Skip to main content

Full text of "The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 








J. G. FRAZER, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D. 



VOL. Ill 






All rights rtsirvtd 





r/, ^< ■'■ 


CHAPTER 111— (conftnufd) 


§ 13. Transference of Evil, pp. 1-39. — Sins and sorrows of a people sometimes 
laid on dying god, p. I ; the custom based on a common confusion of 
ideas, p I ; evil transferred to inanimate things, pp 1-3 ; fatigue trans- 
ferred by travellers to sticks and stones which are thrown on heaps beside 
the road, pp 3-6 ; fear and horror similarly got rid of on scenes of crime 
and at graves, pp. 6- ii ; religious colour sometimes given to this magical 
rite by offerings and prayers at cairns, p 12 sq,\ evil transferred to 
animals, pp. 13-15* and sometimes to men, p 16 ; sins of dying and dead 
transferred to men, pp. 16-19 ; sins of Tahitian chiefs buried, p. 19 sq. ; 
transference of evil in Europe, p 20 sqq, ; transference of fever, warts, 
etc., to other people, pp 20-23 '> transference of pains and maladies to 
animals, pp. 23-26 ; transference of evil to a pillar, a flax-field, and the 
moon, p 26 ; sickness and trouble most commonly transferred to a tree or 
bush, pp. 26-29; plugging or nailing toothache, fever, etc., into trees, 
pp. 29-32 ; ghosts, gods, and demons hammered into a tree or bunged up 
in a board, p. 32 sq. ; toothache, fever, plague, sedition, etc., nailed into 
walls, doorways, etc., pp. 33-36; the annual nail in ancient Rome, 
PP 36-39. 

§14. Exptlsion of EvilSy pp. 39-93. — Attempts to dismiss the accumulated 
sorrows of a whole community, p. 39 ; early man attributes a great part 
of his troubles to e\'il spirits, p. 39 sq. ; hence the endeavour of primitive 
people to make a clean sweep of all their ills commonly takes the form of 
an expulsion of devils, p. 40 ; the dread of demons widely spread and 
deeply rooted, pp. 41-59 : demons in Australia and Africa, p. 41 ; demons 
in America, pp 41-43 ; demons in Polynesia, pp. 43-45 ; demons in New 
Guinea, p. 45 ; demons in the East Indies, pp. 45-49 ; demons in India, 
pp. 49-52 ; demons in Ceylon, p. 52 $q,\ demons in Burma, p. 53 sq. : 
demons in Siam, p. 54 sq. ; demons in Corea, p. 55 sq, ; demons in ancient 
Babylon, p 56 ; the jinn in Egypt, p 56 sq, ; Porphyry on demons. 


p. 57 ; Abbot Richalm on demons, p. 58 sq, ; demons in Transylvania, 
p. 59 ; the general expulsions of evils or devils divided into two classes 
according as the evils or deWls are invisible and immaterial or are 
embodied in a material vehicle, p. 60 ; general expulsions of invisible evils, 
pp. 60 - 93 ; expulsions instituted on special occasions, mostly during 
epidemics, pp. 60-69 ; these general expulsions of evil tend to become 
periodic, and especially annual, p. 70 ; among the Esquimaux they take 
place at the beginning or end of winter, pp. 70-72 ; the ceremony among 
the Iroquois and Cherokee Indians, pp. 72-74, among the Incas, pp. 74-76, 
in Africa, pp. 76-78 ; in India the annual expulsion of devils sometimes 
takes place at harvest or sowing, pp. 78-80 ; the ceremony in Bali, p. 80 
sq,y among the Shans, p. 81, in Japan, China, India, and Persia, p. 82 j^., 
in Tonquin, Cambodia, and Siam, pp. 83-85 ; in Siam on this occasion 
the ghosts of the dead come back and arc afterwards driven away, p. 85 sq, ; 
annual return and expulsion of ghosts in Japan, ancient Athens, and 
ancient Rome, pp. 86-89 ; in modern Europe demons and witches annually 
banished on the last day of the year, Easter Eve, Walpurgis Night, or 
Twelfth Night, pp. 90-93. 

§15. Scapegoats^ pp. 93-134. — General expulsions of evils embodied in a visible 
form or conveyed away in a material vehicle, p. 93 sqq, ; the expelled 
^devils sometimes personated by men, p. 94 sq,^ sometimes embodied in a 
wolf or cat, p. '96'77.; demons of disease sent away in boats, pp. 97-101 ; 
sickness of community sent away with an animal as a scapegoat, pp. loi- 
104 ; public ills laid upon men as scapegoats, p. 104 sq,% the general 
expulsion of evils by means of a material vehicle or scapegoat tends to 
become periodic, p. 105 ; annual expulsion of evils in boats and by means 
of images, etc, pp. 105-108, by means of animak, as white dogs among 
the Iroquois and a goat among the Jews, p. 108 sq, ; sins and misfortunes 
of people annually laid on a human being, whp _is killed or driven away, 
pp. 109- 1 1 1 ; the public scap^oat sometimes a divine animal, p. ill jf ., 
sometimes a divine man, p. 112 sq.; the human scapegoat in Tibet 
perhaps a substitute for the Grand Lama, pp. 113-117 ; general remarks 
on the custom of publicly expelling all the ills of a community, p. 1 1 7 sqq. ; 
when observed annually, the ceremony commonly marks the beginning 
of a new year, and is preceded or followed by a period of licence, p. iiSsq,; 
reason for choosing a dying god as public scapegoat, p. 1 20 j-^. ; in the 
ceremony of " carrying out Death " the dpng god of ^vegetation seems also 
to have served as a scapegoat, p, 121 sq,; the human scapegoat in classical 
antiquity, p. 122 sqq.; Mamurius Veturius at Rome, p. 122 sq,; human 
scapegoats among the ancient Greeks, pp. 124-127 ; human scapegoat 
sometimes beaten as a purification, p. I2y sq,; beating as a purificator) 
rite intended to drive away ghosts, demons, and eWl influences in genera !« 
pp. 128-133. 

g 16. Killing the God in Mexico^ pp. 134-137. — Mexican custom of dressing .1 
man as a god, worshipping him for a year or less, then killing and eating 
him, p. 134 sq. ; thus human representative of the god Tezcatlipoca adored 
for a year, then sacrificed and devoured, p. 135 sq. ; resurrection of slain 



£ man-god represented by skinning him and clothing another person in his 

\ skin, p. 136 sq, 

§ 17. The Saturnalia and Kindred Festivals, pp. 138-200. — The Saturnalia the 
festival of Saturn, the old god of sowing, p. 138; revelry and licence of 
the Saturnalia, p. 1 39 ; Saturn formerly represented at the festival by a 
mock king who killed himself, pp. 139-142 ; the Carnival nothing but the 
Saturnalia held at its old date, p. 143 sq, ; February and March the time 
of the spring sowing, hence an appropriate season for the Saturnalia, 
p. 145 ; Lent perhaps originally a period of temperance observed by farmers 
for the sake of the crops, p. 145 sq. ; Buddhist Lent in Burma, p. 146 ; 
Greek parallels to the Saturnalia, p. 146 sq.*, the Cronia at Athens, 
Olympia, and Rhodes, pp. 147-150; the Sacaea at Babylon a festival of 
the same type as the Saturnalia, p. 1 50 sq, , probably identical with the Baby- 
lonian festival of Zakmuk, pp. 151-153 ; Jewish festival of Purim identical 
with Zakmuk and the Sacaea, pp. 1 53-157 ; Haman and Mordecai reminis- 
cences of the Zoganes or mock king of the Sacaea, p. 1571^.;. Mordecai and 
Esther identical with the Babylonian deities Marduk and Ishtar, p. 158 ; 
Haman and Vashti perhaps deities (Humman and Vashti) of the Elamites, 
pu 158 sq, ; hence the Zoganes personated a god, whether Marduk, Humman, 
or another, p. 159 sq. ; probably he paired with a woman who represented 
Semiramis, that is, Ishtar or Astarte, pp. 160-164; sacred dramas as 
magical rites, p. 164 sq, ; Euhemerism and its rival school of mythology 
reconciled by doctrine of incarnation, p. 165 sq.\ the loves of a divine 
pair and the death of the god acted under various names (Adonis and 
Aphrodite, Attis and Cybele, etc) all over the East, p. 166 x^.; legend 
of Sardanapalus a distorted reminiscence of the reign and death of the 
Zoganes at the Sacaea, p. 167 sq, ; Sandan another Asiatic deity of the 
same type as Sardanapalus, represented by an effigy, perhaps by a man, 
who was burnt every year, pp. 168-172; custom of burning effigies of 
Haman at Purim perhaps a relic of custom of burning the man-god at the 
Sacaea, p. 172 jf. ; a man perhaps formerly hanged or crucified in the 
character of Haman at Purim, pp. 173-176; the Fast of Elsther originally 
a mourning for the death of a man-god like Tammuz, pp. 176-179 ; dying 
and reviving god represented by Haman and Mordecai respectively, their 
consorts by Vashti and Esther, pp. 1 79-181 ; the Persian "ride of the 
Beardless One," its resemblance to the ride of Mordecai through Susa, 
pp. 1 81-183; both originally modes of representing the triumph of 
summer over winter, or of the reviving over the decaying powers of 
vegetation, pp. 183-185; resemblance of the mockery and crucifixion of 
Christ to the treatment of the mock kings of the Saturnalia and Sacaea, 
pp. 1 86- 1 88; Christ perhaps crucified in the character of Haman, pp. 
188-191 ; the part of Mordecai perhaps played by Barabbas, pp. 191-194 ; 
Barabbas "the Son of the Father," p. 194 sq,^ rapid diffusion of Chris- 
tianity in Asia Minor partly accounted for by the manner of Christ's death, 
pp. 195-198 ; general summary — festix-als of the t}'pe of the Saturnalia at 
one time common all over the ancient world from Italy to Babylon and 
perhaps still further cast, pp. 198-200. 




