide Bear, is made up; he is dressed in a pair of old trousers, and a [pg 255] fresh black-pudding or two squirts filled with blood are inserted in his neck. After a formal condemnation he is beheaded, laid in a coffin, and on Ash Wednesday is buried in the churchyard. This is called “Burying the Carnival” (die Fastnacht vergraben).838 Amongst some of the Saxons of Transylvania the Carnival is hung. Thus at Braller on Ash Wednesday or Shrove Tuesday two white and two chestnut horses draw a sledge on which is placed a straw-man swathed in a white cloth; beside him is a cart-wheel which is kept turning round. Two lads disguised as old men follow the sledge lamenting. The rest of the village lads, mounted on horseback and decked with ribbons, accompany the procession, which is headed by two girls crowned with evergreen and drawn in a waggon or sledge. A trial is held under a tree, at which lads disguised as soldiers pronounce sentence of death. The two old men try to rescue the straw-man and to fly with him, but to no purpose; he is caught by the two girls and handed over to the executioner, who hangs him on a tree. In vain the old men try to climb up the tree and take him down; they always tumble down, and at last in despair they throw themselves on the ground and weep and howl for the hanged man. An official then makes a speech in which he declares that the Carnival was condemned to death because he had done them harm, by wearing out their shoes and making them tired and sleepy.839 At the “Burial of Carnival” in Lechrain, a man dressed as a woman in black clothes is carried on a litter or bier by four men; he is lamented over by men disguised as [pg 256] women in black clothes, then thrown down before the village dung-heap, drenched with water, buried in the dung-heap, and covered with straw.840 Similarly in Schörzingen, near Schömberg, the “Carnival (Shrovetide) Fool” was carried all about the village on a bier, preceded by a man dressed in white, and followed by a devil who was dressed in black and carried chains, which he clanked. One of the train collected gifts. After the procession the Fool was buried under straw and dung.841 In Rottweil the “Carnival Fool” is made drunk on Ash Wednesday and buried under straw amid loud lamentation.842 In Wurmlingen the Fool is represented by a young fellow enveloped in straw, who is led about the village by a rope as a “Bear” on Shrove Tuesday and the preceding day. He dances to the flute. Then on Ash Wednesday a straw-man is made, placed on a trough, carried out of the village to the sound of drums and mournful music, and buried in a field.843 In Altdorf and Weingarten on Ash Wednesday the Fool, represented by a straw-man, is carried about and then thrown into the water to the accompaniment of melancholy music. In other villages of Swabia the part of fool is played by a live person, who is thrown into the water after being carried about in procession.844 At Balwe, in Westphalia, a straw-man is made on Shrove Tuesday and thrown into the river amid rejoicings. This is called, as usual, “Burying the Carnival.”845 On the evening of Shrove Tuesday, the Esthonians make a [pg 257] straw figure called metsik or “wood-spirit;” one year it is dressed with a man's coat and hat, next year with a hood and a petticoat. This figure is stuck on a long pole, carried across the boundary of the village with loud cries of joy, and fastened to the top of a tree in the wood. The ceremony is believed to be a protection against all kinds of misfortune.846 Sometimes the resurrection of the pretended dead person is enacted. Thus, in some parts of Swabia, on Shrove Tuesday Dr. Iron-Beard professes to bleed a sick man, who thereupon falls as dead to the ground; but the doctor at last restores him to life by blowing air into him through a tube.847 In the Harz mountains, when Carnival is over, a man is laid on a baking-trough and carried with dirges to a grave; but in the grave, instead of the man, a glass of brandy is placed. A speech is delivered and then the people return to the village-green or meeting-place, where they smoke the long clay pipes which are distributed at funerals. On the morning of Shrove Tuesday in the following year the brandy is dug up and the festival begins by every one tasting the brandy which, as the phrase goes, has come to life again.848

The ceremony of “Carrying out Death” presents much the same features as “Burying the Carnival;” except that the figure of Death is oftener drowned or burned than buried, and that the carrying out of Death is generally followed by a ceremony, or at least accompanied by a profession, of bringing in Summer, Spring, or Life. Thus, in some villages of Thüringen on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the children used to carry a puppet of birchen twigs through the village, [pg 258] and then threw it into a pool, while they sang, “We carry the old Death out behind the herdsman's old house; we have got Summer, and Kroden's(?) power is destroyed.”849 In one village of Thüringen (Dobschwitz near Gera), the ceremony of “Driving out Death” is still annually observed on the 1st of March. The young people make up a figure of straw or the like materials, dress it in old clothes which they have begged from the houses in the village, and carry it out and throw it into the river. On returning to the village they announce the fact to the people, and receive eggs and other victuals as a reward. In other villages of Thüringen, in which the population was originally Slavonic, the carrying out of the puppet is accompanied with the singing of a song, which begins, “Now we carry Death out of the village and Spring into the village.”850 In Bohemia the children go out with a straw-man, representing Death, to the end of the village, where they burn it, singing—

Now carry we Death out of the village,
The new Summer into the village,
Welcome dear Summer,
Green little corn!851

At Tabor (Bohemia) the figure of Death is carried out of the town and flung from a high rock into the water, while they sing—

Death swims on the water,
Summer will soon be here,
We carried Death away for you,
We brought the Summer.
And do thou, O holy Marketa,
Give us a good year
For wheat and for rye.852
[pg 259]

In other parts of Bohemia they carry Death to the end of the village, singing—

We carry Death out of the village,
And the New Year into the village.
Dear Spring, we bid you welcome,
Green grass, we bid you welcome.

Behind the village they erect a pyre, on which they burn the straw figure, reviling and scoffing at it the while. Then they return, singing—

We have carried away Death,
And brought Life back.
He has taken up his quarters in the village,
Therefore sing joyous songs.853

At Nürnberg, girls of seven to eighteen years of age, dressed in their best, carry through the streets a little open coffin in which is a doll, hidden under a shroud. Others carry a beech branch, with an apple fastened to it for a head, in an open box. They sing, “We carry Death into the water, it is well,” or, “We carry Death into the water, carry him in and out again.”854

The effigy of Death is often regarded with fear and treated with marks of hatred and contempt. In Lusatia the figure is sometimes made to look in at the window of a house, and it is believed that some one in the house will die within the year unless his life is redeemed by the payment of money.855 Again, after throwing the effigy away, the bearers sometimes run home lest Death should follow them; and if one of them falls in running, it is believed that he will die within the year.856 At Chrudim, in Bohemia, the [pg 260] figure of Death is made out of a cross, with a head and mask stuck at the top, and a shirt stretched out on it. On the Fifth Sunday in Lent the boys take this effigy to the nearest brook or pool, and standing in a line throw it into the water. Then they all plunge in after it; but as soon as it is caught no one more may enter the water. The boy who did not enter the water or entered it last will die within the year, and he is obliged to carry the Death back to the village. The effigy is then burned.857 On the other hand it is believed that no one will die within the year in the house out of which the figure of Death has been carried;858 and the village out of which Death has been driven is sometimes supposed to be protected against sickness and plague.859 In some villages of Austrian Silesia on the Saturday before Dead Sunday an effigy is made of old clothes, hay, and straw, for the purpose of driving Death out of the village. On Sunday the people, armed with sticks and straps, assemble before the house where the figure is lodged. Four lads then draw the effigy by cords through the village amid exultant shouts, while all the others beat it with their sticks and straps. On reaching a field which belongs to a neighbouring village they lay down the figure, cudgel it soundly, and scatter the fragments over the field. The people believe that the village from which Death has been thus carried out will be safe from any infectious disease for the whole year.860 In Slavonia the figure of Death is cudgelled and then [pg 261] rent in two.861 In Poland the effigy, made of hemp and straw, is flung into a pool or swamp with the words, “The devil take thee.”862

The custom of “sawing the Old Woman,” which is or used to be observed in Italy and Spain on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is doubtless, as Grimm supposes, merely another form of the custom of “carrying out Death.” A great hideous figure representing the oldest woman of the village was dragged out and sawn in two, amid a prodigious noise made with cow-bells, pots and pans, etc.863 In Palermo the ceremony used to be still more realistic. At Mid-Lent an old woman was drawn through the streets on a cart, attended by two men dressed in the costume of the Compagnia de'Bianchi, a society or religious order whose function it was to attend and console prisoners condemned to death. A scaffold was erected in a public square; the old woman mounted it, and two mock executioners proceeded, amid a storm of huzzas and hand-clapping, to saw through her neck or rather through a bladder of blood which had been previously fitted to her neck. The blood gushed out and the old woman pretended to swoon and die. The last of these mock executions took place in 1737.864 At Florence, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Old Woman was represented by a figure stuffed with walnuts and dried figs and fastened to the top of a ladder. At Mid-Lent this effigy was sawn through the middle under the Loggie of the Mercato Nuovo, and as the dried fruits tumbled out they were scrambled for by the crowd. A trace of the custom is still to be seen in the practice, observed [pg 262] by urchins, of secretly pinning paper ladders to the shoulders of women of the lower classes who happen to show themselves in the streets on the morning of Mid-Lent.865 A similar custom is observed by urchins in Rome; and at Naples on the 1st of April boys cut strips of cloth into the shape of saws, smear them with gypsum, and strike passers-by with their “saws” on the back, thus imprinting the figure of a saw upon their clothes.866 At Montalto in Calabria boys go about at Mid-Lent with little saws made of cane and jeer at old people, who therefore generally stay indoors on that day. The Calabrian women meet together at this time and feast on figs, chestnuts, honey, etc.; this they call “sawing the Old Woman”—a reminiscence probably of a custom like the old Florentine one.867

In Barcelona on the day in question boys run about the streets, some with saws, others with billets of wood, others again with cloths in which they collect gratuities. They sing a song in which it is said that they are looking for the oldest woman of the city for the purpose of sawing her in two in honour of Mid-Lent; at last, pretending to have found her, they saw something in two and burn it. A like custom is found amongst the South Slavs. In Lent the Croats tell their children that at noon an old woman is being sawn in two outside the gates; and in Carniola also the saying is current that at Mid-Lent an old woman is taken out of the village and sawn in two. The North Slavonian expression for keeping Mid-Lent is bábu rezati, that is, “sawing the Old Wife.”868

[pg 263]

In the preceding ceremonies the return of Spring, Summer, or Life, as a sequel to the expulsion of Death, is only implied or at most announced. In the following ceremonies it is plainly enacted. In some parts of Bohemia the effigy of Death is buried at sunset; then the girls go out into the wood and cut down a young tree with a green crown, hang a doll dressed as a woman on it, deck the whole with green, red, and white ribbons, and march in procession with their Líto (Summer) into the village, collecting gifts and singing—

We carried Death out of the village,
We are carrying Summer into the village.869

In many Silesian villages the figure of Death, after being treated with respect, is stripped of its clothes and flung with curses into the water, or torn in pieces in a field. Then a fir-tree adorned with ribbons, coloured egg-shells, and motley bits of cloth, is carried through the streets by boys who collect pennies and sing—

We have carried Death out,
We are bringing the dear Summer back,
The Summer and the May
And all the flowers gay.870

At Eisenach on the Fourth Sunday in Lent young people used to fasten a straw-man, representing Death, to a wheel, which they trundled to the top of a hill. Then setting fire to the figure they allowed it and the wheel to roll downhill. Next they cut a tall fir-tree, tricked it out with ribbons, and set it up in the plain. The men then climbed the tree to fetch down the [pg 264] ribbons.871 In Upper Lusatia the figure of Death, made of straw and rags, is dressed in a veil furnished by the last bride and a shirt furnished by the house in which the last death occurred. Thus arrayed the figure is stuck on the end of a long pole and carried at full speed by the tallest and strongest girl, while the rest pelt the effigy with sticks and stones. Whoever hits it will be sure to live through the year. In this way Death is carried out of the village and thrown into the water or over the boundary of the next village. On their way home each one breaks a green branch and carries it gaily with him till he reaches the village, when he throws it away. Sometimes the young people of the next village, upon whose land the figure has been thrown, run after them and hurl it back, not wishing to have Death among them. Hence the two parties occasionally come to blows.872

In these cases Death is represented by the puppet which is thrown away, Summer or Life by the branches or trees which are brought back. But sometimes a new potency of life seems to be attributed to the image of Death itself, and by a kind of resurrection it becomes the instrument of the general revival. Thus in some parts of Lusatia women alone are concerned in carrying out Death, and suffer no male to meddle with it. Attired in mourning, which they wear the whole day, they make a puppet of straw, clothe it in a white shirt, and give it a broom in one hand and a scythe in the other. Singing songs and pursued by urchins throwing stones, they carry the puppet to the village boundary, where they tear it in pieces. Then they cut down [pg 265] a fine tree, hang the shirt on it, and carry it home singing.873 On the Feast of Ascension the Saxons of a village near Hermanstadt (Transylvania) observe the ceremony of “carrying out Death” in the following manner. After forenoon church all the school-girls repair to the house of one of their number, and there dress up the Death. This is done by tying a threshed-out corn-sheaf into the rough semblance of a head and body, while the arms are simulated by a broomstick stuck horizontally. The figure is dressed in the Sunday clothes of a village matron. It is then displayed at the window that all people may see it on their way to afternoon church. As soon as vespers are over the girls seize the effigy and, singing a hymn, carry it in procession round the village. Boys are excluded from the procession. After the procession has traversed the village from end to end, the figure is taken to another house and stripped of its attire; the naked straw bundle is then thrown out of the window to the boys, who carry it off and fling it into the nearest stream. This is the first act of the drama. In the second, one of the girls is solemnly invested with the clothes and ornaments previously worn by the figure of Death, and, like it, is led in procession round the village to the singing of the same hymns as before. The ceremony ends with a feast at the house of the girl who acted the chief part; as before, the boys are excluded. “According to popular belief, it is allowed to eat fruit only after this day, as now the ‘Death,’ that is, the unwholesomeness—has been expelled from them. Also the river in which the Death has been drowned may now be considered fit for public bathing. If this ceremony be neglected in the [pg 266] village where it is customary, such neglect is supposed to entail death to one of the young people, or loss of virtue to a girl.”874

In the first of these two ceremonies the tree which is brought home after the destruction of the figure of Death is plainly equivalent to the trees or branches which, in the preceding customs, were brought back as representatives of Summer or Life, after Death had been thrown away or destroyed. But the transference of the shirt worn by the effigy of Death to the tree clearly indicates that the tree is a kind of revivification, in a new form, of the destroyed effigy.875 This comes out also in the Transylvanian custom; the dressing of a girl in the clothes worn by the Death, and the leading her about the village to the same songs which had been sung when the Death was being carried about, show that she is intended to be a kind of resuscitation of the being whose effigy has just been destroyed. These examples therefore suggest that the Death whose demolition is represented in these ceremonies cannot be regarded as the purely destructive agent which we understand by Death. If the tree which is brought back as an embodiment of the reviving vegetation of spring is clothed in the shirt worn by the Death which has been just destroyed, the object certainly cannot be to check and counteract the revival of vegetation; it can only be to foster and promote it. Therefore the being which has just been destroyed—the so-called Death—must be supposed to be endowed with a vivifying and quickening influence, which it can communicate to the vegetable and even the animal world. This ascription of a life-giving virtue to the [pg 267] figure of Death is put beyond a doubt by the custom, observed in some places, of taking pieces of the straw effigy of Death and placing them in the fields to make the crops grow, or in the manger to make the cattle thrive. Thus in Spachendorf (Austrian Silesia) the figure of Death made of straw, brushwood, and rags, is carried out with wild songs to an open place outside the village and there burned, and while it is burning a general struggle takes place for the pieces, which are pulled out of the flames with bare hands. Each one who secures a fragment of the effigy ties it to a branch of the largest tree in his garden, or buries it in his field, in the belief that this causes the crops to grow better.876 In the Troppau district (Austrian Silesia) the straw figure which the boys make on the Fourth Sunday in Lent is dressed by the girls in woman's clothes and hung with ribbons, necklace, and garlands. Attached to a long pole it is carried out of the village, followed by a troop of young people of both sexes, who alternately frolic, lament, and sing songs. Arrived at its destination—a field outside the village—the figure is stripped of its clothes and ornaments; then the crowd rushes on it and tears it to bits, scuffling for the fragments. Every one tries to get a wisp of the straw of which the effigy was made, because such a wisp, placed in the manger, is believed to make the cattle thrive.877 Or the straw is put in the hens' nest, it being supposed that this prevents the hens from carrying away their eggs, and makes them brood much better.878 The same attribution of a fertilising power to the figure of Death appears in the belief that [pg 268] if the bearers of the figure, after throwing it away, meet cattle and strike them with their sticks, this will render the cattle prolific.879 Perhaps the sticks had been previously used to beat the Death,880 and so had acquired the fertilising power ascribed to the effigy. In Leipzig at Mid-Lent men and women of the lowest class used to carry through all the streets a straw effigy of Death, which they exhibited to young wives, and finally threw into the river, alleging that this made young wives fruitful, cleansed the city, and averted the plague and other sickness from the inhabitants for that year.881

It seems hardly possible to separate from the May-trees the trees or branches which are brought into the village after the destruction of the Death. The bearers who bring them in profess to be bringing in the Summer;882 therefore the trees obviously represent the Summer; and the doll which is sometimes attached to the Summer-tree is a duplicate representative of the Summer, just as the May is sometimes represented at the same time by a May-tree and a May Lady.883 Further, the Summer-trees are adorned like May-trees with ribbons, etc.; like May-trees, when large, they are planted in the ground and climbed up; and like May-trees, when small, they are carried from door to door by boys or girls singing songs and collecting money.884 And as if to demonstrate the identity of the two sets of customs the bearers of the Summer-tree sometimes announce that they are bringing in the Summer [pg 269] and the May.885 The customs, therefore, of bringing in the May and bringing in the Summer are essentially the same; and the Summer-tree is merely another form of the May-tree, the only distinction (besides that of name) being in the time at which they are respectively brought in; for while the May-tree is usually fetched in on the 1st of May or at Whitsuntide, the Summer-tree is fetched in on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Therefore, if the explanation here adopted of the May-tree (namely, that it is an embodiment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation) is correct, the Summer-tree must likewise be an embodiment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation. But we have seen that the Summer-tree is in some cases a revivification of the effigy of Death. It follows, therefore, that in these cases the effigy called Death must be an embodiment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation. This inference is confirmed, first, by the vivifying and fertilising influence which the fragments of the effigy of Death are believed to exercise both on vegetable and on animal life;886 for this influence, as we saw in the first chapter, is supposed to be a special attribute of the tree-spirit. It is confirmed, secondly, by observing that the effigy of Death is sometimes composed of birchen twigs, of the branch of a beech-tree, of a threshed-out corn-sheaf, or of hemp;887 and that sometimes it is hung on a little tree and so carried about by girls collecting money,888 just as is done with the May-tree and the May Lady, and with the Summer-tree and the [pg 270] doll attached to it. In short we are driven to regard the expulsion of Death and the bringing in of Summer as, in some cases at least, merely another form of that death and resuscitation of the spirit of vegetation in spring which we saw enacted in the killing and resurrection of the Wild Man.889 The burial and resurrection of the Carnival is probably another way of expressing the same idea. The burying of the representative of the Carnival under a dung-heap is natural, if he is supposed to possess a quickening and fertilising influence like that ascribed to the effigy of Death. By the Esthonians, indeed, the straw figure which is carried out of the village in the usual way on Shrove Tuesday is not called the Carnival, but the Wood-spirit (Metsik), and the identity of it with the wood-spirit is further shown by fixing it to the top of a tree in the wood, where it remains for a year, and is besought almost daily with prayers and offerings to protect the herds; for like a true wood-spirit the Metsik is a patron of cattle. Sometimes the Metsik is made of sheafs of corn.890 Therefore, we may fairly conjecture that the names Carnival, Death, and Summer, are comparatively late and inadequate expressions for the beings personified or embodied in the customs described. The very abstractness of the names bespeaks a modern origin; the personification of times and seasons like the Carnival and Summer, or of an abstract notion like death, is hardly primitive. But the ceremonies themselves bear the stamp of a dateless antiquity; therefore we can hardly help supposing that in their origin the [pg 271] ideas which they embodied were of a more simple and concrete order. The conception of a tree, perhaps of a particular kind of tree (for some savages have no word for tree in general), or even of an individual tree, is sufficiently concrete to supply a basis from which by a gradual process of generalisation the wider conception of a spirit of vegetation might be reached. But this general conception of vegetation would readily be confounded with the season in which it manifests itself; hence the substitution of Spring, Summer, or May for the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation would be easy and natural. Again the concrete notion of the dying tree or dying vegetation would by a similar process of generalisation glide into a notion of death in general; so that instead of the carrying out of the dying or dead vegetation in spring (as a preliminary to its revival) we should in time get a carrying out of Death itself. The view that in these spring ceremonies Death meant originally the dying or dead vegetation of winter has the high support of W. Mannhardt; and he confirms it by the analogy of the name Death as applied to the spirit of the ripe corn. Commonly the spirit of the ripe corn is conceived, not as dead, but as old, and hence it goes by the name of the Old Man or the Old Woman. But in some places the last sheaf cut at harvest, which is generally believed to be the seat of the corn spirit, is called “the Dead One;” children are warned against entering the corn-fields because Death sits in the corn; and, in a game played by Saxon children in Transylvania at the maize harvest, Death is represented by a child completely covered with maize leaves.891

