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The Golden Bough: a study of magic and religion

by Sir James George Frazer



Subject Index

Chapter 1. The King of the Wood
1. Diana and Virbius
2. Artemis and Hippolytus
3. Recapitulation

Chapter 2. Priestly Kings

Chapter 3. Sympathetic Magic
1. The Principles of Magic
2. Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic
3. Contagious Magic
4. The Magician's Progress

Chapter 4. Magic and Religion

Chapter 5. The Magical Control of the Weather
1. The Public Magician
2. The Magical Control of Rain
3. The Magical Control of the Sun
4. The Magical Control of the Wind

Chapter 6. Magicians as Kings

Chapter 7. Incarnate Human Gods

Chapter 8. Departmental Kings of Nature

Chapter 9. The Worship of Trees
1. Tree-spirits
2. Beneficent Powers of Tree-Spirits

Chapter 10. Relics of Tree Worship in Modern Europe

Chapter 11. The Influence of the Sexes on Vegetation

Chapter 12. The Sacred Marriage
1. Diana as a Goddess of Fertility
2. The Marriage of the Gods

Chapter 13. The Kings of Rome and Alba
1. Numa and Egeria
2. The King as Jupiter

Chapter 14. Succession to the Kingdom in Ancient Latium

Chapter 15. The Worship of the Oak

Chapter 16. Dianus and Diana

Chapter 17. The Burden of Royalty
1. Royal and Priestly Taboos
2. Divorce of the Spiritual from the Temporal Power

Chapter 18. The Perils of the Soul
1. The Soul as a Mannikin
2. Absence and Recall of the Soul
3. The Soul as a Shadow and a Reflection

Chapter 19. Tabooed Acts
1. Taboos on Intercourse with Strangers
2. Taboos on Eating and Drinking
3. Taboos on Showing the Face
4. Taboos on Quitting the House
5. Taboos on Leaving Food over

Chapter 20. Tabooed Persons
1. Chiefs and Kings tabooed
2. Mourners tabooed
3. Women tabooed at Menstruation and Childbirth
4. Warriors tabooed
5. Manslayers tabooed
6. Hunters and Fishers tabooed

Chapter 21. Tabooed Things
1. The Meaning of Taboo
2. Iron tabooed
3. Sharp Weapons tabooed
4. Blood tabooed
5. The Head tabooed
6. Hair tabooed
7. Ceremonies at Hair-cutting
8. Disposal of Cut Hair and Nails
9. Spittle tabooed
10. Foods tabooed
11. Knots and Rings tabooed

Chapter 22. Tabooed Words
1. Personal Names tabooed
2. Names of Relations tabooed
3. Names of the Dead tabooed
4. Names of Kings and other Sacred Persons tabooed
5. Names of Gods tabooed

Chapter 23. Our Debt to the Savage

Chapter 24. The Killing of the Divine King
1. The Mortality of the Gods
2. Kings killed when their Strength fails
3. Kings killed at the End of a Fixed Term

Chapter 25. Temporary Kings

Chapter 26. Sacrifice of the Kings Son

Chapter 27. Succession to the Soul

Chapter 28. The Killing of the Tree-Spirit
1. The Whitsuntide Mummers
2. Burying the Carnival
3. Carrying out Death
4. Bringing in Summer
5. Battle of Summer and Winter
6. Death and Resurrection of Kostrubonko
7. Death and Revival of Vegetation
8. Analogous Rites in India
9. The Magic Spring

Chapter 29. The Myth of Adonis

Chapter 30. Adonis in Syria

Chapter 31. Adonis in Cyprus

Chapter 32. The Ritual of Adonis

Chapter 33. The Gardens of Adonis

Chapter 34. The Myth and Ritual of Attis

Chapter 35. Attis as a God of Vegetation

Chapter 36. Human Representatives of Attis

Chapter 37. Oriental Religions in the West

Chapter 38. The Myth of Osiris

Chapter 39. The Ritual of Osiris
1. The Popular Rites
2. The Official Rites

Chapter 40. The Nature of Osiris
1. Osiris a Corn-god
2. Osiris a Tree-spirit
3. Osiris a God of Fertility
4. Osiris a God of the Dead

Chapter 41. Isis

Chapter 42. Osiris and the Sun

Chapter 43. Dionysus

Chapter 44. Demeter and Persephone

Chapter 45. Corn-Mother and Corn-Maiden in N. Europe

Chapter 46. Corn-Mother in Many Lands
1. The Corn-mother in America
2. The Rice-mother in the East Indies
3. The Spirit of the Corn embodied in Human Beings
4. The Double Personification of the Corn as Mother and Daughter

Chapter 47. Lityerses
1. Songs of the Corn Reapers
2. Killing the Corn-spirit
3. Human Sacrifices for the Crops
4. The Corn-spirit slain in his Human Representatives

Chapter 48. The Corn-Spirit as an Animal
1. Animal Embodiments of the Corn-spirit
2. The Corn-spirit as a Wolf or a Dog
3. The Corn-spirit as a Cock
4. The Corn-spirit as a Hare
5. The Corn-spirit as a Cat
6. The Corn-spirit as a Goat
7. The Corn-spirit as a Bull, Cow, or Ox
8. The Corn-spirit as a Horse or Mare
9. The Corn-spirit as a Pig (Boar or Sow)
10. On the Animal Embodiments of the Corn-spirit

Chapter 49. Ancient Deities of Vegetation as Animals
1. Dionysus, the Goat and the Bull
2. Demeter, the Pig and the Horse
3. Attis, Adonis, and the Pig
4. Osiris, the Pig and the Bull
5. Virbius and the Horse

Chapter 50. Eating the God
1. The Sacrament of First-Fruits
2. Eating the God among the Aztecs
3. Many Manii at Aricia

Chapter 51. Homeopathic Magic of a Flesh Diet

Chapter 52. Killing the Divine Animal
1. Killing the Sacred Buzzard
2. Killing the Sacred Ram
3. Killing the Sacred Serpent
4. Killing the Sacred Turtles
5. Killing the Sacred Bear

Chapter 53. The Propitiation of Wild Animals By Hunters

Chapter 54. Types of Animal Sacrament
1. The Egyptian and the Aino Types of Sacrament
2. Processions with Sacred Animals

Chapter 55. The Transference of Evil
1. The Transference to Inanimate Objects
2. The Transference to Animals
3. The Transference to Men
4. The Transference of Evil in Europe

Chapter 56. The Public Expulsion of Evils
1. The Omnipresence of Demons
2. The Occasional Expulsion of Evils
3. The Periodic Expulsion of Evils

Chapter 57. Public Scapegoats
1. The Expulsion of Embodied Evils
2. The Occasional Expulsion of Evils in a Material Vehicle
3. The Periodic Expulsion of Evils in a Material Vehicle
4. On Scapegoats in General

Chapter 58. Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity
1. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Rome
2. The Human Scapegoat in Ancient Greece
3. The Roman Saturnalia

Chapter 59. Killing the God in Mexico

Chapter 60. Between Heaven and Earth
1. Not to touch the Earth
2. Not to see the Sun
3. The Seclusion of Girls at Puberty
4. Reasons for the Seclusion of Girls at Puberty

Chapter 61. The Myth of Balder

Chapter 62. The Fire-Festivals of Europe
1. The Fire-festivals in general
2. The Lenten Fires
3. The Easter Fires
4. The Beltane Fires
5. The Midsummer Fires
6. The Halloween Fires
7. The Midwinter Fires
8. The Need-fire

Chapter 63. The Interpretation of the Fire-Festivals
1. On the Fire-festivals in general
2. The Solar Theory of the Fire-festivals
3. The Purificatory Theory of the Fire-festivals

Chapter 64. The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires
1. The Burning of Effigies in the Fires
2. The Burning of Men and Animals in the Fires

Chapter 65. Balder and the Mistletoe

Chapter 66. The External Soul in Folk-Tales

Chapter 67. The External Soul in Folk-Custom
1. The External Soul in Inanimate Things
2. The External Soul in Plants
3. The External Soul in Animals
4. The Ritual of Death and Resurrection

Chapter 68. The Golden Bough

Chapter 69. Farewell to Nemi


THE PRIMARY aim of this book is to explain the remarkable rule which
regulated the succession to the priesthood of Diana at Aricia. When
I first set myself to solve the problem more than thirty years ago,
I thought that the solution could be propounded very briefly, but I
soon found that to render it probable or even intelligible it was
necessary to discuss certain more general questions, some of which
had hardly been broached before. In successive editions the
discussion of these and kindred topics has occupied more and more
space, the enquiry has branched out in more and more directions,
until the two volumes of the original work have expanded into
twelve. Meantime a wish has often been expressed that the book
should be issued in a more compendious form. This abridgment is an
attempt to meet the wish and thereby to bring the work within the
range of a wider circle of readers. While the bulk of the book has
been greatly reduced, I have endeavoured to retain its leading
principles, together with an amount of evidence sufficient to
illustrate them clearly. The language of the original has also for
the most part been preserved, though here and there the exposition
has been somewhat condensed. In order to keep as much of the text as
possible I have sacrificed all the notes, and with them all exact
references to my authorities. Readers who desire to ascertain the
source of any particular statement must therefore consult the larger
work, which is fully documented and provided with a complete

In the abridgment I have neither added new matter nor altered the
views expressed in the last edition; for the evidence which has come
to my knowledge in the meantime has on the whole served either to
confirm my former conclusions or to furnish fresh illustrations of
old principles. Thus, for example, on the crucial question of the
practice of putting kings to death either at the end of a fixed
period or whenever their health and strength began to fail, the body
of evidence which points to the wide prevalence of such a custom has
been considerably augmented in the interval. A striking instance of
a limited monarchy of this sort is furnished by the powerful
mediaeval kingdom of the Khazars in Southern Russia, where the kings
were liable to be put to death either on the expiry of a set term or
whenever some public calamity, such as drought, dearth, or defeat in
war, seemed to indicate a failure of their natural powers. The
evidence for the systematic killing of the Khazar kings, drawn from
the accounts of old Arab travellers, has been collected by me
elsewhere.[1] Africa, again, has supplied several fresh examples of
a similar practice of regicide. Among them the most notable perhaps
is the custom formerly observed in Bunyoro of choosing every year
from a particular clan a mock king, who was supposed to incarnate
the late king, cohabited with his widows at his temple-tomb, and
after reigning for a week was strangled.[2] The custom presents a
close parallel to the ancient Babylonian festival of the Sacaea, at
which a mock king was dressed in the royal robes, allowed to enjoy
the real king's concubines, and after reigning for five days was
stripped, scourged, and put to death. That festival in its turn has
lately received fresh light from certain Assyrian inscriptions,[3]
which seem to confirm the interpretation which I formerly gave of
the festival as a New Year celebration and the parent of the Jewish
festival of Purim.[4] Other recently discovered parallels to the
priestly kings of Aricia are African priests and kings who used to
be put to death at the end of seven or of two years, after being
liable in the interval to be attacked and killed by a strong man,
who thereupon succeeded to the priesthood or the kingdom.[5]

[1] J. G. Frazer, "The Killing of the Khazar Kings," _Folk-lore,_
xxviii. (1917), pp. 382-407.

[2] Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Soul of Central Africa_ (London, 1922), p.
200. Compare J. G. Frazer, &147;The Mackie Ethnological Expedition
to Central Africa," _Man,_ xx. (1920), p. 181.

[3] H. Zimmern, _Zum babylonischen Neujahrsfest_ (Leipzig, 1918).
Compare A. H. Sayce, in _Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,_ July
1921, pp. 440-442.

[4] _The Golden Bough,_ Part VI. _The Scapegoat,_ pp. 354 _sqq.,_
412 _sqq._

[5] P. Amaury Talbot in _Journal of the African Society,_ July 1916,
pp. 309 _sq.; id.,_ in _Folk-lore, xxvi._ (1916), pp. 79 _sq.;_ H.
R. Palmer, in _Journal of the African Society,_ July 1912, pp. 403,
407 _sq._

With these and other instances of like customs before us it is no
longer possible to regard the rule of succession to the priesthood
of Diana at Aricia as exceptional; it clearly exemplifies a
widespread institution, of which the most numerous and the most
similar cases have thus far been found in Africa. How far the facts
point to an early influence of Africa on Italy, or even to the
existence of an African population in Southern Europe, I do not
presume to say. The pre-historic historic relations between the two
continents are still obscure and still under investigation.

Whether the explanation which I have offered of the institution is
correct or not must be left to the future to determine. I shall
always be ready to abandon it if a better can be suggested. Meantime
in committing the book in its new form to the judgment of the public
I desire to guard against a misapprehension of its scope which
appears to be still rife, though I have sought to correct it before
now. If in the present work I have dwelt at some length on the
worship of trees, it is not, I trust, because I exaggerate its
importance in the history of religion, still less because I would
deduce from it a whole system of mythology; it is simply because I
could not ignore the subject in attempting to explain the
significance of a priest who bore the title of King of the Wood, and
one of whose titles to office was the plucking of a bough--the
Golden Bough--from a tree in the sacred grove. But I am so far from
regarding the reverence for trees as of supreme importance for the
evolution of religion that I consider it to have been altogether
subordinate to other factors, and in particular to the fear of the
human dead, which, on the whole, I believe to have been probably the
most powerful force in the making of primitive religion. I hope that
after this explicit disclaimer I shall no longer be taxed with
embracing a system of mythology which I look upon not merely as
false but as preposterous and absurd. But I am too familiar with the
hydra of error to expect that by lopping off one of the monster's
heads I can prevent another, or even the same, from sprouting again.
I can only trust to the candour and intelligence of my readers to
rectify this serious misconception of my views by a comparison with
my own express declaration.


June 1922.

I. The King of the Wood

1. Diana and Virbius

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 palace whose
terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the
stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Diana herself
might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands

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. The lake and the grove were sometimes known as
the lake and grove of Aricia. 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 grim figure might be seen to
prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering
warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon
by an enemy. 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 retained office till he was himself slain by a
stronger or a craftier.

The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the
title of king; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was
visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in, year out, in
summer and winter, in fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his
lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at
the peril of his life. The least relaxation of his vigilance, the
smallest abatement of his strength of limb or skill of fence, put
him in jeopardy; grey hairs might seal his death-warrant. To gentle
and pious pilgrims at the shrine the sight of him might well seem to
darken the fair landscape, as when a cloud suddenly blots the sun on
a bright day. The dreamy blue of Italian skies, the dappled shade of
summer woods, and the sparkle of waves in the sun, can have accorded
but ill with that stern and sinister figure. Rather we picture to
ourselves the scene as it may have been witnessed by a belated
wayfarer on one of those wild autumn nights when the dead leaves are
falling thick, and the winds seem to sing the dirge of the dying
year. It is a sombre picture, set to melancholy music--the
background of forest showing black and jagged against a lowering and
stormy sky, the sighing of the wind in the branches, the rustle of
the withered leaves under foot, the lapping of the cold water on the
shore, and in the foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and
now in gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder
whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers down
at him through the matted boughs.

The strange rule of this priesthood 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 age, and, surviving into imperial
times, stands out in striking isolation from the polished Italian
society of the day, like a primaeval 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 I have indicated. 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 hidden in a
faggot of sticks. After his death his bones were transported from
Aricia to Rome and buried in front of the temple of Saturn, on the
Capitoline slope, beside the temple of Concord. The bloody ritual
which legend ascribed to the Tauric Diana 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_). According to the public opinion of the ancients 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;
and a Greek traveller, who visited Italy in the age of the
Antonines, remarks that down to his time the priesthood was still
the prize of victory in a single combat.

Of the worship of Diana at Nemi some leading features can still be
made out. From the votive offerings which have been found on the
site, it appears that she was conceived of especially as a huntress,
and further as blessing men and women with offspring, and granting
expectant mothers an easy delivery. Again, fire seems to have played
a foremost part in her ritual. For during her annual festival, held
on the thirteenth of August, at the hottest time of the year, her
grove shone with a multitude of torches, whose ruddy glare was
reflected by the lake; and throughout the length and breadth of
Italy the day was kept with holy rites at every domestic hearth.
Bronze statuettes found in her precinct represent the goddess
herself holding a torch in her raised right hand; and women whose
prayers had been heard by her came crowned with wreaths and bearing
lighted torches to the sanctuary in fulfilment of their vows. Some
one unknown dedicated a perpetually burning lamp in a little shrine
at Nemi for the safety of the Emperor Claudius and his family. The
terra-cotta lamps which have been discovered in the grove may
perhaps have served a like purpose for humbler persons. If so, the
analogy of the custom to the Catholic practice of dedicating holy
candles in churches would be obvious. Further, the title of Vesta
borne by Diana at Nemi points clearly to the maintenance of a
perpetual holy fire in her sanctuary. A large circular basement at
the north-east corner of the temple, raised on three steps and
bearing traces of a mosaic pavement, probably supported a round
temple of Diana in her character of Vesta, like the round temple of
Vesta in the Roman Forum. Here the sacred fire would seem to have
been tended by Vestal Virgins, for the head of a Vestal in
terra-cotta was found on the spot, and the worship of a perpetual
fire, cared for by holy maidens, appears to have been common in
Latium from the earliest to the latest times. Further, at the annual
festival of the goddess, hunting dogs were crowned and wild beasts
were not molested; young people went through a purificatory ceremony
in her honour; wine was brought forth, and the feast consisted of a
kid cakes served piping hot on plates of leaves, and apples still
hanging in clusters on the boughs.

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,
because here were established the mills of the modern village of
Nemi. The purling of the stream as it ran over the pebbles is
mentioned by Ovid, who tells us that he had often drunk of its
water. Women with child used to sacrifice to Egeria, because she was
believed, like Diana, to be able to grant them an easy delivery.
Tradition ran that the nymph had been the wife or mistress of the
wise king Numa, that he had consorted with her in the secrecy of the
sacred grove, and that the laws which he gave the Romans had been
inspired by communion with her divinity. Plutarch compares the
legend with other tales of the loves of goddesses for mortal men,
such as the love of Cybele and the Moon for the fair youths Attis
and Endymion. According to some, the trysting-place of the lovers
was not in the woods of Nemi but in a grove outside the dripping
Porta Capena at Rome, where another sacred spring of Egeria gushed
from a dark cavern. Every day the Roman Vestals fetched water from
this spring to wash the temple of Vesta, carrying it in earthenware
pitchers on their heads. In Juvenal's time the natural rock had been
encased in marble, and the hallowed spot was profaned by gangs of
poor Jews, who were suffered to squat, like gypsies, in the grove.
We may suppose that the spring which fell into the lake of Nemi was
the true original Egeria, and that when the first settlers moved
down from the Alban hills to the banks of the Tiber they brought the
nymph with them and found a new home for her in a grove outside the
gates. The remains of baths which have been discovered within the
sacred precinct, together with many terra-cotta models of various
parts of the human body, suggest that the waters of Egeria were used
to heal the sick, who may have signified their hopes or testified
their gratitude by dedicating likenesses of the diseased members to
the goddess, in accordance with a custom which is still observed in
many parts of Europe. To this day it would seem that the spring
retains medicinal virtues.

The other of the minor deities at Nemi was Virbius. Legend had it
that Virbius was the young Greek hero Hippolytus, chaste and fair,
who learned the art of venery from the centaur Chiron, and spent all
his days in the greenwood chasing wild beasts with the virgin
huntress Artemis (the Greek counterpart of Diana) for his only
comrade. Proud of her divine society, he spurned the love of women,
and this proved his bane. For Aphrodite, stung by his scorn,
inspired his stepmother Phaedra with love of him; and when he
disdained her wicked advances she falsely accused him to his father
Theseus. The slander was believed, and Theseus prayed to his sire
Poseidon to avenge the imagined wrong. So while Hippolytus drove in
a chariot by the shore of the Saronic Gulf, the sea-god sent a
fierce bull forth from the waves. The terrified horses bolted, threw
Hippolytus from the chariot, and dragged him at their hoofs to
death. But Diana, for the love she bore Hippolytus, persuaded the
leech Aesculapius to bring her fair young hunter back to life by his
simples. Jupiter, indignant that a mortal man should return from the
gates of death, thrust down the meddling leech himself to Hades. But
Diana hid her favourite from the angry god in a thick cloud,
disguised his features by adding years to his life, and then bore
him far away to the dells of Nemi, where she entrusted him to the
nymph Egeria, to live there, unknown and solitary, under the name of
Virbius, in the depth of the Italian forest. There he reigned a
king, and there he dedicated a precinct to Diana. He had a comely
son, Virbius, who, undaunted by his father's fate, drove a team of
fiery steeds to join the Latins in the war against Aeneas and the
Trojans. Virbius was worshipped as a god not only at Nemi but
elsewhere; for in Campania we hear of a special priest devoted to
his service. Horses were excluded from the Arician grove and
sanctuary because horses had killed Hippolytus. It was unlawful to
touch his image. Some thought that he was the sun. "But the truth
is," says Servius, "that he is a deity associated with Diana, as
Attis is associated with the Mother of the Gods, and Erichthonius
with Minerva, and Adonis with Venus." What the nature of that
association was we shall enquire presently. Here it is worth
observing that in his long and chequered career this mythical
personage has displayed a remarkable tenacity of life. For we can
hardly doubt that the Saint Hippolytus of the Roman calendar, who
was dragged by horses to death on the thirteenth of August, Diana's
own day, is no other than the Greek hero of the same name, who,
after dying twice over as a heathen sinner, has been happily
resuscitated as a Christian saint.

It needs no elaborate demonstration to convince us that the stories
told to account for Diana's worship at Nemi are unhistorical.
Clearly they belong to that large class of myths which are made up
to explain the origin of a religious ritual and have no other
foundation than the resemblance, real or imaginary, which may be
traced between it and some foreign ritual. The incongruity of these
Nemi myths is indeed transparent, since the foundation of the
worship is traced now to Orestes and now to Hippolytus, according as
this or that feature of the ritual has to be accounted for. The real
value of such tales is that they serve to illustrate the nature of
the worship by providing a standard with which to compare it; and
further, that they bear witness indirectly to its venerable age by
showing that the true origin was lost in the mists of a fabulous
antiquity. In the latter respect these Nemi legends are probably
more to be trusted than the apparently historical tradition, vouched
for by Cato the Elder, that the sacred grove was dedicated to Diana
by a certain Egerius Baebius or Laevius of Tusculum, a Latin
dictator, on behalf of the peoples of Tusculum, Aricia, Lanuvium,
Laurentum, Cora, Tibur, Pometia, and Ardea. This tradition indeed
speaks for the great age of the sanctuary, since it seems to date
its foundation sometime before 495 B.C., the year in which Pometia
was sacked by the Romans and disappears from history. But we cannot
suppose that so barbarous a rule as that of the Arician priesthood
was deliberately instituted by a league of civilised communities,
such as the Latin cities undoubtedly were. It must have been handed
down from a time beyond the memory of man, when Italy was still in a
far ruder state than any known to us in the historical period. The
credit of the tradition is rather shaken than confirmed by another
story which ascribes the foundation of the sanctuary to a certain
Manius Egerius, who gave rise to the saying, "There are many Manii
at Aricia." This proverb some explained by alleging that Manius
Egerius was the ancestor of a long and distinguished line, whereas
others thought it meant that there were many ugly and deformed
people at Aricia, and they derived the name Manius from _Mania,_ a
bogey or bugbear to frighten children. A Roman satirist uses the
name Manius as typical of the beggars who lay in wait for pilgrims
on the Arician slopes. These differences of opinion, together with
the discrepancy between Manius Egerius of Aricia and Egerius Laevius
of Tusculum, as well as the resemblance of both names to the
mythical Egeria, excite our suspicion. Yet the tradition recorded by
Cato seems too circumstantial, and its sponsor too respectable, to
allow us to dismiss it as an idle fiction. Rather we may suppose
that it refers to some ancient restoration or reconstruction of the
sanctuary, which was actually carried out by the confederate states.
At any rate it testifies to a belief that the grove had been from
early times a common place of worship for many of the oldest cities
of the country, if not for the whole Latin confederacy.

2. Artemis and Hippolytus

I HAVE said that the Arician legends of Orestes and Hippolytus,
though worthless as history, have a certain value in so far as they
may help us to understand the worship at Nemi better by comparing it
with the ritual and myths of other sanctuaries. We must ask
ourselves, Why did the author of these legends pitch upon Orestes
and Hippolytus in order to explain Virbius and the King of the Wood?
In regard to Orestes, the answer is obvious. He and the image of the
Tauric Diana, which could only be appeased with human blood, were
dragged in to render intelligible the murderous rule of succession
to the Arician priesthood. In regard to Hippolytus the case is not
so plain. The manner of his death suggests readily enough a reason
for the exclusion of horses from the grove; but this by itself seems
hardly enough to account for the identification. We must try to
probe deeper by examining the worship as well as the legend or myth
of Hippolytus.

He had a famous sanctuary at his ancestral home of Troezen, situated
on that beautiful, almost landlocked bay, where groves of oranges
and lemons, with tall cypresses soaring like dark spires above the
garden of Hesperides, now clothe the strip of fertile shore at the
foot of the rugged mountains. Across the blue water of the tranquil
bay, which it shelters from the open sea, rises Poseidon's sacred
island, its peaks veiled in the sombre green of the pines. On this
fair coast Hippolytus was worshipped. Within his sanctuary stood a
temple with an ancient image. His service was performed by a priest
who held office for life; every year a sacrificial festival was held
in his honour; and his untimely fate was yearly mourned, with
weeping and doleful chants, by unwedded maids. Youths and maidens
dedicated locks of their hair in his temple before marriage. His
grave existed at Troezen, though the people would not show it. It
has been suggested, with great plausibility, that in the handsome
Hippolytus, beloved of Artemis, cut off in his youthful prime, and
yearly mourned by damsels, we have one of those mortal lovers of a
goddess who appear so often in ancient religion, and of whom Adonis
is the most familiar type. The rivalry of Artemis and Phaedra for
the affection of Hippolytus reproduces, it is said, under different
names, the rivalry of Aphrodite and Proserpine for the love of
Adonis, for Phaedra is merely a double of Aphrodite. The theory
probably does no injustice either to Hippolytus or to Artemis. For
Artemis was originally a great goddess of fertility, and, on the
principles of early religion, she who fertilises nature must herself
be fertile, and to be that she must necessarily have a male consort.
On this view, Hippolytus was the consort of Artemis at Troezen, and
the shorn tresses offered to him by the Troezenian youths and
maidens before marriage were designed to strengthen his union with
the goddess, and so to promote the fruitfulness of the earth, of
cattle, and of mankind. It is some confirmation of this view that
within the precinct of Hippolytus at Troezen there were worshipped
two female powers named Damia and Auxesia, whose connexion with the
fertility of the ground is unquestionable. When Epidaurus suffered
from a dearth, the people, in obedience to an oracle, carved images
of Damia and Auxesia out of sacred olive wood, and no sooner had
they done so and set them up than the earth bore fruit again.
Moreover, at Troezen itself, and apparently within the precinct of
Hippolytus, a curious festival of stone-throwing was held in honour
of these maidens, as the Troezenians called them; and it is easy to
show that similar customs have been practised in many lands for the
express purpose of ensuring good crops. In the story of the tragic
death of the youthful Hippolytus we may discern an analogy with
similar tales of other fair but mortal youths who paid with their
lives for the brief rapture of the love of an immortal goddess.
These hapless lovers were probably not always mere myths, and the
legends which traced their spilt blood in the purple bloom of the
violet, the scarlet stain of the anemone, or the crimson flush of
the rose were no idle poetic emblems of youth and beauty fleeting as
the summer flowers. Such fables contain a deeper philosophy of the
relation of the life of man to the life of nature--a sad philosophy
which gave birth to a tragic practice. What that philosophy and that
practice were, we shall learn later on.

3. Recapitulation

WE can now perhaps understand why the ancients identified
Hippolytus, the consort of Artemis, with Virbius, who, according to
Servius, stood to Diana as Adonis to Venus, or Attis to the Mother
of the Gods. For Diana, like Artemis, was a goddess of fertility in
general, and of childbirth in particular. As such she, like her
Greek counterpart, needed a male partner. That partner, if Servius
is right, was Virbius. In his character of the founder of the sacred
grove and first king of Nemi, Virbius is clearly the mythical
predecessor or archetype of the line of priests who served Diana
under the title of Kings of the Wood, and who came, like him, one
after the other, to a violent end. It is natural, therefore, to
conjecture that they stood to the goddess of the grove in the same
relation in which Virbius stood to her; in short, that the mortal
King of the Wood had for his queen the woodland Diana herself. If
the sacred tree which he guarded with his life was supposed, as
seems probable, to be her special embodiment, her priest may not
only have worshipped it as his goddess but embraced it as his wife.
There is at least nothing absurd in the supposition, since even in
the time of Pliny a noble Roman used thus to treat a beautiful
beech-tree in another sacred grove of Diana on the Alban hills. He
embraced it, he kissed it, he lay under its shadow, he poured wine
on its trunk. Apparently he took the tree for the goddess. The
custom of physically marrying men and women to trees is still
practised in India and other parts of the East. Why should it not
have obtained in ancient Latium?

Reviewing the evidence as a whole, we may conclude that the worship
of Diana in her sacred grove at Nemi was of great importance and
immemorial antiquity; that she was revered as the goddess of
woodlands and of wild creatures, probably also of domestic cattle
and of the fruits of the earth; that she was believed to bless men
and women with offspring and to aid mothers in childbed; that her
holy fire, tended by chaste virgins, burned perpetually in a round
temple within the precinct; that associated with her was a
water-nymph Egeria who discharged one of Diana's own functions by
succouring women in travail, and who was popularly supposed to have
mated with an old Roman king in the sacred grove; further, that
Diana of the Wood herself had a male companion Virbius by name, who
was to her what Adonis was to Venus, or Attis to Cybele; and,
lastly, that this mythical Virbius was represented in historical
times by a line of priests known as Kings of the Wood, who regularly
perished by the swords of their successors, and whose lives were in
a manner bound up with a certain tree in the grove, because so long
as that tree was uninjured they were safe from attack.

Clearly these conclusions do not of themselves suffice to explain
the peculiar rule of succession to the priesthood. But perhaps the
survey of a wider field may lead us to think that they contain in
germ the solution of the problem. To that wider survey we must now
address ourselves. It will be long and laborious, but may possess
something of the interest and charm of a voyage of discovery, in
which we shall visit many strange foreign lands, with strange
foreign peoples, and still stranger customs. The wind is in the
shrouds: we shake out our sails to it, and leave the coast of Italy
behind us for a time.

II. Priestly Kings

THE questions which we have set ourselves to answer are mainly two:
first, why had Diana's priest at Nemi, the King of the Wood, to slay
his predecessor? second, why before doing so had he to pluck the
branch of a certain tree which the public opinion of the ancients
identified with Virgil's Golden Bough?

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

The union of a royal title with priestly duties was common in
ancient Italy and Greece. At Rome and in other cities of Latium
there was a priest called the Sacrificial King or King of the Sacred
Rites, and his wife bore the title of Queen of the Sacred Rites. In
republican Athens the second annual magistrate of the state was
called the King, and his wife the Queen; the functions of both were
religious. Many other Greek democracies had titular kings, whose
duties, so far as they are known, seem to have been priestly, and to
have centered round the Common Hearth of the state. Some Greek
states had several of these titular kings, who held office
simultaneously. At Rome the tradition was that the Sacrificial King
had been appointed after the abolition of the monarchy in order to
offer the sacrifices which before had been offered by the kings. A
similar view as to the origin of the priestly kings appears to have
prevailed in Greece. In itself the opinion is not improbable, and it
is borne out by the example of Sparta, almost 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. One of the two Spartan kings held the
priesthood of Zeus Lacedaemon, the other the priesthood of Heavenly

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 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. Teutonic kings, again,
in the old heathen days seem to have stood in the position, and to
have exercised the powers, of high priests. The Emperors of China
offered public sacrifices, the details of which were regulated by
the ritual books. The King of Madagascar was high-priest of the
realm. At the great festival of the new year, when a bullock was
sacrificed for the good of the kingdom, the king stood over the
sacrifice to offer prayer and thanksgiving, while his attendants
slaughtered the animal. In the monarchical states which still
maintain their independence among the Gallas of Eastern Africa, the
king sacrifices on the mountain tops and regulates the immolation of
human victims; and the dim light of tradition reveals a similar
union of temporal and spiritual power, of royal and priestly duties,
in the kings of that delightful region of Central America whose
ancient capital, now buried under the rank growth of the tropical
forest, is marked by the stately and mysterious ruins of Palenque.

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 mortals, 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 to a great extent worked by
supernatural agents, that is, by personal beings acting on impulses
and motives like his own, liable like him to be moved by appeals to
their pity, their hopes, and their fears. 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 being; he, the savage,
possesses in himself all the 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. Along with the view of the world as pervaded by
spiritual forces, savage man has a different, and probably still
older, 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. In early society the king is frequently a magician as
well as a priest; indeed he appears to have often attained to power
by virtue of his supposed proficiency in the black or white art.
Hence in order to understand the evolution of the kingship and the
sacred character with which the office has commonly been invested in
the eyes of savage or barbarous peoples, it is essential to have
some acquaintance with the principles of magic and to form some
conception of the extraordinary hold which that ancient system of
superstition has had on the human mind in all ages and all
countries. Accordingly I propose to consider the subject in some

III. Sympathetic Magic

1. The Principles of Magic

IF we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based,
they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first,
that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause;
and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each
other continue to act on each other at a distance after the
physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be
called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or
Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of
Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he
desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that
whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the
person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed
part of his body or not. Charms based on the Law of Similarity may
be called Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic. Charms based on the Law
of Contact or Contagion may be called Contagious Magic. To denote
the first of these branches of magic the term Homoeopathic is
perhaps preferable, for the alternative term Imitative or Mimetic
suggests, if it does not imply, a conscious agent who imitates,
thereby limiting the scope of magic too narrowly. For the same
principles which the magician applies in the practice of his art
are implicitly believed by him to regulate the operations of
inanimate nature; in other words, he tacitly assumes that the Laws
of Similarity and Contact are of universal application and are not
limited to human actions. In short, magic is a spurious system of
natural law as well as a fallacious guide of conduct; it is a false
science as well as an abortive art. Regarded as a system of natural
law, that is, as a statement of the rules which determine the
sequence of events throughout the world, it may be called
Theoretical Magic: regarded as a set of precepts which human beings
observe in order to compass their ends, it may be called Practical
Magic. At the same time it is to be borne in mind that the
primitive magician knows magic only on its practical side; he never
analyses the mental processes on which his practice is based, never
reflects on the abstract principles involved in his actions. With
him, as with the vast majority of men, logic is implicit, not
explicit: he reasons just as he digests his food in complete
ignorance of the intellectual and physiological processes which are
essential to the one operation and to the other. In short, to him
magic is always an art, never a science; the very idea of science
is lacking in his undeveloped mind. It is for the philosophic
student to trace the train of thought which underlies the
magician's practice; to draw out the few simple threads of
which the tangled skein is composed; to disengage the abstract
principles from their concrete applications; in short, to discern
the spurious science behind the bastard art.

If my analysis of the magician's logic is correct, its two great
principles turn out to be merely two different misapplications of
the association of ideas. Homoeopathic magic is founded on the
association of ideas by similarity: contagious magic is founded on
the association of ideas by contiguity. Homoeopathic magic commits
the mistake of assuming that things which resemble each other are
the same: contagious magic commits the mistake of assuming that
things which have once been in contact with each other are always in
contact. But in practice the two branches are often combined; or, to
be more exact, while homoeopathic or imitative magic may be
practised by itself, contagious magic will generally be found to
involve an application of the homoeopathic or imitative principle.
Thus generally stated the two things may be a little difficult to
grasp, but they will readily become intelligible when they are
illustrated by particular examples. Both trains of thought are in
fact extremely simple and elementary. It could hardly be otherwise,
since they are familiar in the concrete, though certainly not in the
abstract, to the crude intelligence not only of the savage, but of
ignorant and dull-witted people everywhere. Both branches of magic,
the homoeopathic and the contagious, may conveniently be
comprehended under the general name of Sympathetic Magic, since both
assume that things act on each other at a distance through a secret
sympathy, the impulse being transmitted from one to the other by
means of what we may conceive as a kind of invisible ether, not
unlike that which is postulated by modern science for a precisely
similar purpose, namely, to explain how things can physically affect
each other through a space which appears to be empty.

It may be convenient to tabulate as follows the branches of
magic according to the laws of thought which underlie them:

Sympathetic Magic
(Law of Sympathy)
| |
Homoeopathic Magic Contagious Magic
(Law of Similarity) (Law of Contact)

I will now illustrate these two great branches of sympathetic
magic by examples, beginning with homoeopathic magic.

2. Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic

PERHAPS the most familiar application of the principle that like
produces like is the attempt which has been made by many peoples in
many ages to injure or destroy an enemy by injuring or destroying an
image of him, in the belief that, just as the image suffers, so does
the man, and that when it perishes he must die. A few instances out
of many may be given to prove at once the wide diffusion of the
practice over the world and its remarkable persistence through the
ages. For thousands of years ago it was known to the sorcerers of
ancient India, Babylon, and Egypt, as well as of Greece and Rome,
and at this day it is still resorted to by cunning and malignant
savages in Australia, Africa, and Scotland. Thus the North American
Indians, we are told, believe that by drawing the figure of a person
in sand, ashes, or clay, or by considering any object as his body,
and then pricking it with a sharp stick or doing it any other
injury, they inflict a corresponding injury on the person
represented. For example, when an Ojebway Indian desires to work
evil on any one, he makes a little wooden image of his enemy and
runs a needle into its head or heart, or he shoots an arrow into it,
believing that wherever the needle pierces or the arrow strikes the
image, his foe will the same instant be seized with a sharp pain in
the corresponding part of his body; but if he intends to kill the
person outright, he burns or buries the puppet, uttering certain
magic words as he does so. The Peruvian Indians moulded images of
fat mixed with grain to imitate the persons whom they disliked or
feared, and then burned the effigy on the road where the intended
victim was to pass. This they called burning his soul.

A Malay charm of the same sort is as follows. Take parings of nails,
hair, eyebrows, spittle, and so forth of your intended victim,
enough to represent every part of his person, and then make them up
into his likeness with wax from a deserted bees' comb. Scorch the
figure slowly by holding it over a lamp every night for seven
nights, and say:

"It is not wax that I am scorching,
It is the liver, heart, and spleen of So-and-so that I scorch."

After the seventh time burn the figure, and your victim will die.
This charm obviously combines the principles of homoeopathic and
contagious magic; since the image which is made in the likeness of
an enemy contains things which once were in contact with him,
namely, his nails, hair, and spittle. Another form of the Malay
charm, which resembles the Ojebway practice still more closely, is
to make a corpse of wax from an empty bees' comb and of the length
of a footstep; then pierce the eye of the image, and your enemy is
blind; pierce the stomach, and he is sick; pierce the head, and his
head aches; pierce the breast, and his breast will suffer. If you
would kill him outright, transfix the image from the head downwards;
enshroud it as you would a corpse; pray over it as if you were
praying over the dead; then bury it in the middle of a path where
your victim will be sure to step over it. In order that his blood
may not be on your head, you should say:

"It is not I who am burying him,
It is Gabriel who is burying him."

Thus the guilt of the murder will be laid on the shoulders of the
archangel Gabriel, who is a great deal better able to bear it than
you are.

If homoeopathic or imitative magic, working by means of images, has
commonly been practised for the spiteful purpose of putting
obnoxious people out of the world, it has also, though far more
rarely, been employed with the benevolent intention of helping
others into it. In other words, it has been used to facilitate
childbirth and to procure offspring for barren women. Thus among the
Bataks of Sumatra a barren woman, who would become a mother, will
make a wooden image of a child and hold it in her lap, believing
that this will lead to the fulfilment of her wish. In the Babar
Archipelago, when a woman desires to have a child, she invites a man
who is himself the father of a large family to pray on her behalf to
Upulero, the spirit of the sun. A doll is made of red cotton, which
the woman clasps in her arms, as if she would suckle it. Then the
father of many children takes a fowl and holds it by the legs to the
woman's head, saying, "O Upulero, make use of the fowl; let fall,
let descend a child, I beseech you, I entreat you, let a child fall
and descend into my hands and on my lap." Then he asks the woman,
"Has the child come?" and she answers, "Yes, it is sucking already."
After that the man holds the fowl on the husband's head, and mumbles
some form of words. Lastly, the bird is killed and laid, together
with some betel, on the domestic place of sacrifice. When the
ceremony is over, word goes about in the village that the woman has
been brought to bed, and her friends come and congratulate her. Here
the pretence that a child has been born is a purely magical rite
designed to secure, by means of imitation or mimicry, that a child
really shall be born; but an attempt is made to add to the efficacy
of the rite by means of prayer and sacrifice. To put it otherwise,
magic is here blent with and reinforced by religion.

Among some of the Dyaks of Borneo, when a woman is in hard labour,
a wizard is called in, who essays to facilitate the delivery in a
rational manner by manipulating the body of the sufferer. Meantime
another wizard outside the room exerts himself to attain the same
end by means which we should regard as wholly irrational. He, in
fact, pretends to be the expectant mother; a large stone attached to
his stomach by a cloth wrapt round his body represents the child in
the womb, and, following the directions shouted to him by his
colleague on the real scene of operations, he moves this
make-believe baby about on his body in exact imitation of the
movements of the real baby till the infant is born.

The same principle of make-believe, so dear to children, has led
other peoples to employ a simulation of birth as a form of adoption,
and even as a mode of restoring a supposed dead person to life. If
you pretend to give birth to a boy, or even to a great bearded man
who has not a drop of your blood in his veins, then, in the eyes of
primitive law and philosophy, that boy or man is really your son to
all intents and purposes. Thus Diodorus tells us that when Zeus
persuaded his jealous wife Hera to adopt Hercules, the goddess got
into bed, and clasping the burly hero to her bosom, pushed him
through her robes and let him fall to the ground in imitation of a
real birth; and the historian adds that in his own day the same mode
of adopting children was practised by the barbarians. At the present
time it is said to be still in use in Bulgaria and among the Bosnian
Turks. A woman will take a boy whom she intends to adopt and push or
pull him through her clothes; ever afterwards he is regarded as her
very son, and inherits the whole property of his adoptive parents.
Among the Berawans of Sarawak, when a woman desires to adopt a
grownup man or woman, a great many people assemble and have a feast.
The adopting mother, seated in public on a raised and covered seat,
allows the adopted person to crawl from behind between her legs. As
soon as he appears in front he is stroked with the sweet-scented
blossoms of the areca palm and tied to a woman. Then the adopting
mother and the adopted son or daughter, thus bound together, waddle
to the end of the house and back again in front of all the
spectators. The tie established between the two by this graphic
imitation of childbirth is very strict; an offence committed against
an adopted child is reckoned more heinous than one committed against
a real child. In ancient Greece any man who had been supposed
erroneously to be dead, and for whom in his absence funeral rites
had been performed, was treated as dead to society till he had gone
through the form of being born again. He was passed through a
woman's lap, then washed, dressed in swaddling-clothes, and put out
to nurse. Not until this ceremony had been punctually performed
might he mix freely with living folk. In ancient India, under
similar circumstances, the supposed dead man had to pass the first
night after his return in a tub filled with a mixture of fat and
water; there he sat with doubled-up fists and without uttering a
syllable, like a child in the womb, while over him were performed
all the sacraments that were wont to be celebrated over a pregnant
woman. Next morning he got out of the tub and went through once more
all the other sacraments he had formerly partaken of from his youth
up; in particular, he married a wife or espoused his old one over
again with due solemnity.

Another beneficent use of homoeopathic magic is to heal or prevent
sickness. The ancient Hindoos performed an elaborate ceremony, based
on homoeopathic magic, for the cure of jaundice. Its main drift was
to banish the yellow colour to yellow creatures and yellow things,
such as the sun, to which it properly belongs, and to procure for
the patient a healthy red colour from a living, vigorous source,
namely, a red bull. With this intention, a priest recited the
following spell: "Up to the sun shall go thy heart-ache and thy
jaundice: in the colour of the red bull do we envelop thee! We
envelop thee in red tints, unto long life. May this person go
unscathed and be free of yellow colour! The cows whose divinity is
Rohini, they who, moreover, are themselves red (_rohinih_)--in their
every form and every strength we do envelop thee. Into the parrots,
into the thrush, do we put thy jaundice, and, furthermore, into the
yellow wagtail do we put thy jaundice." While he uttered these
words, the priest, in order to infuse the rosy hue of health into
the sallow patient, gave him water to sip which was mixed with the
hair of a red bull; he poured water over the animal's back and made
the sick man drink it; he seated him on the skin of a red bull and
tied a piece of the skin to him. Then in order to improve his colour
by thoroughly eradicating the yellow taint, he proceeded thus. He
first daubed him from head to foot with a yellow porridge made of
tumeric or curcuma (a yellow plant), set him on a bed, tied three
yellow birds, to wit, a parrot, a thrush, and a yellow wagtail, by
means of a yellow string to the foot of the bed; then pouring water
over the patient, he washed off the yellow porridge, and with it no
doubt the jaundice, from him to the birds. After that, by way of
giving a final bloom to his complexion, he took some hairs of a red
bull, wrapt them in gold leaf, and glued them to the patient's skin.
The ancients held that if a person suffering from jaundice looked
sharply at a stone-curlew, and the bird looked steadily at him, he
was cured of the disease. "Such is the nature," says Plutarch, "and
such the temperament of the creature that it draws out and receives
the malady which issues, like a stream, through the eyesight." So
well recognised among birdfanciers was this valuable property of the
stone-curlew that when they had one of these birds for sale they
kept it carefully covered, lest a jaundiced person should look at it
and be cured for nothing. The virtue of the bird lay not in its
colour but in its large golden eye, which naturally drew out the
yellow jaundice. Pliny tells of another, or perhaps the same, bird,
to which the Greeks gave their name for jaundice, because if a
jaundiced man saw it, the disease left him and slew the bird. He
mentions also a stone which was supposed to cure jaundice because
its hue resembled that of a jaundiced skin.

One of the great merits of homoeopathic magic is that it enables the
cure to be performed on the person of the doctor instead of on that
of his victim, who is thus relieved of all trouble and inconvenience,
while he sees his medical man writhe in anguish before him. For
example, the peasants of Perche, in France, labour under the
impression that a prolonged fit of vomiting is brought about by the
patient's stomach becoming unhooked, as they call it, and so falling
down. Accordingly, a practitioner is called in to restore the organ
to its proper place. After hearing the symptoms he at once throws
himself into the most horrible contortions, for the purpose of
unhooking his own stomach. Having succeeded in the effort, he next
hooks it up again in another series of contortions and grimaces,
while the patient experiences a corresponding relief. Fee five
francs. In like manner a Dyak medicine-man, who has been fetched in
a case of illness, will lie down and pretend to be dead. He is
accordingly treated like a corpse, is bound up in mats, taken out of
the house, and deposited on the ground. After about an hour the
other medicine-men loose the pretended dead man and bring him to
life; and as he recovers, the sick person is supposed to recover
too. A cure for a tumour, based on the principle of homoeopathic
magic, is prescribed by Marcellus of Bordeaux, court physician to
Theodosius the First, in his curious work on medicine. It is as
follows. Take a root of vervain, cut it across, and hang one end of
it round the patient's neck, and the other in the smoke of the fire.
As the vervain dries up in the smoke, so the tumour will also dry up
and disappear. If the patient should afterwards prove ungrateful to
the good physician, the man of skill can avenge himself very easily
by throwing the vervain into water; for as the root absorbs the
moisture once more, the tumour will return. The same sapient writer
recommends you, if you are troubled with pimples, to watch for a
falling star, and then instantly, while the star is still shooting
from the sky, to wipe the pimples with a cloth or anything that
comes to hand. Just as the star falls from the sky, so the pimples
will fall from your body; only you must be very careful not to wipe
them with your bare hand, or the pimples will be transferred to it.

Further, homoeopathic and in general sympathetic magic plays a great
part in the measures taken by the rude hunter or fisherman to secure
an abundant supply of food. On the principle that like produces
like, many things are done by him and his friends in deliberate
imitation of the result which he seeks to attain; and, on the other
hand, many things are scrupulously avoided because they bear some
more or less fanciful resemblance to others which would really be

Nowhere is the theory of sympathetic magic more systematically
carried into practice for the maintenance of the food supply than in
the barren regions of Central Australia. Here the tribes are divided
into a number of totem clans, each of which is charged with the duty
of multiplying their totem for the good of the community by means of
magical ceremonies. Most of the totems are edible animals and
plants, and the general result supposed to be accomplished by these
ceremonies is that of supplying the tribe with food and other
necessaries. Often the rites consist of an imitation of the effect
which the people desire to produce; in other words, their magic is
homoeopathic or imitative. Thus among the Warramunga the headman of
the white cockatoo totem seeks to multiply white cockatoos by
holding an effigy of the bird and mimicking its harsh cry. Among the
Arunta the men of the witchetty grub totem perform ceremonies for
multiplying the grub which the other members of the tribe use as
food. One of the ceremonies is a pantomime representing the
fully-developed insect in the act of emerging from the chrysalis. A
long narrow structure of branches is set up to imitate the chrysalis
case of the grub. In this structure a number of men, who have the
grub for their totem, sit and sing of the creature in its various
stages. Then they shuffle out of it in a squatting posture, and as
they do so they sing of the insect emerging from the chrysalis. This
is supposed to multiply the numbers of the grubs. Again, in order to
multiply emus, which are an important article of food, the men of
the emu totem paint on the ground the sacred design of their totem,
especially the parts of the emu which they like best to eat, namely,
the fat and the eggs. Round this painting the men sit and sing.
Afterwards performers, wearing head-dresses to represent the long
neck and small head of the emu, mimic the appearance of the bird as
it stands aimlessly peering about in all directions.

The Indians of British Columbia live largely upon the fish which
abound in their seas and rivers. If the fish do not come in due
season, and the Indians are hungry, a Nootka wizard will make an
image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction
from which the fish generally appear. This ceremony, accompanied by
a prayer to the fish to come, will cause them to arrive at once. The
islanders of Torres Straits use models of dugong and turtles to
charm dugong and turtle to their destruction. The Toradjas of
Central Celebes believe that things of the same sort attract each
other by means of their indwelling spirits or vital ether. Hence
they hang up the jawbones of deer and wild pigs in their houses, in
order that the spirits which animate these bones may draw the living
creatures of the same kind into the path of the hunter. In the
island of Nias, when a wild pig has fallen into the pit prepared for
it, the animal 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. In the
East Indian islands of Saparoea, Haroekoe, and Noessa Laut, when a
fisherman is about to set a trap for fish in the sea, he looks out
for a tree, of which the fruit has been much pecked at by birds.
From such a tree he cuts a stout branch and makes of it the
principal post in his fish-trap; for he believes that, just as the
tree lured many birds to its fruit, so the branch cut from that tree
will lure many fish to the trap.

The western tribes of British New Guinea employ a charm to aid the
hunter in spearing dugong or turtle. A small beetle, which haunts
coco-nut trees, is placed in the hole of the spear-haft into which
the spear-head fits. This is supposed to make the spear-head stick
fast in the dugong or turtle, just as the beetle sticks fast to a
man's skin when it bites him. 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. A pantomime of
the same sort has been acted within the living memory in our
Scottish Highlands. The Rev. James Macdonald, now of Reay in
Caithness, tells us that in his boyhood when he was fishing with
companions about Loch Aline and they had had no bites for a long
time, they used to make a pretence of throwing one of their fellows
overboard and hauling him out of the water, as if he were a fish;
after that the trout or silloch would begin to nibble, according as
the boat was on fresh or salt water. Before a Carrier Indian goes
out to snare martens, he sleeps by himself for about ten nights
beside the fire with a little stick pressed down on his neck. This
naturally causes the fall-stick of his trap to drop down on the neck
of the marten. Among the Galelareese, who inhabit a district in the
northern part of Halmahera, a large island to the west of New
Guinea, it is a maxim that when you are loading your gun to go out
shooting, you should always put the bullet in your mouth before you
insert it in the gun; for by so doing you practically eat the game
that is to be hit by the bullet, which therefore cannot possibly
miss the mark. A Malay who has baited a trap for crocodiles, and is
awaiting results, is careful in eating his curry always to begin by
swallowing three lumps of rice successively; for this helps the bait
to slide more easily down the crocodile's throat. He is equally
scrupulous not to take any bones out of his curry; for, if he did,
it seems clear that the sharp-pointed stick on which the bait is
skewered would similarly work itself loose, and the crocodile would
get off with the bait. Hence in these circumstances it is prudent
for the hunter, before he begins his meal, to get somebody else to
take the bones out of his curry, otherwise he may at any moment have
to choose between swallowing a bone and losing the crocodile.

This last rule is an instance of the things which the hunter
abstains from doing lest, on the principle that like produces like,
they should spoil his luck. For it is to be observed that the system
of sympathetic magic is not merely composed of positive precepts; it
comprises a very large number of negative precepts, that is,
prohibitions. It tells you not merely what to do, but also what to
leave undone. The positive precepts are charms: the negative
precepts are taboos. In fact the whole doctrine of taboo, or at all
events a large part of it, would seem to be only a special
application of sympathetic magic, with its two great laws of
similarity and contact. Though these laws are certainly not
formulated in so many words nor even conceived in the abstract by
the savage, they are nevertheless implicitly believed by him to
regulate the course of nature quite independently of human will. He
thinks that if he acts in a certain way, certain consequences will
inevitably follow in virtue of one or other of these laws; and if
the consequences of a particular act appear to him likely to prove
disagreeable or dangerous, he is naturally careful not to act in
that way lest he should incur them. In other words, he abstains from
doing that which, in accordance with his mistaken notions of cause
and effect, he falsely believes would injure him; in short, he
subjects himself to a taboo. Thus taboo is so far a negative
application of practical magic. Positive magic or sorcery says, "Do
this in order that so and so may happen." Negative magic or taboo
says, "Do not do this, lest so and so should happen." The aim of
positive magic or sorcery is to produce a desired event; the aim of
negative magic or taboo is to avoid an undesirable one. But both
consequences, the desirable and the undesirable, are supposed to be
brought about in accordance with the laws of similarity and contact.
And just as the desired consequence is not really effected by the
observance of a magical ceremony, so the dreaded consequence does
not really result from the violation of a taboo. If the supposed
evil necessarily followed a breach of taboo, the taboo would not be
a taboo but a precept of morality or common sense. It is not a taboo
to say, "Do not put your hand in the fire"; it is a rule of common
sense, because the forbidden action entails a real, not an imaginary
evil. In short, those negative precepts which we call taboo are just
as vain and futile as those positive precepts which we call sorcery.
The two things are merely opposite sides or poles of one great
disastrous fallacy, a mistaken conception of the association of
ideas. Of that fallacy, sorcery is the positive, and taboo the
negative pole. If we give the general name of magic to the whole
erroneous system, both theoretical and practical, then taboo may be
defined as the negative side of practical magic. To put this in
tabular form:

| |
Theoretical Practical
(Magic as a (Magic as a
pseudo-science) pseudo-art)
| |
Positive Magic Negative Magic
or Sorcery or Taboo

I have made these remarks on taboo and its relations to magic
because I am about to give some instances of taboos observed by
hunters, fishermen, and others, and I wished to show that they fall
under the head of Sympathetic Magic, being only particular
applications of that general theory. Thus, among the Esquimaux boys
are forbidden to play cat's cradle, because if they did so their
fingers might in later life become entangled in the harpoon-line.
Here the taboo is obviously an application of the law of similarity,
which is the basis of homoeopathic magic: as the child's fingers are
entangled by the string in playing cat's cradle, so they will be
entangled by the harpoonline when he is a man and hunts whales.
Again, among the Huzuls of the Carpathian Mountains the wife of a
hunter may not spin while her husband is eating, or the game will
turn and wind like the spindle, and the hunter will be unable to hit
it. Here again the taboo is clearly derived from the law of
similarity. So, too, in most parts of ancient Italy women were
forbidden by law to spin on the highroads as they walked, or even to
carry their spindles openly, because any such action was believed to
injure the crops. Probably the notion was that the twirling of the
spindle would twirl the corn-stalks and prevent them from growing
straight. So, too, among the Ainos of Saghalien a pregnant woman may
not spin nor twist ropes for two months before her delivery, because
they think that if she did so the child's guts might be entangled
like the thread. For a like reason in Bilaspore, a district of
India, when the chief men of a village meet in council, no one
present should twirl a spindle; for they think that if such a thing
were to happen, the discussion, like the spindle, would move in a
circle and never be wound up. In some of the East Indian islands any
one who comes to the house of a hunter must walk straight in; he may
not loiter at the door, for were he to do so, the game would in like
manner stop in front of the hunter's snares and then turn back,
instead of being caught in the trap. For a similar reason it is a
rule with the Toradjas of Central Celebes that no one may stand or
loiter on the ladder of a house where there is a pregnant woman, for
such delay would retard the birth of the child; and in various parts
of Sumatra the woman herself in these circumstances is forbidden to
stand at the door or on the top rung of the house-ladder under pain
of suffering hard labour for her imprudence in neglecting so
elementary a precaution. Malays engaged in the search for camphor
eat their food dry and take care not to pound their salt fine. The
reason is that the camphor occurs in the form of small grains
deposited in the cracks of the trunk of the camphor tree.
Accordingly it seems plain to the Malay that if, while seeking for
camphor, he were to eat his salt finely ground, the camphor would be
found also in fine grains; whereas by eating his salt coarse he
ensures that the grains of the camphor will also be large. Camphor
hunters in Borneo use the leathery sheath of the leaf-stalk of the
Penang palm as a plate for food, and during the whole of the
expedition they will never wash the plate, for fear that the camphor
might dissolve and disappear from the crevices of the tree.
Apparently they think that to wash their plates would be to wash out
the camphor crystals from the trees in which they are imbedded. The
chief product of some parts of Laos, a province of Siam, is lac.
This is a resinous gum exuded by a red insect on the young branches
of trees, to which the little creatures have to be attached by hand.
All who engage in the business of gathering the gum abstain from
washing themselves and especially from cleansing their heads, lest
by removing the parasites from their hair they should detach the
other insects from the boughs. Again, a Blackfoot Indian who has set
a trap for eagles, and is watching it, would not eat rosebuds on any
account; for he argues that if he did so, and an eagle alighted near
the trap, the rosebuds in his own stomach would make the bird itch,
with the result that instead of swallowing the bait the eagle would
merely sit and scratch himself. Following this train of thought the
eagle hunter also refrains from using an awl when he is looking
after his snares; for surely if he were to scratch with an awl, the
eagles would scratch him. The same disastrous consequence would
follow if his wives and children at home used an awl while he is out
after eagles, and accordingly they are forbidden to handle the tool
in his absence for fear of putting him in bodily danger.

Among the taboos observed by savages none perhaps are more numerous
or important than the prohibitions to eat certain foods, and of such
prohibitions many are demonstrably derived from the law of
similarity and are accordingly examples of negative magic. Just as
the savage eats many animals or plants in order to acquire certain
desirable qualities with which he believes them to be endowed, so he
avoids eating many other animals and plants lest he should acquire
certain undesirable qualities with which he believes them to be
infected. In eating the former he practises positive magic; in
abstaining from the latter he practises negative magic. Many
examples of such positive magic will meet us later on; here I will
give a few instances of such negative magic or taboo. For example,
in Madagascar soldiers are forbidden to eat a number of foods lest
on the principle of homoeopathic magic they should be tainted by
certain dangerous or undesirable properties which are supposed to
inhere in these particular viands. Thus they may not taste hedgehog,
"as it is feared that this animal, from its propensity of coiling up
into a ball when alarmed, will impart a timid shrinking disposition
to those who partake of it." Again, no soldier should eat an ox's
knee, lest like an ox he should become weak in the knees and unable
to march. Further, the warrior should be careful to avoid partaking
of a cock that has died fighting or anything that has been speared
to death; and no male animal may on any account be killed in his
house while he is away at the wars. For it seems obvious that if he
were to eat a cock that had died fighting, he would himself be slain
on the field of battle; if he were to partake of an animal that had
been speared, he would be speared himself; if a male animal were
killed in his house during his absence, he would himself be killed
in like manner and perhaps at the same instant. Further, the
Malagasy soldier must eschew kidneys, because in the Malagasy
language the word for kidney is the same as that for "shot"; so shot
he would certainly be if he ate a kidney.

The reader may have observed that in some of the foregoing examples
of taboos the magical influence is supposed to operate at
considerable distances; thus among the Blackfeet Indians the wives
and children of an eagle hunter are forbidden to use an awl during
his absence, lest the eagles should scratch the distant husband and
father; and again no male animal may be killed in the house of a
Malagasy soldier while he is away at the wars, lest the killing of
the animal should entail the killing of the man. This belief in the
sympathetic influence exerted on each other by persons or things at
a distance is of the essence of magic. Whatever doubts science may
entertain as to the possibility of action at a distance, magic has
none; faith in telepathy is one of its first principles. A modern
advocate of the influence of mind upon mind at a distance would have
no difficulty in convincing a savage; the savage believed in it long
ago, and what is more, he acted on his belief with a logical
consistency such as his civilised brother in the faith has not yet,
so far as I am aware, exhibited in his conduct. For the savage is
convinced not only that magical ceremonies affect persons and things
afar off, but that the simplest acts of daily life may do so too.
Hence on important occasions the behaviour of friends and relations
at a distance is often regulated by a more or less elaborate code of
rules, the neglect of which by the one set of persons would, it is
supposed, entail misfortune or even death on the absent ones. In
particular when a party of men are out hunting or fighting, their
kinsfolk at home are often expected to do certain things or to
abstain from doing certain others, for the sake of ensuring the
safety and success of the distant hunters or warriors. I will now
give some instances of this magical telepathy both in its positive
and in its negative aspect.

In Laos when an elephant hunter is starting 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. When a Dyak village has turned
out to hunt wild pigs in the jungle, the people who stay at home may
not touch oil or water with their hands during the absence of their
friends; for if they did so, the hunters would all be
"butter-fingered" and the prey would slip through their hands.

Elephant-hunters in East Africa believe that, if their wives prove
unfaithful in their absence, this gives the elephant power over his
pursuer, who will accordingly be killed or severely wounded. Hence
if a hunter hears of his wife's misconduct, he abandons the chase
and returns home. If a Wagogo hunter is unsuccessful, or is attacked
by a lion, he attributes it to his wife's misbehaviour at home, and
returns to her in great wrath. While he is away hunting, she may not
let any one pass behind her or stand in front of her as she sits;
and she must lie on her face in bed. The Moxos Indians of Bolivia
thought that if a hunter's wife was unfaithful to him in his absence
he would be bitten by a serpent or a jaguar. Accordingly, if such an
accident happened to him, it was sure to entail the punishment, and
often the death, of the woman, whether she was innocent or guilty.
An Aleutian hunter of sea-otters thinks that he cannot kill a single
animal if during his absence from home his wife should be unfaithful
or his sister unchaste.