§ I. Between Heaven and Earthy pp. 201-236. — Question as to the Golden 
Bough still to be answered, p. 201 ; rule that divine kings and priests may 
neither see the sun nor set foot on the ground, pp. 202-204 ; rules of the 
same sort observed by girls during their seclusion at puberty, pp. 204-220 ; 1 \ 

traces of this seclusion in fdry tales, pp 220-222 ; reason of the seclusion 
the dread of menstruous blood, pp. 222-233 ; the undeanness of girls at 
puberty and the sanctity of holy kings and priests not sharply distinguished 
by primitive man, p 233 sq,% divine personages, like pubescent g^rls, 
secluded from earth and sun in order to prevent them from doing or 
suffering harm, p. 233 jf . ; the Sibyl of Cumae and other aspirants after 
immortality similarly secluded, pp. 234-236. 

§ 2. Balder^ pp. 236-35a — ^The Norse god Balder slain by a blow of the mistletoe 
and burnt on a pyre, p. 236 sq.\ the stoiy probably once acted as a 
magical ceremony, p. 237 ; its incidents reappear in die popular festivals 
of modem Europe, p. 237 ; firt^-festivals of Europe, pi 237 sq. ; fire- 
festivals in Lent, pp. 238-245 ; new fire kindled at Easter in both the 
Latin and the Greek church, pp. 245-248 ; the custom probably an old 
heathen one, since the practice of annually extinguishing the old fires and 
kindling a new one has prevailed in many parts of the world, pp. 248-253 ; 
pagan character of the Easter fire-festival, pp. 254-259 ; Beltane fires on 
the first of Bfay, pp 259-266; the Midsummer fire-festival the most 
generally observed of all these ceremonies, p. 266 if. ; Midsummer fires 
in Germany, pp. 267-273, in Austria, pp. 273-275, among the Slavs and 
Letts, pp. 275-277, among the Magyars, Esthonians, Finns, and Chere- 
miss, pp. 277-280, in France, pp 280-288, in England, Ireland, and 
Scotland, pp. 288-293 ; Hallowe'en fires in Scotland and Wales, pp 293- 
297 ; Midsummer fires in Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, and Greece, 
pp. 297-299 ; effigies burnt in the Midsummer bonfires, p. 299 sq. ; 
these fire-festivals originally magical ceremonies to procure sunshine^ pp 
300-305 ; fire-festivals in India and China, pp. 305-311 ; fire-festivals in 
antiquity at Castabala in Cappadoda and at Mount Soiacte near Rome, 
p. 311 sq.\ intention of leaping over the fire and driving cattle through 
it, p. ^12 sq,; processions or races with torches a mode of diffusing heat, 
p. 313 ij^. ; effigies burnt in the bonfires represent the tree-spirit, pp. 314- 
316 ; human representatives of the tree-spirit probably burnt in former 
days at these festivals, pp. 316-318; custom of drowning human beings 
at Midsummer as an offering to the water-spirits, p. 318 sq.; human 
beings and animals enclosed in colossal images of wicker-work and burnt 
at great festivals by the Druids, p. 319 sq, ; traces of this custom in the 
Midsummer Giants of modem Europe and in the practice of burning live 




j finimalg at the fire-festivals, pp. 320-326 : the cutting of the sacred mistle- 

toe another solemn ceremony of the Druids, p. 326 sq. ; this may have 
taken place especially at Midsummer, since Midsummer is still the great 
season for culling magical plants, pp. 328-342 ; the mistletoe still supposed 
to be endowed with marvellous properties and still gathered at Midsummer 
in Haider's country, where the Midsummer bonfires were called his bale- 
fires, pp. 343-345 ; thus Balder's myth has its counterpart in folk-custom, 
P* 345 f ^c human being burnt in the Midsummer fire personated both a 
tree-spirit and Balder, hence Balder was a tree-spirit, probably the spirit of 
the oak, since the oak was the holiest tree of the Aryans and supplied them 
with their sacred fire, pp. 345-349 ; the pulling of the mistletoe necessary 
before Balder could be burnt, since it contained his life, and so long as it 
remained uninjured he was immortal, p. 349 sq, 

§ 3. Tke external Soul in Folk-tales^ pp. 351-389. — Primitive notion that a 
person's life or soul can be deposited for safety somewhere outside of his 
body, p. 351 sq,\ the external soul in Hindoo stories, pp. 352-358, in 
Greek and Italian stories, pp. 358-363, in Slavonic stories, p. 363 i^., in 
German and Norse stories, pp. 364-369, in Celtic stories, pp. 369-375, in 
the stories of non-Aryan peoples, pp. 375-389. 

I 4. The external Soul in Folk-custom ^ pp. 389-446. — Soul temporarily removed 
from woman in childbed and from iron in hammering, p. 389 sq. ; strength 
of people in their hair, p. 390 sq. ; life of persons bound up with trees, 
PP- 391*394 > sympathetic relation of this kind established by passing 
children through cleft trees as a cure for rupture, pp. 394-397 ; the 
passage of children for this purpose explained by parallel customs, pp. 397- 
406 ; some people related sympathetically to other things, but especially 
to animals, pp. 406-409 ; the idhUni serpent of the Zulu, p. 409 sq. ; the 
bush-soul of the Calabar negro, p. 410 sq.\ the nagual of the Central 
American Indian, pp. 411-413; sex-totems among the Australians, pp. 
413-416 ; a totem perhaps a sort of strong-box in which a savage keeps 
his soul or one of his souls, pp. 416-422 ; this theory would explain the 
common pretence of death and resurrection or a new birth at sa\*age rites 
of initiation, pp. 422-445 ; totemism apparently intended to guard against 
a special danger, which only arises when sexual maturity has been attained, 

P- 445 J^- 

§ 5. Co9ulusiony pp. 446-457. — Balder*s life being in the mistletoe, he was killed 
by a blow of it, as the giant in the fiiiry tale is killed by a blow of the egg 
that contains his life, p. 446 ; the verdure and position of the mistletoe 
explain why it was thought to contain the life of the oak, p. 447 sq. ; the fate 
of the Hays in the mistletoe on Errors oak, p. 448 sq. ; the Golden Bough 
the mistletoe, p. 449 sq. ; hence the King of the Wood embodied the 
spirit of the oak, and his life, like Balder's, ^-as in the mistletoe, p. 450 ; 
probably in former times he was burnt, like Balder, in a fire of oakwood, 
p. 450 ; the reason why the mistletoe was called the Golden Bough 
explained by the analogy of the mjthical fern-seed, which is supposed to 
be golden and to discover buried gold because it is an emanation of the 


sun's golden fire at the solstices (Midsummer and Christmas), pp. 451-454 ; 
similarly the mistletoe is gathered at the solstices and discovers buried \ 

gold, p. 454 ; its golden aspect probably an emanation of the sacred fire | 

which was drawn firom the oak at midsummer to rekindle the sun, p. 454 sq, ; 
hence Virbius, the first King of the Wood, confounded with the sun, p. 
456 ; survival of the old Aryan worship of the oak at Nemi, p. 457 ; 
general conclusion, the progress of thought from magic through religion to 
science, pp. 458-461 ; Nemi at evening, p. 462. 