[pg 272]

The supposition that behind the conceptions of Death, Carnival, Summer, etc., as embodied in these spring ceremonies, there lurk older and more concrete notions is to a certain extent countenanced by the fact that in Russia funeral ceremonies like those of “Burying the Carnival” and “Carrying out Death” are celebrated under the names, not of Death or the Carnival, but of certain mythic figures, Kostrubonko, Kostroma, Kupalo, Lada, and Yarilo. These Russian ceremonies are observed both in spring and at midsummer. Thus “in Little Russia it used to be the custom at Eastertide to celebrate the funeral of a being called Kostrubonko, the deity of the spring. A circle was formed of singers who moved slowly around a girl who lay on the ground as if dead, and as they went they sang—

Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko!
Dead, dead is our dear one!

until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the chorus joyfully exclaimed—

Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko!
Come to life, come to life has our dear one! ”892

On the Eve of St. John (Midsummer Eve) a figure of Kupalo is made of straw and “is dressed in woman's clothes, with a necklace and a floral crown. Then a tree is felled, and, after being decked with ribbons, is set up on some chosen spot. Near this tree, to which they give the name of Marena [Winter or Death], the straw figure is placed, together with a table, on which stand spirits and viands. Afterwards a bonfire is lit, and the young men and maidens jump over it in couples, carrying the figure with them. On [pg 273] the next day they strip the tree and the figure of their ornaments, and throw them both into a stream.”893 On St. Peter's Day (29th June) or on the following Sunday, “the Funeral of Kostroma” or of Lada or of Yarilo is celebrated in Russia. In the Governments of Penza and Simbirsk the “funeral” used to be represented as follows. A bonfire was kindled on the 28th of June, and on the next day the maidens chose one of their number to play the part of Kostroma. Her companions saluted her with deep obeisances, placed her on a board, and carried her to the bank of a stream. There they bathed her in the water, while the oldest girl made a basket of lime-tree bark and beat it like a drum. Then they returned to the village and ended the day with processions, games, and dances.894 In the Murom district, Kostroma was represented by a straw figure dressed in woman's clothes and flowers. This was laid in a trough and carried with songs to the bank of a lake or river. Here the crowd divided into two sides, of which the one attacked and the other defended the figure. At last the assailants gained the day, stripped the figure of its dress and ornaments, tore it in pieces, trod the straw of which it was made under foot, and flung it into the stream; while the defenders of the figure hid their faces in their hands and pretended to bewail the death of Kostroma.895 In the district of Kostroma the burial of Yarilo was celebrated on the 29th or 30th of June. The people chose an old man and gave him a small coffin containing a Priapus-like figure representing Yarilo. This he carried out of the town, followed by women chanting [pg 274] dirges and expressing by their gestures grief and despair. In the open fields a grave was dug, and into it the figure was lowered amid weeping and wailing, after which games and dances were begun, “calling to mind the funeral games celebrated in old times by the pagan Slavonians.”896 In Little Russia the figure of Yarilo was laid in a coffin and carried through the streets after sunset surrounded by drunken women, who kept repeating mournfully, “He is dead! he is dead!” The men lifted and shook the figure as if they were trying to recall the dead man to life. Then they said to the women, “Women, weep not. I know what is sweeter than honey.” But the women continued to lament and chant, as they do at funerals. “Of what was he guilty? He was so good. He will arise no more. O how shall we part from thee? What is life without thee? Arise, if only for a brief hour. But he rises not, he rises not.” At last the Yarilo was buried in a grave.897

These Russian customs are plainly of the same nature as those which in Austria and Germany are known as “Burying the Carnival” and “Carrying out Death.” Therefore if my interpretation of the latter is right, the Russian Kostroma, Yarilo, etc. must also have been originally embodiments of the spirit of vegetation, and their death must have been regarded as a necessary preliminary to their revival. The revival as a sequel to the death is enacted in the first of the ceremonies described, the death and resurrection of Kostrubonko. The reason why in some of these Russian ceremonies the death of the spirit of vegetation is celebrated at midsummer may [pg 275] be that the decline of summer is dated from Midsummer Day, after which the days begin to shorten, and the sun sets out on his downward journey—

To the darksome hollows
Where the frosts of winter lie.

Such a turning-point of the year, when vegetation might be thought to share the incipient though still almost imperceptible decay of summer, might very well be chosen by primitive man as a fit moment for resorting to those magic ceremonies by which he hopes to stay the decline, or at least to ensure the revival, of plant life.

But while the death of vegetation appears to have been represented in all, and its revival in some, of these spring and midsummer ceremonies, there are features in some of them which can hardly be explained on this hypothesis alone. The solemn funeral, the lamentations, and the mourning attire, which often characterise these ceremonies, are indeed appropriate at the death of the beneficent spirit of vegetation. But what shall we say of the glee with which the effigy is often carried out, of the sticks and stones with which it is assailed, and the taunts and curses which are hurled at it? What shall we say of the dread of the effigy evinced by the haste with which the bearers scamper home as soon as they have thrown it away, and by the belief that some one must soon die in any house into which it has looked? This dread might perhaps be explained by a belief that there is a certain infectiousness in the dead spirit of vegetation which renders its approach dangerous. But this explanation, besides being rather strained, does not cover the rejoicings which often attend the carrying out of Death.

[pg 276]

We must therefore recognise two distinct and seemingly opposite features in these ceremonies; on the one hand, sorrow for the death, and affection and respect for the dead; on the other hand, fear and hatred of the dead, and rejoicings at his death. How the former of these features is to be explained I have attempted to show; how the latter came to be so closely associated with the former is a question which I shall try to answer in the sequel.

Before we quit these European customs to go farther afield, it will be well to notice that occasionally the expulsion of Death or of a mythic being is conducted without any visible representative of the personage expelled. Thus at Königshain, near Görlitz (Silesia), all the villagers, young and old, used to go out with straw torches to the top of a neighbouring hill, called Todtenstein (Death-stone), where they lit their torches, and so returned home singing, “We have driven out Death, we are bringing back Summer.”898 In Albania young people light torches of resinous wood on Easter Eve, and march in procession through the village brandishing them. At last they throw the torches into the river, saying, “Ha, Kore, we fling you into the river, like these torches, that you may return no more.” Some say that the intention of the ceremony is to drive out winter; but Kore is conceived as a malignant being who devours children.899

In the Kânagrâ district, India, there is a custom observed by young girls in spring which closely resembles some of the European spring ceremonies just described. It is called the Ralî Ka melâ, or [pg 277] fair of Rali, the Ralî being a small painted earthen image of Siva or Pârvatî. It lasts through most of Chet (March-April) up to the Sankrânt of Baisâkh (April), and is in vogue all over the Kânagrâ district. Its celebration is entirely confined to young girls. On a morning in March all the young girls of the village take small baskets of dûb grass and flowers to a certain fixed spot, where they throw them in a heap. Round this heap they stand in a circle and sing. This goes on every day for ten days, till the heap of grass and flowers has reached a fair height. Then they cut in the jungle two branches having three prongs at one end, and place them, prongs downwards, over the heap of flowers, so as to make two tripods or pyramids. On the single uppermost points of these branches they get an image-maker to construct two clay images, one to represent Siva, and the other Pârvatî. The girls then divide themselves into two parties, one for Siva and one for Pârvatî, and marry the images in the usual way, leaving out no part of the ceremony. After the marriage they have a feast, the cost of which is defrayed by contributions solicited from their parents. Then at the next Sankrânt (Baisâkh) they all go together to the riverside, throw the images into a deep pool, and weep over the place, as though they were performing funeral obsequies. The boys of the neighbourhood often annoy them by diving after the images, bringing them up, and waving them about while the girls are crying over them. The object of the fair is said to be to secure a good husband.900

That in this Indian ceremony the deities Siva and Pârvatî are conceived as spirits of vegetation seems to [pg 278] be proved by the fact that their images are placed on branches over a heap of grass and flowers. Here, as often in European folk-custom, the divinities of vegetation are represented in duplicate, by plants and by puppets. The marriage of these Indian deities in spring corresponds to the European ceremonies in which the marriage of the vernal spirits of vegetation is represented by the King and Queen of May, the May Bride, Bridegroom of the May, etc.901 The throwing of the images into the water, and the mourning for them, are the equivalents of the European customs of throwing the dead spirit of vegetation (under the name of Death, Yarilo, Kostroma, etc.) into the water and lamenting over it. Again, in India, as often in Europe, the rite is performed exclusively by females. The notion that the ceremony was effective for procuring husbands to the girls can be explained by the quickening and fertilising influence which the spirit of vegetation is believed to exert upon human and animal, as well as upon vegetable life.902

§ 4.—Adonis.

But it is in Egypt and Western Asia that the death and resurrection of vegetation appear to have been most widely celebrated with ceremonies like those of modern Europe. Under the names of Osiris, Adonis, Thammuz, Attis, and Dionysus, the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, Phrygians, and Greeks represented the decay and revival of vegetation with rites which, as the ancients themselves recognised, [pg 279] were substantially the same, and which find their parallels in the spring and midsummer customs of our European peasantry. The nature and worship of these deities have been discussed at length by many learned writers; all that I propose to do is to sketch those salient features in their ritual and legends which seem to establish the view here taken of their nature. We begin with Adonis or Thammuz.

The worship of Adonis was practised by the Semitic peoples of Syria, from whom it was borrowed by the Greeks as early at least as the fifth century before Christ. The name Adonis is the Phoenician Adon, “lord.”903 He was said to have been a fair youth, beloved by Aphrodite (the Semitic Astarte), but slain by a boar in his youthful prime. His death was annually lamented with a bitter wailing, chiefly by women; images of him, dressed to resemble corpses, were carried out as to burial and then thrown into the sea or into springs;904 and in some places his revival was celebrated on the following day.905 But the ceremonies varied somewhat both in the manner and the season of their celebration in different places. At Alexandria images of Adonis and Aphrodite were displayed on two couches; beside them were set ripe fruits of all kinds, cakes, plants growing in flower pots, and green bowers twined with anise. The marriage of the lovers was celebrated one day, and on the next the image of Adonis was borne by women attired as mourners, with streaming hair and bared breasts, to [pg 280] the sea-shore and committed to the waves.906 The date at which this Alexandrian ceremony was observed is not expressly stated; but from the mention of the ripe fruits it has been inferred that it took place in late summer.907 At Byblus the death of Adonis was annually mourned with weeping, wailing, and beating of the breast; but next day he was believed to come to life again and ascend up to heaven in the presence of his worshippers.908 This celebration appears to have taken place in spring; for its date was determined by the discoloration of the river Adonis, and this has been observed by modern travellers to occur in spring. At that season the red earth washed down from the mountains by the rain tinges the water of the river and even the sea for a great way with a blood-red hue, and the crimson stain was believed to be the blood of Adonis, annually wounded to death by the boar on Mount Lebanon.909 Again, the red anemone910 was said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis; and as the anemone blooms in Syria about Easter, this is a fresh proof that the festival of Adonis, or at least one of his festivals, was celebrated in spring. The name of the flower is probably derived from Naaman (“darling”), which seems to have been an epithet of Adonis. The Arabs still call the anemone “wounds of the Naaman.”911

[pg 281]

The resemblance of these ceremonies to the Indian and European ceremonies previously described is obvious. In particular, apart from the somewhat doubtful date of its celebration, the Alexandrian ceremony is almost identical with the Indian. In both of them the marriage of two divinities, whose connection with vegetation seems indicated by the fresh plants with which they are surrounded, is celebrated in effigy, and the effigies are afterwards mourned over and thrown into the water.912 From the similarity of these customs to each other and to the spring and midsummer customs of modern Europe we should naturally expect that they all admit of a common explanation. Hence, if the explanation here adopted of the latter is correct, the ceremony of the death and resurrection of Adonis must also have been a representation of the decay and revival of vegetation. The inference thus based on the similarity of the customs is confirmed by the following features in the legend and ritual of Adonis. His connection with vegetation comes out at once in the common story of his birth. He was said to have been born from a myrrh-tree, the bark of which bursting, after a ten months' gestation, allowed the lovely infant to come forth. According to some, a boar rent the bark with his tusk and so opened a passage for the babe. A faint rationalistic colour was given to the legend by saying that his mother was a woman named Myrrh, who had been turned into a myrrh-tree soon after she had conceived the child.913 Again the story that Adonis [pg 282] spent half, or according to others a third, of the year in the lower world and the rest of it in the upper world,914 is explained most simply and naturally by supposing that he represented vegetation, especially the corn, which lies buried in the earth half the year and reappears above ground the other half. Certainly of the annual phenomena of nature there is none which suggests so obviously the idea of a yearly death and resurrection as the disappearance and reappearance of vegetation in autumn and spring. Adonis has been taken for the sun; but there is nothing in the sun's annual course within the temperate and tropical zones to suggest that he is dead for half or a third of the year and alive for the other half or two-thirds. He might, indeed, be conceived as weakened in winter,915 but dead he could not be thought to be; his daily reappearance contradicts the supposition. Within the arctic circle, where the sun annually disappears for a continuous period of from twenty-four hours to six months, according to the latitude, his annual death and resurrection would certainly be an obvious idea; but no one has suggested that the Adonis worship came from those regions. On the other hand the annual death and revival of vegetation is a conception which readily presents itself to men in every stage of savagery and civilisation; and the vastness of the scale on which this yearly decay and regeneration [pg 283] takes place, together with man's intimate dependence on it for subsistence, combine to render it the most striking annual phenomenon in nature, at least within the temperate zones. It is no wonder that a phenomenon so important, so striking, and so universal should, by suggesting similar ideas, have given rise to similar rites in many lands. We may, therefore, accept as probable an explanation of the Adonis worship which accords so well with the facts of nature and with the analogy of similar rites in other lands, and which besides is countenanced by a considerable body of opinion amongst the ancients themselves.916

The character of Thammuz or Adonis as a corn-spirit comes out plainly in an account of his festival given by an Arabic writer of the tenth century. In describing the rites and sacrifices observed at the different seasons of the year by the heathen Syrians of Harran, he says:—“Thammuz (July). In the middle of this month is the festival of el-Bûgât, that is, of the weeping women, and this is the Tâ-uz festival, which is celebrated in honour of the god Tâ-uz. The women bewail him, because his lord slew him so cruelly, ground his bones in a mill, and then scattered them to [pg 284] the wind. The women (during this festival) eat nothing which has been ground in a mill, but limit their diet to steeped wheat, sweet vetches, dates, raisins, and the like.”917 Thammuz (of which Tâ-uz is only another form of pronunciation) is here like Burns's John Barleycorn—

They wasted, o'er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.918

But perhaps the best proof that Adonis was a deity of vegetation is furnished by the gardens of Adonis, as they were called. These were baskets or pots filled with earth, in which wheat, barley, lettuces, fennel, and various kinds of flowers were sown and tended for eight days, chiefly or exclusively by women. Fostered by the sun's heat, the plants shot up rapidly, but having no root withered as rapidly away, and at the end of eight days were carried out with the images of the dead Adonis, and flung with them into the sea or into springs.919 At Athens these ceremonies were observed at midsummer. For we know that the fleet which Athens fitted out against Syracuse, and by the destruction of which her power was permanently crippled, sailed at midsummer, and by an ominous coincidence the sombre rites of Adonis were being celebrated at the very time. As the troops marched down to the harbour to embark, the streets through which they [pg 285] passed were lined with coffins and corpse-like effigies, and the air was rent with the noise of women wailing for the dead Adonis. The circumstance cast a gloom over the sailing of the most splendid armament that Athens ever sent to sea.920

These gardens of Adonis are most naturally interpreted as representatives of Adonis or manifestations of his power; they represented him, true to his original nature, in vegetable form, while the images of him, with which they were carried out and cast into the water, represented him in his later anthropomorphic form. All these Adonis ceremonies, if I am right, were originally intended as charms to promote the growth and revival of vegetation; and the principle by which they were supposed to produce this effect was sympathetic magic. As was explained in the first chapter, primitive people suppose that by representing or mimicking the effect which they desire to produce they actually help to produce it; thus by sprinkling water they make rain, by lighting a fire they make sunshine, and so on. Similarly by mimicking the growth of crops, they hope to insure a good harvest. The rapid growth of the wheat and barley in the gardens of Adonis was intended to make the corn shoot up; and the throwing of the gardens and of the images into the water was a charm to secure a due supply of fertilising rain.921 The same, I take it, was the object of throwing the [pg 286] effigies of Death and the Carnival into water in the corresponding ceremonies of modern Europe. We have seen that the custom of drenching a leaf-clad person (who undoubtedly personifies vegetation) with water is still resorted to in Europe for the express purpose of producing rain.922 Similarly the custom of throwing water on the last corn cut at harvest, or on the person who brings it home (a custom observed in Germany and France, and till quite lately in England and Scotland), is in some places practised with the avowed intent to procure rain for the next year's crops. Thus in Wallachia and amongst the Roumanians of Transylvania, when a girl is bringing home a crown made of the last ears of corn cut at harvest, all who meet her hasten to throw water on her, and two farm-servants are placed at the door for the purpose; for they believe that if this were not done, the crops next year would perish from drought.923 So amongst the Saxons of Transylvania, the person who wears the wreath made of the last corn cut (sometimes the reaper who cut the last corn also wears the wreath) is drenched with water to the skin; for the wetter he is the better will be next year's harvest, and the more grain there will be threshed out.924 At the spring ploughing in Prussia, when the ploughmen and sowers returned in the evening from their work in the fields, the farmer's wife and the servants used to splash water over them. The ploughmen and sowers retorted by seizing every one, throwing them into the pond, and ducking them under the water. The [pg 287] farmer's wife might claim exemption on payment of a forfeit; but every one else had to be ducked. By observing this custom they hoped to ensure a due supply of rain for the seed.925 Also after harvest in Prussia, the person who wore a wreath made of the last corn cut was drenched with water, while a prayer was uttered that “as the corn had sprung up and multiplied through the water, so it might spring up and multiply in the barn and granary.”926 In a Babylonian legend, the goddess Istar (Astarte, Aphrodite) descends to Hades to fetch the water of life with which to restore to life the dead Thammuz, and it appears that the water was thrown over him at a great mourning ceremony, at which men and women stood round the funeral pyre of Thammuz lamenting.927 This legend, as Mannhardt points out, is probably a mythical explanation of a Babylonian festival resembling the Syrian festival of Adonis. At this festival, which doubtless took place in the month Thammuz (June-July)928 and therefore about midsummer, the dead Thammuz was probably represented in effigy, water was poured over him, and he came to life again. This Babylonian legend is, therefore, of importance, since it confirms the view that the purpose for which the images and gardens of Adonis were thrown into the water was to effect the resurrection of the god, that [pg 288] is, to secure the revival of vegetation. The connection of Thammuz with vegetation is proved by a fragment of a Babylonian hymn, in which Thammuz is described as dwelling in the midst of a great tree at the centre of the earth.929

The opinion that the gardens of Adonis are essentially charms to promote the growth of vegetation, especially of the crops, and that they belong to the same class of customs as those spring and midsummer folk-customs of modern Europe which have been described, does not rest for its evidence merely on the intrinsic probability of the case. Fortunately, we are able to show that gardens of Adonis (if we may use the expression in a general sense) are still planted, first, by a primitive race at their sowing season, and, second, by European peasants at midsummer. Amongst the Oraons and Mundas of Bengal, when the time comes for planting out the rice which has been grown in seed-beds, a party of young people of both sexes go to the forest and cut a young Karma tree, or the branch of one. Bearing it in triumph they return dancing, singing, and beating drums, and plant it in the middle of the village dancing-ground. A sacrifice is offered to the tree; and next morning the youth of both sexes, linked arm-in-arm, dance in a great circle round the Karma tree, which is decked with strips of coloured cloth and sham bracelets and necklets of plaited straw. As a preparation for the festival, the daughters of the head-man of the village cultivate blades of barley in a peculiar way. The seed is sown in moist, sandy soil, mixed with turmeric, and the blades sprout and unfold of a pale yellow or primrose colour. On the day of [pg 289] the festival the girls take up these blades and carry them in baskets to the dancing-ground, where, prostrating themselves reverentially, they place some of the plants before the Karma tree. Finally, the Karma tree is taken away and thrown into a stream or tank.930 The meaning of planting these barley blades and then presenting them to the Karma tree is hardly open to question. We have seen that trees are supposed to exercise a quickening influence upon the growth of crops, and that amongst the very people in question—the Mundas or Mundaris—“the grove deities are held responsible for the crops.”931 Therefore, when at the season for planting out the rice the Mundas bring in a tree and treat it with so much respect, their object can only be to foster thereby the growth of the rice which is about to be planted out; and the custom of causing barley blades to sprout rapidly and then presenting them to the tree must be intended to subserve the same purpose, perhaps by reminding the tree-spirit of his duty towards the crops, and stimulating his activity by this visible example of rapid vegetable growth. The throwing of the Karma tree into the water is to be interpreted as a rain-charm. Whether the barley blades are also thrown into the water is not said; but, if my interpretation of the custom is right, probably they are so. A distinction between this Bengal custom and the Greek rites of Adonis is that in the former the tree-spirit appears in his original form as a tree; whereas in the Adonis worship he appears in anthropomorphic form, represented as a dead man, though his vegetable nature is indicated by the gardens of [pg 290] Adonis, which are, so to say, a secondary manifestation of his original power as a tree-spirit.