The Huichol Indians of Mexico treat as a demi-god a species of
cactus which throws the eater into a state of ecstasy. The plant
does not grow in their country, and has to be fetched every year by
men who make a journey of forty-three days for the purpose.
Meanwhile the wives at home contribute to the safety of their absent
husbands by never walking fast, much less running, while the men are
on the road. They also do their best to ensure the benefits which,
in the shape of rain, good crops, and so forth, are expected to flow
from the sacred mission. With this intention they subject themselves
to severe restrictions like those imposed upon their husbands.
During the whole of the time which elapses till the festival of the
cactus is held, neither party washes except on certain occasions,
and then only with water brought from the distant country where the
holy plant grows. They also fast much, eat no salt, and are bound to
strict continence. Any one who breaks this law is punished with
illness, and, moreover, jeopardises the result which all are
striving for. Health, luck, and life are to be gained by gathering
the cactus, the gourd of the God of Fire; but inasmuch as the pure
fire cannot benefit the impure, men and women must not only remain
chaste for the time being, but must also purge themselves from the
taint of past sin. Hence four days after the men have started the
women gather and confess to Grandfather Fire with what men they have
been in love from childhood till now. They may not omit a single
one, for if they did so the men would not find a single cactus. So
to refresh their memories each one prepares a string with as many
knots as she has had lovers. This she brings to the temple, and,
standing before the fire, she mentions aloud all the men she has
scored on her string, name after name. Having ended her confession,
she throws the string into the fire, and when the god has consumed
it in his pure flame, her sins are forgiven her and she departs in
peace. From now on the women are averse even to letting men pass
near them. The cactus-seekers themselves make in like manner a clean
breast of all their frailties. For every peccadillo they tie a knot
on a string, and after they have "talked to all the five winds" they
deliver the rosary of their sins to the leader, who burns it in the

Many of the indigenous tribes of Sarawak are firmly persuaded that
were the wives to commit adultery while their husbands are searching
for camphor in the jungle, the camphor obtained by the men would
evaporate. Husbands can discover, by certain knots in the tree, when
the wives are unfaithful; and it is said that in former days many
women were killed by jealous husbands on no better evidence than
that of these knots. Further, the wives dare not touch a comb while
their husbands are away collecting the camphor; for if they did so,
the interstices between the fibres of the tree, instead of being
filled with the precious crystals, would be empty like the spaces
between the teeth of a comb. In the Kei Islands, to the southwest of
New Guinea, as soon as a vessel that is about to sail for a distant
port has been launched, the part of the beach on which it lay is
covered as speedily as possible with palm branches, and becomes
sacred. No one may thenceforth cross that spot till the ship comes
home. To cross it sooner would cause the vessel to perish. Moreover,
all the time that the voyage lasts three or four young girls,
specially chosen for the duty, are supposed to remain in sympathetic
connexion with the mariners and to contribute by their behaviour to
the safety and success of the voyage. On no account, except for the
most necessary purpose, may they quit the room that has been
assigned to them. More than that, so long as the vessel is believed
to be at sea they must remain absolutely motionless, crouched on
their mats with their hands clasped between their knees. They may
not turn their heads to the left or to the right or make any other
movement whatsoever. If they did, it would cause the boat to pitch
and toss; and they may not eat any sticky stuff, such as rice boiled
in coco-nut milk, for the stickiness of the food would clog the
passage of the boat through the water. When the sailors are supposed
to have reached their destination, the strictness of these rules is
somewhat relaxed; but during the whole time that the voyage lasts
the girls are forbidden to eat fish which have sharp bones or
stings, such as the sting-ray, lest their friends at sea should be
involved in sharp, stinging trouble.

Where beliefs like these prevail as to the sympathetic connexion
between friends at a distance, we need not wonder that above
everything else war, with its stern yet stirring appeal to some of
the deepest and tenderest of human emotions, should quicken in the
anxious relations left behind a desire to turn the sympathetic bond
to the utmost account for the benefit of the dear ones who may at
any moment be fighting and dying far away. Hence, to secure an end
so natural and laudable, friends at home are apt to resort to
devices which will strike us as pathetic or ludicrous, according as
we consider their object or the means adopted to effect it. Thus in
some districts of Borneo, 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. Among the Sea Dyaks of Banting in Sarawak the women
strictly observe an elaborate code of rules while the men are away
fighting. Some of the rules are negative and some are positive, but
all alike are based on the principles of magical homoeopathy and
telepathy. Amongst them are the following. The women must wake very
early in the morning and open the windows as soon as it is light;
otherwise their absent husbands will oversleep themselves. The women
may not oil their hair, or the men will slip. The women may neither
sleep nor doze by day, or the men will be drowsy on the march. The
women must cook and scatter popcorn on the verandah every morning;
so will the men be agile in their movements. The rooms must be kept
very tidy, all boxes being placed near the walls; for if any one
were to stumble over them, the absent husbands would fall and be at
the mercy of the foe. At every meal a little rice must be left in
the pot and put aside; so will the men far away always have
something to eat and need never go hungry. On no account may the
women sit at the loom till their legs grow cramped, otherwise their
husbands will likewise be stiff in their joints and unable to rise
up quickly or to run away from the foe. So in order to keep their
husbands' joints supple the women often vary their labours at the
loom by walking up and down the verandah. Further, they may not
cover up their faces, or the men would not to be able to find their
way through the tall grass or jungle. Again, the women may not sew
with a needle, or the men will tread on the sharp spikes set by the
enemy in the path. Should a wife prove unfaithful while her husband
is away, he will lose his life in the enemy's country. Some years
ago all these rules and more were observed by the women of Banting,
while their husbands were fighting for the English against rebels.
But alas! these tender precautions availed them little; for many a
man, whose faithful wife was keeping watch and ward for him at home,
found a soldier's grave.

In the island of Timor, while war is being waged, the high-priest
never quits the temple; his food is brought to him or cooked inside;
day and night he must keep the fire burning, for if he were to let
it die out, disaster would be fall the warriors and would continue
so long as the hearth was cold. Moreover, he must drink only hot
water during the time the army is absent; for every draught of cold
water would damp the spirits of the people, so that they could not
vanquish the enemy. In the Kei Islands, when the warriors have
departed, the women return indoors and bring out certain baskets
containing fruits and stones. These fruits and stones they anoint
and place on a board, murmuring as they do so, "O lord sun, moon,
let the bullets rebound from our husbands, brothers, betrothed, and
other relations, just as raindrops rebound from these objects which
are smeared with oil." As soon as the first shot is heard, the
baskets are put aside, and the women, seizing their fans, rush out
of the houses. Then, waving their fans in the direction of the
enemy, they run through the village, while they sing, "O golden
fans! let our bullets hit, and those of the enemy miss." In this
custom the ceremony of anointing stones, in order that the bullets
may recoil from the men like raindrops from the stones, is a piece
of pure homoeopathic or imitative magic; but the prayer to the sun,
that he will be pleased to give effect to the charm, is a religious
and perhaps later addition. The waving of the fans seems to be a
charm to direct the bullets towards or away from their mark,
according as they are discharged from the guns of friends or foes.

An old historian of Madagascar informs us that "while the men are at
the wars, and until their return, the women and girls cease not day
and night to dance, and neither lie down nor take food in their own
houses. And although they are very voluptuously inclined, they would
not for anything in the world have an intrigue with another man
while their husband is at the war, believing firmly that if that
happened, their husband would be either killed or wounded. They
believe that by dancing they impart strength, courage, and good
fortune to their husbands; accordingly during such times they give
themselves no rest, and this custom they observe very religiously."

Among the Tshi-speaking peoples of the Gold Coast the wives of men
who are away with the army paint themselves white, and adorn their
persons with beads and charms. On the day when a battle is expected
to take place, they run about armed with guns, or sticks carved to
look like guns, and taking green paw-paws (fruits shaped somewhat
like a melon), they hack them with knives, as if they were chopping
off the heads of the foe. The pantomime is no doubt merely an
imitative charm, to enable the men to do to the enemy as the women
do to the paw-paws. In the West African town of Framin, while the
Ashantee war was raging some years ago, Mr. Fitzgerald Marriott saw
a dance performed by women whose husbands had gone as carriers to
the war. They were painted white and wore nothing but a short
petticoat. At their head was a shrivelled old sorceress in a very
short white petticoat, her black hair arranged in a sort of long
projecting horn, and her black face, breasts, arms, and legs
profusely adorned with white circles and crescents. All carried long
white brushes made of buffalo or horse tails, and as they danced
they sang, "Our husbands have gone to Ashanteeland; may they sweep
their enemies off the face of the earth!"

Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, when the men were on
the war-path, the women performed dances at frequent intervals.
These dances were believed to ensure the success of the expedition.
The dancers flourished their knives, threw long sharp-pointed sticks
forward, or drew sticks with hooked ends repeatedly backward and
forward. Throwing the sticks forward was symbolic of piercing or
warding off the enemy, and drawing them back was symbolic of drawing
their own men from danger. The hook at the end of the stick was
particularly well adapted to serve the purpose of a life-saving
apparatus. The women always pointed their weapons towards the
enemy's country. They painted their faces red and sang as they
danced, and they prayed to the weapons to preserve their husbands
and help them to kill many foes. Some had eagle-down stuck on the
points of their sticks. When the dance was over, these weapons were
hidden. If a woman whose husband was at the war thought she saw hair
or a piece of a scalp on the weapon when she took it out, she knew
that her husband had killed an enemy. But if she saw a stain of
blood on it, she knew he was wounded or dead. When the men of the
Yuki tribe in California were away fighting, the women at home did
not sleep; they danced continually in a circle, chanting and waving
leafy wands. For they said that if they danced all the time, their
husbands would not grow tired. Among the Haida Indians of the Queen
Charlotte Islands, when the men had gone to war, the women at home
would get up very early in the morning and pretend to make war by
falling upon their children and feigning to take them for slaves.
This was supposed to help their husbands to go and do likewise. If a
wife were unfaithful to her husband while he was away on the
war-path, he would probably be killed. For ten nights all the women
at home lay with their heads towards the point of the compass to
which the war-canoes had paddled away. Then they changed about, for
the warriors were supposed to be coming home across the sea. At
Masset the Haida women danced and sang war-songs all the time their
husbands were away at the wars, and they had to keep everything
about them in a certain order. It was thought that a wife might kill
her husband by not observing these customs. When a band of Carib
Indians of the Orinoco had gone on the war-path, their friends left
in the village used to calculate as nearly as they could the exact
moment when the absent warriors would be advancing to attack the
enemy. Then they took two lads, laid them down on a bench, and
inflicted a most severe scourging on their bare backs. This the
youths submitted to without a murmur, supported in their sufferings
by the firm conviction, in which they had been bred from childhood,
that on the constancy and fortitude with which they bore the cruel
ordeal depended the valour and success of their comrades in the

Among the many beneficent uses to which a mistaken ingenuity has
applied the principle of homoeopathic or imitative magic, is that of
causing trees and plants to bear fruit in due season. 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 to wave in the wind. In the interior of Sumatra
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. Similarly, in ancient Mexico a festival was held in
honour of the goddess of maize, or "the long-haired mother," as she
was called. It began at the time "when the plant had attained its
full growth, and fibres shooting forth from the top of the green ear
indicated that the grain was fully formed. During this festival the
women wore their long hair unbound, shaking and tossing it in the
dances which were the chief feature in the ceremonial, in order that
the tassel of the maize might grow in like profusion, that the grain
might be correspondingly large and flat, and that the people might
have abundance." In many parts of Europe dancing or leaping high in
the air are approved homoeopathic modes of making the crops grow
high. Thus in Franche-Comté they say that you should dance at the
Carnival in order to make the hemp grow tall.

The notion that a person can influence a plant homoeopathically by
his act or condition comes out clearly in a remark made by a Malay
woman. Being asked why she stripped the upper part of her body naked
in reaping the rice, she explained that she did it to make the
rice-husks thinner, as she was tired of pounding thick-husked rice.
Clearly, she thought that the less clothing she wore the less husk
there would be on the rice. The magic virtue of a pregnant woman to
communicate fertility is known to Bavarian and Austrian peasants,
who think that if you give the first fruit of a tree to a woman with
child to eat, the tree will bring forth abundantly next year. On the
other hand, the Baganda believe that a barren wife infects her
husband's garden with her own sterility and prevents the trees from
bearing fruit; hence a childless woman is generally divorced. The
Greeks and Romans sacrificed pregnant victims to the goddesses of
the corn and of the earth, doubtless in order that the earth might
teem and the corn swell in the ear. When a Catholic priest
remonstrated with the Indians of the Orinoco on allowing their women
to sow the fields in the blazing sun, with infants at their breasts,
the men answered, "Father, you don't understand these things, and
that is why they vex you. You know that women are accustomed to bear
children, and that we men are not. When the women sow, the stalk of
the maize bears two or three ears, the root of the yucca yields two
or three basketfuls, and everything multiplies in proportion. Now
why is that? Simply because the women know how to bring forth, and
know how to make the seed which they sow bring forth also. Let them
sow, then; we men don't know as much about it as they do."

Thus on the theory of homoeopathic magic a person can influence
vegetation either for good or for evil according to the good or the
bad character of his acts or states: for example, a fruitful woman
makes plants fruitful, a barren woman makes them barren. Hence this
belief in the noxious and infectious nature of certain personal
qualities or accidents has given rise to a number of prohibitions or
rules of avoidance: people abstain from doing certain things lest
they should homoeopathically infect the fruits of the earth with
their own undesirable state or condition. All such customs of
abstention or rules of avoidance are examples of negative magic or
taboo. Thus, for example, arguing from what may be called the
infectiousness of personal acts or states, the Galelareese say that
you ought not to shoot with a bow and arrows under a fruit-tree, or
the tree will cast its fruit even as the arrows fall to the ground;
and that when you are eating water-melon you ought not to mix the
pips which you spit out of your mouth with the pips which you have
put aside to serve as seed; for if you do, though the pips you spat
out may certainly spring up and blossom, yet the blossoms will keep
falling off just as the pips fell from your mouth, and thus these
pips will never bear fruit. Precisely the same train of thought
leads the Bavarian peasant to believe that if he allows the graft of
a fruit-tree to fall on the ground, the tree that springs from that
graft will let its fruit fall untimely. When the Chams of
Cochinchina are sowing their dry rice fields and desire that no
shower should fall, they eat their rice dry in order to prevent rain
from spoiling the crop.

In the foregoing cases a person is supposed to influence vegetation
homoeopathically. He infects trees or plants with qualities or
accidents, good or bad, resembling and derived from his own. But on
the principle of homoeopathic magic the influence is mutual: the
plant can infect the man just as much as the man can infect the
plant. In magic, as I believe in physics, action and reaction are
equal and opposite. The Cherokee Indians are adepts in practical
botany of the homoeopathic sort. Thus wiry roots of the catgut plant
are so tough that they can almost stop a plowshare in the furrow.
Hence Cherokee women wash their heads with a decoction of the roots
to make the hair strong, and Cherokee ball-players wash themselves
with it to toughen their muscles. It is a Galelareese belief that if
you eat a fruit which has fallen to the ground, you will yourself
contract a disposition to stumble and fall; and that if you partake
of something which has been forgotten (such as a sweet potato left
in the pot or a banana in the fire), you will become forgetful. The
Galelareese are also of opinion that if a woman were to consume two
bananas growing from a single head she would give birth to twins.
The Guarani Indians of South America thought that a woman would
become a mother of twins if she ate a double grain of millet. In
Vedic times a curious application of this principle supplied a charm
by which a banished prince might be restored to his kingdom. He had
to eat food cooked on a fire which was fed with wood which had grown
out of the stump of a tree which had been cut down. The recuperative
power manifested by such a tree would in due course be communicated
through the fire to the food, and so to the prince, who ate the food
which was cooked on the fire which was fed with the wood which grew
out of the tree. The Sudanese think that if a house is built of the
wood of thorny trees, the life of the people who dwell in that house
will likewise be thorny and full of trouble.

There is a fruitful branch of homoeopathic magic which works by
means of the dead; for just as the dead can neither see nor hear nor
speak, so you may on homoeopathic principles render people blind,
deaf and dumb by the use of dead men's bones or anything else that
is tainted by the infection of death. Thus among the Galelareese,
when a young man goes a-wooing at night, he takes a little earth
from a grave and strews it on the roof of his sweetheart's house
just above the place where her parents sleep. This, he fancies, will
prevent them from waking while he converses with his beloved, since
the earth from the grave will make them sleep as sound as the dead.
Burglars in all ages and many lands have been patrons of this
species of magic, which is very useful to them in the exercise of
their profession. Thus a South Slavonian housebreaker sometimes
begins operations by throwing a dead man's bone over the house,
saying, with pungent sarcasm, "As this bone may waken, so may these
people waken"; after that not a soul in the house can keep his or
her eyes open. Similarly, in Java the burglar takes earth from a
grave and sprinkles it round the house which he intends to rob; this
throws the inmates into a deep sleep. With the same intention a
Hindoo will strew ashes from a pyre at the door of the house;
Indians of Peru scatter the dust of dead men's bones; and Ruthenian
burglars remove the marrow from a human shin-bone, pour tallow into
it, and having kindled the tallow, march thrice round the house with
this candle burning, which causes the inmates to sleep a death-like
sleep. Or the Ruthenian will make a flute out of a human leg-bone
and play upon it; whereupon all persons within hearing are overcome
with drowsiness. The Indians of Mexico employed for this maleficent
purpose the left fore-arm of a woman who had died in giving birth to
her first child; but the arm had to be stolen. With it they beat the
ground before they entered the house which they designed to plunder;
this caused every one in the house to lose all power of speech and
motion; they were as dead, hearing and seeing everything, but
perfectly powerless; some of them, however, really slept and even
snored. In Europe similar properties were ascribed to the Hand of
Glory, which was the dried and pickled hand of a man who had been
hanged. If a candle made of the fat of a malefactor who had also
died on the gallows was lighted and placed in the Hand of Glory as
in a candlestick, it rendered motionless all persons to whom it was
presented; they could not stir a finger any more than if they were
dead. Sometimes the dead man's hand is itself the candle, or rather
bunch of candles, all its withered fingers being set on fire; but
should any member of the household be awake, one of the fingers will
not kindle. Such nefarious lights can only be extinguished with
milk. Often it is prescribed that the thief's candle should be made
of the finger of a new-born or, still better, unborn child;
sometimes it is thought needful that the thief should have one such
candle for every person in the house, for if he has one candle too
little somebody in the house will wake and catch him. Once these
tapers begin to burn, there is nothing but milk that will put them
out. In the seventeenth century robbers used to murder pregnant
women in order thus to extract candles from their wombs. An ancient
Greek robber or burglar thought he could silence and put to flight
the fiercest watchdogs by carrying with him a brand plucked from a
funeral pyre. Again, Servian and Bulgarian women who chafe at the
restraints of domestic life will take the copper coins from the eyes
of a corpse, wash them in wine or water, and give the liquid to
their husbands to drink. After swallowing it, the husband will be as
blind to his wife's peccadilloes as the dead man was on whose eyes
the coins were laid.

Further, animals are often conceived to possess qualities of
properties which might be useful to man, and homoeopathic or
imitative magic seeks to communicate these properties to human
beings in various ways. Thus some Bechuanas wear a ferret as a
charm, because, being very tenacious of life, it will make them
difficult to kill. Others wear a certain insect, mutilated, but
living, for a similar purpose. Yet other Bechuana warriors wear the
hair of a hornless ox among their own hair, and the skin of a frog
on their mantle, because a frog is slippery, and the ox, having no
horns, is hard to catch; so the man who is provided with these
charms believes that he will be as hard to hold as the ox and the
frog. Again, it seems plain that a South African warrior who twists
tufts of rat's hair among his own curly black locks will have just
as many chances of avoiding the enemy's spear as the nimble rat has
of avoiding things thrown at it; hence in these regions rats' hair
is in great demand when war is expected. One of the ancient books of
India prescribes that when a sacrifice is offered for victory, the
earth out of which the altar is to be made should be taken from a
place where a boar has been wallowing, since the strength of the
boar will be in that earth. When you are playing the one-stringed
lute, and your fingers are stiff, the thing to do is to catch some
long-legged field spiders and roast them, and then rub your fingers
with the ashes; that will make your fingers as lithe and nimble as
the spiders' legs--at least so think the Galelareese. To bring back
a runaway slave an Arab will trace a magic circle on the ground,
stick a nail in the middle of it, and attach a beetle by a thread to
the nail, taking care that the sex of the beetle is that of the
fugitive. As the beetle crawls round and round, it will coil the
thread about the nail, thus shortening its tether and drawing nearer
to the centre at every circuit. So by virtue of homoeopathic magic
the runaway slave will be drawn back to his master.

Among the western tribes of British New Guinea, a man who has killed
a snake will burn it and smear his legs with the ashes when he goes
into the forest; for no snake will bite him for some days
afterwards. If a South Slavonian has a mind to pilfer and steal at
market, he has nothing to do but to burn a blind cat, and then throw
a pinch of its ashes over the person with whom he is higgling; after
that he can take what he likes from the booth, and the owner will
not be a bit the wiser, having become as blind as the deceased cat
with whose ashes he has been sprinkled. The thief may even ask
boldly, "Did I pay for it?" and the deluded huckster will reply,
"Why, certainly." Equally simple and effectual is the expedient
adopted by natives of Central Australia who desire to cultivate
their beards. They prick the chin all over with a pointed bone, and
then stroke it carefully with a magic stick or stone, which
represents a kind of rat that has very long whiskers. The virtue of
these whiskers naturally passes into the representative stick or
stone, and thence by an easy transition to the chin, which,
consequently, is soon adorned with a rich growth of beard. The
ancient Greeks thought that to eat the flesh of the wakeful
nightingale would prevent a man from sleeping; that to smear the
eyes of a blear-sighted person with the gall of an eagle would give
him the eagle's vision; and that a raven's eggs would restore the
blackness of the raven to silvery hair. Only the person who adopted
this last mode of concealing the ravages of time had to be most
careful to keep his mouth full of oil all the time he applied the
eggs to his venerable locks, else his teeth as well as his hair
would be dyed raven black, and no amount of scrubbing and scouring
would avail to whiten them again. The hair-restorer was in fact a
shade too powerful, and in applying it you might get more than you
bargained for.

The Huichol Indians admire the beautiful markings on the backs of
serpents. Hence when a Huichol woman is about to weave or embroider,
her husband catches a large serpent and holds it in a cleft stick,
while the woman strokes the reptile with one hand down the whole
length of its back; then she passes the same hand over her forehead
and eyes, that she may be able to work as beautiful patterns in the
web as the markings on the back of the serpent.

On the principle of homoeopathic magic, inanimate things, as well as
plants and animals, may diffuse blessing or bane around them,
according to their own intrinsic nature and the skill of the wizard
to tap or dam, as the case may be, the stream of weal or woe. In
Samaracand women give a baby sugar candy to suck and put glue in the
palm of its hand, in order that, when the child grows up, his words
may be sweet and precious things may stick to his hands as if they
were glued. The Greeks thought that a garment made from the fleece
of a sheep that had been torn by a wolf would hurt the wearer,
setting up an itch or irritation in his skin. They were also of
opinion that if a stone which had been bitten by a dog were dropped
in wine, it would make all who drank of that wine to fall out among
themselves. Among the Arabs of Moab a childless woman often borrows
the robe of a woman who has had many children, hoping with the robe
to acquire the fruitfulness of its owner. The Caffres of Sofala, in
East Africa, had a great dread of being struck with anything hollow,
such as a reed or a straw, and greatly preferred being thrashed with
a good thick cudgel or an iron bar, even though it hurt very much.
For they thought that if a man were beaten with anything hollow, his
inside would waste away till he died. In eastern seas there is a
large shell which the Buginese of Celebes call the "old man"
(_kadjâwo_). On Fridays they turn these "old men" upside down and
place them on the thresholds of their houses, believing that whoever
then steps over the threshold of the house will live to be old. At
initiation a Brahman boy is made to tread with his right foot on a
stone, while the words are repeated, "Tread on this stone; like a
stone be firm"; and the same ceremony is performed, with the same
words, by a Brahman bride at her marriage. In Madagascar a mode of
counteracting the levity of fortune is to bury a stone at the foot
of the heavy house-post. The common custom of swearing upon a stone
may be based partly on a belief that the strength and stability of
the stone lend confirmation to an oath. Thus the old Danish
historian Saxo Grammaticus tells us that "the ancients, when they
were to choose a king, were wont to stand on stones planted in the
ground, and to proclaim their votes, in order to foreshadow from the
steadfastness of the stones that the deed would be lasting."

But while a general magical efficacy may be supposed to reside in
all stones by reason of their common properties of weight and
solidity, special magical virtues are attributed to particular
stones, or kinds of stone, in accordance with their individual or
specific qualities of shape and colour. For example, the Indians of
Peru employed certain stones for the increase of maize, others for
the increase of potatoes, and others again for the increase of
cattle. The stones used to make maize grow were fashioned in the
likeness of cobs of maize, and the stones destined to multiply
cattle had the shape of sheep.

In some parts of Melanesia a like belief prevails that certain
sacred stones are endowed with miraculous powers which correspond in
their nature to the shape of the stone. Thus a piece of water-worn
coral on the beach often bears a surprising likeness to a
bread-fruit. Hence in the Banks Islands a man who finds such a coral
will lay it at the root of one of his bread-fruit trees in the
expectation that it will make the tree bear well. If the result
answers his expectation, he will then, for a proper remuneration,
take stones of less-marked character from other men and let them lie
near his, in order to imbue them with the magic virtue which resides
in it. Similarly, a stone with little discs upon it is good to bring
in money; and if a man found a large stone with a number of small
ones under it, like a sow among her litter, he was sure that to
offer money upon it would bring him pigs. In these and similar cases
the Melanesians ascribe the marvellous power, not to the stone
itself, but to its indwelling spirit; and sometimes, as we have just
seen, a man endeavours to propitiate the spirit by laying down
offerings on the stone. But the conception of spirits that must be
propitiated lies outside the sphere of magic, and within that of
religion. Where such a conception is found, as here, in conjunction
with purely magical ideas and practices, the latter may generally be
assumed to be the original stock on which the religious conception
has been at some later time engrafted. For there are strong grounds
for thinking that, in the evolution of thought, magic has preceded
religion. But to this point we shall return presently.

The ancients set great store on the magical qualities of precious
stones; indeed it has been maintained, with great show of reason,
that such stones were used as amulets long before they were worn as
mere ornaments. Thus the Greeks gave the name of tree-agate to a
stone which exhibits tree-like markings, and they thought that if
two of these gems were tied to the horns or necks of oxen at the
plough, the crop would be sure to be plentiful. Again, they
recognised a milkstone which produced an abundant supply of milk in
women if only they drank it dissolved in honey-mead. Milk-stones are
used for the same purpose by Greek women in Crete and Melos at the
present day; in Albania nursing mothers wear the stones in order to
ensure an abundant flow of milk. Again, the Greeks believed in a
stone which cured snake-bites, and hence was named the snake-stone;
to test its efficacy you had only to grind the stone to powder and
sprinkle the powder on the wound. The wine-coloured amethyst
received its name, which means "not drunken," because it was
supposed to keep the wearer of it sober; and two brothers who
desired to live at unity were advised to carry magnets about with
them, which, by drawing the twain together, would clearly prevent
them from falling out.

The ancient books of the Hindoos lay down a rule that after sunset
on his marriage night a man should sit silent with his wife till the
stars begin to twinkle in the sky. When the pole-star appears, he
should point it out to her, and, addressing the star, say, "Firm art
thou; I see thee, the firm one. Firm be thou with me, O thriving
one!" Then, turning to his wife, he should say, "To me Brihaspati
has given thee; obtaining offspring through me, thy husband, live
with me a hundred autumns." The intention of the ceremony is plainly
to guard against the fickleness of fortune and the instability of
earthly bliss by the steadfast influence of the constant star. It is
the wish expressed in Keats's last sonnet:

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night.

Dwellers by the sea cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of its
ceaseless ebb and flow, and are apt, on the principles of that rude
philosophy of sympathy and resemblance which here engages our
attention, to trace a subtle relation, a secret harmony, between its
tides and the life of man, of animals, and of plants. In the flowing
tide they see not merely a symbol, but a cause of exuberance, of
prosperity, and of life, while in the ebbing tide they discern a
real agent as well as a melancholy emblem of failure, of weakness,
and of death. The Breton peasant fancies that clover sown when the
tide is coming in will grow well, but that if the plant be sown at
low water or when the tide is going out, it will never reach
maturity, and that the cows which feed on it will burst. His wife
believes that the best butter is made when the tide has just turned
and is beginning to flow, that milk which foams in the churn will go
on foaming till the hour of high water is past, and that water drawn
from the well or milk extracted from the cow while the tide is
rising will boil up in the pot or saucepan and overflow into the
fire. According to some of the ancients, the skins of seals, even
after they had been parted from their bodies, remained in secret
sympathy with the sea, and were observed to ruffle when the tide was
on the ebb. Another ancient belief, attributed to Aristotle, was
that no creature can die except at ebb tide. The belief, if we can
trust Pliny, was confirmed by experience, so far as regards human
beings, on the coast of France. Philostratus also assures us that at
Cadiz dying people never yielded up the ghost while the water was
high. A like fancy still lingers in some parts of Europe. On the
Cantabrian coast they think that persons who die of chronic or acute
disease expire at the moment when the tide begins to recede. In
Portugal, all along the coast of Wales, and on some parts of the
coast of Brittany, a belief is said to prevail that people are born
when the tide comes in, and die when it goes out. Dickens attests
the existence of the same superstition in England. "People can't
die, along the coast," said Mr. Pegotty, "except when the tide's
pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's pretty nigh in--not
properly born till flood." The belief that most deaths happen at ebb
tide is said to be held along the east coast of England from
Northumberland to Kent. Shakespeare must have been familiar with it,
for he makes Falstaff die "even just between twelve and one, e'en at
the turning o' the tide." We meet the belief again on the Pacific
coast of North America among the Haidas. Whenever a good Haida is
about to die he sees a canoe manned by some of his dead friends, who
come with the tide to bid him welcome to the spirit land. "Come with
us now," they say, "for the tide is about to ebb and we must
depart." At Port Stephens, in New South Wales, the natives always
buried their dead at flood tide, never at ebb, lest the retiring
water should bear the soul of the departed to some distant country.

To ensure a long life the Chinese have recourse to certain
complicated charms, which concentrate in themselves the magical
essence emanating, on homoeopathic principles, from times and
seasons, from persons and from things. The vehicles employed to
transmit these happy influences are no other than grave-clothes.
These are provided by many Chinese in their lifetime, and most
people have them cut out and sewn by an unmarried girl or a very
young woman, wisely calculating that, since such a person is likely
to live a great many years to come, a part of her capacity to live
long must surely pass into the clothes, and thus stave off for many
years the time when they shall be put to their proper use. Further,
the garments are made by preference in a year which has an
intercalary month; for to the Chinese mind it seems plain that
grave-clothes made in a year which is unusually long will possess
the capacity of prolonging life in an unusually high degree. Amongst
the clothes there is one robe in particular on which special pains
have been lavished to imbue it with this priceless quality. It is a
long silken gown of the deepest blue colour, with the word
"longevity" embroidered all over it in thread of gold. To present an
aged parent with one of these costly and splendid mantles, known as
"longevity garments," is esteemed by the Chinese an act of filial
piety and a delicate mark of attention. As the garment purports to
prolong the life of its owner, he often wears it, especially on
festive occasions, in order to allow the influence of longevity,
created by the many golden letters with which it is bespangled, to
work their full effect upon his person. On his birthday, above all,
he hardly ever fails to don it, for in China common sense bids a man
lay in a large stock of vital energy on his birthday, to be expended
in the form of health and vigour during the rest of the year.
Attired in the gorgeous pall, and absorbing its blessed influence at
every pore, the happy owner receives complacently the
congratulations of friends and relations, who warmly express their
admiration of these magnificent cerements, and of the filial piety
which prompted the children to bestow so beautiful and useful a
present on the author of their being.

Another application of the maxim that like produces like is seen in
the Chinese belief that the fortunes of a town are deeply affected
by its shape, and that they must vary according to the character of
the thing which that shape most nearly resembles. Thus it is related
that long ago the town of Tsuen-cheu-fu, the outlines of which are
like those of a carp, frequently fell a prey to the depredations of
the neighbouring city of Yung-chun, which is shaped like a
fishing-net, until the inhabitants of the former town conceived the
plan of erecting two tall pagodas in their midst. These pagodas,
which still tower above the city of Tsuen-cheu-fu, have ever since
exercised the happiest influence over its destiny by intercepting
the imaginary net before it could descend and entangle in its meshes
the imaginary carp. Some forty years ago the wise men of Shanghai
were much exercised to discover the cause of a local rebellion. On
careful enquiry they ascertained that the rebellion was due to the
shape of a large new temple which had most unfortunately been built
in the shape of a tortoise, an animal of the very worst character.
The difficulty was serious, the danger was pressing; for to pull
down the temple would have been impious, and to let it stand as it
was would be to court a succession of similar or worse disasters.
However, the genius of the local professors of geomancy, rising to
the occasion, triumphantly surmounted the difficulty and obviated
the danger. By filling up two wells, which represented the eyes of
the tortoise, they at once blinded that disreputable animal and
rendered him incapable of doing further mischief.

Sometimes homoeopathic or imitative magic is called in to annul an
evil omen by accomplishing it in mimicry. The effect is to
circumvent destiny by substituting a mock calamity for a real one.
In Madagascar this mode of cheating the fates is reduced to a
regular system. Here every man's fortune is determined by the day or
hour of his birth, and if that happens to be an unlucky one his fate
is sealed, unless the mischief can be extracted, as the phrase goes,
by means of a substitute. The ways of extracting the mischief are
various. For example, if a man is born on the first day of the
second month (February), his house will be burnt down when he comes
of age. To take time by the forelock and avoid this catastrophe, the
friends of the infant will set up a shed in a field or in the
cattle-fold and burn it. If the ceremony is to be really effective,
the child and his mother should be placed in the shed and only
plucked, like brands, from the burning hut before it is too late.
Again, dripping November is the month of tears, and he who is born
in it is born to sorrow. But in order to disperse the clouds that
thus gather over his future, he has nothing to do but to take the
lid off a boiling pot and wave it about. The drops that fall from it
will accomplish his destiny and so prevent the tears from trickling
from his eyes. Again, if fate has decreed that a young girl, still
unwed, should see her children, still unborn, descend before her
with sorrow to the grave, she can avert the calamity as follows. She
kills a grasshopper, wraps it in a rag to represent a shroud, and
mourns over it like Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to
be comforted. Moreover, she takes a dozen or more other
grasshoppers, and having removed some of their superfluous legs and
wings she lays them about their dead and shrouded fellow. The buzz
of the tortured insects and the agitated motions of their mutilated
limbs represent the shrieks and contortions of the mourners at a
funeral. After burying the deceased grasshopper she leaves the rest
to continue their mourning till death releases them from their pain;
and having bound up her dishevelled hair she retires from the grave
with the step and carriage of a person plunged in grief. Thenceforth
she looks cheerfully forward to seeing her children survive her; for
it cannot be that she should mourn and bury them twice over. Once
more, if fortune has frowned on a man at his birth and penury has
marked him for her own, he can easily erase the mark in question by
purchasing a couple of cheap pearls, price three halfpence, and
burying them. For who but the rich of this world can thus afford to
fling pearls away?

3. Contagious Magic

THUS far we have been considering chiefly that branch of sympathetic
magic which may be called homoeopathic or imitative. Its leading
principle, as we have seen, is that like produces like, or, in other
words, that an effect resembles its cause. The other great branch of
sympathetic magic, which I have called Contagious Magic, proceeds
upon the notion that things which have once been conjoined must
remain ever afterwards, even when quite dissevered from each other,
in such a sympathetic relation that whatever is done to the one must
similarly affect the other. Thus the logical basis of Contagious
Magic, like that of Homoeopathic Magic, is a mistaken association of
ideas; its physical basis, if we may speak of such a thing, like the
physical basis of Homoeopathic Magic, is a material medium of some
sort which, like the ether of modern physics, is assumed to unite
distant objects and to convey impressions from one to the other. The
most familiar example of Contagious Magic is the magical sympathy
which 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
human hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the
person from whom they were cut. This superstition is world-wide;
instances of it in regard to hair and nails will be noticed later on
in this work.

Among the Australian tribes it was a common practice to knock out
one or more of a boy's front teeth at those ceremonies of initiation
to which every male member had to submit before he could enjoy the
rights and privileges of a full-grown man. The reason of the
practice is obscure; all that concerns us here is the belief that a
sympathetic relation continued to exist between the lad and his
teeth after the latter had been extracted from his gums. Thus among
some of the tribes about the river Darling, in New South Wales, the
extracted tooth was placed under the bark of a tree near a river or
water-hole; if the bark grew over the tooth, or if the tooth fell
into the water, all was well; but if it were exposed and the ants
ran over it, the natives believed that the boy would suffer from a
disease of the mouth. Among the Murring and other tribes of New
South Wales the extracted tooth was at first taken care of by an old
man, and then passed from one headman to another, until it had gone
all round the community, when it came back to the lad's father, and
finally to the lad himself. But however it was thus conveyed from
hand to hand, it might on no account be placed in a bag containing
magical substances, for to do so would, they believed, put the owner
of the tooth in great danger. The late Dr. Howitt once acted as
custodian of the teeth which had been extracted from some novices at
a ceremony of initiation, and the old men earnestly besought him not
to carry them in a bag in which they knew that he had some quartz
crystals. They declared that if he did so the magic of the crystals
would pass into the teeth, and so injure the boys. Nearly a year
after Dr. Howitt's return from the ceremony he was visited by one of
the principal men of the Murring tribe, who had travelled some two
hundred and fifty miles from his home to fetch back the teeth. This
man explained that he had been sent for them because one of the boys
had fallen into ill health, and it was believed that the teeth had
received some injury which had affected him. He was assured that the
teeth had been kept in a box apart from any substances, like quartz
crystals, which could influence them; and he returned home bearing
the teeth with him carefully wrapt up and concealed.

The Basutos are careful to conceal their extracted teeth, lest these
should fall into the hands of certain mythical beings who haunt
graves, and who could harm the owner of the tooth by working magic
on it. In Sussex some fifty years ago a maid-servant remonstrated
strongly against the throwing away of children's cast teeth,
affirming that should they be found and gnawed by any animal, the
child's new tooth would be, for all the world, like the teeth of the
animal that had bitten the old one. In proof of this she named old
Master Simmons, who had a very large pig's tooth in his upper jaw, a
personal defect that he always averred was caused by his mother, who
threw away one of his cast teeth by accident into the hog's trough.
A similar belief has led to practices intended, on the principles of
homoeopathic magic, to replace old teeth by new and better ones.
Thus in many parts of the world it is customary to put extracted
teeth in some place where they will be found by a mouse or a rat, in
the hope that, through the sympathy which continues to subsist
between them and their former owner, his other teeth may acquire the
same firmness and excellence as the teeth of these rodents. For
example, in Germany it is said to be an almost universal maxim among
the people that when you have had a tooth taken out you should
insert it in a mouse's hole. To do so with a child's milk-tooth
which has fallen out will prevent the child from having toothache.
Or you should go behind the stove and throw your tooth backwards
over your head, saying "Mouse, give me your iron tooth; I will give
you my bone tooth." After that your other teeth will remain good.
Far away from Europe, at Raratonga, in the Pacific, when a child's
tooth was extracted, the following prayer used to be recited:

"Big rat! little rat!
Here is my old tooth.
Pray give me a new one."

Then the tooth was thrown on the thatch of the house, because rats
make their nests in the decayed thatch. The reason assigned for
invoking the rats on these occasions was that rats' teeth were the
strongest known to the natives.

Other parts which are commonly believed to remain in a sympathetic
union with the body, after the physical connexion has been severed,
are the navel-string and the afterbirth, including the placenta. So
intimate, indeed, is the union conceived to be, that the fortunes of
the individual for good or evil throughout life are often supposed
to be bound up with one or other of these portions of his person, so
that if his navel-string or afterbirth is preserved and properly
treated, he will be prosperous; whereas if it be injured or lost, he
will suffer accordingly. Thus certain tribes of Western Australia
believe that a man swims well or ill, according as his mother at his
birth threw the navel-string into water or not. Among the natives on
the Pennefather River in Queensland it is believed that a part of
the child's spirit (_cho-i_) stays in the afterbirth. Hence the
grandmother takes the afterbirth away and buries it in the sand. She
marks the spot by a number of twigs which she sticks in the ground
in a circle, tying their tops together so that the structure
resembles a cone. When Anjea, the being who causes conception in
women by putting mud babies into their wombs, comes along and sees
the place, he takes out the spirit and carries it away to one of his
haunts, such as a tree, a hole in a rock, or a lagoon where it may
remain for years. But sometime or other he will put the spirit again
into a baby, and it will be born once more into the world. In
Ponape, one of the Caroline Islands, the navel-string is placed in a
shell and then disposed of in such a way as shall best adapt the
child for the career which the parents have chosen for him; for
example, if they wish to make him a good climber, they will hang the
navel-string on a tree. The Kei islanders regard the navel-string as
the brother or sister of the child, according to the sex of the
infant. They put it in a pot with ashes, and set it in the branches
of a tree, that it may keep a watchful eye on the fortunes of its
comrade. Among the Bataks of Sumatra, as among many other peoples of
the Indian Archipelago, the placenta passes for the child's younger
brother or sister, the sex being determined by the sex of the child,
and it is buried under the house. According to the Bataks it is
bound up with the child's welfare, and seems, in fact, to be the
seat of the transferable soul, of which we shall hear something
later on. The Karo Bataks even affirm that of a man's two souls it
is the true soul that lives with the placenta under the house; that
is the soul, they say, which begets children.

The Baganda believe that every person is born with a double, and
this double they identify with the afterbirth, which they regard as
a second child. The mother buries the afterbirth at the root of a
plantain tree, which then becomes sacred until the fruit has
ripened, when it is plucked to furnish a sacred feast for the
family. Among the Cherokees the navel-string of a girl is buried
under a corn-mortar, in order that the girl may grow up to be a good
baker; but the navel-string of a boy is hung up on a tree in the
woods, in order that he may be a hunter. The Incas of Peru preserved
the navel-string with the greatest care, and gave it to the child to
suck whenever it fell ill. In ancient Mexico they used to give a
boy's navel-string to soldiers, to be buried by them on a field of
battle, in order that the boy might thus acquire a passion for war.
But the navel-string of a girl was buried beside the domestic
hearth, because this was believed to inspire her with a love of home
and taste for cooking and baking.

Even in Europe many people still believe that a person's destiny is
more or less bound up with that of his navel-string or afterbirth.
Thus in Rhenish Bavaria the navel-string is kept for a while wrapt
up in a piece of old linen, and then cut or pricked to pieces
according as the child is a boy or a girl, in order that he or she
may grow up to be a skilful workman or a good sempstress. In Berlin
the midwife commonly delivers the dried navel-string to the father
with a strict injunction to preserve it carefully, for so long as it
is kept the child will live and thrive and be free from sickness. In
Beauce and Perche the people are careful to throw the navel-string
neither into water nor into fire, believing that if that were done
the child would be drowned or burned.

Thus in many parts of the world the navel-string, or more commonly
the afterbirth, is regarded as a living being, the brother or sister
of the infant, or as the material object in which the guardian
spirit of the child or part of its soul resides. Further, the
sympathetic connexion supposed to exist between a person and his
afterbirth or navel-string comes out very clearly in the widespread
custom of treating the afterbirth or navel-string in ways which are
supposed to influence for life the character and career of the
person, making him, if it is a man, a nimble climber, a strong
swimmer, a skilful hunter, or a brave soldier, and making her, if it
is a woman, a cunning sempstress, a good baker, and so forth. Thus
the beliefs and usages concerned with the afterbirth or placenta,
and to a less extent with the navel-string, present a remarkable
parallel to the widespread doctrine of the transferable or external
soul and the customs founded on it. Hence it is hardly rash to
conjecture that the resemblance is no mere chance coincidence, but
that in the afterbirth or placenta we have a physical basis (not
necessarily the only one) for the theory and practice of the
external soul. The consideration of that subject is reserved for a
later part of this work.

A curious application of the doctrine of contagious magic is the
relation commonly believed to exist between a wounded man and the
agent of the wound, so that whatever is subsequently done by or to
the agent must correspondingly affect the patient either for good or
evil. Thus Pliny tells us that if you have wounded a man and are
sorry for it, you have only to spit on the hand that gave the wound,
and the pain of the sufferer will be instantly alleviated. In
Melanesia, if a man's friends get possession of the arrow which
wounded him, they keep it in a damp place or in cool leaves, for
then the inflammation will be trifling and will soon subside.
Meantime the enemy who shot the arrow is hard at work to aggravate
the wound by all the means in his power. For this purpose he and his
friends drink hot and burning juices and chew irritating leaves, for
this will clearly inflame and irritate the wound. Further, they keep
the bow near the fire to make the wound which it has inflicted hot;
and for the same reason they put the arrow-head, if it has been
recovered, into the fire. Moreover, they are careful to keep the
bow-string taut and to twang it occasionally, for this will cause
the wounded man to suffer from tension of the nerves and spasms of
tetanus. "It is constantly received and avouched," says Bacon, "that
the anointing of the weapon that maketh the wound will heal the
wound itself. In this experiment, upon the relation of men of credit
(though myself, as yet, am not fully inclined to believe it), you
shall note the points following: first, the ointment wherewith this
is done is made of divers ingredients, whereof the strangest and
hardest to come by are the moss upon the skull of a dead man
unburied, and the fats of a boar and a bear killed in the act of
generation." The precious ointment compounded out of these and other
ingredients was applied, as the philosopher explains, not to the
wound but to the weapon, and that even though the injured man was at
a great distance and knew nothing about it. The experiment, he tells
us, had been tried of wiping the ointment off the weapon without the
knowledge of the person hurt, with the result that he was presently
in a great rage of pain until the weapon was anointed again.
Moreover, "it is affirmed that if you cannot get the weapon, yet if
you put an instrument of iron or wood resembling the weapon into the
wound, whereby it bleedeth, the anointing of that instrument will
serve and work the effect." Remedies of the sort which Bacon deemed
worthy of his attention are still in vogue in the eastern counties
of England. Thus in Suffolk if a man cuts himself with a bill-hook
or a scythe he always takes care to keep the weapon bright, and oils
it to prevent the wound from festering. If he runs a thorn or, as he
calls it, a bush into his hand, he oils or greases the extracted
thorn. A man came to a doctor with an inflamed hand, having run a
thorn into it while he was hedging. On being told that the hand was
festering, he remarked, "That didn't ought to, for I greased the
bush well after I pulled it out." If a horse wounds its foot by
treading on a nail, a Suffolk groom will invariably preserve the
nail, clean it, and grease it every day, to prevent the foot from
festering. Similarly Cambridgeshire labourers think that if a horse
has run a nail into its foot, it is necessary to grease the nail
with lard or oil and put it away in some safe place, or the horse
will not recover. A few years ago a veterinary surgeon was sent for
to attend a horse which had ripped its side open on the hinge of a
farm gatepost. On arriving at the farm he found that nothing had
been done for the wounded horse, but that a man was busy trying to
pry the hinge out of the gatepost in order that it might be greased
and put away, which, in the opinion of the Cambridge wiseacres,
would conduce to the recovery of the animal. Similarly Essex rustics
opine that, if a man has been stabbed with a knife, it is essential
to his recovery that the knife should be greased and laid across the
bed on which the sufferer is lying. So in Bavaria you are directed
to anoint a linen rag with grease and tie it on the edge of the axe
that cut you, taking care to keep the sharp edge upwards. As the
grease on the axe dries, your wound heals. Similarly in the Harz
Mountains they say that if you cut yourself, you ought to smear the
knife or the scissors with fat and put the instrument away in a dry
place in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
As the knife dries, the wound heals. Other people, however, in
Germany say that you should stick the knife in some damp place in
the ground, and that your hurt will heal as the knife rusts. Others
again, in Bavaria, recommend you to smear the axe or whatever it is
with blood and put it under the eaves.

The train of reasoning which thus commends itself to English and
German rustics, in common with the savages of Melanesia and America,
is carried a step further by the aborigines of Central Australia,
who conceive that under certain circumstances the near relations of
a wounded man must grease themselves, restrict their diet, and
regulate their behaviour in other ways in order to ensure his
recovery. Thus when a lad has been circumcised and the wound is not
yet healed, his mother may not eat opossum, or a certain kind of
lizard, or carpet snake, or any kind of fat, for otherwise she would
retard the healing of the boy's wound. Every day she greases her
digging-sticks and never lets them out of her sight; at night she
sleeps with them close to her head. No one is allowed to touch them.
Every day also she rubs her body all over with grease, as in some
way this is believed to help her son's recovery. Another refinement
of the same principle is due to the ingenuity of the German peasant.
It is said that when one of his pigs or sheep breaks its leg, a
farmer of Rhenish Bavaria or Hesse will bind up the leg of a chair
with bandages and splints in due form. For some days thereafter no
one may sit on that chair, move it, or knock up against it; for to
do so would pain the injured pig or sheep and hinder the cure. In
this last case it is clear that we have passed wholly out of the
region of contagious magic and into the region of homoeopathic or
imitative magic; the chair-leg, which is treated instead of the
beast's leg, in no sense belongs to the animal, and the application
of bandages to it is a mere simulation of the treatment which a more
rational surgery would bestow on the real patient.

The sympathetic connexion supposed to exist between a man and the
weapon which has wounded him is probably founded on the notion that
the blood on the weapon continues to feel with the blood in his
body. For a like reason the Papuans of Tumleo, an island off New
Guinea, are careful to throw into the sea the bloody bandages with
which their wounds have been dressed, for they fear that if these
rags fell into the hands of an enemy he might injure them magically
thereby. Once when a man with a wound in his mouth, which bled
constantly, came to the missionaries to be treated, his faithful
wife took great pains to collect all the blood and cast it into the
sea. Strained and unnatural as this idea may seem to us, it is
perhaps less so than the belief that magic sympathy is maintained
between a person and his clothes, so that whatever is done to the
clothes will be felt by the man himself, even though he may be far
away at the time. In the Wotjobaluk tribe of Victoria a wizard would
sometimes get hold of a man's opossum rug and roast it slowly in the
fire, and as he did so the owner of the rug would fall sick. If the
wizard consented to undo the charm, he would give the rug back to
the sick man's friends, bidding them put it in water, "so as to wash
the fire out." When that happened, the sufferer would feel a
refreshing coolness and probably recover. In Tanna, one of the New
Hebrides, a man who had a grudge at another and desired his death
would try to get possession of a cloth which had touched the sweat
of his enemy's body. If he succeeded, he rubbed the cloth carefully
over with the leaves and twigs of a certain tree, rolled and bound
cloth, twigs, and leaves into a long sausage-shaped bundle, and
burned it slowly in the fire. As the bundle was consumed, the victim
fell ill, and when it was reduced to ashes, he died. In this last
form of enchantment, however, the magical sympathy may be supposed
to exist not so much between the man and the cloth as between the
man and the sweat which issued from his body. But in other cases of
the same sort it seems that the garment by itself is enough to give
the sorcerer a hold upon his victim. The witch in Theocritus, while
she melted an image or lump of wax in order that her faithless lover
might melt with love of her, did not forget to throw into the fire a
shred of his cloak which he had dropped in her house. In Prussia
they say that if you cannot catch a thief, the next best thing you
can do is to get hold of a garment which he may have shed in his
flight; for if you beat it soundly, the thief will fall sick. This
belief is firmly rooted in the popular mind. Some eighty or ninety
years ago, in the neighbourhood of Berend, a man was detected trying
to steal honey, and fled, leaving his coat behind him. When he heard
that the enraged owner of the honey was mauling his lost coat, he
was so alarmed that he took to his bed and died.

Again, magic may be wrought on a man sympathetically, not only
through his clothes and severed parts of himself, but also through
the impressions left by his body in sand or earth. In particular, it
is a world-wide superstition that by injuring footprints you injure
the feet that made them. Thus the natives of South-eastern Australia
think that they can lame a man by placing sharp pieces of quartz,
glass, bone, or charcoal in his footprints. Rheumatic pains are
often attributed by them to this cause. Seeing a Tatungolung man
very lame, Mr. Howitt asked him what was the matter. He said, "some
fellow has put _bottle_ in my foot." He was suffering from
rheumatism, but believed that an enemy had found his foot-track and
had buried it in a piece of broken bottle, the magical influence of
which had entered his foot.

Similar practices prevail in various parts of Europe. Thus in
Mecklenburg it is thought that if you drive a nail into a man's
footprint he will fall lame; sometimes it is required that the nail
should be taken from a coffin. A like mode of injuring an enemy is
resorted to in some parts of France. It is said that there was an
old woman who used to frequent Stow in Suffolk, and she was a witch.
If, while she walked, any one went after her and stuck a nail or a
knife into her footprint in the dust, the dame could not stir a step
till it was withdrawn. Among the South Slavs a girl will dig up the
earth from the footprints of the man she loves and put it in a
flower-pot. Then she plants in the pot a marigold, a flower that is
thought to be fadeless. And as its golden blossom grows and blooms
and never fades, so shall her sweetheart's love grow and bloom, and
never, never fade. Thus the love-spell acts on the man through the
earth he trod on. An old Danish mode of concluding a treaty was
based on the same idea of the sympathetic connexion between a man
and his footprints: the covenanting parties sprinkled each other's
footprints with their own blood, thus giving a pledge of fidelity.
In ancient Greece superstitions of the same sort seem to have been
current, for it was thought that if a horse stepped on the track of
a wolf he was seized with numbness; and a maxim ascribed to
Pythagoras forbade people to pierce a man's footprints with a nail
or a knife.

The same superstition is turned to account by hunters in many parts
of the world for the purpose of running down the game. Thus a German
huntsman will stick a nail taken from a coffin into the fresh spoor
of the quarry, believing that this will hinder the animal from
escaping. The aborigines of Victoria put hot embers in the tracks of
the animals they were pursuing. Hottentot hunters throw into the air
a handful of sand taken from the footprints of the game, believing
that this will bring the animal down. Thompson Indians used to lay
charms on the tracks of wounded deer; after that they deemed it
superfluous to pursue the animal any further that day, for being
thus charmed it could not travel far and would soon die. Similarly,
Ojebway Indians placed "medicine" on the track of the first deer or
bear they met with, supposing that this would soon bring the animal
into sight, even if it were two or three days' journey off; for this
charm had power to compress a journey of several days into a few
hours. Ewe hunters of West Africa stab the footprints of game with a
sharp-pointed stick in order to maim the quarry and allow them to
come up with it.

But though the footprint is the most obvious it is not the only
impression made by the body through which magic may be wrought on a
man. The aborigines of South-eastern Australia believe that a man
may be injured by burying sharp fragments of quartz, glass, and so
forth in the mark made by his reclining body; the magical virtue of
these sharp things enters his body and causes those acute pains
which the ignorant European puts down to rheumatism. We can now
understand why it was a maxim with the Pythagoreans that in rising
from bed you should smooth away the impression left by your body on
the bed-clothes. The rule was simply an old precaution against
magic, forming part of a whole code of superstitious maxims which
antiquity fathered on Pythagoras, though doubtless they were
familiar to the barbarous forefathers of the Greeks long before the
time of that philosopher.

4. The Magician's Progress

WE have now concluded our examination of the general principles of
sympathetic magic. The examples by which I have illustrated them
have been drawn for the most part from what may be called private
magic, that is from magical rites and incantations practised for the
benefit or the injury of individuals. But in savage society there is
commonly to be found in addition what we may call public magic, that
is, sorcery practised for the benefit of the whole community.
Wherever ceremonies of this sort are observed for the common good,
it is obvious that the magician ceases to be merely a private
practitioner and becomes to some extent a public functionary. The
development of such a class of functionaries is of great importance
for the political as well as the religious evolution of society. For
when the welfare of the tribe is supposed to depend on the
performance of these magical rites, the magician rises into a
position of much influence and repute, and may readily acquire the
rank and authority of a chief or king. The profession accordingly
draws into its ranks some of the ablest and most ambitious men of
the tribe, because it holds out to them a prospect of honour,
wealth, and power such as hardly any other career could offer. The
acuter minds perceive how easy it is to dupe their weaker brother
and to play on his superstition for their own advantage. Not that
the sorcerer is always a knave and impostor; he is often sincerely
convinced that he really possesses those wonderful powers which the
credulity of his fellows ascribes to him. But the more sagacious he
is, the more likely he is to see through the fallacies which impose
on duller wits. Thus the ablest members of the profession must tend
to be more or less conscious deceivers; and it is just these men who
in virtue of their superior ability will generally come to the top
and win for themselves positions of the highest dignity and the most
commanding authority. The pitfalls which beset the path of the
professional sorcerer are many, and as a rule only the man of
coolest head and sharpest wit will be able to steer his way through
them safely. For it must always be remembered that every single
profession and claim put forward by the magician as such is false;
not one of them can be maintained without deception, conscious or
unconscious. Accordingly the sorcerer who sincerely believes in his
own extravagant pretensions is in far greater peril and is much more
likely to be cut short in his career than the deliberate impostor.
The honest wizard always expects that his charms and incantations
will produce their supposed effect; and when they fail, not only
really, as they always do, but conspicuously and disastrously, as
they often do, he is taken aback: he is not, like his knavish
colleague, ready with a plausible excuse to account for the failure,
and before he can find one he may be knocked on the head by his
disappointed and angry employers.

The general result is that at this stage of social evolution the
supreme power tends to fall into the hands of men of the keenest
intelligence and the most unscrupulous character. If we could
balance the harm they do by their knavery against the benefits they
confer by their superior sagacity, it might well be found that the
good greatly outweighed the evil. For more mischief has probably
been wrought in the world by honest fools in high places than by
intelligent rascals. Once your shrewd rogue has attained the height
of his ambition, and has no longer any selfish end to further, he
may, and often does, turn his talents, his experience, his
resources, to the service of the public. Many men who have been
least scrupulous in the acquisition of power have been most
beneficent in the use of it, whether the power they aimed at and won
was that of wealth, political authority, or what not. In the field
of politics the wily intriguer, the ruthless victor, may end by
being a wise and magnanimous ruler, blessed in his lifetime,
lamented at his death, admired and applauded by posterity. Such men,
to take two of the most conspicuous instances, were Julius Caesar
and Augustus. But once a fool always a fool, and the greater the
power in his hands the more disastrous is likely to be the use he
makes of it. The heaviest calamity in English history, the breach
with America, might never have occurred if George the Third had not
been an honest dullard.

Thus, so far as the public profession of magic affected the
constitution of savage society, it tended to place the control of
affairs in the hands of the ablest man: it shifted the balance of
power from the many to the one: it substituted a monarchy for a
democracy, or rather for an oligarchy of old men; for in general the
savage community is ruled, not by the whole body of adult males, but
by a council of elders. The change, by whatever causes produced, and
whatever the character of the early rulers, was on the whole very
beneficial. For the rise of monarchy appears to be an essential
condition of the emergence of mankind from savagery. No human being
is so hide-bound by custom and tradition as your democratic savage;
in no state of society consequently is progress so slow and
difficult. The old notion that the savage is the freest of mankind
is the reverse of the truth. He is a slave, not indeed to a visible
master, but to the past, to the spirits of his dead forefathers, who
haunt his steps from birth to death, and rule him with a rod of
iron. What they did is the pattern of right, the unwritten law to
which he yields a blind unquestioning obedience. The least possible
scope is thus afforded to superior talent to change old customs for
the better. The ablest man is dragged down by the weakest and
dullest, who necessarily sets the standard, since he cannot rise,
while the other can fall. The surface of such a society presents a
uniform dead level, so far as it is humanly possible to reduce the
natural inequalities, the immeasurable real differences of inborn
capacity and temper, to a false superficial appearance of equality.
From this low and stagnant condition of affairs, which demagogues
and dreamers in later times have lauded as the ideal state, the
Golden Age, of humanity, everything that helps to raise society by
opening a career to talent and proportioning the degrees of
authority to men's natural abilities, deserves to be welcomed by all
who have the real good of their fellows at heart. Once these
elevating influences have begun to operate--and they cannot be for
ever suppressed--the progress of civilisation becomes comparatively
rapid. The rise of one man to supreme power enables him to carry
through changes in a single lifetime which previously many
generations might not have sufficed to effect; and if, as will often
happen, he is a man of intellect and energy above the common, he
will readily avail himself of the opportunity. Even the whims and
caprices of a tyrant may be of service in breaking the chain of
custom which lies so heavy on the savage. And as soon as the tribe
ceases to be swayed by the timid and divided counsels of the elders,
and yields to the direction of a single strong and resolute mind, it
becomes formidable to its neighbours and enters on a career of
aggrandisement, which at an early stage of history is often highly
favourable to social, industrial, and intellectual progress. For
extending its sway, partly by force of arms, partly by the voluntary
submission of weaker tribes, the community soon acquires wealth and
slaves, both of which, by relieving some classes from the perpetual
struggle for a bare subsistence, afford them an opportunity of
devoting themselves to that disinterested pursuit of knowledge which
is the noblest and most powerful instrument to ameliorate the lot of

Intellectual progress, which reveals itself in the growth of art and
science and the spread of more liberal views, cannot be dissociated
from industrial or economic progress, and that in its turn receives
an immense impulse from conquest and empire. It is no mere accident
that the most vehement outbursts of activity of the human mind have
followed close on the heels of victory, and that the great
conquering races of the world have commonly done most to advance and
spread civilisation, thus healing in peace the wounds they inflicted
in war. The Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs are our
witnesses in the past: we may yet live to see a similar outburst in
Japan. Nor, to remount the stream of history to its sources, is it
an accident that all the first great strides towards civilisation
have been made under despotic and theocratic governments, like those
of Egypt, Babylon, and Peru, where the supreme ruler claimed and
received the servile allegiance of his subjects in the double
character of a king and a god. It is hardly too much to say that at
this early epoch despotism is the best friend of humanity and,
paradoxical as it may sound, of liberty. For after all there is more
liberty in the best sense--liberty to think our own thoughts and to
fashion our own destinies--under the most absolute despotism, the
most grinding tyranny, than under the apparent freedom of savage
life, where the individual's lot is cast from the cradle to the
grave in the iron mould of hereditary custom.

So far, therefore, as the public profession of magic has been one of
the roads by which the ablest men have passed to supreme power, it
has contributed to emancipate mankind from the thraldom of tradition
and to elevate them into a larger, freer life, with a broader
outlook on the world. This is no small service rendered to humanity.
And when we remember further that in another direction magic has
paved the way for science, we are forced to admit that if the black
art has done much evil, it has also been the source of much good;
that if it is the child of error, it has yet been the mother of
freedom and truth.

IV. Magic and Religion

THE examples collected in the last chapter may suffice to illustrate
the general principles of sympathetic magic in its two branches, to
which we have given the names of Homoeopathic and Contagious
respectively. In some cases of magic which have come before us we
have seen that the operation of spirits is assumed, and that an
attempt is made to win their favour by prayer and sacrifice. But
these cases are on the whole exceptional; they exhibit magic tinged
and alloyed with religion. Wherever sympathetic magic occurs in its
pure unadulterated form, it assumes that in nature one event follows
another necessarily and invariably without the intervention of any
spiritual or personal agency. Thus its fundamental conception is
identical with that of modern science; underlying the whole system
is a faith, implicit but real and firm, in the order and uniformity
of nature. The magician does not doubt that the same causes will
always produce the same effects, that the performance of the proper
ceremony, accompanied by the appropriate spell, will inevitably be
attended by the desired result, unless, indeed, his incantations
should chance to be thwarted and foiled by the more potent charms of
another sorcerer. He supplicates no higher power: he sues the favour
of no fickle and wayward being: he abases himself before no awful
deity. Yet his power, great as he believes it to be, is by no means
arbitrary and unlimited. He can wield it only so long as he strictly
conforms to the rules of his art, or to what may be called the laws
of nature as conceived by him. To neglect these rules, to break
these laws in the smallest particular, is to incur failure, and may
even expose the unskilful practitioner himself to the utmost peril.
If he claims a sovereignty over nature, it is a constitutional
sovereignty rigorously limited in its scope and exercised in exact
conformity with ancient usage. Thus the analogy between the magical
and the scientific conceptions of the world is close. In both of
them the succession of events is assumed to be perfectly regular and
certain, being determined by immutable laws, the operation of which
can be foreseen and calculated precisely; the elements of caprice,
of chance, and of accident are banished from the course of nature.
Both of them open up a seemingly boundless vista of possibilities to
him who knows the causes of things and can touch the secret springs
that set in motion the vast and intricate mechanism of the world.
Hence the strong attraction which magic and science alike have
exercised on the human mind; hence the powerful stimulus that both
have given to the pursuit of knowledge. They lure the weary
enquirer, the footsore seeker, on through the wilderness of
disappointment in the present by their endless promises of the
future: they take him up to the top of an exceeding high mountain
and show him, beyond the dark clouds and rolling mists at his feet,
a vision of the celestial city, far off, it may be, but radiant with
unearthly splendour, bathed in the light of dreams.