Seclusion from Sun and Earth . 463-467 

INDEX ....... 469 


CHAPTER III— {continued) 

§ 1 3. Transference of Evil 

The custom of killing the god has now been proved to 
have been practised by peoples in the hunting, pastoral, and 
agricultural stages of society, and the various reasons for 
observing it have been explained. One aspect of the 
custom still remains to be noticed. The accumulated mis- 
fortunes and sins of the whole people are sometimes laid 
upon the dying god, who is supposed to bear them away for 
ever, leaving the people innocent and happy. The notion 
that we can transfer our guilt and pains and griefs to some 
other being who will bear them in our stead is familiar to 
the savage mind. It arises from a very obvious confusion 
between the physical and the mental. Because it is possible 
to transfer a load of wood, stones, or what not, from our own 
back to the back of another, the savage fancies that it is 
equally possible to transfer the burden of his pains and sins 
and sorrows to another, who will suffer them in his stead. 
Upon this idea he acts, and the result is an endless number 
of often very unamiable devices for putting off upon some 
one else the trouble which a mart shrinks from bearing him-, 
self. Such devices are amongst the most familiar facts in 
folk-lore ; but for the benefit of readers who are not professed 
students of folk-lore, some illustrations may be given. 

It is not necessary that the evil should be trans- 
ferred from the culprit or sufferer to a person ; it may 
equally well be transferred to an animal or a thing, though 
in the last case the thing is often only a vehicle to 

VOL. Ill B 


convey the trouble to the first person who touches it In 
some of the East Indian islands they think that epilepsy 
can be cured by striking the patient on the face with 
the leaves of certain trees and then throwing them away. 
The disease is believed to have passed into the leaves, 
and to have been thrown away with them.^ When an 
Atkhan of the Aleutian Islands had committed a g^ve 
sin and desired to unburden himself of his guilt, he pro- 
ceeded as follows. Having chosen a time when the sun 
was clear and unclouded, he picked up certain weeds and 
carried them about his person. Then he laid them down, 
and calling the sun to witness, cast his sins upon them, after 
which, having eased his heart of all that weighed upon it, he 
threw the weeds into the fire, and fancied that thus he 
cleansed himself of his guilt' In Vedic times a younger 
brother who married before his elder brother was thought to 
have sinned in so doing, but there was a ceremony by which 
he could purge himself of his sin. Fetters of reed-grass were 
laid on him in token of his guilt, and when they had been 
washed and sprinkled they were flung into a foaming torrent, 
which swept them away, while the evil was bidden to vanish 
with the foam of the stream.' An Arab cure for melancholy 
or madness caused by love is to put a dish of water on the ! 
sufierer's head, drop melted lead into it, and then bury the i 
lead in an open field ; thus the mischief that was in the man , 
goes away.^ Amongst the Miotse of China, when the eldest 
son of the house attains the age of seven years, a ceremony 
called "driving away the devil" takes place. The father 
makes a kite of straw and lets it fly away in the desert, 
bearing away all evil with it' Dyak priestesses expel ill- 
luck from a house by hewing and slashing the air in every 
comer of it with wooden swords, which they afterwards wash 
in the river, to let the ill-luck float away down stream. 
Sometimes they sweep misfortune out of the house with , 

1 J. G. F. Riedel, De sluik- en kroes- * H. Oldenbeig, Die Religum des 

kari^e rassen tusscken Selebes en Papua^ Veda^ p. 322. 

pp. 266 jf., 305, 357 sq.\ cp. At/., * This I learned from my friend W. 

pp. 141, 340. Robertton Smith, who mentioned as 

his authority David of Antioch, ToMyin^ 

' PetrofT, Report an the Population^ in the story ''Orwa." 

Industries^ and Resources ef Alaska^ * ¥., Axi^itt^ Etknograpkiscke Parai- 

p. 158. le/e und Vergleieke^ p. 29 sq. 



brooms made of the leaves of certain plants and sprinkled 
with rice-water and blood. Having swept it clean out of 
every room and into a toy-house made of bamboo, they set 
the little house with its load of bad luck adrift on the river. 
The current carries it away out to sea, where it shifts its 
baleful cargo to a certain kettle-shaped ship, which floats 
in mid -ocean and receives in its capacious hold all the 
ills that flesh is heir to. Well would it be with man- 
kind if the evils remained for ever tossing far away on 
the billows ; but, alas, they are dispersed from the ship to 
the four winds, and settle again, and yet again, on the weary 
Dyak world. On Dyak rivers you may see many of the 
miniature houses, laden with manifold misfortunes, bobbing 
up and down on the current, or sticking fast in the thickets 
that line the banks.^ To cure toothache some of the 
Australian blacks apply a heated spear-thrower to the cheek. 
The spear-thrower is then cast away, and the toothache goes 
with it in the shape of a black stone called karriitcJu Stones 
of this kind are found in old mounds and sandhills. They 
are carefully collected and thrown in the direction of enemies 
in order to give them toothache.' In Mirzapur a mode of 
transferring disease is to fill a pot with flowers and rice and 
bury it in a pathway covered up with a flat stone. Who- 
ever touches this is supposed to contract the disease. The 
practice is called chalauwa^ or "passing on" the malady. 
This sort of thing goes on daily in Upper India. Often 
while walking of a morning in the bazaar you will see a little 
pile of earth adorned with flowers in the middle of the road. 
Such a pile usually contains some scabs or scales from the 
body of a small-pox patient, which are placed there in the 
hope that some one may touch them, and by catching the 
disease may relieve the sufTerer.' 

In the western district of the island of Timor, when men 
or women are making long and tiring journeys, they fan 
themselves with leafy branches, which they afterwards throw 

1 C. Hupe, "Korte Verhandeling fur Ethnograpku^\. (1892), p. 131. 
over de Godsdienst, Zeden enz. der ' J. Dawson, Australian Aborigines, 

Dajakkers,** Tijdschrift voor NeMands p. 59. 

Jndii, 1846, dL iii. p, 149 sq, ; F. ^ W. Crooke, Introdttction to the 

Grabowsky, '* Die Theogonie der Daja- Popular Religion and Folklore of 

Vennuf Borneo,** /ntemalionales A rckiv Northern India, p. 106. 




away on particular spots where their forefathers did the 
same before them. The fatigue which they felt is thus 
supposed to have passed into the leaves and to be left 
behind. Others use stones instead of leaves.^ Similarly in 
the Babar Archipelago tired people will strike them- 
selves with stoneSy believing that they thus transfer to the 
stones the weariness which they felt in their own bodies. 
They then throw away the stones in places which are 
specially set apart for the purpose.* A like belief and , » 
practice in many distant parts of the world have given j 
rise to those cairns or heaps of sticks and leaves which 
travellers often observe beside the path, and to which 
every passing native adds his contribution in the shape 
of a stone, or stick, or leaf. Thus in the Solomon and 
Banks Islands the natives are wont to throw sticks, 
stones, or leaves upon a heap at a place of steep de- 
scent, or where a difficult path begins, saying, '^ There goes I 
my fatigue." The act is not a religious rite, for the thiiig I 
thrown on the heap is not an offering to spiritual powers, j 
and the words which accompany the act are not a prayer. 
It is nothing but a magical ceremony for getting rid of 
fatigue, which the simple savage fancies he can embody in a 
stick, leaf, or stone, and so cast it from him.' An early 
Spanish missionary to Nicaragua, observing that along the 
paths there were heaps of stones on which the Indians as 
they passed threw grass, asked them why they did so» 
" Because we think," was the answer, " that thereby we are 
kept from weariness and hunger, or at least that we suffer 
less from them." ^ In Guatemala also piles of stones may 
be seen at the partings of ways and on the tops of cliffs and 
mountains. Every passing Indian used to gather a handful 
of grass, rub his legs with it, spit on it^ and deposit it with a 
small stone on the pile, firmly persuaded that by so doing he 
would restore their flagging vigour to his weary limbs.^ Here 