In Sardinia the gardens of Adonis are still planted in connection with the great midsummer festival which bears the name of St. John. At the end of March or on the 1st of April a young man of the village presents himself to a girl and asks her to be his comare (gossip or sweetheart), offering to be her compare. The invitation is considered as an honour by the girl's family, and is gladly accepted. At the end of May the girl makes a pot of the bark of the cork-tree, fills it with earth, and sows a handful of wheat and barley in it. The pot being placed in the sun and often watered, the corn sprouts rapidly and has a good head by Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, 23d June). The pot is then called Erme or Nenneri. On St. John's Day the young man and the girl, dressed in their best, accompanied by a long retinue and preceded by children gambolling and frolicking, move in procession to a church outside the village. Here they break the pot by throwing it against the door of the church. Then they sit down in a ring on the grass and eat eggs and herbs to the music of flutes. Wine is mixed in a cup and passed round, each one drinking as it passes. Then they join hands and sing “Sweethearts of St. John” (Compare e comare di San Giovanni) over and over again, the flutes playing the while. When they tire of singing, they stand up and dance gaily in a ring till evening. This is the general Sardinian custom. As practised at Ozieri it has some special features. In May the pots are made of cork-bark and planted with corn, as already described. Then on the Eve of St. John the window-sills are draped with rich cloths, on which the pots are placed, [pg 291] adorned with crimson and blue silk and ribbons of various colours. On each of the pots they used formerly to place a statuette or cloth doll dressed as a woman, or a Priapus-like figure made of paste; but this custom, rigorously forbidden by the Church, has fallen into disuse. The village swains go about in a troop to look at the pots and their decorations and to wait for the girls, who assemble on the public square to celebrate the festival. Here a great bonfire is kindled, round which they dance and make merry. Those who wish to be “Sweethearts of St. John” act as follows. The young man stands on one side of the bonfire and the girl on the other, and they, in a manner, join hands by each grasping one end of a long stick, which they pass three times backwards and forwards across the fire, thus thrusting their hands thrice rapidly into the flames. This seals their relationship to each other. Dancing and music go on till late at night.932 The correspondence of these Sardinian pots of grain to the gardens of Adonis seems complete, and the images formerly placed in them answer to the images of Adonis which accompanied his gardens.

This Sardinian custom is one of those midsummer customs, once celebrated in many parts of Europe, a chief feature of which is the great bonfire round which people dance and over which they leap. Examples of these customs have already been cited from Sweden and Bohemia.933 These examples sufficiently [pg 292] prove the connection of the midsummer bonfire with vegetation; for both in Sweden and Bohemia an essential part of the festival is the raising of a May-pole or Midsummer-tree, which in Bohemia is burned in the bonfire. Again, in the Russian midsummer ceremony cited above,934 the straw figure of Kupalo, the representative of vegetation, is placed beside a May-pole or Midsummer-tree and then carried to and fro across a bonfire. Kupalo is here represented in duplicate, in tree-form by the Midsummer-tree, and in anthropomorphic form by the straw effigy, just as Adonis was represented both by an image and a garden of Adonis; and the duplicate representatives of Kupalo, like those of Adonis, are finally cast into water. In the Sardinian custom the Gossips or Sweethearts of St. John probably correspond to the Lord and Lady or King and Queen of May. In the province of Blekinge (Sweden), part of the midsummer festival is the election of a Midsummer Bride, who chooses her bridegroom; a collection is made for the pair, who for the time being are looked upon as man and wife.935 Such Midsummer pairs are probably, like the May pairs, representatives of the spirit of vegetation in its reproductive capacity; they represent in flesh and blood what the images of Siva and Pârvatî in the Indian ceremony, and the images of Adonis and Aphrodite in the Alexandrian ceremony, represented in effigy. The reason why ceremonies whose aim is to foster the growth of vegetation should thus be associated with bonfires; why in particular the representative of vegetation should be burned in tree-form or passed across the fire in effigy or in the form of a living couple, will be explained later on. Here [pg 293] it is enough to have proved the fact of such association and therefore to have obviated the objection which might have been raised to my interpretation of the Sardinian custom, on the ground that the bonfires have nothing to do with vegetation. One more piece of evidence may here be given to prove the contrary. In some parts of Germany young men and girls leap over midsummer bonfires for the express purpose of making the hemp or flax grow tall.936 We may, therefore, assume that in the Sardinian custom the blades of wheat and barley which are forced on in pots for the midsummer festival, and which correspond so closely to the gardens of Adonis, form one of those widely-spread midsummer ceremonies, the original object of which was to promote the growth of vegetation, and especially of the crops. But as, by an easy extension of ideas, the spirit of vegetation was believed to exercise a beneficent influence over human as well as animal life, the gardens of Adonis would be supposed, like the May-trees or May-boughs, to bring good luck to the family or to the individual who planted them; and even after the idea had been abandoned that they operated actively to bring good luck, omens might still be drawn from them as to the good or bad fortune of families or individuals. It is thus that magic dwindles into divination. Accordingly we find modes of divination practised at midsummer which resemble more or less closely the gardens of Adonis. Thus an anonymous Italian writer of the sixteenth century has recorded that it was customary to sow barley and wheat a few days before the festival of St. John (Midsummer Day) and also before that of St. Vitus; and it was believed that the person for whom they were [pg 294] sown would be fortunate and get a good husband or a good wife, if the grain sprouted well; but if they sprouted ill, he or she would be unlucky.937 In various parts of Italy and all over Sicily it is still customary to put plants in water or in earth on the Eve of St. John, and from the manner in which they are found to be blooming or fading on St. John's Day omens are drawn, especially as to fortune in love. Amongst the plants used for this purpose are Ciuri di S. Giuvanni (St. John's wort?) and nettles.938 In Prussia two hundred years ago the farmers used to send out their servants, especially their maids, to gather St. John's wort on Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day (St. John's Day). When they had fetched it, the farmer took as many plants as there were persons and stuck them in the wall or between the beams; and it was thought that the person whose plant did not bloom would soon fall sick or die. The rest of the plants were tied in a bundle, fastened to the end of a pole, and set up at the gate or wherever the corn would be brought in at the next harvest. This bundle was called Kupole; the ceremony was known as Kupole's festival; and at it the farmer prayed for a good crop of hay, etc.939 This Prussian custom is particularly notable, inasmuch as it strongly confirms the opinion expressed above that Kupalo (doubtless identical with Kupole) was originally a deity of vegetation.940 For here Kupalo is represented by a bundle [pg 295] of plants specially associated with midsummer in folk-custom; and her influence over vegetation is plainly signified by placing her plant-formed representative over the place where the harvest is brought in, as well as by the prayers for a good crop which are uttered on the occasion. A fresh argument is thus supplied in support of the conclusion that the Death, whose analogy to Kupalo, Yarilo, etc., has been shown, was originally a personification of vegetation, more especially of vegetation as dying or dead in winter. Further, my interpretation of the gardens of Adonis is confirmed by finding that in this Prussian custom the very same kind of plants are used to form the gardens of Adonis (as we may call them) and the image of the deity. Nothing could set in a stronger light the truth of the view that the gardens of Adonis are merely another manifestation of the god himself.

The last example of the gardens of Adonis which I shall cite is the following. At the approach of Easter, Sicilian women sow wheat, lentils, and canary-seed in plates, which are kept in the dark and watered every two days. The plants soon shoot up; the stalks are tied together with red ribbons, and the plates containing them are placed on the sepulchres which, with effigies of the dead Christ, are made up in Roman Catholic and Greek churches on Good Friday,941 just as the gardens of Adonis were placed on the grave of the dead Adonis.942 The whole custom—sepulchres as well as plates of sprouting grain—is [pg 296] probably nothing but a continuation, under a different name, of the Adonis worship.

§ 5.—Attis.

The next of those gods, whose supposed death and resurrection struck such deep roots into the religious faith and ritual of Western Asia, is Attis. He was to Phrygia what Adonis was to Syria. Like Adonis, he appears to have been a god of vegetation, and his death and resurrection were annually mourned and rejoiced over at a festival in spring. The legends and rites of the two gods were so much alike that the ancients themselves sometimes identified them.943 Attis was said to have been a fair youth who was beloved by the great Phrygian goddess Cybele. Two different accounts of his death were current. According to the one, he was killed by a boar, like Adonis. According to the other, he mutilated himself under a pine-tree, and died from the effusion of blood. The latter is said to have been the local story told by the people of Pessinus, a great centre of Cybele worship, and the whole legend of which it forms a part is stamped with a character of rudeness and savagery that speaks strongly for its antiquity.944 But the genuineness of the other story seems also vouched for by the fact that his worshippers, especially the people of Pessinus, [pg 297] abstained from eating swine.945 After his death Attis is said to have been changed into a pine-tree.946 The ceremonies observed at his festival are not very fully known, but their general order appears to have been as follows.947 At the spring equinox (22d March) a pine-tree was cut in the woods and brought into the sanctuary of Cybele, where it was treated as a divinity. It was adorned with woollen bands and wreaths of violets, for violets were said to have sprung from the blood of Attis, as anemones from the blood of Adonis; and the effigy of a young man was attached to the middle of the tree.948 On the second day (23d March) the chief ceremony seems to have been a blowing of trumpets.949 The third day (24th March) was known as the Day of Blood: the high priest drew blood from his arms and presented it as an offering.950 It was perhaps on this day or night that the mourning for Attis took place over an effigy, which was afterwards solemnly buried.951 The fourth day (25th March) was the Festival of Joy (Hilaria), at which the resurrection of Attis was probably celebrated—at least the celebration of his resurrection seems to have followed closely upon [pg 298] that of his death.952 The Roman festival closed on 27th March with a procession to the brook Almo, in which the bullock-cart of the goddess, her image, and other sacred objects were bathed. But this bath of the goddess is known to have also formed part of her festival in her Asiatic home. On returning from the water the cart and oxen were strewn with fresh spring flowers.953

The original character of Attis as a tree-spirit is brought out plainly by the part which the pine-tree plays in his legend and ritual. The story that he was a human being transformed into a pine-tree is only one of those transparent attempts at rationalising the old beliefs which meet us so frequently in mythology. His tree origin is further attested by the story that he was born of a virgin, who conceived by putting in her bosom a ripe almond or pomegranate.954 The bringing in of the pine-tree from the wood, decked with violets and woollen bands, corresponds to bringing in the May-tree or Summer-tree in modern folk-custom; and the effigy which was attached to the pine-tree was only a duplicate representative of the tree-spirit or [pg 299] Attis. At what point of the ceremonies the violets and the effigy were attached to the tree is not said, but we should assume this to be done after the mimic death and burial of Attis. The fastening of his effigy to the tree would then be a representation of his coming to life again in tree-form, just as the placing of the shirt of the effigy of Death upon a tree represents the revival of the spirit of vegetation in a new form.955 After being attached to the tree, the effigy was kept for a year and then burned.956 We have seen that this was apparently sometimes done with the May-pole;957 and we shall see presently that the effigy of the corn-spirit, made at harvest, is often preserved till it is replaced by a new effigy at next year's harvest. The original intention of thus preserving the effigy for a year and then replacing it by a new one was doubtless to maintain the spirit of vegetation in fresh and vigorous life. The bathing of the image of Cybele was probably a rain-charm, like the throwing of the effigies of Death and of Adonis into the water. Like tree-spirits in general, Attis appears to have been conceived as exercising power over the growth of corn, or even to have been identified with the corn. One of his epithets was “very fruitful;” he was addressed as the “reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn,” and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again when sown in the ground.958 His worshippers abstained from eating seeds and the roots of vegetables,959 just as at the Adonis ceremonies women abstained from [pg 300] eating corn ground in a mill. Such acts would probably have been esteemed a sacrilegious partaking of the life or of the bruised and broken body of the god.

From inscriptions it appears that both at Pessinus and Rome the high priest of Cybele was regularly called Attis.960 It is therefore a reasonable conjecture that the high priest played the part of the legendary Attis at the annual festival.961 We have seen that on the Day of Blood he drew blood from his arms, and this may have been an imitation of the self-inflicted death of Attis under the pine-tree. It is not inconsistent with this supposition that Attis was also represented at these ceremonies by an effigy; for we have already had cases in which the divine being is first represented by a living person and afterwards by an effigy, which is then burned or otherwise destroyed.962 Perhaps we may go a step farther and conjecture that this mimic killing of the priest (if it was such), accompanied by a real effusion of his blood, was in Phrygia, as it has been elsewhere, a substitute for a human sacrifice which in earlier times was actually offered. Professor W. M. Ramsay, whose authority on all questions relating to Phrygia no one will dispute, is of opinion that at these Phrygian ceremonies “the representative of the god was probably slain each year by a cruel death, just as the god himself died.”963 We know from Strabo964 that the priests of Pessinus were at one time potentates as well as priests; they may, therefore, [pg 301] have belonged to that class of divine kings or popes whose duty it was to die each year for their people and the world. As a god of vegetation, annually slain, the representative of Attis would be parallel to the Wild Man, the King, etc., of north European folk-custom, and to the Italian priest of Nemi.

§ 6.—Osiris.

There seem to be some grounds for believing that Osiris, the great god of ancient Egypt, was one of those personifications of vegetation, whose annual death and resurrection have been celebrated in so many lands. But as the chief of the gods he appears to have absorbed the attributes of other deities, so that his character and rites present a complex of heterogeneous elements which, with the scanty evidence at our disposal, it is hardly possible to sort out. It may be worth while, however, to put together some of the facts which lend support to the view that Osiris or at least one of the deities out of whom he was compounded was a god of vegetation, analogous to Adonis and Attis.

The outline of his myth is as follows.965 Osiris was the son of the earth-god Qeb (or Seb, as the name is sometimes transliterated).966 Reigning as a king on earth, he reclaimed the Egyptians from savagery, gave them [pg 302] laws, and taught them to worship the gods. Before his time the Egyptians had been cannibals. But Isis, the sister and wife of Osiris, discovered wheat and barley growing wild, and Osiris introduced the cultivation of these grains amongst his people, who forthwith abandoned cannibalism and took kindly to a corn diet.967 Afterwards Osiris travelled over the world diffusing the blessings of civilisation wherever he went. But on his return his brother Set (whom the Greeks called Typhon), with seventy-two others, plotted against him, and having inveigled him into a beautifully decorated coffer, they nailed it down on him, soldered it fast with molten lead, and flung it into the Nile. It floated down to the sea. This happened on the 17th day of the month Athyr. Isis put on mourning, and wandered disconsolately up and down seeking the body, till at last she found it at Byblus, on the Syrian coast, whither it had drifted with the waves. An erica tree had shot up and enfolded the coffer within its stem, and the King of Byblus, admiring the fine growth of the tree, had caused it to be cut down and converted into a pillar of his palace. From him Isis obtained leave to open the trunk of the tree, and having taken out the coffer, she carried it away with her. But she left it to visit her son Horus at Butus in the Delta, and Typhon found the coffer as he was hunting a boar by the light of a full moon.968 He recognised the body of Osiris, rent it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad. Isis sailed up and down the marshes in a papyrus boat seeking the fragments, and as she found each she buried it. Hence many graves of Osiris were shown in Egypt. Others said that Isis left an effigy of Osiris [pg 303] in every city, pretending it was his body, in order that Osiris might be worshipped in many places, and to prevent Typhon from discovering the real corpse. Afterwards her son Horus fought against Typhon, conquered him, and bound him fast. But Isis, to whom he had been delivered, loosed his bonds and let him go. This angered Horus, and he pulled the crown from his mother's head; but Hermes replaced it with a helmet made in the shape of a cow's head. Typhon was subsequently defeated in two other battles. The rest of the myth included the dismemberment of Horus and the beheading of Isis.

So much for the myth of Osiris. Of the annual rites with which his death and burial were celebrated we unfortunately know very little. The mourning lasted five days,969 from the 8th to the 12th of the month Athyr.970 The ceremonies began with the “earth-ploughing,” that is, with the opening of the field labours, when the waters of the Nile are sinking. The other rites included the search for the mangled body of Osiris, the rejoicings at its discovery, and its solemn burial. The burial took place on the 11th of November, and was accompanied by the recitation of lamentations from the liturgical books. These lamentations, of which several copies have been discovered in modern times, were put in the [pg 304] mouth of Isis and Nephthys, sisters of Osiris. “In form and substance,” says Brugsch, “they vividly recall the dirges chanted at the Adonis' rites over the dead god.”971 Next day was the joyous festival of Sokari, that being the name under which the hawk-headed Osiris of Memphis was invoked. The solemn processions of priests which on this day wound round the temples with all the pomp of banners, images, and sacred emblems, were amongst the most stately pageants that ancient Egypt could show. The whole festival ended on the 16th of November with a special rite called the erection of the Tatu, Tat, or Ded pillar.972 This pillar appears from the monuments to have been a column with cross bars at the top, like the yards of a mast, or more exactly like the superposed capitals of a pillar.973 On a Theban tomb the king himself, assisted by his relations and a priest, is represented hauling at the ropes by which the pillar is being raised. The pillar was interpreted, at least in later Egyptian theology, as the backbone of Osiris. It might very well be a conventional representation of a tree stripped of its leaves; and if Osiris was a tree-spirit, the bare trunk and branches of a tree might naturally be described as his backbone. The erection of the column would then be, as Erman interprets it, a representation of the resurrection of Osiris, which, as we learn from Plutarch, appears to have been celebrated at his mysteries.974 Perhaps the ceremony which [pg 305] Plutarch describes as taking place on the third day of the festival (the 19th day of the month Athyr) may also have referred to the resurrection. He says that on that day the priests carried the sacred ark down to the sea. Within the ark was a golden casket, into which drinking-water was poured. A shout then went up that Osiris was found. Then some mould was mixed with water, and out of the paste thus formed a crescent-shaped image was fashioned, which was then dressed in robes and adorned.975

The general similarity of the myth and ritual of Osiris to those of Adonis and Attis is obvious. In all three cases we see a god whose untimely and violent death is mourned by a loving goddess and annually celebrated by their worshippers. The character of Osiris as a deity of vegetation is brought out by the legend that he was the first to teach men the use of corn, and by the fact that his annual festival began with ploughing the earth. He is said also to have introduced the cultivation of the vine.976 In one of the chambers dedicated to Osiris in the great temple of Isis at Philae the dead body of Osiris is represented with stalks of corn springing from it, and a priest is watering the stalks from a pitcher which he holds in his hand. The accompanying inscription sets forth that “This is the form of him whom one may not name, Osiris of the mysteries, who springs from the returning waters.”977 It would seem impossible to devise a more graphic way of representing Osiris as a personification of the corn; while the inscription proves that this personification was the kernel of the [pg 306] mysteries of the god, the innermost secret that was only revealed to the initiated. In estimating the mythical character of Osiris very great weight must be given to this monument. The legend that his mangled remains were scattered up and down the land may be a mythical way of expressing either the sowing or the winnowing of the grain. The latter interpretation is supported by the story that Isis placed the severed limbs of Osiris on a corn-sieve.978 Or the legend may be a reminiscence of the custom of slaying a human victim (probably considered as a representative of the corn-spirit) and distributing his flesh or scattering his ashes over the fields to fertilise them. We have already seen that in modern Europe the figure of “Death” is sometimes torn in pieces, and that the fragments are then buried in the fields to make the crops grow well.979 Later on we shall meet with examples of human victims being treated in the same way. With regard to the ancient Egyptians, we have it on the authority of Manetho that they used to burn red-haired men and scatter their ashes with winnowing-fans.980 That this custom was not, as might perhaps have been supposed, a mere way of wreaking their spite on foreigners, amongst whom rather than amongst the native Egyptians red-haired people would generally be found, appears from the fact that the oxen which were sacrificed had also to be red; a single black or white hair found on a beast would have disqualified it for the sacrifice.981 The red hair of the human victims was thus probably essential; the fact that they were generally foreigners was only accidental. [pg 307] If, as I conjecture, these human sacrifices were intended to promote the growth of the crops—and the winnowing of their ashes seems to support this view—red-haired victims were perhaps selected as best fitted to represent the spirit of the golden grain. For when a god is represented by a living person, it is natural that the human representative should be chosen on the ground of his supposed resemblance to the god. Hence the ancient Mexicans, conceiving the maize as a personal being who went through the whole course of life between seed-time and harvest, sacrificed new-born babes when the maize was sown, older children when it had sprouted, and so on till it was fully ripe, when they sacrificed old men.982 A name for Osiris was the “crop” or “harvest”;983 and the ancients sometimes explained him as a personification of the corn.984