The fatal flaw of magic lies not in its general assumption of a
sequence of events determined by law, but in its total misconception
of the nature of the particular laws which govern that sequence. If
we analyse the various cases of sympathetic magic which have been
passed in review in the preceding pages, and which may be taken as
fair samples of the bulk, we shall find, as I have already
indicated, that they are all mistaken applications of one or other
of two great fundamental laws of thought, namely, the association of
ideas by similarity and the association of ideas by contiguity in
space or time. A mistaken association of similar ideas produces
homoeopathic or imitative magic: a mistaken association of
contiguous ideas produces contagious magic. The principles of
association are excellent in themselves, and indeed absolutely
essential to the working of the human mind. Legitimately applied
they yield science; illegitimately applied they yield magic, the
bastard sister of science. It is therefore a truism, almost a
tautology, to say that all magic is necessarily false and barren;
for were it ever to become true and fruitful, it would no longer be
magic but science. From the earliest times man has been engaged in a
search for general rules whereby to turn the order of natural
phenomena to his own advantage, and in the long search he has
scraped together a great hoard of such maxims, some of them golden
and some of them mere dross. The true or golden rules constitute the
body of applied science which we call the arts; the false are magic.

If magic is thus next of kin to science, we have still to enquire
how it stands related to religion. But the view we take of that
relation will necessarily be coloured by the idea which we have
formed of the nature of religion itself; hence a writer may
reasonably be expected to define his conception of religion before
he proceeds to investigate its relation to magic. There is probably
no subject in the world about which opinions differ so much as the
nature of religion, and to frame a definition of it which would
satisfy every one must obviously be impossible. All that a writer
can do is, first, to say clearly what he means by religion, and
afterwards to employ the word consistently in that sense throughout
his work. By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or
conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct
and control the course of nature and of human life. Thus defined,
religion consists of two elements, a theoretical and a practical,
namely, a belief in powers higher than man and an attempt to
propitiate or please them. Of the two, belief clearly comes first,
since we must believe in the existence of a divine being before we
can attempt to please him. But unless the belief leads to a
corresponding practice, it is not a religion but merely a theology;
in the language of St. James, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead,
being alone." In other words, no man is religious who does not
govern his conduct in some measure by the fear or love of God. On
the other hand, mere practice, divested of all religious belief, is
also not religion. Two men may behave in exactly the same way, and
yet one of them may be religious and the other not. If the one acts
from the love or fear of God, he is religious; if the other acts
from the love or fear of man, he is moral or immoral according as
his behaviour comports or conflicts with the general good. Hence
belief and practice or, in theological language, faith and works are
equally essential to religion, which cannot exist without both of
them. But it is not necessary that religious practice should always
take the form of a ritual; that is, it need not consist in the
offering of sacrifice, the recitation of prayers, and other outward
ceremonies. Its aim is to please the deity, and if the deity is one
who delights in charity and mercy and purity more than in oblations
of blood, the chanting of hymns, and the fumes of incense, his
worshippers will best please him, not by prostrating themselves
before him, by intoning his praises, and by filling his temples with
costly gifts, but by being pure and merciful and charitable towards
men, for in so doing they will imitate, so far as human infirmity
allows, the perfections of the divine nature. It was this ethical
side of religion which the Hebrew prophets, inspired with a noble
ideal of God's goodness and holiness, were never weary of
inculcating. Thus Micah says: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is
good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And at a later time
much of the force by which Christianity conquered the world was
drawn from the same high conception of God's moral nature and the
duty laid on men of conforming themselves to it. "Pure religion and
undefiled," says St. James, "before God and the Father is this, To
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world."

But if religion involves, first, a belief in superhuman beings who
rule the world, and, second, an attempt to win their favour, it
clearly assumes that the course of nature is to some extent elastic
or variable, and that we can persuade or induce the mighty beings
who control it to deflect, for our benefit, the current of events
from the channel in which they would otherwise flow. Now this
implied elasticity or variability of nature is directly opposed to
the principles of magic as well as of science, both of which assume
that the processes of nature are rigid and invariable in their
operation, and that they can as little be turned from their course
by persuasion and entreaty as by threats and intimidation. The
distinction between the two conflicting views of the universe turns
on their answer to the crucial question, Are the forces which govern
the world conscious and personal, or unconscious and impersonal?
Religion, as a conciliation of the superhuman powers, assumes the
former member of the alternative. For all conciliation implies that
the being conciliated is a conscious or personal agent, that his
conduct is in some measure uncertain, and that he can be prevailed
upon to vary it in the desired direction by a judicious appeal to
his interests, his appetites, or his emotions. Conciliation is never
employed towards things which are regarded as inanimate, nor towards
persons whose behaviour in the particular circumstances is known to
be determined with absolute certainty. Thus in so far as religion
assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who may be
turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental
antagonism to magic as well as to science, both of which take for
granted that the course of nature is determined, not by the passions
or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of immutable
laws acting mechanically. In magic, indeed, the assumption is only
implicit, but in science it is explicit. It is true that magic often
deals with spirits, which are personal agents of the kind assumed by
religion; but whenever it does so in its proper form, it treats them
exactly in the same fashion as it treats inanimate agents, that is,
it constrains or coerces instead of conciliating or propitiating
them as religion would do. Thus it assumes that all personal beings,
whether human or divine, are in the last resort subject to those
impersonal forces which control all things, but which nevertheless
can be turned to account by any one who knows how to manipulate them
by the appropriate ceremonies and spells. In ancient Egypt, for
example, the magicians claimed the power of compelling even the
highest gods to do their bidding, and actually threatened them with
destruction in case of disobedience. Sometimes, without going quite
so far as that, the wizard declared that he would scatter the bones
of Osiris or reveal his sacred legend, if the god proved
contumacious. Similarly in India at the present day the great Hindoo
trinity itself of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva is subject to the
sorcerers, who, by means of their spells, exercise such an
ascendency over the mightiest deities, that these are bound
submissively to execute on earth below, or in heaven above, whatever
commands their masters the magicians may please to issue. There is a
saying everywhere current in India: "The whole universe is subject
to the gods; the gods are subject to the spells (_mantras_); the
spells to the Brahmans; therefore the Brahmans are our gods."

This radical conflict of principle between magic and religion
sufficiently explains the relentless hostility with which in history
the priest has often pursued the magician. The haughty
self-sufficiency of the magician, his arrogant demeanour towards the
higher powers, and his unabashed claim to exercise a sway like
theirs could not but revolt the priest, to whom, with his awful
sense of the divine majesty, and his humble prostration in presence
of it, such claims and such a demeanour must have appeared an
impious and blasphemous usurpation of prerogatives that belong to
God alone. And sometimes, we may suspect, lower motives concurred to
whet the edge of the priest's hostility. He professed to be the
proper medium, the true intercessor between God and man, and no
doubt his interests as well as his feelings were often injured by a
rival practitioner, who preached a surer and smoother road to
fortune than the rugged and slippery path of divine favour.

Yet this antagonism, familiar as it is to us, seems to have made its
appearance comparatively late in the history of religion. At an
earlier stage the functions of priest and sorcerer were often
combined or, to speak perhaps more correctly, were not yet
differentiated from each other. To serve his purpose man wooed the
good-will of gods or spirits by prayer and sacrifice, while at the
same time he had recourse to ceremonies and forms of words which he
hoped would of themselves bring about the desired result without the
help of god or devil. In short, he performed religious and magical
rites simultaneously; he uttered prayers and incantations almost in
the same breath, knowing or recking little of the theoretical
inconsistency of his behaviour, so long as by hook or crook he
contrived to get what he wanted. Instances of this fusion or
confusion of magic with religion have already met us in the
practices of Melanesians and of other peoples.

The same confusion of magic and religion has survived among peoples
that have risen to higher levels of culture. It was rife in ancient
India and ancient Egypt; it is by no means extinct among European
peasantry at the present day. With regard to ancient India we are
told by an eminent Sanscrit scholar that "the sacrificial ritual at
the earliest period of which we have detailed information is
pervaded with practices that breathe the spirit of the most
primitive magic." Speaking of the importance of magic in the East,
and especially in Egypt, Professor Maspero remarks that "we ought
not to attach to the word magic the degrading idea which it almost
inevitably calls up in the mind of a modern. Ancient magic was the
very foundation of religion. The faithful who desired to obtain some
favour from a god had no chance of succeeding except by laying hands
on the deity, and this arrest could only be effected by means of a
certain number of rites, sacrifices, prayers, and chants, which the
god himself had revealed, and which obliged him to do what was
demanded of him."

Among the ignorant classes of modern Europe the same confusion of
ideas, the same mixture of religion and magic, crops up in various
forms. Thus we are told that in France "the majority of the peasants
still believe that the priest possesses a secret and irresistible
power over the elements. By reciting certain prayers which he alone
knows and has the right to utter, yet for the utterance of which he
must afterwards demand absolution, he can, on an occasion of
pressing danger, arrest or reverse for a moment the action of the
eternal laws of the physical world. The winds, the storms, the hail,
and the rain are at his command and obey his will. The fire also is
subject to him, and the flames of a conflagration are extinguished
at his word." For example, French peasants used to be, perhaps are
still, persuaded that the priests could celebrate, with certain
special rites, a Mass of the Holy Spirit, of which the efficacy was
so miraculous that it never met with any opposition from the divine
will; God was forced to grant whatever was asked of Him in this
form, however rash and importunate might be the petition. No idea of
impiety or irreverence attached to the rite in the minds of those
who, in some of the great extremities of life, sought by this
singular means to take the kingdom of heaven by storm. The secular
priests generally refused to say the Mass of the Holy Spirit; but
the monks, especially the Capuchin friars, had the reputation of
yielding with less scruple to the entreaties of the anxious and
distressed. In the constraint thus supposed by Catholic peasantry to
be laid by the priest upon the deity we seem to have an exact
counterpart of the power which the ancient Egyptians ascribed to
their magicians. Again, to take another example, in many villages of
Provence the priest is still reputed to possess the faculty of
averting storms. It is not every priest who enjoys this reputation;
and in some villages, when a change of pastors takes place, the
parishioners are eager to learn whether the new incumbent has the
power (_pouder_), as they call it. At the first sign of a heavy
storm they put him to the proof by inviting him to exorcise the
threatening clouds; and if the result answers to their hopes, the
new shepherd is assured of the sympathy and respect of his flock. In
some parishes, where the reputation of the curate in this respect
stood higher than that of his rector, the relations between the two
have been so strained in consequence that the bishop has had to
translate the rector to another benefice. Again, Gascon peasants
believe that to revenge themselves on their enemies bad men will
sometimes induce a priest to say a mass called the Mass of Saint
Sécaire. Very few priests know this mass, and three-fourths of those
who do know it would not say it for love or money. None but wicked
priests dare to perform the gruesome ceremony, and you may be quite
sure that they will have a very heavy account to render for it at
the last day. No curate or bishop, not even the archbishop of Auch,
can pardon them; that right belongs to the pope of Rome alone. The
Mass of Saint Sécaire may be said only in a ruined or deserted
church, where owls mope and hoot, where bats flit in the gloaming,
where gypsies lodge of nights, and where toads squat under the
desecrated altar. Thither the bad priest comes by night with his
light o' love, and at the first stroke of eleven he begins to mumble
the mass backwards, and ends just as the clocks are knelling the
midnight hour. His leman acts as clerk. The host he blesses is black
and has three points; he consecrates no wine, but instead he drinks
the water of a well into which the body of an unbaptized infant has
been flung. He makes the sign of the cross, but it is on the ground
and with his left foot. And many other things he does which no good
Christian could look upon without being struck blind and deaf and
dumb for the rest of his life. But the man for whom the mass is said
withers away little by little, and nobody can say what is the matter
with him; even the doctors can make nothing of it. They do not know
that he is slowly dying of the Mass of Saint Sécaire.

Yet though magic is thus found to fuse and amalgamate with religion
in many ages and in many lands, there are some grounds for thinking
that this fusion is not primitive, and that there was a time when
man trusted to magic alone for the satisfaction of such wants as
transcended his immediate animal cravings. In the first place a
consideration of the fundamental notions of magic and religion may
incline us to surmise that magic is older than religion in the
history of humanity. We have seen that on the one hand magic is
nothing but a mistaken application of the very simplest and most
elementary processes of the mind, namely the association of ideas by
virtue of resemblance or contiguity; and that on the other hand
religion assumes the operation of conscious or personal agents,
superior to man, behind the visible screen of nature. Obviously the
conception of personal agents is more complex than a simple
recognition of the similarity or contiguity of ideas; and a theory
which assumes that the course of nature is determined by conscious
agents is more abstruse and recondite, and requires for its
apprehension a far higher degree of intelligence and reflection,
than the view that things succeed each other simply by reason of
their contiguity or resemblance. The very beasts associate the ideas
of things that are like each other or that have been found together
in their experience; and they could hardly survive for a day if they
ceased to do so. But who attributes to the animals a belief that the
phenomena of nature are worked by a multitude of invisible animals
or by one enormous and prodigiously strong animal behind the scenes?
It is probably no injustice to the brutes to assume that the honour
of devising a theory of this latter sort must be reserved for human
reason. Thus, if magic be deduced immediately from elementary
processes of reasoning, and be, in fact, an error into which the
mind falls almost spontaneously, while religion rests on conceptions
which the merely animal intelligence can hardly be supposed to have
yet attained to, it becomes probable that magic arose before
religion in the evolution of our race, and that man essayed to bend
nature to his wishes by the sheer force of spells and enchantments
before he strove to coax and mollify a coy, capricious, or irascible
deity by the soft insinuation of prayer and sacrifice.

The conclusion which we have thus reached deductively from a
consideration of the fundamental ideas of magic and religion is
confirmed inductively by the observation that among the aborigines
of Australia, the rudest savages as to whom we possess accurate
information, magic is universally practised, whereas religion in the
sense of a propitiation or conciliation of the higher powers seems
to be nearly unknown. Roughly speaking, all men in Australia are
magicians, but not one is a priest; everybody fancies he can
influence his fellows or the course of nature by sympathetic magic,
but nobody dreams of propitiating gods by prayer and sacrifice.

But if in the most backward state of human society now known to us
we find magic thus conspicuously present and religion conspicuously
absent, may we not reasonably conjecture that the civilised races of
the world have also at some period of their history passed through a
similar intellectual phase, that they attempted to force the great
powers of nature to do their pleasure before they thought of
courting their favour by offerings and prayer--in short that, just
as on the material side of human culture there has everywhere been
an Age of Stone, so on the intellectual side there has everywhere
been an Age of Magic? There are reasons for answering this question
in the affirmative. When we survey the existing races of mankind
from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego, or from Scotland to Singapore,
we observe that they are distinguished one from the other by a great
variety of religions, and that these distinctions are not, so to
speak, merely coterminous with the broad distinctions of race, but
descend into the minuter subdivisions of states and commonwealths,
nay, that they honeycomb the town, the village, and even the family,
so that the surface of society all over the world is cracked and
seamed, sapped and mined with rents and fissures and yawning
crevasses opened up by the disintegrating influence of religious
dissension. Yet when we have penetrated through these differences,
which affect mainly the intelligent and thoughtful part of the
community, we shall find underlying them all a solid stratum of
intellectual agreement among the dull, the weak, the ignorant, and
the superstitious, who constitute, unfortunately, the vast majority
of mankind. One of the great achievements of the nineteenth century
was to run shafts down into this low mental stratum in many parts of
the world, and thus to discover its substantial identity everywhere.
It is beneath our feet--and not very far beneath them--here in
Europe at the present day, and it crops up on the surface in the
heart of the Australian wilderness and wherever the advent of a
higher civilisation has not crushed it under ground. This universal
faith, this truly Catholic creed, is a belief in the efficacy of
magic. While religious systems differ not only in different
countries, but in the same country in different ages, the system of
sympathetic magic remains everywhere and at all times substantially
alike in its principles and practice. Among the ignorant and
superstitious classes of modern Europe it is very much what it was
thousands of years ago in Egypt and India, and what it now is among
the lowest savages surviving in the remotest corners of the world.
If the test of truth lay in a show of hands or a counting of heads,
the system of magic might appeal, with far more reason than the
Catholic Church, to the proud motto, "_Quod semper, quod ubique,
quod ab omnibus,_" as the sure and certain credential of its own

It is not our business here to consider what bearing the permanent
existence of such a solid layer of savagery beneath the surface of
society, and unaffected by the superficial changes of religion and
culture, has upon the future of humanity. The dispassionate
observer, whose studies have led him to plumb its depths, can hardly
regard it otherwise than as a standing menace to civilisation. We
seem to move on a thin crust which may at any moment be rent by the
subterranean forces slumbering below. From time to time a hollow
murmur underground or a sudden spirt of flame into the air tells of
what is going on beneath our feet. Now and then the polite world is
startled by a paragraph in a newspaper which tells how in Scotland
an image has been found stuck full of pins for the purpose of
killing an obnoxious laird or minister, how a woman has been slowly
roasted to death as a witch in Ireland, or how a girl has been
murdered and chopped up in Russia to make those candles of human
tallow by whose light thieves hope to pursue their midnight trade
unseen. But whether the influences that make for further progress,
or those that threaten to undo what has already been accomplished,
will ultimately prevail; whether the impulsive energy of the
minority or the dead weight of the majority of mankind will prove
the stronger force to carry us up to higher heights or to sink us
into lower depths, are questions rather for the sage, the moralist,
and the statesman, whose eagle vision scans the future, than for the
humble student of the present and the past. Here we are only
concerned to ask how far the uniformity, the universality, and the
permanence of a belief in magic, compared with the endless variety
and the shifting character of religious creeds, raises a presumption
that the former represents a ruder and earlier phase of the human
mind, through which all the races of mankind have passed or are
passing on their way to religion and science.

If an Age of Religion has thus everywhere, as I venture to surmise,
been preceded by an Age of Magic, it is natural that we should
enquire what causes have led mankind, or rather a portion of them,
to abandon magic as a principle of faith and practice and to betake
themselves to religion instead. When we reflect upon the multitude,
the variety, and the complexity of the facts to be explained, and
the scantiness of our information regarding them, we shall be ready
to acknowledge that a full and satisfactory solution of so profound
a problem is hardly to be hoped for, and that the most we can do in
the present state of our knowledge is to hazard a more or less
plausible conjecture. With all due diffidence, then, I would suggest
that a tardy recognition of the inherent falsehood and barrenness of
magic set the more thoughtful part of mankind to cast about for a
truer theory of nature and a more fruitful method of turning her
resources to account. The shrewder intelligences must in time have
come to perceive that magical ceremonies and incantations did not
really effect the results which they were designed to produce, and
which the majority of their simpler fellows still believed that they
did actually produce. This great discovery of the inefficacy of
magic must have wrought a radical though probably slow revolution in
the minds of those who had the sagacity to make it. The discovery
amounted to this, that men for the first time recognised their
inability to manipulate at pleasure certain natural forces which
hitherto they had believed to be completely within their control. It
was a confession of human ignorance and weakness. Man saw that he
had taken for causes what were no causes, and that all his efforts
to work by means of these imaginary causes had been vain. His
painful toil had been wasted, his curious ingenuity had been
squandered to no purpose. He had been pulling at strings to which
nothing was attached; he had been marching, as he thought, straight
to the goal, while in reality he had only been treading in a narrow
circle. Not that the effects which he had striven so hard to produce
did not continue to manifest themselves. They were still produced,
but not by him. The rain still fell on the thirsty ground: the sun
still pursued his daily, and the moon her nightly journey across the
sky: the silent procession of the seasons still moved in light and
shadow, in cloud and sunshine across the earth: men were still born
to labour and sorrow, and still, after a brief sojourn here, were
gathered to their fathers in the long home hereafter. All things
indeed went on as before, yet all seemed different to him from whose
eyes the old scales had fallen. For he could no longer cherish the
pleasing illusion that it was he who guided the earth and the heaven
in their courses, and that they would cease to perform their great
revolutions were he to take his feeble hand from the wheel. In the
death of his enemies and his friends he no longer saw a proof of the
resistless potency of his own or of hostile enchantments; he now
knew that friends and foes alike had succumbed to a force stronger
than any that he could wield, and in obedience to a destiny which he
was powerless to control.

Thus cut adrift from his ancient moorings and left to toss on a
troubled sea of doubt and uncertainty, his old happy confidence in
himself and his powers rudely shaken, our primitive philosopher must
have been sadly perplexed and agitated till he came to rest, as in a
quiet haven after a tempestuous voyage, in a new system of faith and
practice, which seemed to offer a solution of his harassing doubts
and a substitute, however precarious, for that sovereignty over
nature which he had reluctantly abdicated. If the great world went
on its way without the help of him or his fellows, it must surely be
because there were other beings, like himself, but far stronger,
who, unseen themselves, directed its course and brought about all
the varied series of events which he had hitherto believed to be
dependent on his own magic. It was they, as he now believed, and not
he himself, who made the stormy wind to blow, the lightning to
flash, and the thunder to roll; who had laid the foundations of the
solid earth and set bounds to the restless sea that it might not
pass; who caused all the glorious lights of heaven to shine; who
gave the fowls of the air their meat and the wild beasts of the
desert their prey; who bade the fruitful land to bring forth in
abundance, the high hills to be clothed with forests, the bubbling
springs to rise under the rocks in the valleys, and green pastures
to grow by still waters; who breathed into man's nostrils and made
him live, or turned him to destruction by famine and pestilence and
war. To these mighty beings, whose handiwork he traced in all the
gorgeous and varied pageantry of nature, man now addressed himself,
humbly confessing his dependence on their invisible power, and
beseeching them of their mercy to furnish him with all good things,
to defend him from the perils and dangers by which our mortal life
is compassed about on every hand, and finally to bring his immortal
spirit, freed from the burden of the body, to some happier world,
beyond the reach of pain and sorrow, where he might rest with them
and with the spirits of good men in joy and felicity for ever.

In this, or some such way as this, the deeper minds may be conceived
to have made the great transition from magic to religion. But even
in them the change can hardly ever have been sudden; probably it
proceeded very slowly, and required long ages for its more or less
perfect accomplishment. For the recognition of man's powerlessness
to influence the course of nature on a grand scale must have been
gradual; he cannot have been shorn of the whole of his fancied
dominion at a blow. Step by step he must have been driven back from
his proud position; foot by foot he must have yielded, with a sigh,
the ground which he had once viewed as his own. Now it would be the
wind, now the rain, now the sunshine, now the thunder, that he
confessed himself unable to wield at will; and as province after
province of nature thus fell from his grasp, till what had once
seemed a kingdom threatened to shrink into a prison, man must have
been more and more profoundly impressed with a sense of his own
helplessness and the might of the invisible beings by whom he
believed himself to be surrounded. Thus religion, beginning as a
slight and partial acknowledgment of powers superior to man, tends
with the growth of knowledge to deepen into a confession of man's
entire and absolute dependence on the divine; his old free bearing
is exchanged for an attitude of lowliest prostration before the
mysterious powers of the unseen, and his highest virtue is to submit
his will to theirs: _In la sua volontade è nostra pace._ But this
deepening sense of religion, this more perfect submission to the
divine will in all things, affects only those higher intelligences
who have breadth of view enough to comprehend the vastness of the
universe and the littleness of man. Small minds cannot grasp great
ideas; to their narrow comprehension, their purblind vision, nothing
seems really great and important but themselves. Such minds hardly
rise into religion at all. They are, indeed, drilled by their
betters into an outward conformity with its precepts and a verbal
profession of its tenets; but at heart they cling to their old
magical superstitions, which may be discountenanced and forbidden,
but cannot be eradicated by religion, so long as they have their
roots deep down in the mental framework and constitution of the
great majority of mankind.

The reader may well be tempted to ask, How was it that intelligent
men did not sooner detect the fallacy of magic? How could they
continue to cherish expectations that were invariably doomed to
disappointment? With what heart persist in playing venerable antics
that led to nothing, and mumbling solemn balderdash that remained
without effect? Why cling to beliefs which were so flatly
contradicted by experience? How dare to repeat experiments that had
failed so often? The answer seems to be that the fallacy was far
from easy to detect, the failure by no means obvious, since in many,
perhaps in most cases, the desired event did actually follow, at a
longer or shorter interval, the performance of the rite which was
designed to bring it about; and a mind of more than common acuteness
was needed to perceive that, even in these cases, the rite was not
necessarily the cause of the event. A ceremony intended to make the
wind blow or the rain fall, or to work the death of an enemy, will
always be followed, sooner or later, by the occurrence it is meant
to bring to pass; and primitive man may be excused for regarding the
occurrence as a direct result of the ceremony, and the best possible
proof of its efficacy. Similarly, rites observed in the morning to
help the sun to rise, and in spring to wake the dreaming earth from
her winter sleep, will invariably appear to be crowned with success,
at least within the temperate zones; for in these regions the sun
lights his golden lamp in the east every morning, and year by year
the vernal earth decks herself afresh with a rich mantle of green.
Hence the practical savage, with his conservative instincts, might
well turn a deaf ear to the subtleties of the theoretical doubter,
the philosophic radical, who presumed to hint that sunrise and
spring might not, after all, be direct consequences of the punctual
performance of certain daily or yearly ceremonies, and that the sun
might perhaps continue to rise and trees to blossom though the
ceremonies were occasionally intermitted, or even discontinued
altogether. These sceptical doubts would naturally be repelled by
the other with scorn and indignation as airy reveries subversive of
the faith and manifestly contradicted by experience. "Can anything
be plainer," he might say, "than that I light my twopenny candle on
earth and that the sun then kindles his great fire in heaven? I
should be glad to know whether, when I have put on my green robe in
spring, the trees do not afterwards do the same? These are facts
patent to everybody, and on them I take my stand. I am a plain
practical man, not one of your theorists and splitters of hairs and
choppers of logic. Theories and speculation and all that may be very
well in their way, and I have not the least objection to your
indulging in them, provided, of course, you do not put them in
practice. But give me leave to stick to facts; then I know where I
am." The fallacy of this reasoning is obvious to us, because it
happens to deal with facts about which we have long made up our
minds. But let an argument of precisely the same calibre be applied
to matters which are still under debate, and it may be questioned
whether a British audience would not applaud it as sound, and esteem
the speaker who used it a safe man--not brilliant or showy, perhaps,
but thoroughly sensible and hard-headed. If such reasonings could
pass muster among ourselves, need we wonder that they long escaped
detection by the savage?

V. The Magical Control of the Weather

1. The Public Magician

THE READER may remember that we were led to plunge into the
labyrinth of magic by a consideration of two different types of
man-god. This is the clue which has guided our devious steps through
the maze, and brought us out at last on higher ground, whence,
resting a little by the way, we can look back over the path we have
already traversed and forward to the longer and steeper road we have
still to climb.

As a result of the foregoing discussion, the two types of human gods
may conveniently be distinguished as the religious and the magical
man-god respectively. In the former, a being of an order different
from and superior to man is supposed to become incarnate, for a
longer or a shorter time, in a human body, manifesting his
super-human power and knowledge by miracles wrought and prophecies
uttered through the medium of the fleshly tabernacle in which he has
deigned to take up his abode. This may also appropriately be called
the inspired or incarnate type of man-god. In it the human body is
merely a frail earthly vessel filled with a divine and immortal
spirit. On the other hand, a man-god of the magical sort is nothing
but a man who possesses in an unusually high degree powers which
most of his fellows arrogate to themselves on a smaller scale; for
in rude society there is hardly a person who does not dabble in
magic. Thus, whereas a man-god of the former or inspired type
derives his divinity from a deity who has stooped to hide his
heavenly radiance behind a dull mask of earthly mould, a man-god of
the latter type draws his extraordinary 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.

We have seen that in practice the magic art may be employed for the
benefit either of individuals or of the whole community, and that
according as it is directed to one or other of these two objects it
may be called private or public magic. Further, I pointed out that
the public magician occupies a position of great influence, from
which, if he is a prudent and able man, he may advance step by step
to the rank of a chief or king. Thus an examination of public magic
conduces to an understanding of the early kingship, since in savage
and barbarous society many chiefs and kings appear to owe their
authority in great measure to their reputation as magicians.

Among the objects of public utility which magic may be employed to
secure, the most essential is an adequate supply of food. The
examples cited in preceding pages prove that the purveyors of
food--the hunter, the fisher, the farmer--all resort to magical
practices in the pursuit of their various callings; but they do so
as private individuals for the benefit of themselves and their
families, rather than as public functionaries acting in the interest
of the whole people. It is otherwise when the rites are performed,
not by the hunters, the fishers, the farmers themselves, but by
professional magicians on their behalf. In primitive society, where
uniformity of occupation is the rule, and the distribution of the
community into various classes of workers has hardly begun, every
man is more or less his own magician; he practises charms and
incantations for his own good and the injury of his enemies. But a
great step in advance has been taken when a special class of
magicians has been instituted; when, in other words, a number of men
have been set apart for the express purpose of benefiting the whole
community by their skill, whether that skill be directed to the
healing of diseases, the forecasting of the future, the regulation
of the weather, or any other object of general utility. The
impotence of the means adopted by most of these practitioners to
accomplish their ends ought not to blind us to the immense
importance of the institution itself. Here is a body of men
relieved, at least in the higher stages of savagery, from the need
of earning their livelihood by hard manual toil, and allowed, nay,
expected and encouraged, to prosecute researches into the secret
ways of nature. It was at once their duty and their interest to know
more than their fellows, to acquaint themselves with everything that
could aid man in his arduous struggle with nature, everything that
could mitigate his sufferings and prolong his life. The properties
of drugs and minerals, the causes of rain and drought, of thunder
and lightning, the changes of the seasons, the phases of the moon,
the daily and yearly journeys of the sun, the motions of the stars,
the mystery of life, and the mystery of death, all these things must
have excited the wonder of these early philosophers, and stimulated
them to find solutions of problems that were doubtless often thrust
on their attention in the most practical form by the importunate
demands of their clients, who expected them not merely to understand
but to regulate the great processes of nature for the good of man.
That their first shots fell very far wide of the mark could hardly
be helped. The slow, the never-ending approach to truth consists in
perpetually forming and testing hypotheses, accepting those which at
the time seem to fit the facts and rejecting the others. The views
of natural causation embraced by the savage magician no doubt appear
to us manifestly false and absurd; yet in their day they were
legitimate hypotheses, though they have not stood the test of
experience. Ridicule and blame are the just meed, not of those who
devised these crude theories, but of those who obstinately adhered
to them after better had been propounded. Certainly no men ever had
stronger incentives in the pursuit of truth than these savage
sorcerers. To maintain at least a show of knowledge was absolutely
necessary; a single mistake detected might cost them their life.
This no doubt led them to practise imposture for the purpose of
concealing their ignorance; but it also supplied them with the most
powerful motive for substituting a real for a sham knowledge, since,
if you would appear to know anything, by far the best way is
actually to know it. Thus, however justly we may reject the
extravagant pretensions of magicians and condemn the deceptions
which they have practised on mankind, the original institution of
this class of men has, take it all in all, been productive of
incalculable good to humanity. They were the direct predecessors,
not merely of our physicians and surgeons, but of our investigators
and discoverers in every branch of natural science. They began the
work which has since been carried to such glorious and beneficent
issues by their successors in after ages; and if the beginning was
poor and feeble, this is to be imputed to the inevitable
difficulties which beset the path of knowledge rather than to the
natural incapacity or wilful fraud of the men themselves.

2. The Magical Control of Rain

OF THE THINGS which the public magician sets himself to do for the
good of the tribe, one of the chief is to control the weather and
especially to ensure an adequate fall of rain. Water is an essential
of life, and in most countries the supply of it depends upon
showers. Without rain vegetation withers, animals and men languish
and die. Hence in savage communities the rain-maker is a very
important personage; and often a special class of magicians exists
for the purpose of regulating the heavenly water-supply. The methods
by which they attempt to discharge the duties of their office are
commonly, though not always, based on the principle of homoeopathic
or imitative magic. If they wish to make rain they simulate it by
sprinkling water or mimicking clouds: if their object is to stop
rain and cause drought, they avoid water and resort to warmth and
fire for the sake of drying up the too abundant moisture. Such
attempts are by no means confined, as the cultivated reader might
imagine, to the naked inhabitants of those sultry lands like Central
Australia and some parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, where often
for months together the pitiless sun beats down out of a blue and
cloudless sky on the parched and gaping earth. They are, or used to
be, common enough among outwardly civilised folk in the moister
climate of Europe. I will now illustrate them by instances drawn
from the practice both of public and private magic.

Thus, for example, 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. To put an end to drought
and bring down rain, women and girls of the village of Ploska are
wont to go naked by night to the boundaries of the village and there
pour water on the ground. In Halmahera, or 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 then scattering the moisture
from the dripping bough over the ground. In New Britain 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.
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 squirt the water into the air, making a
fine mist. This saves the corn. In spring-time the Natchez of North
America used to club together to purchase favourable weather for
their crops from the wizards. If rain was needed, the wizards fasted
and danced with pipes full of water in their mouths. The pipes were
perforated like the nozzle of a watering-can, and through the holes
the rain-maker blew the water towards that part of the sky where the
clouds hung heaviest. But if fine weather was wanted, he mounted the
roof of his hut, and with extended arms, blowing with all his might,
he beckoned to the clouds to pass by. When the rains do not come in
due season the people of Central Angoniland repair to what is called
the rain-temple. Here they clear away the grass, and the leader
pours beer into a pot which is buried in the ground, while he says,
"Master _Chauta,_ you have hardened your heart towards us, what
would you have us do? We must perish indeed. Give your children the
rains, there is the beer we have given you." Then they all partake
of the beer that is left over, even the children being made to sip
it. Next they take branches of trees and dance and sing for rain.
When they return to the village they find a vessel of water set at
the doorway by an old woman; so they dip their branches in it and
wave them aloft, so as to scatter the drops. After that the rain is
sure to come driving up in heavy clouds. In these practices we see a
combination of religion with magic; for while the scattering of the
water-drops by means of branches is a purely magical ceremony, the
prayer for rain and the offering of beer are purely religious rites.
In the Mara tribe of Northern Australia the rain-maker goes to a
pool and sings over it his magic song. Then he takes some of the
water in his hands, drinks it, and spits it out in various
directions. After that he throws water all over himself, scatters it
about, and returns quietly to the camp. Rain is supposed to follow.
The Arab historian Makrizi describes a method of stopping rain which
is said to have been resorted to by a tribe of nomads called Alqamar
in Hadramaut. They cut a branch from a certain tree in the desert,
set it on fire, and then sprinkled the burning brand with water.
After that the vehemence of the rain abated, just as the water
vanished when it fell on the glowing brand. Some of the Eastern
Angamis of Manipur are said to perform a some-what similar ceremony
for the opposite purpose, in order, namely, to produce rain. The
head of the village puts a burning brand on the grave of a man who
has died of burns, and quenches the brand with water, while he prays
that rain may fall. Here the putting out the fire with water, which
is an imitation of rain, is reinforced by the influence of the dead
man, who, having been burnt to death, will naturally be anxious for
the descent of rain to cool his scorched body and assuage his pangs.

Other people besides the Arabs have used fire as a means of stopping
rain. Thus the Sulka of New Britain heat stones red hot in the fire
and then put them out in the rain, or they throw hot ashes in the
air. They think that the rain will soon cease to fall, for it does
not like to be burned by the hot stones or ashes. The Telugus send a
little girl out naked into the rain with a burning piece of wood in
her hand, which she has to show to the rain. That is supposed to
stop the downpour. At Port Stevens in New South Wales the
medicine-men used to drive away rain by throwing fire-sticks into
the air, while at the same time they puffed and shouted. Any man of
the Anula tribe in Northern Australia can stop rain by simply
warming a green stick in the fire, and then striking it against the

In time of severe drought the Dieri of Central Australia, loudly
lamenting the impoverished state of the country and their own
half-starved condition, call upon the spirits of their remote
predecessors, whom they call Mura-muras, to grant them power to make
a heavy rain-fall. For they believe that the clouds are bodies in
which rain is generated by their own ceremonies or those of
neighbouring tribes, through the influence of the Mura-muras. The
way in which they set about drawing rain from the clouds is this. A
hole is dug about twelve feet long and eight or ten broad, and over
this hole a conical hut of logs and branches is made. Two wizards,
supposed to have received a special inspiration from the Mura-muras,
are bled by an old and influential man with a sharp flint; and the
blood, drawn from their arms below the elbow, is made to flow on the
other men of the tribe, who sit huddled together in the hut. At the
same time the two bleeding men throw handfuls of down about, some of
which adheres to the blood-stained bodies of their comrades, 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 wizards who were bled carry away the two
stones for about ten or fifteen miles, and place them as high as
they can in the tallest tree. Meanwhile the other men gather gypsum,
pound it fine, and throw it into a water-hole. This the Mura-muras
see, and at once they cause clouds to appear in the sky. Lastly, the
men, young and old, surround the hut, and, stooping down, butt at it
with their heads, like so many rams. Thus they force their way
through it and reappear on the other side, repeating the process
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 the rain." Obviously, too, the act of placing
high up in trees the two stones, which stand for clouds, is a way of
making the real clouds to mount up in the sky. The Dieri also
imagine that the foreskins taken from lads at circumcision have a
great power of producing rain. Hence the Great Council of the tribe
always keeps a small stock of foreskins ready for use. They are
carefully concealed, being wrapt up in feathers with the fat of the
wild dog and of the carpet snake. A woman may not see such a parcel
opened on any account. When the ceremony is over, the foreskin is
buried, its virtue being exhausted. After the rains have fallen,
some of the tribe always undergo a surgical operation, which
consists in cutting the skin of their chest and arms with a sharp
flint. The wound is then tapped with a flat stick to increase the
flow of blood, and red ochre is rubbed into it. Raised scars are
thus produced. The reason alleged by the natives for this practice
is that they are pleased with the rain, and that there is a
connexion between the rain and the scars. Apparently the operation
is not very painful, for the patient laughs and jokes while it is
going on. Indeed, little children have been seen to crowd round the
operator and patiently take their turn; then after being operated
on, they ran away, expanding their little chests and singing for the
rain to beat upon them. However, they were not so well pleased next
day, when they felt their wounds stiff and sore. In Java, when rain
is wanted, two men will sometimes thrash each other with supple rods
till the blood flows down their backs; the streaming blood
represents the rain, and no doubt is supposed to make it fall on the
ground. The people of Egghiou, a district of Abyssinia, used to
engage in sanguinary conflicts with each other, village against
village, for a week together every January for the purpose of
procuring rain. Some years ago the emperor Menelik forbade the
custom. However, the following year the rain was deficient, and the
popular outcry so great that the emperor yielded to it, and allowed
the murderous fights to be resumed, but for two days a year only.
The writer who mentions the custom regards the blood shed on these
occasions as a propitiatory sacrifice offered to spirits who control
the showers; but perhaps, as in the Australian and Javanese
ceremonies, it is an imitation of rain. The prophets of Baal, who
sought to procure rain by cutting themselves with knives till the
blood gushed out, may have acted on the same principle.

There is a widespread belief that twin children possess magical
powers over nature, especially over rain and the weather. This
curious superstition prevails among some of the Indian tribes of
British Columbia, and has led them often to impose certain singular
restrictions or taboos on the parents of twins, though the exact
meaning of these restrictions is generally obscure. Thus the
Tsimshian Indians of British Columbia believe that twins control the
weather; therefore they pray to wind and rain, "Calm down, breath of
the twins." Further, they think that the wishes of twins are always
fulfilled; hence twins are feared, because they can harm the man
they hate. They can also call the salmon and the olachen or
candle-fish, and so they are known by a name which means "making
plentiful." In the opinion of the Kwakiutl Indians of British
Columbia twins are transformed salmon; hence they may not go near
water, lest they should be changed back again into the fish. In
their childhood they can summon any wind by motions of their hands,
and they can make fair or foul weather, and also cure diseases by
swinging a large wooden rattle. The Nootka Indians of British
Columbia also believe that twins are somehow related to salmon.
Hence among them twins may not catch salmon, and they may not eat or
even handle the fresh fish. They can make fair or foul weather, and
can cause rain to fall by painting their faces black and then
washing them, which may represent the rain dripping from the dark
clouds. The Shuswap Indians, like the Thompson Indians, associate
twins with the grizzly bear, for they call them "young grizzly
bears." According to them, twins remain throughout life endowed with
supernatural powers. In particular they can make good or bad
weather. They produce rain by spilling water from a basket in the
air; they make fine weather by shaking a small flat piece of wood
attached to a stick by a string; they raise storms by strewing down
on the ends of spruce branches.

The same power of influencing the weather is attributed to twins by
the Baronga, a tribe of Bantu negroes who, inhabit the shores of
Delagoa Bay in South-eastern Africa. They bestow the name of
_Tilo_--that is, the sky--on a woman who has given birth to twins,
and the infants themselves are called the children of the sky. Now
when the storms which generally burst in the months of September and
October have been looked for in vain, when a drought with its
prospect of famine is threatening, and all nature, scorched and
burnt up by a sun that has shone for six months from a cloudless
sky, is panting for the beneficent showers of the South African
spring, the women perform ceremonies to bring down the longed-for
rain on the parched earth. Stripping themselves of all their
garments, they assume in their stead girdles and head-dresses of
grass, or short petticoats made of the leaves of a particular sort
of creeper. Thus attired, uttering peculiar cries and singing ribald
songs, they go about from well to well, cleansing them of the mud
and impurities which have accumulated in them. The wells, it may be
said, are merely holes in the sand where a little turbid unwholesome
water stagnates. Further, the women must repair to the house of one
of their gossips who has given birth to twins, and must drench her
with water, which they carry in little pitchers. Having done so they
go on their way, shrieking out their loose songs and dancing
immodest dances. No man may see these leaf-clad women going their
rounds. If they meet a man, they maul him and thrust him aside. When
they have cleansed the wells, they must go and pour water on the
graves of their ancestors in the sacred grove. It often happens,
too, that at the bidding of the wizard they go and pour water on the
graves of twins. For they think that the grave of a twin ought
always to be moist, for which reason twins are regularly buried near
a lake. If all their efforts to procure rain prove abortive, they
will remember that such and such a twin was buried in a dry place on
the side of a hill. "No wonder," says the wizard in such a case,
"that the sky is fiery. Take up his body and dig him a grave on the
shore of the lake." His orders are at once obeyed, for this is
supposed to be the only means of bringing down the rain.

Some of the foregoing facts strongly support an interpretation which
Professor Oldenberg has given of the rules to be observed by a
Brahman who would learn a particular hymn of the ancient Indian
collection known as the Samaveda. The hymn, which bears the name of
the Sakvari¯ song, was believed to embody the might of Indra's
weapon, the thunderbolt; and hence, on account of the dreadful and
dangerous potency with which it was thus charged, the bold student
who essayed to master it had to be isolated from his fellow-men, and
to retire from the village into the forest. Here for a space of
time, which might vary, according to different doctors of the law,
from one to twelve years, he had to observe certain rules of life,
among which were the following. Thrice a day he had to touch water;
he must wear black garments and eat black food; when it rained, he
might not seek the shelter of a roof, but had to sit in the rain and
say, "Water is the Sakvari¯ song"; when the lightning flashed, he
said, "That is like the Sakvari¯ song"; when the thunder pealed, he
said, "The Great One is making a great noise." He might never cross
a running stream without touching water; he might never set foot on
a ship unless his life were in danger, and even then he must be sure
to touch water when he went on board; "for in water," so ran the
saying, "lies the virtue of the Sakvari¯ song." When at last he was
allowed to learn the song itself, he had to dip his hands in a
vessel of water in which plants of all sorts had been placed. If a
man walked in the way of all these precepts, the rain-god Parjanya,
it was said, would send rain at the wish of that man. It is clear,
as Professor Oldenberg well points out, that "all these rules are
intended to bring the Brahman into union with water, to make him, as
it were, an ally of the water powers, and to guard him against their
hostility. The black garments and the black food have the same
significance; no one will doubt that they refer to the rain-clouds
when he remembers that a black victim is sacrificed to procure rain;
'it is black, for such is the nature of rain.' In respect of another
rain-charm it is said plainly, 'He puts on a black garment edged
with black, for such is the nature of rain.' We may therefore assume
that here in the circle of ideas and ordinances of the Vedic schools
there have been preserved magical practices of the most remote
antiquity, which were intended to prepare the rain-maker for his
office and dedicate him to it."

It is interesting to observe that where an opposite result is
desired, primitive logic enjoins the weather-doctor to observe
precisely opposite rules of conduct. In the tropical island of Java,
where the rich vegetation attests the abundance of the rainfall,
ceremonies for the making of rain are rare, but ceremonies for the
prevention of it are not uncommon. When a man is about to give a
great feast in the rainy season and has invited many people, he goes
to a weather-doctor and asks him to "prop up the clouds that may be
lowering." If the doctor consents to exert his professional powers,
he begins to regulate his behaviour by certain rules as soon as his
customer has departed. He must observe a fast, and may neither drink
nor bathe; what little he eats must be eaten dry, and in no case may
he touch water. The host, on his side, and his servants, both male
and female, must neither wash clothes nor bathe so long as the feast
lasts, and they have all during its continuance to observe strict
chastity. The doctor seats himself on a new mat in his bedroom, and
before a small oil-lamp he murmurs, shortly before the feast takes
place, the following prayer or incantation: "Grandfather and
Grandmother Sroekoel" (the name seems to be taken at random; others
are sometimes used), "return to your country. Akkemat is your
country. Put down your water-cask, close it properly, that not a
drop may fall out." While he utters this prayer the sorcerer looks
upwards, burning incense the while. So among the Toradjas the
rain-doctor, whose special business it is to drive away rain, takes
care not to touch water before, during, or after the discharge of
his professional duties. He does not bathe, he eats with unwashed
hands, he drinks nothing but palm wine, and if he has to cross a
stream he is careful not to step in the water. Having thus prepared
himself for his task he has a small hut built for himself outside of
the village in a rice-field, and in this hut he keeps up a little
fire, which on no account may be suffered to go out. In the fire he
burns various kinds of wood, which are supposed to possess the
property of driving off rain; and he puffs in the direction from
which the rain threatens to come, holding in his hand a packet of
leaves and bark which derive a similar cloud-compelling virtue, not
from their chemical composition, but from their names, which happen
to signify something dry or volatile. If clouds should appear in the
sky while he is at work, he takes lime in the hollow of his hand and
blows it towards them. The lime, being so very dry, is obviously
well adapted to disperse the damp clouds. Should rain afterwards be
wanted, he has only to pour water on his fire, and immediately the
rain will descend in sheets.

The reader will observe how exactly the Javanese and Toradja
observances, which are intended to prevent rain, form the antithesis
of the Indian observances, which aim at producing it. The Indian
sage is commanded to touch water thrice a day regularly as well as
on various special occasions; the Javanese and Toradja wizards may
not touch it at all. The Indian lives out in the forest, and even
when it rains he may not take shelter; the Javanese and the Toradja
sit in a house or a hut. The one signifies his sympathy with water
by receiving the rain on his person and speaking of it respectfully;
the others light a lamp or a fire and do their best to drive the
rain away. Yet the principle on which all three act is the same;
each of them, by a sort of childish make-believe, identifies himself
with the phenomenon which he desires to produce. It is the old
fallacy that the effect resembles its cause: if you would make wet
weather, you must be wet; if you would make dry weather, you must be

In South-eastern Europe at the present day ceremonies are
observed for the purpose of making rain which not only rest on the
same general train of thought as the preceding, but even in their
details resemble the ceremonies practised with the same intention
by the Baronga of Delagoa Bay. Among the Greeks of Thessaly and
Macedonia, when a drought has lasted a long time, it is customary
to send a procession of children round to all the wells and springs
of the neighbourhood. At the head of the procession walks a girl
adorned with flowers, whom her companions drench with water at
every halting-place, while they sing an invocation, of which the
following is part:

"Perperia all fresh bedewed,
Freshen all the neighbourhood;
By the woods, on the highway,
As thou goest, to God now pray:
O my God, upon the plain,
Send thou us a still, small rain;
That the fields may fruitful be,
And vines in blossom we may see;
That the grain be full and sound,
And wealthy grow the folks around."

In time of drought the Serbians strip a girl to her skin and clothe
her from head to foot in grass, herbs, and flowers, even her face
being hidden behind a veil of living green. Thus disguised she is
called the Dodola, and goes through the village with a troop of
girls. They stop before every house; the Dodola keeps turning
herself round and dancing, while the other girls form a ring about
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."

At Poona in India, when rain is needed, the boys dress up one of
their number in nothing but leaves and call him King of Rain. Then
they go round to every house in the village, where the house-holder
or his wife sprinkles the Rain King with water, and gives the party
food of various kinds. When they have thus visited all the houses,
they strip the Rain King of his leafy robes and feast upon what they
have gathered.

Bathing is practised as a rain-charm in some parts of Southern and
Western Russia. Sometimes after service in church the priest in his
robes has been thrown down on the ground and drenched with water by
his parishioners. Sometimes it is the women who, without stripping
off their clothes, bathe in crowds on the day of St. John the
Baptist, while they dip in the water a figure made of branches,
grass, and herbs, which is supposed to represent the saint. In
Kursk, a province of Southern Russia, when rain is much wanted, the
women seize a passing stranger and throw him into the river, or
souse him from head to foot. Later on we shall see that a passing
stranger is often taken for a deity or the personification of some
natural power. It is recorded in official documents that during a
drought in 1790 the peasants of Scheroutz and Werboutz collected all
the women and compelled them to bathe, in order that rain might
fall. An Armenian rain-charm is to throw the wife of a priest into
the water and drench her. The Arabs of North Africa fling a holy
man, willy-nilly, into a spring as a remedy for drought. In
Minahassa, a province of North Celebes, the priest bathes as a
rain-charm. In Central Celebes when there has been no rain for a
long time and the rice-stalks begin to shrivel up, many of the
villagers, especially the young folk, go to a neighbouring brook and
splash each other with water, shouting noisily, or squirt water on
one another through bamboo tubes. Sometimes they imitate the plump
of rain by smacking the surface of the water with their hands, or by
placing an inverted gourd on it and drumming on the gourd with their

Women are sometimes supposed to be able to make rain by ploughing,
or pretending to plough. Thus the Pshaws and Chewsurs of the
Caucasus have a ceremony called "ploughing the rain," which they
observe in time of drought. Girls yoke themselves to a plough and
drag it into a river, wading in the water up to their girdles. In
the same circumstances Armenian girls and women do the same. The
oldest woman, or the priest's wife, wears the priest's dress, while
the others, dressed as men, drag the plough through the water
against the stream. 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. 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 fields 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. A similar rain-charm
is resorted to in some parts of India; naked women drag a plough
across a field by night, while the men keep carefully out of the
way, for their presence would break the spell.

Sometimes the rain-charm operates through the dead. Thus 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 believed that the soul of the
deceased took up the water, converted it into rain, and showered it
down again. In Russia, if common report may be believed, it is not
long since the peasants of any district that chanced to be afflicted
with drought used to dig up the corpse of some one who had drunk
himself to death and sink it in the nearest swamp or lake, fully
persuaded that this would ensure the fall of the needed rain. In
1868 the prospect of a bad harvest, caused by a prolonged drought,
induced the inhabitants of a village in the Tarashchansk district to
dig up the body of a Raskolnik, or Dissenter, who had died in the
preceding December. Some of the party beat the corpse, or what was
left of it, about the head, exclaiming, "Give us rain!" while others
poured water on it through a sieve. Here the pouring of water
through a sieve seems plainly an imitation of a shower, and reminds
us of the manner in which Strepsiades in Aristophanes imagined that
rain was made by Zeus. Sometimes, in order to procure rain, the
Toradjas make an appeal to the pity of the dead. Thus, in the
village of Kalingooa, there is the grave of a famous chief, the
grandfather of the present ruler. When the land suffers from
unseasonable drought, the people go to this grave, pour water on it,
and say, "O grandfather, have pity on us; if it is your will that
this year we should eat, then give rain." After that they hang a
bamboo full of water over the grave; there is a small hole in the
lower end of the bamboo, so that the water drips from it
continually. The bamboo is always refilled with water until rain
drenches the ground. Here, as in New Caledonia, we find religion
blent with magic, for the prayer to the dead chief, which is purely
religious, is eked out with a magical imitation of rain at his
grave. We have seen that the Baronga of Delagoa Bay drench the tombs
of their ancestors, especially the tombs of twins, as a raincharm.
Among some of the Indian tribes in the region of the Orinoco it was
customary for the relations of a deceased person to disinter his
bones a year after burial, burn them, and scatter the ashes to the
winds, because they believed that the ashes were changed into rain,
which the dead man sent in return for his obsequies. The Chinese are
convinced that when human bodies remain unburied, the souls of their
late owners feel the discomfort of rain, just as living men would do
if they were exposed without shelter to the inclemency of the
weather. These wretched souls, therefore, do all in their power to
prevent the rain from falling, and often their efforts are only too
successful. Then drought ensues, the most dreaded of all calamities
in China, because bad harvests, dearth, and famine follow in its
train. Hence it has been a common practice of the Chinese
authorities in time of drought to inter the dry bones of the
unburied dead for the purpose of putting an end to the scourge and
conjuring down the rain.

Animals, again, often play an important part in these
weather-charms. The Anula tribe of Northern Australia associate the
dollar-bird with rain, and call it the rain-bird. A man who has the
bird for his totem can make rain at a certain pool. He catches a
snake, puts it alive into the pool, and after holding it under water
for a time takes it out, kills it, and lays it down by the side of
the creek. Then he makes an arched bundle of grass stalks in
imitation of a rainbow, and sets it up over the snake. After that
all he does is to sing over the snake and the mimic rainbow; sooner
or later the rain will fall. They explain this procedure by saying
that long ago the dollar-bird had as a mate at this spot a snake,
who lived in the pool and used to make rain by spitting up into the
sky till a rainbow and clouds appeared and rain fell. A common way
of making rain in many parts of Java is to bathe a cat or two cats,
a male and a female; sometimes the animals are carried in procession
with music. Even in Batavia you may from time to time see children
going about with a cat for this purpose; when they have ducked it in
a pool, they let it go.

Among the Wambugwe of East Africa, when the sorcerer desires to make
rain, he takes a black sheep and a black calf in bright sunshine,
and has them placed on the roof of the common hut in which the
people live together. Then he slits the stomachs of the animals and
scatters their contents in all directions. After that he pours water
and medicine into a vessel; if the charm has succeeded, the water
boils up and rain follows. On the other hand, if the sorcerer wishes
to prevent rain from falling, he withdraws into the interior of the
hut, and there heats a rock-crystal in a calabash. In order to
procure rain the Wagogo sacrifice black fowls, black sheep, and
black cattle at the graves of dead ancestors, and the rain-maker
wears black clothes during the rainy season. Among the Matabele the
rain-charm employed by sorcerers was made from the blood and gall of
a black ox. In a district of Sumatra, in order to procure rain, 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 stream and made to swim about for a while, then allowed to
escape to the bank, pursued by the splashing of the women. The Garos
of Assam offer a black goat on the top of a very high mountain in
time of drought. In all 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." The Timorese sacrifice a black pig to the Earth-goddess for
rain, a white or red one to the Sun-god for sunshine. The Angoni
sacrifice a black ox for rain and a white one for fine weather.
Among the high mountains of Japan there is a district in which, if
rain has not fallen for a long time, a party of villagers goes in
procession to the bed of a mountain torrent, headed by a priest, who
leads a black dog. At the chosen spot they tether the beast to a
stone, and make it a target for their bullets and arrows. When its
life-blood bespatters the rocks, the peasants throw down their
weapons and lift up their voices in supplication to the dragon
divinity of the stream, exhorting him to send down forthwith a
shower to cleanse the spot from its defilement. Custom has
prescribed that on these occasions the colour of the victim shall be
black, as an emblem of the wished-for rain-clouds. But if fine
weather is wanted, the victim must be white, without a spot.

The intimate association of frogs and toads with water has earned
for these creatures a widespread reputation as custodians of rain;
and hence they often play a part in charms designed to draw needed
showers from the sky. Some of the Indians of the Orinoco held the
toad to be the god or lord of the waters, and for that reason feared
to kill the creature. They have been known to keep frogs under a pot
and to beat them with rods when there was a drought. It is said that
the Aymara Indians often make little images of frogs and other
aquatic animals and place them on the tops of the hills as a means
of bringing down rain. The Thompson Indians of British Columbia and
some people in Europe think that to kill a frog will cause rain to
fall. In order to procure rain people of low caste in the Central
Provinces of India will tie a frog to a rod covered with green
leaves and branches of the _nîm_ tree (_Azadirachta Indica_) and
carry it from door to door singing:

"Send soon, O frog, the jewel of water!
And ripen the wheat and millet in the field."

The Kapus or Reddis are a large caste of cultivators and landowners
in the Madras Presidency. When rain fails, women of the caste will
catch a frog and tie it alive to a new winnowing fan made of bamboo.
On this fan they spread a few margosa leaves and go from door to
door singing, "Lady frog must have her bath. Oh! rain-god, give a
little water for her at least." While the Kapu women sing this song,
the woman of the house pours water over the frog and gives an alms,
convinced that by so doing she will soon bring rain down in

Sometimes, when a drought has lasted a long time, people drop the
usual hocus-pocus of imitative magic altogether, and being far too
angry to waste their breath in prayer they seek by threats and
curses or even downright physical force to extort the waters of
heaven from the supernatural being who has, so to say, cut them off
at the main. In a Japanese village, when the guardian divinity had
long been deaf to the peasants' prayers for rain, they at last threw
down his image and, with curses loud and long, hurled it head
foremost into a stinking rice-field. "There," they said, "you may
stay yourself for a while, to see how _you_ will feel after a few
days' scorching in this broiling sun that is burning the life from
our cracking fields." In the like circumstances the Feloupes of
Senegambia cast down their fetishes and drag them about the fields,
cursing them till rain falls.

The Chinese are adepts in the art of taking the kingdom of heaven by
storm. Thus, when rain is wanted they make a huge dragon of paper or
wood to represent the rain-god, and carry it about in procession;
but if no rain follows, the mock-dragon is execrated and torn to
pieces. At other times they threaten and beat the god if he does not
give rain; sometimes they publicly depose him from the rank of
deity. On the other hand, if the wished-for rain falls, the god is
promoted to a higher rank by an imperial decree. In April 1888 the
mandarins of Canton prayed to the god Lung-wong to stop the
incessant downpour of rain; and when he turned a deaf ear to their
petitions they put him in a lock-up for five days. This had a
salutary effect. The rain ceased and the god was restored to
liberty. Some years before, in time of drought, the same deity had
been chained and exposed to the sun for days in the courtyard of his
temple in order that he might feel for himself the urgent need of
rain. So when the Siamese need rain, they set out their idols in the
blazing sun; but if they want dry weather, they unroof the temples
and let the rain pour down on the idols. They think that the
inconvenience to which the gods are thus subjected will induce them
to grant the wishes of their worshippers.

The reader may smile at the meteorology of the Far East; but
precisely similar modes of procuring rain have been resorted to in
Christian Europe within our own lifetime. By the end of April 1893
there was great distress in Sicily for lack of water. The drought
had lasted six months. Every day the sun rose and set in a sky of
cloudless blue. The gardens of the Conca d'Oro, which surround
Palermo with a magnificent belt of verdure, were withering. Food was
becoming scarce. The people were in great alarm. All the most
approved methods of procuring rain had been tried without effect.
Processions had traversed the streets and the fields. Men, women,
and children, telling their beads, had lain whole nights before the
holy images. Consecrated candles had burned day and night in the
churches. Palm branches, blessed on Palm Sunday, had been hung on
the trees. At Solaparuta, in accordance with a very old custom, the
dust swept from the churches on Palm Sunday had been spread on the
fields. In ordinary years these holy sweepings preserve the crops;
but that year, if you will believe me, they had no effect whatever.
At Nicosia the inhabitants, bare-headed and bare-foot, carried the
crucifixes through all the wards of the town and scourged each other
with iron whips. It was all in vain. Even the great St. Francis of
Paolo himself, who annually performs the miracle of rain and is
carried every spring through the market-gardens, either could not or
would not help. Masses, vespers, concerts, illuminations,
fire-works--nothing could move him. At last the peasants began to
lose patience. Most of the saints were banished. At Palermo they
dumped St. Joseph in a garden to see the state of things for
himself, and they swore to leave him there in the sun till rain
fell. Other saints were turned, like naughty children, with their
faces to the wall. Others again, stripped of their beautiful robes,
were exiled far from their parishes, threatened, grossly insulted,
ducked in horse-ponds. At Caltanisetta the golden wings of St.
Michael the Archangel were torn from his shoulders and replaced with
wings of pasteboard; his purple mantle was taken away and a clout
wrapt about him instead. At Licata the patron saint, St. Angelo,
fared even worse, for he was left without any garments at all; he
was reviled, he was put in irons, he was threatened with drowning or
hanging. "Rain or the rope!" roared the angry people at him, as they
shook their fists in his face.

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." In Zululand women sometimes bury their
children up to the neck in the ground, and then retiring to a
distance keep up a dismal howl for a long time. The sky is supposed
to melt with pity at the sight. Then the women dig the children out
and feel sure that rain will soon follow. They say that they call to
"the lord above" and ask him to send rain. If it comes they declare
that "Usondo rains." In times of drought the Guanches of Teneriffe
led their sheep to sacred ground, and there they separated the lambs
from their dams, that their plaintive bleating might touch the heart
of the god. In Kumaon a way of stopping rain is to pour hot oil in
the left ear of a dog. The animal howls with pain, his howls are
heard by Indra, and out of pity for the beast's sufferings the god
stops the rain. Sometimes the Toradjas attempt to procure rain as
follows. They place the stalks of certain plants in water, saying,
"Go and ask for rain, and so long as no rain falls I will not plant
you again, but there shall you die." Also they string some
fresh-water snails on a cord, and hang the cord on a tree, and say
to the snails, "Go and ask for rain, and so long as no rain comes, I
will not take you back to the water." Then the snails go and weep,
and the gods take pity and send rain. However, the foregoing
ceremonies are religious rather than magical, since they involve an
appeal to the compassion of higher powers.

Stones are often supposed to possess the property of bringing on
rain, provided they be dipped in water or sprinkled with it, or
treated in some other appropriate manner. 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. Among 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. 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. Among some tribes of
North-western Australia the rain-maker repairs to a piece of ground
which is set apart for the purpose of rain-making. There he builds a
heap of stones or sand, places on the top of it his magic stone, and
walks or dances round the pile chanting his incantations for hours,
till sheer exhaustion obliges him to desist, when his place is taken
by his assistant. Water is sprinkled on the stone and huge fires are
kindled. No layman may approach the sacred spot while the mystic
ceremony is being performed. When the Sulka of New Britain wish to
procure rain they blacken stones with the ashes of certain fruits
and set them out, along with certain other plants and buds, in the
sun. Then a handful of twigs is dipped in water and weighted with
stones, while a spell is chanted. After that rain should follow. In
Manipur, on a lofty hill to the east of the capital, there is a
stone which the popular imagination likens to an umbrella. When rain
is wanted, the rajah fetches water from a spring below and sprinkles
it on the stone. At Sagami in Japan there is a stone which draws
down rain whenever water is poured on it. When the Wakondyo, a tribe
of Central Africa, desire rain, they send to the Wawamba, who dwell
at the foot of snowy mountains, and are the happy possessors of a
"rain-stone." In consideration of a proper payment, the Wawamba wash
the precious stone, anoint it with oil, and put it in a pot full of
water. After that the rain cannot fail to come. In the arid wastes
of Arizona and New Mexico the Apaches sought to make rain by
carrying water from a certain spring and throwing it on a particular
point high up on a rock; after that they imagined that the clouds
would soon gather, and that rain would begin to fall.