1 J. G. F. Kiedel, « Die Landschaft « Oviedo, Histoire du Nuttragua 

Dawan oder West •Timor,'' Deutsche (Pliris, 1840), p. 42 sq. (Ternaax-Com- 

Geegraphische Blatter^ x. 231. pans. Voyages^ Relaiians §i Miwwires 

* Id.^ De sluik' en kroesharige ras' atigiHaux, etc.). 
sen tusschen Selebes en Papua^ p. 34a ^ Brasseur de Boorboaig, ffisinre- 

s R. H. Codrington, ne Melon- des NaiioHs civilisiei du Afexique §i dt 

esianSf p. 186. rAmirique'CeMirale^ vl 564 ; compare 




the rubbing of the limbs with the grass, like the Babar 
custom of striking the body with a stone, was doubtless a 
mode of extracting the fatigue from them as a preliminary 
to throwing it away. Similarly on the plateau between 
Lakes Tanganyika and Nyassa the native carriers, before 
they ascend a steep hill with their loads, will pick up a stone, 
spit on it, rub the calves of their legs with it, and then 
deposit it on one of those small piles of stones which are 
commonly to be found at such spots in this part of Africa. 
A recent English traveller, who noticed the custom, was in- 
formed that the carriers practise it ''to make their legs 
light," ^ in other words, to extract the fatigue from tliem. 
On the banks of the Kei river in Southern Africa, about 
seventy years ago, another English traveller noticed some 
heaps of stones. On inquiring what they meant, he was 
told by his guides that when a CafTre felt weary he had but 
to add a stone to the heap to regain fresh vigour.' From 
other accounts of the CafTre custom we learn that these cairns 
are generally on the sides or tops of mountains, and that 
before a native deposits his stone on the pile he spits on it' 
The practice of spitting on the stone which the weary way- 
farer lays on the pile is probably a mode of transferring his 
fatigue the more effectually to the material vehicle which is 
to rid him of it We have seen that the practice prevails 
among the Indians of Guatemala and the natives of the Tan- 
ganyika plateau, and it appears to be observed also in 
similar circumstances in Corea, where the cairns are to be 

iiL 486. Indians of Goatemala, when 
they cross a pass for the first time, still 
commonly add a stone to the cairn 
which marks the spot See C. Sapper, 
"Die Gebranche und religiosen An- 
schaaungender Kekchi-Indianer,'*/pf/^r- 
mUwmaUs Arckiv fur EtknograpkU^ 

▼iii. (1895). P- 197. 

» F. F. R. Boileaa, "The Nyasa- 

Tanganyika Flateaa," The Geographical 

Journal^ xiiL (1899), p. 589. In the 

same region Mr. L. Dede observed many 

trees or rocks on which were placed 

little heaps of stones or bits of wood, 

to which in passing each of his men 

added a fresh stone or bit of wood or a 

tuft of grass. <* This,** says Mr. Decle, 

*'is a tribute to the spirits, the general 
precaution to ensure a safe return" 
{Thru Years in Savage Africa^ p. 289). 
A similar practice prevails among the 
Wanjramwezi {jUnd, p. 345). Com- 
pare Grant, A Waik across Africa^ 

P- 133 J^ 

* G)wper Rose, Four Years in 

Southern Africa (London, 1829), p. 

^ S. Kay, Travels and /Researches in 

Caffraria, p. 211 s^. ; Callaway, /Re- 
ligious System of the Amcuulu, i. 
66 ; D. Leslie, Among the Zulus and 
Amatongas (Edinburgh, 1875), P* '4^ 
sq. Compare Lichtenstein, Reisen im 
sUdlichen Africa^ L 411. 

3 auuii cib lie iicLs reacnea tne summit ; he feels as 

lad been lifted from him, and to the savage, with 

mode of thought, it seems natural and easy to 

jht from him in the shape of a stone or stick, or a 

ves or of grass. Hence it is that the piles which 

I accumulated weariness of many foot-sore and 

travellers .are to be seen wherever the road runs 

be lofty r^ons of Bolivia, Tibet, Bhootan, and 

le passes of the Andes and the Himalayas, as 

yreaif CafTraria, Guatemala, and Melanesia. 

not mere bodily fatigue which the savage fancies 

mself of in this easy fashion. Unable clearly to 

he immaterial from the material, the abstract 

icrete, he is assailed by vague terrors, he feels 

sed to some ill-defined danger on the scene of 

rime or great misfortune. The place to him 

:ed g^und. The thronging memories that 

lis mind, if they are not mistaken by him for 

phantoms, oppress his fancy with a leaden 

3 impulse is to flee from the dreadful spot, 

'* Dolmen and other '< Notes on Bolivia," Journal ef the 

irea," Jcumal tf the Royal Geopxtpkical Society^ zlviL 

tstHuto^ xMvr. (1S95), (1S77)* P* 21 1 ; T. T. Cooper, Travels 

Bishop, Korea and of a Pioneer of Commerce (London, 

147, iu 223. Both 187 1), p. 275 ; J. A. H. Louisj The 

the practice were to Gates of Thibet^ a Bird*s Eye View of 
rathM- flian «« •!.-. 7-v-^— f— - «*-i^».- -*...-- 


to shake off the burden that seems to ch'ng to him like 
a nightmare. This, in his simple sensuous way, he thinks 
he can do by casting something at the horrid place and 
hurrying by. For will not the contagion of misfortune, 
the horror that clutched at his heart-strings, be diverted from 
himself into the thing ? will it not gather up in itself all the 
evil influences that threatened him, and so leave him to pur- 
sue his journey in safety and peace ? Some such train of 
thought, if these grropings and fumblings of a mind in dark- 
ness deserve the name of thought, seems to explain the 
custom, observed by wayfarers in many lands, of throwing 
sticks or stones on places where something horrible has 
happened or evil deeds have been done. When Lieutenant 
Younghusband was travelling across the great desert of Gobi 
his caravan descended, towards dusk on a June evening, into 
a long depression between the hills, which was notorious as 
a haunt of robbers. His guide, with a terror-stricken face, 
told how not long before nine men out of a single caravan 
had been murdered, and the rest left in a pitiable state to 
continue their journey on foot across the awful desert A 
horseman, too, had just been seen riding towards the hills. 
'' We had accordingly to keep a sharp look-out, and when 
we reached the foot of the hills, halted, and, taking the loads 
off the camels, wrapped ourselves up in our sheepskins and 
watched through the long hours of the night Day broke at 
last, and then we silently advanced and entered the hills. 
Very weird and fantastic in their rugged outline were they, 
and here and there a cairn of stones marked where some 
caravan had been attacked, and as we passed these each man 
threw one more stone on the heap."* In the Norwegian 
district of Tellemarken a cairn is piled up wherever anything 
fearful has happened, and every passer-by must throw 
another stone on it, or some evil will befall him.^ In Sweden 
and the Esthonian island of Oesel the same custom is prac- 
tised on scenes of clandestine or illicit love, with the strange 
addition in Oesel that when a man has lost his cattle he will 
go to such a spot, and, while he flings a stick or stone on it, 

1 F. E. YoonghuslMincI, "A Journey (18S8), p. 494. 
across Central Asia,** Proceedings of * F. Liebrecht, Zur Voikskunae^ p. 
the Royal Ge^graphicai Society ^ x. 274 sg. 


will say, " I bring thee wood. Let me soon find my lost 
cattle."^ Far from these northern lands, the Dyaks of 
Batang Lupar keep up an observance of the same sort in the ^ 
forests of Borneo. Beside their paths may be seen heaps of i 
sticks or stones which are called ** lying heaps." Each heap \ 
is in memory of some man who told a istupendous lie or dis- 
gracefully failed in carrying out an engs^ement, and every- 
body who passes adds a stick or stdne to the pile, saying * as 
he does so, ^ For So-and-so*s lying heap." * y 

But, as might perhaps have been anticipated, it is on scenes 
of murder and sudden death that this rude method of averting 
or diverting evil is most commonly practised. The custom that 
every passer-by must cast a stone or stick oh the spot where 
some one has come to a violent end, whether by murder or 
otherwise, has been observed in practically the same form in 
such many and diverse parts of the world as Ireland, France, 
Spain, Sweden, Germany, Bohemia, Lesbos, Morocco, Armenia, 
Arabia, India, North America, Venezuela, Bolivia, Celebes, 
and New Zealand.' Sometimes the scene of the murder or 
death may also be the grave of the victim, biit it need not 
always be so, and in Europe, where the dead are buried in 
consecrated ground, the two places would seldom coincide: 
However, the custom of throwing stones or sticks on a grave 

1 F. liebrecht, Zur V M s htmd e , p. 220; Geoigeakis et PineAii, FM4ori 

374 ; Holzmajer, '< Osfliana," Vtr- de Lesbos^ p. 323 ; Letied, Mcrvee* 

handbmgen der gtUkrten EstniscJken and the Moors, p. 105 sg. ; Hax- 

CistUsckaft m Dorpat^ tu. (1872), p. thausen, Transkaukasia, L 222 ; W. 