But Osiris was not only a corn-spirit; he was also a tree-spirit, and this was probably his original character; for, as we have already observed, the corn-spirit seems to be only an extension of the older tree-spirit. His character as a tree-spirit was represented very graphically in a ceremony described by Firmicus Maternus.985 A pine-tree was cut down, the centre was hollowed out, and with the wood thus excavated an image of Osiris was made, which was then “buried” [pg 308] in the hollow of the tree. Here, again, it is hard to imagine how the conception of a tree as tenanted by a personal being could be more plainly expressed. The image of Osiris thus made was kept for a year and then burned, exactly as was done with the image of Attis which was attached to the pine-tree. The ceremony of cutting the tree, as described by Firmicus Maternus, appears to be alluded to by Plutarch.986 It was probably the ritual counterpart of the mythical discovery of the body of Osiris enclosed in the erica tree. We may conjecture that the erection of the Tatu pillar at the close of the annual festival of Osiris987 was identical with the ceremony described by Firmicus; it is to be noted that in the myth the erica tree formed a pillar in the King's house. Like the similar custom of cutting a pine-tree and fastening an image to it in the rites of Attis, the ceremony perhaps belonged to that class of customs of which the bringing in the May-pole is among the most familiar. As to the pine-tree in particular, at Denderah the tree of Osiris is a conifer, and the coffer containing the body of Osiris is here represented as enclosed within the tree.988 A pine-cone is often represented on the monuments as offered to Osiris, and a MS. of the Louvre speaks of the cedar as sprung from Osiris.989 The sycamore and the tamarisk are also his trees. In inscriptions he is spoken of as residing in them;990 and his mother Nut is frequently represented in a sycamore.991 In a sepulchre [pg 309] at How (Diospolis Parva) a tamarisk is represented overshadowing the coffer of Osiris; and in the series of sculptures which represent the mystic history of Osiris in the great temple of Isis at Philae, a tamarisk is depicted with two men pouring water on it. The inscription on this last monument leaves no doubt, says Brugsch, that the verdure of the earth is believed to be connected with the verdure of the tree, and that the sculpture refers to the grave of Osiris at Philae, of which Plutarch says that it was overshadowed by a methide plant, taller than any olive-tree. This sculpture, it may be observed, occurs in the same chamber in which Osiris is represented as a corpse with ears of corn sprouting from him.992 In inscriptions Osiris is referred to as “the one in the tree,” “the solitary one in the acacia,” etc.993 On the monuments he sometimes appears as a mummy covered with a tree or with plants.994 It accords with the character of Osiris as a tree-spirit that his worshippers were forbidden to injure fruit-trees, and with his character as a god of vegetation in general that they were not allowed to stop up wells of water, which are so important for purposes of irrigation in hot southern lands.995

The original meaning of the goddess Isis is still more difficult to determine than that of her brother and husband Osiris. Her attributes and epithets were so numerous that in the hieroglyphics she is called [pg 310] “the many-named,” “the thousand-named,” and in Greek inscriptions “the myriad-named.”996 Tiele confesses candidly that “it is now impossible to tell precisely to what natural phenomena the character of Isis at first referred.”997 Mr. Renouf states that Isis was the Dawn,998 but without assigning any reason whatever for the identification. There are at least some grounds for seeing in her a goddess of corn. According to Diodorus, whose authority appears to have been the Egyptian historian Manetho, the discovery of wheat and barley was attributed to Isis, and at her festivals stalks of these grains were carried in procession to commemorate the boon she had conferred on men. Further, at harvest-time, when the Egyptian reapers had cut the first stalks, they laid them down and beat their breasts, lamenting and calling upon Isis.999 Amongst the epithets by which she is designated on the inscriptions are “creatress of the green crop,” “the green one, whose greenness is like the greenness of the earth,” and “mistress of bread.”1000 According to Brugsch she is “not only the creatress of the fresh verdure of vegetation which covers the earth, but is actually the green corn-field itself, which is personified as a goddess.”1001 This is confirmed by her epithet Sochit or Sochet, meaning “a corn-field,” a sense which the word still retains in Coptic.1002 It is in this character of a corn-goddess that the Greeks conceived Isis, for they [pg 311] identified her with Demeter.1003 In a Greek epigram she is described as “she who has given birth to the fruits of the earth,” and “the mother of the ears of corn,”1004 and in a hymn composed in her honour she speaks of herself as “queen of the wheat-field,” and is described as “charged with the care of the fruitful furrow's wheat-rich path.”1005

Osiris has been sometimes interpreted as the sun-god; and this view has been held by so many distinguished writers in modern times that a few words of reply seem called for. If we inquire on what evidence Osiris has been identified with the sun or the sun-god, it will be found on examination that the evidence is minute in quantity and dubious, where it is not absolutely worthless, in quality. The diligent Jablonski, the first modern scholar to collect and examine the testimony of classical writers on Egyptian religion, says that it can be shown in many ways that Osiris is the sun, and that he could produce a cloud of witnesses to prove it, but that it is needless to do so, since no learned man is ignorant of the fact.1006 Of the writers whom he condescends to quote, the only two who expressly identify Osiris with the sun are Diodorus and Macrobius. The passage in Diodorus runs thus:1007 “It is said that the aboriginal inhabitants of Egypt, looking up to the sky, and smitten with awe and wonder at the nature of the universe, supposed that there were two gods, eternal and primeval, the sun and the moon, of whom they named the sun Osiris and the moon Isis.” Even if Diodorus's authority for this statement is Manetho, as there is some ground for believing,1008 [pg 312] little or no weight can be attached to it. For it is plainly a philosophical, and therefore a late, explanation of the first beginnings of Egyptian religion, reminding us of Kant's familiar saying about the starry heavens and the moral law rather than of the rude traditions of a primitive people. Jablonski's second authority, Macrobius, is no better but rather worse. For Macrobius was the father of that large family of mythologists who resolve all or most gods into the sun. According to him Mercury was the sun, Mars was the sun, Janus was the sun, Saturn was the sun, so was Jupiter, also Nemesis, likewise Pan, etc.1009 It was, therefore, nearly a matter of course that he should identify Osiris with the sun.1010 But apart from the general principle, so frankly enunciated by Professor Maspero, that all the gods are the sun (Comme tous les dieux, Osiris est le soleil),1011 Macrobius has not much cause to show for identifying Osiris in particular with the sun. He argues that Osiris must be the sun because an eye was one of his symbols. The premise is correct,1012 but what exactly it has to do with the conclusion is not clear. The opinion that Osiris was the sun is also mentioned, but not accepted, by Plutarch,1013 and it is referred to by Firmicus Maternus.1014

Amongst modern Egyptologists, Lepsius, in identifying Osiris with the sun, appears to rely mainly on the passage of Diodorus already quoted. But the monuments, he adds, also show “that down to a late time Osiris was sometimes conceived as Ra. In this quality he is named Osiris-Ra even in the ‘Book of the Dead,’ [pg 313] and Isis is often called ‘the royal consort of Ra.’ ”1015 That Ra was both the physical sun and the sun-god is of course undisputed; but with every deference for the authority of so great a scholar as Lepsius, it may be doubted whether such identification can be taken as evidence of the original character of Osiris. For the religion of ancient Egypt1016 may be described as a confederacy of local cults which, while maintaining against each other a certain measure of jealous and even hostile independence, were yet constantly subjected to the fusing and amalgamating action of political centralisation and philosophical reflection. The history of the religion appears to have largely consisted of a struggle between these opposite forces or tendencies. On the one side there was the conservative tendency to preserve the local cults with all their distinctive features, fresh, sharp, and crisp, as they had been handed down from an immemorial past. On the other side there was the progressive tendency, favoured by the gradual fusion of the people under a powerful central government, first to dull the edge of these provincial distinctions, and finally to break them down completely and merge them in a single national religion. The conservative party probably mustered in its ranks the great bulk of the people, their prejudices and affections being warmly enlisted in favour of the local deity, with whose temple and rites they had been familiar from childhood; and the popular aversion to change, based on the endearing effect of old association, must [pg 314] have been strongly reinforced by the less disinterested opposition of the local clergy, whose material interests would necessarily suffer with any decay of their shrines. On the other hand the kings, whose power and glory rose with the political and ecclesiastical consolidation of the nation, were the natural champions of religious unity; and their efforts would be seconded by the cultured and reflecting minority, who could hardly fail to be shocked by the many barbarous and revolting elements in the local rites. As usual in such cases, the process of religious unification appears to have been largely effected by discovering points of similarity, real or imaginary, between various local gods, which were thereupon declared to be only different names or manifestations of the same god.

Of the deities who thus acted as centres of attraction, absorbing in themselves a multitude of minor divinities, by far the most important was the sun-god Ra. There appear to have been few gods in Egypt who were not at one time or other identified with him. Ammon of Thebes, Horus of the East, Horus of Edfu, Chnum of Elephantine, Atum of Heliopolis, all were regarded as one god, the sun. Even the water-god Sobk, in spite of his crocodile shape, did not escape the same fate. Indeed one king, Amenhôtep IV, undertook to sweep away all the old gods at a stroke and replace them by a single god, the “great living disc of the sun.”1017 In the hymns composed in his honour, this deity is referred to as “the living disc of the sun, besides whom there is none other.” He is said to have made “the far heaven” and “men, beasts, and birds; he strengtheneth [pg 315] the eyes with his beams, and when he showeth himself, all flowers live and grow, the meadows flourish at his upgoing and are drunken at his sight, all cattle skip on their feet, and the birds that are in the marsh flutter for joy.” It is he “who bringeth the years, createth the months, maketh the days, calculateth the hours, the lord of time, by whom men reckon.” In his zeal for the unity of god, the king commanded to erase the names of all other gods from the monuments, and to destroy their images. His rage was particularly directed against the god Ammon, whose name and likeness were effaced wherever they were found; even the sanctity of the tomb was violated in order to destroy the memorials of the hated god. In some of the halls of the great temples at Carnac, Luxor, and other places, all the names of the gods, with a few chance exceptions, were scratched out. In no inscription cut in this king's reign was any god mentioned save the sun. He even changed his own name, Amenhôtep, because it was compounded of Ammon, and took instead the name of Chuen-'eten, “gleam of the sun's disc.” His death was followed by a violent reaction. The old gods were reinstated in their rank and privileges; their names and images were restored; and new temples were built. But all the shrines and palaces reared by the late king were thrown down; even the sculptures that referred to him and to his god in rock-tombs and on the sides of hills were erased or filled up with stucco; his name appears on no later monument, and was carefully omitted from all official lists.

This attempt of King Amenhôtep IV is only an extreme example of a tendency which appears to have been at work on the religion of Egypt as far back [pg 316] as we can trace it. Therefore, to come back to our point, in attempting to discover the original character of any Egyptian god, no weight can be given to the identification of him with other gods, least of all with the sun-god Ra. Far from helping to follow up the trail, these identifications only cross and confuse it. The best evidence for the original character of the Egyptian gods is to be found in their ritual and myths, so far as these are known (which unfortunately is little enough), and in the figured representations of them on the monuments. It is on evidence drawn from these sources that I rely mainly for the interpretation of Osiris as a deity of vegetation.

Amongst a younger generation of scholars, Tiele is of opinion that Osiris is the sun, because “in the hymns, his accession to the throne of his father is compared to the rising of the sun, and it is even said of him in so many words: ‘He glitters on the horizon, he sends out rays of light from his double feather and inundates the world with it, as the sun from out the highest heaven.’ ”1018 By the same token Marie Antoinette must have been a goddess of the morning star, because Burke saw her at Versailles “just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in,—glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendour, and joy.” If such comparisons prove anything, they prove that Osiris was not the sun. There are always two terms to a comparison; a thing cannot be compared to itself. But Tiele also appeals to the monuments. What is his evidence? Osiris is sometimes represented by a figure surmounted by “the so-called Tat pillar, entirely made up of a kind of superimposed capitals, one of which has a rude face scratched [pg 317] upon it.” Tiele is of opinion that this rude face is “intended, no doubt, to represent the shining sun.”1019 If every “rude face scratched” is to be taken as a symbol of the shining sun, sun-worship will be discovered in some unexpected places. But, on the whole, Tiele, like Jablonski, prudently keeps to the high ground of vague generalities, and the result of his occasional descents to the level of facts is not such as to encourage him to prolong his stay. “Were we to come down to details,” he says, “and to attend to slight variations, we should be lost in an ocean of symbolism and mysticism.”1020 This is like De Quincey's attitude towards murder. “General principles I will suggest. But as to any particular case, once for all I will have nothing to do with it.” There is no having a man who takes such lofty ground.

Mr. Le Page Renouf also considers that Osiris is the sun,1021 and his position is still stronger than Tiele's. For whereas Tiele produces bad arguments for his view, Mr. Renouf produces none at all, and therefore cannot possibly be confuted.

The ground upon which some recent writers seem chiefly to rely for the identification of Osiris with the sun is that the story of his death fits better with the solar phenomena than with any other in nature. It may readily be admitted that the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun might very naturally be expressed by a myth of his death and resurrection; and writers who regard Osiris as the sun are careful to emphasise the fact that it is the diurnal, and not the annual, course of the sun to which they understand the myth to apply. Mr. Renouf expressly admits that the [pg 318] Egyptian sun cannot with any show of reason be described as dead in winter.1022 But if his daily death was the theme of the legend, why was it celebrated by an annual ceremony? This fact alone seems fatal to the interpretation of the myth as descriptive of sunset and sunrise. Again, though the sun may be said to die daily, in what sense can he be said to be torn in pieces?1023

In the course of our inquiry, it has, I trust, been made clear that there is another natural phenomenon [pg 319] to which the conception of death and resurrection is as applicable as to sunset and sunrise, and which, as a matter of fact has been so conceived and represented in folk-custom. This phenomenon is the annual growth and decay of vegetation. A strong reason for interpreting the death of Osiris as the decay of vegetation rather than as the sunset is to be found in the general (though not unanimous) voice of antiquity, which classed together the worship and myths of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, as religions of essentially the same type.1024 The consensus of ancient opinion on this subject seems too great to be rejected as a mere fancy. So closely did the rites of Osiris resemble those of Adonis at Byblus that some of the people of Byblus themselves maintained that it was Osiris and not Adonis whose death was mourned by them.1025 Such a view could certainly not have been held if the rituals of the two gods had not been so alike as to be almost indistinguishable. Again, Herodotus found the similarity between the rites of Osiris and Dionysus so great, that he thought it impossible the latter could have arisen independently; they must, he thought, have been recently borrowed, with slight alterations, by the Greeks from the Egyptians.1026 Again, Plutarch, a very intelligent student of comparative religion, insists upon the detailed resemblance of the rites of Osiris to those of Dionysus.1027 We cannot [pg 320] reject the evidence of such intelligent and trustworthy witnesses on plain matters of fact which fell under their own cognisance. Their explanations of the worships it is indeed possible to reject, for the meaning of religious cults is often open to question; but resemblances of ritual are matters of observation. Therefore, those who explain Osiris as the sun are driven to the alternative of either dismissing as mistaken the testimony of antiquity to the similarity of the rites of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, or of interpreting all these rites as sun-worship. No modern scholar has fairly faced and accepted either side of this alternative. To accept the former would be to affirm that we know the rites of these deities better than the men who practised, or at least who witnessed them. To accept the latter would involve a wrenching, clipping, mangling, and distorting of myth and ritual from which even Macrobius shrank.1028 On the other hand, the view that the essence of all these rites was the mimic death and revival of vegetation, explains them separately and collectively in an easy and natural way, and harmonises with the general testimony borne by antiquity to their substantial similarity. The evidence for thus explaining Adonis, Attis, and Osiris has now been presented to the reader; it remains to do the same for Dionysus and Demeter.

§ 7.—Dionysus.

The Greek god Dionysus or Bacchus1029 is best known as the god of the vine, but he was also a god [pg 321] of trees in general. Thus we are told that almost all the Greeks sacrificed to “Dionysus of the tree.”1030 In Boeotia one of his titles was “Dionysus in the tree.”1031 His image was often merely an upright post, without arms, but draped in a mantle, with a bearded mask to represent the head, and with leafy boughs projecting from the head or body to show the nature of the deity.1032 On a vase his rude effigy is depicted appearing out of a low tree or bush.1033 He was the patron of cultivated trees;1034 prayers were offered to him that he would make the trees grow;1035 and he was especially honoured by husbandmen, chiefly fruit-growers, who set up an image of him, in the shape of a natural tree-stump, in their orchards.1036 He was said to have discovered all tree-fruits, amongst which apples and figs are particularly mentioned;1037 and he was himself spoken of as doing a husbandman's work.1038 He was referred to as “well-fruited,” “he of the green fruit,” and “making the fruit to grow.”1039 One of his titles was “teeming” or “bursting” (as of sap or blossoms);1040 and there was a Flowery Dionysus in Attica and at Patrae in Achaea.1041 Amongst the trees particularly sacred to him, in addition to the vine, was the pine-tree.1042 [pg 322] The Delphic oracle commanded the Corinthians to worship a particular pine-tree “equally with the god,” so they made two images of Dionysus out of it, with red faces and gilt bodies.1043 In art a wand, tipped with a pine-cone, is commonly carried by the god or his worshippers.1044 Again, the ivy and the fig-tree were especially associated with him. In the Attic township of Acharnae there was a Dionysus Ivy;1045 at Lacedaemon there was a Fig Dionysus; and in Naxos, where figs were called meilicha, there was a Dionysus Meilichios, the face of whose image was made of fig-wood.1046

Like the other gods of vegetation whom we have been considering, Dionysus was believed to have died a violent death, but to have been brought to life again; and his sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted in his sacred rites. The Cretan myth, as related by Firmicus, ran thus. He was said to have been the bastard son of Jupiter (Zeus), a Cretan king. Going abroad, Jupiter transferred the throne and sceptre to the child Dionysus, but, knowing that his wife Juno (Hera) cherished a jealous dislike of the child, he entrusted Dionysus to the care of guards upon whose fidelity he believed he could rely. Juno, however, bribed the guards, and amusing the child with toys and a cunningly-wrought looking-glass lured him into an ambush, where her satellites, the Titans, rushed upon him, cut him limb from limb, boiled his body [pg 323] with various herbs and ate it. But his sister Minerva, who had shared in the deed, kept his heart and gave it to Jupiter on his return, revealing to him the whole history of the crime. In his rage, Jupiter put the Titans to death by torture, and, to soothe his grief for the loss of his son, made an image in which he enclosed the child's heart, and then built a temple in his honour.1047 In this version a Euhemeristic turn has been given to the myth by representing Jupiter and Juno (Zeus and Hera) as a king and queen of Crete. The guards referred to are the mythical Curetes who danced a war-dance round the infant Dionysus as they are said to have done round the infant Zeus.1048 Pomegranates were supposed to have sprung from the blood of Dionysus,1049 as anemones from the blood of Adonis and violets from the blood of Attis. According to some, the severed limbs of Dionysus were pieced together, at the command of Zeus, by Apollo, who buried them on Parnassus.1050 The grave of Dionysus was shown in the Delphic temple beside a golden statue of Apollo.1051 Thus far the resurrection of the slain god is not mentioned, but in other versions of the myth it is variously related. One version, which represented Dionysus as a son of Demeter, averred that his mother pieced together his mangled limbs and made him young again.1052 In others it is simply said that shortly after his burial he rose from [pg 324] the dead and ascended up to heaven;1053 or that Zeus raised him up as he lay mortally wounded;1054 or that Zeus swallowed the heart of Dionysus and then begat him afresh by Semele,1055 who in the common legend figures as mother of Dionysus. Or, again, the heart was pounded up and given in a potion to Semele, who thereby conceived him.1056

Turning from the myth to the ritual, we find that the Cretans celebrated a biennial1057 festival at which the sufferings and death of Dionysus were represented in every detail.1058 Where the resurrection formed part of the myth, it also was enacted at the rites,1059 and it even appears that a general doctrine of resurrection, or at least of immortality, was inculcated on the worshippers; for Plutarch, writing to console his wife on the death of their infant daughter, comforts her with the thought of the immortality of the soul as taught by tradition and revealed in the mysteries of Dionysus.1060

A different form of the myth of the death and resurrection of Dionysus is that he descended into Hades to bring up his mother Semele from the dead.1061 The local Argive tradition was that he descended [pg 325] through the Alcyonian lake; and his return from the lower world, in other words his resurrection, was annually celebrated on the spot by the Argives, who summoned him from the water by trumpet blasts, while they threw a lamb into the lake as an offering to the warder of the dead.1062 Whether this was a spring festival does not appear, but the Lydians certainly celebrated the advent of Dionysus in spring; the god was supposed to bring the season with him.1063 Deities of vegetation, who are supposed to pass a certain portion of each year underground, naturally come to be regarded as gods of the lower world or of the dead. Both Dionysus and Osiris were so conceived.1064

A feature in the mythical character of Dionysus, which at first sight appears inconsistent with his nature as a deity of vegetation, is that he was often conceived and represented in animal shape, especially in the form, or at least with the horns, of a bull. Thus he is spoken of as “cow-born,” “bull,” “bull-shaped,” “bull-faced,” “bull-browed,” “bull-horned,” “horn-bearing,” “two-horned,” “horned.”1065 He was believed to appear, at least occasionally, as a bull.1066 His images were often, as at Cyzicus, made in bull shape,1067 or with bull horns;1068 and he was painted with horns.1069 Types of the horned Dionysus are found amongst the surviving [pg 326] monuments of antiquity.1070 On one statuette he appears clad in a bull's hide, the head, horns, and hoofs hanging down behind.1071 At his festivals Dionysus was believed to appear in bull form. The women of Elis hailed him as a bull, and prayed him to come with his bull's-foot. They sang, “Come here, Dionysus, to thy holy temple by the sea; come with the Graces to thy temple, rushing with thy bull's-foot, O goodly bull, O goodly bull!”1072 According to the myth, it was in the shape of a bull that he was torn to pieces by the Titans;1073 and the Cretans, in representing the sufferings and death of Dionysus, tore a live bull to pieces with their teeth.1074 Indeed, the rending and devouring of live bulls and calves appear to have been a regular feature of the Dionysiac rites.1075 The practice of representing the god in bull form or with some of the features of a bull, the belief that he appeared in bull form to his worshippers at the sacred rites, and the legend that it was in bull form that he had been torn in pieces—all these facts taken together leave no room to doubt that in rending and devouring a live bull at his festival his worshippers believed that they were killing the god, eating his flesh, and drinking his blood.