But customs of this sort are not confined to the wilds of Africa and
Asia or the torrid deserts of Australia and the New World. They have
been practised in the cool air and under the grey skies of Europe.
There is a fountain called Barenton, of romantic fame, in those
"wild woods of Broceliande," where, if legend be true, the wizard
Merlin still sleeps his magic slumber in the hawthorn shade. Thither
the Breton peasants used to resort when they needed rain. They
caught some of the water in a tankard and threw it on a slab near
the spring. On Snowdon there is a lonely tarn 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."
In these cases it appears probable that, as in Samoa, the stone is
regarded as more or less divine. This appears from the custom
sometimes observed of dipping a cross in the Fountain of Barenton to
procure rain, for this is plainly a Christian substitute for the old
pagan way of throwing water on the stone. At various places in
France it is, or used till lately to be, the practice to dip the
image of a saint in water as a means of procuring rain. Thus, beside
the old priory of Commagny, there is a spring of St. Gervais,
whither the inhabitants go in procession to obtain rain or fine
weather according to the needs of the crops. In times of great
drought they throw into the basin of the fountain an ancient stone
image of the saint that stands in a sort of niche from which the
fountain flows. At Collobrières and Carpentras a similar practice
was observed with the images of St. Pons and St. Gens respectively.
In several villages of Navarre prayers for rain used to be offered
to St. Peter, and by way of enforcing them the villagers carried the
image of the saint in procession to the river, where they thrice
invited him to reconsider his resolution and to grant their prayers;
then, if he was still obstinate, they plunged him in the water,
despite the remonstrances of the clergy, who pleaded with as much
truth as piety that a simple caution or admonition administered to
the image would produce an equally good effect. After this the rain
was sure to fall within twenty-four hours. Catholic countries do not
enjoy a monopoly of making rain by ducking holy images in water. In
Mingrelia, when the crops are suffering from want of rain, they take
a particularly holy image and dip it in water every day till a
shower falls; and in the Far East the Shans drench the images of
Buddha with water when the rice is perishing of drought. In all such
cases the practice is probably at bottom a sympathetic charm,
however it may be disguised under the appearance of a punishment or
a threat.

Like other peoples, the Greeks and Romans sought to obtain rain by
magic, when prayers and processions 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. 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. Probably the rattling of the
chariot was meant to imitate thunder; we have already seen that mock
thunder and lightning form part of a rain-charm in Russia and Japan.
The legendary Salmoneus, King of Elis, made mock thunder by dragging
bronze kettles behind his chariot, or by driving over a bronze
bridge, while 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. Indeed he declared that he was
actually Zeus, and caused sacrifices to be offered to himself as
such. 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.

3. The Magical Control of the Sun

AS THE MAGICIAN thinks he can make rain, so he fancies he can cause
the sun to shine, and can hasten or stay its going down. At an
eclipse the Ojebways used to imagine that the sun was being
extinguished. So they shot fire-tipped arrows in the air, hoping
thus to rekindle his expiring light. The Sencis of Peru also shot
burning arrows at the sun during an eclipse, but apparently they did
this not so much to relight his lamp as to drive away a savage beast
with which they supposed him to be struggling. Conversely during an
eclipse of the moon some 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. During an eclipse of the
sun the Kamtchatkans were wont to bring out fire from their huts and
pray the great luminary to shine as before. But the prayer addressed
to the sun shows that this ceremony was religious rather than
magical. Purely magical, on the other hand, was the ceremony
observed on similar occasions by the Chilcotin Indians. Men and
women tucked up their robes, as they do in travelling, and then
leaning on staves, as if they were heavy laden, they continued to
walk in a circle till the eclipse was over. Apparently they thought
thus to support the failing steps of the sun as he trod his weary
round in the sky. Similarly in ancient Egypt the king, as the
representative of the sun, walked solemnly round the walls of a
temple in order to ensure that the sun should perform his daily
journey round the sky without the interruption of an eclipse or
other mishap. And after the autumnal equinox the ancient Egyptians
held a festival called "the nativity of the sun's walking-stick,"
because, as the luminary declined daily in the sky, and his light
and heat diminished, he was supposed to need a staff on which to
lean. In New Caledonia when a wizard desires to make sunshine, he
takes some plants and corals to the burial-ground, and fashions them
into a bundle, adding two locks of hair cut from a living child of
his family, also two teeth or an entire jawbone from the skeleton of
an ancestor. He then climbs a 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 the spot
and sets fire to the bundle at the moment when the sun rises from
the sea. As the smoke curls up, 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. The New Caledonians also make a
drought by means of a disc-shaped stone with a hole in it. At the
moment when the sun rises, the wizard holds the stone in his hand
and passes a burning brand repeatedly into the hole, while he says:
"I kindle the sun, in order that he may eat up the clouds and dry up
our land, so that it may produce nothing." The Banks Islanders make
sunshine by means of a mock sun. They take a very round stone,
called a _vat loa_ or sunstone, wind red braid about it, and stick
it with owls' feathers to represent rays, singing the proper spell
in a low voice. Then they hang it on some high tree, such as a
banyan or a casuarina, in a sacred place.

The offering made by the Brahman in the morning is supposed to
produce the sun, and we are told that "assuredly it would not rise,
were he not to make that offering." The ancient Mexicans conceived
the sun as the source of all vital force; hence they named him
Ipalnemohuani, "He by whom men live." But if he bestowed life on the
world, he needed also to receive life from it. And as the heart is
the seat and symbol of life, bleeding hearts of men and animals were
presented to the sun to maintain him in vigour and enable him to run
his course across the sky. Thus the Mexican sacrifices to the sun
were magical rather than religious, being designed, not so much to
please and propitiate him, as physically to renew his energies of
heat, light, and motion. The constant demand for human victims to
feed the solar fire was met by waging war every year on the
neighbouring tribes and bringing back troops of captives to be
sacrificed on the altar. Thus the ceaseless wars of the Mexicans and
their cruel system of human sacrifices, the most monstrous on
record, sprang in great measure from a mistaken theory of the solar
system. No more striking illustration could be given of the
disastrous consequences that may flow in practice from a purely
speculative error. The ancient Greeks believed that the sun drove in
a chariot across the sky; hence the Rhodians, who worshipped the sun
as their chief deity, annually dedicated a chariot and four horses
to him, and flung them into the sea for his use. Doubtless they
thought that after a year's work his old horses and chariot would be
worn out. From a like motive, probably, the idolatrous kings of
Judah dedicated chariots and horses to the sun, and the Spartans,
Persians, and Massagetae sacrificed horses to him. The Spartans
performed the sacrifice on the top of Mount Taygetus, the beautiful
range behind which they saw the great luminary set every night. It
was as natural for the inhabitants of the valley of Sparta to do
this as it was for the islanders of Rhodes to throw the chariot and
horses into the sea, into which the sun seemed to them to sink at
evening. For thus, whether on the mountain or in the sea, the fresh
horses stood ready for the weary god where they would be most
welcome, at the end of his day's journey.

As some people think they can light up the sun or speed him on his
way, so others fancy they can retard or stop him. 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.
Stories of men who have caught the sun in a noose are widely spread.
When the sun is going southward in the autumn, and sinking lower and
lower in the Arctic sky, the Esquimaux of Iglulik play the game of
cat's cradle in order to catch him in the meshes of the string and
so prevent his disappearance. On the contrary, when the sun is
moving northward in the spring, they play the game of cup-and-ball
to hasten his return. When an Australian blackfellow wishes to stay
the sun from going down till he gets home, he puts a sod in the fork
of a tree, exactly facing the setting sun. 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, perhaps to waft the
lingering orb westward and bury it under the sands into which it
appears to sink at night.

As some people imagine they can hasten the sun, so others fancy they
can jog the tardy moon. The natives of New Guinea reckon months by
the moon, and some of them have been known to throw stones and
spears at the moon, in order to accelerate its progress and so to
hasten the return of their friends, who were away from home for
twelve months working on a tobacco plantation. The Malays think that
a bright glow at sunset may throw a weak person into a fever. Hence
they attempt to extinguish the glow by spitting out water and
throwing ashes at it. The Shuswap Indians believe that they can
bring on cold weather by burning the wood of a tree that has been
struck by lightning. The belief may be based on the observation that
in their country cold follows a thunder-storm. Hence in spring, when
these Indians are travelling over the snow on high ground, they burn
splinters of such wood in the fire in order that the crust of the
snow may not melt.

4. The Magical Control of the Wind

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. In order to procure a cool wind for nine days the
stone should first be dipped in the blood of a bird or beast and
then presented to the sun, while the sorcerer makes three turns
contrary to the course of the luminary. If a Hottentot desires the
wind to drop, he takes one of his fattest skins and hangs it on the
end of a pole, in the belief that by blowing the skin down the wind
will lose all its force and must itself fall. Fuegian wizards throw
shells against the wind to make it drop. The natives of the island
of Bibili, off New Guinea, are reputed to make wind by blowing with
their mouths. In stormy weather the Bogadjim people say, "The Bibili
folk are at it again, blowing away." Another way of making wind
which is practised in New Guinea is to strike a "wind-stone" lightly
with a stick; to strike it hard would bring on a hurricane. So in
Scotland witches used to raise the wind by dipping a rag in water
and beating it thrice on a stone, saying:

"I knok this rag upone this stane
To raise the wind in the divellis name,
It sall not lye till I please againe."

In Greenland a woman in child-bed and for some time after delivery
is supposed to possess the power of laying a storm. She has only to
go out of doors, fill her mouth with air, and coming back into the
house blow it out again. In antiquity there was a family at Corinth
which enjoyed the reputation of being able to still the raging wind;
but we do not know in what manner its members exercised a useful
function, which probably earned for them a more solid recompense
than mere repute among the seafaring population of the isthmus. Even
in Christian times, under the reign of Constantine, a certain
Sopater suffered death at Constantinople on a charge of binding the
winds by magic, because it happened that the corn-ships of Egypt and
Syria were detained afar off by calms or head-winds, to the rage and
disappointment of the hungry Byzantine rabble. Finnish wizards used
to sell wind to storm-stayed 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.
Indeed the Esthonians, whose country is divided from Finland only by
an arm of the sea, still believe in the magical powers of their
northern neighbours. The bitter winds that blow in spring from the
north and north-east, bringing ague and rheumatic inflammations in
their train, are set down by the simple Esthonian peasantry to the
machinations of the Finnish wizards and witches. In particular they
regard with special dread three days in spring to which they give
the name of Days of the Cross; one of them falls on the Eve of
Ascension Day. The people in the neighbourhood of Fellin fear to go
out on these days lest the cruel winds from Lappland should smite
them dead. A popular Esthonian song runs:

Wind of the Cross! rushing and mighty!
Heavy the blow of thy wings sweeping past!
Wild wailing wind of misfortune and sorrow,
Wizards of Finland ride by on the blast.

It is said, too, that sailors, beating up against the wind in the
Gulf of Finland, sometimes see a strange sail heave in sight astern
and overhaul them hand over hand. On she comes with a cloud of
canvas--all her studding-sails out--right in the teeth of the wind,
forging her way through the foaming billows, dashing back the spray
in sheets from her cutwater, every sail swollen to bursting, every
rope strained to cracking. Then the sailors know that she hails from

The art of tying up the wind in three knots, so that the more knots
are loosed the stronger will blow the wind, has been attributed to
wizards in Lappland and to witches in Shetland, Lewis, and the Isle
of Man. Shetland seamen still buy winds in the shape of knotted
handkerchiefs or threads from old women who claim to rule the
storms. There are said to be ancient crones in Lerwick now who live
by selling wind. Ulysses received the winds in a leathern bag from
Aeolus, King of the Winds. 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. On the top of Mount Agu in Togo, a
district of West Africa, resides a fetish called Bagba, who is
supposed to control the wind and the rain. His priest is said to
keep the winds shut up in great pots.

Often the stormy wind is regarded as an evil being who may be
intimidated, driven away, or killed. When storms and bad weather
have lasted long and food is scarce with the Central Esquimaux, they
endeavour to conjure the tempest by making a long whip of seaweed,
armed with which they go down to the beach and strike out in the
direction of the wind, crying "_Taba_ (it is enough)!" Once when
north-westerly winds had kept the ice long on the coast and food was
becoming scarce, the Esquimaux 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 flames 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 invited to fire on the wind with cannon. On the
twenty-first of February 1883 a similar ceremony was performed by
the Esquimaux of Point Barrow, Alaska, with the intention of killing
the spirit of the wind. Women drove the demon from their houses with
clubs and knives, with which they made passes in the air; and the
men, gathering round a fire, shot him with their rifles and crushed
him under a heavy stone the moment that steam rose in a cloud from
the smouldering embers, on which a tub of water had just been

The Lengua Indians of the Gran Chaco ascribe the rush of a
whirl-wind to the passage of a spirit and they fling sticks at it to
frighten it away. When the wind blows down their huts, the Payaguas
of 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. 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. During a tempest the
inhabitants of a Batak village in Sumatra have been seen to rush
from their houses armed with sword and lance. The rajah 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
specially active in the defence of her house, slashing the air right
and left with a long sabre. In a violent thunderstorm, the peals
sounding very near, the Kayans of Borneo have been seen to draw
their swords threateningly half out of their scabbards, as if to
frighten away the demons of the storm. In Australia the huge columns
of red sand that move rapidly across a desert tract are thought by
the natives 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
had growled at him and he must die. Of the Bedouins of Eastern
Africa it is said that "no whirl-wind 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."

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 simoon swept down on them and
buried them to a man. 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.

VI. Magicians as Kings

THE FOREGOING evidence may satisfy us that in many lands and many
races magic has claimed to control the great forces of nature for
the good of man. If that has been so, the practitioners of the art
must necessarily be personages of importance and influence in any
society which puts faith in their extravagant pretensions, and it
would be no matter for surprise if, by virtue of the reputation
which they enjoy and of the awe which they inspire, some of them
should attain to the highest position of authority over their
credulous fellows. In point of fact magicians appear to have often
developed into chiefs and kings.

Let us begin by looking at the lowest race of men as to whom we
possess comparatively full and accurate information, the aborigines
of Australia. These savages are ruled neither by chiefs nor kings.
So far as their tribes can be said to have a political constitution,
it is a democracy or rather an oligarchy of old and influential men,
who meet in council and decide on all measures of importance to the
practical exclusion of the younger men. Their deliberative assembly
answers to the senate of later times: if we had to coin a word for
such a government of elders we might call it a _gerontocracy._ The
elders who in aboriginal Australia thus meet and direct the affairs
of their tribe appear to be for the most part the headmen of their
respective totem clans. Now in Central Australia, where the desert
nature of the country and the almost complete isolation from foreign
influences have retarded progress and preserved the natives on the
whole in their most primitive state, the headmen of the various
totem clans are charged with the important task of performing
magical ceremonies for the multiplication of the totems, and as the
great majority of the totems are edible animals or plants, it
follows that these men are commonly expected to provide the people
with food by means of magic. Others have to make the rain to fall or
to render other services to the community. In short, among the
tribes of Central Australia the headmen are public magicians.
Further, their most important function is to take charge of the
sacred storehouse, usually a cleft in the rocks or a hole in the
ground, where are kept the holy stones and sticks (_churinga_) with
which the souls of all the people, both living and dead, are
apparently supposed to be in a manner bound up. Thus while the
headmen have certainly to perform what we should call civil duties,
such as to inflict punishment for breaches of tribal custom, their
principal functions are sacred or magical.

When we pass from Australia to New Guinea we find that, though the
natives stand at a far higher level of culture than the Australian
aborigines, the constitution of society among them is still
essentially democratic or oligarchic, and chieftainship exists only
in embryo. Thus Sir William MacGregor tells us that in British New
Guinea no one has ever arisen wise enough, bold enough, and strong
enough to become the despot even of a single district. "The nearest
approach to this has been the very distant one of some person
becoming a renowned wizard; but that has only resulted in levying a
certain amount of blackmail."

According to a native account, the origin of the power of Melanesian
chiefs lies entirely in the belief that they have communication with
mighty ghosts, and wield that supernatural power whereby they can
bring the influence of the ghosts to bear. If a chief imposed a
fine, it was paid because the people universally dreaded his ghostly
power, and firmly believed that he could inflict calamity and
sickness upon such as resisted him. As soon as any considerable
number of his people began to disbelieve in his influence with the
ghosts, his power to levy fines was shaken. Again, Dr. George Brown
tells us that in New Britain "a ruling chief was always supposed to
exercise priestly functions, that is, he professed to be in constant
communication with the _tebarans_ (spirits), and through their
influence he was enabled to bring rain or sunshine, fair winds or
foul ones, sickness or health, success or disaster in war, and
generally to procure any blessing or curse for which the applicant
was willing to pay a sufficient price."

Still rising in the scale of culture we come to Africa, where both
the chieftainship and the kingship are fully developed; and here the
evidence for the evolution of the chief out of the magician, and
especially out of the rain-maker, is comparatively plentiful. Thus
among the Wambugwe, a Bantu people of East Africa, the original form
of government was a family republic, but the enormous power of the
sorcerers, transmitted by inheritance, soon raised them to the rank
of petty lords or chiefs. Of the three chiefs living in the country
in 1894 two were much dreaded as magicians, and the wealth of cattle
they possessed came to them almost wholly in the shape of presents
bestowed for their services in that capacity. Their principal art
was that of rain-making. The chiefs of the Wataturu, another people
of East Africa, are said to be nothing but sorcerers destitute of
any direct political influence. Again, among the Wagogo of East
Africa the main power of the chiefs, we are told, is derived from
their art of rain-making. If a chief cannot make rain himself, he
must procure it from some one who can.

Again, among the tribes of the Upper Nile the medicine-men are
generally the chiefs. Their authority rests above all upon their
supposed power of making rain, for "rain is the one thing which
matters to the people in those districts, as if it does not come
down at the right time it means untold hardships for the community.
It is therefore small wonder that men more cunning than their
fellows should arrogate to themselves the power of producing it, or
that having gained such a reputation, they should trade on the
credulity of their simpler neighbours." Hence "most of the chiefs of
these tribes are rain-makers, and enjoy a popularity in proportion
to their powers to give rain to their people at the proper season. .
. . Rain-making chiefs always build their villages on the slopes of
a fairly high hill, as they no doubt know that the hills attract the
clouds, and that they are, therefore, fairly safe in their weather
forecasts." Each of these rain-makers has a number of rain-stones,
such as rock-crystal, aventurine, and amethyst, which he keeps in a
pot. When he wishes to produce rain he plunges the stones in water,
and taking in his hand a peeled cane, which is split at the top, he
beckons with it to the clouds to come or waves them away in the way
they should go, muttering an incantation the while. Or he pours
water and the entrails of a sheep or goat into a hollow in a stone
and then sprinkles the water towards the sky. Though the chief
acquires wealth by the exercise of his supposed magical powers, he
often, perhaps generally, comes to a violent end; for in time of
drought the angry people assemble and kill him, believing that it is
he who prevents the rain from falling. Yet the office is usually
hereditary and passes from father to son. Among the tribes which
cherish these beliefs and observe these customs are the Latuka,
Bari, Laluba, and Lokoiya.

In Central Africa, again, the Lendu tribe, to the west of Lake
Albert, firmly believe that certain people possess the power of
making rain. Among them the rain-maker either is a chief or almost
invariably becomes one. The Banyoro also have a great respect for
the dispensers of rain, whom they load with a profusion of gifts.
The great dispenser, he who has absolute and uncontrollable power
over the rain, is the king; but he can depute his power to other
persons, so that the benefit may be distributed and the heavenly
water laid on over the various parts of the kingdom.

In Western as well as in Eastern and Central Africa we meet with the
same union of chiefly with magical functions. Thus in the Fan tribe
the strict distinction between chief and medicine-man does not
exist. The chief is also a medicine-man and a smith to boot; for the
Fans esteem the smith's craft sacred, and none but chiefs may meddle
with it.

As to the relation between the offices of chief and rain-maker in
South Africa a well-informed writer observes: "In very old days the
chief was the great Rain-maker of the tribe. Some chiefs allowed no
one else to compete with them, lest a successful Rain-maker should
be chosen as chief. There was also another reason: the Rain-maker
was sure to become a rich man if he gained a great reputation, and
it would manifestly never do for the chief to allow any one to be
too rich. The Rain-maker exerts tremendous control over the people,
and so it would be most important to keep this function connected
with royalty. Tradition always places the power of making rain as
the fundamental glory of ancient chiefs and heroes, and it seems
probable that it may have been the origin of chieftainship. The man
who made the rain would naturally become the chief. In the same way
Chaka [the famous Zulu despot] used to declare that he was the only
diviner in the country, for if he allowed rivals his life would be
insecure." Similarly speaking of the South African tribes in
general, Dr. Moffat says that "the rain-maker is in the estimation
of the people no mean personage, possessing an influence over the
minds of the people superior even to that of the king, who is
likewise compelled to yield to the dictates of this arch-official."

The foregoing evidence renders it probable that in Africa the king
has often been developed out of the public magician, and especially
out of the rain-maker. The unbounded fear which the magician
inspires and the wealth which he amasses in the exercise of his
profession may both be supposed to have contributed to his
promotion. But if the career of a magician and especially of a
rain-maker offers great rewards to the successful practitioner of
the art, it is beset with many pitfalls into which the unskilful or
unlucky artist may fall. The position of the public sorcerer is
indeed a very precarious one; for where the people firmly believe
that he has it in his power to make the rain to fall, the sun to
shine, and the fruits of the earth to grow, they naturally impute
drought and dearth to his culpable negligence or wilful obstinacy,
and they punish him accordingly. Hence in Africa the chief who fails
to procure rain is often exiled or killed. 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. The Banjars in 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. 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. On the
Grain Coast the high priest or fetish king, who bears the title of
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. In Ussukuma, a great district on the southern bank
of the Victoria Nyanza, "the rain and locust question is part and
parcel of the Sultan's government. He, too, must know how to make
rain and drive away the locusts. If he and his medicine-men are
unable to accomplish this, his whole existence is at stake in times
of distress. On a certain occasion, when the rain so greatly desired
by the people did not come, the Sultan was simply driven out (in
Ututwa, near Nassa). The people, in fact, hold that rulers must have
power over Nature and her phenomena." Again, we are told of the
natives of the Nyanaza region generally that "they are persuaded
that rain only falls as a result of magic, and the important duty of
causing it to descend devolves on the chief of the tribe. If rain
does not come at the proper time, everybody complains. More than one
petty king has been banished his country because of drought." Among
the Latuka of the Upper Nile, when the crops are withering, and all
the efforts of the chief to draw down rain have proved fruitless,
the people commonly attack him by night, rob him of all he
possesses, and drive him away. But often they kill him.

In many other parts of the world kings have been expected to
regulate the course of nature for the good of their people and have
been punished if they failed to do so. It appears that the
Scythians, when food was scarce, used to put their king in bonds. In
ancient Egypt the sacred kings were blamed for the failure of the
crops, but the sacred beasts were also held 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 animals by night and threatened them, but if the evil did
not abate they slew the beasts. On the coral island of Niue¯ 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.
Ancient Chinese writers inform us that in Corea the blame was laid
on the king whenever too much or too little rain fell and the crops
did not ripen. Some said that he must be deposed, others that he
must be slain.

Among the American Indians the furthest advance towards civilisation
was made under the monarchical and theocratic governments of Mexico
and Peru; but we know too little of the early history of these
countries to say whether the predecessors of their deified kings
were medicine-men or not. Perhaps a trace of such a succession may
be detected in the oath which the Mexican kings, when they mounted
the throne, swore 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. Certainly, in aboriginal America the sorcerer
or medicine-man, surrounded by a halo of mystery and an atmosphere
of awe, was a personage of great influence and importance, and he
may well have developed into a chief or king in many tribes, though
positive evidence of such a development appears to be lacking. Thus
Catlin tells us that in North America the medicine-men "are valued
as dignitaries in the tribe, and the greatest respect is paid to
them by the whole community; not only for their skill in their
_materia medica,_ but more especially for their tact in magic and
mysteries, in which they all deal to a very great extent. . . . In
all tribes their doctors are conjurers--are magicians--are
sooth-sayers, and I had like to have said high-priests, inasmuch as
they superintend and conduct all their religious ceremonies; they
are looked upon by all as oracles of the nation. In all councils of
war and peace, they have a seat with the chiefs, are regularly
consulted before any public step is taken, and the greatest
deference and respect is paid to their opinions." Similarly in
California "the shaman was, and still is, perhaps the most important
individual among the Maidu. In the absence of any definite system of
government, the word of a shaman has great weight: as a class they
are regarded with much awe, and as a rule are obeyed much more than
the chief."

In South America also the magicians or medicine-men seem to have
been on the highroad to chieftainship or kingship. One of the
earliest settlers on the coast of Brazil, the Frenchman Thevet,
reports that the Indians "hold these _pages_ (or medicine-men) in
such honour and reverence that they adore, or rather idolise them.
You may see the common folk go to meet them, prostrate themselves,
and pray to them, saying, 'Grant that I be not ill, that I do not
die, neither I nor my children,' or some such request. And he
answers, 'You shall not die, you shall not be ill,' and such like
replies. But sometimes if it happens that these _pages_ do not tell
the truth, and things turn out otherwise than they predicted, the
people make no scruple of killing them as unworthy of the title and
dignity of _pages._" Among the Lengua Indians of the Gran Chaco
every clan has its cazique or chief, but he possesses little
authority. In virtue of his office he has to make many presents, so
he seldom grows rich and is generally more shabbily clad than any of
his subjects. "As a matter of fact the magician is the man who has
most power in his hands, and he is accustomed to receive presents
instead of to give them." It is the magician's duty to bring down
misfortune and plagues on the enemies of his tribe, and to guard his
own people against hostile magic. For these services he is well
paid, and by them he acquires a position of great influence and

Throughout the Malay region the rajah or king is commonly regarded
with superstitious veneration as the possessor of supernatural
powers, and there are grounds for thinking that he too, like
apparently so many African chiefs, has been developed out of a
simple magician. At the present day the Malays firmly believe that
the king possesses a personal influence over the works of nature,
such as the growth of the crops and the bearing of fruit-trees. The
same prolific virtue is supposed to reside, though in a lesser
degree, in his delegates, and even in the persons of Europeans who
chance to have charge of districts. Thus in Selangor, one of the
native states of the Malay Peninsula, the success or failure of the
rice-crops is often attributed to a change of district officers. The
Toorateyas of Southern Celebes hold that the prosperity of the rice
depends on the behaviour of their princes, and that bad government,
by which they mean a government which does not conform to ancient
custom, will result in a failure of the crops.

The Dyaks of Sarawak believed that their famous English ruler, Rajah
Brooke, was endowed with a certain magical virtue which, if properly
applied, could render the rice-crops abundant. Hence when he visited
a tribe, they used to bring him the seed which they intended to sow
next year, and he fertilised it by shaking over it the women's
necklaces, which had been previously dipped in a special mixture.
And when he entered a village, the women would wash and bathe his
feet, first with water, and then with the milk of a young coco-nut,
and lastly with water again, and all this water which had touched
his person they preserved for the purpose of distributing it on
their farms, believing that it ensured an abundant harvest. Tribes
which were too far off for him to visit used to send him a small
piece of white cloth and a little gold or silver, and when these
things had been impregnated by his generative virtue they buried
them in their fields, and confidently expected a heavy crop. Once
when a European remarked that the rice-crops of the Samban tribe
were thin, the chief immediately replied that they could not be
otherwise, since Rajah Brooke had never visited them, and he begged
that Mr. Brooke might be induced to visit his tribe and remove the
sterility of their land.

The belief that kings possess magical or supernatural powers by
virtue of which they can fertilise the earth and confer other
benefits on their subjects would seem to have been shared by the
ancestors of all the Aryan races from India to Ireland, and it has
left clear traces of itself in our own country down to modern times.
Thus the ancient Hindoo law-book called _The Laws of Manu_ describes
as follows the effects of a good king's reign: "In that country
where the king avoids taking the property of mortal sinners, men are
born in due time and are long-lived. And the crops of the husbandmen
spring up, each as it was sown, and the children die not, and no
misshaped offspring is born." In Homeric Greece kings and chiefs
were spoken of as sacred or divine; their houses, too, were divine
and their chariots sacred; and it was thought that the reign of a
good king caused the black earth to bring forth wheat and barley,
the trees to be loaded with fruit, the flocks to multiply, and the
sea to yield fish. In the Middle Ages, when Waldemar I., King of
Denmark, travelled in Germany, mothers brought their infants and
husbandmen their seed for him to lay his hands on, thinking that
children would both thrive the better for the royal touch, and for a
like reason farmers asked him to throw the seed for them. It was the
belief of the ancient Irish that when their kings observed the
customs of their ancestors, the seasons were mild, the crops
plentiful, the cattle fruitful, the waters abounded with fish, and
the fruit trees had to be propped up on account of the weight of
their produce. A canon attributed to St. Patrick enumerates among
the blessings that attend the reign of a just king "fine weather,
calm seas, crops abundant, and trees laden with fruit." On the other
hand, dearth, dryness of cows, blight of fruit, and scarcity of corn
were regarded as infallible proofs that the reigning king was bad.

Perhaps the last relic of such superstitions which lingered about
our English kings was the notion that they could heal scrofula by
their touch. The disease was accordingly known as the King's Evil.
Queen Elizabeth often exercised this miraculous gift of healing. On
Midsummer Day 1633, Charles the First cured a hundred patients at
one swoop in the chapel royal at Holyrood. But it was under his son
Charles the Second that the practice seems to have attained its
highest vogue. It is said that in the course of his reign Charles
the Second touched near a hundred thousand persons for scrofula. The
press to get near him was sometimes terrific. On one occasion six or
seven of those who came to be healed were trampled to death. The
cool-headed William the Third contemptuously refused to lend himself
to the hocuspocus; and when his palace was besieged by the usual
unsavoury crowd, he ordered them to be turned away with a dole. On
the only occasion when he was importuned into laying his hand on a
patient, he said to him, "God give you better health and more
sense." However, the practice was continued, as might have been
expected, by the dull bigot James the Second and his dull daughter
Queen Anne.

The kings of France also claimed to possess the same gift of healing
by touch, which they are said to have derived from Clovis or from
St. Louis, while our English kings inherited it from Edward the
Confessor. Similarly the savage chiefs of Tonga were believed to
heal scrofula and cases of indurated liver by the touch of their
feet; and the cure was strictly homoeopathic, for the disease as
well as the cure was thought to be caused by contact with the royal
person or with anything that belonged to it.

On the whole, then, we seem to be justified in inferring that in
many parts of the world the king is the lineal successor of the old
magician or medicine-man. When once a special class of sorcerers has
been segregated from the community and entrusted by it with the
discharge of duties on which the public safety and welfare are
believed to depend, these men gradually rise to wealth and power,
till their leaders blossom out into sacred kings. But the great
social revolution which thus begins with democracy and ends in
despotism is attended by an intellectual revolution which affects
both the conception and the functions of royalty. For as time goes
on, the fallacy of magic becomes more and more apparent to the
acuter minds and is slowly displaced by religion; in other words,
the magician gives way to the priest, who, renouncing the attempt to
control directly the processes of nature for the good of man, seeks
to attain the same end indirectly by appealing to the gods to do for
him what he no longer fancies he can do for himself. Hence the king,
starting as a magician, tends gradually to exchange the practice of
magic for the priestly functions of prayer and sacrifice. And while
the distinction between the human and the divine is still
imperfectly drawn, it is often imagined that men may themselves
attain to godhead, not merely after their death, but in their
lifetime, through the temporary or permanent possession of their
whole nature by a great and powerful spirit. No class of the
community has benefited so much as kings by this belief in the
possible incarnation of a god in human form. The doctrine of that
incarnation, and with it the theory of the divinity of kings in the
strict sense of the word, will form the subject of the following

VII. Incarnate Human Gods

THE INSTANCES which in the preceding chapters I have drawn from the
beliefs and practices of rude peoples all over the world, may
suffice to prove that the savage 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 superhuman beings
endowed with powers to which man possesses nothing comparable in
degree and hardly even in kind, has been slowly evolved in the
course of history. By primitive peoples the supernatural agents are
not regarded as greatly, if 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
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 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 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 and sinks to the level of a
black art. It is not 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
rise or fall 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. Nor does
he draw any very sharp distinction between a god and a powerful
sorcerer. His gods are often merely invisible magicians who behind
the veil of nature work the same sort of charms and incantations
which the human magician works in a visible and bodily form among
his fellows. And as the gods are commonly believed to exhibit
themselves in the likeness of men to their worshippers, it is easy
for the magician, with his supposed miraculous powers, to acquire
the reputation of being an incarnate deity. Thus beginning as little
more than a simple conjurer, the medicine-man or magician tends to
blossom out into a full-blown god and king in one. Only in speaking
of him as a god we must beware of importing into the savage
conception of deity those very abstract and complex ideas which we
attach to the term. Our ideas on this profound subject are the fruit
of a long intellectual and moral evolution, and they are so far from
being shared by the savage that he cannot even understand them when
they are explained to him. Much of the controversy which has raged
as to the religion of the lower races has sprung merely from a
mutual misunderstanding. The savage does not understand the thoughts
of the civilised man, and few civilised men understand the thoughts
of the savage. When the savage uses his word for god, he has in his
mind a being of a certain sort: when the civilised man uses his word
for god, he has in his mind a being of a very different sort; and
if, as commonly happens, the two men are equally unable to place
themselves at the other's point of view, nothing but confusion and
mistakes can result from their discussions. If we civilised men
insist on limiting the name of God to that particular conception of
the divine nature which we ourselves have formed, then we must
confess that the savage has no god at all. But we shall adhere more
closely to the facts of history if we allow most of the higher
savages at least to possess a rudimentary notion of certain
supernatural beings who may fittingly be called gods, though not in
the full sense in which we use the word. That rudimentary notion
represents in all probability the germ out of which the civilised
peoples have gradually evolved their own high conceptions of deity;
and if we could trace the whole course of religious development, we
might find that the chain which links our idea of the Godhead with
that of the savage is one and unbroken.

With these explanations and cautions I will now adduce some examples
of gods who have been believed by their worshippers to be incarnate
in living human beings, whether men or women. The persons in whom a
deity is thought to reveal himself are by no means always kings or
descendants of kings; the supposed incarnation may take place even
in men of the humblest rank. In India, for example, one human god
started in life as a cotton-bleacher and another as the son of a
carpenter. I shall therefore not draw my examples exclusively from
royal personages, as I wish to illustrate the general principle of
the deification of living men, in other words, the incarnation of a
deity in human form. 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 itself in supernatural knowledge rather than in
supernatural power. In other words, its usual manifestations are
divination and prophecy 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. Thus,
for example, in the Sandwich Islands, the king, personating the god,
uttered the responses of the oracle from his concealment in a frame
of wicker-work. But in the southern islands of the Pacific the god
"frequently entered the priest, who, inflated as it were with the
divinity, ceased to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but moved and
spoke as entirely under supernatural influence. In this respect
there was a striking resemblance between the rude oracles of the
Polynesians, and those of the celebrated nations of ancient Greece.
As soon as the god was supposed to have entered the priest, the
latter became violently agitated, and worked himself up to the
highest pitch of apparent frenzy, the muscles of the limbs seemed
convulsed, the body swelled, the countenance became terrific, the
features distorted, and the eyes wild and strained. In this state he
often rolled on the earth, foaming at the mouth, as if labouring
under the influence of the divinity by whom he was possessed, and,
in shrill cries, and violent and often indistinct sounds, revealed
the will of the god. The priests, who were attending, and versed in
the mysteries, received, and reported to the people, the
declarations which had been thus received. When the priest had
uttered the response of the oracle, the violent paroxysm gradually
subsided, and comparative composure ensued. The god did not,
however, always leave him as soon as the communication had been
made. Sometimes the same _taura,_ or priest, continued for two or
three days possessed by the spirit or deity; a piece of a native
cloth, of a peculiar kind, worn round one arm, was an indication of
inspiration, or of the indwelling of the god with the individual who
wore it. The acts of the man during this period were considered as
those of the god, and hence the greatest attention was paid to his
expressions, and the whole of his deportment. . . . When _uruhia_
(under the inspiration of the spirit), the priest was always
considered as sacred as the god, and was called, during this period,
_atua,_ god, though at other times only denominated _taura_ or

But examples of such temporary inspiration are so common in every
part of the world and are now so familiar through books on ethnology
that it is needless to multiply illustrations of the general
principle. 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. At Aegira in Achaia the priestess of Earth drank the
fresh blood of a bull before she descended into the cave to
prophesy. Similarly among the Kuruvikkarans, a class of
bird-catchers and beggars in Southern India, the goddess Kali is
believed to descend upon the priest, and he gives oracular replies
after sucking the blood which streams from the cut throat of a goat.
At a festival of the Alfoors of Minahassa, in Northern Celebes,
after a pig has been killed, the priest rushes furiously at it,
thrusts his head into the carcase, 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 carcase and drinks of the blood; a second
time he is forced into the chair and continues his predictions. It
is thought that there is a spirit in him which possesses the power
of prophecy.

The other mode of producing temporary inspiration, to which I shall
here refer, consists in the use of a sacred tree or plant. 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 and loudly repeated by her audience. So Apollo's
prophetess ate the sacred laurel and was fumigated with it before
she prophesied. The Bacchanals ate ivy, and their inspired fury was
by some believed to be due to the exciting and intoxicating
properties of the plant. In Uganda the priest, in order to be
inspired by his god, smokes a pipe of tobacco fiercely till he works
himself into a frenzy; the loud excited tones in which he then talks
are recognised as the voice of the god speaking through him. In
Madura, an island off the north coast of Java, each spirit has its
regular medium, who is oftener a woman than a man. To prepare
herself for the reception of the spirit she inhales the fumes of
incense, sitting with her head over a smoking censer. Gradually she
falls into a sort of trance accompanied by shrieks, grimaces, and
violent spasms. The spirit is now supposed to have entered into her,
and when she grows calmer her words are regarded as oracular, being
the utterances of the indwelling spirit, while her own soul is
temporarily absent.

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 supposed to have chosen for his
temporary incarnation. When found, the man is conducted 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. A certain image of
Apollo, which stood in a sacred cave at Hylae near Magnesia, was
thought 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. 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 power 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.
Thus in the Marquesas or Washington Islands there was a class of men
who were deified in their lifetime. They were supposed 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. 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.

The ancient Egyptians, far from restricting their adoration to cats
and dogs and such small deer, very liberally extended it to men. One
of these human deities resided at the village of Anabis, and burnt
sacrifices were offered to him on the altars; after which, says
Porphyry, he would eat his dinner just as if he were an ordinary
mortal. In classical antiquity the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles
gave himself out to be not merely a wizard but a god. Addressing his
fellow-citizens in verse he said:

"O friends, in this great city that climbs the yellow slope
Of Agrigentum's citadel, who make good works your scope,
Who offer to the stranger a haven quiet and fair,
All hail! Among you honoured I walk with lofty air.
With garlands, blooming garlands you crown my noble brow,
A mortal man no longer, a deathless godhead now.
Where e'er I go, the people crowd round and worship pay,
And thousands follow seeking to learn the better way.
Some crave prophetic visions, some smit with anguish sore
Would fain hear words of comfort and suffer pain no more."

He asserted that he could teach his disciples how to make the wind
to blow or be still, the rain to fall and the sun to shine, how to
banish sickness and old age and to raise the dead. When Demetrius
Poliorcetes restored the Athenian democracy in 307 B.C., the
Athenians decreed divine honours to him and his father Antigonus,
both of them being then alive, under the title of the Saviour Gods.
Altars were set up to the Saviours, and a priest appointed to attend
to their worship. The people went forth to meet their deliverer with
hymns and dances, with garlands and incense and libations; they
lined the streets and sang that he was the only true god, for the
other gods slept, or dwelt far away, or were not. In the words of a
contemporary poet, which were chanted in public and sung in private:

"Of all the gods the greatest and the dearest
To the city are come.
For Demeter and Demetrius
Together time has brought.
She comes to hold the Maiden's awful rites,
And he joyous and fair and laughing,
As befits a god.
A glorious sight, with all his friends about him,
He in their midst,
They like to stars, and he the sun.
Son of Poseidon the mighty, Aphrodite's son,
All hail!
The other gods dwell far away,
Or have no ears,
Or are not, or pay us no heed.
But thee we present see,
No god of wood or stone, but godhead true.
Therefore to thee we pray."

The ancient Germans believed that there was something holy in women,
and accordingly consulted them as oracles. Their sacred women, we
are told, looked on the eddying rivers and listened to the murmur or
the roar of the water, and from the sight and sound foretold what
would come to pass. But often the veneration of the men went
further, and they worshipped women as true and living goddesses. For
example, in the reign of Vespasian a certain Veleda, of the tribe of
the Bructeri, was commonly held to be a deity, and in that character
reigned over her people, her sway being acknowledged far and wide.
She lived in a tower on the river Lippe, a tributary of the Rhine.
When the people of Cologne sent to make a treaty with her, the
ambassadors were not admitted to her presence; the negotiations were
conducted through a minister, who acted as the mouthpiece of her
divinity and reported her oracular utterances. The example shows how
easily among our rude forefathers the ideas of divinity and royalty
coalesced. It is said that among the Getae down to the beginning of
our era there was always a man who personified a god and was called
God by the people. He dwelt on a sacred mountain and acted as
adviser to the king.

According to the early Portuguese historian, Dos Santos, the Zimbas,
or Muzimbas, a people of South-eastern Africa, "do not adore idols
or recognize any god, but instead they venerate and honour their
king, whom they regard as a divinity, and they say he is the
greatest and best in the world. And the said king says of himself
that he alone is god of the earth, for which reason if it rains when
he does not wish it to do so, or is too hot, he shoots arrows at the
sky for not obeying him." The Mashona of Southern Africa informed
their bishop that they had once had a god, but that the Matabeles
had driven him away. "This last was in reference to a curious custom
in some villages of keeping a man they called their god. He seemed
to be consulted by the people and had presents given to him. There
was one at a village belonging to a chief Magondi, in the old days.
We were asked not to fire off any guns near the village, or we
should frighten him away." This Mashona god was formerly bound to
render an annual tribute to the king of the Matabele in the shape of
four black oxen and one dance. A missionary has seen and described
the deity discharging the latter part of his duty in front of the
royal hut. For three mortal hours, without a break, to the banging
of a tambourine, the click of castanettes, and the drone of a
monotonous song, the swarthy god engaged in a frenzied dance,
crouching on his hams like a tailor, sweating like a pig, and
bounding about with an agility which testified to the strength and
elasticity of his divine legs.

The Baganda of Central Africa believed in a god of Lake Nyanza, who
sometimes took up his abode in a man or woman. The incarnate god was
much feared by all the people, including the king and the chiefs.
When the mystery of incarnation had taken place, the man, or rather
the god, removed about a mile and a half from the margin of the
lake, and there awaited the appearance of the new moon before he
engaged in his sacred duties. From the moment that the crescent moon
appeared faintly in the sky, the king and all his subjects were at
the command of the divine man, or _Lubare_ (god), as he was called,
who reigned supreme not only in matters of faith and ritual, but
also in questions of war and state policy. He was consulted as an
oracle; by his word he could inflict or heal sickness, withhold
rain, and cause famine. Large presents were made him when his advice
was sought. The chief of Urua, a large region to the west of Lake
Tanganyika, "arrogates to himself divine honours and power and
pretends to abstain from food for days without feeling its
necessity; and, indeed, declares that as a god he is altogether
above requiring food and only eats, drinks, and smokes for the
pleasure it affords him." Among the Gallas, when a woman grows tired
of the cares of housekeeping, she begins to talk incoherently and to
demean herself extravagantly. This is a sign of the descent of the
holy spirit Callo upon her. Immediately her husband prostrates
himself and adores her; she ceases to bear the humble title of wife
and is called "Lord"; domestic duties have no further claim on her,
and her will is a divine law.

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. Much the same is said of the king of Mombasa. Down to a few
years ago, when his spiritual reign on earth was brought to an
abrupt end by the carnal weapons of English marines and bluejackets,
the king of Benin was the chief object of worship in his dominions.
"He occupies a higher post here than the Pope does in Catholic
Europe; for he is not only God's vicegerent upon earth, but a god
himself, whose subjects both obey and adore him as such, although I
believe their adoration to arise rather from fear than love." The
king of Iddah told the English officers of the Niger Expedition,
"God made me after his own image; I am all the same as God; and he
appointed me a king."

A peculiarly bloodthirsty monarch of Burma, by name Badonsachen,
whose very countenance reflected the inbred ferocity of his nature,
and under whose reign more victims perished by the executioner than
by the common enemy, conceived the notion that he was something more
than mortal, and that this high distinction had been granted him as
a reward for his numerous good works. Accordingly he laid aside the
title of king and aimed at making himself a god. With this view, and
in imitation of Buddha, who, before being advanced to the rank of a
divinity, had quitted his royal palace and seraglio and retired from
the world, Badonsachen withdrew from his palace to an immense
pagoda, the largest in the empire, which he had been engaged in
constructing for many years. Here he held conferences with the most
learned monks, in which he sought to persuade them that the five
thousand years assigned for the observance of the law of Buddha were
now elapsed, and that he himself was the god who was destined to
appear after that period, and to abolish the old law by substituting
his own. But to his great mortification many of the monks undertook
to demonstrate the contrary; and this disappointment, combined with
his love of power and his impatience under the restraints of an
ascetic life, quickly disabused him of his imaginary godhead, and
drove him back to his palace and his harem. The king of Siam "is
venerated equally with a divinity. His subjects ought not to look
him in the face; they prostrate themselves before him when he
passes, and appear before him on their knees, their elbows resting
on the ground." There is a special language devoted to his sacred
person and attributes, and it must be used by all who speak to or of
him. Even the natives have difficulty in mastering this peculiar
vocabulary. The hairs of the monarch's head, the soles of his feet,
the breath of his body, indeed every single detail of his person,
both outward and inward, have particular names. When he eats or
drinks, sleeps or walks, a special word indicates that these acts
are being performed by the sovereign, and such words cannot possibly
be applied to the acts of any other person whatever. There is no
word in the Siamese language by which any creature of higher rank or
greater dignity than a monarch can be described; and the
missionaries, when they speak of God, are forced to use the native
word for king.

But perhaps no country in the world has been so prolific of human
gods as India; nowhere has the divine grace been poured out in a
more liberal measure on all classes of society from kings down to
milkmen. Thus amongst the Todas, a pastoral people of the Neilgherry
Hills of Southern India, the dairy is a sanctuary, and the milkman
who attends to it has been described as 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.

Further, in India "every king is regarded as little short of a
present god." The Hindoo 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." There is said
to have been a sect in Orissa some years ago who worshipped the late
Queen Victoria in her lifetime 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 ardour of his adorers. The more he punished them,
the greater grew the religious awe with which they worshipped him.
At Benares not many years ago a celebrated deity was incarnate in
the person of a Hindoo gentleman who rejoiced in the euphonious name
of Swami Bhaskaranandaji Saraswati, and looked uncommonly like the
late Cardinal Manning, only more ingenuous. His eyes beamed with
kindly human interest, and he took what is described as an innocent
pleasure in the divine honours paid him by his confiding

At Chinchvad, a small town about ten miles from Poona in Western
India, there lives a family of whom one in each generation is
believed by a large proportion of the Mahrattas to be an incarnation
of the elephant-headed god Gunputty. That celebrated deity was first
made flesh about the year 1640 in the person of a Brahman of Poona,
by name Mooraba Gosseyn, who sought to work out his salvation by
abstinence, mortification, and prayer. His piety had its reward. The
god himself appeared to him in a vision of the night and promised
that a portion of his, that is, of Gunputty's holy spirit should
abide with him and with his seed after him even to the seventh
generation. The divine promise was fulfilled. Seven successive
incarnations, transmitted from father to son, manifested the light
of Gunputty to a dark world. The last of the direct line, a
heavy-looking god with very weak eyes, died in the year 1810. But
the cause of truth was too sacred, and the value of the church
property too considerable, to allow the Brahmans to contemplate with
equanimity the unspeakable loss that would be sustained by a world
which knew not Gunputty. Accordingly they sought and found a holy
vessel in whom the divine spirit of the master had revealed itself
anew, and the revelation has been happily continued in an unbroken
succession of vessels from that time to this. But a mysterious law
of spiritual economy, whose operation in the history of religion we
may deplore though we cannot alter, has decreed that the miracles
wrought by the god-man in these degenerate days cannot compare with
those which were wrought by his predecessors in days gone by; and it
is even reported that the only sign vouchsafed by him to the present
generation of vipers is the miracle of feeding the multitude whom he
annually entertains to dinner at Chinchvad.

A Hindoo sect, which has many representatives in Bombay and Central
India, holds that its spiritual chiefs or Maharajas, as they are
called, are representatives or even actual incarnations on earth of
the god Krishna. And as Krishna looks down from heaven with most
favour on such as minister to the wants of his successors and vicars
on earth, a peculiar rite called Self-devotion has been instituted,
whereby his faithful worshippers make over their bodies, their
souls, and, what is perhaps still more important, their worldly
substance to his adorable incarnations; and women are taught to
believe that the highest bliss for themselves and their families is
to be attained by yielding themselves to the embraces of those
beings in whom the divine nature mysteriously coexists with the form
and even the appetites of true humanity.

Christianity itself has not uniformly escaped the taint of these
unhappy delusions; indeed it has often been sullied by the
extravagances of vain pretenders to a divinity equal to or even
surpassing that of its great Founder. In the second century Montanus
the Phrygian claimed to be the incarnate Trinity, uniting in his
single person God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Nor is this an isolated case, the exorbitant pretension of a single
ill-balanced mind. From the earliest times down to the present day
many sects have believed that Christ, nay God himself, is incarnate
in every fully initiated Christian, and they have carried this
belief to its logical conclusion by adoring each other. Tertullian
records that this was done by his fellow-Christians at Carthage in
the second century; the disciples of St. Columba worshipped him as
an embodiment of Christ; and in the eighth century Elipandus of
Toledo spoke of Christ as "a god among gods," meaning that all
believers were gods just as truly as Jesus himself. The adoration of
each other was customary among the Albigenses, and is noticed
hundreds of times in the records of the Inquisition at Toulouse in
the early part of the fourteenth century.

In the thirteenth century there arose a sect called the Brethren and
Sisters of the Free Spirit, who held that by long and assiduous
contemplation any man might be united to the deity in an ineffable
manner and become one with the source and parent of all things, and
that he who had thus ascended to God and been absorbed in his
beatific essence, actually formed part of the Godhead, was the Son
of God in the same sense and manner with Christ himself, and enjoyed
thereby a glorious immunity from the trammels of all laws human and
divine. Inwardly transported by this blissful persuasion, though
outwardly presenting in their aspect and manners a shocking air of
lunacy and distraction, the sectaries roamed from place to place,
attired in the most fantastic apparel and begging their bread with
wild shouts and clamour, spurning indignantly every kind of honest
labour and industry as an obstacle to divine contemplation and to
the ascent of the soul towards the Father of spirits. In all their
excursions they were followed by women with whom they lived on terms
of the closest familiarity. Those of them who conceived they had
made the greatest proficiency in the higher spiritual life dispensed
with the use of clothes altogether in their assemblies, looking upon
decency and modesty as marks of inward corruption, characteristics
of a soul that still grovelled under the dominion of the flesh and
had not yet been elevated into communion with the divine spirit, its
centre and source. Sometimes their progress towards this mystic
communion was accelerated by the Inquisition, and they expired in
the flames, not merely with unclouded serenity, but with the most
triumphant feelings of cheerfulness and joy.

About the year 1830 there appeared, in one of the States of the
American Union bordering on Kentucky, an impostor who declared that
he was the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind, and that he had
reappeared on earth to recall the impious, the unbelieving, and
sinners to their duty. He protested that if they did not mend their
ways within a certain time, he would give the signal, and in a
moment the world would crumble to ruins. These extravagant
pretensions were received with favour even by persons of wealth and
position in society. At last a German humbly besought the new
Messiah to announce the dreadful catastrophe to his
fellow-countrymen in the German language, as they did not understand
English, and it seemed a pity that they should be damned merely on
that account. The would-be Saviour in reply confessed with great
candour that he did not know German. "What!" retorted the German,
"you the Son of God, and don't speak all languages, and don't even
know German? Come, come, you are a knave, a hypocrite, and a madman.
Bedlam is the place for you." The spectators laughed, and went away
ashamed of their credulity.

Sometimes, at the death of the human incarnation, the divine spirit
transmigrates into another man. The Buddhist Tartars believe in a
great number of living Buddhas, who officiate as Grand Lamas at the
head of the most 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. At the head of all the Lamas is the Dalai Lama of
Lhasa, the Rome of Tibet. He is regarded as a living god, 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 drawing lots from
a golden jar. Wherever he is born, the trees and plants put forth
green leaves; at his bidding flowers bloom and springs of water
rise; and his presence diffuses heavenly blessings.

But he is by no means the only man who poses as a god in these
regions. A register of all the incarnate gods in the Chinese empire
is kept in the _Li fan yiian_ or Colonial Office at Peking. The
number of gods who have thus taken out a license is one hundred and
sixty. Tibet is blessed with thirty of them, Northern Mongolia
rejoices in nineteen, and Southern Mongolia basks in the sunshine of
no less than fifty-seven. The Chinese government, with a paternal
solicitude for the welfare of its subjects, forbids the gods on the
register to be reborn anywhere but in Tibet. They fear lest the
birth of a god in Mongolia should have serious political
consequences by stirring the dormant patriotism and warlike spirit
of the Mongols, who might rally round an ambitious native deity of
royal lineage and seek to win for him, at the point of the sword, a
temporal as well as a spiritual kingdom. But besides these public or
licensed gods there are a great many little private gods, or
unlicensed practitioners of divinity, who work miracles and bless
their people in holes and corners; and of late years the Chinese
government has winked at the rebirth of these pettifogging deities
outside of Tibet. However, once they are born, the government keeps
its eye on them as well as on the regular practitioners, and if any
of them misbehaves he is promptly degraded, banished to a distant
monastery, and strictly forbidden ever to be born again in the

From our 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. 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 them 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. Issuing from the
sultry valleys upon the lofty tableland 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. The Mexican kings at their accession,
as we have seen, 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. We are told that Montezuma, the last king
of Mexico, was worshipped by his people as a god.

The early Babylonian kings, from the time of Sargon I. till the
fourth dynasty of Ur or later, claimed to be gods in their lifetime.
The monarchs of the fourth dynasty of Ur in particular had temples
built in their honour; they set up their statues in various
sanctuaries and commanded the people to sacrifice to them; the
eighth month was especially dedicated to the kings, and sacrifices
were offered to them at the new moon and on the fifteenth of each
month. Again, 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.

The kings of Egypt were deified in their lifetime, sacrifices were
offered to them, and their worship was celebrated in special temples
and by 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." "It has never been doubted that
the king claimed actual divinity; he was the 'great god,' the'golden
Horus,' and son of Ra. He claimed authority not only over Egypt, but
over'all lands and nations,''the whole world in its length and its
breadth, the east and the west,''the entire compass of the great
circuit of the sun,''the sky and what is in it, the earth and all
that is upon it,''every creature that walks upon two or upon four
legs, all that fly or flutter, the whole world offers her
productions to him.' Whatever in fact might be asserted of the
Sun-god, was dogmatically predicable of the king of Egypt. His
titles were directly derived from those of the Sun-god." "In the
course of his existence," we are told, "the king of Egypt exhausted
all the possible conceptions of divinity which the Egyptians had
framed for themselves. A superhuman god by his birth and by his
royal office, he became the deified man after his death. Thus all
that was known of the divine was summed up in him."

We have now completed our sketch, for it is no more than a sketch,
of the evolution of that sacred kingship which attained its highest
form, its most absolute expression, in the monarchies of Peru and
Egypt. Historically, the institution appears to have originated in
the order of public magicians or medicine-men; logically it rests on
a mistaken deduction from the association of ideas. Men mistook the
order of their ideas for the order of nature, and hence imagined
that the control which they have, or seem to have, over their
thoughts, permitted them to exercise a corresponding control over
things. The men who for one reason or another, because of the
strength or the weakness of their natural parts, were supposed to
possess these magical powers in the highest degree, were gradually
marked off from their fellows and became a separate class, who were
destined to exercise a most far-reaching influence on the political,
religious, and intellectual evolution of mankind. Social progress,
as we know, consists mainly in a successive differentiation of
functions, or, in simpler language, a division of labour. The work
which in primitive society is done by all alike and by all equally
ill, or nearly so, is gradually distributed among different classes
of workers and executed more and more perfectly; and so far as the
products, material or immaterial, of this specialised labour are
shared by all, the whole community benefits by the increasing
specialisation. Now magicians or medicine-men appear to constitute
the oldest artificial or professional class in the evolution of
society. For sorcerers are found in every savage tribe known to us;
and among the lowest savages, such as the Australian aborigines,
they are the only professional class that exists. As time goes on,
and the process of differentiation continues, the order of
medicine-men is itself subdivided into such classes as the healers
of disease, the makers of rain, and so forth; while the most
powerful member of the order wins for himself a position as chief
and gradually develops into a sacred king, his old magical functions
falling more and more into the background and being exchanged for
priestly or even divine duties, in proportion as magic is slowly
ousted by religion. Still later, a partition is effected between the
civil and the religious aspect of the kingship, the temporal power
being committed to one man and the spiritual to another. Meanwhile
the magicians, who may be repressed but cannot be extirpated by the
predominance of religion, still addict themselves to their old
occult arts in preference to the newer ritual of sacrifice and
prayer; and in time the more sagacious of their number perceive the
fallacy of magic and hit upon a more effectual mode of manipulating
the forces of nature for the good of man; in short, they abandon
sorcery for science. I am far from affirming that the course of
development has everywhere rigidly followed these lines: it has
doubtless varied greatly in different societies. I merely mean to
indicate in the broadest outline what I conceive to have been its
general trend. Regarded from the industrial point of view the
evolution has been from uniformity to diversity of function:
regarded from the political point of view, it has been from
democracy to despotism. With the later history of monarchy,
especially with the decay of despotism and its displacement by forms
of government better adapted to the higher needs of humanity, we are
not concerned in this enquiry: our theme is the growth, not the
decay, of a great and, in its time, beneficent institution.

VIII. Departmental Kings of Nature

THE PRECEDING investigation has proved that the same union of sacred
functions with a royal title which meets us in the King of the Wood
at Nemi, the Sacrificial King at Rome, and the magistrate called the
King 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, not only in name but in fact, swaying the sceptre
as well as the crosier. All this confirms the traditional view 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 titular King 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
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 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 near the mouth of the Congo dwells Namvulu Vumu,
King of the Rain and Storm. 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, 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 blessed waters of heaven to drip on the brown and
withered pastures. 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 by sprinkling water on the ground out of a handbell.

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 Kunama, 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 Barea, who is also consulted by the northern
Kunama, lives near Tembadere 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."

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. Down to a few years ago no
European, so far as is known, had ever seen either of them; and
their very existence might have passed for a fable, were it not that
till lately communications were regularly maintained between them
and the King of Cambodia, who year by year exchanged presents with
them. 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 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. Like many other sacred kings, of whom we shall
read in the sequel, the Kings of Fire and Water are not allowed to
die a natural death, for that would lower their reputation.
Accordingly when one of them is seriously ill, the elders hold a
consultation and if they think he cannot recover they stab him to
death. His body is burned and the ashes are piously collected and
publicly honoured for five years. Part of them is given to the
widow, and she keeps them in an urn, which she must carry on her
back when she goes to weep on her husband's grave.

We are told that the Fire King, the more important of the two, whose
supernatural powers have never been questioned, officiates at
marriages, festivals, and sacrifices in honour of the _Yan_ or
spirit. 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 at the time of the last deluge, but still fresh
and green; a rattan, also very old but bearing flowers that never
fade; and lastly, a sword containing a _Yan_ or spirit, who guards
it constantly and works miracles with it. The spirit is said to be
that of a slave, whose blood chanced to fall upon the blade while it
was being forged, and who died a voluntary death to expiate his
involuntary offence. By means of the two former talismans the Water
King can raise a flood that would drown the whole earth. If the Fire
King draws the magic sword a few inches from its sheath, the sun is
hidden and men and beasts fall into a profound sleep; were he to
draw it quite out of the scabbard, the world would come to an end.
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.

Contrary to the common usage of the country, which is to bury the
dead, the bodies of both these mystic monarchs are burnt, but their
nails and some of their teeth and bones are religiously preserved as
amulets. It is while the corpse is being consumed on the pyre that
the kinsmen of the deceased magician flee to the forest and hide
themselves, for fear of being elevated to the invidious dignity
which he has just vacated. The people go and search for them, and
the first whose lurking place they discover is made King of Fire or

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.

IX. The Worship of Trees

1. Tree-spirits

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 primaeval
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 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.
Four centuries later it was visited by the Emperor Julian, and the
solitude, the gloom, the silence of the forest appear to have made a
deep impression on his sensitive nature. He declared that he knew
nothing like it in the Roman empire. 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 woods 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. The excavation of ancient 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 woods
of elms, chestnuts, and especially of oaks. Archaeology is here
confirmed by history; for classical writers contain many references
to Italian forests which have now disappeared. As late as the fourth
century before our era Rome was divided from central Etruria by the
dreaded Ciminian forest, which Livy compares to the woods of
Germany. No merchant, if we may trust the Roman historian, had ever
penetrated its pathless solitudes; and it was deemed a most daring
feat when a Roman general, after sending two scouts to explore its
intricacies, led his army into the forest and, making his way to a
ridge of the wooded mountains, looked down on the rich Etrurian
fields spread out below. In Greece beautiful woods of pine, oak, and
other trees still linger on the slopes of the high Arcadian
mountains, still adorn with their verdure the deep gorge through
which the Ladon hurries to join the sacred Alpheus, and were still,
down to a few years ago, mirrored in the dark blue waters of the
lonely lake of Pheneus; but they are mere fragments of the forests
which clothed great tracts in antiquity, and which at a more remote
epoch may have spanned the Greek peninsula from sea to sea.

From an examination of the Teutonic words for "temple" Grimm has
made it probable that amongst the Germans the oldest sanctuaries
were natural woods. However that 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, and their old word for sanctuary seems to be identical in
origin and meaning with the Latin _nemus,_ a grove or woodland
glade, which still survives in the name of Nemi. Sacred groves were
common among the ancient Germans, and tree-worship is hardly extinct
amongst their descendants at the present day. How serious that
worship was in former times may be gathered from the ferocious
penalty appointed by the old German laws for such as dared to peel
the bark of a standing tree. The culprit's navel was to be cut out
and nailed to the part of the tree which he had peeled, and he was
to be driven round and round the tree till all his guts were wound
about its trunk. The intention of the punishment clearly was to
replace the dead bark by a living substitute taken from the culprit;
it was a life for a life, the life of a man for the life of a tree.
At Upsala, the old religious capital of Sweden, there was a sacred
grove in which every tree was regarded as divine. The heathen Slavs
worshipped trees and groves. 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. Some of them revered remarkable oaks and other great
shady trees, from which they received oracular responses. Some
maintained holy groves about their villages or houses, where even to
break a twig would have been a sin. They thought that he who cut a
bough in such a grove either died suddenly or was crippled in one of
his limbs. Proofs of the prevalence of tree-worship in ancient
Greece and Italy are abundant. In the sanctuary of Aesculapius at
Cos, for example, it was forbidden to cut down the cypress-trees
under a penalty of a thousand drachms. But 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. Again, on
the 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 helter-skelter from all sides with buckets of water, as if
(says Plutarch) they were hastening to put out a fire.

Among the tribes of the Finnish-Ugrian stock in Europe the heathen
worship was performed for the most part in sacred groves, which were
always enclosed with a fence. Such a grove often consisted merely of
a glade or clearing with a few trees dotted about, upon which in
former times the skins of the sacrificial victims were hung. The
central point of the grove, at least among the tribes of the Volga,
was the sacred tree, beside which everything else sank into
insignificance. Before it the worshippers assembled and the priest
offered his prayers, at its roots the victim was sacrificed, and its
boughs sometimes served as a pulpit. No wood might be hewn and no
branch broken in the grove, and women were generally forbidden to
enter it.