73. Crooke, IntroducHen to the PoptUar 

* Spenser St John, Life in the Religion and Folklore ef Northern 
Forests of the Far East} L 88. In£a, p. 167 ; J. Bricknell, The 

* A. C Haddoo, «< A Batch of Irish Natural History ef North Carolina 
Folk-lore,** Folh-lore, hr. (1893), pp. (Dublin, 1737), p. 380; J. Adair, 
357* 3^» Laisnel de la Salle, Croyances History ef the American Indians, p. 
et L^mdes du Centre de la France, iL 184; K. Martin, Bericht Ober eine 
75, 77 ; Brand, Popular Antiputies, Reise nach Nederiandseh West»Indien^ 
iL 309 ; Hylten-CaTalUns, quoted faj Erster Theil (Leyden, 1887), p. 166 ; 
Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 374; G. C Musters, *< Notes on Bolivia," 
K. Haupt, Se^genbuch der Lausitt, tL Journal ef the Royal Ceegraphiced 
65; K. MOllenhoa; .S^^eiff, Marchen Society, sdvil (1877), p. sii ; B. F. 
undLiederderHertogtkUmorSchleswig, Matthes, Einige Eigenthumlichheiten 
Holstein und Lauenhuf^, p. 125 ; A. in den Festen und Cewohnheiten der 
Ktthn, Markische Sagen und Atarchen^ Mahassaren und Biiginesen, p. 25 
p. 113; Kuhn nnd Schwartz, Nord" (separate reprint from Thwaux de la 
deutsche Sagen, Aldrchen und Ce- 6e Session du Congris International 
brauche, p. 85 ; A. Tieichel, «< Reisig- dos Orientalistes H Leide, vol. ii.) ; R. 
haufang und Steinhaufung an Mord- A. Cruise, Journal if a Ten Months 
stellen,*' Am Ur-Quelle, tL (1896), p. Residence in New Zealantl, p. 186. 


has undoubtedly been observed by passers-by in many parts 
of the world, and that, too, even when the graves are not 
those of persons who have come to a violent end. Thus we 
are told that the people of Unalashka, one of the Aleutian 
Islands, bury their dead on the summits of hills and raise a 
little hillock over the grave. " In a walk into the country 
one of the natives who attended me pointed out several of 
these receptacles of the dead. There was one of them by 
the side of the road leading from the harbour to the village 
over which was raised a heap of stones. It was observed 
that every one who passed it added one to it"* The 
Roumanians of Transylvania think that a dying man should 
have a burning candle in his hand, and that any one who 
dies without a light has no right to the ordinary funeral 
ceremonies. The body of such an unfortunate is not laid in 
holy ground, but is buried wherever it may be found. His 
g^ve is marked only by a heap of dry branches, to which 
each passer-by is expected to add a handful of twigs or a 
thorny bough.' The Hottentot god or hero Heitsi-eibib, as 
the reader is already aware, died several times and came to 
life again. When the Hottentots pass one of his numerous 
graves they throw a stone, a bush, or a fresh branch on it 
for good luck.' Near the former mission-station of Blyde- 
uitzigt in Cape Colony there was a spot called Devil's Neck 
where, in the opinion of the Bushmen, the devil was interred. 
To hinder his resurrection stones were piled in heaps about 
the place. When a Bushman, travelling in the company of 
a missionary, came in sight of the spot he seized a stone and 
hurled it at the grave, remarking that if he did not do so his 
neck would be twisted round so that he would have to look 
backwards for the term of his natural life.^ Stones are cast 
by passers-by on the graves of murderers in some parts of 
Senegambia.^ In Syria deceased robbers are not buried like 

^ Cook, Veyages (London, 1809), vl H. I. Bleek, Reynard the Fox in Sotith 

479. Africa^ p. 76 ; Th. Hahn, Tsuni' 

* E. Gerard, The Land beyond the ^Goam^ the Supreme B€ing 0/ the Khoi- 

Forest^ i. 3H, 318. Khoi^ p. 56. 

' H. Lichtenstein, Reisen im Sud- « ^ri. vt 1. << r>* i> t. •• n 

/• i ^y- • : - ^ o- T T? Th. Hahn, "Die Buschmanner, 

iuhen Afrua, i. 349 sq. ; Sir James E. ^^^^^^ ^^^.. j' 

Alexander, Expedition of Discovery * • *» • 

into the Interior of Africa^ i. 166 ; C. ** Waitz, Anthropolof^e dcr Nature 

J. Anderson, Lake Ngami^ p. 327 ; W. volkcr^ ii. 195, referring to KafTenel, 




honest folk, but left to rot where they He ; and a pile of 
stones is raised over the mouldering corpse. Every one who 
passes such a pile must fling a stone at it, on pain of in- 
curring God's malison.^ Between sixty and seventy years 
ago an Englishman was travelling from Sidon to Tyre with 
a couple of Musalmans. When he drew near Tyre his 
companions picked up some small stones, armed him in the 
same fashion, and requested him to be so kind as to follow 
their example. Soon afterwards they came in sight of a 
conical heap of pebbles and stones standing in the road, 
at which the two Musalmans hurled stones and curses 
with great vehemence and remarkable volubility* When 
they had discharged this pious duty to their satisfaction, 
they explained that the missiles and maledictions were 
directed at a celebrated robber and murderer, who had 
been knocked on the head and buried there some - half a 
century before.* 

In these latter cases it may perhaps be thought that the 
sticks and stones serve no other purpose than to keep off the 
angry and dangerous ghost who might be supposed to haunt 
either the place of death or the grave. Yet when we re- 
member that precisely the same customs are practised in 
circumstances which exclude the supposition of a ghost — for 
example, on spots defiled by moral turpitude without %ny 
shedding of blood, or again by weary travellers whose only 
thought is of rest — ^we shall probably incline to reject this 
obvious explanation and to seek one which will apply to all 
the cases we have been considering. That explanation 
appears to be supplied by the primitive view of death and 
the dead as the sources of a dangerous pollution which in- 
fects all who come near them. To rid himself of that pollu- 
tion, which, as usual, he conceives in a concrete form, the 
savage seeks to gather it up in a material vehicle and leave 
it behind him on the hazardous spot, while, having thus cast 
care away, he hastens fonvard with a lighter heart. This 
explanation falls in exactly with the tradition as to the 

Kouveau Voxoge dans U fays dts M^gres Palaestina- Vereins^ m. (1884), p. 102. 

(Paris, 1856), i. 93 sq, ' Note by G. P. Badger, on The 

^ Eijub Abela, ** Bcitrage zar Kennt- Travels o/Ludovico di Vartktma^ trans- 

niss aberglaubischer Gebrauchc in lated by J. W. Jones (Haklayt Society, 

Syrien," Zeiiscknft des Dnttscken 1863), p. 45. 







origin of those cairns which were to be seen by wayside 
images of Hermes in ancient Greece, and to which every 
passer-by added a stone. It was said that when Hermes 
was tried by the gods for the murder of Argus all the gods 
flung stones at him as a means of freeing themselves from 
the pollution contracted by bloodshed ; the stones thus 
thrown made a great heap, and the custom of rearing such 
heaps at wayside images of Hermes continued ever after- 
wards.^ At all events this mode of interpreting the custom 
appears preferable to the one which has generally found 
favour with European travellers and writers. Imperfectly 
acquainted for the most paH: with the notions which underlie 
primitive magic, but very familiar with the religious concep- 
tion of a deity who requires sacrifice of his worshippers, they 
are apt to interpret the missiles in question as cheap and 
easy offerings presented by pious but frugal worshippers to 
ghosts or spirits whose favour they desire to win.* Whether 
a likely mode of conciliating a ghost or spirit is to 
throw sticks and stones at him is a question about which 
opinions might perhaps differ. It is diiHcult to speak with 
confidence about the tastes of spiritual beings, but as a rule 
they bear a remarkable likeness to those of mere ordinary 
mortals, and it may be said without fear of contradiction 
' that few of the latter would be gratified by being set up as a 
common target to be shied at with sticks and stones by every- 
body who passed within range. Yet it is quite possible that 
a ceremony, which at first was purely magical, may in time 
have a religious gloss or interpretation put on it even by those 

^ Eiymolcigicum Magnum^ s,v, 
*Ep/uuo¥, p. 375 s^. ; Eustathius on 
Homer, Odyssey , xvi. 471. As to the 
heaps of stones see Comutus, De 
natura deorum^ 16 ; Babrius, FabulcUy 
xlviii. I sq, ; Suidas, j.v. *Ep/uuoi' ; 
Schol. on Nicander, Ther, 150. The 
method of execution by stoning may 
perhaps have been resorted to in order 
to avoid the pollution which would be 
entailed by contact with the guilty and 
dying man. 