Another animal whose form Dionysus assumed was the goat. One of his names was Kid.1076 To save him from the wrath of Hera, his father Zeus changed [pg 327] him into a kid;1077 and when the gods fled to Egypt to escape the fury of Typhon, Dionysus was turned into a goat.1078 Hence when his worshippers rent in pieces a live goat and devoured it raw,1079 they must have believed that they were eating the body and blood of the god.

This custom of killing a god in animal form, which we shall examine more fully presently, belongs to a very early stage in human culture, and is apt in later times to be misunderstood. The advance of thought tends to strip the old animal and plant gods of their bestial and vegetable husk, and to leave their human attributes (which are always the kernel of the conception) as the final and sole residuum. In other words, animal and plant gods tend to become purely anthropomorphic. When they have become wholly or nearly so, the animals and plants which were at first the deities themselves, still retain a vague and ill-understood connection with the anthropomorphic gods which have been developed out of them. The origin of the relationship between the deity and the animal or plant having been forgotten, various stories are invented to explain it. These explanations may follow one of two lines according as they are based on the habitual or on the exceptional treatment of the sacred animal or plant. The sacred animal was habitually spared, and only exceptionally slain; and accordingly the myth might be devised to explain either why it was spared or why [pg 328] it was killed. Devised for the former purpose, the myth would tell of some service rendered to the deity by the animal; devised for the latter purpose, the myth would tell of some injury inflicted by the animal on the god. The reason given for sacrificing goats to Dionysus is an example of a myth of the latter sort. They were sacrificed to him, it was said, because they injured the vine.1080 Now the goat, as we have seen, was originally an embodiment of the god himself. But when the god had divested himself of his animal character and had become essentially anthropomorphic, the killing of the goat in his worship came to be regarded no longer as a slaying of the god himself, but as a sacrifice to him; and since some reason had to be assigned why the goat in particular should be sacrificed, it was alleged that this was a punishment inflicted on the goat for injuring the vine, the object of the god's especial care. Thus we have the strange spectacle of a god sacrificed to himself on the ground that he is his own enemy. And as the god is supposed to partake of the victim offered to him, it follows that, when the victim is the god's old self, the god eats of his own flesh. Hence the goat-god Dionysus is represented as eating raw goat's blood;1081 and the bull-god Dionysus is called “eater of bulls.”1082 On the analogy of these instances we may conjecture that wherever a god is described as the eater of a particular animal, the animal in question was originally nothing but the god himself.1083

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All this, however, does not explain why a deity of vegetation should appear in animal form. But the consideration of this point had better be deferred till we have discussed the character and attributes of Demeter. Meantime it remains to point out that in some places, instead of an animal, a human being was torn in pieces at the rites of Dionysus. This was the custom in Chios and Tenedos;1084 and at Potniae in Boeotia the tradition ran that it had been formerly the custom to sacrifice to the goat-smiting Dionysus a child, for whom a goat was afterwards substituted.1085 At Orchomenus the human victim was taken from the women of a certain family, called the Oleiae. At the annual festival the priest of Dionysus pursued these women with a drawn sword, and if he overtook one of them he had a right to slay her. This right was exercised as late as Plutarch's time.1086 As the slain bull or goat represented the slain god, so, we may suppose, the human victim also represented him. It is possible, however, that a tradition of human sacrifice may sometimes have been a mere misinterpretation of a sacrificial ritual in which an animal victim was treated as a human being. For example, at Tenedos the new-born calf sacrificed to Dionysus was shod in buskins, and the mother cow was tended like a woman in child-bed.1087

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§ 8.—Demeter and Proserpine.

The Greek myth of Demeter and Proserpine is substantially identical with the Syrian myth of Aphrodite (Astarte) and Adonis, the Phrygian myth of Cybele and Attis, and the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. In the Greek myth, as in its Asiatic and Egyptian counterparts, a goddess—Demeter—mourns the loss of a loved one—Proserpine—who personifies the vegetation, more especially the corn, which dies in summer1088 to revive in spring. But in the Greek myth the loved and lost one is the daughter instead of the husband or lover of the goddess; and the mother as well as the daughter is a goddess of the corn.1089 Thus, as modern scholars have recognised,1090 Demeter and Proserpine are merely a mythical reduplication of the same natural phenomenon. Proserpine, so ran the Greek myth,1091 was gathering flowers when the earth gaped, and Pluto, lord of the Dead, issuing from the abyss, carried her off on his golden car to be his bride in the gloomy subterranean world. Her sorrowing mother Demeter sought her over land and sea, and learning from the [pg 331] Sun her daughter's fate, she suffered not the seed to grow, but kept it hidden in the ground, so that the whole race of men would have died of hunger if Zeus had not sent and fetched Proserpine from the nether world. Finally it was agreed that Proserpine should spend a third, or according to others a half,1092 of each year with Pluto underground, but should come forth in spring to dwell with her mother and the gods in the upper world. Her annual death and resurrection, that is, her annual descent into the under world and her ascension from it, appear to have been represented in her rites.1093

With regard to the name Demeter, it has been plausibly argued by Mannhardt1094 that the first part of the word is derived from dēai, a Cretan word for “barley”;1095 and that thus Demeter means the Barley-mother or the Corn-mother; for the root of the word appears to have been applied to different kinds of grain by different branches of the Aryans, and even of the Greeks themselves.1096 As Crete appears to have been one of the most ancient seats of the worship of Demeter,1097 it is not surprising that her name should be of Cretan origin. This explanation of the name Demeter is supported by a host of analogies which the diligence of Mannhardt has collected [pg 332] from modern European folk-lore, and of which the following are specimens. In Germany the corn is very commonly personified under the name of the Corn-mother. Thus in spring, when the wind sets the corn in wave-like motion, the peasants say, “There comes the Corn-mother,” or “The Corn-mother is running over the field,” or “The Corn-mother is going through the corn.”1098 When children wish to go into the fields to pull the blue corn-flowers or the red poppies, they are told not to do so, because the Corn-mother is sitting in the corn and will catch them.1099 Or again she is called, according to the crop, the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother, and children are warned against straying in the rye or among the peas by threats of the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother. In Norway also the Pea-mother is said to sit among the peas.1100 Similar expressions are current among the Slavs. The Poles and Czechs warn children against the Corn-mother who sits in the corn. Or they call her the Old Corn-woman, and say that she sits in the corn and strangles the children who tread it down.1101 The Lithuanians say, “The Old Rye-woman sits in the corn.”1102 Again the Corn-mother is believed to make the crop grow. Thus in the neighbourhood of Magdeburg it is sometimes said, “It will be a good year for flax; the Flax-mother has been seen.” At Dinkelsbühl (Bavaria) down to fifteen or twenty years ago, people believed that when the crops on a particular farm compared unfavourably with those of the neighbourhood, the reason was that the Corn-mother had punished the farmer for his sins.1103 In a village of Styria it is said that the Corn-mother, in the shape of a female [pg 333] puppet made out of the last sheaf of corn and dressed in white, may be seen at midnight in the corn-fields, which she fertilises by passing through them; but if she is angry with a farmer, she withers up all his corn.1104

Further, the Corn-mother plays an important part in harvest customs. She is believed to be present in the handful of corn which is left standing last on the field; and with the cutting of this last handful she is caught, or driven away, or killed. In the first of these cases, the last sheaf is carried joyfully home and honoured as a divine being. It is placed in the barn, and at threshing the corn-spirit appears again.1105 In the district of Hadeln (Hanover) the reapers stand round the last sheaf and beat it with sticks in order to drive the Corn-mother out of it. They call to each other, “There she is! hit her! Take care she doesn't catch you!” The beating goes on till the grain is completely threshed out; then the Corn-mother is believed to be driven away.1106 In the neighbourhood of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman, and is brought home on the last waggon.1107 In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed in woman's clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on the last waggon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm.1108 In the district of Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, is made up into the shape of a woman by the oldest married woman in the village, of an age from fifty to fifty-five years. The finest ears are plucked out of it [pg 334] and made into a wreath, which, twined with flowers, is carried on her head by the prettiest girl of the village to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid down in the barn to keep off the mice.1109 In other villages of the same district the Corn-mother, at the close of harvest, is carried by two lads at the top of a pole. They march behind the girl who wears the wreath to the squire's house, and while he receives the wreath and hangs it up in the hall, the Corn-mother is placed on the top of a pile of wood, where she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance. Afterwards she is hung up in the barn and remains there till the threshing is over. The man who gives the last stroke at threshing is called the son of the Corn-mother; he is tied up in the Corn-mother, beaten, and carried through the village. The wreath is dedicated in church on the following Sunday; and on Easter Eve the grain is rubbed out of it by a seven years' old girl and scattered amongst the young corn. At Christmas the straw of the wreath is placed in the manger to make the cattle thrive.1110 Here the fertilising power of the Corn-mother is plainly brought out by scattering the seed taken from her body (for the wreath is made out of the Corn-mother) among the new corn; and her influence over animal life is indicated by placing the straw in the manger. At Westerhüsen in Saxony the last corn cut is made in the shape of a woman decked with ribbons and cloth. It is fastened on a pole and brought home on the last waggon. One of the people on the waggon keeps waving the pole, so that the figure moves as if alive. It is placed on the threshing-floor, and stays there till the threshing is done.1111 Amongst the Slavs also the [pg 335] last sheaf is known as the Rye-mother, the Wheat-mother, the Oats-mother, the Barley-mother, etc., according to the crop. In the district of Tarnow, Galicia, the wreath made out of the last stalks is called the Wheat-mother, Rye-mother, or Pea-mother. It is placed on a girl's head and kept till spring, when some of the grain is mixed with the seed-corn.1112 Here again the fertilising power of the Corn-mother is indicated. In France, also, in the neighbourhood of Auxerre, the last sheaf goes by the name of the Mother of the Wheat, Mother of the Barley, Mother of the Rye, or Mother of the Oats. It is left standing in the field till the last waggon is about to wend homewards. Then a puppet is made out of it, dressed with clothes belonging to the farmer, and adorned with a crown and a blue or white scarf. A branch of a tree is stuck in the breast of the puppet, which is now called the Ceres. At the dance in the evening the Ceres is placed in the middle of the floor, and the reaper who reaped fastest dances round it with the prettiest girl for his partner. After the dance a pyre is made. All the girls, each wearing a wreath, strip the puppet, pull it to pieces, and place it on the pyre, along with the flowers with which it was adorned. Then the girl who was the first to finish reaping sets fire to the pile, and all pray that Ceres may give a fruitful year. Here, as Mannhardt observes, the old custom has remained intact, though the name Ceres is a bit of schoolmaster's learning.1113 In Upper Britanny the last sheaf is always made into human shape; but if the farmer is a married man, it is made double and consists of a little corn-puppet placed inside of a large one. This is called the Mother-sheaf. It is delivered to the [pg 336] farmer's wife, who unties it and gives drink-money in return.1114

Sometimes the last sheaf is called, not the Corn-mother, but the Harvest-mother or the Great Mother. In the province of Osnabrück (Hanover) it is called the Harvest-mother; it is made up in female form, and then the reapers dance about with it. In some parts of Westphalia the last sheaf at the rye harvest is made especially heavy by fastening stones in it. It is brought home on the last waggon and is called the Great Mother, though no special shape is given it. In the district of Erfurt a very heavy sheaf (not necessarily the last) is called the Great Mother, and is carried on the last waggon to the barn, where it is lifted down by all hands amid a fire of jokes.1115

Sometimes again the last sheaf is called the Grandmother, and is adorned with flowers, ribbons, and a woman's apron. In East Prussia, at the rye or wheat harvest, the reapers call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, “You are getting the Old Grandmother.” In the neighbourhood of Magdeburg the men and women servants strive who shall get the last sheaf, called the Grandmother. Whoever gets it will be married in the next year, but his or her spouse will be old; if a girl gets it, she will marry a widower; if a man gets it, he will marry an old crone. In Silesia the Grandmother—a huge bundle made up of three or four sheaves by the person who tied the last sheaf—was formerly fashioned into a rude likeness of the human form.1116 In the neighbourhood of Belfast the last sheaf is sometimes called Granny. It is not cut in the usual way, but all the reapers throw [pg 337] their sickles at it and try to bring it down. It is plaited and kept till the (next?) autumn. Whoever gets it will marry in the course of the year.1117

Oftener the last sheaf is called the Old Woman or the Old Man. In Germany it is often shaped and dressed as a woman, and the person who cuts it or binds it is said to “get the Old Woman.”1118 At Altisheim in Swabia when all the corn of a farm has been cut except a single strip, all the reapers stand in a row before the strip; each cuts his share rapidly, and he who gives the last cut “has the Old Woman.”1119 When the sheaves are being set up in heaps, the person who gets hold of the Old Woman, which is the largest and thickest of all the sheaves, is jeered at by the rest, who sing out to him, “He has the Old Woman and must keep her.”1120 The woman who binds the last sheaf is sometimes herself called the Old Woman, and it is said that she will be married in the next year.1121 In Neusaass, West Prussia, both the last sheaf—which is dressed up in jacket, hat and ribbons—and the woman who binds it are called the Old Woman. Together they are brought home on the last waggon and are drenched with water.1122 At Hornkampe, near Tiegenhof (West Prussia), when a man or woman lags behind the rest in binding the corn, the other reapers dress up the last sheaf in the form of a man or woman, and this figure goes by the laggard's name, as “the old Michael,” “the idle Trine.” It is brought home on the last waggon, and, as it nears the house, the bystanders call out to the laggard, “You have got the Old Woman and must keep her.”1123

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In these customs, as Mannhardt has remarked, the person who is called by the same name as the last sheaf and sits beside it on the last waggon is obviously identified with it; he or she represents the corn-spirit which has been caught in the last sheaf; in other words, the corn-spirit is represented in duplicate, by a human being and by a sheaf.1124 The identification of the person with the sheaf is made still clearer by the custom of wrapping up in the last sheaf the person who cuts or binds it. Thus at Hermsdorf in Silesia it used to be the regular custom to tie up in the last sheaf the woman who had bound it.1125 At Weiden in Bavaria it is the cutter, not the binder, of the last sheaf who is tied up in it.1126 Here the person wrapt up in the corn represents the corn-spirit, exactly as a person wrapt in branches or leaves represents the tree-spirit.1127

The last sheaf, designated as the Old Woman, is often distinguished from the other sheaves by its size and weight. Thus in some villages of West Prussia the Old Woman is made twice as long and thick as a common sheaf, and a stone is fastened in the middle of it. Sometimes it is made so heavy that a man can barely lift it.1128 Sometimes eight or nine sheaves are tied together to make the Old Woman, and the man who sets it up complains of its weight.1129 At Itzgrund, in Saxe-Coburg, the last sheaf, called the Old Woman, is made large with the express intention of thereby securing a good crop next year.1130 Thus the custom of making the last sheaf unusually large or heavy is a charm, working by sympathetic magic, to secure a large and heavy crop in the following year.

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In Denmark also the last sheaf is made larger than the others, and is called the Old Rye-woman or the Old Barley-woman. No one likes to bind it, because whoever does so will, it is believed, marry an old man or an old woman. Sometimes the last wheat-sheaf, called the Old Wheat-woman, is made up in human shape, with head, arms, and legs, is dressed in clothes and carried home on the last waggon, the harvesters sitting beside it, drinking and huzzaing.1131 Of the person who binds the last sheaf it is said, “She (or he) is the Old Rye-woman.”1132

In Scotland, when the last corn was cut after Hallowmas, the female figure made out of it was sometimes called the Carlin or Carline, i.e. the Old Woman. But if cut before Hallowmas, it was called the Maiden; if cut after sunset, it was called the Witch, being supposed to bring bad luck.1133 We shall return to the Maiden presently. In County Antrim, down to a few years ago, when the sickle was finally expelled by the reaping machine, the few stalks of corn left standing last on the field were plaited together; then the reapers, blindfolded, threw their sickles at the plaited corn, and whoever happened to cut it through took it home with him and put it over his door. This bunch of corn was called the Carley1134—probably the same word as Carlin.

Similar customs are observed by Slavonic peoples. Thus in Poland the last sheaf is commonly called the Baba, that is, the Old Woman. “In the last sheaf,” it is said, “sits the Baba.” The sheaf itself is also called the Baba, and is sometimes composed of twelve [pg 340] smaller sheaves lashed together.1135 In some parts of Bohemia the Baba, made out of the last sheaf, has the figure of a woman with a great straw hat. It is carried home on the last harvest-waggon and delivered, along with a garland, to the farmer by two girls. In binding the sheaves the women strive not to be last, for she who binds the last sheaf will have a child next year.1136 The last sheaf is tied up with others into a large bundle, and a green branch is stuck on the top of it.1137 Sometimes the harvesters call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, “She has the Baba,” or “She is the Baba.” She has then to make a puppet, sometimes in female, sometimes in male form, out of the corn; the puppet is occasionally dressed with clothes, often with flowers and ribbons only. The cutter of the last stalks, as well as the binder of the last sheaf, was also called Baba; and a doll, called the Harvest-woman, was made out of the last sheaf and adorned with ribbons. The oldest reaper had to dance, first with this doll, and then with the farmer's wife.1138 In the district of Cracow, when a man binds the last sheaf, they say, “The Grandfather is sitting in it;” when a woman binds it, they say, “The Baba is sitting in it,” and the woman herself is wrapt up in the sheaf, so that only her head projects out of it. Thus encased in the sheaf, she is carried on the last harvest-waggon to the house, where she is drenched with water by the whole family. She remains in the sheaf till the dance is over, and for a year she retains the name of Baba.1139

In Lithuania the name for the last sheaf is Boba (Old Woman), answering to the Polish name Baba. The Boba is said to sit in the corn which is left [pg 341] standing last.1140 The person who binds the last sheaf or digs the last potato is the subject of much banter, and receives and long retains the name of the Old Rye-woman or the Old Potato-woman.1141 The last sheaf—the Boba—is made into the form of a woman, carried solemnly through the village on the last harvest-waggon, and drenched with water at the farmer's house; then every one dances with it.1142

In Russia also the last sheaf is often shaped and dressed as a woman, and carried with dance and song to the farmhouse. Out of the last sheaf the Bulgarians make a doll which they call the Corn-queen or Corn-mother; it is dressed in a woman's shirt, carried round the village, and then thrown into the river in order to secure plenty of rain and dew for the next year's crop. Or it is burned and the ashes strewn on the fields, doubtless to fertilise them.1143 The name Queen, as applied to the last sheaf, has its analogies in Northern Europe. Thus Brand quotes from Hutchinson's History of Northumberland the following: “I have seen, in some places, an image apparelled in great finery, crowned with flowers, a sheaf of corn placed under her arm, and a sycle in her hand, carried out of the village in the morning of the conclusive reaping day, with music and much clamour of the reapers, into the field, where it stands fixed on a pole all day, and when the reaping is done, is brought home in like manner. This they call the Harvest Queen, and it represents the Roman Ceres.”1144 From Cambridge also Dr. E. D. Clarke reported that “at the Hawkie [harvest-home], as it is called, I have seen a clown dressed in [pg 342] woman's clothes, having his face painted, his head decorated with ears of corn, and bearing about him other symbols of Ceres, carried in a waggon, with great pomp and loud shouts, through the streets, the horses being covered with white sheets; and when I inquired the meaning of the ceremony, was answered by the people, that they were drawing the Harvest Queen.”1145

Often the customs we have been examining are practised, not on the harvest field, but on the threshing-floor. The spirit of the corn, fleeing before the reapers as they cut down the corn, quits the cut corn and takes refuge in the barn, where it appears in the last sheaf threshed, either to perish under the blows of the flail or to flee thence to the still unthreshed corn of a neighbouring farm.1146 Thus the last corn to be threshed is called the Mother-corn or the Old Woman. Sometimes the person who gives the last stroke with the flail is called the Old Woman, and is wrapt in the straw of the last sheaf, or has a bundle of straw fastened on his back. Whether wrapt in the straw or carrying it on his back, he is carted through the village amid general laughter. In some districts of Bavaria, Thüringen, etc., the man who threshes the last sheaf is said to have the Old Woman or the Old Corn-woman; he is tied up in straw, carried or carted about the village, and set down at last on the dunghill, or taken to the threshing-floor of a neighbouring farmer who has not finished his threshing.1147 In Poland the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is called Baba (Old Woman); he is wrapt in corn and wheeled through the village.1148 Sometimes in Lithuania the last sheaf is not threshed, but is fashioned into female [pg 343] shape and carried to the barn of a neighbour who has not finished his threshing.1149 In some parts of Sweden, when a stranger woman appears on the threshing-floor, a flail is put round her body, stalks of corn are wound round her neck, a crown of ears is placed on her head, and the threshers call out, “Behold the Corn-woman.” Here the stranger woman, thus suddenly appearing, is taken to be the corn-spirit who has just been expelled by the flails from the corn-stalks.1150 In other cases the farmer's wife represents the corn-spirit. Thus in the Commune of Saligné, Canton de Poiret (Vendée), the farmer's wife, along with the last sheaf, is tied up in a sheet, placed on a litter, and carried to the threshing machine, under which she is shoved. Then the woman is drawn out and the sheaf is threshed by itself, but the woman is tossed in the sheet (in imitation of winnowing).1151 It would be impossible to express more clearly the identification of the woman with the corn than by this graphic imitation of threshing and winnowing her.