But it is necessary to examine in some detail the notions on which
the worship of trees and plants is based. To the savage the world in
general is animate, and trees and plants are no exception to the
rule. He thinks that they have souls like his own, and he treats
them accordingly. "They say," writes the ancient vegetarian
Porphyry, "that primitive men led an unhappy life, for their
superstition did not stop at animals but extended even to plants.
For why should the slaughter of an ox or a sheep be a greater wrong
than the felling of a fir or an oak, seeing that a soul is implanted
in these trees also?" Similarly, the Hidatsa Indians of North
America believe that every natural object has its spirit, or to
speak more properly, its shade. To these shades some consideration
or respect is due, but not equally to all. For example, the shade of
the cottonwood, the greatest tree in the valley of the Upper
Missouri, is supposed to possess an intelligence which, if properly
approached, may help the Indians in certain undertakings; but the
shades of shrubs and grasses are of little account. When the
Missouri, swollen by a freshet in spring, carries away part of its
banks and sweeps some tall tree into its current, it is said that
the spirit of the tree cries, while the roots still cling to the
land and until the trunk falls with a splash into the stream.
Formerly the Indians considered it wrong to fell one of these
giants, and when large logs were needed they made use only of trees
which had fallen of themselves. Till lately some of the more
credulous old men declared that many of the misfortunes of their
people were caused by this modern disregard for the rights of the
living cottonwood. The Iroquois believed that each species of tree,
shrub, plant, and herb had its own spirit, and to these spirits it
was their custom to return thanks. The Wanika of Eastern Africa
fancy that every tree, and especially every coco-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." 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."
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.

Sometimes it is only particular sorts of trees that are supposed to
be tenanted by spirits. At Grbalj in Dalmatia it is said that among
great beeches, oaks, and other trees there are some that are endowed
with shades or souls, and whoever fells one of them must die on the
spot, or at least live an invalid for the rest of his days. If a
woodman fears that a tree which he has felled is one of this sort,
he must cut off the head of a live hen on the stump of the tree with
the very same axe with which he cut down the tree. This will protect
him from all harm, even if the tree be one of the animated kind. The
silk-cotton trees, which rear their enormous trunks to a stupendous
height, far out-topping all the other trees of the forest, are
regarded with reverence throughout West Africa, from the Senegal to
the Niger, and are believed to be the abode of a god or spirit.
Among the Ewespeaking peoples of the Slave Coast the indwelling god
of this giant of the forest goes by the name of Huntin. Trees in
which he specially dwells--for it is not every silk-cotton tree that
he thus honours--are surrounded by a girdle of palm-leaves; and
sacrifices of fowls, and occasionally of human beings, are fastened
to the trunk or laid against the foot of the tree. A tree
distinguished by a girdle of palm-leaves may not be cut down or
injured in any way; and even silk-cotton trees which are not
supposed to be animated by Huntin may not be felled unless the
woodman first offers a sacrifice of fowls and palm-oil to purge
himself of the proposed sacrilege. To omit the sacrifice is an
offence which may be punished with death. Among the Kangra mountains
of the Punjaub a girl used to be annually sacrificed to an old
cedar-tree, the families of the village taking it in turn to supply
the victim. The tree was cut down not very many years ago.

If trees are animate, they are necessarily sensitive and the cutting
of them down becomes a delicate surgical operation, which must be
performed with as tender a regard as possible for the feelings of
the sufferers, who otherwise may turn and rend the careless or
bungling operator. 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." 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." Trees that bleed and utter cries of pain or indignation
when they are hacked or burned occur very often in Chinese books,
even in Standard Histories. 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. It is
said that in the Upper Palatinate also old woodmen still secretly
ask a fine, sound tree to forgive them before they cut it down. So
in Jarkino the woodman craves pardon of the tree he fells. Before
the Ilocanes of Luzon cut down trees in the virgin forest or on the
mountains, they recite some verses to the following effect: "Be not
uneasy, my friend, though we fell what we have been ordered to
fell." This they do in order not to draw down on themselves the
hatred of the spirits who live in the trees, and who are apt to
avenge themselves by visiting with grievous sickness such as injure
them wantonly. The Basoga of Central Africa think that, when a tree
is cut down, the angry spirit which inhabits it may cause the death
of the chief and his family. To prevent this disaster they consult a
medicine-man before they fell a tree. If the man of skill gives
leave to proceed, the woodman first offers a fowl and a goat to the
tree; then as soon as he has given the first blow with the axe, he
applies his mouth to the cut and sucks some of the sap. In this way
he forms a brotherhood with the tree, just as two men become
blood-brothers by sucking each other's blood. After that he can cut
down his tree-brother with impunity.

But the spirits of vegetation are not always treated with deference
and respect. If fair words and kind treatment do not move them,
stronger measures are sometimes resorted to. The durian-tree of the
East Indies, whose smooth stem often shoots up to a height of eighty
or ninety feet without sending out a branch, bears a fruit of the
most delicious flavour and the most disgusting stench. The Malays
cultivate the tree for the sake of its fruit, and have been known to
resort to a peculiar ceremony for the purpose of stimulating its
fertility. Near Jugra in Selangor there is a small grove of
durian-trees, and on a specially chosen day the villagers used to
assemble in it. Thereupon one of the local sorcerers would take a
hatchet and deliver several shrewd blows on the trunk of the most
barren of the trees, saying, "Will you now bear fruit or not? If you
do not, I shall fell you." To this the tree replied through the
mouth of another man who had climbed a mangostin-tree hard by (the
durian-tree being unclimbable), "Yes, I will now bear fruit; I beg
of you not to fell me." So in Japan to make trees bear fruit two men
go into an orchard. One of them climbs up a tree and the other
stands at the foot with an axe. The man with the axe asks the tree
whether it will yield a good crop next year and threatens to cut it
down if it does not. To this the man among the branches replies on
behalf of the tree that it will bear abundantly. Odd as this mode of
horticulture may seem to us, it has its exact parallels in Europe.
On Christmas Eve many a South Slavonian and Bulgarian peasant swings
an axe threateningly against a barren fruit-tree, while another man
standing by intercedes for the menaced tree, saying, "Do not cut it
down; it will soon bear fruit." Thrice the axe is swung, and thrice
the impending blow is arrested at the entreaty of the intercessor.
After that the frightened tree will certainly bear fruit next year.

The conception of trees and plants as animated beings naturally
results in treating them as male and female, who can be married to
each other in a real, and not merely a figurative or poetical, sense
of the word. The notion is not purely fanciful, for plants like
animals have their sexes and reproduce their kind by the union of
the male and female elements. But whereas in all the higher animals
the organs of the two sexes are regularly separated between
different individuals, in most plants they exist together in every
individual of the species. This rule, however, is by no means
universal, and in many species the male plant is distinct from the
female. The distinction appears to have been observed by some
savages, for we are told that the Maoris "are acquainted with the
sex of trees, etc., and have distinct names for the male and female
of some trees." The ancients knew the difference between the male
and the female date-palm, and fertilised them artificially by
shaking the pollen of the male tree over the flowers of the female.
The fertilisation took place in spring. Among the heathen of Harran
the month during which the palms were fertilised bore the name of
the Date Month, and at this time they celebrated the marriage
festival of all the gods and goddesses. Different from this true and
fruitful marriage of the palm are the false and barren marriages of
plants which play a part in Hindoo superstition. For example, if a
Hindoo has planted a grove of mangos, neither he nor his wife may
taste of the fruit until he has formally married one of the trees,
as a bridegroom, to a tree of a different sort, commonly a
tamarind-tree, which grows near it in the grove. If there is no
tamarind to act as bride, a jasmine will serve the turn. The
expenses of such a marriage are often considerable, for the more
Brahmans are feasted at it, the greater the glory of the owner of
the grove. A family has been known to sell its golden and silver
trinkets, and to borrow all the money they could in order to marry a
mango-tree to a jasmine with due pomp and ceremony. 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.

In the Moluccas, when the clove-trees are in blossom, they are
treated like pregnant women. No noise may be made near them; no
light or fire may be carried past them at night; no one may approach
them with his hat on, all must uncover in their presence. These
precautions are observed lest the tree should be alarmed 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. So in the East
the growing rice-crop is often treated with the same considerate
regard as a breeding woman. Thus in Amboyna, when the rice is in
bloom, the people say that it is pregnant and fire no guns and make
no other noises near the field, for fear lest, if the rice were thus
disturbed, it would miscarry, and the crop would be all straw and no

Sometimes it is the souls of the dead which are believed to animate
trees. The Dieri tribe of Central Australia regard as very sacred
certain trees which are supposed to be their fathers transformed;
hence they speak with reverence of these trees, and are careful that
they shall not be cut down or burned. If the settlers require them
to hew down the trees, they earnestly protest against it, asserting
that were they to do so they would have no luck, and might be
punished for not protecting their ancestors. Some of the Philippine
Islanders believe that the souls of their ancestors are in certain
trees, which they therefore spare. If they are obliged to fell one
of these trees, they excuse themselves to it by saying that it was
the priest who made them do it. The spirits take up their abode, by
preference, in tall and stately trees with great spreading branches.
When the wind rustles the leaves, the natives fancy it is the voice
of the spirit; and they never pass near one of these trees without
bowing respectfully, and asking pardon of the spirit for disturbing
his repose. Among the Ignorrotes, every village has its sacred tree,
in which the souls of the dead forefathers of the hamlet reside.
Offerings are made to the tree, and any injury done to it is
believed to entail some misfortune on the village. Were the tree cut
down, the village and all its inhabitants would inevitably perish.

In Corea the souls of people who die of the plague or by the
roadside, and of women who expire in childbirth, invariably take up
their abode in trees. To such spirits offerings of cake, wine, and
pork are made on heaps of stones piled under the trees. In China it
has been customary from time immemorial to plant trees on graves in
order thereby to strengthen the soul of the deceased and thus to
save his body from corruption; and as the evergreen cypress and pine
are deemed to be fuller of vitality than other trees, they have been
chosen by preference for this purpose. Hence the trees that grow on
graves are sometimes identified with the souls of the departed.
Among the Miao-Kia, an aboriginal race of Southern and Western
China, a sacred tree stands at the entrance of every village, and
the inhabitants believe that it is tenanted by the soul of their
first ancestor and that it rules their destiny. Sometimes there is a
sacred grove near a village, where the trees are suffered to rot and
die on the spot. Their fallen branches cumber the ground, and no one
may remove them unless he has first asked leave of the spirit of the
tree and offered him a sacrifice. Among the Maraves of Southern
Africa the burial-ground is always regarded as a holy place where
neither a tree may be felled nor a beast killed, because everything
there is supposed to be tenanted by the souls of the dead.

In most, if not all, of 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 probably later opinion,
the tree is not the body, but merely the abode of the tree-spirit,
which can quit it and return to it at pleasure. The inhabitants of
Siaoo, an East Indian island, believe in certain sylvan spirits who
dwell in forests or in great solitary trees. At full moon the spirit
comes forth from his lurking-place and roams about. He has a big
head, very long arms and legs, and a ponderous body. In order to
propitiate the wood-spirits people bring offerings of food, fowls,
goats, and so forth to the places which they are supposed to haunt.
The people of Nias think that, when a tree dies, its liberated
spirit becomes a demon, which can kill a coco-nut palm by merely
lighting on its branches, and can cause the death of all the
children in a house by perching on one of the posts that support it.
Further, they are of opinion that certain trees are at all times
inhabited by roving demons who, if the trees were damaged, would be
set free to go about on errands of mischief. Hence the people
respect these trees, and are careful not to cut them down.

Not a few ceremonies observed at cutting down haunted trees are
based on the belief that the spirits have it in their power to quit
the trees at pleasure or in case of need. Thus when the Pelew
Islanders are felling a tree, they conjure the spirit of the tree to
leave it and settle on another. The wily negro of the Slave Coast,
who wishes to fell an _ashorin_ tree, but knows that he cannot do it
so long as the spirit remains in the tree, places a little palm-oil
on the ground as a bait, and then, when the unsuspecting spirit has
quitted the tree to partake of this dainty, hastens to cut down its
late abode. When the Toboongkoos of Celebes are about to clear a
piece of forest in order to plant rice, they build a tiny house and
furnish it with tiny clothes and some food and gold. Then they call
together all the spirits of the wood, offer them the little house
with its contents, and beseech them to quit the spot. After that
they may safely cut down the wood without fearing to wound
themselves in so doing. Before the Tomori, another tribe of Celebes,
fell a tall tree they lay a quid of betel at its foot, and invite
the spirit who dwells in the tree to change his lodging; moreover,
they set a little ladder against the trunk to enable him to descend
with safety and comfort. The Mandelings of Sumatra endeavour to lay
the blame of all such misdeeds at the door of the Dutch authorities.
Thus when a man is cutting a road through a forest and has to fell a
tall tree which blocks the way, he will not begin to ply his axe
until he has said: "Spirit who lodgest in this tree, take it not ill
that I cut down thy dwelling, for it is done at no wish of mine but
by order of the Controller." And when he wishes to clear a piece of
forest-land for cultivation, it is necessary that he should come to
a satisfactory understanding with the woodland spirits who live
there before he lays low their leafy dwellings. For this purpose he
goes to the middle of the plot of ground, stoops down, and pretends
to pick up a letter. Then unfolding a bit of paper he reads aloud an
imaginary letter from the Dutch Government, in which he is strictly
enjoined to set about clearing the land without delay. Having done
so, he says: "You hear that, spirits. I must begin clearing at once,
or I shall be hanged."

Even when a tree has been felled, sawn into planks, and used to
build a house, it is possible that the woodland spirit may still be
lurking in the timber, and accordingly some people seek to
propitiate him before or after they occupy the new house. Hence,
when a new dwelling is ready the Toradjas of Celebes kill a goat, a
pig, or a buffalo, and smear all the woodwork with its blood. If the
building is a _lobo_ or spirit-house, a fowl or a dog is killed on
the ridge of the roof, and its blood allowed to flow down on both
sides. The ruder Tonapoo in such a case sacrifice a human being on
the roof. This sacrifice on the roof of a _lobo_ or temple serves
the same purpose as the smearing of blood on the woodwork of an
ordinary house. The intention is to propitiate the forest-spirits
who may still be in the timber; they are thus put in good humour and
will do the inmates of the house no harm. For a like reason people
in Celebes and the Moluccas are much afraid of planting a post
upside down at the building of a house; for the forest-spirit, who
might still be in the timber, would very naturally resent the
indignity and visit the inmates with sickness. The Kayans of Borneo
are of opinion that tree-spirits stand very stiffly on the point of
honour and visit men with their displeasure for any injury done to
them. Hence after building a house, whereby they have been forced to
ill-treat many trees, these people observe a period of penance for a
year during which they must abstain from many things, such as the
killing of bears, tiger-cats, and serpents.

2. Beneficent Powers of Tree-Spirits

WHEN a tree comes to be viewed, no longer as the body of the
tree-spirit, but simply as its abode which it can quit at pleasure,
an important advance 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. 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 attempt to 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 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. The Mundaris in Assam think that
if a tree in the sacred grove is felled the sylvan gods evince their
displeasure by withholding rain. In order to procure rain the
inhabitants of Monyo, a village in the Sagaing district of Upper
Burma, chose the largest tamarind-tree near the village and named it
the haunt of the spirit (_nat_) who controls the rain. Then they
offered bread, coco-nuts, plantains, and fowls to the guardian
spirit of the village and to the spirit who gives rain, and they
prayed, "O Lord _nat_ have pity on us poor mortals, and stay not the
rain. Inasmuch as our offering is given ungrudgingly, let the rain
fall day and night." Afterwards libations were made in honour of the
spirit of the tamarind-tree; and still later three elderly women,
dressed in fine clothes and wearing necklaces and earrings, sang the
Rain Song.

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." 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 were felled all the fruits of the earth
would perish. The Gallas dance in couples round sacred trees,
praying for a good harvest. Every couple consists of a man and
woman, who are linked together by a stick, of which each holds one
end. Under their arms they carry green corn or grass. Swedish
peasants stick a leafy branch in each furrow of their corn-fields,
believing that this will ensure an abundant crop. 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 corn-field and the last
sheaf cut is attached to its trunk.

Again, the tree-spirit makes the herds to multiply and blesses women
with offspring. In Northern India the _Emblica officinalis_ is a
sacred tree. On the eleventh of the month Phalgun (February)
libations are poured at the foot of the tree, a red or yellow string
is bound about the trunk, and prayers are offered to it for the
fruitfulness of women, animals, and crops. Again, in Northern India
the coco-nut is esteemed one of the most sacred fruits, and is
called Sriphala, or the fruit of Sri, the goddess of prosperity. It
is the symbol of fertility, and all through Upper India is kept in
shrines and presented by the priests to women who desire to become
mothers. In the town of Qua, near Old Calabar, there used to grow a
palm-tree which ensured conception to any barren woman who ate a nut
from its branches. In Europe the May-tree or May-pole is apparently
supposed to possess similar powers over both women and cattle. Thus
in some parts of Germany on the first of May the peasants set up
May-trees or May-bushes at the doors of stables and byres, one for
each horse and cow; this is thought to make the cows yield much
milk. Of the Irish we are told that "they fancy a green bough of a
tree, fastened on May-day against the house, will produce plenty of
milk that summer."

On the second 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. 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, the tree 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 the tree 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.

In the Tuhoe tribe of Maoris "the power of making women fruitful is
ascribed to trees. These trees are associated with the navel-strings
of definite mythical ancestors, as indeed the navel-strings of all
children used to be hung upon them down to quite recent times. A
barren woman had to embrace such a tree with her arms, and she
received a male or a female child according as she embraced the east
or the west side." The common European custom of placing a green
bush on May Day before or on the house of a beloved maiden probably
originated in the belief of the fertilising power of the
tree-spirit. In some parts of Bavaria such bushes are set up also at
the houses of newly-married pairs, and the practice is only omitted
if the wife is near her confinement; for in that case they say that
the husband has "set up a May-bush for himself." Among the South
Slavonians a barren woman, who desires to have a child, places a new
chemise upon a fruitful tree on the eve of St. George's Day. Next
morning before sunrise she examines the garment, and if she finds
that some living creature has crept on it, she hopes that her wish
will be fulfilled within the year. Then she puts on the chemise,
confident that she will be as fruitful as the tree on which the
garment has passed the night. Among the Kara-Kirghiz barren women
roll themselves on the ground under a solitary apple-tree, in order
to obtain offspring. 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 _bardträd_
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. 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. The story that Leto clasped a palm-tree
and an olive-tree or two laurel-trees, when she was about to give
birth to the divine twins Apollo and Artemis, perhaps points to a
similar Greek belief in the efficacy of certain trees to facilitate

X. Relics of Tree Worship in Modern Europe

FROM THE FOREGOING 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. 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." 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;
flowers were thrown over it and strewn about the door. "Among
ancient customs still retained by the Cornish, may be reckoned that
of decking their doors and porches on the first of May with green
boughs of sycamore and hawthorn, and of planting trees, or rather
stumps of trees, before their houses." In the north of England it
was formerly the custom for young people to rise a little after
midnight on the morning of the first of May, and go out with music
and the blowing of horns 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. At Abingdon in Berkshire
young people formerly went about in groups on May morning, singing a
carol of which the following are two of the verses:

"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."

At the towns of Saffron Walden and Debden in Essex on the first 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.
Similar customs have been and indeed are still observed in various
parts of England. The garlands are generally in the form of hoops
intersecting each other at right angles. It appears that a hoop
wreathed with rowan and marsh marigold, and bearing suspended within
it two balls, is still carried on May Day by villagers in some parts
of Ireland. The balls, which are sometimes covered with gold and
silver paper, are said to have originally represented the sun and

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. In the French department of Mayenne, boys who
bore the name of _Maillotins_ used to go about from farm to farm on
the first of May singing carols, for which they received money or a
drink; they planted a small tree or a branch of a tree. Near Saverne
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 bears a huge basket, in
which he collects eggs, bacon, and so forth.

On the Thursday before Whitsunday the Russian villagers "go out into
the woods, sing songs, weave 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. In this Russian custom the dressing of the birch in woman's
clothes shows how clearly the tree is personified; and the throwing
it into a stream is most probably a raincharm.

In some parts of Sweden on the eve of May Day lads go about carrying
each a bunch of fresh birch twigs wholly or partly in leaf. With the
village fiddler at their head, they make the round of the houses
singing May songs; the burden of their songs 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. But in Sweden midsummer is the season
when these ceremonies are chiefly observed. On the Eve of St. John
(the twenty-third of June) the houses are thoroughly cleansed and
garnished with green boughs and flowers. Young fir-trees are raised
at the doorway 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 Stanger_), from six inches to twelve feet high, decorated with
leaves, flowers, slips of coloured paper, gilt egg-shells strung on
reeds, and so on, 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 sprucepine 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 Stang' (May-pole) itself, but the hoops,
bows, etc., are ornamented with leaves, 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. Midsummer customs of the same sort used to be observed
in some parts of Germany. Thus in the towns of the Upper Harz
Mountains tall fir-trees, with the bark peeled off their lower
trunks, were set up in open places and decked with flowers and eggs,
which were painted yellow and red. Round these trees the young folk
danced by day and the old folk in the evening. 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. It is afterwards burned.

It would be needless to illustrate at length the custom, which has
prevailed in various parts of Europe, such as England, France, and
Germany, of setting up a village May-tree or May-pole on May Day. A
few examples will suffice. The puritanical writer Phillip Stubbes in
his _Anatomie of Abuses,_ first published at London in 1583, has
described with manifest disgust how they used to bring in the
May-pole in the days of good Queen Bess. His description affords us
a vivid glimpse of merry England in the olden time. "Against May,
Whitsonday, or other time, all the yung men and maides, olde men and
wives, run gadding over night to the woods, groves, hils, and
mountains, where they spend all the night in plesant pastimes; and
in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of
trees, to deck their assemblies withall. And no mervaile, for there
is a great Lord present amongst them, as superintendent and Lord
over their pastimes and sportes, namely, Sathan, prince of hel. But
the chiefest jewel they bring from thence is their May-pole, which
they bring home with great veneration, as thus. They have twentie or
fortie yoke of oxen, every oxe having a sweet nose-gay of flouers
placed on the tip of his hornes, and these oxen drawe home this
May-pole (this stinkyng ydol, rather), which is covered all over
with floures and hearbs, bound round about with strings, from the
top to the bottome, and sometime painted with variable colours, with
two or three hundred men, women and children following it with great
devotion. And thus beeing reared up, with handkercheefs and flags
hovering on the top, they straw the ground rounde about, binde green
boughes about it, set up sommer haules, bowers, and arbors hard by
it. And then fall they to daunce about it, like as the heathen
people did at the dedication of the Idols, whereof this is a perfect
pattern, or rather the thing itself. I have heard it credibly
reported (and that _viva voce_) by men of great gravitie and
reputation, that of fortie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to
the wood over night, there have scaresly the third part of them
returned home againe undefiled."

In Swabia on the first of May a tall fir-tree used to be fetched
into the village, where it was decked with ribbons and set up; then
the people danced round it merrily to music. The tree stood on the
village green the whole year through, until a fresh tree was brought
in next May Day. In Saxony "people were not content with bringing
the summer symbolically (as king or queen) into the village; they
brought the fresh green itself from the woods even into the houses:
that is the May or Whitsuntide trees, which are mentioned in
documents from the thirteenth century onwards. The fetching in of
the May-tree was also a festival. The people went out into the woods
to seek the May (_majum quaerere_), brought young trees, especially
firs and birches, to the village and set them up before the doors of
the houses or of the cattle-stalls or in the rooms. Young fellows
erected such May-trees, as we have already said, before the chambers
of their sweethearts. Besides these household Mays, a great May-tree
or May-pole, which had also been brought in solemn procession to the
village, was set up in the middle of the village or in the
market-place of the town. It had been chosen by the whole community,
who watched over it most carefully. Generally the tree was stripped
of its branches and leaves, nothing but the crown being left, on
which were displayed, in addition to many-coloured ribbons and
cloths, a variety of victuals such as sausages, cakes, and eggs. The
young folk exerted themselves to obtain these prizes. In the greasy
poles which are still to be seen at our fairs we have a relic of
these old May-poles. Not uncommonly there was a race on foot or on
horseback to the May-tree--a Whitsunday pastime which in course of
time has been divested of its goal and survives as a popular custom
to this day in many parts of Germany." At Bordeaux on the first of
May the boys of each street used to erect in it a May-pole, which
they adorned with garlands and a great crown; and every evening
during the whole of the month the young people of both sexes danced
singing about the pole. Down to the present day May-trees decked
with flowers and ribbons are set up on May Day in every village and
hamlet of gay Provence. Under them the young folk make merry and the
old folk rest.

In all these cases, apparently, the custom is or was to bring in a
new May-tree each year. However, in England the village May-pole
seems as a rule, at least in later times, to have been permanent,
not renewed annually. Villages of Upper Bavaria renew their May-pole
once every three, four, or five years. It is a fir-tree fetched from
the forest, and amid all the wreaths, flags, and inscriptions with
which it is bedecked, an essential part is the bunch of dark green
foliage left at the top "as a memento that in it we have to do, not
with a dead pole, but with a living tree from the greenwood." 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
custom had been forgotten, and the May-tree was regarded simply as a
centre for holiday merry-making, 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." 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 of 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. In
Würtemberg the bushes which are set up on the houses on Palm Sunday
are sometimes left there for a year and then burnt.

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."

Here, as we shall see later on, the "Summer" is the spirit of
vegetation returning or reviving in spring. In some parts of our own
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. 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

"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. Here and in the cases mentioned above, where children go
about with green boughs or garlands 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 first 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 "O May! O May!" In Brie (Isle de France) a May-tree is
erected 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. In
the small towns of the Franken Wald mountains in Northern Bavaria,
on the second 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 procession
through the streets, which were adorned with sprigs of birch.

Amongst the Slavs of Carinthia, on St. George's Day (the twentythird
of 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:

"Green George we bring,
Green George we accompany,
May he feed our herds well.
If not, to the water with him."

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.

Among the gypsies of Transylvania and Roumania the festival of Green
George is the chief celebration of spring. Some of them keep it on
Easter Monday, others on St. George's Day (the twentythird of
April). On the eve of the festival a young willow tree is cut down,
adorned with garlands and leaves, and set up in the ground. Women
with child place one of their garments under the tree, and leave it
there over night; if next morning they find a leaf of the tree lying
on the garment, they know that their delivery will be easy. Sick and
old people go to the tree in the evening, spit on it thrice, and
say, "You will soon die, but let us live." Next morning the gypsies
gather about the willow. The chief figure of the festival is Green
George, a lad who is concealed from top to toe in green leaves and
blossoms. He throws a few handfuls of grass to the beasts of the
tribe, in order that they may have no lack of fodder throughout the
year. Then he takes three iron nails, which have lain for three days
and nights in water, and knocks them into the willow; after which he
pulls them out and flings them into a running stream to propitiate
the water-spirits. Finally, a pretence is made of throwing Green
George into the water, but in fact it is only a puppet made of
branches and leaves which is ducked in the stream. In this version
of the custom the powers of granting an easy delivery to women and
of communicating vital energy to the sick and old are clearly
ascribed to the willow; while Green George, the human double of the
tree, bestows food on the cattle, and further ensures the favour of
the water-spirits by putting them in indirect communication with the

Without citing more examples to the same effect, we may sum up the
results of the preceding pages 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, and so forth, 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 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 idea of the spirit of vegetation is blent with a
personification of the season at which his powers are most
strikingly manifested."

So 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.

Thus in some parts of Russia on St. George's Day (the twenty-third
of April) a youth is dressed out, like our Jack-in-the-Green, with
leaves and flowers. The Slovenes call him the Green George. Holding
a lighted torch in one hand and a pie in the other, he goes out to
the corn-fields, followed by girls singing appropriate songs. A
circle of brushwood is next lighted, in the middle of which is set
the pie. All who take part in the ceremony then sit down around the
fire and divide the pie among them. In this custom the Green George
dressed in leaves and flowers is plainly identical with the
similarly disguised Green George who is associated with a tree in
the Carinthian, Transylvanian, and Roumanian customs observed on the
same day. Again, 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 Ruhla 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 such as eggs, cream,
sausages, and cakes. Lastly, they sprinkle the Leaf Man with water
and feast on the food they have collected. In the Fricktal,
Switzerland, at Whitsuntide boys go out into a wood and swathe one
of their number in leafy boughs. He is called the Whitsuntide-lout,
and being mounted on horseback with a green branch in his hand he is
led back into the village. At the village-well a halt is called and
the leaf-clad lout is dismounted and ducked in the trough. Thereby
he acquires the right of sprinkling water on everybody, and he
exercises the right specially on girls and street urchins. The
urchins march before him in bands begging him to give them a
Whitsuntide wetting.

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 framework of wickerwork, 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 of chimney-sweeps, who
collect pence. In Fricktal 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 claves; 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 on 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 on their own well.

In the class of cases of which the foregoing 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.

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, and so on. At the village of Ellgoth in Silesia a ceremony
called the King's Race is observed at Whitsuntide. A pole with a
cloth tied to it is set up in a meadow, and the young men ride past
it on horseback, each trying to snatch away the cloth as he gallops
by. The one who succeeds in carrying it off and dipping it in the
neighbouring Oder is proclaimed King. Here the pole is clearly a
substitute for a May-tree. 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 dressed up rather differently. A frame of wood is made in
which 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. At Wahrstedt the boys at Whitsuntide choose by
lot a king and a high-steward. The latter is completely concealed in
a May-bush, wears a wooden crown wreathen with flowers, and carries
a wooden sword. The king, on the other hand, is only distinguished
by a nosegay in his cap, and a reed, with a red ribbon tied to it,
in his hand. They beg for eggs from house to house, threatening
that, where none are given, none will be laid by the hens throughout
the year. In this custom the high-steward appears, for some reason,
to have usurped the insignia of the king. At Hildesheim five or six
young fellows go about on the afternoon of Whit-Monday cracking long
whips in measured time and collecting eggs from the houses. The
chief person of the band is the Leaf King, a lad swathed so
completely in birchen twigs that nothing of him can be seen but his
feet. A huge head-dress of birchen twigs adds to his apparent
stature. In his hand he carries a long crook, with which he tries to
catch stray dogs and children. 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. At
Grossvargula, near Langensalza, in the eighteenth 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 young fellows, he rode in procession to
the town hall, the parsonage, and so on, 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. 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. In the
neighbourhood of Plas the ceremony differs in some points. The king
and his soldiers are completely clad in bark, adorned 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. The pinching and beheading of the frog
are doubtless, as Mannhardt observes, a rain-charm. We have seen
that some Indians of the Orinoco beat frogs for the express purpose
of producing rain, and that killing a frog is a European 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. 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. In the 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 merry-makings. If she married before next
May Day, her authority was at an end, but her successor was not
elected till that day came round. The May Queen is common In France
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. At Halford in South
Warwickshire the children go from house to house on May Day, walking
two and two in procession and headed by a King and Queen. Two boys
carry a May-pole some six or seven feet high, which is covered with
flowers and greenery. Fastened to it near the top are two cross-bars
at right angles to each other. These are also decked with flowers,
and from the ends of the bars hang hoops similarly adorned. At the
houses the children sing May songs and receive money, which is used
to provide tea for them at the schoolhouse in the afternoon. In a
Bohemian village near Königgrätz on Whit-Monday the children play
the king's game, at which a king and 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 groomsmen and bridesmaids, and they go from house to
house collecting gifts. A regular feature in the popular celebration
of Whitsuntide in Silesia used to be, and to some extent still is,
the contest for the kingship. This contest took various forms, but
the mark or goal was generally the May-tree or May-pole. Sometimes
the youth who succeeded in climbing the smooth pole and bringing
down the prize was proclaimed the Whitsuntide King and his
sweetheart the Whitsuntide Bride. Afterwards the king, carrying the
May-bush, repaired with the rest of the company to the alehouse,
where a dance and a feast ended the merry-making. Often the young
farmers and labourers raced on horseback to the May-pole, which was
adorned with flowers, ribbons, and a crown. He who first reached the
pole was the Whitsuntide King, and the rest had to obey his orders
for that day. The worst rider became the clown. At the May-tree all
dismounted and hoisted the king on their shoulders. He nimbly
swarmed up the pole and brought down the May-bush and the crown,
which had been fastened to the top. Meanwhile the clown hurried to
the alehouse and proceeded to bolt thirty rolls of bread and to swig
four quart bottles of brandy with the utmost possible despatch. He
was followed by the king, who bore the May-bush and crown at the
head of the company. If on their arrival the clown had already
disposed of the rolls and the brandy, and greeted the king with a
speech and a glass of beer, his score was paid by the king;
otherwise he had to settle it himself. After church time the stately
procession wound through the village. At the head of it rode the
king, decked with flowers and carrying the May-bush. Next came the
clown with his clothes turned inside out, a great flaxen beard on
his chain, and the Whitsuntide crown on his head. Two riders
disguised as guards followed. The procession drew up before every
farmyard; the two guards dismounted, shut the clown into the house,
and claimed a contribution from the housewife to buy soap with which
to wash the clown's beard. Custom allowed them to carry off any
victuals which were not under lock and key. Last of all they came to
the house in which the king's sweetheart lived. She was greeted as
Whitsuntide Queen and received suitable presents--to wit, a
many-coloured sash, a cloth, and an apron. The king got as a prize,
a vest, a neck-cloth, and so forth, and had the right of setting up
the May-bush or Whitsuntide-tree before his master's yard, where it
remained as an honourable token till the same day next year. Finally
the procession took its way to the tavern, where the king and queen
opened the dance. Sometimes the Whitsuntide King and Queen succeeded
to office in a different way. A man of straw, as large as life and
crowned with a red cap, was conveyed in a cart, between two men
armed and disguised as guards, to a place where a mock court was
waiting to try him. A great crowd followed the cart. After a formal
trial the straw man was condemned to death and fastened to a stake
on the execution ground. The young men with bandaged eyes tried to
stab him with a spear. He who succeeded became king and his
sweetheart queen. The straw man was known as the Goliath.

In a parish of Denmark it used to be the custom at Whitsuntide to
dress up a little girl as the Whitsun-bride and a little boy as her
groom. She was decked in all the finery of a grown-up bride, and
wore a crown of the freshest flowers of spring on her head. Her
groom was as gay as flowers, ribbons, and knots could make him. The
other children adorned themselves as best they could with the yellow
flowers of the trollius and caltha. Then they went in great state
from farmhouse to farmhouse, two little girls walking at the head of
the procession as bridesmaids, and six or eight outriders galloping
ahead on hobby-horses to announce their coming. Contributions of
eggs, butter, loaves, cream, coffee, sugar, and tallow-candles were
received and conveyed away in baskets. When they had made the round
of the farms, some of the farmers' wives helped to arrange the
wedding feast, and the children danced merrily in clogs on the
stamped clay floor till the sun rose and the birds began to sing.
All this is now a thing of the past. Only the old folks still
remember the little Whitsun-bride and her mimic pomp.

We have seen that in Sweden the ceremonies associated elsewhere with
May Day or Whitsuntide commonly take place at Midsummer. Accordingly
we find that in some parts of the Swedish province of Blekinge they
still choose a Midsummer's Bride, to whom the "church coronet" is
occasionally lent. The girl selects for herself a Bridegroom, and a
collection is made for the pair, who for the time being are looked
on as man and wife. The other youths also choose each his bride. A
similar ceremony seems to be still kept up in Norway.

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 folks. The lad
is called the Bridegroom of the month of May. In the alehouse he
puts off his garment of leaves, out of 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. 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 fall 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. Here the part of the sleeper was
probably at one time played 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.

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 parts 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 awakens him the fresh
verdure or the genial sunshine of spring? It is hardly possible, on
the evidence before us, to answer these questions.

In the Highlands of Scotland the revival of vegetation in spring
used to be graphically represented on St. Bride's Day, the first of
February. Thus 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
Briid's bed; and then the mistress and servants cry three times,
'Briid is come, Briid 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 Briid'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." 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,
Bridget, come in; thy bed is ready.' One or more candles are left
burning near it all night." Similarly in the Isle of Man "on the eve
of the first of February, a festival was formerly kept, called, in
the Manks language, _Laa'l Breeshey,_ in honour of the Irish lady
who went over to the Isle of Man to receive the veil from St.
Maughold. The custom was to gather a bundle of green rushes, and
standing with them in the hand on the threshold of the door, to
invite the holy Saint Bridget to come and lodge with them that
night. In the Manks language, the invitation ran thus: _'Brede,
Brede, tar gys my thie tar dyn thie ayms noght Foshil jee yn dorrys
da Brede, as lhig da Brede e heet staigh.'_ In English: 'Bridget,
Bridget, come to my house, come to my house to-night. Open the door
for Bridget, and let Bridget come in.' After these words were
repeated, the rushes were strewn on the floor by way of a carpet or
bed for St. Bridget. A custom very similar to this was also observed
in some of the Out-Isles of the ancient Kingdom of Man." In these
Manx and Highland ceremonies it is obvious that St. Bride, or St.
Bridget, is an old heathen goddess of fertility, disguised in a
threadbare Christian cloak. Probably she is no other than Brigit,
the Celtic goddess of fire and apparently of the crops.

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. 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.

XI. The Influence of the Sexes on Vegetation

FROM THE PRECEDING examination of the spring and summer festivals of
Europe we may infer that our rude forefathers personified the powers
of vegetation as male and female, and attempted, on the principle of
homoeopathic or imitative magic, to quicken the growth of trees and
plants by representing the marriage of the sylvan deities in the
persons of a King and Queen of May, a Whitsun Bridegroom and Bride,
and so forth. Such representations were accordingly no mere symbolic
or allegorical dramas, pastoral plays designed to amuse or instruct
a rustic audience. They were charms intended to make the woods to
grow green, the fresh grass to sprout, the corn to shoot, and the
flowers to blow. And it was natural to suppose that the more closely
the mock marriage of the leaf-clad or flower-decked mummers aped the
real marriage of the woodland sprites, the more effective would be
the charm. Accordingly we may assume with a high degree of
probability that the profligacy which notoriously attended these
ceremonies was at one time not an accidental excess but an essential
part of the rites, and that in the opinion of those who performed
them the marriage of trees and plants could not be fertile without
the real union of the human sexes. At the present day it might
perhaps be vain to look in civilised Europe for customs of this sort
observed for the explicit purpose of promoting the growth of
vegetation. But ruder races in other parts of the world have
consciously employed the intercourse of the sexes as a means to
ensure the fruitfulness of the earth; and some rites which are
still, or were till lately, kept up in Europe can be reasonably
explained only as stunted relics of a similar practice. The
following facts will make this plain.

For four days before they committed the seed to the earth the
Pipiles of Central America kept apart from their wives "in order
that on the night before planting they might indulge their passions
to the fullest extent; certain persons are even said to have been
appointed to perform the sexual act at the very moment when the
first seeds were deposited in the ground." The use of their wives at
that time was indeed enjoined upon the people by the priests as a
religious duty, in default of which it was not lawful to sow the
seed. The only possible explanation of this custom seems to be that
the Indians confused the process by which human beings reproduce
their kind with the process by which plants discharge the same
function, and fancied that by resorting to the former they were
simultaneously forwarding the latter. In some parts of Java, at the
season when the bloom will soon be on the rice, the husbandman and
his wife visit their fields by night and there engage in sexual
intercourse for the purpose of promoting the growth of the crop. In
the Leti, Sarmata, and some other groups of islands which lie
between the western end of New Guinea and the northern part of
Australia, the heathen population regard the sun as the male
principle by whom the earth or female prínciple is fertilised. They
call him Upu-lera or Mr. Sun, and represent him under the form of a
lamp made of coco-nut leaves, which may be seen hanging everywhere
in their houses and in the sacred fig-tree. Under the tree lies a
large flat stone, which serves as a sacrificial table. On it the
heads of slain foes were and are still placed in some of the
islands. Once a year, at the beginning of the rainy season, Mr. Sun
comes down into the holy fig-tree to fertilise the earth, and to
facilitate his descent a ladder with seven rungs is considerately
placed at his disposal. It is set up under the tree and is adorned
with carved figures of the birds whose shrill clarion heralds the
approach of the sun in the east. On this occasion pigs and dogs are
sacrificed in profusion; men and women alike indulge in a
saturnalia; and the mystic union of the sun and the earth is
dramatically represented in public, amid song and dance, by the real
union of the sexes under the tree. The object of the festival, we
are told, is to procure rain, plenty of food and drink, abundance of
cattle and children and riches from Grandfather Sun. They pray that
he may make every she-goat to cast two or three young, the people to
multiply, the dead pigs to be replaced by living pigs, the empty
rice-baskets to be filled, and so on. And to induce him to grant
their requests they offer him pork and rice and liquor, and invite
him to fall to. In the Babar Islands a special flag is hoisted at
this festival as a symbol of the creative energy of the sun; it is
of white cotton, about nine feet high, and consists of the figure of
a man in an appropriate attitude. It would be unjust to treat these
orgies as a mere outburst of unbridled passion; no doubt they are
deliberately and solemnly organised as essential to the fertility of
the earth and the welfare of man.

The same means which are thus adopted to stimulate the growth of the
crops are naturally employed to ensure the fruitfulness of trees. In
some parts of Amboyna, when the state of the clove plantation
indicates that the crop is likely to be scanty, the men go naked to
the plantations by night, and there seek to fertilise the trees
precisely as they would impregnate women, while at the same time
they call out for "More cloves!" This is supposed to make the trees
bear fruit more abundantly.

The Baganda of Central Africa believe so strongly in the intimate
relation between the intercourse of the sexes and the fertility of
the ground that among them a barren wife is generally sent away,
because she is supposed to prevent her husband's garden from bearing
fruit. On the contrary, a couple who have given proof of
extraordinary fertility by becoming the parents of twins are
believed by the Baganda to be endowed with a corresponding power of
increasing the fruitfulness of the plantain-trees, which furnish
them with their staple food. Some little time after the birth of the
twins a ceremony is performed, the object of which clearly is to
transmit the reproductive virtue of the parents to the plantains.
The mother lies down on her back in the thick grass near the house
and places a flower of the plantain between her legs; then her
husband comes and knocks the flower away with his genital member.
Further, the parents go through the country performing dances in the
gardens of favoured friends, apparently for the purpose of causing
the plantain-trees to bear fruit more abundantly.

In various parts of Europe customs have prevailed both at spring and
harvest which are clearly based on the same crude notion that the
relation of the human sexes to each other can be so used as to
quicken the growth of plants. For example, in the Ukraine on St.
George's Day (the twenty-third of April) the priest in his robes,
attended by his acolytes, goes out to the fields of the village,
where the crops are beginning to show green above the ground, and
blesses them. After that the young married people lie down in
couples on the sown fields and roll several times over on them, in
the belief that this will promote the growth of the crops. In some
parts of Russia the priest himself is rolled by women over the
sprouting crop, and that without regard to the mud and holes which
he may encounter in his beneficent progress. If the shepherd resists
or remonstrates, his flock murmurs, "Little Father, you do not
really wish us well, you do not wish us to have corn, although you
do wish to live on our corn." In some parts of Germany at harvest
the men and women, who have reaped the corn, roll together on the
field. This again is probably a mitigation of an older and ruder
custom designed to impart fertility to the fields by methods like
those resorted to by the Pipiles of Central America long ago and by
the cultivators of rice in Java at the present time.

To the student who cares to track the devious course of the human
mind in its gropings after truth, it is of some interest to observe
that the same theoretical belief in the sympathetic influence of the
sexes on vegetation, which has led some peoples to indulge their
passions as a means of fertilising the earth, has led others to seek
the same end by directly opposite means. From the moment that they
sowed the maize till the time that they reaped it, the Indians of
Nicaragua lived chastely, keeping apart from their wives and
sleeping in a separate place. They ate no salt, and drank neither
cocoa nor _chicha,_ the fermented liquor made from maize; in short
the season was for them, as the Spanish historian observes, a time
of abstinence. To this day some of the Indian tribes of Central
America practise continence for the purpose of thereby promoting the
growth of the crops. Thus we are told that before sowing the maize
the Kekchi Indians sleep apart from their wives, and eat no flesh
for five days, while among the Lanquineros and Cajaboneros the
period of abstinence from these carnal pleasures extends to thirteen
days. So amongst some of the Germans of Transylvania it is a rule
that no man may sleep with his wife during the whole of the time
that he is engaged in sowing his fields. The same rule is observed
at Kalotaszeg in Hungary; the people think that if the custom were
not observed the corn would be mildewed. Similarly a Central
Australian headman of the Kaitish tribe strictly abstains from
marital relations with his wife all the time that he is performing
magical ceremonies to make the grass grow; for he believes that a
breach of this rule would prevent the grass seed from sprouting
properly. In some of the Melanesian islands, when the yam vines are
being trained, the men sleep near the gardens and never approach
their wives; should they enter the garden after breaking this rule
of continence the fruits of the garden would be spoilt.

If we ask why it is that similar beliefs should logically lead,
among different peoples, to such opposite modes of conduct as strict
chastity and more or less open debauchery, the reason, as it
presents itself to the primitive mind, is perhaps not very far to
seek. If rude man identifies himself, in a manner, with nature; if
he fails to distinguish the impulses and processes in himself from
the methods which nature adopts to ensure the reproduction of plants
and animals, he may leap to one of two conclusions. Either he may
infer that by yielding to his appetites he will thereby assist in
the multiplication of plants and animals; or he may imagine that the
vigour which he refuses to expend in reproducing his own kind, will
form as it were a store of energy whereby other creatures, whether
vegetable or animal, will somehow benefit in propagating their
species. Thus from the same crude philosophy, the same primitive
notions of nature and life, the savage may derive by different
channels a rule either of profligacy or of asceticism.

To readers bred in religion which is saturated with the ascetic
idealism of the East, the explanation which I have given of the rule
of continence observed under certain circumstances by rude or savage
peoples may seem far-fetched and improbable. They may think that
moral purity, which is so intimately associated in their minds with
the observance of such a rule, furnishes a sufficient explanation of
it; they may hold with Milton that chastity in itself is a noble
virtue, and that the restraint which it imposes on one of the
strongest impulses of our animal nature marks out those who can
submit to it as men raised above the common herd, and therefore
worthy to receive the seal of the divine approbation. However
natural this mode of thought may seem to us, it is utterly foreign
and indeed incomprehensible to the savage. If he resists on occasion
the sexual instinct, it is from no high idealism, no ethereal
aspiration after moral purity, but for the sake of some ulterior yet
perfectly definite and concrete object, to gain which he is prepared
to sacrifice the immediate gratification of his senses. That this is
or may be so, the examples I have cited are amply sufficient to
prove. They show that where the instinct of self-preservation, which
manifests itself chiefly in the search for food, conflicts or
appears to conflict with the instinct which conduces to the
propagation of the species, the former instinct, as the primary and
more fundamental, is capable of overmastering the latter. In short,
the savage is willing to restrain his sexual propensity for the sake
of food. Another object for the sake of which he consents to
exercise the same self-restraint is victory in war. Not only the
warrior in the field but his friends at home will often bridle their
sensual appetites from a belief that by so doing they will the more
easily overcome their enemies. The fallacy of such a belief, like
the belief that the chastity of the sower conduces to the growth of
the seed, is plain enough to us; yet perhaps the self-restraint
which these and the like beliefs, vain and false as they are, have
imposed on mankind, has not been without its utility in bracing and
strengthening the breed. For strength of character in the race as in
the individual consists mainly in the power of sacrificing the
present to the future, of disregarding the immediate temptations of
ephemeral pleasure for more distant and lasting sources of
satisfaction. The more the power is exercised the higher and
stronger becomes the character; till the height of heroism is
reached in men who renounce the pleasures of life and even life
itself for the sake of keeping or winning for others, perhaps in
distant ages, the blessings of freedom and truth.

XII. The Sacred Marriage

1. Diana as a Goddess of Fertility

WE have seen that according to a widespread belief, which is not
without a foundation in fact, plants reproduce their kinds through
the sexual union of male and female elements, and that on the
principle of homoeopathic or imitative magic this reproduction is
supposed to be stimulated by the real or mock marriage of men and
women, who masquerade for the time being as spirits of vegetation.
Such magical dramas have played a great part in the popular
festivals of Europe, and based as they are on a very crude
conception of natural law, it is clear that they must have been
handed down from a remote antiquity. We shall hardly, therefore, err
in assuming that they date from a time when the forefathers of the
civilised nations of Europe were still barbarians, herding their
cattle and cultivating patches of corn in the clearings of the vast
forests, which then covered the greater part of the continent, from
the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean. But if these old spells and
enchantments for the growth of leaves and blossoms, of grass and
flowers and fruit, have lingered down to our own time in the shape
of pastoral plays and popular merry-makings, is it not reasonable to
suppose that they survived in less attenuated forms some two
thousand years ago among the civilised peoples of antiquity? Or, to
put it otherwise, is it not likely that in certain festivals of the
ancients we may be able to detect the equivalents of our May Day,
Whitsuntide, and Midsummer celebrations, with this difference, that
in those days the ceremonies had not yet dwindled into mere shows
and pageants, but were still religious or magical rites, in which
the actors consciously supported the high parts of gods and
goddesses? Now in the first chapter of this book we found reason to
believe that the priest who bore the title of King of the Wood at
Nemi had for his mate the goddess of the grove, Diana herself. May
not he and she, as King and Queen of the Wood, have been serious
counterparts of the merry mummers who play the King and Queen of
May, the Whitsuntide Bridegroom and Bride in modern Europe? and may
not their union have been yearly celebrated in a _theogamy_ or
divine marriage? Such dramatic weddings of gods and goddesses, as we
shall see presently, were carried out as solemn religious rites in
many parts of the ancient world; hence there is no intrinsic
improbability in the supposition that the sacred grove at Nemi may
have been the scene of an annual ceremony of this sort. Direct
evidence that it was so there is none, but analogy pleads in favour
of the view, as I shall now endeavour to show.

Diana was essentially a goddess of the woodlands, as Ceres was a
goddess of the corn and Bacchus a god of the vine. Her sanctuaries
were commonly in groves, indeed every grove was sacred to her, and
she is often associated with the forest god Silvanus in dedications.
But whatever her origin may have been, Diana was not always a mere
goddess of trees. Like her Greek sister Artemis, she appears to have
developed into a personification of the teeming life of nature, both
animal and vegetable. As mistress of the greenwood she would
naturally be thought to own the beasts, whether wild or tame, that
ranged through it, lurking for their prey in its gloomy depths,
munching the fresh leaves and shoots among the boughs, or cropping
the herbage in the open glades and dells. Thus she might come to be
the patron goddess both of hunters and herdsmen, just as Silvanus
was the god not only of woods, but of cattle. Similarly in Finland
the wild beasts of the forest were regarded as the herds of the
woodland god Tapio and of his stately and beautiful wife. No man
might slay one of these animals without the gracious permission of
their divine owners. Hence the hunter prayed to the sylvan deities,
and vowed rich offerings to them if they would drive the game across
his path. And cattle also seem to have enjoyed the protection of
those spirits of the woods, both when they were in their stalls and
while they strayed in the forest. Before the Gayos of Sumatra hunt
deer, wild goats, or wild pigs with hounds in the woods, they deem
it necessary to obtain the leave of the unseen Lord of the forest.
This is done according to a prescribed form by a man who has special
skill in woodcraft. He lays down a quid of betel before a stake
which is cut in a particular way to represent the Lord of the Wood,
and having done so he prays to the spirit to signify his consent or
refusal. In his treatise on hunting, Arrian tells us that the Celts
used to offer an annual sacrifice to Artemis on her birthday,
purchasing the sacrificial victim with the fines which they had paid
into her treasury for every fox, hare, and roe that they had killed
in the course of the year. The custom clearly implied that the wild
beasts belonged to the goddess, and that she must be compensated for
their slaughter.

But Diana was not merely a patroness of wild beasts, a mistress of
woods and hills, of lonely glades and sounding rivers; conceived as
the moon, and especially, it would seem, as the yellow harvest moon,
she filled the farmer's grange with goodly fruits, and heard the
prayers of women in travail. In her sacred grove at Nemi, as we have
seen, she was especially worshipped as a goddess of childbirth, who
bestowed offspring on men and women. Thus Diana, like the Greek
Artemis, with whom she was constantly identified, may be described
as a goddess of nature in general and of fertility in particular. We
need not wonder, therefore, that in her sanctuary on the Aventine
she was represented by an image copied from the many-breasted idol
of the Ephesian Artemis, with all its crowded emblems of exuberant
fecundity. Hence too we can understand why an ancient Roman law,
attributed to King Tullus Hostilius, prescribed that, when incest
had been committed, an expiatory sacrifice should be offered by the
pontiffs in the grove of Diana. For we know that the crime of incest
is commonly supposed to cause a dearth; hence it would be meet that
atonement for the offence should be made to the goddess of

Now on the principle that the goddess of fertility must herself be
fertile, it behoved Diana to have a male partner. Her mate, if the
testimony of Servius may be trusted, was that Virbius who had his
representative, or perhaps rather his embodiment, in the King of the
Wood at Nemi. The aim of their union would be to promote the
fruitfulness of the earth, of animals, and of mankind; and it might
naturally be thought that this object would be more surely attained
if the sacred nuptials were celebrated every year, the parts of the
divine bride and bridegroom being played either by their images or
by living persons. No ancient writer mentions that this was done in
the grove at Nemi; but our knowledge of the Arician ritual is so
scanty that the want of information on this head can hardly count as
a fatal objection to the theory. That theory, in the absence of
direct evidence, must necessarily be based on the analogy of similar
customs practised elsewhere. Some modern examples of such customs,
more or less degenerate, were described in the last chapter. Here we
shall consider their ancient counterparts.

2. The Marriage of the Gods

AT BABYLON the imposing sanctuary of Bel rose like a pyramid above
the city in a series of eight towers or stories, planted one on the
top of the other. On the highest tower, reached by an ascent which
wound about all the rest, there stood a spacious temple, and in the
temple a great bed, magnificently draped and cushioned, with a
golden table beside it. In the temple no image was to be seen, and
no human being passed the night there, save a single woman, whom,
according to the Chaldean priests, the god chose from among all the
women of Babylon. They said that the deity himself came into the
temple at night and slept in the great bed; and the woman, as a
consort of the god, might have no intercourse with mortal man.

At Thebes in Egypt a woman slept in the temple of Ammon as the
consort of the god, and, like the human wife of Bel at Babylon, she
was said to have no commerce with a man. In Egyptian texts she is
often mentioned as "the divine consort," and usually she was no less
a personage than the Queen of Egypt herself. For, according to the
Egyptians, their monarchs were actually begotten by the god Ammon,
who assumed for the time being the form of the reigning king, and in
that disguise had intercourse with the queen. The divine procreation
is carved and painted in great detail on the walls of two of the
oldest temples in Egypt, those of Deir el Bahari and Luxor; and the
inscriptions attached to the paintings leave no doubt as to the
meaning of the scenes.

At Athens the god of the vine, Dionysus, was annually married to the
Queen, and it appears that the consummation of the divine union, as
well as the espousals, was enacted at the ceremony; but whether the
part of the god was played by a man or an image we do not know. We
learn from Aristotle that the ceremony took place in the old
official residence of the King, known as the Cattle-stall, which
stood near the Prytaneum or Town-hall on the north-eastern slope of
the Acropolis. The object of the marriage can hardly have been any
other than that of ensuring the fertility of the vines and other
fruit-trees of which Dionysus was the god. Thus both in form and in
meaning the ceremony would answer to the nuptials of the King and
Queen of May.

In the great mysteries solemnised at Eleusis in the month of
September the union of the sky-god Zeus with the corn-goddess
Demeter appears to have been represented by the union of the
hierophant with the priestess of Demeter, who acted the parts of god
and goddess. But their intercourse was only dramatic or symbolical,
for the hierophant had temporarily deprived himself of his virility
by an application of hemlock. The torches having been extinguished,
the pair descended into a murky place, while the throng of
worshippers awaited in anxious suspense the result of the mystic
congress, on which they believed their own salvation to depend.
After a time the hierophant reappeared, and in a blaze of light
silently exhibited to the assembly a reaped ear of corn, the fruit
of the divine marriage. Then in a loud voice he proclaimed, "Queen
Brimo has brought forth a sacred boy Brimos," by which he meant,
"The Mighty One has brought forth the Mighty." The corn-mother in
fact had given birth to her child, the corn, and her travail-pangs
were enacted in the sacred drama. This revelation of the reaped corn
appears to have been the crowning act of the mysteries. Thus through
the glamour shed round these rites by the poetry and philosophy of
later ages there still looms, like a distant landscape through a
sunlit haze, a simple rustic festival designed to cover the wide
Eleusinian plain with a plenteous harvest by wedding the goddess of
the corn to the sky-god, who fertilised the bare earth with genial
showers. Every few years the people of Plataea, in Boeotia, held a
festival called the Little Daedala, at which they felled an oak-tree
in an ancient oak forest. Out of the tree they carved an image, and
having dressed it as a bride, they set it on a bullock-cart with a
bridesmaid beside it. The image seems then to have been drawn to the
bank of the river Asopus and back to the town, attended by a piping
and dancing crowd. Every sixty years the festival of the Great
Daedala was celebrated by all the people of Boeotia; and at it all
the images, fourteen in number, which had accumulated at the lesser
festivals, were dragged on wains in procession to the river Asopus
and then to the top of Mount Cithaeron, where they were burnt on a
great pyre. The story told to explain the festivals suggests that
they celebrated the marriage of Zeus to Hera, represented by the
oaken image in bridal array. In Sweden every year a life-size image
of Frey, the god of fertility, both animal and vegetable, was drawn
about the country in a waggon attended by a beautiful girl who was
called the god's wife. She acted also as his priestess in his great
temple at Upsala. Wherever the waggon came with the image of the god
and his blooming young bride, the people crowded to meet them and
offered sacrifices for a fruitful year.

Thus the custom of marrying gods either to images or to human beings
was widespread among the nations of antiquity. The ideas on which
such a custom is based are too crude to allow us to doubt that the
civilised Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks inherited it from their
barbarous or savage forefathers. This presumption is strengthened
when we find rites of a similar kind in vogue among the lower races.
Thus, for example, we are told that once upon a time the Wotyaks of
the Malmyz district in Russia were distressed by a series of bad
harvests. They did not know what to do, but at last concluded that
their powerful but mischievious god Keremet must be angry at being
unmarried. So a deputation of elders visited the Wotyaks of Cura and
came to an understanding with them on the subject. Then they
returned home, laid in a large stock of brandy, and having made
ready a gaily decked waggon and horses, they drove in procession
with bells ringing, as they do when they are fetching home a bride,
to the sacred grove at Cura. There they ate and drank merrily all
night, and next morning they cut a square piece of turf in the grove
and took it home with them. After that, though it fared well with
the people of Malmyz, it fared ill with the people of Cura; for in
Malmyz the bread was good, but in Cura it was bad. Hence the men of
Cura who had consented to the marriage were blamed and roughly
handled by their indignant fellow-villagers. "What they meant by
this marriage ceremony," says the writer who reports it, "it is not
easy to imagine. Perhaps, as Bechterew thinks, they meant to marry
Keremet to the kindly and fruitful Mukylcin, the Earth-wife, in
order that she might influence him for good." When wells are dug in
Bengal, a wooden image of a god is made and married to the goddess
of water.

Often the bride destined for the god is not a log or a cloud, but a
living woman of flesh and blood. The Indians of a village in Peru
have been known to marry a beautiful girl, about fourteen years of
age, to a stone shaped like a human being, which they regarded as a
god (_huaca_). All the villagers took part in the marriage ceremony,
which lasted three days, and was attended with much revelry. The
girl thereafter remained a virgin and sacrificed to the idol for the
people. They showed her the utmost reverence and deemed her divine.
Every year about the middle of March, when the season for fishing
with the dragnet began, the Algonquins and Hurons married their nets
to two young girls, aged six or seven. At the wedding feast the net
was placed between the two maidens, and was exhorted to take courage
and catch many fish. The reason for choosing the brides so young was
to make sure that they were virgins. The origin of the custom is
said to have been this. One year, when the fishing season came
round, the Algonquins cast their nets as usual, but took nothing.
Surprised at their want of success, they did not know what to make
of it, till the soul or genius (_oki_) of the net appeared to them
in the likeness of a tall well-built man, who said to them in a
great passion, "I have lost my wife and I cannot find one who has
known no other man but me; that is why you do not succeed, and why
you never will succeed till you give me satisfaction on this head."
So the Algonquins held a council and resolved to appease the spirit
of the net by marrying him to two such very young girls that he
could have no ground of complaint on that score for the future. They
did so, and the fishing turned out all that could be wished. The
thing got wind among their neighbours the Hurons, and they adopted
the custom. A share of the catch was always given to the families of
the two girls who acted as brides of the net for the year.

The Oraons of Bengal worship the Earth as a goddess, and annually
celebrate her marriage with the Sun-god Dharme¯ at the time when the
_sa¯l_ tree is in blossom. The ceremony is as follows. All bathe,
then the men repair to the sacred grove (_sarna_), while the women
assemble at the house of the village priest. After sacrificing some
fowls to the Sun-god and the demon of the grove, the men eat and
drink. "The priest is then carried back to the village on the
shoulders of a strong man. Near the village the women meet the men
and wash their feet. With beating of drums and singing, dancing, and
jumping, all proceed to the priest's house, which has been decorated
with leaves and flowers. Then the usual form of marriage is
performed between the priest and his wife, symbolising the supposed
union between Sun and Earth. After the ceremony all eat and drink
and make merry; they dance and sing obscene songs, and finally
indulge in the vilest orgies. The object is to move the mother earth
to become fruitful." Thus the Sacred Marriage of the Sun and Earth,
personated by the priest and his wife, is celebrated as a charm to
ensure the fertility of the ground; and for the same purpose, on the
principle of homoeopathic magic, the people indulge in licentious

It deserves to be remarked that the supernatural being to whom women
are married is often a god or spirit of water. Thus Mukasa, the god
of the Victoria Nyanza lake, who was propitiated by the Baganda
every time they undertook a long voyage, had virgins provided for
him to serve as his wives. Like the Vestals they were bound to
chastity, but unlike the Vestals they seem to have been often
unfaithful. The custom lasted until Mwanga was converted to
Christianity. The Akikuyu of British East Africa worship the snake
of a certain river, and at intervals of several years they marry the
snake-god to women, but especially to young girls. For this purpose
huts are built by order of the medicine-men, who there consummate
the sacred marriage with the credulous female devotees. If the girls
do not repair to the huts of their own accord in sufficient numbers,
they are seized and dragged thither to the embraces of the deity.
The offspring of these mystic unions appears to be fathered on God
(_ngai_); certainly there are children among the Akikuyu who pass
for children of God. It is said that once, when the inhabitants of
Cayeli in Buru--an East Indian island--were threatened with
destruction by a swarm of crocodiles, they ascribed the misfortune
to a passion which the prince of the crocodiles had conceived for a
certain girl. Accordingly, they compelled the damsel's father to
dress her in bridal array and deliver her over to the clutches of
her crocodile lover.

A usage of the same sort is reported to have prevailed in the
Maldive Islands before the conversion of the inhabitants to Islam.
The famous Arab traveller Ibn Batutah has described the custom and
the manner in which it came to an end. He was assured by several
trustworthy natives, whose names he gives, that when the people of
the islands were idolaters there appeared to them every month an
evil spirit among the jinn, who came from across the sea in the
likeness of a ship full of burning lamps. The wont of the
inhabitants, as soon as they perceived him, was to take a young
virgin, and, having adorned her, to lead her to a heathen temple
that stood on the shore, with a window looking out to sea. There
they left the damsel for the night, and when they came back in the
morning they found her a maid no more, and dead. Every month they
drew lots, and he upon whom the lot fell gave up his daughter to the
jinnee of the sea. The last of the maidens thus offered to the demon
was rescued by a pious Berber, who by reciting the Koran succeeded
in driving the jinnee back into the sea.