' See, for example, O. Baumann, 
Durch Massailand %ur Nilquelle^ 
p. 214; G. M. Dawson, "Notes on 
the Shuswap People of British 

Columbia," Transactions of the Royal 
Society tf Canada^ ix. (189 1), section 
ii- P« 38 ; F. Liebrecht, Zur Volks- 
kunde^ pp. 267 sq,^ 273 J^., 276, 
278 sq, ; R. Andree, Ethnographiscke 
ParalleUn und Vergieiche^ p. 48. 
Mr. £. S. Hartland explains the prac- 
tice as an act of ceremonial union with 
the spirit of the cairn (Legend of Per- 
seus ^ iu 228). Some of these writers 
have made a special study of the 
practices in question. See F. Lie- 
brecht, ••Die geworfenen Steine," Zur 
Volkskunde^ pp. 267-284; R. Andree, 
"Steinhaufen," Ethnogr. ParalleUn 
und Vergleiche^ pp. 46-58. 


who practise it ; and this seems in fact to have sometimes 
happened to the particular custom under consideration. 
Certainly some people accompany the throwing of the stone 
on the pile with the presentation of useful articles, which can 
hardly serve any other purpose than that of propitiating some 
local spirits. Thus travellers in Sikhim and Bhootan offer 
flour and wine, as well as stones, at the cairns ; and they also 
bum incense and recite incantations.' Indians of Guatemala 
ofTered, according to their means, a little cotton, salt, cacao, 
or chili.* They now bum copal and sometimes dance on 
the tops of the passes where the caims are to be seen, but 
perhaps these devotions may be paid to the crosses which at 
the present day are generally set up in such situations.' In 
Bolivia the Indian will squirt out the juice of his coca-quid, 
or throw the quid itself on the cairn, to which he adds a 
stone ; occasionally he goes so far as to stick feathers or a 
leathern sandal or two on the pile. In passing the cairns he 
will sometimes pull a hair or two out of his eyebrows or eye- 
lashes and puff them away towards the sun.* In Sweden 
a piece of money is sometimes thrown on a cairn instead of 
a stick or stone.* In the jungles of Mirzapur the catro 
which marks the spot where a man has been killed by a 
tiger, and to which each passer-by contributes a stone, is 
commonly in chai^ of a Baiga or aboriginal priest, who 
offers upon it a cock, a pig, or some spirits, and occasionally 
lights a little lamp at the shrine." Prayers, too, are some- 
times offered at these piles. In Laos heaps of stones may 
be seen beside the path, on which the passenger will deposit 
a pebble, a branch, or a leaf, while he beseeches the Lord of 
the Diamond to bestow on him good luck and long life.' 
Tibetan travellers mutter a prayer at the catras on the tops 

> J. A. H. Lonis, Tkt Galtt »f a. (1870), p. 337 iq.%G.C Mmten, 

Tkiha, p, lit i;. "Notet on BolirU,'' Jeumal ef (lis 

* BnDcar de Bonrboor^ Histtirt Jttjral Cetgrafkiial Sacidy, xItiL 

iet NativKt iivilittts duMexiqiu ttie (1877), p. an. 

"fS-^ii^L^ „d ' ■'■ ^'■"". ^' »-•»""*. f 

relieif)*en Antchaunnecn der KekcM- 

Indiuier," iMtnuUimaUs Arthif fur * W. Crooke, iMtrmfuHum f tki 

£ri».Wnrt*«, »iiL (1895), p. 197 Jf. ■'V"'*' R'tigi^ «>d Felilart ef 

< D. Forbes "On (be Aymm A'<»rAf™ /-rf«r, p. 167. 

Indioni oT Boliria and Ttm," /auma/ ^ E. Aymonier, Nolet tur It Lots, 

t^ tkt EUnelegical Stridy if Latdem, p. 198. 




of passes to which they add a few stones gathered by them 
on the ascent^ A native of South -Eastern Africa who 
places a small stone on a cairn is wont to say as he does 
so, "Cairn, grant me strength and prosperity."- In the 
same circumstances the Hottentot prays for plenty of cattle,' 
and the Caffre that his journey may be prosperous, that he 
may have strength to accomplish it, and that he may obtain 
an abundant supply of food by the way/ It is said that 
sick Bushmen used to go on pilgrimage to the cairn called 
the Devil's Neck and pray to the spirit of the place to heal 
them, while they rubbed the sick part of their body and cried 
" Woe ! woe ! " On special occasions, too, they resorted 
thither and implored the spirit's help.^ Such customs seem 
to indicate the gradual transformation of an old magical 
ceremony into a religious rite with its characteristic features 
of prayer and sacrifice. Yet behind these later accretions, as 
we may perhaps regard them, it seems possible in many, 
if not in all, cases to discern the nucleus to which they have 
attached themselves, the original idea which they tend to 
conceal, and in time to transmute. That idea is the trans- 
ference of evil from man to a material substance which he 
can cast from him like an outworn garment. 

Animals are often employed as the vehicle for carrying 
away or transferring the evil. A Guinea n^^o, who happens 
to be unwell, will sometimes tie a live chicken round his neck, 
so that it lies on his breast. When the bird flaps its wings 

* T. T. Cooper, Travels of a Piofuer 
of Commerce {IjondoTit 187 1), p. 275. 

' J. Macdonald, "Manners, Cus- 
toms, etc., of South African Tribes," 
Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 
XX. (1891), p. 126. 

' Sir James £. Alexander, Expedi- 
tion of Discovery into the Interior of 
Africa, L 166. 

* S. Kay, Travels and Researches 
in Caffraria, p. 211 sq. When the 
Bishop of Capetown once passed a 
heap of stones on the top of a moun- 
tain in the Amapondo country he was 
told that "it was customary for every 
traveller to add one to the heap that it 
might have a favourable influence on 
his journey, and enable him to arrive 

at some kraal while the pot is yet boil- 
ing" (J. Shooter, The Kafirs of Natal, 
p. 217). Here there is no mention of 
a prayer. Similarly a Basuto on a 
journey, when he fears that the friend 
with whom he is going to stay may 
have eaten up all the food before his 
guest's arrival, places a stone on a cairn 
to avert the danger (Casalis, The 
Basutos, p. 272). The reason alleged 
for the practice in these cases is prob- 
ably equivalent to the one assigned by 
the Melanesians and others ; by ridding 
the traveller of his fatigue it enables 
him to journey faster and so to reach 
his destination before supper is over. 

• Th. Hahn, " Die Buschmanner." 
CMms, xviil 141. As to the cairn in 
question, see above, p. 9. 



or cheeps, the man thinks it a good sign, supposing the 
chicken to be afflicted with the very pain from which he 
hopes soon to be released, or which he would otherwise have 
to endure.^ When a Moor has a hqadache, he will sometimes 
take a lamb or a goat and beat it till it falls down, believing 
that the headache will thus be transferred to the animal.* After 
an illness, a Bechuana king seated himself upon an ox which 
lay stretched on the ground. The native doctor next poured 
water on .the king's head till it ran down over his body. 
Then the head of the ox was held in a vessel of water till 
the animal expired ; whereupon the doctor declared, and the 
people believed, that the ox died of the kingf s disease, which 
had been transferred to it from the king.* Amongst the 
Malagasy the vehicle for carrying away evils is called a 
faditra. "The faditra is anything selected by the sikidy 
[divining-board] for the purpose of taking away any hurtful 
evils' or diseases that might prove injurious to an individual's 
happiness, peace, or prosperity. The faditra may be either 
ashes, cut money, a sheep, a pumpkin, or anything else the 
sikidy may choose to direct After the particular article is 
appointed, the priest counts upon it all the evils that may 
prove injurious to the person for whom it is made, and 
which he then charges the faditra to take away for ever. If 
the faditra be ashes, it is blown, to be carried away by the 
wind. If it be cut money, it is thrown to the bottom of 
deep water, or where it can never be found. If it be a 
sheep, it is carried away to a distance on the shoulders of a 
man, who runs with all his might, mumbling as he goes, as 
if in the greatest rage against the faditra for the evils it is 
bearing away. If it be a pumpkin, it is carried on the 
shoulders to a little distance, and there dashed upon the 
ground with every appearance of fury and indignation." * A 
Malagasy was informed by a diviner that he was doomed to 
a bloody death, but that possibly he might avert his fate by 

1 J. Smith, Trade and Travels in < W. Ellis, History cf Madagascar, 

the Gulph ^ (rtfiffM (London, 1851), L 422 sq.\ q>. id,, pp. 232, 435, 

p. 77. 436 -'f-; Sibrec, Tke Great African 

* Dapper, Description de FAfrique, Island, p. 303 sq. As to divination by 

p. 117. the sikidy, see Sibree, "Divination 

' John Campbell, Travels in South among the Malagasy," Folk-lore, iit. 