In these customs the spirit of the ripe corn is regarded as old, or at least as of mature age. Hence the names of Mother, Grandmother, Old Woman, etc. But in other cases the corn-spirit is conceived as young, sometimes as a child who is separated from its mother by the stroke of the sickle. This last view appears in the Polish custom of calling out to the man who cuts the last handful of corn, “You have cut the navel-string.”1152 In some districts of West Prussia the figure made out of the last sheaf is called the Bastard, and a boy is wrapt up in it. The woman who binds the last sheaf [pg 344] and represents the Corn-mother, is told that she is about to be brought to bed; she cries like a woman in travail, and an old woman in the character of grandmother acts as midwife. At last a cry is raised that the child is born; whereupon the boy who is tied up in the sheaf whimpers and squalls like an infant. The grandmother wraps a sack, in imitation of swaddling bands, round the pretended baby, and it is carried joyfully to the barn, lest it catch cold in the open air.1153 In other parts of North Germany, the last sheaf, or the puppet made out of it, is called the Child, the Harvest Child, etc. In the North of England the last handful of corn was cut by the prettiest girl and dressed up as the Corn Baby or Kern Baby; it was brought home to music, set up in a conspicuous place at the harvest supper, and generally kept in the parlour for the rest of the year. The girl who cut it was the Harvest Queen.1154 In Kent the Ivy Girl is (or was) “a figure composed of some of the best corn the field produces, and made as well as they can into a human shape; this is afterwards curiously dressed by the women, and adorned with paper trimmings, cut to resemble a cap, ruffles, handkerchief, etc., of the finest lace. It is brought home with the last load of corn from the field upon the waggon, and they suppose entitles them to a supper at the expense of the employer.”1155 In the neighbourhood of Balquhidder, Perthshire, the last handful of corn is cut by the youngest girl on the field, and is made into the rude form of a female doll, clad in a paper dress, and decked with ribbons. It is called the Maiden, and is kept in the farmhouse, generally above the chimney, [pg 345] for a good while, sometimes till the Maiden of the next year is brought in. The writer of this book witnessed the ceremony of cutting the Maiden at Balquhidder in September 1888.1156 On some farms on the Gareloch, Dumbartonshire, about sixty years ago the last handful of standing corn was called the Maiden. It was divided in two, plaited, and then cut with the sickle by a girl, who, it was thought, would be lucky and would soon be married. When it was cut the reapers gathered together and threw their sickles in the air. The Maiden was dressed with ribbons and hung in the kitchen near the roof, where it was kept for several years with the date attached. Sometimes five or six Maidens might be seen hanging at once on hooks. The harvest supper was called the Kirn.1157 In other farms on the Gareloch the last handful of corn was called the Maidenhead or the Head; it was neatly plaited, sometimes decked with ribbons, and hung in the kitchen for a year, when the grain was given to the poultry.1158 In the North of Scotland, the Maiden is kept till Christmas morning, and then divided among the cattle “to make them thrive all the year round.”1159 In Aberdeenshire also the last sheaf (called the clyack sheaf) was formerly cut, as it is still cut at Balquhidder, by the youngest girl on the field; then it was dressed in woman's clothes, carried home in triumph, and kept till Christmas or New Year's morning, when it was given to a mare in foal, or, failing such, to the oldest cow.1160 Lastly, a somewhat maturer, but still youthful age is assigned to the corn-spirit by [pg 346] the appellations of Bride, Oats-bride, and Wheat-bride, which in Germany and Scotland are sometimes bestowed both on the last sheaf and on the woman who binds it.1161 Sometimes the idea implied in these names is worked out more fully by representing the productive powers of vegetation as bride and bridegroom. Thus in some parts of Germany a man and woman dressed in straw and called the Oats-wife and the Oats-man, or the Oats-bride and the Oats-bridegroom dance at the harvest festival; then the corn-stalks are plucked from their bodies till they stand as bare as a stubble field. In Silesia, the woman who binds the last sheaf is called the Wheat-bride or the Oats-bride. With the harvest crown on her head, a bridegroom by her side, and attended by bridesmaids, she is brought to the farmhouse with all the solemnity of a wedding procession.1162

The harvest customs just described are strikingly analogous to the spring customs which we reviewed in the first chapter. (1.) As in the spring customs the tree-spirit is represented both by a tree and by a person,1163 so in the harvest customs the corn-spirit is represented both by the last sheaf and by the person who cuts or binds or threshes it. The equivalence of the person to the sheaf is shown by giving him or her the same name as the sheaf, or vice versâ; by wrapping him or her in the sheaf; and by the rule observed in some places, that when the sheaf is called the Mother, it must be cut by the oldest married woman; but when it is called [pg 347] the Maiden, it must be cut by the youngest girl.1164 Here the age of the personal representative of the corn-spirit corresponds with that of the supposed age of the corn-spirit, just as the human victims offered by the Mexicans to promote the growth of the maize varied with the age of the maize.1165 For in the Mexican, as in the European, custom the human beings were probably representatives of the corn-spirit rather than victims offered to him. (2.) Again, the same fertilising influence which the tree-spirit is supposed to exert over vegetation, cattle, and even women1166 is ascribed to the corn-spirit. Thus, its supposed influence on vegetation is shown by the practice of taking some of the grain of the last sheaf (in which the corn-spirit is regularly supposed to be present), and scattering it among the young corn in spring.1167 Its influence on cattle is shown by giving the straw of the last sheaf to the cattle at Christmas with the express intention of making them thrive.1168 Lastly, its influence on women is indicated by the custom of delivering the Mother-sheaf, made into the likeness of a pregnant woman, to the farmer's wife;1169 by the belief that the woman who binds the last sheaf will have a child next year;1170 perhaps, too, by the idea that the person who gets it will marry next year.1171

Plainly, therefore, these spring and harvest customs are based on the same ancient modes of thought, and form parts of the same primitive heathendom, which was doubtless practised by our forefathers long before the dawn of history, as it is practised to this day by [pg 348] many of their descendants. Amongst the marks of a primitive religion, we may note the following:—

(1.) No special class of persons is set apart for the performance of the rites; in other words, there are no priests. The rites may be performed by any one, as occasion demands.

(2.) No special places are set apart for the performance of the rites; in other words, there are no temples. The rites may be performed anywhere, as occasion demands.

(3.) Spirits, not gods, are recognised. (a.) As distinguished from gods, spirits are restricted in their operations to definite departments of nature. Their names are general, not proper. Their attributes are generic, rather than individual; in other words, there is an indefinite number of spirits of each class, and the individuals of a class are all much alike; they have no definitely marked individuality; no accepted traditions are current as to their origin, life, adventures, and character. (b.) On the other hand gods, as distinguished from spirits, are not exclusively restricted in their operations to definite departments of nature. It is true that there is generally some one department over which they preside as their special province; but they are not rigorously confined to it; they can exert their power for good or evil in many other spheres of nature and life. Again, they bear individual or proper names, such as Ceres, Proserpine, Bacchus; and their individual characters and histories are fixed by current myths and the representations of art.

(4.) The rites are magical rather than propitiatory. In other words, the desired objects are attained, not by propitiating the favour of divine beings through sacrifice, prayer, and praise, but by ceremonies which, as has [pg 349] been explained,1172 are believed to influence the course of nature directly through a physical sympathy or resemblance between the rite and the effect which it is the intention of the rite to produce.

Judged by these tests, the spring and harvest customs of our European peasantry deserve to rank as primitive. For no special class of persons and no special places are set exclusively apart for their performance; they may be performed by any one, master or man, mistress or maid, boy or girl; they are practised, not in temples or churches, but in the woods and meadows, beside brooks, in barns, on harvest fields and cottage floors. The supernatural beings whose existence is taken for granted in them are spirits rather than deities; their functions are limited to certain well-defined departments of nature; their names are general, like the Barley-mother, the Old Woman, the Maiden, not proper names like Ceres, Proserpine, Bacchus. Their generic attributes are known, but their individual histories and characters are not the subject of myths. For they exist in classes rather than as individuals, and the members of each class are indistinguishable. For example, every farm has its Corn-mother, or its Old Woman, or its Maiden; but every Corn-mother is much like every other Corn-mother, and so with the Old Women and Maidens. Lastly, in these harvest, as in the spring, customs, the ritual is magical rather than propitiatory. This is shown by throwing the Corn-mother into the river in order to secure rain and dew for the crops;1173 by making the Old Woman heavy in order to get a heavy crop next year;1174 by strewing grain from the last sheaf amongst the young crops in [pg 350] spring;1175 and giving the last sheaf to the cattle to make them thrive.1176

Further, the custom of keeping the puppet—the representative of the corn-spirit—till next harvest, is a charm to maintain the corn-spirit in life and activity throughout the year.1177 This is proved by a similar custom observed by the ancient Peruvians, and thus described by the historian Acosta. “They take a certain portion of the most fruitefull of the Mays [i.e. maize] that growes in their farmes, the which they put in a certaine granary which they doe call Pirua, with certaine ceremonies, watching three nightes; they put this Mays in the richest garments they have, and beeing thus wrapped and dressed, they worship this Pirua, and hold it in great veneration, saying it is the mother of the mays of their inheritances, and that by this means the mays augments and is preserved. In this moneth [the sixth month, answering to May] they make a particular sacrifice, and the witches demaund of this Pirua, if it hath strength sufficient to continue untill the next yeare; and if it answers no, then they carry this Mays to the farme to burne, whence they brought it, according to every man's power; then they make another Pirua, with the same ceremonies, saying that they renue it, to the end the seede of Mays may not perish, and if it answers that it hath force sufficient to last longer, they leave it untill the next yeare. This foolish vanity continueth to this day, and it is very common amongest the Indians to have these Piruas.”1178 There seems to [pg 351] be some error in this description of the custom. Probably it was the dressed-up bunch of maize, not the granary (Pirua), which was worshipped by the Peruvians and regarded as the Mother of the Maize. This is confirmed by what we know of the Peruvian custom from another source. The Peruvians, we are told, believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine being who causes their growth. According to the particular plant, these divine beings were called the Maize-mother (Zara-mama), the Quinoa-mother (Quinoa-mama), the Cocoa-mother (Coca-mama), and the Potato-mother (Axo-mama). Figures of these divine mothers were made respectively of ears of maize and leaves of the quinoa and cocoa plants; they were dressed in women's clothes and worshipped. Thus the Maize-mother was represented by a puppet made of stalks of maize, dressed in full female attire; and the Indians believed that “as mother, it had the power of producing and giving birth to much maize.”1179 Probably, therefore, Acosta misunderstood his informant, and the Mother of the Maize which he describes was not the granary (Pirua) but the bunch of maize dressed in rich vestments. The Peruvian Mother of the Maize, like the harvest Maiden at Balquhidder, was kept for a year in order that by her means the corn might grow and multiply. But lest her strength might not suffice to last out the year, she was asked in the course of the year how she felt, and if she answered that she felt weak, she was burned and a fresh Mother of the Maize made, “to the end the seede of Mays [pg 352] may not perish.” Here, it may be observed, we have a strong confirmation of the explanation already given of the custom of killing the god, both periodically and occasionally. The Mother of the Maize was allowed, as a rule, to live through a year, that being the period during which her strength might reasonably be supposed to last unimpaired; but on any symptom of her strength failing she was put to death and a fresh and vigorous Mother of the Maize took her place, lest the maize which depended on her for its existence should languish and decay.

Hardly less clearly does the same train of thought come out in the harvest customs formerly observed by the Zapotecs of Mexico. At harvest the priests, attended by the nobles and people, went in procession to the maize fields, where they picked out the largest and finest sheaf. This they took with great ceremony to the town or village, and placed it in the temple upon an altar adorned with wild flowers. After sacrificing to the harvest god, the priests carefully wrapt up the sheaf in fine linen and kept it till seed-time. Then the priests and nobles met again at the temple, one of them bringing the skin of a wild beast, elaborately ornamented, in which the linen cloth containing the sheaf was enveloped. The sheaf was then carried once more in procession to the field from which it had been taken. Here a small cavity or subterranean chamber had been prepared, in which the precious sheaf was deposited, wrapt in its various envelopes. After sacrifice had been offered to the gods of the fields for an abundant crop, the chamber was closed and covered over with earth. Immediately thereafter the sowing began. Finally, when the time of harvest drew near, the buried sheaf was solemnly disinterred by the [pg 353] priests, who distributed the grain to all who asked for it. The packets of grain so distributed were carefully preserved as talismans till the harvest.1180 In these ceremonies, which continued to be annually celebrated long after the Spanish conquest, the intention of keeping the finest sheaf buried in the maize field from seed-time to harvest was undoubtedly to quicken the growth of the maize.

In the Punjaub, to the east of the Jumna, when the cotton boles begin to burst, it is usual “to select the largest plant in the field, and having sprinkled it with butter-milk and rice-water, it is bound all over with pieces of cotton, taken from the other plants of the field. This selected plant is called Sirdar, or Bhogaldaí, i.e. mother-cotton, from bhogla, a name sometimes given to a large cotton-pod, and daí (for daiya) a mother, and after salutations are made to it, prayers are offered that the other plants may resemble it in the richness of their produce.”1181

If the reader still feels any doubts as to the original meaning of the harvest customs practised by our peasantry, these doubts may be dispelled by comparing the harvest customs of the Dyaks of Borneo. At harvest the Dyaks of Northern Borneo have a special feast, the object of which is “to secure the soul of the rice, which if not so detained, the produce of their farms would speedily rot and decay.” The mode of securing the soul of the rice varies in different tribes. Sometimes the priest catches it, in the form of a few grains of rice, in a white cloth. Sometimes a large shed is erected outside the village, and near it [pg 354] is reared a high and spacious altar. The corner-posts of the altar are lofty bamboos with leafy tops, from one of which there hangs a long narrow streamer of white cloth. Here gaily-dressed men and women dance with slow and solemn steps. Suddenly the elders and priests rush at the white streamer, seize the end of it, and begin dancing and swaying to and fro, amid a burst of wild music and the yells of the spectators. An elder leaps on the altar and shakes the bamboos violently, whereupon small stones, bunches of hair and grains of rice fall at the feet of the dancers and are carefully picked up by attendants. These grains of rice are the soul of the rice. At sowing-time some of this soul of the rice is planted with the other seeds, “and is thus propagated and communicated.”1182 The same need of securing the soul of the rice, if the crop is to thrive, is keenly felt by the Karens of Burma. When a rice-field does not flourish, they suppose that the soul (kelah) of the rice is in some way detained from the rice. If the soul cannot be called back, the crop will fail. The following formula is used in recalling the kelah (soul) of the rice: “O come, rice-kelah, come! Come to the field. Come to the rice. With seed of each gender, come. Come from the river Kho, come from the river Kaw; from the place where they meet, come. Come from the West, come from the East. From the throat of the bird, from the maw of the ape, from the throat of the elephant. Come from the sources of rivers and their mouths. Come from the country of the Shan and Burman. From the distant kingdoms come. From all granaries come. O rice-kelah, come to the [pg 355] rice.”1183 Again, the European custom of representing the corn-spirit in the double form of bride and bridegroom1184 is paralleled by a custom observed at the rice-harvest in Java. Before the reapers begin to cut the rice, the priest or sorcerer picks out a number of ears of rice, which are tied together, smeared with ointment, and adorned with flowers. Thus decked out, the ears are called the padi-pëngantèn, that is, the Rice-bride and the Rice-bridegroom; their wedding feast is celebrated, and the cutting of the rice begins immediately afterwards. Later on, when the rice is being got in, a bridal chamber is partitioned off in the barn, and furnished with a new mat, a lamp, and all kinds of toilet articles. Sheaves of rice, to represent the wedding guests, are placed beside the Rice-bride and the Rice-bridegroom. Not till this has been done may the whole harvest be housed in the barn. And for the first forty days after the rice has been housed, no one may enter the barn, for fear of disturbing the newly-wedded pair.1185

Compared with the Corn-mother of Germany and the harvest Maiden of Balquhidder, the Demeter and Proserpine of Greece are late products of religious growth. But, as Aryans, the Greeks must at one time or another have observed harvest customs like those which are still practised by Celts, Teutons, and Slavs, and which, far beyond the limits of the Aryan world, have been practised by the Incas of Peru, the Dyaks of Borneo, and the Malays of Java—a sufficient proof that the ideas on which these customs rest are not confined to any one race, but naturally suggest themselves [pg 356] to all untutored peoples engaged in agriculture. It is probable, therefore, that Demeter and Proserpine, those stately and beautiful figures of Greek mythology, grew out of the same simple beliefs and practices which still prevail among our modern peasantry, and that they were represented by rude dolls made out of the yellow sheaves on many a harvest-field long before their breathing images were wrought in bronze and marble by the master hands of Phidias and Praxiteles. A reminiscence of that olden time—a scent, so to say, of the harvest-field—lingered to the last in the title of the Maiden (Kore) by which Proserpine was commonly known. Thus if the prototype of Demeter is the Corn-mother of Germany, the prototype of Proserpine is the harvest Maiden, which, autumn after autumn, is still made from the last sheaf on the Braes of Balquhidder. Indeed if we knew more about the peasant-farmers of ancient Greece we should probably find that even in classical times they continued annually to fashion their Corn-mothers (Demeters) and Maidens (Proserpines) out of the ripe corn on the harvest fields. But unfortunately the Demeter and Proserpine whom we know are the denizens of towns, the majestic inhabitants of lordly temples; it was for such divinities alone that the refined writers of antiquity had eyes; the rude rites performed by rustics amongst the corn were beneath their notice. Even if they noticed them, they probably never dreamed of any connection between the puppet of corn-stalks on the sunny stubble-field and the marble divinity in the shady coolness of the temple. Still the writings even of these town-bred and cultured persons afford us an occasional glimpse of a Demeter as rude as the rudest that a remote German village [pg 357] can show. Thus the story that Iasion begat a child Plutus (“wealth,” “abundance”) by Demeter on a thrice-ploughed field,1186 may be compared with the West Prussian custom of the mock birth of a child on the harvest field.1187 In this Prussian custom the pretended mother represents the Corn-mother (Žytniamatka); the pretended child represents the Corn-baby, and the whole ceremony is a charm to ensure a crop next year.1188 There are other folk-customs, observed both in spring and at harvest, with which the legend of the begetting of the child Plutus is probably still more intimately connected. Their general purport is to impart fertility to the fields by performing, or at least mimicking, upon them the process of procreation.1189 Another glimpse of the savage under the civilised Demeter will be afforded farther on, when we come to deal with another aspect of these agricultural divinities.