Ibn Batutah's narrative of the demon lover and his mortal brides
closely resembles a well-known type of folk-tale, of which versions
have been found from Japan and Annam in the East to Senegambia,
Scandinavia, and Scotland in the West. The story varies in details
from people to people, but as commonly told it runs thus. A certain
country is infested by a many-headed serpent, dragon, or other
monster, which would destroy the whole people if a human victim,
generally a virgin, were not delivered up to him periodically. Many
victims have perished, and at last it has fallen to the lot of the
king's own daughter to be sacrificed. She is exposed to the monster,
but the hero of the tale, generally a young man of humble birth,
interposes in her behalf, slays the monster, and receives the hand
of the princess as his reward. In many of the tales the monster, who
is sometimes described as a serpent, inhabits the water of a sea, a
lake, or a fountain. In other versions he is a serpent or dragon who
takes possession of the springs of water, and only allows the water
to flow or the people to make use of it on condition of receiving a
human victim.

It would probably be a mistake to dismiss all these tales as pure
inventions of the story-teller. Rather we may suppose that they
reflect a real custom of sacrificing girls or women to be the wives
of waterspirits, who are very often conceived as great serpents or

XIII. The Kings of Rome and Alba

1. Numa and Egeria

FROM THE FOREGOING survey of custom and legend we may infer that the
sacred marriage of the powers both of vegetation and of water has
been celebrated by many peoples for the sake of promoting the
fertility of the earth, on which the life of animals and men
ultimately depends, and that in such rites the part of the divine
bridegroom or bride is often sustained by a man or woman. The
evidence may, therefore, lend some countenance to the conjecture
that in the sacred grove at Nemi, where the powers of vegetation and
of water manifested themselves in the fair forms of shady woods,
tumbling cascades, and glassy lake, a marriage like that of our King
and Queen of May was annually celebrated between the mortal King of
the Wood and the immortal Queen of the Wood, Diana. In this
connexion an important figure in the grove was the water-nymph
Egeria, who was worshipped by pregnant women because she, like
Diana, could grant them an easy delivery. From this it seems fairly
safe to conclude that, like many other springs, the water of Egeria
was credited with a power of facilitating conception as well as
delivery. The votive offerings found on the spot, which clearly
refer to the begetting of children, may possibly have been dedicated
to Egeria rather than to Diana, or perhaps we should rather say that
the water-nymph Egeria is only another form of the great
nature-goddess Diana herself, the mistress of sounding rivers as
well as of umbrageous woods, who had her home by the lake and her
mirror in its calm waters, and whose Greek counterpart Artemis loved
to haunt meres and springs. The identification of Egeria with Diana
is confirmed by a statement of Plutarch that Egeria was one of the
oak-nymphs whom the Romans believed to preside over every green
oak-grove; for, while Diana was a goddess of the woodlands in
general, she appears to have been intimately associated with oaks in
particular, especially at her sacred grove of Nemi. Perhaps, then,
Egeria was the fairy of a spring that flowed from the roots of a
sacred oak. Such a spring is said to have gushed from the foot of
the great oak at Dodona, and from its murmurous flow the priestess
drew oracles. Among the Greeks a draught of water from certain
sacred springs or wells was supposed to confer prophetic powers.
This would explain the more than mortal wisdom with which, according
to tradition, Egeria inspired her royal husband or lover Numa. When
we remember how very often in early society the king is held
responsible for the fall of rain and the fruitfulness of the earth,
it seems hardly rash to conjecture that in the legend of the
nuptials of Numa and Egeria we have a reminiscence of a sacred
marriage which the old Roman kings regularly contracted with a
goddess of vegetation and water for the purpose of enabling him to
discharge his divine or magical functions. In such a rite the part
of the goddess might be played either by an image or a woman, and if
by a woman, probably by the Queen. If there is any truth in this
conjecture, we may suppose that the King and Queen of Rome
masqueraded as god and goddess at their marriage, exactly as the
King and Queen of Egypt appear to have done. The legend of Numa and
Egeria points to a sacred grove rather than to a house as the scene
of the nuptial union, which, like the marriage of the King and Queen
of May, or of the vine-god and the Queen of Athens, may have been
annually celebrated as a charm to ensure the fertility not only of
the earth but of man and beast. Now, according to some accounts, the
scene of the marriage was no other than the sacred grove of Nemi,
and on quite independent grounds we have been led to suppose that in
that same grove the King of the Wood was wedded to Diana. The
convergence of the two distinct lines of enquiry suggests that the
legendary union of the Roman king with Egeria may have been a
reflection or duplicate of the union of the King of the Wood with
Egeria or her double Diana. This does not imply that the Roman kings
ever served as Kings of the Wood in the Arician grove, but only that
they may originally have been invested with a sacred character of
the same general kind, and may have held office on similar terms. To
be more explicit, it is possible that they reigned, not by right of
birth, but in virtue of their supposed divinity as representatives
or embodiments of a god, and that as such they mated with a goddess,
and had to prove their fitness from time to time to discharge their
divine functions by engaging in a severe bodily struggle, which may
often have proved fatal to them, leaving the crown to their
victorious adversary. Our knowledge of the Roman kingship is far too
scanty to allow us to affirm any one of these propositions with
confidence; but at least there are some scattered hints or
indications of a similarity in all these respects between the
priests of Nemi and the kings of Rome, or perhaps rather between
their remote predecessors in the dark ages which preceded the dawn
of legend.

2. The King as Jupiter

IN THE FIRST place, then, it would seem that the Roman king
personated no less a deity than Jupiter himself. For down to
imperial times victorious generals celebrating a triumph, and
magistrates presiding at the games in the Circus, wore the costume
of Jupiter, which was borrowed for the occasion from his great
temple on the Capitol; and it has been held with a high degree of
probability both by ancients and moderns that in so doing they
copied the traditionary attire and insignia of the Roman kings. They
rode a chariot drawn by four laurel-crowned horses through the city,
where every one else went on foot: they wore purple robes
embroidered or spangled with gold: in the right hand they bore a
branch of laurel, and in the left hand an ivory sceptre topped with
an eagle: a wreath of laurel crowned their brows: their face was
reddened with vermilion; and over their head a slave held a heavy
crown of massy gold fashioned in the likeness of oak leaves. In this
attire the assimilation of the man to the god comes out above all in
the eagle-topped sceptre, the oaken crown, and the reddened face.
For the eagle was the bird of Jove, the oak was his sacred tree, and
the face of his image standing in his four-horse chariot on the
Capitol was in like manner regularly dyed red on festivals; indeed,
so important was it deemed to keep the divine features properly
rouged that one of the first duties of the censors was to contract
for having this done. As the triumphal procession always ended in
the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, it was peculiarly appropriate
that the head of the victor should be graced by a crown of oak
leaves, for not only was every oak consecrated to Jupiter, but the
Capitoline temple of the god was said to have been built by Romulus
beside a sacred oak, venerated by shepherds, to which the king
attached the spoils won by him from the enemy's general in battle.
We are expressly told that the oak crown was sacred to Capitoline
Jupiter; a passage of Ovid proves that it was regarded as the god's
special emblem.

According to a tradition which we have no reason to reject, Rome was
founded by settlers from Alba Longa, a city situated on the slope of
the Alban hills, overlooking the lake and the Campagna. Hence if the
Roman kings claimed to be representatives or embodiments of Jupiter,
the god of the sky, of the thunder, and of the oak, it is natural to
suppose that the kings of Alba, from whom the founder of Rome traced
his descent, may have set up the same claim before them. Now the
Alban dynasty bore the name of Silvii or Wood, and it can hardly be
without significance that in the vision of the historic glories of
Rome revealed to Aeneas in the underworld, Virgil, an antiquary as
well as a poet, should represent all the line of Silvii as crowned
with oak. A chaplet of oak leaves would thus seem to have been part
of the insignia of the old kings of Alba Longa as of their
successors the kings of Rome; in both cases it marked the monarch as
the human representative of the oak-god. The Roman annals record
that one of the kings of Alba, Romulus, Remulus, or Amulius Silvius
by name, set up for being a god in his own person, the equal or
superior of Jupiter. To support his pretensions and overawe his
subjects, he constructed machines whereby he mimicked the clap of
thunder and the flash of lightning. Diodorus relates that in the
season of fruitage, when thunder is loud and frequent, the king
commanded his soldiers to drown the roar of heaven's artillery by
clashing their swords against their shields. But he paid the penalty
of his impiety, for he perished, he and his house, struck by a
thunderbolt in the midst of a dreadful storm. Swollen by the rain,
the Alban lake rose in flood and drowned his palace. But still, says
an ancient historian, when the water is low and the surface
unruffled by a breeze, you may see the ruins of the palace at the
bottom of the clear lake. Taken along with the similar story of
Salmoneus, king of Elis, this legend points to a real custom
observed by the early kings of Greece and Italy, who, like their
fellows in Africa down to modern times, may have been expected to
produce rain and thunder for the good of the crops. The priestly
king Numa passed for an adept in the art of drawing down lightning
from the sky. Mock thunder, we know, has been made by various
peoples as a rain-charm in modern times; why should it not have been
made by kings in antiquity?

Thus, if the kings of Alba and Rome imitated Jupiter as god of the
oak by wearing a crown of oak leaves, they seem also to have copied
him in his character of a weather-god by pretending to make thunder
and lightning. And if they did so, it is probable that, like Jupiter
in heaven and many kings on earth, they also acted as public
rain-makers, wringing showers from the dark sky by their
enchantments whenever the parched earth cried out for the refreshing
moisture. At Rome the sluices of heaven were opened by means of a
sacred stone, and the ceremony appears to have formed part of the
ritual of Jupiter Elicius, the god who elicits from the clouds the
flashing lightning and the dripping rain. And who so well fitted to
perform the ceremony as the king, the living representative of the

If the kings of Rome aped Capitoline Jove, their predecessors the
kings of Alba probably laid themselves out to mimic the great Latian
Jupiter, who had his seat above the city on the summit of the Alban
Mountain. Latinus, the legendary ancestor of the dynasty, was said
to have been changed into Latian Jupiter after vanishing from the
world in the mysterious fashion characteristic of the old Latin
kings. The sanctuary of the god on the top of the mountain was the
religious centre of the Latin League, as Alba was its political
capital till Rome wrested the supremacy from its ancient rival.
Apparently no temple, in our sense of the word, was ever erected to
Jupiter on this his holy mountain; as god of the sky and thunder he
appropriately received the homage of his worshippers in the open
air. The massive wall, of which some remains still enclose the old
garden of the Passionist monastery, seems to have been part of the
sacred precinct which Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome,
marked out for the solemn annual assembly of the Latin League. The
god's oldest sanctuary on this airy mountain-top was a grove; and
bearing in mind not merely the special consecration of the oak to
Jupiter, but also the traditional oak crown of the Alban kings and
the analogy of the Capitoline Jupiter at Rome, we may suppose that
the trees in the grove were oaks. We know that in antiquity Mount
Algidus, an outlying group of the Alban hills, was covered with dark
forests of oak; and among the tribes who belonged to the Latin
League in the earliest days, and were entitled to share the flesh of
the white bull sacrificed on the Alban Mount, there was one whose
members styled themselves the Men of the Oak, doubtless on account
of the woods among which they dwelt.

But we should err if we pictured to ourselves the country as covered
in historical times with an unbroken forest of oaks. Theophrastus
has left us a description of the woods of Latium as they were in the
fourth century before Christ. He says: "The land of the Latins is
all moist. The plains produce laurels, myrtles, and wonderful
beeches; for they fell trees of such a size that a single stem
suffices for the keel of a Tyrrhenian ship. Pines and firs grow in
the mountains. What they call the land of Circe is a lofty headland
thickly wooded with oak, myrtle, and luxuriant laurels. The natives
say that Circe dwelt there, and they show the grave of Elpenor, from
which grow myrtles such as wreaths are made of, whereas the other
myrtle-trees are tall." Thus the prospect from the top of the Alban
Mount in the early days of Rome must have been very different in
some respects from what it is to-day. The purple Apennines, indeed,
in their eternal calm on the one hand, and the shining Mediterranean
in its eternal unrest on the other, no doubt looked then much as
they look now, whether bathed in sunshine, or chequered by the
fleeting shadows of clouds; but instead of the desolate brown
expanse of the fever-stricken Campagna, spanned by its long lines of
ruined aqueducts, like the broken arches of the bridge in the vision
of Mirza, the eye must have ranged over woodlands that stretched
away, mile after mile, on all sides, till their varied hues of green
or autumnal scarlet and gold melted insensibly into the blue of the
distant mountains and sea.

But Jupiter did not reign alone on the top of his holy mountain. He
had his consort with him, the goddess Juno, who was worshipped here
under the same title, Moneta, as on the Capitol at Rome. As the oak
crown was sacred to Jupiter and Juno on the Capitol, so we may
suppose it was on the Alban Mount, from which the Capitoline worship
was derived. Thus the oak-god would have his oak-goddess in the
sacred oak grove. So at Dodona the oak-god Zeus was coupled with
Dione, whose very name is only a dialectically different form of
Juno; and so on the top of Mount Cithaeron, as we have seen, he
appears to have been periodically wedded to an oaken image of Hera.
It is probable, though it cannot be positively proved, that the
sacred marriage of Jupiter and Juno was annually celebrated by all
the peoples of the Latin stock in the month which they named after
the goddess, the midsummer month of June.

If at any time of the year the Romans celebrated the sacred marriage
of Jupiter and Juno, as the Greeks commonly celebrated the
corresponding marriage of Zeus and Hera, we may suppose that under
the Republic the ceremony was either performed over images of the
divine pair or acted by the Flamen Dialis and his wife the
Flaminica. For the Flamen Dialis was the priest of Jove; indeed,
ancient and modern writers have regarded him, with much probability,
as a living image of Jupiter, a human embodiment of the sky-god. In
earlier times the Roman king, as representative of Jupiter, would
naturally play the part of the heavenly bridegroom at the sacred
marriage, while his queen would figure as the heavenly bride, just
as in Egypt the king and queen masqueraded in the character of
deities, and as at Athens the queen annually wedded the vine-god
Dionysus. That the Roman king and queen should act the parts of
Jupiter and Juno would seem all the more natural because these
deities themselves bore the title of King and Queen.

Whether that was so or not, the legend of Numa and Egeria appears to
embody a reminiscence of a time when the priestly king himself
played the part of the divine bridegroom; and as we have seen reason
to suppose that the Roman kings personated the oak-god, while Egeria
is expressly said to have been an oak-nymph, the story of their
union in the sacred grove raises a presumption that at Rome in the
regal period a ceremony was periodically performed exactly analogous
to that which was annually celebrated at Athens down to the time of
Aristotle. The marriage of the King of Rome to the oak-goddess, like
the wedding of the vine-god to the Queen of Athens, must have been
intended to quicken the growth of vegetation by homoeopathic magic.
Of the two forms of the rite we can hardly doubt that the Roman was
the older, and that long before the northern invaders met with the
vine on the shores of the Mediterranean their forefathers had
married the tree-god to the tree-goddess in the vast oak forests of
Central and Northern Europe. In the England of our day the forests
have mostly disappeared, yet still on many a village green and in
many a country lane a faded image of the sacred marriage lingers in
the rustic pageantry of May Day.

XIV. The Succession to the Kingdom in Ancient Latium

IN REGARD to the Roman king, whose priestly functions were inherited
by his successor the king of the Sacred Rites, the foregoing
discussion has led us to the following conclusions. He represented
and indeed personated Jupiter, the great god of the sky, the
thunder, and the oak, and in that character made rain, thunder, and
lightning for the good of his subjects, like many more kings of the
weather in other parts of the world. Further, he not only mimicked
the oak-god by wearing an oak wreath and other insignia of divinity,
but he was married to an oak-nymph Egeria, who appears to have been
merely a local form of Diana in her character of a goddess of woods,
of waters, and of child-birth. All these conclusions, which we have
reached mainly by a consideration of the Roman evidence, may with
great probability be applied to the other Latin communities. They
too probably had of old their divine or priestly kings, who
transmitted their religious functions, without their civil powers,
to their successors the Kings of the Sacred Rites.

But we have still to ask, What was the rule of succession to the
kingdom among the old Latin tribes? According to tradition, there
were in all eight kings of Rome, and with regard to the five last of
them, at all events, we can hardly doubt that they actually sat on
the throne, and that the traditional history of their reigns is, in
its main outlines, correct. Now it is very remarkable that though
the first king of Rome, Romulus, is said to have been descended from
the royal house of Alba, in which the kingship is represented as
hereditary in the male line, not one of the Roman kings was
immediately succeeded by his son on the throne. Yet several left
sons or grandsons behind them. On the other hand, one of them was
descended from a former king through his mother, not through his
father, and three of the kings, namely Tatius, the elder Tarquin,
and Servius Tullius, were succeeded by their sons-in-law, who were
all either foreigners or of foreign descent. This suggests that the
right to the kingship was transmitted in the female line, and was
actually exercised by foreigners who married the royal princesses.
To put it in technical language, the succession to the kingship at
Rome and probably in Latium generally would seem to have been
determined by certain rules which have moulded early society in many
parts of the world, namely exogamy, _beena_ marriage, and female
kinship or mother-kin. Exogamy is the rule which obliges a man to
marry a woman of a different clan from his own: _beena_ marriage is
the rule that he must leave the home of his birth and live with his
wife's people; and female kinship or mother-kin is the system of
tracing relationship and transmitting the family name through women
instead of through men. If these principles regulated descent of the
kingship among the ancient Latins, the state of things in this
respect would be somewhat as follows. The political and religious
centre of each community would be the perpetual fire on the king's
hearth tended by Vestal Virgins of the royal clan. The king would be
a man of another clan, perhaps of another town or even of another
race, who had married a daughter of his predecessor and received the
kingdom with her. The children whom he had by her would inherit
their mother's name, not his; the daughters would remain at home;
the sons, when they grew up, would go away into the world, marry,
and settle in their wives' country, whether as kings or commoners.
Of the daughters who stayed at home, some or all would be dedicated
as Vestal Virgins for a longer or shorter time to the service of the
fire on the hearth, and one of them would in time become the consort
of her father's successor.

This hypothesis has the advantage of explaining in a simple and
natural way some obscure features in the traditional history of the
Latin kingship. Thus the legends which tell how Latin kings were
born of virgin mothers and divine fathers become at least more
intelligible. For, stripped of their fabulous element, tales of this
sort mean no more than that a woman has been gotten with child by a
man unknown; and this uncertainty as to fatherhood is more easily
compatible with a system of kinship which ignores paternity than
with one which makes it all-important. If at the birth of the Latin
kings their fathers were really unknown, the fact points either to a
general looseness of life in the royal family or to a special
relaxation of moral rules on certain occasions, when men and women
reverted for a season to the licence of an earlier age. Such
Saturnalias are not uncommon at some stages of social evolution. In
our own country traces of them long survived in the practices of May
Day and Whitsuntide, if not of Christmas. Children born of more or
less promiscuous intercourse which characterises festivals of this
kind would naturally be fathered on the god to whom the particular
festival was dedicated.

In this connexion it may be significant that a festival of jollity
and drunkenness was celebrated by the plebeians and slaves at Rome
on Midsummer Day, and that the festival was specially associated
with the fireborn King Servius Tullius, being held in honour of
Fortuna, the goddess who loved Servius as Egeria loved Numa. The
popular merrymakings at this season included foot-races and
boat-races; the Tiber was gay with flower-wreathed boats, in which
young folk sat quaffing wine. The festival appears to have been a
sort of Midsummer Saturnalia answering to the real Saturnalia which
fell at Midwinter. In modern Europe, as we shall learn later on, the
great Midsummer festival has been above all a festival of lovers and
of fire; one of its principal features is the pairing of
sweethearts, who leap over the bonfires hand in hand or throw
flowers across the flames to each other. And many omens of love and
marriage are drawn from the flowers which bloom at this mystic
season. It is the time of the roses and of love. Yet the innocence
and beauty of such festivals in modern times ought not to blind us
to the likelihood that in earlier days they were marked by coarser
features, which were probably of the essence of the rites. Indeed,
among the rude Esthonian peasantry these features seem to have
lingered down to our own generation, if not to the present day. One
other feature in the Roman celebration of Midsummer deserves to be
specially noticed. The custom of rowing in flower-decked boats on
the river on this day proves that it was to some extent a water
festival; and water has always, down to modern times, played a
conspicuous part in the rites of Midsummer Day, which explains why
the Church, in throwing its cloak over the old heathen festival,
chose to dedicate it to St. John the Baptist.

The hypothesis that the Latin kings may have been begotten at an
annual festival of love is necessarily a mere conjecture, though the
traditional birth of Numa at the festival of the Parilia, when
shepherds leaped across the spring bonfires, as lovers leap across
the Midsummer fires, may perhaps be thought to lend it a faint
colour of probability. But it is quite possible that the uncertainty
as to their fathers may not have arisen till long after the death of
the kings, when their figures began to melt away into the cloudland
of fable, assuming fantastic shapes and gorgeous colouring as they
passed from earth to heaven. If they were alien immigrants,
strangers and pilgrims in the land they ruled over, it would be
natural enough that the people should forget their lineage, and
forgetting it should provide them with another, which made up in
lustre what it lacked in truth. The final apotheosis, which
represented the kings not merely as sprung from gods but as
themselves deities incarnate, would be much facilitated if in their
lifetime, as we have seen reason to think, they had actually laid
claim to divinity.

If among the Latins the women of royal blood always stayed at home
and received as their consorts men of another stock, and often of
another country, who reigned as kings in virtue of their marriage
with a native princess, we can understand not only why foreigners
wore the crown at Rome, but also why foreign names occur in the list
of the Alban kings. In a state of society where nobility is reckoned
only through women--in other words, where descent through the mother
is everything, and descent through the father is nothing--no
objection will be felt to uniting girls of the highest rank to men
of humble birth, even to aliens or slaves, provided that in
themselves the men appear to be suitable mates. What really matters
is that the royal stock, on which the prosperity and even the
existence of the people is supposed to depend, should be perpetuated
in a vigorous and efficient form, and for this purpose it is
necessary that the women of the royal family should bear children to
men who are physically and mentally fit, according to the standard
of early society, to discharge the important duty of procreation.
Thus the personal qualities of the kings at this stage of social
evolution are deemed of vital importance. If they, like their
consorts, are of royal and divine descent, so much the better; but
it is not essential that they should be so.

At Athens, as at Rome, we find traces of succession to the throne by
marriage with a royal princess; for two of the most ancient kings of
Athens, namely Cecrops and Amphictyon, are said to have married the
daughters of their predecessors. This tradition is to a certain
extent confirmed by evidence, pointing to the conclusion that at
Athens male kinship was preceded by female kinship.

Further, if I am right in supposing that in ancient Latium the royal
families kept their daughters at home and sent forth their sons to
marry princesses and reign among their wives' people, it will follow
that the male descendants would reign in successive generations over
different kingdoms. Now this seems to have happened both in ancient
Greece and in ancient Sweden; from which we may legitimately infer
that it was a custom practised by more than one branch of the Aryan
stock in Europe. Many Greek traditions relate how a prince left his
native land, and going to a far country married the king's daughter
and succeeded to the kingdom. Various reasons are assigned by
ancient Greek writers for these migrations of the princes. A common
one is that the king's son had been banished for murder. This would
explain very well why he fled his own land, but it is no reason at
all why he should become king of another. We may suspect that such
reasons are afterthoughts devised by writers, who, accustomed to the
rule that a son should succeed to his father's property and kingdom,
were hard put to it to account for so many traditions of kings' sons
who quitted the land of their birth to reign over a foreign kingdom.
In Scandinavian tradition we meet with traces of similar customs.
For we read of daughters' husbands who received a share of the
kingdoms of their royal fathers-in-law, even when these
fathers-in-law had sons of their own; in particular, during the five
generations which preceded Harold the Fair-haired, male members of
the Ynglingar family, which is said to have come from Sweden, are
reported in the _Heimskringla_ or _Sagas of the Norwegian Kings_ to
have obtained at least six provinces in Norway by marriage with the
daughters of the local kings.

Thus it would seem that among some Aryan peoples, at a certain stage
of their social evolution, it has been customary to regard women and
not men as the channels in which royal blood flows, and to bestow
the kingdom in each successive generation on a man of another
family, and often of another country, who marries one of the
princesses and reigns over his wife's people. A common type of
popular tale, which relates how an adventurer, coming to a strange
land, wins the hand of the king's daughter and with her the half or
the whole of the kingdom, may well be a reminiscence of a real

Where usages and ideas of this sort prevail, it is obvious that the
kingship is merely an appanage of marriage with a woman of the blood
royal. The old Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus puts this view of
the kingship very clearly in the mouth of Hermutrude, a legendary
queen of Scotland. "Indeed she was a queen," says Hermutrude, "and
but that her sex gainsaid it, might be deemed a king; nay (and this
is yet truer), whomsoever she thought worthy of her bed was at once
a king, and she yielded her kingdom with herself. Thus her sceptre
and her hand went together." The statement is all the more
significant because it appears to reflect the actual practice of the
Pictish kings. We know from the testimony of Bede that, whenever a
doubt arose as to the succession, the Picts chose their kings from
the female rather than the male line.

The personal qualities which recommended a man for a royal alliance
and succession to the throne would naturally vary according to the
popular ideas of the time and the character of the king or his
substitute, but it is reasonable to suppose that among them in early
society physical strength and beauty would hold a prominent place.

Sometimes apparently the right to the hand of the princess and to
the throne has been determined by a race. The Alitemnian Libyans
awarded the kingdom to the fleetest runner. Amongst the old
Prussians, candidates for nobility raced on horseback to the king,
and the one who reached him first was ennobled. According to
tradition the earliest games at Olympia were held by Endymion, who
set his sons to run a race for the kingdom. His tomb was said to be
at the point of the racecourse from which the runners started. The
famous story of Pelops and Hippodamia is perhaps only another
version of the legend that the first races at Olympia were run for
no less a prize than a kingdom.

These traditions may very well reflect a real custom of racing for a
bride, for such a custom appears to have prevailed among various
peoples, though in practice it has degenerated into a mere form or
pretence. Thus "there is one race, called the 'Love Chase,' which
may be considered a part of the form of marriage among the Kirghiz.
In this the bride, armed with a formidable whip, mounts a fleet
horse, and is pursued by all the young men who make any pretensions
to her hand. She will be given as a prize to the one who catches
her, but she has the right, besides urging on her horse to the
utmost, to use her whip, often with no mean force, to keep off those
lovers who are unwelcome to her, and she will probably favour the
one whom she has already chosen in her heart." The race for the
bride is found also among the Koryaks of North-eastern Asia. It
takes place in a large tent, round which many separate compartments
called _pologs_ are arranged in a continuous circle. The girl gets a
start and is clear of the marriage if she can run through all the
compartments without being caught by the bridegroom. The women of
the encampment place every obstacle in the man's way, tripping him
up, belabouring him with switches, and so forth, so that he has
little chance of succeeding unless the girl wishes it and waits for
him. Similar customs appear to have been practised by all the
Teutonic peoples; for the German, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse languages
possess in common a word for marriage which means simply bride-race.
Moreover, traces of the custom survived into modern times.

Thus it appears that the right to marry a girl, and especially a
princess, has often been conferred as a prize in an athletic
contest. There would be no reason, therefore, for surprise if the
Roman kings, before bestowing their daughters in marriage, should
have resorted to this ancient mode of testing the personal qualities
of their future sons-in-law and successors. If my theory is correct,
the Roman king and queen personated Jupiter and his divine consort,
and in the character of these divinities went through the annual
ceremony of a sacred marriage for the purpose of causing the crops
to grow and men and cattle to be fruitful and multiply. Thus they
did what in more northern lands we may suppose the King and Queen of
May were believed to do in days of old. Now we have seen that the
right to play the part of the King of May and to wed the Queen of
May has sometimes been determined by an athletic contest,
particularly by a race. This may have been a relic of an old
marriage custom of the sort we have examined, a custom designed to
test the fitness of a candidate for matrimony. Such a test might
reasonably be applied with peculiar rigour to the king in order to
ensure that no personal defect should incapacitate him for the
performance of those sacred rites and ceremonies on which, even more
than on the despatch of his civil and military duties, the safety
and prosperity of the community were believed to depend. And it
would be natural to require of him that from time to time he should
submit himself afresh to the same ordeal for the sake of publicly
demonstrating that he was still equal to the discharge of his high
calling. A relic of that test perhaps survived in the ceremony known
as the Flight of the King (_regifugium_), which continued to be
annually observed at Rome down to imperial times. On the
twenty-fourth day of February a sacrifice used to be offered in the
Comitium, and when it was over the King of the Sacred Rites fled
from the Forum. We may conjecture that the Flight of the King was
originally a race for an annual kingship, which may have been
awarded as a prize to the fleetest runner. At the end of the year
the king might run again for a second term of office; and so on,
until he was defeated and deposed or perhaps slain. In this way what
had once been a race would tend to assume the character of a flight
and a pursuit. The king would be given a start; he ran and his
competitors ran after him, and if he were overtaken he had to yield
the crown and perhaps his life to the lightest of foot among them.
In time a man of masterful character might succeed in seating
himself permanently on the throne and reducing the annual race or
flight to the empty form which it seems always to have been within
historical times. The rite was sometimes interpreted as a
commemoration of the expulsion of the kings from Rome; but this
appears to have been a mere afterthought devised to explain a
ceremony of which the old meaning was forgotten. It is far more
likely that in acting thus the King of the Sacred Rites was merely
keeping up an ancient custom which in the regal period had been
annually observed by his predecessors the kings. What the original
intention of the rite may have been must probably always remain more
or less a matter of conjecture. The present explanation is suggested
with a full sense of the difficulty and obscurity in which the
subject is involved.

Thus if my theory is correct, the yearly flight of the Roman king
was a relic of a time when the kingship was an annual office
awarded, along with the hand of a princess, to the victorious
athlete or gladiator, who thereafter figured along with his bride as
a god and goddess at a sacred marriage designed to ensure the
fertility of the earth by homoeopathic magic. If I am right in
supposing that in very early times the old Latin kings personated a
god and were regularly put to death in that character, we can better
understand the mysterious or violent ends to which so many of them
are said to have come. We have seen that, according to tradition,
one of the kings of Alba was killed by a thunderbolt for impiously
mimicking the thunder of Jupiter. Romulus is said to have vanished
mysteriously like Aeneas, or to have been cut to pieces by the
patricians whom he had offended, and the seventh of July, the day on
which he perished, was a festival which bore some resemblance to the
Saturnalia. For on that day the female slaves were allowed to take
certain remarkable liberties. They dressed up as free women in the
attire of matrons and maids, and in this guise they went forth from
the city, scoffed and jeered at all whom they met, and engaged among
themselves in a fight, striking and throwing stones at each other.
Another Roman king who perished by violence was Tatius, the Sabine
colleague of Romulus. It is said that he was at Lavinium offering a
public sacrifice to the ancestral gods, when some men, to whom he
had given umbrage, despatched him with the sacrificial knives and
spits which they had snatched from the altar. The occasion and the
manner of his death suggest that the slaughter may have been a
sacrifice rather than an assassination. Again, Tullus Hostilius, the
successor of Numa, was commonly said to have been killed by
lightning, but many held that he was murdered at the instigation of
Ancus Marcius, who reigned after him. Speaking of the more or less
mythical Numa, the type of the priestly king, Plutarch observes that
"his fame was enhanced by the fortunes of the later kings. For of
the five who reigned after him the last was deposed and ended his
life in exile, and of the remaining four not one died a natural
death; for three of them were assassinated and Tullus Hostilius was
consumed by thunderbolts."

These legends of the violent ends of the Roman kings suggest that
the contest by which they gained the throne may sometimes have been
a mortal combat rather than a race. If that were so, the analogy
which we have traced between Rome and Nemi would be still closer. At
both places the sacred kings, the living representatives of the
godhead, would thus be liable to suffer deposition and death at the
hand of any resolute man who could prove his divine right to the
holy office by the strong arm and the sharp sword. It would not be
surprising if among the early Latins the claim to the kingdom should
often have been settled by single combat; for down to historical
times the Umbrians regularly submitted their private disputes to the
ordeal of battle, and he who cut his adversary's throat was thought
thereby to have proved the justice of his cause beyond the reach of

XV. The Worship of the Oak

THE WORSHIP of the oak tree or of the oak god appears to have been
shared by all the branches of the Aryan stock in Europe. Both Greeks
and Italians associated the tree with their highest god, Zeus or
Jupiter, the divinity of the sky, the rain, and the thunder. Perhaps
the oldest and certainly one of the most famous sanctuaries in
Greece was that of Dodona, where Zeus was revered in the oracular
oak. The thunder-storms which are said to rage at Dodona more
frequently than anywhere else in Europe, would render the spot a
fitting home for the god whose voice was heard alike in the rustling
of the oak leaves and in the crash of thunder. Perhaps the bronze
gongs which kept up a humming in the wind round the sanctuary were
meant to mimick the thunder that might so often be heard rolling and
rumbling in the coombs of the stern and barren mountains which shut
in the gloomy valley. In Boeotia, as we have seen, the sacred
marriage of Zeus and Hera, the oak god and the oak goddess, appears
to have been celebrated with much pomp by a religious federation of
states. And on Mount Lycaeus in Arcadia the character of Zeus as god
both of the oak and of the rain comes out clearly in the rain charm
practised by the priest of Zeus, who dipped an oak branch in a
sacred spring. In his latter capacity Zeus was the god to whom the
Greeks regularly prayed for rain. Nothing could be more natural; for
often, though not always, he had his seat on the mountains where the
clouds gather and the oaks grow. On the Acropolis at Athens there
was an image of Earth praying to Zeus for rain. And in time of
drought the Athenians themselves prayed, "Rain, rain, O dear Zeus,
on the cornland of the Athenians and on the plains."

Again, Zeus wielded the thunder and lightning as well as the rain.
At Olympia and elsewhere he was worshipped under the surname of
Thunderbolt; and at Athens there was a sacrificial hearth of
Lightning Zeus on the city wall, where some priestly officials
watched for lightning over Mount Parnes at certain seasons of the
year. Further, spots which had been struck by lightning were
regularly fenced in by the Greeks and consecrated to Zeus the
Descender, that is, to the god who came down in the flash from
heaven. Altars were set up within these enclosures and sacrifices
offered on them. Several such places are known from inscriptions to
have existed in Athens.

Thus when ancient Greek kings claimed to be descended from Zeus, and
even to bear his name, we may reasonably suppose that they also
attempted to exercise his divine functions by making thunder and
rain for the good of their people or the terror and confusion of
their foes. In this respect the legend of Salmoneus probably
reflects the pretensions of a whole class of petty sovereigns who
reigned of old, each over his little canton, in the oak-clad
highlands of Greece. Like their kinsmen the Irish kings, they were
expected to be a source of fertility to the land and of fecundity to
the cattle; and how could they fulfil these expectations better than
by acting the part of their kinsman Zeus, the great god of the oak,
the thunder, and the rain? They personified him, apparently, just as
the Italian kings personified Jupiter.

In ancient Italy every oak was sacred to Jupiter, the Italian
counterpart of Zeus; and on the Capitol at Rome the god was
worshipped as the deity not merely of the oak, but of the rain and
the thunder. Contrasting the piety of the good old times with the
scepticism of an age when nobody thought that heaven was heaven, or
cared a fig for Jupiter, a Roman writer tells us that in former days
noble matrons used to go with bare feet, streaming hair, and pure
minds, up the long Capitoline slope, praying to Jupiter for rain.
And straightway, he goes on, it rained bucketsful, then or never,
and everybody returned dripping like drowned rats. "But nowadays,"
says he, "we are no longer religious, so the fields lie baking."

When we pass from Southern to Central Europe we still meet with the
great god of the oak and the thunder among the barbarous Aryans who
dwelt in the vast primaeval forests. Thus among the Celts of Gaul
the Druids esteemed nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the
oak on which it grew; they chose groves of oaks for the scene of
their solemn service, and they performed none of their rites without
oak leaves. "The Celts," says a Greek writer, "worship Zeus, and the
Celtic image of Zeus is a tall oak." The Celtic conquerors, who
settled in Asia in the third century before our era, appear to have
carried the worship of the oak with them to their new home; for in
the heart of Asia Minor the Galatian senate met in a place which
bore the pure Celtic name of Drynemetum, "the sacred oak grove" or
"the temple of the oak." Indeed the very name of Druids is believed
by good authorities to mean no more than "oak men."

In the religion of the ancient Germans the veneration for sacred
groves seems to have held the foremost place, and according to Grimm
the chief of their holy trees was the oak. It appears to have been
especially dedicated to the god of thunder, Donar or Thunar, the
equivalent of the Norse Thor; for a sacred oak near Geismar, in
Hesse, which Boniface cut down in the eighth century, went among the
heathen by the name of Jupiter's oak (_robur Jovis_), which in old
German would be _Donares eih,_ "the oak of Donar." That the Teutonic
thunder god Donar, Thunar, Thor was identified with the Italian
thunder god Jupiter appears from our word Thursday, Thunar's day,
which is merely a rendering of the Latin _dies Jovis._ Thus among
the ancient Teutons, as among the Greeks and Italians, the god of
the oak was also the god of the thunder. Moreover, he was regarded
as the great fertilising power, who sent rain and caused the earth
to bear fruit; for Adam of Bremen tells us that "Thor presides in
the air; he it is who rules thunder and lightning, wind and rains,
fine weather and crops." In these respects, therefore, the Teutonic
thunder god again resembled his southern counterparts Zeus and

Amongst the Slavs also the oak appears to have been the sacred tree
of the thunder god Perun, the counterpart of Zeus and Jupiter. It is
said that at Novgorod there used to stand an image of Perun in the
likeness of a man with a thunder-stone in his hand. A fire of oak
wood burned day and night in his honour; and if ever it went out the
attendants paid for their negligence with their lives. Perun seems,
like Zeus and Jupiter, to have been the chief god of his people; for
Procopius tells us that the Slavs "believe that one god, the maker
of lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him
oxen and every victim."

The chief deity of the Lithuanians was Perkunas or Perkuns, the god
of thunder and lightning, whose resemblance to Zeus and Jupiter has
often been pointed out. Oaks were sacred to him, and when they were
cut down by the Christian missionaries, the people loudly complained
that their sylvan deities were destroyed. Perpetual fires, kindled
with the wood of certain oak-trees, were kept up in honour of
Perkunas; if such a fire went out, it was lighted again by friction
of the sacred wood. Men sacrificed to oak-trees for good crops,
while women did the same to lime-trees; from which we may infer that
they regarded oaks as male and lime-trees as female. And in time of
drought, when they wanted rain, they used to sacrifice a black
heifer, a black he-goat, and a black cock to the thunder god in the
depths of the woods. On such occasions the people assembled in great
numbers from the country round about, ate and drank, and called upon
Perkunas. They carried a bowl of beer thrice round the fire, then
poured the liquor on the flames, while they prayed to the god to
send showers. Thus the chief Lithuanian deity presents a close
resemblance to Zeus and Jupiter, since he was the god of the oak,
the thunder, and the rain.

From the foregoing survey it appears that a god of the oak, the
thunder, and the rain was worshipped of old by all the main branches
of the Aryan stock in Europe, and was indeed the chief deity of
their pantheon.

XVI. Dianus and Diana

IN THIS CHAPTER I propose to recapitulate the conclusions to which
the enquiry has thus far led us, and drawing together the scattered
rays of light, to turn them on the dark figure of the priest of

We have found that at an early stage of society men, ignorant of the
secret processes of nature and of the narrow limits within which it
is in our power to control and direct them, have commonly arrogated
to themselves functions which in the present state of knowledge we
should deem superhuman or divine. The illusion has been fostered and
maintained by the same causes which begot it, namely, the marvellous
order and uniformity with which nature conducts her operations, the
wheels of her great machine revolving with a smoothness and
precision which enable the patient observer to anticipate in general
the season, if not the very hour, when they will bring round the
fulfilment of his hopes or the accomplishment of his fears. The
regularly recurring events of this great cycle, or rather series of
cycles, soon stamp themselves even on the dull mind of the savage.
He foresees them, and foreseeing them mistakes the desired
recurrence for an effect of his own will, and the dreaded recurrence
for an effect of the will of his enemies. Thus the springs which set
the vast machine in motion, though they lie far beyond our ken,
shrouded in a mystery which we can never hope to penetrate, appear
to ignorant man to lie within his reach: he fancies he can touch
them and so work by magic art all manner of good to himself and evil
to his foes. In time the fallacy of this belief becomes apparent to
him: he discovers that there are things he cannot do, pleasures
which he is unable of himself to procure, pains which even the most
potent magician is powerless to avoid. The unattainable good, the
inevitable ill, are now ascribed by him to the action of invisible
powers, whose favour is joy and life, whose anger is misery and
death. Thus magic tends to be displaced by religion, and the
sorcerer by the priest. At this stage of thought the ultimate causes
of things are conceived to be personal beings, many in number and
often discordant in character, who partake of the nature and even of
the frailty of man, though their might is greater than his, and
their life far exceeds the span of his ephemeral existence. Their
sharply-marked individualities, their clear-cut outlines have not
yet begun, under the powerful solvent of philosophy, to melt and
coalesce into that single unknown substratum of phenomena which,
according to the qualities with which our imagination invests it,
goes by one or other of the high-sounding names which the wit of man
has devised to hide his ignorance. Accordingly, so long as men look
on their gods as beings akin to themselves and not raised to an
unapproachable height above them, they believe it to be possible for
those of their own number who surpass their fellows to attain to the
divine rank after death or even in life. Incarnate human deities of
this latter sort may be said to halt midway between the age of magic
and the age of religion. If they bear the names and display the pomp
of deities, the powers which they are supposed to wield are commonly
those of their predecessor the magician. Like him, they are expected
to guard their people against hostile enchantments, to heal them in
sickness, to bless them with offspring, and to provide them with an
abundant supply of food by regulating the weather and performing the
other ceremonies which are deemed necessary to ensure the fertility
of the earth and the multiplication of animals. Men who are credited
with powers so lofty and far-reaching naturally hold the highest
place in the land, and while the rift between the spiritual and the
temporal spheres has not yet widened too far, they are supreme in
civil as well as religious matters: in a word, they are kings as
well as gods. Thus the divinity which hedges a king has its roots
deep down in human history, and long ages pass before these are
sapped by a profounder view of nature and man.

In the classical period of Greek and Latin antiquity the reign of
kings was for the most part a thing of the past; yet the stories of
their lineage, titles, and pretensions suffice to prove that they
too claimed to rule by divine right and to exercise superhuman
powers. Hence we may without undue temerity assume that the King of
the Wood at Nemi, though shorn in later times of his glory and
fallen on evil days, represented a long line of sacred kings who had
once received not only the homage but the adoration of their
subjects in return for the manifold blessings which they were
supposed to dispense. What little we know of the functions of Diana
in the Arician grove seems to prove that she was here conceived as a
goddess of fertility, and particularly as a divinity of childbirth.
It is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that in the discharge of
these important duties she was assisted by her priest, the two
figuring as King and Queen of the Wood in a solemn marriage, which
was intended to make the earth gay with the blossoms of spring and
the fruits of autumn, and to gladden the hearts of men and women
with healthful offspring.

If the priest of Nemi posed not merely as a king, but as a god of
the grove, we have still to ask, What deity in particular did he
personate? The answer of antiquity is that he represented Virbius,
the consort or lover of Diana. But this does not help us much, for
of Virbius we know little more than the name. A clue to the mystery
is perhaps supplied by the Vestal fire which burned in the grove.
For the perpetual holy fires of the Aryans in Europe appear to have
been commonly kindled and fed with oak-wood, and in Rome itself, not
many miles from Nemi, the fuel of the Vestal fire consisted of oaken
sticks or logs, as has been proved by a microscopic analysis of the
charred embers of the Vestal fire, which were discovered by
Commendatore G. Boni in the course of the memorable excavations
which he conducted in the Roman forum at the end of the nineteenth
century. But the ritual of the various Latin towns seems to have
been marked by great uniformity; hence it is reasonable to conclude
that wherever in Latium a Vestal fire was maintained, it was fed, as
at Rome, with wood of the sacred oak. If this was so at Nemi, it
becomes probable that the hallowed grove there consisted of a
natural oak-wood, and that therefore the tree which the King of the
Wood had to guard at the peril of his life was itself an oak;
indeed, it was from an evergreen oak, according to Virgil, that
Aeneas plucked the Golden Bough. Now the oak was the sacred tree of
Jupiter, the supreme god of the Latins. Hence it follows that the
King of the Wood, whose life was bound up in a fashion with an oak,
personated no less a deity than Jupiter himself. At least the
evidence, slight as it is, seems to point to this conclusion. The
old Alban dynasty of the Silvii or Woods, with their crown of oak
leaves, apparently aped the style and emulated the powers of Latian
Jupiter, who dwelt on the top of the Alban Mount. It is not
impossible that the King of the Wood, who guarded the sacred oak a
little lower down the mountain, was the lawful successor and
representative of this ancient line of the Silvii or Woods. At all
events, if I am right in supposing that he passed for a human
Jupiter, it would appear that Virbius, with whom legend identified
him, was nothing but a local form of Jupiter, considered perhaps in
his original aspect as a god of the greenwood.

The hypothesis that in later times at all events the King of the
Wood played the part of the oak god Jupiter, is confirmed by an
examination of his divine partner Diana. For two distinct lines of
argument converge to show that if Diana was a queen of the woods in
general, she was at Nemi a goddess of the oak in particular. In the
first place, she bore the title of Vesta, and as such presided over
a perpetual fire, which we have seen reason to believe was fed with
oak wood. But a goddess of fire is not far removed from a goddess of
the fuel which burns in the fire; primitive thought perhaps drew no
sharp line of distinction between the blaze and the wood that
blazes. In the second place, the nymph Egeria at Nemi appears to
have been merely a form of Diana, and Egeria is definitely said to
have been a Dryad, a nymph of the oak. Elsewhere in Italy the
goddess had her home on oak-clad mountains. Thus Mount Algidus, a
spur of the Alban hills, was covered in antiquity with dark forests
of oak, both of the evergreen and the deciduous sort. In winter the
snow lay long on these cold hills, and their gloomy oak-woods were
believed to be a favourite haunt of Diana, as they have been of
brigands in modern times. Again, Mount Tifata, the long abrupt ridge
of the Apennines which looks down on the Campanian plain behind
Capua, was wooded of old with evergreen oaks, among which Diana had
a temple. Here Sulla thanked the goddess for his victory over the
Marians in the plain below, attesting his gratitude by inscriptions
which were long afterwards to be seen in the temple. On the whole,
then, we conclude that at Nemi the King of the Wood personated the
oak-god Jupiter and mated with the oak-goddess Diana in the sacred
grove. An echo of their mystic union has come down to us in the
legend of the loves of Numa and Egeria, who according to some had
their trysting-place in these holy woods.

To this theory it may naturally be objected that the divine consort
of Jupiter was not Diana but Juno, and that if Diana had a mate at
all he might be expected to bear the name not of Jupiter, but of
Dianus or Janus, the latter of these forms being merely a corruption
of the former. All this is true, but the objection may be parried by
observing that the two pairs of deities, Jupiter and Juno on the one
side, and Dianus and Diana, or Janus and Jana, on the other side,
are merely duplicates of each other, their names and their functions
being in substance and origin identical. With regard to their names,
all four of them come from the same Aryan root _DI,_ meaning
"bright," which occurs in the names of the corresponding Greek
deities, Zeus and his old female consort Dione. In regard to their
functions, Juno and Diana were both goddesses of fecundity and
childbirth, and both were sooner or later identified with the moon.
As to the true nature and functions of Janus the ancients themselves
were puzzled; and where they hesitated, it is not for us confidently
to decide. But the view mentioned by Varro that Janus was the god of
the sky is supported not only by the etymological identity of his
name with that of the sky-god Jupiter, but also by the relation in
which he appears to have stood to Jupiter's two mates, Juno and
Juturna. For the epithet Junonian bestowed on Janus points to a
marriage union between the two deities; and according to one account
Janus was the husband of the water-nymph Juturna, who according to
others was beloved by Jupiter. Moreover, Janus, like Jove, was
regularly invoked, and commonly spoken of under the title of Father.
Indeed, he was identified with Jupiter not merely by the logic of
the learned St. Augustine, but by the piety of a pagan worshipper
who dedicated an offering to Jupiter Dianus. A trace of his relation
to the oak may be found in the oakwoods of the Janiculum, the hill
on the right bank of the Tiber, where Janus is said to have reigned
as a king in the remotest ages of Italian history.

Thus, if I am right, the same ancient pair of deities was variously
known among the Greek and Italian peoples as Zeus and Dione, Jupiter
and Juno, or Dianus (Janus) and Diana (Jana), the names of the
divinities being identical in substance, though varying in form with
the dialect of the particular tribe which worshipped them. At first,
when the peoples dwelt near each other, the difference between the
deities would be hardly more than one of name; in other words, it
would be almost purely dialectical. But the gradual dispersion of
the tribes, and their consequent isolation from each other, would
favour the growth of divergent modes of conceiving and worshipping
the gods whom they had carried with them from their old home, so
that in time discrepancies of myth and ritual would tend to spring
up and thereby to convert a nominal into a real distinction between
the divinities. Accordingly when, with the slow progress of culture,
the long period of barbarism and separation was passing away, and
the rising political power of a single strong community had begun to
draw or hammer its weaker neighbours into a nation, the confluent
peoples would throw their gods, like their dialects, into a common
stock; and thus it might come about that the same ancient deities,
which their forefathers had worshipped together before the
dispersion, would now be so disguised by the accumulated effect of
dialectical and religious divergencies that their original identity
might fail to be recognised, and they would take their places side
by side as independent divinities in the national pantheon.

This duplication of deities, the result of the final fusion of
kindred tribes who had long lived apart, would account for the
appearance of Janus beside Jupiter, and of Diana or Jana beside Juno
in the Roman religion. At least this appears to be a more probable
theory than the opinion, which has found favour with some modern
scholars, that Janus was originally nothing but the god of doors.
That a deity of his dignity and importance, whom the Romans revered
as a god of gods and the father of his people, should have started
in life as a humble, though doubtless respectable, doorkeeper
appears very unlikely. So lofty an end hardly consorts with so lowly
a beginning. It is more probable that the door (_janua_) got its
name from Janus than that he got his name from it. This view is
strengthened by a consideration of the word _janua_ itself. The
regular word for door is the same in all the languages of the Aryan
family from India to Ireland. It is _dur_ in Sanscrit, _thura_ in
Greek, _tür_ in German, _door_ in English, _dorus_ in old Irish, and
_foris_ in Latin. Yet besides this ordinary name for door, which the
Latins shared with all their Aryan brethren, they had also the name
_janua,_ to which there is no corresponding term in any
Indo-European speech. The word has the appearance of being an
adjectival form derived from the noun _Janus._ I conjecture that it
may have been customary to set up an image or symbol of Janus at the
principal door of the house in order to place the entrance under the
protection of the great god. A door thus guarded might be known as a
_janua foris,_ that is, a Januan door, and the phrase might in time
be abridged into _janua,_ the noun _foris_ being understood but not
expressed. From this to the use of _janua_ to designate a door in
general, whether guarded by an image of Janus or not, would be an
easy and natural transition.

If there is any truth in this conjecture, it may explain very simply
the origin of the double head of Janus, which has so long exercised
the ingenuity of mythologists. When it had become customary to guard
the entrance of houses and towns by an image of Janus, it might well
be deemed necessary to make the sentinel god look both ways, before
and behind, at the same time, in order that nothing should escape
his vigilant eye. For if the divine watchman always faced in one
direction, it is easy to imagine what mischief might have been
wrought with impunity behind his back. This explanation of the
double-headed Janus at Rome is confirmed by the double-headed idol
which the Bush negroes in the interior of Surinam regularly set up
as a guardian at the entrance of a village. The idol consists of a
block of wood with a human face rudely carved on each side; it
stands under a gateway composed of two uprights and a cross-bar.
Beside the idol generally lies a white rag intended to keep off the
devil; and sometimes there is also a stick which seems to represent
a bludgeon or weapon of some sort. Further, from the cross-bar hangs
a small log which serves the useful purpose of knocking on the head
any evil spirit who might attempt to pass through the gateway.
Clearly this double-headed fetish at the gateway of the negro
villages in Surinam bears a close resemblance to the double-headed
images of Janus which, grasping a stick in one hand and a key in the
other, stood sentinel at Roman gates and doorways; and we can hardly
doubt that in both cases the heads facing two ways are to be
similarly explained as expressive of the vigilance of the guardian
god, who kept his eye on spiritual foes behind and before, and stood
ready to bludgeon them on the spot. We may, therefore, dispense with
the tedious and unsatisfactory explanations which, if we may trust
Ovid, the wily Janus himself fobbed off an anxious Roman enquirer.

To apply these conclusions to the priest of Nemi, we may suppose
that as the mate of Diana he represented originally Dianus or Janus
rather than Jupiter, but that the difference between these deities
was of old merely superficial, going little deeper than the names,
and leaving practically unaffected the essential functions of the
god as a power of the sky, the thunder, and the oak. It was fitting,
therefore, that his human representative at Nemi should dwell, as we
have seen reason to believe he did, in an oak grove. His title of
King of the Wood clearly indicates the sylvan character of the deity
whom he served; and since he could only be assailed by him who had
plucked the bough of a certain tree in the grove, his own life might
be said to be bound up with that of the sacred tree. Thus he not
only served but embodied the great Aryan god of the oak; and as an
oak-god he would mate with the oak-goddess, whether she went by the
name of Egeria or Diana. Their union, however consummated, would be
deemed essential to the fertility of the earth and the fecundity of
man and beast. Further, as the oak-god was also a god of the sky,
the thunder, and the rain, so his human representative would be
required, like many other divine kings, to cause the clouds to
gather, the thunder to peal, and the rain to descend in due season,
that the fields and orchards might bear fruit and the pastures be
covered with luxuriant herbage. The reputed possessor of powers so
exalted must have been a very important personage; and the remains
of buildings and of votive offerings which have been found on the
site of the sanctuary combine with the testimony of classical
writers to prove that in later times it was one of the greatest and
most popular shrines in Italy. Even in the old days, when the
champaign country around was still parcelled out among the petty
tribes who composed the Latin League, the sacred grove 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 footsteps 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. There, among the green woods and beside the still waters of
the lonely hills, the ancient Aryan worship of the god of the oak,
the thunder, and the dripping sky lingered in its early, almost
Druidical form, long after a great political and intellectual
revolution had shifted the capital of Latin religion from the forest
to the city, from Nemi to Rome.

XVII. The Burden of Royalty

1. Royal and Priestly Taboos

AT A CERTAIN stage of early society the king or priest is often
thought to be endowed with supernatural powers or to be an
incarnation of a deity, and consistently with this belief 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. To some extent 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 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 or rather used to be 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. The Mikado receives from his people and
assumes in his official proclamations and decrees the title of
"manifest or incarnate deity," and he claims a general authority
over the gods of Japan. For example, in an official decree of the
year 646 the emperor is described as "the incarnate god who governs
the universe."

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

"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, 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 other 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 immobility 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 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 broke, 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."

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 equable state of the atmosphere. On Mount Agu in Togo there
lives a fetish or spirit called Bagba, who is of great importance
for the whole of the surrounding country. The power of giving or
withholding rain is ascribed to him, and he is lord of the winds,
including the Harmattan, the dry, hot wind which blows from the
interior. His priest dwells in a house on the highest peak of the
mountain, where he keeps the winds bottled up in huge jars.
Applications for rain, too, are made to him, and he does a good
business in amulets, which consist of the teeth and claws of
leopards. Yet though his power is great and he is indeed the real
chief of the land, the rule of the fetish forbids him ever to leave
the mountain, and he must spend the whole of his life on its summit.
Only once a year may he come down to make purchases in the market;
but even then he may not set foot in the hut of any mortal man, and
must return to his place of exile the same day. The business of
government in the villages is conducted by subordinate chiefs, who
are appointed by him. In the West African kingdom of Congo 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. 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; in particular, the
high pontiff of the Zapotecs appears to have presented a close
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
overrate 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 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. 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 solid ground
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 least
irregularity on his part may set up a tremor which shall shake the
earth to its foundations. And if nature may be disturbed by the
slightest involuntary act of the king, it is easy to conceive the
convulsion which his death might provoke. The natural death of the
Chitomé, as we have seen, was thought to entail the destruction of
all things. 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 deemed 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 one day, he is killed 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 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. 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." In the crater of an
extinct volcano, enclosed on all sides by grassy slopes, lie the
scattered huts and yam-fields of Riabba, the capital of the native
king of Fernando Po. This mysterious being lives in the lowest
depths of the crater, surrounded by a harem of forty women, and
covered, it is said, with old silver coins. Naked savage as he is,
he yet exercises far more influence in the island than the Spanish
governor at Santa Isabel. In him the conservative spirit of the
Boobies or aboriginal inhabitants of the island is, as it were,
incorporate. He has never seen a white man and, according to the
firm conviction of all the Boobies, the sight of a pale face would
cause his instant death. He cannot bear to look upon the sea; indeed
it is said that he may never see it even in the distance, and that
therefore he wears away his life with shackles on his legs in the
dim twilight of his hut. Certain it is that he has never set foot on
the beach. With the exception of his musket and knife, he uses
nothing that comes from the whites; European cloth never touches his
person, and he scorns tobacco, rum, and even salt.

Among the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast "the king is at
the same time high priest. In this quality he was, particularly in
former times, unapproachable by his subjects. Only by night was he
allowed to quit his dwelling in order to bathe and so forth. None
but his representative, the so-called 'visible king,' with three
chosen elders might converse with him, and even they had to sit on
an ox-hide with their backs turned to him. He might not see any
European nor any horse, nor might he look upon the sea, for which
reason he was not allowed to quit his capital even for a few
moments. These rules have been disregarded in recent times." The
king of Dahomey himself is subject to the prohibition of beholding
the sea, and so are the kings of Loango and Great Ardra in Guinea.
The sea is the fetish of the Eyeos, to the north-west of Dahomey,
and they and their king are threatened with death by their priests
if ever they dare to look on it. It is believed that the king of
Cayor in Senegal would infallibly die within the year if he were to
cross a river or an arm of the sea. In Mashonaland down to recent
times the chiefs would not cross certain rivers, particularly the
Rurikwi and the Nyadiri; and the custom was still strictly observed
by at least one chief within recent years. "On no account will the
chief cross the river. If it is absolutely necessary for him to do
so, he is blindfolded and carried across with shouting and singing.
Should he walk across, he will go blind or die and certainly lose
the chieftainship." So among the Mahafalys and Sakalavas in the
south of Madagascar some kings are forbidden to sail on the sea or
to cross certain rivers. Among the Sakalavas the chief is regarded
as a sacred being, but "he is held in leash by a crowd of
restrictions, which regulate his behaviour like that of the emperor
of China. He can undertake nothing whatever unless the sorcerers
have declared the omens favourable; he may not eat warm food: on
certain days he may not quit his hut; and so on." Among some of the
hill tribes of Assam both the headman and his wife have to observe
many taboos in respect of food; thus they may not eat buffalo, pork,
dog, fowl, or tomatoes. The headman must be chaste, the husband of
one wife, and he must separate himself from her on the eve of a
general or public observance of taboo. In one group of tribes the
headman is forbidden to eat in a strange village, and under no
provocation whatever may he utter a word of abuse. Apparently the
people imagine that the violation of any of these taboos by a
headman would bring down misfortune on the whole village.

The ancient kings of Ireland, as well as the kings of the four
provinces of Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and Ulster, were subject
to certain quaint prohibitions or taboos, on the due observance of
which the prosperity of the people of the country, as well as their
own, was supposed to depend. Thus, for example, the sun might not
rise on the king of Ireland in his bed at Tara, the old capital of
Erin; he was forbidden to alight on Wednesday at Magh Breagh, to
traverse Magh Cuillinn after sunset, to incite his horse at
Fan-Chomair, to go in a ship upon the water the Monday after
Bealltaine (May day), and to leave the track of his army upon Ath
Maighne the Tuesday after All-Hallows. The king of Leinster might
not go round Tuath Laighean left-hand-wise on Wednesday, nor sleep
between the Dothair (Dodder) and the Duibhlinn with his head
inclining to one side, nor encamp for nine days on the plains of
Cualann, nor travel the road of Duibhlinn on Monday, nor ride a
dirty black-heeled horse across Magh Maistean. The king of Munster
was prohibited from enjoying the feast of Loch Lein from one Monday
to another; from banqueting by night in the beginning of harvest
before Geim at Leitreacha; from encamping for nine days upon the
Siuir; and from holding a border meeting at Gabhran. The king of
Connaught might not conclude a treaty respecting his ancient palace
of Cruachan after making peace on All-Hallows Day, nor go in a
speckled garment on a grey speckled steed to the heath of Dal Chais,
nor repair to an assembly of women at Seaghais, nor sit in autumn on
the sepulchral mounds of the wife of Maine, nor contend in running
with the rider of a grey one-eyed horse at Ath Gallta between two
posts. The king of Ulster was forbidden to attend the horse fair at
Rath Line among the youths of Dal Araidhe, to listen to the
fluttering of the flocks of birds of Linn Saileach after sunset, to
celebrate the feast of the bull of Daire-mic-Daire, to go into Magh
Cobha in the month of March, and to drink of the water of Bo
Neimhidh between two darknesses. If the kings of Ireland strictly
observed these and many other customs, which were enjoined by
immemorial usage, it was believed that they would never meet with
mischance or misfortune, and would live for ninety years without
experiencing the decay of old age; that no epidemic or mortality
would occur during their reigns; and that the seasons would be
favourable and the earth yield its fruit in abundance; whereas, if
they set the ancient usages at naught, the country would be visited
with plague, famine, and bad weather.

The kings of Egypt 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, "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 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."
However, there is reason to think that these rules were observed,
not by the ancient Pharaohs, but by the priestly kings who reigned
at Thebes and Ethiopia at the close of the twentieth dynasty.

Of the taboos imposed on priests we may see a striking example in
the rules of life prescribed for the Flamen Dialis at Rome, who has
been interpreted as a living image of Jupiter, or a human embodiment
of the sky-spirit. 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, the captive 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 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.

Among the Grebo people of Sierra Leone there is a pontiff who bears
the title of Bodia and has been compared, on somewhat slender
grounds, to the high priest of the Jews. He is appointed in
accordance with the behest of an oracle. At an elaborate ceremony of
installation he is anointed, a ring is put on his ankle as a badge
of office, and the door-posts of his house are sprinkled with the
blood of a sacrificed goat. He has charge of the public talismans
and idols, which he feeds with rice and oil every new moon; and he
sacrifices on behalf of the town to the dead and to demons.
Nominally his power is very great, but in practice it is very
limited; for he dare not defy public opinion, and he is held
responsible, even with his life, for any adversity that befalls the
country. It is expected of him that he should cause the earth to
bring forth abundantly, the people to be healthy, war to be driven
far away, and witchcraft to be kept in abeyance. His life is
trammelled by the observance of certain restrictions or taboos. Thus
he may not sleep in any house but his own official residence, which
is called the "anointed house" with reference to the ceremony of
anointing him at inauguration. He may not drink water on the
highway. He may not eat while a corpse is in the town, and he may
not mourn for the dead. If he dies while in office, he must be
buried at dead of night; few may hear of his burial, and none may
mourn for him when his death is made public. Should he have fallen a
victim to the poison ordeal by drinking a decoction of sassywood, as
it is called, he must be buried under a running stream of water.