Africa, Second Journey, iL 207 sq, (1892), pp. 193-226. 







performing a certain rite. Carrying a small vessel full of 
blood upon his head, he was to mount upon the back of a 
bullock ; while thus mounted, he was to spill the blood upon 
the bullock's head, and then send the animal away into the 
wilderness, whence it might never return.^ 

The Battas of Sumatra have a ceremony which they call 
" making the curse to fly away." When a woman is child- 
less, a sacrifice is offered to the gods of three grasshoppers, 
representing a head of cattle, a buffalo, and a horse. Then 
a swallow is set free, with a prayer that the curse may fall 
upon the bird and fly away with it.' At the cleansing of a 
leper and of a house suspected of being tainted with leprosy, 
the Jews let a bird fly away.' Among the Majhwar, a 
Dravidian race of South Mirzapur, if a man has died of a 
contagious disease, such as cholera, the village priest walks 
in front of the funeral procession with a chicken in his 
hands, which he lets loose in the direction of some other 
village as a scapegoat to carry the infection away. None 
but another very experienced priest would afterwards dare 
to touch or eat such a chicken/ In Morocco most wealthy 
Moors keep a wild boar in their stables, in order that the 
jinn and evil spirits may be diverted from the horses and 
enter into the boar.* Amongst the Burghers or Badagas 
of the Neilgherry Hills in Southern India, when a death has 
taken place, the sins of the deceased are laid upon a buffalo 
calf. A set form of confession of sins, the same for every one, 
is recited aloud, then the calf is set free, and is never after- 
wards used for common purposes. " The idea of this cere- 
mony is that the sins of the deceased enter the calf, or that 
the task of his absolution is laid on it. They say that the 
calf very soon disappears, and that it is never after heard of." * 

1 W. Ellis, op. (it. i. 374 ; Sibrec, 
The Great African Island, p. 304; 
Antananarivo Annua/ and Madagascar 
Magazine, iii. 263. 

s Kodding,**DieBatakschenGdUer," 
AHgemeine Missions - Zcitsckrift, xii. 
(1885), p. 478. 

' Leviticus xiv. 7, 53. For a similar 
use in Arabia see Wellhausen, Reste 
arabiscken Heidentitmes, p. 156; W. 
Robertson Smith, Religion of the Sem- 
ites^ p. 422. 

* W. Crooke, Tribes and Castes of 
the North' IVesteni Provifues afid Oudk^ 
iiL 434. 

* A. Leared, Morocco and the Moon 
(London, 1876), p. 301. 

* H. Harkness, Singular Aboriginal 
Race of the Neilgherry Hills, p. 133 ; 
Metz, The Tribes inhabiting the Neil' 
gherry Hills, p. 78; Jagor, ''Ucbcr 
die Badagas im Nilgiri - Gebirge," 
Verhandl. d, Berlin. Gesell. f Anthro- 

pol. (1876), p. 196 sq. For the custom 




I \ 


Again, men sometimes play the part of scapegoat by divert- 
ing to themselves the evils that threaten others. When a 
Cinghalese is dangerously ill,and the physicians can do nothing, 
a devil-dancer is called in, who by making offerings to the 
devils, and dancing in the masks appropriate to them, conjures 
these demons of disease, one after the other, out of the sick 
man's body and into his own. Having thus successfully ex- 
tracted the cause of the malady, the artful dancer lies down 
on a bier, and shamming death, is carried to an open place out- 
side the village. Here, being left to himself, he soon comes 
to life again, and hastens back to claim his reward.^ In 
1590 a Scotch witch of the name of Agnes Sampson was 
convicted of curing a certain Robert Kers of a disease *' laid 
upon him by a westland warlock when he was at Dumfries, 
whilk sickness she took upon herself, and kept the same 
with great groaning and torment till the mom, at whilk time 
there was a great din heard in the house." The noise was 
made by the witch in her efforts to shift the disease, by 
means of clothes, from herself to a cat or dog. Unfortunately 
the attempt partly miscarried. The disease missed the 
animal and hit Alexander Douglas of Dalkeith, who dwined 
and died of it, while the original patient, Robert Kers, was 
made whole.' The Dyaks believe that certain men possess 
in themselves the power of neutralising bad omens. So, 
when evil omens have alarmed a farmer for the safety of his 
crops, he takes a small portion of his farm produce to one of 
these wise men, who eats it raw for a small consideration, 
" and thereby appropriates to himself the evil omen, which 
in him becomes innocuous, and thus delivers the other from 
the ban of the pemali or taboo." ' 

In Travancore, when a rajah is near his end, they seek 
out a holy Brahman, who consents to take upon himself the 

of letting a bullock go loose after a 
death, compare also Grierson, Bihar 
Peasant Life^ p. 409 ; Ibbetson, Settle- 
ment Report of the Panipat^ Taksil^ 
and Karnal Parganah of the Kamal 
Z^/j/TK/ (Allahabad, 1883), p. 137. In 
the latter case it is said that the animal 
is let loose •* to become a pest" Per- 
haps the older idea was that the animal 
carried away death from the sarvivors. 
The idea of sin b not primitive. 

1 A. GrOnwedel, « Sinhalesische 
Masken,*' IntemoHonales Archiv fiir 
Ethnographies vL (1893), p. 85 sg. 

* DaljfclU Darker Superstitions Of 
Scotland^ p. 104 sq, I have modern- 
ised the spelling. 

» J. Perham, " Sea Dyak Religion," 
Joum, Straits Branch Royal Asiatic 
Society s Na 10 (December 1882), p. 



sins of the dying man in consideration of the sum of ten 
thousand rupees. Thus prepared to immolate himself on the 
altar of duty as a vicarious sacrifice for sin, the saint is intro- 
duced into the chamber of death, and closely embraces the 
dying rajah, saying to him, " O King, I undertake to bear 
all your sins and diseases. May your Highness live long 
and reign happily." Having thus, with a noble devotion, 
taken to himself the sins of the sufferer, and likewise the 
rupees, he is sent away from the country and never more 
allowed to return.^ Closely akin to this is the old Welsh 
custom known as "sin-eating." According to Aubrey, "In 
the County of Hereford was an old Custome at funeralls to 
hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the sinnes 
of the party deceased. One of them, I remember, lived iri a 
cottage on Rosse-high way (he was a long, leane, ugly, 
lamentable poor raskal). The manner was that when the 
Corps was brought out of the house and layd on the Biere ; 
a Loafe of bread was brought out, and delivered to the 
Sinne-eater over the corps, as also a Mazar-bowle of maple 
(Gossips bowle) full of beer, which he was to drinke up, and 
sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon 
him (ipso facto) all the Sinnes of the Defunct, and freed him 
(or her) from walking after they were dead. ... I believe 
this custom was heretofore used over all Wales. ... In 
North Wales the Sinne-eaters are frequently made use of; 
but there, instead of a Bowie of Beere, they have a bowle of 
Milke."* According to a letter dated February i, 17 14-15, 
" within the memory of our fathers, in Shropshire, in those 
villages adjoyning to Wales, when a person dyed, there was 
notice given to an old sire (for so they called him), who 
presently repaired to the place where the deceased lay, and 
stood before the door of the house, when some of the family 
came out and furnished him with a cricket, on which he sat 
down facing the door. Then they gave him a groat, which 
he put in his pocket ; a crust of bread, which he eat ; and a 
full bowle of ale, which he drank off at a draught. After 
this he got up from the cricket and pronounced, with a com- 

* S. Mateer, Native Life in IVavaU' • Aubrey, Remains of Gentilisme and 

£0re, p. 136. Judaisme (Folk-lore Society, 1 88 1), p. 

35 Jf- 

VOL. Ill C 




posed gesture, the ease and rest of the soul departed for 
which he would pawn his own soul. This I had from the 
ingenious John Aubrey, Esq." ^ In recent years some doubt 
has been thrown on Aubrey's account of the custom.' The 
practice, however, is reported to have prevailed in a valley 
not far from Llandebie to a recent period. An instance was 
said to have occurred about fifty years ago.' 

Aubrey's statement is moreover supported by the analogy 
of similar customs in India. When the Rajah of Tanjore 
died in 1801, some of his bones and the bones of the two 
wives, who were burned with his corpse, were ground to 
powder and eaten, mixed with boiled rice, by twelve 
Brahmans. It was believed that the sins of the deceased 
passed into the bodies of the Brahmans, who were paid for 
the service.^ A Brahman, resident in a village near Raipur, 
stated that he had eaten food (rice and milk) out of the hand 
of the dead Rajah of Bilaspur, and that in consequence he 
had been placed on the throne for the space, of a year. At 
the end of the year he had been given presents and then 
turned out of the territory and forbidden apparently to 
return. He was an outcast among his fellows for having 
eaten out of a dead man's hand.^ A similar custom is 
believed to obtain in the hill states about Kangra, and 
to have given rise to a caste of ** outcaste " Brahmans. At 
the funeral of a Rani of Chamba rice and ghee were eaten out 
of the hands of the corpse by a Brahman paid for the purpose. 
Afterwards a stranger, who had been caught outside the 
Chamba territory, was given the costly wrappings of the 
corpse, then told to depart and never show his face in the 

1 Bagford*s letter in Leiand's Coi- 
ietianea, L 76, quoted by Brand, 
Popular AntiquituSf u. 246 sq.^ Bohn's 

* In the Academy ^ 13th Nov. 1875, 
p. 505, Mr. D. Silvan Evans stated 
that he knew of no such custom any- 
where in Wales ; and Miss Bume 
knows no example of it in Shropshire 
(Bume and Jackson, Shropshire Folk- 
lore^ p. 307 sq.), 

' The authority for the statement is 
a Mr. Moggridge, reported in Archae- 
ologi,i Cambrensis^ second series, iit 
330. But Mr. Moggridge did not 

speak from personal knowledge, and as 
he appears to have taken it for granted 
that the practice of placing bread and 
salt upon the breast of a corpse was a 
survival of the custom of "sin-eating," 
his evidence must be received with 
caution. He repeated his statement, in 
somewhat vaguer terms, at a meeting 
of the Anthropological Institute, 14th 
December 1875; ^ttjourn. Anthrop. 
Inst. V. (1876). p. 423 sq, 

^ Dubois, Afcfurs des Peuples de 
rinde^ ii. 32. 