The reader may have observed that in modern folk-customs the corn-spirit is generally represented either by a Corn-mother (Old Woman, etc.) or by a Maiden (Corn-baby, etc.), not both by a Corn-mother [pg 358] and by a Maiden. Why then did the Greeks represent the corn both as a mother and a daughter? In the Breton custom the mother-sheaf—a large figure made out of the last sheaf with a small corn-doll inside of it—clearly represents both the Corn-mother and the Corn-daughter, the latter still unborn.1190 Again, in the Prussian custom just described, the woman who plays the part of Corn-mother represents the ripe corn; the child appears to represent next year's corn, which may be regarded, naturally enough, as the child of this year's corn, since it is from the seed of this year's harvest that next year's corn will spring. Demeter would thus be the ripe corn of this year; Proserpine the seed-corn taken from it and sown in autumn, to reappear in spring. The descent of Proserpine into the lower world1191 would thus be a mythical expression for the sowing of the seed; her reappearance in spring1192 would express the sprouting of the young corn. Thus the Proserpine of this year becomes the Demeter of the next, and this may very well have been the original form of the myth. But when with the advance of religious thought the corn came to be personified, no longer as a being that went through the whole cycle of birth, growth, reproduction, and death within a year, but as an immortal goddess, consistency requires that one of the two personifications, the mother or the daughter, should be sacrificed. But the double conception of the corn as mother and daughter was too old and too [pg 359] deeply rooted in the popular mind to be eradicated by logic, and so room had to be found in the reformed myth both for mother and daughter. This was done by assigning to Proserpine the rôle of the corn sown in autumn and sprouting in spring, while Demeter was left to play the somewhat vague and ill-defined part of mother of the corn, who laments its annual disappearance underground, and rejoices over its reappearance in spring. Thus instead of a regular succession of divine beings, each living a year and then giving birth to her successor, the reformed myth exhibits the conception of two divine and immortal beings, one of whom annually disappears into and reappears from the ground, while the other has little to do but to weep and rejoice at the appropriate times.

This explanation of the double personification of the corn in Greek myth assumes that both personifications (Demeter and Proserpine) are original. But if we assume that the Greek myth started with a single personification, the after-growth of a second personification may perhaps be explained as follows. On looking over the peasant harvest customs which have been passed under review, it may be noticed that they involve two distinct conceptions of the corn-spirit. For whereas in some of the customs the corn-spirit is treated as immanent in the corn, in others it is regarded as external to it. Thus when a particular sheaf is called by the name of the corn-spirit, and is dressed in clothes and treated with reverence,1193 the corn-spirit is clearly regarded as immanent in the corn. But when the corn-spirit is said to make [pg 360] the corn grow by passing through it, or to blight the corn of those against whom she has a grudge,1194 she is clearly conceived as quite separate from, though exercising power over, the corn. Conceived in the latter way the corn-spirit is in a fair way to become a deity of the corn, if she has not become so already. Of these two conceptions, that of the corn-spirit as immanent in the corn is doubtless the older, since the view of nature as animated by indwelling spirits appears to have generally preceded the view of it as controlled by deities external to it; to put it shortly, animism precedes deism. In the harvest customs of our European peasantry the conception of the corn-spirit as immanent appears to be the prevalent one; the conception of it as external occurs rather as an exception. In Greek mythology, on the other hand, Demeter is distinctly conceived in the latter way; she is the deity of the corn rather than the spirit immanent in it.1195 The process of thought which seems to be chiefly instrumental in producing the transition from the one mode of conception to the other is anthropomorphism, or the gradual investment of the immanent spirits with more and more of the attributes of humanity. As men emerge from savagery the tendency to anthropomorphise or humanise their divinities gains strength; and the more anthropomorphic these become, the wider is the breach which severs them from those natural objects of which they were at first merely the animating spirits or souls. But in the progress upwards from savagery, men of the same generation do not march abreast; and though the anthropomorphic gods may satisfy the religious wants [pg 361] of more advanced individuals, the more backward members of the community will cling by preference to the older animistic notions. Now when the spirit of any natural object (as the corn) has been invested with human qualities, detached from the object, and converted into a deity controlling it, the object itself is, by the withdrawal of its spirit, left inanimate, it becomes, so to say, a spiritual vacuum. But the popular fancy, intolerant of such a vacuum, in other words, unable to conceive anything as inanimate, immediately creates a fresh mythical being, with which it peoples the vacant object. Thus the same natural object is now represented in mythology by two separate beings; first, by the old spirit now separated from it and raised to the rank of a deity; second, by the new spirit, freshly created by the popular fancy to supply the place vacated by the old spirit on its elevation to a higher sphere. The problem for mythology now is, having got two separate personifications of the same object, what to do with them? How are their relations to each other to be adjusted, and room found for both in the mythological system? When the old spirit or new deity is conceived as creating or producing the object in question, the problem is easily solved. Since the object is believed to be produced by the old spirit, and animated by the new one, the latter, as the soul of the object, must also owe its existence to the former; thus the old spirit will stand to the new one as producer to produced, that is (in mythology), as parent to child, and if both spirits are conceived as female, their relation will be that of mother and daughter. In this way, starting from a single personification of the corn as female, mythology might in time reach a double personification of it as mother and daughter. It would be very rash [pg 362] to affirm that this was the way in which the myth of Demeter and Proserpine actually took shape; but it seems a legitimate conjecture that the reduplication of deities, of which Demeter and Proserpine furnish an example, may sometimes have arisen in the way indicated. For example, among the pairs of deities whom we have been considering, it has been shown that there are grounds for regarding both Isis and her companion god Osiris as personifications of the corn.1196 On the hypothesis just suggested, Isis would be the old corn-spirit, and Osiris would be the newer one, whose relationship to the old spirit was variously explained as that of brother, husband, and son;1197 for of course mythology would always be free to account for the coexistence of the two divinities in more ways than one. Further, this hypothesis offers at least a possible explanation of the relation of Virbius to the Arician Diana. The latter, as we have seen,1198 was a tree-goddess; and if, as I have conjectured, the Flamen Virbialis was no other than the priest of Nemi himself, that is, the King of the Wood, Virbius must also have been a tree-spirit. On the present hypothesis he was the newer tree-spirit, whose relation to the old tree-spirit (Diana) was explained by representing him as her favourite or lover. It must not, however, be forgotten that this proposed explanation of such pairs of deities as Demeter and Proserpine, Isis and Osiris, Diana and Virbius, is purely conjectural, and is only given for what it is worth.

[pg 363]

§ 9.—Lityerses.

In the preceding pages an attempt has been made to show that in the Corn-mother and harvest Maiden of Northern Europe we have the prototypes of Demeter and Proserpine. But an essential feature is still wanting to complete the resemblance. A leading incident in the Greek myth is the death and resurrection of Proserpine; it is this incident which, coupled with the nature of the goddess as a deity of vegetation, links the myth with the cults of Adonis, Attis, Osiris, and Dionysus; and it is in virtue of this incident that the myth is considered in this chapter. It remains, therefore, to see whether the conception of the annual death and resurrection of a god, which figures so prominently in these great Greek and Oriental worships, has not also its origin in the rustic rites observed by reapers and vine-dressers amongst the corn-shocks and the vines.

Our general ignorance of the popular superstitions and customs of the ancients has already been confessed. But the obscurity which thus hangs over the first beginnings of ancient religion is fortunately dissipated to some extent in the present case. The worships of Osiris, Adonis, and Attis had their respective seats, as we have seen, in Egypt, Syria, and Phrygia; and in each of these countries certain harvest and vintage customs are known to have been observed, the resemblance of which to each other and to the national rites struck the ancients themselves, and, compared with the harvest customs of modern peasants and barbarians, seem to throw some light on the origin of the rites in question.

[pg 364]

It has been already mentioned, on the authority of Diodorus, that in ancient Egypt the reapers were wont to lament over the first sheaf cut, invoking Isis as the goddess to whom they owed the discovery of corn.1199 To the plaintive song or cry sung or uttered by Egyptian reapers the Greeks gave the name of Maneros, and explained the name by a story that Maneros, the only son of the first Egyptian king, invented agriculture, and, dying an untimely death, was thus lamented by the people.1200 It appears, however, that the name Maneros is due to a misunderstanding of the formula mââ-ne-hra, “come thou back,” which has been discovered in various Egyptian writings, for example in the dirge of Isis in the Book of the Dead.1201 Hence we may suppose that the cry mââ-ne-hra was chanted by the reapers over the cut corn as a dirge for the death of the corn-spirit (Isis or Osiris) and a prayer for its return. As the cry was raised over the first ears reaped, it would seem that the corn-spirit was believed by the Egyptians to be present in the first corn cut and to die under the sickle. We have seen that in Java the first ears of rice are taken to represent the Corn-bride and the Corn-bridegroom.1202 In parts of Russia the first sheaf is treated much in the same way that the last sheaf is treated elsewhere. It is reaped by the mistress herself, taken home and set in the place of honour near the holy pictures; afterwards it is threshed separately, and some of its grain is mixed with the next year's seed-corn.1203

[pg 365]

In Phoenicia and Western Asia a plaintive song, like that chanted by the Egyptian corn-reapers, was sung at the vintage and probably (to judge by analogy) also at harvest. This Phoenician song was called by the Greeks Linus or Ailinus and explained, like Maneros, as a lament for the death of a youth named Linus.1204 According to one story Linus was brought up by a shepherd, but torn to pieces by his dogs.1205 But, like Maneros, the name Linus or Ailinus appears to have originated in a verbal misunderstanding, and to be nothing more than the cry ai lanu, that is “woe to us,” which the Phoenicians probably uttered in mourning for Adonis;1206 at least Sappho seems to have regarded Adonis and Linus as equivalent.1207

In Bithynia a like mournful ditty, called Bormus or Borimus, was chanted by Mariandynian reapers. Bormus was said to have been a handsome youth, the son of King Upias or of a wealthy and distinguished man. One summer day, watching the reapers at work in his fields, he went to fetch them a drink of water and was never heard of more. So the reapers sought for him, calling him in plaintive strains, which they continued to use ever afterwards.1208

In Phrygia the corresponding song, sung by harvesters both at reaping and at threshing, was called Lityerses. According to one story, Lityerses was a bastard son of Midas, King of Phrygia. He used to reap the corn, and had an enormous appetite. When a stranger happened to enter the corn-field or to pass [pg 366] by it, Lityerses gave him plenty to eat and drink, then took him to the corn-fields on the banks of the Maeander and compelled him to reap along with him. Lastly, he used to wrap the stranger in a sheaf, cut off his head with a sickle, and carry away his body, wrapt in the corn stalks. But at last he was himself slain by Hercules, who threw his body into the river.1209 As Hercules was probably reported to have slain Lityerses in the same way that Lityerses slew others (as Theseus treated Sinis and Sciron), we may infer that Lityerses used to throw the bodies of his victims into the river. According to another version of the story, Lityerses, a son of Midas, used to challenge people to a reaping match with him, and if he vanquished them he used to thrash them; but one day he met with a stronger reaper, who slew him.1210

There are some grounds for supposing that in these stories of Lityerses we have the description of a Phrygian harvest custom in accordance with which certain persons, especially strangers passing the harvest field, were regularly regarded as embodiments of the corn-spirit and as such were seized by the reapers, wrapt in sheaves, and beheaded, their bodies, bound up in the corn-stalks, being afterwards thrown into water as a rain-charm. The grounds for this supposition are, first, the resemblance of the Lityerses story to the harvest customs of European peasantry, and, second, the fact that human beings have been commonly killed by savage races to promote the fertility of the fields. We [pg 367] will examine these grounds successively, beginning with the former.

In comparing the story with the harvest customs of Europe,1211 three points deserve special attention, namely: I. the reaping match and the binding of persons in the sheaves; II. the killing of the corn-spirit or his representatives; III. the treatment of visitors to the harvest-field or of strangers passing it.

I. In regard to the first head, we have seen that in modern Europe the person who cuts or binds or threshes the last sheaf is often exposed to rough treatment at the hands of his fellow-labourers. For example, he is bound up in the last sheaf, and, thus encased, is carried or carted about, beaten, drenched with water, thrown on a dunghill, etc. Or, if he is spared this horseplay, he is at least the subject of ridicule or is believed destined to suffer some misfortune in the course of the year. Hence the harvesters are naturally reluctant to give the last cut at reaping or the last stroke at threshing or to bind the last sheaf, and towards the close of the work this reluctance produces an emulation among the labourers, each striving to finish his task as fast as possible, in order that he may escape the invidious distinction of being last.1212 For example, in the neighbourhood of Danzig, when the winter corn is cut and mostly bound up in sheaves, the portion which still remains to be bound is divided amongst the women binders, each of whom [pg 368] receives a swath of equal length to bind. A crowd of reapers, children, and idlers gathers round to witness the contest, and at the word, “Seize the Old Man,” the women fall to work, all binding their allotted swaths as hard as they can. The spectators watch them narrowly, and the woman who cannot keep pace with the rest and consequently binds the last sheaf has to carry the Old Man (that is, the last sheaf made up in the form of a man) to the farmhouse and deliver it to the farmer with the words, “Here I bring you the Old Man.” At the supper which follows, the Old Man is placed at the table and receives an abundant portion of food which, as he cannot eat it, falls to the share of the woman who carried him. Afterwards the Old Man is placed in the yard and all the people dance round him. Or the woman who bound the last sheaf dances for a good while with the Old Man, while the rest form a ring round them; afterwards they all, one after the other, dance a single round with him. Further, the woman who bound the last sheaf goes herself by the name of the Old Man till the next harvest, and is often mocked with the cry, “Here comes the Old Man.”1213 At Aschbach, Bavaria, when the reaping is nearly finished, the reapers say, “Now we will drive out the Old Man.” Each of them sets himself to reap a patch of corn and reaps as fast as he can; he who cuts the last handful or the last stalk is greeted by the rest with an exulting cry, “You have the Old Man.” Sometimes a black mask is fastened on the reaper's face and he is dressed in woman's clothes; or if the reaper is a woman, she is dressed in man's clothes; a dance follows. At the supper the Old Man gets twice as large a portion of food as the others. At threshing, the proceedings are the same; [pg 369] the person who gives the last stroke is said to have the Old Man.1214

These examples illustrate the contests in reaping, threshing, and binding which take place amongst the harvesters, on account of their unwillingness to suffer the ridicule and personal inconvenience attaching to the individual who happens to finish his work last. It will be remembered that the person who is last at reaping, binding, or threshing, is regarded as the representative of the corn-spirit,1215 and this idea is more fully expressed by binding him or her in corn-stalks. The latter custom has been already illustrated, but a few more instances may be added. At Kloxin, near Stettin, the harvesters call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, “You have the Old Man, and must keep him.” The Old Man is a great bundle of corn decked with flowers and ribbons, and fashioned into a rude semblance of the human form. It is fastened on a rake or strapped on a horse, and brought with music to the village. In delivering the Old Man to the farmer, the woman says—

Here, dear Sir, is the Old Man.
He can stay no longer on the field,
He can hide himself no longer,
He must come into the village.
Ladies and gentlemen, pray be so kind
As to give the Old Man a present.

Forty or fifty years ago the custom was to tie up the woman herself in pease-straw, and bring her with music to the farmhouse, where the harvesters danced with her till the pease-straw fell off.1216 In other villages round Stettin, when the last harvest-waggon is being loaded, there is a regular race amongst the women, [pg 370] each striving not to be last. For she who places the last sheaf on the waggon is called the Old Man, and is completely swathed in corn-stalks; she is also decked with flowers, and flowers and a helmet of straw are placed on her head. In solemn procession she carries the harvest-crown to the squire, over whose head she holds it while she utters a string of good wishes. At the dance which follows, the Old Man has the right to choose his (or rather her) partner; it is an honour to dance with him.1217 At Blankenfelde, in the district of Potsdam, the woman who binds the last sheaf at the rye-harvest is saluted with the cry, “You have the Old Man.” A woman is then tied up in the last sheaf in such a way that only her head is left free; her hair also is covered with a cap made of rye-stalks, adorned with ribbons and flowers. She is called the Harvest-man, and must keep dancing in front of the last harvest-waggon till it reaches the squire's house, where she receives a present, and is released from her envelope of corn.1218 At Gommern, near Magdeburg, the reaper who cuts the last ears of corn is often wrapt up in corn-stalks so completely that it is hard to see whether there is a man in the bundle or not. Thus wrapt up he is taken by another stalwart reaper on his back, and carried round the field amid the joyous cries of the harvesters.1219 At Neuhausen, near Merseburg, the person who binds the last sheaf is wrapt in ears of oats and saluted as the Oats-man, whereupon the others dance round him.1220 At Brie, Isle de France, the farmer himself is tied up in the first sheaf.1221 At the harvest-home at Udvarhely, Transylvania, a person is encased in [pg 371] corn-stalks, and wears on his head a crown made out of the last ears cut. On reaching the village he is soused with water over and over.1222 At Dingelstedt, in the district of Erfurt, about fifty years ago it was the custom to tie up a man in the last sheaf. He was called the Old Man, and was brought home on the last waggon, amid huzzas and music. On reaching the farmyard he was rolled round the barn and drenched with water.1223 At Nördlingen, Bavaria, the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is wrapt in straw and rolled on the threshing-floor.1224 In some parts of Oberpfalz, Bavaria, he is said to “get the Old Man,” is wrapt in straw, and carried to a neighbour who has not yet finished his threshing.1225 In Thüringen a sausage is stuck in the last sheaf at threshing, and thrown, with the sheaf, on the threshing-floor. It is called the Barrenwurst or Banzenwurst, and is eaten by all the threshers. After they have eaten it a man is encased in pease-straw, and thus attired is led through the village.1226

“In all these cases the idea is that the spirit of the corn—the Old Man of vegetation—is driven out of the corn last cut or last threshed, and lives in the barn during the winter. At sowing-time he goes out again to the fields to resume his activity as animating force among the sprouting corn.”1227

Much the same ideas are attached to the last corn in India; for we are told that in the Central Provinces, “when the reaping is nearly done, about a bisvá, say a rood of land, of corn is left standing in the cultivator's [pg 372] last field, and the reapers rest a little. Then they rush at this bisvá, tear it up, and cast it into the air, shouting victory to Omkár Maháráj or Jhámájí, or Rámjí Dás, etc., according to their respective possessions. A sheaf is made up of this corn, tied to a bamboo, and stuck up in the last harvest cart, and carried home in triumph. It is fastened up in the threshing-floor to a tree, or to the cattle-shed, where its services are essential in averting the evil-eye.”1228

II. Passing to the second point of comparison between the Lityerses story and European harvest customs, we have now to see that in the latter the corn-spirit is often believed to be killed at reaping or threshing. In the Romsdal and other parts of Norway, when the haymaking is over, the people say that “the Old Hay-man has been killed.” In some parts of Bavaria the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is said to have killed the Corn-man, the Oats-man, or the Wheat-man, according to the crop.1229 In the Canton of Tillot, in Lothringen, at threshing the last corn the men keep time with their flails, calling out as they thresh, “We are killing the Old Woman! We are killing the Old Woman!” If there is an old woman in the house she is warned to save herself, or she will be struck dead.1230 In Lithuania, near Ragnit, the last handful of corn is left standing by itself, with the words, “The Old Woman (Boba) is sitting in there.” Then a young reaper whets his scythe, and, with a strong sweep, cuts down the handful. It is now said of him that “He has cut off the Boba's head;” and he receives a gratuity from the farmer and a jugful of [pg 373] water over his head from the farmer's wife.1231 According to another account, every Lithuanian reaper makes haste to finish his task; for the Old Rye-woman lives in the last stalks, and whoever cuts the last stalks kills the Old Rye-woman, and by killing her he brings trouble on himself.1232 In Wilkischken (district of Tilsit) the man who cuts the last corn goes by the name of “The killer of the Rye-woman.”1233 In Lithuania, again, the corn-spirit is believed to be killed at threshing as well as at reaping. When only a single pile of corn remains to be threshed, all the threshers suddenly step back a few paces, as if at the word of command. Then they fall to work plying their flails with the utmost rapidity and vehemence, till they come to the last bundle. Upon this they fling themselves with almost frantic fury, straining every nerve, and raining blows on it till the word “Halt!” rings out sharply from the leader. The man whose flail is the last to fall after the command to stop has been given is immediately surrounded by all the rest, crying out that “He has struck the Old Rye-woman dead.” He has to expiate the deed by treating them to brandy; and, like the man who cuts the last corn, he is known as “The killer of the Old Rye-woman.”1234 Sometimes in Lithuania the slain corn-spirit was represented by a puppet. Thus a female figure was made out of corn-stalks, dressed in clothes, and placed on the threshing-floor, under the heap of corn which was to be threshed last. Whoever thereafter gave the last stroke at threshing “struck the Old Woman dead.”1235 We have already had examples of burning the figure which represents the corn-spirit.1236 Sometimes, [pg 374] again, the corn-spirit is represented by a man, who lies down under the last corn; it is threshed upon his body, and the people say that “the Old Man is being beaten to death.”1237 We have already seen that sometimes the farmer's wife is thrust, together with the last sheaf, under the threshing-machine, as if to thresh her, and that afterwards a pretence is made of winnowing her.1238 At Volders, in the Tyrol, husks of corn are stuck behind the neck of the man who gives the last stroke at threshing, and he is throttled with a straw garland. If he is tall, it is believed that the corn will be tall next year. Then he is tied on a bundle and flung into the river.1239 In Carinthia, the thresher who gave the last stroke, and the person who untied the last sheaf on the threshing-floor, are bound hand and foot with straw bands, and crowns of straw are placed on their heads. Then they are tied, face to face, on a sledge, dragged through the village, and flung into a brook.1240 The custom of throwing the representative of the corn-spirit into a stream, like that of drenching him with water, is, as usual, a rain-charm.1241

III. Thus far the representatives of the corn-spirit have generally been the man or woman who cuts, binds, or threshes the last corn. We now come to the cases in which the corn-spirit is represented either by a stranger passing the harvest-field (as in the Lityerses tale), or by a visitor entering it for the first time. All over Germany it is customary for the reapers or threshers to lay hold of passing strangers and bind them with a rope made of corn-stalks, till [pg 375] they pay a forfeit; and when the farmer himself or one of his guests enters the field or the threshing-floor for the first time, he is treated in the same way. Sometimes the rope is only tied round his arm or his feet or his neck.1242 But sometimes he is regularly swathed in corn. Thus at Solör in Norway, whoever enters the field, be he the master or a stranger, is tied up in a sheaf and must pay a ransom. In the neighbourhood of Soest, when the farmer visits the flax-pullers for the first time, he is completely enveloped in flax. Passers-by are also surrounded by the women, tied up in flax, and compelled to stand brandy.1243 At Nördlingen strangers are caught with straw ropes and tied up in a sheaf till they pay a forfeit. At Brie, Isle de France, when any one who does not belong to the farm passes by the harvest-field, the reapers give chase. If they catch him, they bind him in a sheaf and bite him, one after the other, in the forehead, crying “You shall carry the key of the field.”1244 “To have the key” is an expression used by harvesters elsewhere in the sense of to cut or bind or thresh the last sheaf;1245 hence, it is equivalent to the phrases “You have the Old Man,” “You are the [pg 376] Old Man,” which are addressed to the cutter, binder, or thresher of the last sheaf. Therefore, when a stranger, as at Brie, is tied up in a sheaf and told that he will “carry the key of the field,” it is as much as to say that he is the Old Man, that is, an embodiment of the corn-spirit.