Among the Todas of Southern India the holy milkman, who acts as
priest of the sacred dairy, is subject to a variety of irksome and
burdensome restrictions during the whole time of his incumbency,
which may last many years. Thus he must live at the sacred dairy and
may never visit his home or any ordinary village. He must be
celibate; if he is married he must leave his wife. On no account may
any ordinary person touch the holy milkman or the holy dairy; such a
touch would so defile his holiness that he would forfeit his office.
It is only on two days a week, namely Mondays and Thursdays, that a
mere layman may even approach the milkman; on other days if he has
any business with him, he must stand at a distance (some say a
quarter of a mile) and shout his message across the intervening
space. Further, the holy milkman never cuts his hair or pares his
nails so long as he holds office; he never crosses a river by a
bridge, but wades through a ford and only certain fords; if a death
occurs in his clan, he may not attend any of the funeral ceremonies,
unless he first resigns his office and descends from the exalted
rank of milkman to that of a mere common mortal. Indeed it appears
that in old days he had to resign the seals, or rather the pails, of
office whenever any member of his clan departed this life. However,
these heavy restraints are laid in their entirety only on milkmen of
the very highest class.

2. Divorce of the Spiritual from the Temporal Power

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 reins 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

To take examples. In a previous part of this work we saw 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. 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 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.
The savage Timmes of Sierra Leone, who elect their king, reserve to
themselves the right of beating him on the eve of his coronation;
and they avail themselves of this constitutional privilege with such
hearty goodwill that sometimes the unhappy monarch does not long
survive his elevation to the throne. Hence when the leading chiefs
have a spite at a man and wish to rid themselves of him, they elect
him king. Formerly, before a man was proclaimed king of Sierra
Leone, it used to be the custom to load him with chains and thrash
him. Then the fetters were knocked off, the kingly robe was placed
on him, and he received in his hands the symbol of royal dignity,
which was nothing but the axe of the executioner. It is not
therefore surprising to read that in Sierra Leone, where such
customs have prevailed, "except among the Mandingoes and Suzees, few
kings are natives of the countries they govern. So different are
their ideas from ours, that very few are solicitous of the honour,
and competition is very seldom heard of."

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. Immeshed 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. 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 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, though invested 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.

In Mangaia, a 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. Similarly in
Tonga, besides the civil king whose right to the throne was partly
hereditary and partly derived from his warlike reputation and the
number of his fighting men, there was a great divine chief who
ranked above the king and the other chiefs in virtue of his supposed
descent from one of the chief gods. Once a year the first-fruits of
the ground were offered to him at a solemn ceremony, and it was
believed that if these offerings were not made the vengeance of the
gods would fall in a signal manner on the people. Peculiar forms of
speech, such as were applied to no one else, were used in speaking
of him, and everything that he chanced to touch became sacred or
tabooed. When he and the king met, the monarch had to sit down on
the ground in token of respect until his holiness had passed by. Yet
though he enjoyed the highest veneration by reason of his divine
origin, this sacred personage possessed no political authority, and
if he ventured to meddle with affairs of state it was at the risk of
receiving a rebuff from the king, to whom the real power belonged,
and who finally succeeded in ridding himself of his spiritual rival.

In some parts of Western Africa two kings reign side by side, a
fetish or religious king and a civil king, but the fetish king is
really supreme. He controls the weather and so forth, and can put a
stop to everything. When he lays his red staff on the ground, no one
may pass that way. This division of power between a sacred and a
secular ruler is to be met with wherever the true negro culture has
been left unmolested, but where the negro form of society has been
disturbed, as in Dahomey and Ashantee, there is a tendency to
consolidate the two powers in a single king.

In some parts of the East Indian island of Timor we meet with a
partition of power like that which is represented by the civil king
and the fetish king of Western Africa. Some of the Timorese tribes
recognise two rajahs, the ordinary or civil rajah, who governs the
people, and the fetish or taboo rajah, who is charged with the
control of everything that concerns the earth and its products. This
latter ruler has the right of declaring anything taboo; his
permission must be obtained before new land may be brought under
cultivation, and he must perform certain necessary ceremonies when
the work is being carried out. If drought or blight threatens the
crops, his help is invoked to save them. Though he ranks below the
civil rajah, he exercises a momentous influence on the course of
events, for his secular colleague is bound to consult him in all
important matters. In some of the neighbouring islands, such as
Rotti and eastern Flores, a spiritual ruler of the same sort is
recognised under various native names, which all mean "lord of the
ground." Similarly in the Mekeo district of British New Guinea there
is a double chieftainship. The people are divided into two groups
according to families, and each of the groups has its chief. One of
the two is the war chief, the other is the taboo chief. The office
of the latter is hereditary; his duty is to impose a taboo on any of
the crops, such as the coco-nuts and areca nuts, whenever he thinks
it desirable to prohibit their use. In his office we may perhaps
detect the beginning of a priestly dynasty, but as yet his functions
appear to be more magical than religious, being concerned with the
control of the harvests rather than with the propitiation of higher

XVIII. The Perils of the Soul

1. The Soul as a Mannikin

THE FOREGOING examples have taught us that the office of a sacred
king or priest is often hedged in by a series of burdensome
restrictions or taboos, of which a principal purpose appears to be
to preserve the life of the divine man for the good of his people.
But if the object of the taboos is to save 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 these
curious restrictions 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 or animal 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
ensure that it shall return. The precautions adopted by savages to
secure one or other of these ends take the form of certain
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. 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. 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. The Esquimaux believe that "the soul
exhibits the same shape as the body it belongs to, but is of a more
subtle and ethereal nature." According to the Nootkas the soul has
the shape of a tiny man; its seat is the crown of the head. So long
as it stands erect, its owner is hale and hearty; but when from any
cause it loses its upright position, he loses his senses. Among the
Indian tribes of the Lower Fraser River, man is held to have four
souls, of which the principal one has the form of a mannikin, while
the other three are shadows of it. The Malays conceive the human
soul as a little man, mostly invisible and of the bigness of a
thumb, who corresponds exactly in shape, proportion, and even in
complexion to the man in whose body he resides. This mannikin is of
a thin, unsubstantial nature, though not so impalpable but that it
may cause displacement on entering a physical object, and it can
flit quickly from place to place; it is temporarily absent from the
body in sleep, trance, and disease, and permanently absent after

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; 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 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. 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. The Fijian conception of the soul as a tiny human
being comes clearly out in the customs observed at the death of a
chief among the Nakelo tribe. When a chief dies, certain men, who
are the hereditary undertakers, call him, as he lies, oiled and
ornamented, on fine mats, saying, "Rise, sir, the chief, and let us
be going. The day has come over the land." Then they conduct him to
the river side, where the ghostly ferryman comes to ferry Nakelo
ghosts across the stream. As they thus attend the chief on his last
journey, they hold their great fans close to the ground to shelter
him, because, as one of them explained to a missionary, "His soul is
only a little child." People in the Punjaub who tattoo themselves
believe that at death the soul, "the little entire man or woman"
inside the mortal frame, will go to heaven blazoned with the same
tattoo patterns which adorned the body in life. Sometimes, however,
as we shall see, the human soul is conceived not in human but in
animal form.

2. Absence and Recall of the Soul

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. A Turik on the Baram River, in Borneo, refused to part with
some hook-like stones, because they, as it were, hooked his soul to
his body, and so prevented the spiritual portion of him from
becoming detached from the material. When a Sea Dyak sorcerer or
medicine-man is initiated, his fingers are supposed to be furnished
with fish-hooks, with which he will thereafter clutch the human soul
in the act of flying away, and restore it to the body of the
sufferer. But hooks, it is plain, may be used to catch the souls of
enemies as well as of friends. Acting on this principle head-hunters
in Borneo hang wooden hooks beside the skulls of their slain enemies
in the belief that this helps them on their forays to hook in fresh
heads. One of the implements of a Haida medicine-man is a hollow
bone, in which he bottles up departing souls, and so restores them
to their owners. When any one yawns in their presence the Hindoos
always snap their thumbs, believing that this will hinder the soul
from issuing through the open mouth. 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; the same custom is reported of
the New Caledonians; and with the like intention the Bagobos of the
Philippine Islands put rings of brass wire on the wrists or ankles
of their sick. On the other hand, the Itonamas of South America seal
up the eyes, nose, and mouth of a dying person, in case his ghost
should get out and carry off others; and for a similar reason the
people of Nias, who fear the spirits of the recently deceased and
identify them with the breath, seek to confine the vagrant soul in
its earthly tabernacle by bunging up the nose or tying up the jaws
of the corpse. Before leaving a corpse the Wakelbura of Australia
used to place hot coals in its ears in order to keep the ghost in
the body, until they had got such a good start that he could not
overtake them. In Southern Celebes, to hinder the escape of a
woman's soul in childbed, the nurse ties a band as tightly as
possible round the body of the expectant mother. The Minangkabauers
of Sumatra observe a similar custom; a skein of thread or a string
is sometimes fastened round the wrist or loins of a woman in
childbed, so that when her soul seeks to depart in her hour of
travail it may find the egress barred. And lest the soul of a babe
should escape and be lost as soon as it is born, the Alfoors 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. Popular
expressions in the language of civilised peoples, such as to have
one's heart in one's mouth, or the soul on the lips or in the nose,
show how natural is the idea that the life or soul may escape by the
mouth or nostrils.

Often the soul is conceived as a bird ready to take flight. This
conception has probably left traces in most languages, and it
lingers as a metaphor in poetry. The Malays carry out the conception
of the bird-soul in a number of odd ways. If the soul is a bird on
the wing, it may be attracted by rice, and so either prevented from
flying away or lured back again from 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. And in Sintang, a district of
Borneo, when a person, whether man, woman, or child, has fallen out
of a house or off a tree, and has been brought home, his wife or
other kinswoman goes as speedily as possible to the spot where the
accident happened, and there strews rice, which has been coloured
yellow, while she utters the words, "Cluck! cluck! soul! So-and-so
is in his house again. Cluck! cluck! soul!" Then she gathers up the
rice in a basket, carries it to the sufferer, and drops the grains
from her hand on his head, saying again, "Cluck! cluck! soul!" Here
the intention clearly is to decoy back the loitering bird-soul and
replace it in the head of its owner.

The soul of a sleeper is supposed to wander away from his body and
actually to visit the places, to see the persons, and to perform the
acts of which he dreams. For example, when an Indian of Brazil or
Guiana wakes up from a sound sleep, he is firmly convinced that his
soul has really been away hunting, fishing, felling trees, or
whatever else he has dreamed of doing, while all the time his body
has been lying motionless in his hammock. A whole Bororo village has
been thrown into a panic and nearly deserted because somebody had
dreamed that he saw enemies stealthily approaching it. A Macusi
Indian in weak health, who dreamed that his employer had made him
haul the canoe up a series of difficult cataracts, bitterly
reproached his master next morning for his want of consideration in
thus making a poor invalid go out and toil during the night. The
Indians of the Gran Chaco are often heard to relate the most
incredible stories as things which they have themselves seen and
heard; hence strangers who do not know them intimately say in their
haste that these Indians are liars. In point of fact the Indians are
firmly convinced of the truth of what they relate; for these
wonderful adventures are simply their dreams, which they do not
distinguish from waking realities.

Now the absence of the soul in sleep has its dangers, for if from
any cause the soul should be permanently detained away from the
body, the person thus deprived of the vital principle must die.
There is a German belief that the soul escapes from a sleeper's
mouth in the form of a white mouse or a little bird, and that to
prevent the return of the bird or animal would be fatal to the
sleeper. Hence in Transylvania they say that you should not let a
child sleep with its mouth open, or its soul will slip out in the
shape of a mouse, and the child will never wake. 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. 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 and they fear to meet it in a
dream. Again, the soul of the sleeper may be prevented by an
accident or by physical force from returning to his body. When a
Dyak dreams of falling into the water, he supposes that this
accident has really befallen his spirit, and he sends for a wizard,
who fishes for the spirit with a hand-net in a basin of water till
he catches it and restores it to its owner. 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.

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 rouse a sleeper, it must be done very
gradually, to allow the soul time to return. A Fijian in Matuku,
suddenly wakened from a nap by somebody treading on his foot, has
been heard bawling after his soul and imploring it to return. He had
just been dreaming that he was far away in Tonga, and great was his
alarm on suddenly wakening to find his body in Matuku. Death stared
him in the face unless his soul could be induced to speed at once
across the sea and reanimate its deserted tenement. The man would
probably have died of fright if a missionary had not been at hand to
allay his terror.

Still more dangerous is it in the opinion of primitive man to move a
sleeper or alter his appearance, for if this were done the soul on
its return might not be able to find or recognise its body, and so
the person would die. The Minangkabauers deem it highly improper to
blacken or dirty the face of a sleeper, lest the absent soul should
shrink from re-entering a body thus disfigured. Patani Malays fancy
that if a person's face be painted while he sleeps, the soul which
has gone out of him will not recognise him, and he will sleep on
till his face is washed. In Bombay it is thought equivalent to
murder to change the aspect 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 know its own body, and the person will

But in order that a man's soul should quit his body, it is not
necessary that he should be asleep. It may quit him in his waking
hours, and then sickness, insanity, or death will be the result.
Thus a man of the Wurunjeri tribe in Australia lay at his last gasp
because his spirit had departed from him. A medicine-man went in
pursuit and caught the spirit by the middle just as it was about to
plunge into the sunset glow, which is the light cast by the souls of
the dead as they pass in and out of the under-world, where the sun
goes to rest. Having captured the vagrant spirit, the doctor brought
it back under his opossum rug, laid himself down on the dying man,
and put the soul back into him, so that after a time he revived. The
Karens of Burma are perpetually anxious about their souls, lest
these should go roving from their bodies, leaving the owners to die.
When a man has reason to fear that his soul is about to take this
fatal step, a ceremony is performed to retain or recall it, in which
the whole family must take part. A meal is prepared consisting of a
cock and hen, a special kind of rice, and a bunch of bananas. Then
the head of the family takes the bowl which is used to skim rice,
and knocking with it thrice on the top of the houseladder says:
"_Prrrroo!_ Come back, soul, do not tarry outside! If it rains, you
will be wet. If the sun shines, you will be hot. The gnats will
sting you, the leeches will bite you, the tigers will devour you,
the thunder will crush you. _Prrrroo!_ Come back, soul! Here it will
be well with you. You shall want for nothing. Come and eat under
shelter from the wind and the storm." After that the family partakes
of the meal, and the ceremony ends with everybody tying their right
wrist with a string which has been charmed by a sorcerer. Similarly
the Lolos of South-western China believe that the soul leaves the
body in chronic illness. In that case they read a sort of elaborate
litany, calling on the soul by name and beseeching it to return from
the hills, the vales, the rivers, the forests, the fields, or from
wherever it may be straying. At the same time cups of water, wine,
and rice are set at the door for the refreshment of the weary
wandering spirit. When the ceremony is over, they tie a red cord
round the arm of the sick man to tether the soul, and this cord is
worn by him until it decays and drops off.

Some of the Congo tribes believe that when a man is ill, his soul
has left his body and is wandering at large. The aid of the sorcerer
is then called in to capture the vagrant spirit and restore it to
the invalid. Generally the physician declares that he has
successfully chased the soul into the branch of a tree. The whole
town thereupon turns out and accompanies the doctor to the tree,
where the strongest men are deputed to break off the branch in which
the soul of the sick man is supposed to be lodged. This they do and
carry the branch back to the town, insinuating by their gestures
that the burden is heavy and hard to bear. When the branch has been
brought to the sick man's hut, he is placed in an upright position
by its side, and the sorcerer performs the enchantments by which the
soul is believed to be restored to its owner.

Pining, sickness, great fright, and death are ascribed by the Bataks
of Sumatra to the absence of the soul from the body. At first they
try to beckon the wanderer back, and to lure him, like a fowl, by
strewing rice. Then the following form of words is commonly
repeated: "Come back, O soul, whether thou art lingering in the
wood, or on the hills, or in the dale. See, I call thee with a
_toemba bras,_ with an egg of the fowl Rajah _moelija,_ with the
eleven healing leaves. Detain it not, let it come straight here,
detain it not, neither in the wood, nor on the hill, nor in the
dale. That may not be. O come straight home!" Once when a popular
traveller was leaving a Kayan village, the mothers, fearing that
their children's souls might follow him on his journey, brought him
the boards on which they carry their infants and begged him to pray
that the souls of the little ones would return to the familiar
boards and not go away with him into the far country. To each board
was fastened a looped string for the purpose of tethering the
vagrant spirits, and through the loop each baby was made to pass a
chubby finger to make sure that its tiny soul would not wander away.

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, 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. A tale of the same
type, with variations of detail, reappears among the Malays. A king
has incautiously transferred his soul to an ape, upon which the
vizier adroitly inserts his own soul into the king's body and so
takes possession of the queen and the kingdom, while the true king
languishes at court in the outward semblance of an ape. But one day
the false king, who played for high stakes, was watching a combat of
rams, and it happened that the animal on which he had laid his money
fell down dead. All efforts to restore animation proved unavailing
till the false king, with the instinct of a true sportsman,
transferred his own soul to the body of the deceased ram, and thus
renewed the fray. The real king in the body of the ape saw his
chance, and with great presence of mind darted back into his own
body, which the vizier had rashly vacated. So he came to his own
again, and the usurper in the ram's body met with the fate he richly
deserved. Similarly the Greeks told how the soul of Hermotimus of
Clazomenae used to quit his body and roam far and wide, bringing
back intelligence of what he had seen on his rambles to his friends
at home; until one day, when his spirit was abroad, his enemies
contrived to seize his deserted body and committed it to the flames.

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
tie their children with a special kind of string to a particular
part of the house, lest 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. And after
the corpse has been laid in the grave, but before the earth has been
shovelled 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 tomb. While
the earth is being shovelled 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 them. 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. When the Karo-Bataks have buried somebody and are
filling in the grave, a sorceress runs about beating the air with a
stick. This she does in order to drive away the souls of the
survivors, for if one of these souls happened to slip into the grave
and to be covered up with earth, its owner would die.

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,
while they led back the wandering soul and drove it gently along
with open palms. On entering the patient's dwelling they commanded
the soul in a loud voice to enter his body.

Often the abduction of a man's soul is set down to demons. Thus fits
and convulsions are generally ascribed by the Chinese to the agency
of certain mischievous spirits who love to draw men's souls out of
their bodies. At Amoy the spirits who serve babies and children in
this way rejoice in the high-sounding titles of "celestial agencies
bestriding galloping horses" and "literary graduates residing
halfway up in the sky." When an infant is writhing in convulsions,
the frightened mother hastens to the roof of the house, and, waving
about a bamboo pole to which one of the child's garments is
attached, cries out several times "My child So-and-so, come back,
return home!" Meantime, another inmate of the house bangs away at a
gong in the hope of attracting the attention of the strayed soul,
which is supposed to recognise the familiar garment and to slip into
it. The garment containing the soul is then placed on or beside the
child, and if the child does not die recovery is sure to follow,
sooner or later. Similarly some Indians catch a man's lost soul in
his boots and restore it to his body by putting his feet into them.

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) resides. 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, and
so forth. Having set out the food in order they pray, saying: "We
come to offer to you, O devil, this offering of food, clothes, gold,
and so on; 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 grey hairs on the earth."

Demons are especially feared by persons who have just entered a new
house. Hence at a house-warming among the Alfoors of Minahassa in
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. Amongst
the same Alfoors one way of 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. And 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 spirit.

Sometimes the lost soul is brought back in a visible shape. 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 its owner 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 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.

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. 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 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. In some
parts of West Africa, indeed, wizards are continually setting traps
to catch souls that wander from their bodies in sleep; and when they
have caught one, they tie it up over the fire, and as it shrivels in
the heat the owner sickens. This is done, not out of any grudge
towards the sufferer, but purely as a matter of business. The wizard
does not care whose soul he has captured, and will readily restore
it to its owner, if only he is paid for doing so. Some sorcerers
keep regular asylums for strayed souls, and anybody who has lost or
mislaid his own soul can always have another one from the asylum on
payment of the usual fee. No blame whatever attaches to men who keep
these private asylums or set traps for passing souls; it is their
profession, and in the exercise of it they are actuated by no harsh
or unkindly feelings. But there are also wretches who from pure
spite or for the sake of lucre set and bait traps with the
deliberate purpose of catching the soul of a particular man; and in
the bottom of the pot, hidden by the bait, are knives and sharp
hooks which tear and rend the poor soul, either killing it outright
or mauling it so as to impair the health of its owner when it
succeeds in escaping and returning to him. Miss Kingsley knew a
Kruman who became very anxious about his soul, because for several
nights he had smelt in his dreams the savoury smell of smoked
crawfish seasoned with red pepper. Clearly some ill-wisher had set a
trap baited with this dainty for his dream-soul, intending to do him
grievous bodily, or rather spiritual, harm; and for the next few
nights great pains were taken to keep his soul from straying abroad
in his sleep. In the sweltering heat of the tropical night he lay
sweating and snorting under a blanket, his nose and mouth tied up
with a handkerchief to prevent the escape of his precious soul. 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.

Nowhere perhaps is the art of abducting human souls more carefully
cultivated or carried to higher perfection than in the Malay
Peninsula. Here the methods by which the wizard works his will are
various, and so too are his motives. Sometimes he desires to destroy
an enemy, sometimes to win the love of a cold or bashful beauty.
Thus, to take an instance of the latter sort of charm, the following
are the directions given for securing the soul of one whom you wish
to render distraught. When the moon, just risen, looks red above the
eastern horizon, go out, and standing in the moonlight, with the big
toe of your right foot on the big toe of your left, make a
speaking-trumpet of your right hand and recite through it the
following words:

"OM. I loose my shaft, I loose it and the moon clouds over,
I loose it, and the sun is extinguished.
I loose it, and the stars burn dim.
But it is not the sun, moon, and stars that I shoot at,
It is the stalk of the heart of that child of the congregation,

Cluck! cluck! soul of So-and-so, come and walk with me,
Come and sit with me,
Come and sleep and share my pillow.
Cluck! cluck! soul."

Repeat this thrice and after every repetition blow through your
hollow fist. Or you may catch the soul in your turban, thus. Go out
on the night of the full moon and the two succeeding nights; sit
down on an ant-hill facing the moon, burn incense, and recite the
following incantation:

"I bring you a betel leaf to chew,
Dab the lime on to it, Prince Ferocious,
For Somebody, Prince Distraction's daughter, to chew.
Somebody at sunrise be distraught for love of me
Somebody at sunset be distraught for love of me.
As you remember your parents, remember me;
As you remember your house and houseladder, remember me;
When thunder rumbles, remember me;
When wind whistles, remember me;
When the heavens rain, remember me;
When cocks crow, remember me;
When the dial-bird tells its tales, remember me;
When you look up at the sun, remember me;
When you look up at the moon, remember me,
For in that self-same moon I am there.
Cluck! cluck! soul of Somebody come hither to me.
I do not mean to let you have my soul,
Let your soul come hither to mine."

Now wave the end of your turban towards the moon seven times each
night. Go home and put it under your pillow, and if you want to wear
it in the daytime, burn incense and say, "It is not a turban that I
carry in my girdle, but the soul of Somebody."

The Indians of the Nass River, in British Columbia, are impressed
with a belief that a physician may swallow his patient's soul by
mistake. A doctor who is believed to have done so is made by the
other members of the faculty 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 medical men 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 his house and requests him to
produce his box. When he has done so and arranged its contents on a
new mat, they take the votary of Aesculapius 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." No doubt the lost soul is in
the water.

3. The Soul as a Shadow and a Reflection

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 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. 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

In the Banks Islands there are some stones of a remarkably long
shape which go by the name of "eating ghosts," because certain
powerful and dangerous ghosts are believed to lodge in them. If a
man's shadow falls on one of these stones, the ghost will draw his
soul out from him, so that he will die. Such stones, therefore, are
set in a house to guard it; and a messenger sent to a house by the
absent owner will call out the name of the sender, lest the watchful
ghost in the stone should fancy that he came with evil intent and
should do him a mischief. At a funeral in China, when the lid is
about to be placed on the coffin, most of the bystanders, with the
exception of the nearest kin, retire a few steps or even retreat to
another room, for a person's health is believed to be endangered by
allowing his shadow to be enclosed in a coffin. And when the coffin
is about to be lowered into the grave most of the spectators recoil
to a little distance lest their shadows should fall into the grave
and harm should thus be done to their persons. The geomancer and his
assistants stand on the side of the grave which is turned away from
the sun; and the grave-diggers and coffin-bearers attach their
shadows firmly to their persons by tying a strip of cloth tightly
round their waists. Nor is it human beings alone who are thus liable
to be injured by means of their shadows. Animals are to some extent
in the same predicament. A small snail, which frequents the
neighbourhood of the limestone hills in Perak, is believed to suck
the blood of cattle through their shadows; hence the beasts grow
lean and sometimes die from loss of blood. The ancients supposed
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. 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.

Conversely, if the shadow is a vital part of a man or an animal, it
may under certain circumstances be as hazardous to be touched by it
as it would be to come into contact with the person or animal. Hence
the savage makes it a rule to shun the shadow of certain persons
whom for various reasons he regards as sources of dangerous
influence. Amongst the dangerous classes he commonly ranks mourners
and women in general, but especially his mother-in-law. The Shuswap
Indians think that the shadow of a mourner falling upon a person
would make him sick. Amongst the Kurnai of Victoria novices at
initiation were cautioned not to let a woman's shadow fall across
them, as this would make them thin, lazy, and stupid. An Australian
native is said to have once nearly died of fright because the shadow
of his mother-in-law fell on his legs as he lay asleep under a tree.
The awe and dread with which the untutored savage contemplates his
mother-in-law are amongst the most familiar facts of anthropology.
In the Yuin tribes of New South Wales the rule which forbade a man
to hold any communication with his wife's mother was very strict. He
might not look at her or even in her direction. It was a ground of
divorce if his shadow happened to fall on his mother-in-law: in that
case he had to leave his wife, and she returned to her parents. In
New Britain the native imagination fails to conceive the extent and
nature of the calamities which would result from a man's
accidentally speaking to his wife's mother; suicide of one or both
would probably be the only course open to them. The most solemn form
of oath a New Briton can take is, "Sir, if I am not telling the
truth, I hope I may shake hands with my mother-in-law."

Where the shadow is regarded as so intimately bound up with the life
of the man that its loss entails debility or death, it is natural to
expect that its diminution should be regarded with solicitude and
apprehension, as betokening a corresponding decrease in the vital
energy of its owner. In Amboyna and Uliase, two islands near the
equator, where necessarily there is little or no shadow cast at
noon, the people make it a rule not to go out of the house at
mid-day, because they fancy that by doing so a man may lose the
shadow of his soul. 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 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. The savage Besisis of the Malay
Peninsula fear to bury their dead at noon, because they fancy that
the shortness of their shadows at that hour would sympathetically
shorten their own lives.

Nowhere, perhaps, does the equivalence of the shadow to the life or
soul come out more clearly than in some 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. 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. 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 practice 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, or more definitely in order that the
angry ghost may haunt the place and guard it against the intrusion
of enemies.

As some peoples believe a man's soul to be in his 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." When the Motumotu of
New Guinea first saw their likenesses in a looking-glass, they
thought that their reflections were their souls. In New Caledonia
the old men are of opinion that a person's reflection in water or a
mirror is his soul; but the younger men, taught by the Catholic
priests, maintain that it is a reflection and nothing more, just
like the reflection of palm-trees in the water. The reflection-soul,
being external to the man, is exposed to much the same dangers as
the shadow-soul. 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. The Basutos say that crocodiles have
the power of thus killing a man by dragging his reflection under
water. When one of them dies suddenly and from no apparent cause,
his relatives will allege that a crocodile must have taken his
shadow some time when he crossed a stream. 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."

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. They feared that the water-spirits would drag
the person's reflection or soul under water, leaving him soulless to
perish. This was probably the origin of the classical story of the
beautiful Narcissus, who languished and died through seeing his
reflection in the water.

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 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. The reason why sick people should
not see themselves in a mirror, and why the mirror in a sick-room is
therefore covered up, is also plain; in time of sickness, when the
soul might take flight so easily, it is particularly dangerous to
project it 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; for in sleep the
soul is projected out of the body, and there is always a risk that
it may not return.

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
Esquimaux of Bering Strait believe that persons dealing in
witchcraft have the power of stealing a person's shade, so that
without it he will pine away and die. Once at a village on the lower
Yukon River an explorer had set up his camera to get a picture of
the people as they were moving about among their houses. While he
was focusing the instrument, the headman of the village came up and
insisted on peeping under the cloth. Being allowed to do so, he
gazed intently for a minute at the moving figures on the ground
glass, then suddenly withdrew his head and bawled at the top of his
voice to the people, "He has all of your shades in this box." A
panic ensued among the group, and in an instant they disappeared
helterskelter into their houses. The Tepehuanes of Mexico stood in
mortal terror of the camera, and five days' persuasion was necessary
to induce them to pose for it. When at last they consented, they
looked like criminals about to be executed. They believed that by
photographing people the artist could carry off their souls and
devour them at his leisure moments. They said that, when the
pictures reached his country, they would die or some other evil
would befall them. When Dr. Catat and some companions were exploring
the Bara country on the west coast of Madagascar, the people
suddenly became hostile. The day before the travellers, not without
difficulty, had photographed the royal family, and now found
themselves accused of taking the souls of the natives for the
purpose of selling them when they returned to France. Denial was
vain; in compliance with the custom of the country they were obliged
to catch the souls, which were then put into a basket and ordered by
Dr. Catat to return to their respective owners.

Some villagers in Sikhim betrayed a lively horror and hid away
whenever the lens of a camera, or "the evil eye of the box" as they
called it, was turned on them. They thought it took away their souls
with their pictures, and so put it in the power of the owner of the
pictures to cast spells on them, and they alleged that a photograph
of the scenery blighted the landscape. Until the reign of the late
King of Siam no Siamese coins were ever stamped with the image of
the king, "for at that time there was a strong prejudice against the
making of portraits in any medium. Europeans who travel into the
jungle have, even at the present time, only to point a camera at a
crowd to procure its instant dispersion. When a copy of the face of
a person is made and taken away from him, a portion of his life goes
with the picture. Unless the sovereign had been blessed with the
years of a Methusaleh he could scarcely have permitted his life to
be distributed in small pieces together with the coins of the

Beliefs of the same sort still linger in various parts of Europe.
Not very many years ago some old women in the Greek island of
Carpathus were very angry at having their likenesses drawn, thinking
that in consequence they would pine and die. There are persons in
the West of Scotland "who refuse to have their likenesses 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

XIX. Tabooed Acts

1. Taboos on Intercourse with Strangers

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
person was at such pains to save his own soul from the perils which
threatened it on 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 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 in fact the very safeguards which we
should 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 rules 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 inhabitants, 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 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, when the ambassadors sent by Justin II., Emperor of the East,
to conclude a peace with the Turks had reached their destination,
they were received by shamans, who subjected them to a ceremonial
purification for the purpose of exorcising all harmful influence.
Having deposited the goods brought by the ambassadors in an open
place, these wizards carried burning branches of incense round them,
while they rang a bell and beat on a tambourine, snorting and
falling into a state of frenzy in their efforts to dispel the powers
of evil. Afterwards they purified the ambassadors themselves by
leading them through the flames. 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. Amongst the Ot Danoms of Borneo
it is the custom that strangers entering the territory should pay to
the natives a certain sum, which is spent in the sacrifice of
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 country, but to
bless the rice-harvest, and so forth. 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.
Those who could not restrain their curiosity killed fowls to appease
the evil spirits and smeared themselves with the blood. "More
dreaded," says a traveller in Central Borneo, "than the evil spirits
of the neighbourhood are the evil spirits from a distance which
accompany travellers. When a company from the middle Mahakam River
visited me among the Blu-u Kayans in the year 1897, no woman showed
herself outside her house without a burning bundle of _plehiding_
bark, the stinking smoke of which drives away evil spirits."

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, and other parts of their bodies. 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 with nettles.
The object of this ceremony is made plain by the custom observed in
Amboyna 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. In Java a popular cure for gout or rheumatism is
to rub Spanish pepper into the nails of the fingers and toes of the
sufferer; the pungency of the pepper is supposed to be too much for
the gout or rheumatism, who accordingly departs in haste. So on the
Slave Coast the mother of a sick child sometimes believes that an
evil spirit has taken possession of the child's body, and in order
to drive him out, she makes small cuts in the body of the little
sufferer and inserts green peppers or spices in the wounds,
believing that she will thereby hurt the evil spirit and force him
to be gone. The poor child naturally screams with pain, but the
mother hardens her heart in the belief that the demon is suffering

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 stated. In the Ongtong Java Islands, which
are inhabited by Polynesians, the priests or sorcerers seem to wield
great influence. Their main business is to summon or exorcise
spirits for the purpose of averting or dispelling sickness, and of
procuring favourable winds, a good catch of fish, and so on. When
strangers land on the islands, they are first of all received by the
sorcerers, sprinkled with water, anointed with oil, and girt with
dried pandanus leaves. At the same time sand and water are freely
thrown about in all directions, and the newcomer and his boat are
wiped with green leaves. After this ceremony the strangers are
introduced by the sorcerers to the chief. 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 Afghan Boundary Mission, in passing by
villages in Afghanistan, was often met with fire and incense.
Sometimes a tray of lighted embers is thrown under the hoofs of the
traveller's horse, with the words, "You are welcome." 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. 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
persuasion could avail with them, and the party had to proceed to
the next village."

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
"common," lest it might have been previously "sacred." 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 stepping 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. 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." When the
Toradjas are on a head-hunting expedition and have entered the
enemy's country, they may not eat any fruits which the foe has
planted nor any animal which he has reared until they have first
committed an act of hostility, as by burning a house or killing a
man. They think that if they broke this rule they would receive
something of the soul or spiritual essence of the enemy into
themselves, which would destroy the mystic virtue of their

Again, it is believed that a man who has been on a journey may have
contracted some magic evil from the strangers with whom he has
associated. 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." 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. 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 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.

When precautions like these are taken on behalf of the people in
general against the malignant influence supposed to be exercised by
strangers, it is no wonder 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 reason
assigned for the custom was that the fire purged away any magic
influence which the strangers might mean to exercise over the Khan.
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 under the open sky 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.

2. Taboos on Eating and Drinking

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. Among the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast "the
common belief seems to be that the indwelling spirit leaves the body
and returns to it through the mouth; hence, should it have gone out,
it behoves a man to be careful about opening his mouth, lest a
homeless spirit should take advantage of the opportunity and enter
his body. This, it appears, is considered most likely to take place
while the man is eating." Precautions are therefore adopted to guard
against these dangers. Thus of the Bataks 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 may stay and enjoy the good things set before it." The
Zafimanelo in Madagascar lock their doors when they eat, and hardly
any one ever sees them eating. The Warua will not allow any one to
see them eating and drinking, being doubly particular that no person
of the opposite 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 they often ask that a cloth may be held
up to hide them whilst drinking.

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." The
remnants of his food are buried, doubtless to prevent them from
falling into the hands of sorcerers, who by means of these fragments
might cast a fatal spell over the monarch. The rules observed by the
neighbouring king of Cacongo were similar; it was thought that the
king would die if any of his subjects were to see him drink. 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. When the king of Bunyoro in Central Africa went to drink milk
in the dairy, every man must leave the royal enclosure and all the
women had to cover their heads till the king returned. No one might
see him drink. One wife accompanied him to the dairy and handed him
the milk-pot, but she turned away her face while he drained it.

3. Taboos on Showing the Face

IN SOME of the preceding cases the intention of eating and drinking
in strict seclusion may perhaps be to hinder evil influences from
entering the body rather than to prevent the escape of the soul.
This certainly is the motive of some drinking customs observed by
natives of the Congo region. Thus we are told of these people that
"there is hardly a native who would dare to swallow a liquid without
first conjuring the spirits. One of them rings a bell all the time
he is drinking; another crouches down and places his left hand on
the earth; another veils his head; another puts a stalk of grass or
a leaf in his hair, or marks his forehead with a line of clay. This
fetish custom assumes very varied forms. To explain them, the black
is satisfied to say that they are an energetic mode of conjuring
spirits." In this part of the world a chief will commonly ring a
bell at each draught of beer which he swallows, and at the same
moment a lad stationed in front of him brandishes a spear "to keep
at bay the spirits which might try to sneak into the old chief's
body by the same road as the beer." The same motive of warding off
evil spirits probably explains 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 parts of
Central Africa. The Sultan of Wadai always speaks from behind a
curtain; no one sees his face except his intimates and a few
favoured persons.

4. Taboos on Quitting the House

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. The fetish king of Benin,
who was worshipped as a deity by his subjects, might not quit his
palace. After his coronation the king of Loango is confined to his
palace, which he may not leave. The king of Onitsha "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." Indeed we are told that he may not quit
his palace under pain of death or of giving up one or more slaves to
be executed in his presence. As the wealth of the country is
measured in slaves, the king takes good care not to infringe the
law. Yet once a year at the Feast of Yams the king is allowed, and
even required by custom, to dance before his people outside the high
mud wall of the palace. In dancing he carries a great weight,
generally a sack of earth, on his back to prove that he is still
able to support the burden and cares of state. Were he unable to
discharge this duty, he would be immediately deposed and perhaps
stoned. The kings of Ethiopia were worshipped as gods, but were
mostly kept shut up in their palaces. On the mountainous coast of
Pontus there dwelt in antiquity a rude and warlike people named the
Mosyni or Mosynoeci, through whose rugged country the Ten Thousand
marched on their famous retreat from Asia to Europe. These
barbarians kept their king in close custody at the top of a high
tower, from which after his election he was never more allowed to
descend. Here he dispensed justice to his people; but if he offended
them, they punished him by stopping his rations for a whole day, or
even starving him to death. The kings of Sabaea or 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. 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.

5. Taboos on Leaving Food over

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. On the principles of sympathetic magic a real connexion
continues to subsist between the food which a man has in his stomach
and the refuse of it which he has left untouched, and hence by
injuring the refuse you can simultaneously injure the eater. Among
the Narrinyeri of South Australia every adult is constantly on the
look-out for bones of beasts, birds, or fish, of which the flesh has
been eaten by somebody, in order to construct a deadly charm out of
them. Every one is therefore careful to burn the bones of the
animals which he has eaten, lest they should fall into the hands of
a sorcerer. Too often, however, the sorcerer succeeds in getting
hold of such a bone, and when he does so he believes that he has the
power of life and death over the man, woman, or child who ate the
flesh of the animal. To put the charm in operation he makes a paste
of red ochre and fish oil, inserts in it the eye of a cod and a
small piece of the flesh of a corpse, and having rolled the compound
into a ball sticks it on the top of the bone. After being left for
some time in the bosom of a dead body, in order that it may derive a
deadly potency by contact with corruption, the magical implement is
set up in the ground near the fire, and as the ball melts, so the
person against whom the charm is directed wastes with disease; if
the ball is melted quite away, the victim will die. When the
bewitched man learns of the spell that is being cast upon him, he
endeavours to buy the bone from the sorcerer, and if he obtains it
he breaks the charm by throwing the bone into a river or lake. 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. In New Guinea the natives take the utmost care to
destroy or conceal the husks and other remains of their food, lest
these should be found by their enemies and used by them for the
injury or destruction of the eaters. Hence they burn their leavings,
throw them into the sea, or otherwise put them out of harm's way.

From a like fear, no doubt, of sorcery, 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.
In antiquity the Romans used immediately to break the shells of eggs
and of snails which they had eaten, in order to prevent enemies from
making magic with them. The common practice, still observed among
us, of breaking egg-shells after the eggs have been eaten may very
well have originated in the same superstition.

The superstitious fear of the magic that may be wrought on a man
through the leavings of his food has had the beneficial effect of
inducing many savages to destroy refuse which, if left to rot, might
through its corruption have proved a real, not a merely imaginary,
source of disease and death. Nor is it only the sanitary condition
of a tribe which has benefited by this superstition; curiously
enough the same baseless dread, the same false notion of causation,
has indirectly strengthened the moral bonds of hospitality, honour,
and good faith among men who entertain it. For it is obvious that no
one who intends to harm a man by working magic on the refuse of his
food will himself partake of that food, because if he did so he
would, on the principles of sympathetic magic, suffer equally with
his enemy from any injury done to the refuse. This is the idea which
in primitive society lends sanctity to the bond produced by eating
together; by participation in the same food two men give, as it
were, hostages for their good behaviour; each guarantees the other
that he will devise no mischief against him, since, being physically
united with him by the common food in their stomachs, any harm he
might do to his fellow would recoil on his own head with precisely
the same force with which it fell on the head of his victim. In
strict logic, however, the sympathetic bond lasts only so long as
the food is in the stomach of each of the parties. Hence the
covenant formed by eating together is less solemn and durable than
the covenant formed by transfusing the blood of the covenanting
parties into each other's veins, for this transfusion seems to knit
them together for life.

XX. Tabooed Persons

1. Chiefs and Kings tabooed

WE have seen that the Mikado's food was cooked 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. In Fiji there is a special name (_kana
lama_) for the disease supposed to be caused by eating out of a
chief's dishes or wearing his clothes. "The throat and body swell,
and the impious person dies. I had a fine mat given to me by a man
who durst not use it because Thakombau's eldest son had sat upon it.
There was always a family or clan of commoners who were exempt from
this danger. I was talking about this once to Thakombau. 'Oh yes,'
said he. 'Here, So-and-so! come and scratch my back.' The man
scratched; he was one of those who could do it with impunity." The
name of the men thus highly privileged was _Na nduka ni,_ or the
dirt of the chief.

In the evil effects thus supposed to follow upon the use of the
vessels or clothes of the Mikado and a Fijian chief we see that
other side of the 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, as it were, electrically charged with a powerful
magical or spiritual force which may discharge itself with fatal
effect on whatever comes in contact with it. Accordingly the
isolation of the man-god is quite as necessary for the safety of
others as for his own. His magical virtue is in the strictest sense
of the word contagious: 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.

The Nubas, for example, who inhabit the wooded and fertile range of
Jebel Nuba in Eastern Africa, believe that they would die if they
entered the house of their priestly king; however, they can evade
the penalty of their intrusion by baring the left shoulder and
getting the king to lay his hand on it. And were any man to sit on a
stone which the king has consecrated to his own use, the
transgressor would die within the year. The Cazembes of Angola
regard their king as so holy that no one can touch him without being
killed by the magical power which pervades his sacred person. But
since contact with him is sometimes unavoidable, they have devised a
means whereby the sinner can escape with his life. Kneeling down
before the king he touches the back of the royal hand with the back
of his own, then snaps his fingers; afterwards he lays the palm of
his hand on the palm of the king's hand, then snaps his fingers
again. This ceremony is repeated four or five times, and averts the
imminent danger of death. In Tonga it was believed that if any one
fed himself with his own hands after touching the sacred person of a
superior chief or anything that belonged to him, he would swell up
and die; the sanctity of the chief, like a virulent poison, infected
the hands of his inferior, and, being communicated through them to
the food, proved fatal to the eater. A commoner who had incurred
this danger could disinfect himself by performing a certain
ceremony, which consisted in touching the sole of a chief's foot
with the palm and back of each of his hands, and afterwards rinsing
his hands in water. If there was no water near, he rubbed his hands
with the juicy stem of a plantain or banana. After that he was free
to feed himself with his own hands without danger of being attacked
by the malady which would otherwise follow from eating with tabooed
or sanctified hands. But until the ceremony of expiation or
disinfection had been performed, if he wished to eat he had either
to get some one to feed him, or else to go down on his knees and
pick up the food from the ground with his mouth like a beast. He
might not even use a toothpick himself, but might guide the hand of
another person holding the toothpick. The Tongans were subject to
induration of the liver and certain forms of scrofula, which they
often attributed to a failure to perform the requisite expiation
after having inadvertently touched a chief or his belongings. Hence
they often went through the ceremony as a precaution, without
knowing that they had done anything to call for it. The king of
Tonga could not refuse to play his part in the rite by presenting
his foot to such as desired to touch it, even when they applied to
him at an inconvenient time. A fat unwieldy king, who perceived his
subjects approaching with this intention, while he chanced to be
taking his walks abroad, has been sometimes seen to waddle as fast
as his legs could carry him out of their way, in order to escape the
importunate and not wholly disinterested expression of their homage.
If any one fancied he might have already unwittingly eaten with
tabooed hands, he sat down before the chief, and, taking the chief's
foot, pressed it against his own stomach, that the food in his belly
might not injure him, and that he might not swell up and die. Since
scrofula was regarded by the Tongans as a result of eating with
tabooed hands, we may conjecture that persons who suffered from it
among them often resorted to the touch or pressure of the king's
foot as a cure for their malady. The analogy of the custom with the
old English practice of bringing scrofulous patients to the king to
be healed by his touch is sufficiently obvious, and suggests, as I
have already pointed out elsewhere, that among our own remote
ancestors scrofula may have obtained its name of the King's Evil,
from a belief, like that of the Tongans, that it was caused as well
as cured by contact with the divine majesty of kings.

In New Zealand the dread of the sanctity of chiefs was at least as
great as in Tonga. Their ghostly power, derived from an ancestral
spirit, diffused itself by contagion over everything they touched,
and could strike dead all who rashly or unwittingly meddled with it.
For instance, it once 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 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," but "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_ 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." This is not a solitary case. A Maori woman having eaten
of some fruit, and being afterwards told that the fruit had been
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. 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
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" (that is,
his spiritual power communicated by contact to the blanket and
through the blanket to the man) "would kill the person." For a
similar reason a Maori chief would not blow a fire with his mouth;
for his sacred breath would communicate its sanctity to the fire,
which would pass it on to the pot on the fire, which would pass it
on to the meat in the pot, which would pass it on to the man who ate
the meat, which was in the pot, which stood on the fire, which was
breathed on by the chief; so that the eater, infected by the chief's
breath conveyed through these intermediaries, would surely die.

Thus in the Polynesian race, to which the Maoris belong,
superstition erected round the persons of sacred chiefs a real,
though at the same time purely imaginary barrier, to transgress
which actually entailed the death of the transgressor whenever he
became aware of what he had done. This fatal power of the
imagination working through superstitious terrors is by no means
confined to one race; it appears to be common among savages. For
example, among the aborigines of Australia a native will die after
the infliction of even the most superficial wound, if only he
believes that the weapon which inflicted the wound had been sung
over and thus endowed with magical virtue. He simply lies down,
refuses food, and pines away. Similarly among some of the Indian
tribes of Brazil, if the medicine-man predicted the death of any one
who had offended him, "the wretch took to his hammock instantly in
such full expectation of dying, that he would neither eat nor drink,
and the prediction was a sentence which faith effectually executed."

2. Mourners tabooed

THUS regarding his sacred chiefs and kings as charged with a
mysterious spiritual force which so to say explodes at contact, the
savage naturally ranks them among the dangerous classes of society,
and imposes upon them the same sort of restraints that he lays on
manslayers, menstruous women, and other persons whom he looks upon
with a certain fear and horror. For example, sacred kings and
priests in Polynesia were not allowed to touch food with their
hands, and had therefore to be fed by others; and as we have just
seen, their vessels, garments, and other property might not be used
by others on pain of disease and death. Now precisely the same
observances are exacted by some savages from girls at their first
menstruation, women after childbirth, homicides, mourners, and all
persons who have come into contact with the dead. Thus, for example,
to begin with the last class of persons, among the Maoris any one
who had handled a corpse, helped to convey it to the grave, or
touched a dead man's bones, was cut off from all intercourse and
almost all communication with mankind. He could not enter any house,
or come into contact with any person or thing, without utterly
bedevilling them. He might not even touch food with his hands, which
had become so frightfully tabooed or unclean as to be quite useless.
Food would be set for him on the ground, and he would then sit or
kneel down, and, with his hands carefully held behind his back,
would gnaw at it as best he could. In some cases he would be fed by
another person, who with outstretched arm contrived to do it without
touching the tabooed man; but the feeder was himself subjected to
many severe restrictions, little less onerous than those which were
imposed upon the other. In almost every populous village there lived
a degraded wretch, the lowest of the low, who earned a sorry
pittance by thus waiting upon the defiled. Clad in rags, daubed from
head to foot with red ochre and stinking shark oil, always solitary
and silent, generally old, haggard, and wizened, often half crazed,
he might be seen sitting motionless all day apart from the common
path or thoroughfare of the village, gazing with lack-lustre eyes on
the busy doings in which he might never take a part. Twice a day a
dole of food would be thrown on the ground before him to munch as
well as he could without the use of his hands; and at night,
huddling his greasy tatters about him, he would crawl into some
miserable lair of leaves and refuse, where, dirty, cold, and hungry,
he passed, in broken ghost-haunted slumbers, a wretched night as a
prelude to another wretched day. Such was the only human being
deemed fit to associate at arm's length with one who had paid the
last offices of respect and friendship to the dead. And when, the
dismal term of his seclusion being over, the mourner was about to
mix with his fellows once more, all the dishes he had used in his
seclusion were diligently smashed, and all the garments he had worn
were carefully thrown away, lest they should spread the contagion of
his defilement among others, just as the vessels and clothes of
sacred kings and chiefs are destroyed or cast away for a similar
reason. So complete in these respects is the analogy which the
savage traces between the spiritual influences that emanate from
divinities and from the dead, between the odour of sanctity and the
stench of corruption.

The rule which forbids persons who have been in contact with the
dead to touch food with their hands would seem to have been
universal in Polynesia. Thus in Samoa "those who attended the
deceased were most careful not to handle food, and for days were fed
by others as if they were helpless infants. Baldness and the loss of
teeth were supposed to be the punishment inflicted by the household
god if they violated the rule." Again, in Tonga, "no person can
touch a dead chief without being taboo'd for ten lunar months,
except chiefs, who are only taboo'd for three, four, or five months,
according to the superiority of the dead chief; except again it be
the body of Tooitonga [the great divine chief], and then even the
greatest chief would be taboo'd ten months. . . . During the time a
man is taboo'd he must not feed himself with his own hands, but must
be fed by somebody else: he must not even use a toothpick himself,
but must guide another person's hand holding the toothpick. If he is
hungry and there is no one to feed him, he must go down upon his
hands and knees, and pick up his victuals with his mouth: and if he
infringes upon any of these rules, it is firmly expected that he
will swell up and die."

Among the Shuswap of British Columbia widows and widowers in
mourning are secluded and forbidden to touch their own head or body;
the cups and cooking-vessels which they use may be used by no one
else. They must build a sweat-house beside a creek, sweat there all
night and bathe regularly, after which they must rub their bodies
with branches of spruce. The branches may not be used more than
once, and when they have served their purpose they are stuck into
the ground all round the hut. No hunter would come near such
mourners, for their presence is unlucky. If their shadow were to
fall on any one, he would be taken ill at once. They employ thorn
bushes for bed and pillow, in order to keep away the ghost of the
deceased; and thorn bushes are also laid all around their beds. This
last precaution shows clearly what the spiritual danger is which
leads to the exclusion of such persons from ordinary society; it is
simply a fear of the ghost who is supposed to be hovering near them.
In the Mekeo district of British New Guinea a widower loses all his
civil rights and becomes a social outcast, an object of fear and
horror, shunned by all. He may not cultivate a garden, nor show
himself in public, nor traverse the village, nor walk on the roads
and paths. Like a wild beast he must skulk in the long grass and the
bushes; and if he sees or hears any one coming, especially a woman,
he must hide behind a tree or a thicket. If he wishes to fish or
hunt, he must do it alone and at night. If he would consult any one,
even the missionary, he does so by stealth and at night; he seems to
have lost his voice and speaks only in whispers. Were he to join a
party of fishers or hunters, his presence would bring misfortune on
them; the ghost of his dead wife would frighten away the fish or the
game. He goes about everywhere and at all times armed with a
tomahawk to defend himself, not only against wild boars in the
jungle, but against the dreaded spirit of his departed spouse, who
would do him an ill turn if she could; for all the souls of the dead
are malignant and their only delight is to harm the living.

3. Women tabooed at Menstruation and Childbirth

IN GENERAL, we may say that the prohibition to use the vessels,
garments, and so forth 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 kill those who handle them, so do the things which
have been touched by a menstruous women. 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. Hence Australian women at these times are forbidden under
pain of death to touch anything that men use, or even to walk on a
path that any man frequents. They are also secluded at childbirth,
and all vessels used by them during their seclusion are burned. In
Uganda the pots which a woman touches, while the impurity of
childbirth or of menstruation is on her, should be destroyed; spears
and shields defiled by her touch are not destroyed, but only
purified. "Among all the Déné and most other American tribes, hardly
any other being was the object of so much dread as a menstruating
woman. As soon as signs of that condition made themselves apparent
in a young girl she was carefully segregated from all but female
company, and had to live by herself in a small hut away from the
gaze of the villagers or of the male members of the roving band.
While in that awful state, she had to abstain from touching anything
belonging to man, or the spoils of any venison or other animal, lest
she would thereby pollute the same, and condemn the hunters to
failure, owing to the anger of the game thus slighted. Dried fish
formed her diet, and cold water, absorbed through a drinking tube,
was her only beverage. Moreover, as the very sight of her was
dangerous to society, a special skin bonnet, with fringes falling
over her face down to her breast, hid her from the public gaze, even
some time after she had recovered her normal state." Among the
Bribri Indians of Costa Rica a menstruous woman is regarded as
unclean. The only plates she may use for her food are banana leaves,
which, when she has done with them, she throws away in some
sequestered spot; for were a cow to find them and eat them, the
animal would waste away and perish. And she drinks out of a special
vessel for a like reason; because if any one drank out of the same
cup after her, he would surely die.

Among many peoples similar restrictions are imposed on women in
childbed and apparently for similar reasons; at such periods women
are supposed to be in a dangerous condition which would infect any
person or thing they might touch; hence they are put into quarantine
until, with the recovery of their health and strength, the imaginary
danger has passed away. Thus, in Tahiti a woman after childbirth was
secluded for a fortnight or three weeks in a temporary hut erected
on sacred ground; during the time of her seclusion she was debarred
from touching provisions, and had to be fed by another. Further, if
any one else touched the child at this period, he was subjected to
the same restrictions as the mother until the ceremony of her
purification had been performed. Similarly in the island of Kadiak,
off Alaska, a woman about to be delivered retires to a miserable low
hovel built of reeds, where she must remain for twenty days after
the birth of her child, whatever the season may be, and she is
considered so unclean that no one will touch her, and food is
reached to her on sticks. The Bribri Indians regard the pollution of
childbed as much more dangerous even than that of menstruation. When
a woman feels her time approaching, she informs her husband, who
makes haste to build a hut for her in a lonely spot. There she must
live alone, holding no converse with anybody save her mother or
another woman. After her delivery the medicine-man purifies her by
breathing on her and laying an animal, it matters not what, upon
her. But even this ceremony only mitigates her uncleanness into a
state considered to be equivalent to that of a menstruous woman; and
for a full lunar month she must live apart from her housemates,
observing the same rules with regard to eating and drinking as at
her monthly periods. The case is still worse, the pollution is still
more deadly, if she has had a miscarriage or has been delivered of a
stillborn child. In that case she may not go near a living soul: the
mere contact with things she has used is exceedingly dangerous: her
food is handed to her at the end of a long stick. This lasts
generally for three weeks, after which she may go home, subject only
to the restrictions incident to an ordinary confinement.

Some Bantu tribes entertain even more exaggerated notions of the
virulent infection spread by a woman who has had a miscarriage and
has concealed it. An experienced observer of these people tells us
that the blood of childbirth "appears to the eyes of the South
Africans to be tainted with a pollution still more dangerous than
that of the menstrual fluid. The husband is excluded from the hut
for eight days of the lying-in period, chiefly from fear that he
might be contaminated by this secretion. He dare not take his child
in his arms for the three first months after the birth. But the
secretion of childbed is particularly terrible when it is the
product of a miscarriage, especially _a concealed miscarriage._ In
this case it is not merely the man who is threatened or killed, it
is the whole country, it is the sky itself which suffers. By a
curious association of ideas a physiological fact causes cosmic
troubles!" As for the disastrous effect which a miscarriage may have
on the whole country I will quote the words of a medicine-man and
rain-maker of the Ba-Pedi tribe: "When a woman has had a
miscarriage, when she has allowed her blood to flow, and has hidden
the child, it is enough to cause the burning winds to blow and to
parch the country with heat. The rain no longer falls, for the
country is no longer in order. When the rain approaches the place
where the blood is, it will not dare to approach. It will fear and
remain at a distance. That woman has committed a great fault. She
has spoiled the country of the chief, for she has hidden blood which
had not yet been well congealed to fashion a man. That blood is
taboo. It should never drip on the road! The chief will assemble his
men and say to them, 'Are you in order in your villages?' Some one
will answer, 'Such and such a woman was pregnant and we have not yet
seen the child which she has given birth to.' Then they go and
arrest the woman. They say to her, 'Show us where you have hidden
it.' They go and dig at the spot, they sprinkle the hole with a
decoction of two sorts of roots prepared in a special pot. They take
a little of the earth of this grave, they throw it into the river,
then they bring back water from the river and sprinkle it where she
shed her blood. She herself must wash every day with the medicine.
Then the country will be moistened again (by rain). Further, we
(medicine-men), summon the women of the country; we tell them to
prepare a ball of the earth which contains the blood. They bring it
to us one morning. If we wish to prepare medicine with which to
sprinkle the whole country, we crumble this earth to powder; at the
end of five days we send little boys and little girls, girls that
yet know nothing of women's affairs and have not yet had relations
with men. We put the medicine in the horns of oxen, and these
children go to all the fords, to all the entrances of the country. A
little girl turns up the soil with her mattock, the others dip a
branch in the horn and sprinkle the inside of the hole saying,
'Rain! rain!' So we remove the misfortune which the women have
brought on the roads; the rain will be able to come. The country is

4. Warriors tabooed

ONCE more, warriors are conceived by the savage to move, so to say,
in an atmosphere of spiritual danger which constrains them to
practise a variety of superstitious observances quite different in
their nature from those rational precautions which, as a matter of
course, they adopt against foes of flesh and blood. The general
effect of these observances is to place the warrior, both before and
after victory, in the same state of seclusion or spiritual
quarantine in which, for his own safety, primitive man puts his
human gods and other dangerous characters. Thus when the Maoris went
out on the war-path they were sacred or taboo in the highest degree,
and they and their friends at home had to observe strictly many
curious customs over and above the numerous taboos of ordinary life.
They became, in the irreverent language of Europeans who knew them
in the old fighting days, "tabooed an inch thick"; and as for the
leader of the expedition, he was quite unapproachable. Similarly,
when the Israelites marched forth to war they were bound by certain
rules of ceremonial purity identical with rules observed by Maoris
and Australian blackfellows on the war-path. The vessels they used
were sacred, and they had to practise continence and a custom of
personal cleanliness of which the original motive, if we may judge
from the avowed motive of savages who conform to the same custom,
was a fear lest the enemy should obtain the refuse of their persons,
and thus be enabled to work their destruction by magic. Among some
Indian tribes of North America a young warrior in his first campaign
had to conform to certain customs, of which two were identical with
the observances imposed by the same Indians on girls at their first
menstruation: the vessels he ate and drank out of might be touched
by no other person, and he was forbidden to scratch his head or any
other part of his body with his fingers; if he could not help
scratching himself, he had to do it with a stick. The latter rule,
like the one which forbids a tabooed person to feed himself with his
own fingers, seems to rest on the supposed sanctity or pollution,
whichever we choose to call it, of the tabooed hands. Moreover among
these Indian tribes the men on the war-path had always to sleep at
night with their faces turned towards their own country; however
uneasy the posture, they might not change it. They might not sit
upon the bare ground, nor wet their feet, nor walk on a beaten path
if they could help it; when they had no choice but to walk on a
path, they sought to counteract the ill effect of doing so by
doctoring their legs with certain medicines or charms which they
carried with them for the purpose. No member of the party was
permitted to step over the legs, hands, or body of any other member
who chanced to be sitting or lying on the ground; and it was equally
forbidden to step over his blanket, gun, tomahawk, or anything that
belonged to him. If this rule was inadvertently broken, it became
the duty of the member whose person or property had been stepped
over to knock the other member down, and it was similarly the duty
of that other to be knocked down peaceably and without resistance.
The vessels out of which the warriors ate their food were commonly
small bowls of wood or birch bark, with marks to distinguish the two
sides; in marching from home the Indians invariably drank out of one
side of the bowl, and in returning they drank out of the other. When
on their way home they came within a day's march of the village,
they hung up all their bowls on trees, or threw them away on the
prairie, doubtless to prevent their sanctity or defilement from
being communicated with disastrous effects to their friends, just as
we have seen that the vessels and clothes of the sacred Mikado, of
women at childbirth and menstruation, and of persons defiled by
contact with the dead are destroyed or laid aside for a similar
reason. The first four times that an Apache Indian goes out on the
war-path, he is bound to refrain from scratching his head with his
fingers and from letting water touch his lips. Hence he scratches
his head with a stick, and drinks through a hollow reed or cane.
Stick and reed are attached to the warrior's belt and to each other
by a leathern thong. The rule not to scratch their heads with their
fingers, but to use a stick for the purpose instead, was regularly
observed by Ojebways on the war-path.

With regard to the Creek Indians and kindred tribes we are told they
"will not cohabit with women while they are out at war; they
religiously abstain from every kind of intercourse even with their
own wives, for the space of three days and nights before they go to
war, and so after they return home, because they are to sanctify
themselves." Among the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of South Africa
not only have the warriors to abstain from women, but the people
left behind in the villages are also bound to continence; they think
that any incontinence on their part would cause thorns to grow on
the ground traversed by the warriors, and that success would not
attend the expedition.

Why exactly many savages have made it a rule to refrain from women
in time of war, we cannot say for certain, but we may conjecture
that their motive was a superstitious fear lest, on the principles
of sympathetic magic, close contact with women should infect them
with feminine weakness and cowardice. Similarly some savages imagine
that contact with a woman in childbed enervates warriors and
enfeebles their weapons. Indeed the Kayans of Central Borneo go so
far as to hold that to touch a loom or women's clothes would so
weaken a man that he would have no success in hunting, fishing, and
war. Hence it is not merely sexual intercourse with women that the
savage warrior sometimes shuns; he is careful to avoid the sex
altogether. Thus among the hill tribes of Assam, not only are men
forbidden to cohabit with their wives during or after a raid, but
they may not eat food cooked by a woman; nay, they should not
address a word even to their own wives. Once a woman, who
unwittingly broke the rule by speaking to her husband while he was
under the war taboo, sickened and died when she learned the awful
crime she had committed.

5. Manslayers tabooed

IF THE READER still doubts whether the rules of conduct which we
have just been considering are based on superstitious fears or
dictated by a rational prudence, his doubts will probably be
dissipated when he learns that rules of the same sort are often
imposed even more stringently on warriors after the victory has been
won and when all fear of the living corporeal foe is at an end. In
such cases one motive for the inconvenient restrictions laid on the
victors in their hour of triumph is probably a dread of the angry
ghosts of the slain; and that the fear of the vengeful ghosts does
influence the behaviour of the slayers is often expressly affirmed.
The general effect of the taboos laid on sacred chiefs, mourners,
women at childbirth, men on the war-path, and so on, is to seclude
or isolate the tabooed persons from ordinary society, this effect
being attained by a variety of rules, which oblige the men or women
to live in separate huts or in the open air, to shun the commerce of
the sexes, to avoid the use of vessels employed by others, and so
forth. Now the same effect is produced by similar means in the case
of victorious warriors, particularly such as have actually shed the
blood of their enemies. In the island of Timor, when a warlike
expedition has returned in triumph bringing the heads of the
vanquished foe, the leader of the expedition is forbidden by
religion and custom to return at once to his own house. A special
hut is prepared for him, in which he has to reside for two months,
undergoing bodily and spiritual purification. During this time he
may not go to his wife nor feed himself; the food must be put into
his mouth by another person. That these observances are dictated by
fear of the ghosts of the slain seems certain; for from another
account of the ceremonies performed on the return of a successful
head-hunter in the same island we learn that sacrifices are offered
on this occasion to appease the soul of the man whose head has been
taken; the people think that some misfortune would befall the victor
were such offerings omitted. Moreover, a part of the ceremony
consists of a dance accompanied by a song, in which the death of the
slain man is lamented and his forgiveness is entreated. "Be not
angry," they say, "because your head is here with us; had we been
less lucky, our heads might now have been exposed in your village.
We have offered the sacrifice to appease you. Your spirit may now
rest and leave us at peace. Why were you our enemy? Would it not
have been better that we should remain friends? Then your blood
would not have been spilt and your head would not have been cut
off." The people of Paloo in Central Celebes take the heads of their
enemies in war and afterwards propitiate the souls of the slain in
the temple.