Thus, like Lityerses, modern reapers lay hold of a passing stranger and tie him up in a sheaf. It is not to be expected that they should complete the parallel by cutting off his head; but if they do not take such a strong step, their language and gestures are at least indicative of a desire to do so. For instance, in Mecklenburg on the first clay of reaping, if the master or mistress or a stranger enters the field, or merely passes by it, all the mowers face towards him and sharpen their scythes, clashing their whet-stones against them in unison, as if they were making ready to mow. Then the woman who leads the mowers steps up to him and ties a band round his left arm. He must ransom himself by payment of a forfeit.1246 Near Ratzeburg when the master or other person of mark enters the field or passes by it, all the harvesters stop work and march towards him in a body, the men with their scythes in front. On meeting him they form up in line, men and women. The men stick the poles of their scythes in the ground, as they do in whetting them; then they take off their caps and hang them on the scythes, while their leader stands forward and makes a speech. When he has done, they all whet their scythes in measured time very loudly, after which they put on their caps. Two of the women binders then come forward; one of them ties the master or stranger (as the case may be) with corn-ears [pg 377] or with a silken band; the other delivers a rhyming address. The following are specimens of the speeches made by the reaper on these occasions. In some parts of Pomerania every passer-by is stopped, his way being barred with a corn-rope. The reapers form a circle round him and sharpen their scythes, while their leader says—

The men are ready,
The scythes are bent,
The corn is great and small,
The gentleman must be mowed.

Then the process of whetting the scythes is repeated.1247 At Ramin, in the district of Stettin, the stranger, standing encircled by the reapers, is thus addressed—

We'll stroke the gentleman
With our naked sword,
Wherewith we shear meadows and fields.
We shear princes and lords.
Labourers are often athirst;
If the gentleman will stand beer and brandy
The joke will soon be over.
But, if our prayer he does not like,
The sword has a right to strike.1248

That in these customs the whetting of the scythes is really meant as a preliminary to mowing appears from the following variation of the preceding customs. In the district of Lüneburg when any one enters the harvest-field, he is asked whether he will engage a good fellow. If he says yes, the harvesters mow some swaths, yelling and screaming, and then ask him for drink-money.1249

On the threshing-floor strangers are also regarded as embodiments of the corn-spirit, and are treated [pg 378] accordingly. At Wiedingharde in Schleswig when a stranger comes to the threshing-floor he is asked “Shall I teach you the flail-dance?” If he says yes, they put the arms of the threshing-flail round his neck (as if he were a sheaf of corn), and press them together so tightly that he is nearly choked.1250 In some parishes of Wermland (Sweden) when a stranger enters the threshing-floor where the threshers are at work, they say that “they will teach him the threshing-song.” Then they put a flail round his neck and a straw rope about his body. Also, as we have seen, if a stranger woman enters the threshing-floor, the threshers put a flail round her body and a wreath of corn-stalks round her neck, and call out, “See the Corn-woman! See! that is how the Corn-maiden looks!”1251

In these customs, observed both on the harvest-field and on the threshing-floor, a passing stranger is regarded as a personification of the corn, in other words, as the corn-spirit; and a show is made of treating him like the corn by mowing, binding, and threshing him. If the reader still doubts whether European peasants can really regard a passing stranger in this light, the following custom should set their doubts at rest. During the madder-harvest in the Dutch province of Zealand a stranger passing by a field where the people are digging the madder-roots will sometimes call out to them Koortspillers (a term of reproach). Upon this, two of the fleetest runners [pg 379] make after him, and, if they catch him, they bring him back to the madder-field and bury him in the earth up to his middle at least, jeering at him the while; then they ease nature before his face.1252 This last act is to be explained as follows. The spirit of the corn and of other cultivated plants is sometimes conceived, not as immanent in the plant, but as its owner; hence the cutting of the corn at harvest, the digging of the roots, and the gathering of fruit from the fruit-trees are each and all of them acts of spoliation, which strip him of his property and reduce him to poverty. Hence he is often known as “the Poor Man” or “the Poor Woman.” Thus in the neighbourhood of Eisenach a small sheaf is sometimes left standing on the field for “the Poor Old Woman.”1253 At Marksuhl, near Eisenach, the puppet formed out of the last sheaf is itself called “the Poor Woman.” At [pg 380] Alt Lest in Silesia the man who binds the last sheaf is called the Beggar-man.1254 In a village near Roeskilde, in Zealand (Denmark), old-fashioned peasants sometimes make up the last sheaf into a rude puppet, which is called the Rye-beggar.1255 In Southern Schonen the sheaf which is bound last is called the Beggar; it is made bigger than the rest and is sometimes dressed in clothes. In the district of Olmütz the last sheaf is called the Beggar; it is given to an old woman, who must carry it home, limping on one foot.1256 Thus when the corn-spirit is conceived as a being who is robbed of his store and impoverished by the harvesters, it is natural that his representative—the passing stranger—should upbraid them; and it is equally natural that they should seek to disable him from pursuing them and recapturing the stolen property. Now, it is an old superstition that by easing nature on the spot where a robbery is committed, the robbers secure themselves, for a certain time, against interruption.1257 The fact, therefore, that the madder-diggers resort to this proceeding in presence of the stranger proves that they consider themselves robbers and him as the person robbed. Regarded as such, he must be the natural owner of the madder-roots; that is, their spirit or demon; and this conception is carried out by burying him, like the madder-roots, in the ground.1258 The Greeks, it may be observed, were quite familiar with the idea that a passing stranger may be a god. Homer says that the gods in the likeness of foreigners roam up and down cities.1259

[pg 381]

Thus in these harvest-customs of modern Europe the person who cuts, binds, or threshes the last corn is treated as an embodiment of the corn-spirit by being wrapt up in sheaves, killed in mimicry by agricultural implements, and thrown into the water.1260 These coincidences with the Lityerses story seem to prove that the latter is a genuine description of an old Phrygian harvest-custom. But since in the modern parallels the killing of the personal representative of the corn-spirit is necessarily omitted or at most enacted only in mimicry, it is necessary to show that in rude society human beings have been commonly killed as an agricultural ceremony to promote the fertility of the fields. The following examples will make this plain.

The Indians of Guayaquil (Ecuador) used to sacrifice human blood and the hearts of men when they sowed their fields.1261 At a Mexican harvest-festival, when the first-fruits of the season were offered to the sun, a criminal was placed between two immense stones, balanced opposite each other, and was crushed by them as they fell together. His remains were buried, and a feast and dance followed. This sacrifice was known as “the meeting of the stones.”1262 Another series of human sacrifices offered in Mexico to make the maize thrive has been already referred to.1263 The Pawnees annually sacrificed a human victim in spring when they sowed their fields. The sacrifice was believed to have been enjoined on them by the Morning Star, or by a certain bird which the Morning [pg 382] Star had sent to them as its messenger. The bird was stuffed and preserved as a powerful “medicine.” They thought that an omission of this sacrifice would be followed by the total failure of the crops of maize, beans, and pumpkins. The victim was a captive of either sex. He was clad in the gayest and most costly attire, was fattened on the choicest food, and carefully kept in ignorance of his doom. When he was fat enough, they bound him to a cross in the presence of the multitude, danced a solemn dance, then cleft his head with a tomahawk and shot him with arrows. According to one trader, the squaws then cut pieces of flesh from the victim's body, with which they greased their hoes; but this was denied by another trader who had been present at the ceremony. Immediately after the sacrifice the people proceeded to plant their fields. A particular account has been preserved of the sacrifice of a Sioux girl by the Pawnees in April 1837 or 1838. The girl had been kept for six months and well treated. Two days before the sacrifice she was led from wigwam to wigwam, accompanied by the whole council of chiefs and warriors. At each lodge she received a small billet of wood and a little paint, which she handed to the warrior next to her. In this way she called at every wigwam, receiving at each the same present of wood and paint. On the 22d of April she was taken out to be sacrificed, attended by the warriors, each of whom carried two pieces of wood which he had received from her hands. She was burned for some time over a slow fire, and then shot to death with arrows. The chief sacrificer next tore out her heart and devoured it. While her flesh was still warm it was cut in small pieces from the bones, put in little baskets, and taken to a neighbouring cornfield. [pg 383] Here the head chief took a piece of the flesh from a basket and squeezed a drop of blood upon the newly-deposited grains of corn. His example was followed by the rest, till all the seed had been sprinkled with the blood; it was then covered up with earth.1264

A West African queen used to sacrifice a man and woman in the month of March. They were killed with spades and hoes, and their bodies buried in the middle of a field which had just been tilled.1265 At Lagos in Guinea it was the custom annually to impale a young girl alive soon after the spring equinox in order to secure good crops. Along with her were sacrificed sheep and goats, which, with yams, heads of maize, and plantains, were hung on stakes on each side of her. The victims were bred up for the purpose in the king's seraglio, and their minds had been so powerfully wrought upon by the fetish men that they went cheerfully to their fate.1266 A similar sacrifice is still annually offered at Benin, Guinea.1267 The Marimos, a Bechuana tribe, sacrifice a human being for the crops. The victim chosen is generally a short, stout man. He is seized by violence or intoxicated and taken to the fields, where he is killed amongst the wheat to serve as “seed” (so they phrase it). After his blood has coagulated in the sun it is burned along with the frontal bone, the flesh attached to it, and the brain; [pg 384] the ashes are then scattered over the ground to fertilise it. The rest of the body is eaten.1268

The Gonds of India, a Dravidian race, kidnapped Brahman boys, and kept them as victims to be sacrificed on various occasions. At sowing and reaping, after a triumphal procession, one of the lads was slain by being punctured with a poisoned arrow. His blood was then sprinkled over the ploughed field or the ripe crop, and his flesh was devoured.1269

But the best known case of human sacrifices, systematically offered to ensure good crops, is supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs, another Dravidian race in Bengal. Our knowledge of them is derived from the accounts written by British officers who, forty or fifty years ago, were engaged in putting them down.1270 The sacrifices were offered to the Earth Goddess, Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, and were believed to ensure good crops and immunity from all disease and accidents. In particular, they were considered necessary in the cultivation of turmeric, the Khonds arguing that the turmeric could not have a deep red colour without the shedding of blood.1271 The victim or Meriah was acceptable to the goddess only if he had been purchased, or had been born a victim—that is, the son of a victim father—or had been devoted as a child by his father or guardian. Khonds in distress often sold their children for victims, “considering the beatification of their souls certain, and their death, for the benefit of mankind, the most honourable possible.” [pg 385] A man of the Panua tribe was once seen to load a Khond with curses, and finally to spit in his face, because the Khond had sold for a victim his own child, whom the Panua had wished to marry. A party of Khonds, who saw this, immediately pressed forward to comfort the seller of his child, saying, “Your child has died that all the world may live, and the Earth Goddess herself will wipe that spittle from your face.”1272 The victims were often kept for years before they were sacrificed. Being regarded as consecrated beings, they were treated with extreme affection, mingled with deference, and were welcomed wherever they went. A Meriah youth, on attaining maturity, was generally given a wife, who was herself usually a Meriah or victim; and with her he received a portion of land and farm-stock. Their offspring were also victims. Human sacrifices were offered to the Earth Goddess by tribes, branches of tribes, or villages, both at periodical festivals and on extraordinary occasions. The periodical sacrifices were generally so arranged by tribes and divisions of tribes that each head of a family was enabled, at least once a year, to procure a shred of flesh for his fields, generally about the time when his chief crop was laid down.1273

The mode of performing these tribal sacrifices was as follows. Ten or twelve days before the sacrifice, the victim was devoted by cutting off his hair, which, until then, was kept unshorn. Crowds of men and women assembled to witness the sacrifice; none might be excluded, since the sacrifice was declared to be “for all mankind.” It was preceded by several days of wild revelry and gross [pg 386] debauchery.1274 On the day before the sacrifice the victim, dressed in a new garment, was led forth from the village in solemn procession, with music and dancing, to the Meriah grove, which was a clump of high forest trees standing a little way from the village and untouched by the axe. In this grove the victim was tied to a post, which was sometimes placed between two plants of the sankissar shrub. He was then anointed with oil, ghee, and turmeric, and adorned with flowers; and “a species of reverence, which it is not easy to distinguish from adoration,” was paid to him throughout the day.1275 A great struggle now arose to obtain the smallest relic from his person; a particle of the turmeric paste with which he was smeared, or a drop of his spittle, was esteemed of sovereign virtue, especially by the women. The crowd danced round the post to music, and, addressing the earth, said, “O God, we offer this sacrifice to you; give us good crops, seasons, and health.”1276

On the last morning the orgies, which had been scarcely interrupted during the night, were resumed, and continued till noon, when they ceased, and the assembly proceeded to consummate the sacrifice. The victim was again anointed with oil, and each person touched the anointed part, and wiped the oil on his own head. In some places the victim was then taken in procession round the village, from door to door, where some plucked hair from his head, and others begged for a drop of his spittle, with which they anointed their heads.1277 As the victim might not be bound nor make any show of resistance, the [pg 387] bones of his arms and, if necessary, his legs were broken; but often this precaution was rendered unnecessary by stupefying him with opium.1278 The mode of putting him to death varied in different places. One of the commonest modes seems to have been strangulation, or squeezing to death. The branch of a green tree was cleft several feet down the middle; the victim's neck (in other places, his chest) was inserted in the cleft, which the priest, aided by his assistants, strove with all his force to close.1279 Then he wounded the victim slightly with his axe, whereupon the crowd rushed at the victim and cut the flesh from the bones, leaving the head and bowels untouched. Sometimes he was cut up alive.1280 In Chinna Kimedy he was dragged along the fields, surrounded by the crowd, who, avoiding his head and intestines, hacked the flesh from his body with their knives till he died.1281 Another very common mode of sacrifice in the same district was to fasten the victim to the proboscis of a wooden elephant, which revolved on a stout post, and, as it whirled round, the crowd cut the flesh from the victim while life remained. In some villages Major Campbell found as many as fourteen of these wooden elephants, which had been used at sacrifices.1282 In one district the victim was put to death slowly by fire. A low stage was formed, sloping on either side like a roof; upon it [pg 388] the victim was placed, his limbs wound round with cords to confine his struggles. Fires were then lighted and hot brands applied, to make him roll up and down the slopes of the stage as long as possible; for the more tears he shed the more abundant would be the supply of rain. Next day the body was cut to pieces.1283

The flesh cut from the victim was instantly taken home by the persons who had been deputed by each village to bring it. To secure its rapid arrival, it was sometimes forwarded by relays of men, and conveyed with postal fleetness fifty or sixty miles.1284 In each village all who stayed at home fasted rigidly until the flesh arrived. The bearer deposited it in the place of public assembly, where it was received by the priest and the heads of families. The priest divided it into two portions, one of which he offered to the Earth Goddess by burying it in a hole in the ground with his back turned, and without looking. Then each man added a little earth to bury it, and the priest poured water on the spot from a hill gourd. The other portion of flesh he divided into as many shares as there were heads of houses present. Each head of a house rolled his shred of flesh in leaves, and buried it in his favourite field, placing it in the earth behind his back without looking.1285 In some places each man carried his portion of flesh to the stream which watered his fields, and there hung it on a pole.1286 For three days thereafter no house was swept; and, in one district, strict silence was observed, no fire might be given out, no wood cut, and no strangers received. [pg 389] The remains of the human victim (namely, the head, bowels, and bones) were watched by strong parties the night after the sacrifice; and next morning they were burned, along with a whole sheep, on a funeral pile. The ashes were scattered over the fields, laid as paste over the houses and granaries, or mixed with the new corn to preserve it from insects.1287 Sometimes, however, the head and bones were buried, not burnt.1288 After the suppression of the human sacrifices, inferior victims were substituted in some places; for instance, in the capital of Chinna Kimedy a goat took the place of a human victim.1289

In these Khond sacrifices the Meriahs are represented by our authorities as victims offered to propitiate the Earth Goddess. But from the treatment of the victims both before and after death it appears that the custom cannot be explained as merely a propitiatory sacrifice. A part of the flesh certainly was offered to the Earth Goddess, but the rest of the flesh was buried by each householder in his fields, and the ashes of the other parts of the body were scattered over the fields, laid as paste on the granaries, or mixed with the new corn. These latter customs imply that to the body of the Meriah there was ascribed a direct or intrinsic power of making the crops to grow, quite independent of the indirect efficacy which it might have as an offering to secure the good-will of the deity. In other words, the flesh and ashes of the victim were believed to be endowed with a magical or physical power of fertilising the land. The same intrinsic power was ascribed to the blood and tears of the Meriah, his blood causing the redness of the turmeric and his tears [pg 390] producing rain; for it can hardly be doubted that, originally at least, the tears were supposed to produce rain, not merely to prognosticate it. Similarly the custom of pouring water on the buried flesh of the Meriah was no doubt a rain-charm. Again, intrinsic supernatural power as an attribute of the Meriah appears in the sovereign virtue believed to reside in anything that came from his person, as his hair or spittle. The ascription of such power to the Meriah indicates that he was much more than a mere man sacrificed to propitiate a deity. Once more, the extreme reverence paid him points to the same conclusion. Major Campbell speaks of the Meriah as “being regarded as something more than mortal,”1290 and Major Macpherson says, “A species of reverence, which it is not easy to distinguish from adoration, is paid to him.”1291 In short, the Meriah appears to have been regarded as divine. As such, he may originally have represented the Earth deity or perhaps a deity of vegetation; though in later times he came to be regarded rather as a victim offered to a deity than as himself an incarnate deity. This later view of the Meriah as a victim rather than a god may perhaps have received undue emphasis from the European writers who have described the Khond religion. Habituated to the later idea of sacrifice as an offering made to a god for the purpose of conciliating his favour, European observers are apt to interpret all religious slaughter in this sense, and to suppose that wherever such slaughter takes place, there must necessarily be a deity to whom the slaughter is believed by the slayers to be acceptable. Thus their preconceived ideas unconsciously colour and warp their descriptions of savage rites.

[pg 391]

The same custom of killing the representative of a god, of which strong traces appear in the Khond sacrifices, may perhaps be detected in some of the other human sacrifices described above. Thus the ashes of the slaughtered Marimo were scattered over the fields; the blood of the Brahman lad was put on the crop and field; and the blood of the Sioux girl was allowed to trickle on the seed.1292 Again, the identification of the victim with the corn, in other words, the view that he is an embodiment or spirit of the corn, is brought out in the pains which seem to be taken to secure a physical correspondence between him and the natural object which he embodies or represents. Thus the Mexicans killed young victims for the young corn and old ones for the ripe corn; the Marimos sacrifice, as “seed,” a short, fat man, the shortness of his stature corresponding to that of the young corn, his fatness to the condition which it is desired that the crops may attain; and the Pawnees fattened their victims probably with the same view. Again, the identification of the victim with the corn comes out in the African custom of killing him with spades and hoes, and the Mexican custom of grinding him, like corn, between two stones.

One more point in these savage customs deserves to be noted. The Pawnee chief devoured the heart of the Sioux girl, and the Marimos and Gonds ate the victim's flesh. If, as we suppose, the victim was regarded as divine, it follows that in eating his flesh his worshippers were partaking of the body of their god. To this point we shall return later on.

The savage rites just described offer analogies to the harvest customs of Europe. Thus the fertilising [pg 392] virtue ascribed to the corn-spirit is shown equally in the savage custom of mixing the victim's blood or ashes with the seed-corn and the European custom of mixing the grain from the last sheaf with the young corn in spring.1293 Again, the identification of the person with the corn appears alike in the savage custom of adapting the age and stature