Among the tribes at the mouth of the Wanigela River, in New Guinea,
"a man who has taken life is considered to be impure until he has
undergone certain ceremonies: as soon as possible after the deed he
cleanses himself and his weapon. This satisfactorily accomplished,
he repairs to his village and seats himself on the logs of
sacrificial staging. No one approaches him or takes any notice
whatever of him. A house is prepared for him which is put in charge
of two or three small boys as servants. He may eat only toasted
bananas, and only the centre portion of them--the ends being thrown
away. On the third day of his seclusion a small feast is prepared by
his friends, who also fashion some new perineal bands for him. This
is called _ivi poro._ The next day the man dons all his best
ornaments and badges for taking life, and sallies forth fully armed
and parades the village. The next day a hunt is organised, and a
kangaroo selected from the game captured. It is cut open and the
spleen and liver rubbed over the back of the man. He then walks
solemnly down to the nearest water, and standing straddle-legs in it
washes himself. All the young untried warriors swim between his
legs. This is supposed to impart courage and strength to them. The
following day, at early dawn, he dashes out of his house, fully
armed, and calls aloud the name of his victim. Having satisfied
himself that he has thoroughly scared the ghost of the dead man, he
returns to his house. The beating of flooring-boards and the
lighting of fires is also a certain method of scaring the ghost. A
day later his purification is finished. He can then enter his wife's

In Windessi, Dutch New Guinea, when a party of head-hunters has been
successful, and they are nearing home, they announce their approach
and success by blowing on triton shells. Their canoes are also
decked with branches. The faces of the men who have taken a head are
blackened with charcoal. If several have taken part in killing the
same victim, his head is divided among them. They always time their
arrival so as to reach home in the early morning. They come rowing
to the village with a great noise, and the women stand ready to
dance in the verandahs of the houses. The canoes row past the _room
sram_ or house where the young men live; and as they pass, the
murderers throw as many pointed sticks or bamboos at the wall or the
roof as there were enemies killed. The day is spent very quietly.
Now and then they drum or blow on the conch; at other times they
beat the walls of the houses with loud shouts to drive away the
ghosts of the slain. So the Yabim of New Guinea believe that the
spirit of a murdered man pursues his murderer and seeks to do him a
mischief. Hence they drive away the spirit with shouts and the
beating of drums. When the Fijians had buried a man alive, as they
often did, they used at nightfall to make a great uproar by means of
bamboos, trumpet-shells, and so forth, for the purpose of
frightening away his ghost, lest he should attempt to return to his
old home. And to render his house unattractive to him they
dismantled it and clothed it with everything that to their ideas
seemed most repulsive. On the evening of the day on which they had
tortured a prisoner to death, the American Indians were wont to run
through the village with hideous yells, beating with sticks on the
furniture, the walls, and the roofs of the huts to prevent the angry
ghost of their victim from settling there and taking vengeance for
the torments that his body had endured at their hands. "Once," says
a traveller, "on approaching in the night a village of Ottawas, I
found all the inhabitants in confusion: they were all busily engaged
in raising noises of the loudest and most inharmonious kind. Upon
inquiry, I found that a battle had been lately fought between the
Ottawas and the Kickapoos, and that the object of all this noise was
to prevent the ghosts of the departed combatants from entering the

Among the Basutos "ablution is specially performed on return from
battle. It is absolutely necessary that the warriors should rid
themselves, as soon as possible, of the blood they have shed, or the
shades of their victims would pursue them incessantly, and disturb
their slumbers. They go in a procession, and in full armour, to the
nearest stream. At the moment they enter the water a diviner, placed
higher up, throws some purifying substances into the current. This
is, however, not strictly necessary. The javelins and battle-axes
also undergo the process of washing." Among the Bageshu of East
Africa a man who has killed another may not return to his own house
on the same day, though he may enter the village and spend the night
in a friend's house. He kills a sheep and smears his chest, his
right arm, and his head with the contents of the animal's stomach.
His children are brought to him and he smears them in like manner.
Then he smears each side of the doorway with the tripe and entrails,
and finally throws the rest of the stomach on the roof of his house.
For a whole day he may not touch food with his hands, but picks it
up with two sticks and so conveys it to his mouth. His wife is not
under any such restrictions. She may even go to mourn for the man
whom her husband has killed, if she wishes to do so. Among the
Angoni, to the north of the Zambesi, warriors who have slain foes on
an expedition smear their bodies and faces with ashes, hang garments
of their victims on their persons, and tie bark ropes round their
necks, so that the ends hang down over their shoulders or breasts.
This costume they wear for three days after their return, and rising
at break of day they run through the village uttering frightful
yells to drive away the ghosts of the slain, which, if they were not
thus banished from the houses, might bring sickness and misfortune
on the inmates.

In some of these accounts nothing is said of an enforced seclusion,
at least after the ceremonial cleansing, but some South African
tribes certainly require the slayer of a very gallant foe in war to
keep apart from his wife and family for ten days after he has washed
his body in running water. He also receives from the tribal doctor a
medicine which he chews with his food. When a Nandi of East Africa
has killed a member of another tribe, he paints one side of his
body, spear, and sword red, and the other side white. For four days
after the slaughter he is considered unclean and may not go home. He
has to build a small shelter by a river and live there; he may not
associate with his wife or sweetheart, and he may eat nothing but
porridge, beef, and goat's flesh. At the end of the fourth day he
must purify himself by taking a strong purge made from the bark of
the _segetet_ tree and by drinking goat's milk mixed with blood.
Among the Bantu tribes of Kavirondo, when a man has killed an enemy
in warfare he shaves his head on his return home, and his friends
rub a medicine, which generally consists of goat's dung, over his
body to prevent the spirit of the slain man from troubling him.
Exactly the same custom is practised for the same reason by the
Wageia of East Africa. With the Ja-Luo of Kavirondo the custom is
somewhat different. Three days after his return from the fight the
warrior shaves his head. But before he may enter his village he has
to hang a live fowl, head uppermost, round his neck; then the bird
is decapitated and its head left hanging round his neck. Soon after
his return a feast is made for the slain man, in order that his
ghost may not haunt his slayer. In the Pelew Islands, when the men
return from a warlike expedition in which they have taken a life,
the young warriors who have been out fighting for the first time,
and all who handled the slain, are shut up in the large
council-house and become tabooed. They may not quit the edifice, nor
bathe, nor touch a woman, nor eat fish; their food is limited to
coco-nuts and syrup. They rub themselves with charmed leaves and
chew charmed betel. After three days they go together to bathe as
near as possible to the spot where the man was killed.

Among the Natchez Indians of North America young braves who had
taken their first scalps were obliged to observe certain rules of
abstinence for six months. They might not sleep with their wives nor
eat flesh; their only food was fish and hasty-pudding. If they broke
these rules, they believed that the soul of the man they had killed
would work their death by magic, that they would gain no more
successes over the enemy, and that the least wound inflicted on them
would prove mortal. When a Choctaw had killed an enemy and taken his
scalp, he went into mourning for a month, during which he might not
comb his hair, and if his head itched he might not scratch it except
with a little stick which he wore fastened to his wrist for the
purpose. This ceremonial mourning for the enemies they had slain was
not uncommon among the North American Indians.

Thus we see that warriors who have taken the life of a foe in battle
are temporarily cut off from free intercourse with their fellows,
and especially with their wives, and must undergo certain rites of
purification before they are readmitted to society. Now if the
purpose of their seclusion and of the expiatory rites which they
have to perform is, as we have been led to believe, no other than to
shake off, frighten, or appease the angry spirit of the slain man,
we may safely conjecture that the similar purification of homicides
and murderers, who have imbrued their hands in the blood of a
fellow-tribesman, had at first the same significance, and that the
idea of a moral or spiritual regeneration symbolised by the washing,
the fasting, and so on, was merely a later interpretation put upon
the old custom by men who had outgrown the primitive modes of
thought in which the custom originated. The conjecture will be
confirmed if we can show that savages have actually imposed certain
restrictions on the murderer of a fellow-tribesman from a definite
fear that he is haunted by the ghost of his victim. This we can do
with regard to the Omahas of North America. Among these Indians the
kinsmen of a murdered man had the right to put the murderer to
death, but sometimes they waived their right in consideration of
presents which they consented to accept. When the life of the
murderer was spared, he had to observe certain stringent rules for a
period which varied from two to four years. He must walk barefoot,
and he might eat no warm food, nor raise his voice, nor look around.
He was compelled to pull his robe about him and to have it tied at
the neck even in hot weather; he might not let it hang loose or fly
open. He might not move his hands about, but had to keep them close
to his body. He might not comb his hair, and it might not be blown
about by the wind. When the tribe went out hunting, he was obliged
to pitch his tent about a quarter of mile from the rest of the
people "lest the ghost of his victim should raise a high wind, which
might cause damage." Only one of his kindred was allowed to remain
with him at his tent. No one wished to eat with him, for they said,
"If we eat with him whom Wakanda hates, Wakanda will hate us."
Sometimes he wandered at night crying and lamenting his offence. At
the end of his long isolation the kinsmen of the murdered man heard
his crying and said, "It is enough. Begone, and walk among the
crowd. Put on moccasins and wear a good robe." Here the reason
alleged for keeping the murderer at a considerable distance from the
hunters gives the clue to all the other restrictions laid on him: he
was haunted and therefore dangerous. The ancient Greeks believed
that the soul of a man who had just been killed was wroth with his
slayer and troubled him; wherefore it was needful even for the
involuntary homicide to depart from his country for a year until the
anger of the dead man had cooled down; nor might the slayer return
until sacrifice had been offered and ceremonies of purification
performed. If his victim chanced to be a foreigner, the homicide had
to shun the native country of the dead man as well as his own. The
legend of the matricide Orestes, how he roamed from place to place
pursued by the Furies of his murdered mother, and none would sit at
meat with him, or take him in, till he had been purified, reflects
faithfully the real Greek dread of such as were still haunted by an
angry ghost.

6. Hunters and Fishers tabooed

IN SAVAGE society the hunter and the fisherman have often to observe
rules of abstinence and to submit to ceremonies of purification of
the same sort as those which are obligatory on the warrior and the
manslayer; and though we cannot in all cases perceive the exact
purpose which these rules and ceremonies are supposed to serve, we
may with some probability assume that, just as the dread of the
spirits of his enemies is the main motive for the seclusion and
purification of the warrior who hopes to take or has already taken
their lives, so the huntsman or fisherman who complies with similar
customs is principally actuated by a fear of the spirits of the
beasts, birds, or fish which he has killed or intends to kill. For
the savage commonly conceives animals to be endowed with souls and
intelligences like his own, and hence he naturally treats them with
similar respect. Just as he attempts to appease the ghosts of the
men he has slain, so he essays to propitiate the spirits of the
animals he has killed. These ceremonies of propitiation will be
described later on in this work; here we have to deal, first, with
the taboos observed by the hunter and the fisherman before or during
the hunting and fishing seasons, and, second, with the ceremonies of
purification which have to be practised by these men on returning
with their booty from a successful chase.

While the savage respects, more or less, the souls of all animals,
he treats with particular deference the spirits of such as are
either especially useful to him or formidable on account of their
size, strength, or ferocity. Accordingly the hunting and killing of
these valuable or dangerous beasts are subject to more elaborate
rules and ceremonies than the slaughter of comparatively useless and
insignificant creatures. Thus the Indians of Nootka Sound prepared
themselves for catching whales by observing a fast for a week,
during which they ate very little, bathed in the water several times
a day, sang, and rubbed their bodies, limbs, and faces with shells
and bushes till they looked as if they had been severely torn with
briars. They were likewise required to abstain from any commerce
with their women for the like period, this last condition being
considered indispensable to their success. A chief who failed to
catch a whale has been known to attribute his failure to a breach of
chastity on the part of his men. It should be remarked that the
conduct thus prescribed as a preparation for whaling is precisely
that which in the same tribe of Indians was required of men about to
go on the war-path. Rules of the same sort are, or were formerly,
observed by Malagasy whalers. For eight days before they went to sea
the crew of a whaler used to fast, abstaining from women and liquor,
and confessing their most secret faults to each other; and if any
man was found to have sinned deeply, he was forbidden to share in
the expedition. In the island of Mabuiag continence was imposed on
the people both before they went to hunt the dugong and while the
turtles were pairing. The turtle-season lasts during parts of
October and November; and if at that time unmarried persons had
sexual intercourse with each other, it was believed that when the
canoe approached the floating turtle, the male would separate from
the female and both would dive down in different directions. So at
Mowat in New Guinea men have no relation with women when the turtles
are coupling, though there is considerable laxity of morals at other
times. In the island of Uap, one of the Caroline group, every
fisherman plying his craft lies under a most strict taboo during the
whole of the fishing season, which lasts for six or eight weeks.
Whenever he is on shore he must spend all his time in the men's
clubhouse, and under no pretext whatever may he visit his own house
or so much as look upon the faces of his wife and womenkind. Were he
but to steal a glance at them, they think that flying fish must
inevitably bore out his eyes at night. If his wife, mother, or
daughter brings any gift for him or wishes to talk with him, she
must stand down towards the shore with her back turned to the men's
clubhouse. Then the fisherman may go out and speak to her, or with
his back turned to her he may receive what she has brought him;
after which he must return at once to his rigorous confinement.
Indeed the fishermen may not even join in dance and song with the
other men of the clubhouse in the evening; they must keep to
themselves and be silent. In Mirzapur, when the seed of the silkworm
is brought into the house, the Kol or Bhuiyar puts it in a place
which has been carefully plastered with holy cowdung to bring good
luck. From that time the owner must be careful to avoid ceremonial
impurity. He must give up cohabitation with his wife; he may not
sleep on a bed, nor shave himself, nor cut his nails, nor anoint
himself with oil, nor eat food cooked with butter, nor tell lies,
nor do anything else that he deems wrong. He vows to Singarmati Devi
that, if the worms are duly born, he will make her an offering. When
the cocoons open and the worms appear, he assembles the women of the
house and they sing the same song as at the birth of a baby, and red
lead is smeared on the parting of the hair of all the married women
of the neighbourhood. When the worms pair, rejoicings are made as at
a marriage. Thus the silkworms are treated as far as possible like
human beings. Hence the custom which prohibits the commerce of the
sexes while the worms are hatching may be only an extension, by
analogy, of the rule which is observed by many races, that the
husband may not cohabit with his wife during pregnancy and

In the island of Nias the hunters sometimes dig pits, cover them
lightly over with twigs, grass, and leaves, and then drive the game
into them. While they are engaged in digging the pits, they have to
observe a number of taboos. They may not spit, or the game would
turn back in disgust from the pits. They may not laugh, or the sides
of the pit would fall in. They may eat no salt, prepare no fodder
for swine, and in the pit they may not scratch themselves, for if
they did, the earth would be loosened and would collapse. And the
night after digging the pit they may have no intercourse with a
woman, or all their labour would be in vain.

This practice of observing strict chastity as a condition of success
in hunting and fishing is very common among rude races; and the
instances of it which have been cited render it probable that the
rule is always based on a superstition rather than on a
consideration of the temporary weakness which a breach of the custom
may entail on the hunter or fisherman. In general it appears to be
supposed that the evil effect of incontinence is not so much that it
weakens him, as that, for some reason or other, it offends the
animals, who in consequence will not suffer themselves to be caught.
A Carrier Indian of British Columbia used to separate from his wife
for a full month before he set traps for bears, and during this time
he might not drink from the same vessel as his wife, but had to use
a special cup made of birch bark. The neglect of these precautions
would cause the game to escape after it had been snared. But when he
was about to snare martens, the period of continence was cut down to
ten days.

An examination of all the many cases in which the savage bridles his
passions and remains chaste from motives of superstition, would be
instructive, but I cannot attempt it now. I will only add a few
miscellaneous examples of the custom before passing to the
ceremonies of purification which are observed by the hunter and
fisherman after the chase and the fishing are over. The workers in
the salt-pans near Siphoum, in Laos, must abstain from all sexual
relations at the place where they are at work; and they may not
cover their heads nor shelter themselves under an umbrella from the
burning rays of the sun. Among the Kachins of Burma the ferment used
in making beer is prepared by two women, chosen by lot, who during
the three days that the process lasts may eat nothing acid and may
have no conjugal relations with their husbands; otherwise it is
supposed that the beer would be sour. Among the Masai honey-wine is
brewed by a man and a woman who live in a hut set apart for them
till the wine is ready for drinking. But they are strictly forbidden
to have sexual intercourse with each other during this time; it is
deemed essential that they should be chaste for two days before they
begin to brew and for the whole of the six days that the brewing
lasts. The Masai believe that were the couple to commit a breach of
chastity, not only would the wine be undrinkable but the bees which
made the honey would fly away. Similarly they require that a man who
is making poison should sleep alone and observe other taboos which
render him almost an outcast. The Wandorobbo, a tribe of the same
region as the Masai, believe that the mere presence of a woman in
the neighbourhood of a man who is brewing poison would deprive the
poison of its venom, and that the same thing would happen if the
wife of the poison-maker were to commit adultery while her husband
was brewing the poison. In this last case it is obvious that a
rationalistic explanation of the taboo is impossible. How could the
loss of virtue in the poison be a physical consequence of the loss
of virtue in the poison-maker's wife? Clearly the effect which the
wife's adultery is supposed to have on the poison is a case of
sympathetic magic; her misconduct sympathetically affects her
husband and his work at a distance. We may, accordingly, infer with
some confidence that the rule of continence imposed on the
poison-maker himself is also a simple case of sympathetic magic, and
not, as a civilised reader might be disposed to conjecture, a wise
precaution designed to prevent him from accidentally poisoning his

Among the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of South Africa, when the
site of a new village has been chosen and the houses are building,
all the married people are forbidden to have conjugal relations with
each other. If it were discovered that any couple had broken this
rule, the work of building would immediately be stopped, and another
site chosen for the village. For they think that a breach of
chastity would spoil the village which was growing up, that the
chief would grow lean and perhaps die, and that the guilty woman
would never bear another child. Among the Chams of Cochin-China,
when a dam is made or repaired on a river for the sake of
irrigation, the chief who offers the traditional sacrifices and
implores the protection of the deities on the work has to stay all
the time in a wretched hovel of straw, taking no part in the labour,
and observing the strictest continence; for the people believe that
a breach of his chastity would entail a breach of the dam. Here, it
is plain, there can be no idea of maintaining the mere bodily vigour
of the chief for the accomplishment of a task in which he does not
even bear a hand.

If the taboos or abstinences observed by hunters and fishermen
before and during the chase are dictated, as we have seen reason to
believe, by superstitious motives, and chiefly by a dread of
offending or frightening the spirits of the creatures whom it is
proposed to kill, we may expect that the restraints imposed after
the slaughter has been perpetrated will be at least as stringent,
the slayer and his friends having now the added fear of the angry
ghosts of his victims before their eyes. Whereas on the hypothesis
that the abstinences in question, including those from food, drink,
and sleep, are merely salutary precautions for maintaining the men
in health and strength to do their work, it is obvious that the
observance of these abstinences or taboos after the work is done,
that is, when the game is killed and the fish caught, must be wholly
superfluous, absurd, and inexplicable. But as I shall now show,
these taboos often continue to be enforced or even increased in
stringency after the death of the animals, in other words, after the
hunter or fisher has accomplished his object by making his bag or
landing his fish. The rationalistic theory of them therefore breaks
down entirely; the hypothesis of superstition is clearly the only
one open to us.

Among the Inuit or Esquimaux of Bering Strait "the dead bodies of
various animals must be treated very carefully by the hunter who
obtains them, so that their shades may not be offended and bring bad
luck or even death upon him or his people." Hence the Unalit hunter
who has had a hand in the killing of a white whale, or even has
helped to take one from the net, is not allowed to do any work for
the next four days, that being the time during which the shade or
ghost of the whale is supposed to stay with its body. At the same
time no one in the village may use any sharp or pointed instrument
for fear of wounding the whale's shade, which is believed to be
hovering invisible in the neighbourhood; and no loud noise may be
made lest it should frighten or offend the ghost. Whoever cuts a
whale's body with an iron axe will die. Indeed the use of all iron
instruments is forbidden in the village during these four days.

These same Esquimaux celebrate a great annual festival in December
when the bladders of all the seals, whales, walrus, and white bears
that have been killed in the year are taken into the assembly-house
of the village. They remain there for several days, and so long as
they do so the hunters avoid all intercourse with women, saying that
if they failed in that respect the shades of the dead animals would
be offended. Similarly among the Aleuts of Alaska the hunter who had
struck a whale with a charmed spear would not throw again, but
returned at once to his home and separated himself from his people
in a hut specially constructed for the purpose, where he stayed for
three days without food or drink, and without touching or looking
upon a woman. During this time of seclusion he snorted occasionally
in imitation of the wounded and dying whale, in order to prevent the
whale which he had struck from leaving the coast. On the fourth day
he emerged from his seclusion and bathed in the sea, shrieking in a
hoarse voice and beating the water with his hands. Then, taking with
him a companion, he repaired to that part of the shore where he
expected to find the whale stranded. If the beast was dead, he at
once cut out the place where the death-wound had been inflicted. If
the whale was not dead, he again returned to his home and continued
washing himself until the whale died. Here the hunter's imitation of
the wounded whale is probably intended by means of homoeopathic
magic to make the beast die in earnest. Once more the soul of the
grim polar bear is offended if the taboos which concern him are not
observed. His soul tarries for three days near the spot where it
left his body, and during these days the Esquimaux are particularly
careful to conform rigidly to the laws of taboo, because they
believe that punishment overtakes the transgressor who sins against
the soul of a bear far more speedily than him who sins against the
souls of the sea-beasts.

When the Kayans have shot one of the dreaded Bornean panthers, they
are very anxious about the safety of their souls, for they think
that the soul of a panther is almost more powerful than their own.
Hence they step eight times over the carcase of the dead beast
reciting the spell, "Panther, thy soul under my soul." On returning
home they smear themselves, their dogs, and their weapons with the
blood of fowls in order to calm their souls and hinder them from
fleeing away; for, being themselves fond of the flesh of fowls, they
ascribe the same taste to their souls. For eight days afterwards
they must bathe by day and by night before going out again to the
chase. Among the Hottentots, when a man has killed a lion, leopard,
elephant, or rhinoceros, he is esteemed a great hero, but he has to
remain at home quite idle for three days, during which his wife may
not come near him; she is also enjoined to restrict herself to a
poor diet and to eat no more than is barely necessary to keep her in
health. Similarly the Lapps deem it the height of glory to kill a
bear, which they consider the king of beasts. Nevertheless, all the
men who take part in the slaughter are regarded as unclean, and must
live by themselves for three days in a hut or tent made specially
for them, where they cut up and cook the bear's carcase. The
reindeer which brought in the carcase on a sledge may not be driven
by a woman for a whole year; indeed, according to one account, it
may not be used by anybody for that period. Before the men go into
the tent where they are to be secluded, they strip themselves of the
garments they had worn in killing the bear, and their wives spit the
red juice of alder bark in their faces. They enter the tent not by
the ordinary door but by an opening at the back. When the bear's
flesh has been cooked, a portion of it is sent by the hands of two
men to the women, who may not approach the men's tent while the
cooking is going on. The men who convey the flesh to the women
pretend to be strangers bringing presents from a foreign land; the
women keep up the pretence and promise to tie red threads round the
legs of the strangers. The bear's flesh may not be passed in to the
women through the door of their tent, but must be thrust in at a
special opening made by lifting up the hem of the tent-cover. When
the three days' seclusion is over and the men are at liberty to
return to their wives, they run, one after the other, round the
fire, holding the chain by which pots are suspended over it. This is
regarded as a form of purification; they may now leave the tent by
the ordinary door and rejoin the women. But the leader of the party
must still abstain from cohabitation with his wife for two days

Again, the Caffres are said to dread greatly the boa-constrictor or
an enormous serpent resembling it; "and being influenced by certain
superstitious notions they even fear to kill it. The man who
happened to put it to death, whether in self-defence or otherwise,
was formerly required to lie in a running stream of water during the
day for several weeks together; and no beast whatever was allowed to
be slaughtered at the hamlet to which he belonged, until this duty
had been fully performed. The body of the snake was then taken and
carefully buried in a trench, dug close to the cattle-fold, where
its remains, like those of a chief, were henceforward kept perfectly
undisturbed. The period of penance, as in the case of mourning for
the dead, is now happily reduced to a few days." In Madras it is
considered a great sin to kill a cobra. When this has happened, the
people generally burn the body of the serpent, just as they burn the
bodies of human beings. The murderer deems himself polluted for
three days. On the second day milk is poured on the remains of the
cobra. On the third day the guilty wretch is free from pollution.

In these last cases the animal whose slaughter has to be atoned for
is sacred, that is, it is one whose life is commonly spared from
motives of superstition. Yet the treatment of the sacrilegious
slayer seems to resemble so closely the treatment of hunters and
fishermen who have killed animals for food in the ordinary course of
business, that the ideas on which both sets of customs are based may
be assumed to be substantially the same. Those ideas, if I am right,
are the respect which the savage feels for the souls of beasts,
especially valuable or formidable beasts, and the dread which he
entertains of their vengeful ghosts. Some confirmation of this view
may be drawn from the ceremonies observed by fishermen of Annam when
the carcase of a whale is washed ashore. These fisherfolk, we are
told, worship the whale on account of the benefits they derive from
it. There is hardly a village on the sea-shore which has not its
small pagoda, containing the bones, more or less authentic, of a
whale. When a dead whale is washed ashore, the people accord it a
solemn burial. The man who first caught sight of it acts as chief
mourner, performing the rites which as chief mourner and heir he
would perform for a human kinsman. He puts on all the garb of woe,
the straw hat, the white robe with long sleeves turned inside out,
and the other paraphernalia of full mourning. As next of kin to the
deceased he presides over the funeral rites. Perfumes are burned,
sticks of incense kindled, leaves of gold and silver scattered,
crackers let off. When the flesh has been cut off and the oil
extracted, the remains of the carcase are buried in the sand. After
wards a shed is set up and offerings are made in it. Usually some
time after the burial the spirit of the dead whale takes possession
of some person in the village and declares by his mouth whether he
is a male or a female.

XXI. Tabooed Things

1. The Meaning of Taboo

THUS in primitive society the rules of ceremonial purity observed by
divine kings, chiefs, and priests agree in many respects with the
rules observed by homicides, mourners, women in childbed, girls at
puberty, hunters and fishermen, and so on. To us these various
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 ghostly, and therefore 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. 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.

To the illustrations of these general principles which have been
already given I shall now add some more, drawing my examples, first,
from the class of tabooed things, and, second, from the class of
tabooed words; for in the opinion of the savage both things and
words may, like persons, be charged or electrified, either
temporarily or permanently, with the mysterious virtue of taboo, and
may therefore require to be banished for a longer or shorter time
from the familiar usage of common life. And the examples will be
chosen with special reference to those sacred chiefs, kings and
priests, who, more than anybody else, live fenced about by taboo as
by a wall. Tabooed things will be illustrated in the present
chapter, and tabooed words in the next.

2. Iron tabooed

IN THE FIRST place we may observe that the awful sanctity of kings
naturally leads to a prohibition to touch their sacred persons. Thus
it was unlawful to lay hands on the person of a Spartan king: no one
might touch the body of the king or queen of Tahiti: it is forbidden
to touch the person of the king of Siam under pain of death; 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. Formerly no one might touch the king
of Corea; and if he deigned to touch a subject, the spot touched
became sacred, and the person thus honoured had to wear a visible
mark (generally a cord of red silk) for the rest of his life. Above
all, no iron might 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 pranks made the
king laugh heartily, and so the abscess burst. Roman and Sabine
priests might not be shaved with iron but only with bronze razors or
shears; 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 must be offered, which was repeated when the graving-tool
was removed from the grove. As a general rule iron might not be
brought into Greek sanctuaries. In Crete sacrifices were offered to
Menedemus without the use of iron, because the legend ran that
Menedemus had been killed by an iron weapon in the Trojan war. The
Archon of Plataea might not touch iron; but once a year, at the
annual commemoration of the men who fell at the battle of Plataea,
he was allowed to carry a sword wherewith to sacrifice a bull. 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. Among the Ovambo of South-west Africa custom requires that lads
should be circumcised with a sharp flint; if none is to hand, the
operation may be performed with iron, but the iron must afterwards
be buried. Amongst the Moquis of Arizona stone knives, hatchets, and
so on have passed out of common use, but are retained in religious
ceremonies. After the Pawnees had ceased to use stone arrow-heads
for ordinary purposes, they still employed them to slay the
sacrifices, whether human captives or buffalo and deer. Amongst the
Jews no iron tool was used in building the Temple at Jerusalem or in
making an altar. 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. It was expressly provided by law
that the temple of Jupiter Liber at Furfo might be repaired with
iron tools. 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.

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 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." The unusually
heavy rains which happened to follow the English survey of the
Nicobar Islands in the winter of 1886-1887 were imputed by the
alarmed natives to the wrath of the spirits at the theodolites,
dumpy-levellers, and other strange instruments which had been set up
in so many of their favourite haunts; and some of them proposed to
soothe the anger of the spirits by sacrificing a pig. In the
seventeenth century a succession of bad seasons excited a revolt
among the Esthonian peasantry, who traced the origin of the evil to
a watermill, which put a stream to some inconvenience by checking
its flow. 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. To this day the primitive
Baduwis of Java, who live chiefly by husbandry, will use no iron
tools in tilling their fields.

The general dislike of innovation, which always makes itself
strongly felt in the sphere of religion, is sufficient by itself to
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. Their antipathy to
the metal 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 often it is so used. Thus in the Highlands of Scotland the great
safeguard against the elfin race is iron, or, better yet, steel. The
metal in any form, whether as a sword, a knife, a gun-barrel, or
what not, is all-powerful for this purpose. Whenever you enter a
fairy dwelling you should always remember to stick a piece of steel,
such as a knife, a needle, or a fish-hook, in the door; for then the
elves will not be able to shut the door till you come out again. So,
too, when you have shot a deer and are bringing it home at night, be
sure to thrust a knife into the carcase, for that keeps the fairies
from laying their weight on it. A knife or nail in your pocket is
quite enough to prevent the fairies from lifting you up at night.
Nails in the front of a bed ward off elves from women "in the straw"
and from their babes; but to make quite sure it is better to put the
smoothing-iron under the bed, and the reaping-hook in the window. If
a bull has fallen over a rock and been killed, a nail stuck into it
will preserve the flesh from the fairies. Music discoursed on a
Jew's harp keeps the elfin women away from the hunter, because the
tongue of the instrument is of steel. 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. The Singhalese believe
that they are constantly surrounded by evil spirits, who lie in wait
to do them harm. A peasant would not dare to carry good food, such
as cakes or roast meat, from one place to another without putting an
iron nail on it to prevent a demon from taking possession of the
viands and so making the eater ill. No sick person, whether man or
woman, would venture out of the house without a bunch of keys or a
knife in his hand, for without such a talisman he would fear that
some devil might take advantage of his weak state to slip into his
body. And if a man has a large sore on his body he tries to keep a
morsel of iron on it as a protection against demons. On the Slave
Coast when a mother sees her child gradually wasting away, she
concludes that a demon has entered into the child, and takes her
measures accordingly. To lure the demon out of the body of her
offspring, she offers a sacrifice of food; and while the devil is
bolting it, she attaches iron rings and small bells to her child's
ankles and hangs iron chains round his neck. The jingling of the
iron and the tinkling of the bells are supposed to prevent the
demon, when he has concluded his repast, from entering again into
the body of the little sufferer. Hence many children may be seen in
this part of Africa weighed down with iron ornaments.

3. Sharp Weapons tabooed

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. 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 among the Esquimaux of Bering
Strait "during the day on which a person dies in the village no one
is permitted to work, and the relatives must perform no labour
during the three following days. It is especially forbidden during
this period to cut with any edged instrument, such as a knife or an
axe; and the use of pointed instruments, like needles or bodkins, is
also forbidden. This is said to be done to avoid cutting or injuring
the shade, which may be present at any time during this period, and,
if accidentally injured by any of these things, it would become very
angry and bring sickness or death to the people. The relatives must
also be very careful at this time not to make any loud or harsh
noises that may startle or anger the shade." We have seen that in
like manner after killing a white whale these Esquimaux abstain from
the use of cutting or pointed instruments for four days, lest they
should unwittingly cut or stab the whale's ghost. The same taboo is
sometimes observed by them when there is a sick person in the
village, probably from a fear of injuring his shade which may be
hovering outside of his body. After a death the Roumanians of
Transylvania are careful not to leave a knife lying with the sharp
edge uppermost so long as the corpse remains in the house, "or else
the soul will be forced to ride on the blade." For seven days 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. 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." 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, 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

4. Blood tabooed

WE have seen that the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to touch or even
name raw flesh. At certain times a Brahman teacher is enjoined not
to look on raw flesh, blood, or persons whose hands have been cut
off. In Uganda the father of twins is in a state of taboo for some
time after birth; among other rules he is forbidden to kill anything
or to see blood. 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 betel 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. 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 of a general precept; in other words, its
observance is particularly enjoined in circumstances which seem
urgently to call for its application, but apart from such
circumstances the prohibition is also observed, though less
strictly, as a common 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 tasted the blood.
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." 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

It is a common rule that royal blood may 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 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." 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." "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."

The reluctance to spill royal blood seems to be only a particular
case of a general unwillingness to shed blood or at least to allow
it to fall on the ground. Marco Polo tells us that in his day
persons caught in the streets of Cambaluc (Peking) at unseasonable
hours were arrested, and if found guilty of a misdemeanor 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." In West Sussex
people believe that the ground on which human blood has been shed is
accursed and will remain barren for ever. Among some primitive
peoples, when the blood of a tribesman has to be spilt 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; and when a boy's tooth 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. "Also the
Gauls used to drink their enemies' blood and paint themselves
therewith. So also they write that the old Irish were wont; and so
have I seen some of the Irish do, but not their enemies' but
friends' blood, as, namely, at the execution of a notable traitor at
Limerick, called Murrogh O'Brien, I saw an old woman, which was his
foster-mother, take up his head whilst he was quartered and suck up
all the blood that ran thereout, saying that the earth was not
worthy to drink it, and therewith also steeped her face and breast
and tore her hair, crying out and shrieking most terribly." Among
the Latuka of Central Africa the earth on which a drop of blood has
fallen at childbirth is carefully scraped up with an iron shovel,
put into a pot along with the water used in washing the mother, and
buried tolerably deep outside the house on the left-hand side. In
West Africa, if a drop of your blood has fallen on the ground, you
must carefully cover it up, rub and stamp it into the soil; if it
has fallen on the side of a canoe or a tree, the place is cut out
and the chip destroyed. One motive of these African customs may be a
wish to prevent the blood from falling into the hands of magicians,
who might make an evil use of it. That is admittedly the reason why
people in West Africa stamp out any blood of theirs which has
dropped on the ground or cut out any wood that has been soaked with
it. From a like dread of sorcery natives of New Guinea are careful
to burn any sticks, leaves, or rags which are stained with their
blood; and if the blood has dripped on the ground they turn up the
soil and if possible light a fire on the spot. The same fear
explains the curious duties discharged by a class of men called
_ramanga_ or "blue blood" among the Betsileo of Madagascar. It is
their business to eat all the nail-parings and to lick up all the
spilt blood of the nobles. When the nobles pare their nails, the
parings are collected to the last scrap and swallowed by these
_ramanga._ If the parings are too large, they are minced small and
so gulped down. Again, should a nobleman wound himself, say in
cutting his nails or treading on something, the _ramanga_ lick up
the blood as fast as possible. Nobles of high rank hardly go
anywhere without these humble attendants; but if it should happen
that there are none of them present, the cut nails and the spilt
blood are carefully collected to be afterwards swallowed by the
_ramanga._ There is scarcely a nobleman of any pretensions who does
not strictly observe this custom, the intention of which probably is
to prevent these parts of his person from falling into the hands of
sorcerers, who on the principles of contagious magic could work him
harm thereby.

The general 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. 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.

5. The Head tabooed

MANY peoples regard the head as peculiarly sacred; the special
sanctity attributed to it is sometimes explained by a belief that it
contains a spirit which is very sensitive to injury or disrespect.
Thus the Yorubas hold that every man has three spiritual inmates, of
whom the first, called Olori, dwells in the head and is the man's
protector, guardian, and guide. Offerings are made to this spirit,
chiefly of fowls, and some of the blood mixed with palmoil is rubbed
on the forehead. 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._" The
Siamese think that a spirit called _khuan_ or _kwun_ dwells in the
human head, of which it is the 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
_kwun_ 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. 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. 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."

The same superstition as to the head is found in full force
throughout Polynesia. Thus of Gattanewa, a Marquesan chief, it is
said that "to touch the top of his head, or anything which had been
on his head, was sacrilege. To pass over his head was an indignity
never to be forgotten." The son of a Marquesan high priest has been
seen to roll on the ground in an agony of rage and despair, begging
for death, because some one had desecrated his head and deprived him
of his divinity by sprinkling a few drops of water on his hair. 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; women were forbidden to carry or touch
anything that had been in contact with, or had merely hung over, the
head of their husband or father. No one was allowed to be over the
head of the king of Tonga. In Tahiti any one who stood over the king
or queen, or passed his hand over their heads, might be put to
death. Until certain rites were performed over it, a Tahitian infant
was 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. So sacred was the head of a Maori chief
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." On account of the sacredness of his
head a Maori 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, such as cooking, and so cause his

6. Hair tabooed

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 connexion which exists between himself
and every part of his body continues to exist even after the
physical connexion has been broken, and that therefore he will
suffer from any harm that may befall the several 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 peril is
not to cut the hair at all; and this is the expedient adopted where
the risk is thought to be more than usually great. The Frankish
kings were never allowed to crop their hair; from their childhood
upwards they had to keep it unshorn. To poll the long locks that
floated on their shoulders would have been to renounce their right
to the throne. When the wicked brothers Clotaire and Childebert
coveted the kingdom of their dead brother Clodomir, they inveigled
into their power their little nephews, the two sons of Clodomir; and
having done so, they sent a messenger bearing scissors and a naked
sword to the children's grandmother, Queen Clotilde, at Paris. The
envoy showed the scissors and the sword to Clotilde, and bade her
choose whether the children should be shorn and live or remain
unshorn and die. The proud queen replied that if her grandchildren
were not to come to the throne she would rather see them dead than
shorn. And murdered they were by their ruthless uncle Clotaire with
his own hand. The king of Ponape, one of the Caroline Islands, must
wear his hair long, and so must his grandees. Among the Hos, a negro
tribe of West Africa, "there are priests on whose head no razor may
come during the whole of their lives. The god who dwells in the man
forbids the cutting of his hair on pain of death. If the hair is at
last too long, the owner must pray to his god to allow him at least
to clip the tips of it. The hair is in fact conceived as the seat
and lodging-place of his god, so that were it shorn the god would
lose his abode in the priest." The members of a Masai clan, who are
believed to possess the art of making rain, may not pluck out their
beards, because the loss of their beards would, it is supposed,
entail the loss of their rain-making powers. The head chief and the
sorcerers of the Masai observe the same rule for a like reason: they
think that were they to pull out their beards, their supernatural
gifts would desert them.

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." A similar custom was
sometimes observed by the ancient Germans; among the Chatti the
young warriors never clipped their hair or their beard till they had
slain an enemy. Among the Toradjas, when a child's hair is cut to
rid it of vermin, some locks are allowed to remain on the crown of
the head as a refuge for one of the child's souls. Otherwise the
soul would have no place in which to settle, and the child would
sicken. The Karo-Bataks are much afraid of frightening away the soul
of a child; hence when they cut its hair, they always leave a patch
unshorn, to which the soul can retreat before the shears. Usually
this lock remains unshorn all through life, or at least up till

7. Ceremonies at Hair-cutting

BUT when it becomes necessary to crop the hair, measures are taken
to lessen the dangers which are supposed to attend the operation.
The chief of Namosi in Fiji always ate a man by way of precaution
when he had had his hair cut. "There was a certain clan that had to
provide the victim, and they used to sit in solemn council among
themselves to choose him. It was a sacrificial feast to avert evil
from the chief." 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. "He who has had his hair cut is in immediate charge of the
Atua (spirit); he is removed from the contact and society of 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." 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.

8. Disposal of Cut Hair and Nails

BUT even when the hair and nails have been safely cut, there remains
the difficulty of disposing of them, for their owner believes
himself liable to suffer from any harm that may befall them. The
notion that a man may be bewitched by means of the clippings of his
hair, the parings of his nails, or any other severed portion of his
person is almost world-wide, and attested by evidence too ample, too
familiar, and too tedious in its uniformity to be here analysed at
length. The general idea on which the superstition rests is that of
the sympathetic connexion supposed to persist between a person and
everything that has once been part of his body or in any way closely
related to him. A very few examples must suffice. They belong to
that branch of sympathetic magic which may be called contagious.
Dread of sorcery, we are told, formed one of the most salient
characteristics of the Marquesan islanders in the old days. The
sorcerer took some of the hair, spittle, or other bodily refuse of
the man he wished to injure, wrapped it up in a leaf, and placed the
packet in a bag woven of threads or fibres, which were knotted in an
intricate way. The whole was then buried with certain rites, and
thereupon the victim wasted away of a languishing sickness which
lasted twenty days. His life, however, might be saved by discovering
and digging up the buried hair, spittle, or what not; for as soon as
this was done the power of the charm ceased. A Maori sorcerer intent
on bewitching somebody sought to get a tress of his victim's hair,
the parings of his nails, some of his spittle, or a shred of his
garment. Having obtained the object, whatever it was, he chanted
certain spells and curses over it in a falsetto voice and buried it
in the ground. As the thing decayed, the person to whom it had
belonged was supposed to waste away. 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 the wife is dead. The way in which the
charm operates was explained to Dr. Howitt by a Wirajuri 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

The Huzuls of the Carpathians imagine that if mice get a person's
shorn hair and make a nest of it, the person will suffer from
headache or even become idiotic. Similarly in Germany it is a common
notion that if birds find a person's cut hair, and build their nests
with it, the person will suffer from headache; sometimes it is
thought that he will have an eruption on the head. The same
superstition prevails, or used to prevail, in West Sussex.

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 Tyrol, witches are supposed to
use cut or combed-out hair to make hailstones or thunderstorms with.
Thlinkeet Indians have been known to attribute stormy weather to the
rash act of a girl who had combed her hair outside of the house. 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, that is, when the mischief was already done. In the Highlands
of Scotland it is said that no sister should comb her hair at night
if she have a brother at sea. 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 the Anzikos begged the missionaries to give him half their beards
as a rain-charm.

If cut hair and nails remain in sympathetic connexion with the
person from whose body they have been severed, it is clear that they
can be used as hostages for his good behaviour by any one who may
chance to possess them; for on the principles of contagious magic he
has only to injure the hair or nails in order to hurt simultaneously
their original owner. Hence when the Nandi have taken a prisoner
they shave his head and keep the shorn hair as a surety that he will
not attempt to escape; but when the captive is ransomed, they return
his shorn hair with him to his own people.

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. The shorn locks of a
Maori chief were gathered with much care and placed in an adjoining
cemetery. The Tahitians buried the cuttings of their hair at the
temples. In the streets of Soku a modern traveller observed cairns
of large stones piled against walls with tufts of human hair
inserted in the crevices. On asking the meaning of this, he was told
that when any native of the place polled his hair he carefully
gathered up the clippings and deposited them in one of these cairns,
all of which were sacred to the fetish and therefore inviolable.
These cairns of sacred stones, he further learned, were simply a
precaution against witchcraft, for if a man were not thus careful in
disposing of his hair, some of it might fall into the hands of his
enemies, who would, by means of it, be able to cast spells over him
and so compass his destruction. When the top-knot of a Siamese child
has been cut with great ceremony, the short hairs are put into a
little vessel made of plantain leaves and set adrift on the nearest
river or canal. As they float away, all that was wrong or harmful in
the child's disposition is believed to depart with them. The long
hairs are kept till the child makes a pilgrimage to the holy
Footprint of Buddha on the sacred hill at Prabat. They are then
presented to the priests, who are supposed to make them into brushes
with which they sweep the Footprint; but in fact so much hair is
thus offered every year that the priests cannot use it all, so they
quietly burn the superfluity as soon as the pilgrims' backs are
turned. The cut hair and nails of the Flamen Dialis were buried
under a lucky tree. The shorn tresses of the Vestal Virgins were
hung on an ancient lotus-tree.

Often the clipped hair and nails are stowed away in any secret
place, not necessarily in a temple or cemetery or at a tree, as in
the cases already mentioned. Thus in Swabia you are recommended to
deposit your clipped hair in some spot where neither sun nor moon
can shine on it, for example in the earth or under a stone. In
Danzig it is buried in a bag under the threshold. 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. The same fear seems to be general in
Melanesia, and has led to a regular practice of hiding cut hair and
nails. The same practice prevails among many tribes of South Africa,
from a fear lest wizards should get hold of the severed particles
and work evil with them. The Caffres 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
secret spot, but when one of them cleans the head of another he
preserves the vermin which he catches, "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."

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 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 resurrection), '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.'"
Similarly the Turks never throw away the parings of their nails, but
carefully stow them in cracks of the walls or of the boards, in the
belief that they will be needed at the resurrection. The Armenians
do not throw away their cut hair and nails and extracted teeth, but
hide them in places that are esteemed holy, such as a crack in the
church wall, a pillar of the house, or a hollow tree. They think
that all these severed portions of themselves will be wanted at the
resurrection, and that he who has not stowed them away in a safe
place will have to hunt about for them on the great day. In the
village of Drumconrath in Ireland there used to be some old women
who, having ascertained from Scripture that the hairs of their heads
were all numbered by the Almighty, expected to have to account for
them at the day of judgment. In order to be able to do so they
stuffed the severed hair away in the thatch of their cottages.

Some people burn their loose hair to save it from falling into the
hands of sorcerers. This is done by the Patagonians and some of the
Victorian tribes. In the Upper Vosges they say that you should never
leave the clippings of your hair and nails lying about, but burn
them to hinder the sorcerers from using them against you. For the
same reason Italian women either burn their loose hairs or throw
them into a place where no one is likely to look for them. The
almost universal dread of witchcraft induces the West African
negroes, the Makololo of South Africa, and the Tahitians to burn or
bury their shorn hair. In the Tyrol many people burn their hair lest
the witches should use it to raise thunderstorms; others burn or
bury it to prevent the birds from lining their nests with it, which
would cause the heads from which the hair came to ache.

This destruction of the hair and 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 connexion between them and the man from
whom they were severed. And if this sympathetic connexion still
exists, clearly these severed portions cannot be destroyed without
injury to the man.

9. Spittle tabooed

THE SAME fear of witchcraft which has led so many people to hide or
destroy their loose hair and nails has induced other or the same
people to treat their spittle in a like fashion. For on the
principles of sympathetic magic the spittle is part of the man, and
whatever is done to it will have a corresponding effect on him. A
Chilote Indian, who has gathered up the spittle of an enemy, will
put it in a potato, and hang the potato in the smoke, uttering
certain spells as he does so in the belief that his foe will waste
away as the potato dries in the smoke. Or he will put the spittle in
a frog and throw the animal into an inaccessible, unnavigable river,
which will make the victim quake and shake with ague. The natives of
Urewera, a district of New Zealand, enjoyed a high reputation for
their skill in magic. It was said that they made use of people's
spittle to bewitch them. Hence visitors were careful to conceal
their spittle, lest they should furnish these wizards with a handle
for working them harm. Similarly among some tribes of South Africa
no man will spit when an enemy is near, lest his foe should find the
spittle and give it to a wizard, who would then mix it with magical
ingredients so as to injure the person from whom it fell. Even in a
man's own house his saliva is carefully swept away and obliterated
for a similar reason.

If common folk are thus cautious, it is natural that kings and
chiefs should be doubly so. In the Sandwich Islands chiefs were
attended by a confidential servant bearing a portable spittoon, and
the deposit was carefully buried every morning to put it out of the
reach of sorcerers. On the Slave Coast, for the same reason,
whenever a king or chief expectorates, the saliva is scrupulously
gathered up and hidden or buried. The same precautions are taken for
the same reason with the spittle of the chief of Tabali in Southern

The magical use to which spittle may be put marks it out, like blood
or nail-parings, as a suitable material basis for a covenant, since
by exchanging their saliva the covenanting parties give each other a
guarantee of good faith. If either of them afterwards foreswears
himself, the other can punish his perfidy by a magical treatment of
the purjurer's spittle which he has in his custody. Thus when the
Wajagga of East Africa desire to make a covenant, the two parties
will sometimes sit down with a bowl of milk or beer between them,
and after uttering an incantation over the beverage they each take a
mouthful of the milk or beer and spit it into the other's mouth. In
urgent cases, when there is no time to spend on ceremony, the two
will simply spit into each other's mouth, which seals the covenant
just as well.

10. Foods tabooed

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, which for one
reason or another he fancies 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 Egyptian
kings was restricted to veal and goose. In antiquity many priests
and many kings of barbarous peoples abstained wholly from a flesh
diet. 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. The heir to the throne of 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. 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. The head chief of the Masai may eat nothing but milk,
honey, and the roasted livers of goats; for if he partook of any
other food he would lose his power of soothsaying and of compounding

11. Knots and Rings tabooed

WE have seen that among the many taboos which the Flamen Dialis at
Rome had to observe, there was one that forbade him to have a knot
on any part of his garments, and another that obliged him to wear no
ring unless it were broken. In like manner Moslem pilgrims to Mecca
are in a state of sanctity or taboo and may wear on their persons
neither knots nor rings. These rules are probably of kindred
significance, and may conveniently be considered together. To begin
with knots, many people in different parts of the world entertain a
strong objection to having any knot about their person at certain
critical seasons, particularly childbirth, marriage, and death. Thus
among the Saxons of Transylvania, when a woman is in travail all
knots on her garments are untied, because it is believed that this
will facilitate her delivery, and with the same intention all the
locks in the house, whether on doors or boxes, are unlocked. The
Lapps think that a lying-in woman should have no knot on her
garments, because a knot would have the effect of making the
delivery difficult and painful. In the East Indies this superstition
is extended to the whole time of pregnancy; the people believe that
if a pregnant woman were to tie knots, or braid, or make anything
fast, the child would thereby be constricted or the woman would
herself be "tied up" when her time came. Nay, some of them enforce
the observance of the rule on the father as well as the mother of
the unborn child. Among the Sea Dyaks neither of the parents may
bind up anything with a string or make anything fast during the
wife's pregnancy. In the Toumbuluh tribe of North Celebes a ceremony
is performed in the fourth or fifth month of a woman's pregnancy,
and after it her husband is forbidden, among many other things, to
tie any fast knots and to sit with his legs crossed over each other.

In all these cases the idea seems to be that the tying of a knot
would, as they say in the East Indies, "tie up" the woman, in other
words, impede and perhaps prevent her delivery, or delay her
convalescence after the birth. On the principles of homoeopathic or
imitative magic the physical obstacle or impediment of a knot on a
cord would create a corresponding obstacle or impediment in the body
of the woman. That this is really the explanation of the rule
appears from a custom observed by the Hos of West Africa at a
difficult birth. When a woman is in hard labour and cannot bring
forth, they call in a magician to her aid. He looks at her and says,
"The child is bound in the womb, that is why she cannot be
delivered." On the entreaties of her female relations he then
promises to loosen the bond so that she may bring forth. For that
purpose he orders them to fetch a tough creeper from the forest, and
with it he binds the hands and feet of the sufferer on her back.
Then he takes a knife and calls out the woman's name, and when she
answers he cuts through the creeper with a knife, saying, "I cut
through to-day thy bonds and thy child's bonds." After that he chops
up the creeper small, puts the bits in a vessel of water, and bathes
the woman with the water. Here the cutting of the creeper with which
the woman's hands and feet are bound is a simple piece of
homoeopathic or imitative magic: by releasing her limbs from their
bonds the magician imagines that he simultaneously releases the
child in her womb from the trammels which impede its birth. The same
train of thought underlies a practice observed by some peoples of
opening all locks, doors, and so on, while a birth is taking place
in the house. We have seen that at such a time the Germans of
Transylvania open all the locks, and the same thing is done also in
Voigtland and Mecklenburg. In North-western Argyllshire
superstitious people used to open every lock in the house at
childbirth. In the island of Salsette near Bombay, when a woman is
in hard labour, all locks of doors or drawers are opened with a key
to facilitate her delivery. Among the Mandelings of Sumatra the lids
of all chests, boxes, pans, and so forth are opened; and if this
does not produce the desired effect, the anxious husband has to
strike the projecting ends of some of the house-beams in order to
loosen them; for they think that "everything must be open and loose
to facilitate the delivery." In Chittagong, when a woman cannot
bring her child to the birth, the midwife gives orders to throw all
doors and windows wide open, to uncork all bottles, to remove the
bungs from all casks, to unloose the cows in the stall, the horses
in the stable, the watchdog in his kennel, to set free sheep, fowls,
ducks, and so forth. This universal liberty accorded to the animals
and even to inanimate things is, according to the people, an
infallible means of ensuring the woman's delivery and allowing the
babe to be born. In the island of Saghalien, when a woman is in
labour, her husband undoes everything that can be undone. He loosens
the plaits of his hair and the laces of his shoes. Then he unties
whatever is tied in the house or its vicinity. In the courtyard he
takes the axe out of the log in which it is stuck; he unfastens the
boat, if it is moored to a tree, he withdraws the cartridges from
his gun, and the arrows from his crossbow.

Again, we have seen that a Toumbuluh man abstains not only from
tying knots, but also from sitting with crossed legs during his
wife's pregnancy. The train of thought is the same in both cases.
Whether you cross threads in tying a knot, or only cross your legs
in sitting at your ease, you are equally, on the principles of
homoeopathic magic, crossing or thwarting the free course of things,
and your action cannot but check and impede whatever may be going
forward in your neighbourhood. Of this important truth the Romans
were fully aware. To sit beside a pregnant woman or a patient under
medical treatment with clasped hands, says the grave Pliny, is to
cast a malignant spell over the person, and it is worse still if you
nurse your leg or legs with your clasped hands, or lay one leg over
the other. Such postures were regarded by the old Romans as a let
and hindrance to business of every sort, and at a council of war or
a meeting of magistrates, at prayers and sacrifices, no man was
suffered to cross his legs or clasp his hands. The stock instance of
the dreadful consequences that might flow from doing one or the
other was that of Alcmena, who travailed with Hercules for seven
days and seven nights, because the goddess Lucina sat in front of
the house with clasped hands and crossed legs, and the child could
not be born until the goddess had been beguiled into changing her
attitude. It is a Bulgarian superstition that if a pregnant woman is
in the habit of sitting with crossed legs, she will suffer much in
childbed. In some parts of Bavaria, when conversation comes to a
standstill and silence ensues, they say, "Surely somebody has
crossed his legs."

The magical effect of knots in trammelling and obstructing human
activity was believed to be manifested at marriage not less than at
birth. During the Middle Ages, and down to the eighteenth century,
it seems to have been commonly held in Europe that the consummation
of marriage could be prevented by any one who, while the wedding
ceremony was taking place, either locked a lock or tied a knot in a
cord, and then threw the lock or the cord away. The lock or the
knotted cord had to be flung into water; and until it had been found
and unlocked, or untied, no real union of the married pair was
possible. Hence it was a grave offence, not only to cast such a
spell, but also to steal or make away with the material instrument
of it, whether lock or knotted cord. In the year 1718 the parliament
of Bordeaux sentenced some one to be burned alive for having spread
desolation through a whole family by means of knotted cords; and in
1705 two persons were condemned to death in Scotland for stealing
certain charmed knots which a woman had made, in order thereby to
mar the wedded happiness of Spalding of Ashintilly. The belief in
the efficacy of these charms appears to have lingered in the
Highlands of Pertshire down to the end of the eighteenth century,
for at that time it was still customary in the beautiful parish of
Logierait, between the river Tummel and the river Tay, to unloose
carefully every knot in the clothes of the bride and bridegroom
before the celebration of the marriage ceremony. We meet with the
same superstition and the same custom at the present day in Syria.
The persons who help a Syrian bridegroom to don his wedding garments
take care that no knot is tied on them and no button buttoned, for
they believe that a button buttoned or a knot tied would put it
within the power of his enemies to deprive him of his nuptial rights
by magical means. The fear of such charms is diffused all over North
Africa at the present day. To render a bridegroom impotent the
enchanter has only to tie a knot in a handkerchief which he had
previously placed quietly on some part of the bridegroom's body when
he was mounted on horseback ready to fetch his bride: so long as the
knot in the handkerchief remains tied, so long will the bridegroom
remain powerless to consummate the marriage.

The maleficent power of knots may also be manifested in the
infliction of sickness, disease, and all kinds of misfortune. Thus
among the Hos of West Africa a sorcerer will sometimes curse his
enemy and tie a knot in a stalk of grass, saying, "I have tied up
So-and-so in this knot. May all evil light upon him! When he goes
into the field, may a snake sting him! When he goes to the chase,
may a ravening beast attack him! And when he steps into a river, may
the water sweep him away! When it rains, may the lightning strike
him! May evil nights be his!" It is believed that in the knot the
sorcerer has bound up the life of his enemy. In the Koran there is
an allusion to the mischief of "those who puff into the knots," and
an Arab commentator on the passage explains that the words refer to
women who practise magic by tying knots in cords, and then blowing
and spitting upon them. He goes on to relate how, once upon a time,
a wicked Jew bewitched the prophet Mohammed himself by tying nine
knots on a string, which he then hid in a well. So the prophet fell
ill, and nobody knows what might have happened if the archangel
Gabriel had not opportunely revealed to the holy man the place where
the knotted cord was concealed. The trusty Ali soon fetched the
baleful thing from the well; and the prophet recited over it certain
charms, which were specially revealed to him for the purpose. At
every verse of the charms a knot untied itself, and the prophet
experienced a certain relief.

If knots are supposed to kill, they are also supposed to cure. This
follows from the belief that to undo the knots which are causing
sickness will bring the sufferer relief. But apart from this
negative virtue of maleficent knots, there are certain beneficent
knots to which a positive power of healing is ascribed. Pliny tells
us that some folk cured diseases of the groin by taking a thread
from a web, tying seven or nine knots on it, and then fastening it
to the patient's groin; but to make the cure effectual it was
necessary to name some widow as each knot was tied. O'Donovan
describes a remedy for fever employed among the Turcomans. The
enchanter takes some camel hair and spins it into a stout thread,
droning a spell the while. Next he ties seven knots on the thread,
blowing on each knot before he pulls it tight. This knotted thread
is then worn as a bracelet on his wrist by the patient. Every day
one of the knots is untied and blown upon, and when the seventh knot
is undone the whole thread is rolled up into a ball and thrown into
a river, bearing away (as they imagine) the fever with it.

Again knots may be used by an enchantress to win a lover and attach
him firmly to herself. Thus the love-sick maid in Virgil seeks to
draw Daphnis to her from the city by spells and by tying three knots
on each of three strings of different colours. So an Arab maiden,
who had lost her heart to a certain man, tried to gain his love and
bind him to herself by tying knots in his whip; but her jealous
rival undid the knots. On the same principle magic knots may be
employed to stop a runaway. In Swazieland you may often see grass
tied in knots at the side of the footpaths. Every one of these knots
tells of a domestic tragedy. A wife has run away from her husband,
and he and his friends have gone in pursuit, binding up the paths,
as they call it, in this fashion to prevent the fugitive from
doubling back over them. A net, from its affluence of knots, has
always been considered in Russia very efficacious against sorcerers;
hence in some places, when a bride is being dressed in her wedding
attire, a fishing-net is flung over her to keep her out of harm's
way. For a similar purpose the bridegroom and his companions are
often girt with pieces of net, or at least with tight-drawn girdles,
for before a wizard can begin to injure them he must undo all the
knots in the net, or take off the girdles. But often a Russian
amulet is merely a knotted thread. A skein of red wool wound about
the arms and legs is thought to ward off agues and fevers; and nine
skeins, fastened round a child's neck, are deemed a preservative
against scarlatina. In the Tver Government a bag of a special kind
is tied to the neck of the cow which walks before the rest of a
herd, in order to keep off wolves; its force binds the maw of the
ravening beast. On the same principle, a padlock is carried thrice
round a herd of horses before they go afield in the spring, and the
bearer locks and unlocks it as he goes, saying, "I lock from my herd
the mouths of the grey wolves with this steel lock."

Knots and locks may serve to avert not only wizards and wolves but
death itself. When they brought a woman to the stake at St. Andrews
in 1572 to burn her alive for a witch, they found on her a white
cloth like a collar, with strings and many knots on the strings.
They took it from her, sorely against her will, for she seemed to
think that she could not die in the fire, if only the cloth with the
knotted strings was on her. When it was taken away, she said, "Now I
have no hope of myself." In many parts of England it is thought that
a person cannot die so long as any locks are locked or bolts shot in
the house. It is therefore a very common practice to undo all locks
and bolts when the sufferer is plainly near his end, in order that
his agony may not be unduly prolonged. For example, in the year
1863, at Taunton, a child lay sick of scarlatina and death seemed
inevitable. "A jury of matrons was, as it were, empanelled, and to
prevent the child 'dying hard' all the doors in the house, all the
drawers, all the boxes, all the cupboards were thrown wide open, the
keys taken out, and the body of the child placed under a beam,
whereby a sure, certain, and easy passage into eternity could be
secured." Strange to say, the child declined to avail itself of the
facilities for dying so obligingly placed at its disposal by the
sagacity and experience of the British matrons of Taunton; it
preferred to live rather than give up the ghost just then.

The rule which prescribes that at certain magical and religious
ceremonies the hair should hang loose and the feet should be bare is
probably based on the same fear of trammelling and impeding the
action in hand, whatever it may be, by the presence of any knot or
constriction, whether on the head or on the feet of the performer. A
similar power to bind and hamper spiritual as well as bodily
activities is ascribed by some people to rings. Thus in the island
of Carpathus people never button the clothes they put upon a dead
body and they are careful to remove all rings from it; "for the
spirit, they say, can even be detained in the little finger, and
cannot rest." Here it is plain that even if the soul is not
definitely supposed to issue at death from the finger-tips, yet the
ring is conceived to exercise a certain constrictive influence which
detains and imprisons the immortal spirit in spite of its efforts to
escape from the tabernacle of clay; in short the ring, like the
knot, acts as a spiritual fetter. This may have been the reason of
an ancient Greek maxim, attributed to Pythagoras, which forbade
people to wear rings. Nobody might enter the ancient Arcadian
sanctuary of the Mistress at Lycosura with a ring on his or her
finger. Persons who consulted the oracle of Faunus had to be chaste,
to eat no flesh, and to wear no rings.

On the other hand, the same constriction which hinders the egress of
the soul may prevent the entrance of evil spirits; hence we find
rings used as amulets against demons, witches, and ghosts. In the
Tyrol it is said that a woman in childbed should never take off her
wedding-ring, or spirits and witches will have power over her. Among
the Lapps, the person who is about to place a corpse in the coffin
receives from the husband, wife, or children of the deceased a brass
ring, which he must wear fastened to his right arm until the corpse
is safely deposited in the grave. The ring is believed to serve the
person as an amulet against any harm which the ghost might do to
him. How far the custom of wearing finger-rings may have been
influenced by, or even have sprung from, a belief in their efficacy
as amulets to keep the soul in the body, or demons out of it, is a
question which seems worth considering. Here we are only concerned
with the belief in so far as it seems to throw light on the rule
that the Flamen Dialis might not wear a ring unless it were broken.
Taken in conjunction with the rule which forbade him to have a knot
on his garments, it points to a fear that the powerful spirit
embodied in him might be trammelled and hampered in its goings-out
and comings-in by such corporeal and spiritual fetters as rings and

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