* R. Richardson, in Panjab Notes 
and Queries, L p. 84, § 674. 



country again.^ In Oude when an infant was killed it used 
to be buried in the room where it had been born. On 
the thirteenth day afterwards the priest had to cook and eat 
his food in that room. By doing so he was supposed to 
take the whole sin upon himself and to cleanse the family 
from it' At Utch Kurgan in Turkistan Mr. Schuyler saw 
an old man who was said to get his living by taking on 
himself the sins of the dead, and thenceforth devoting his 
life to prayer for their souls.* 

In Tahiti, where the bodies of chiefs and persons of rank 
were embalmed and preserved above ground in special sheds 
or houses erected for them, a priest was employed at the 
funeral rites who bore the title of the " corpse-praying priest," 
His office was singular. When the house for the dead had 
been prepared, and the corpse placed on the platform or 
bier, the priest ordered a hole to be made in the floor, near 
the foot of the platform. Over this he prayed to the god by 
whom it was supposed that the soul of the deceased had 
been called away. The purport of his prayer was that all 
the dead man's sins, especially the one for which his soul 
had been required of him, might be deposited there, that 
they might not attach in any degree to the survivors, and 
that the anger of the god might be appeased. He next 
addressed the corpse, usually saying, " With you let the guilt 
now remain." The pillar or post of the corpse, as it was 
called, was then planted in the hole, and the hole filled up. 
As soon as the ceremony of depositing the sins in the hole 
was over, all who had touched the body or the garments of 
the deceased, which were buried or destroyed, fled precipitately 
into the sea, to cleanse themselves from the pollution which 
they had contracted by touching the corpse. They also cast 
into the sea the garments they had worn while they were 
performing the last offices to the dead. Having finished 
their ablutions, they gathered a few pieces of coral from the 
bottom of the sea, and returning with them to the house, 
addressed the corpse, saying, " With you may the pollution 


^ Panjah Notes and Queries^ i. p. 86, vol. ii. p. 30 sq. 
\ 674, ii. p. 93, § 559. Some of these ' Panjab Notes and Queries^ iii. p. 

customs have been already referred to 179, § 745. 
in a different connection. See above, ^ E. Schuyler, Turkistan^ ii. 28. 




be." So saying they threw down the coral on the top of the 
hole which had been dug to receive the sins and the defile- 
ment of the dead.^ In this instance the sins of the departed, 
as well as the pollution which the primitive mind commonly 
associates with death, are not borne by a living person, but 
buried in a hole. Yet the fundamental idea — that of the 
transference of sins — is the same in the Tahitian as in the 
Welsh and Indian customs ; whether the vehicle or receptacle 
destined to catch and draw off the evil be a person, an animal, 
or a thing, is for the purpose in hand a matter of little moment.* 
The examples of the transference of evil hitherto 
adduced have been mostly drawn from the customs of 
savage or barbarous peoples. But similar attempts to 
shift the burden of disease, misfortune, and sin from one's 
self to another person, or to an animal or thing, have been 
common also among the civilised nations of Europe, both in 
ancient and modern times. A Roman cure for fever was to 
pare the patient's nails, and stick the parings with wax on a 
neighbour's door before sunrise ; the fever then passed from 
the sick man to his neighbour.' Similar devices must have 
been resorted to by the Greeks ; for in laying down laws for 
his ideal state, Plato thinks it too much to expect that men 
should not be alarmed at finding certain wax figures adhering 
to their doors or to the tombstones of their parents, or lying 
at cross-roads.^ Among the ruins of the great sanctuary of 
Aesculapius, which have been excavated of late years in an 
open valley among the mountains of Epidaurus, inscriptions 
have been found recording the miraculous cures which the 
god of healing performed for his faithful worshippers. One 

* W. Ellis, Pofy»t€sian Researches^ L 
401 sqq, 

* The Welsh custom of ** sin-eating** 
has been interpreted by Mr. £. S. 
Hartland as a modification of an older 
custom of eatinj: the corpse. See bis 
article, •• The Sin-eaier,** Folk-lore^ iii. 
(1892), 145-157; Legend of Perseus^ 
iL 291 sqq.^ iiL p. ix. I cannot 
think his interpretation probable or 
borne out by the evidence. The 
Burgher custom of transferring the sins 
of the dead to a calf which is then let 
loose and never used again (above, p. 
15), the Tahitian custom of burying 

the sins of a person whose body is 
carefully present by being embalmed, 
and the Travancore custom of trans- 
ferring the sins of a Rajah before 
his death, establish the practice of 
transfeniDg sins in cases where there 
can be no question of eating the corpse. 
The original intention of such practices 
was perhaps not so much to take away 
the sins of the deceased as to rid the 
survivors of the dangerous pollution of 
death. This comes out to some extent 
in the Tahitian custom. 

» Pliny, Nat, I/ist. xxviii. 86. 

* Plato, LawSf xi. 12, p. 933 B. 





of them tells how a certain Pandarus, a Thessalian, was freed 
from the letters which, as a former slave or prisoner of war, 
he bore tattooed or branded on his brow. He slept in the 
sanctuary with a fillet round his head, and in the morning 
he discovered to his joy that the marks of shame — the blue 
or scarlet letters — had been transferred from his brow to the 
fillet By and by there came to the sanctuary a wicked man, 
also with brands or tattoo marks on his face, who had been 
charged by Pandarus to pay his debt of gratitude to the 
god, and had received the cash for the purpose. But the 
cunning fellow thought to cheat the god and keep the money 
all to himself. So when the god appeared to him in a dream 
and asked anxiously after the money, he boldly denied that 
he had it, and impudently prayed the god to remove the 
ugly marks from his own brazen brow. He was told to tie 
the fillet of Pandarus about his head, then to take it off, and 
look at his face in the water of the sacred well. He did so, 
and sure enough he saw on his forehead the marks of Pandarus 
in addition to his own.^ In the fourth century of our era 
Marcellus of Bordeaux prescribed a cure for warts, which has 
still a great vogue among the superstitious in various parts 
of Europe. Doubtless it was an old traditional remedy in 
the fourth, and. will long survive the expiry of the nineteenth 
century. You are to touch your warts with as many little 
stones as you have warts ; then wrap the stones in an ivy 
leaf, and throw them away in a thoroughfare. Whoever 
picks them up will get the warts, and you will be rid of 
them.* A similar cure for warts, with such trifling variations 
as the substitution of peas or barley for pebbles, and a rag 
or a piece of paper for an ivy leaf, has been prescribed in 
modem times in Italy, France, England, and Scotland.* 

> 'K^Ai«pis d/>xcuoXo7uri}, 1 883, col. 

213. 214. 

' Marcellus, De medicamentis^ xxxiv. 
102. A limilar cure is described by 
I'lioy {Nai, I/isL xxii. 149) ; you are 
to touch the warts with chick-peas on 
the first day of the moon, wrap the 
peas in a cloth, and throw them away 
behind you. But Pliny does not say 
that the warts will be transferred to 
the person who picks up the peas. On 
this subject see further J. Hardy, 

•• Wart and wen cures," Folk-iore 
Record^ i. (1878), pp. 216-228. 

^ Zanetti, La nudicina de//e nostre 
donne^ p* 224 sq. ; Thiers, Trait/ des 
Superstitions (Paris, 1679), p. 321 ; B. 
Souch^, Croyances pr/sages et traditions 
diverses, p. 19; J. W. Wolf, BeitrHgt 
sur deutschen Mythologies i. 248, { 
576 ; Ilarland and Wilkinson, Lanca* 
shire FoU-lore, p. 157 ; G. W. BUurk, 
Folk-medicine, p. 41 ; W. Gregor, Folk- 
lore of the N^orth- East of Scotland^ p. 49. 




Another favourite way of passing on your warts to somebody 
else is to make as many knots in a string as you have warts ; 
then throw the string away or place it under a stone* 
Whoever treads on the stone or picks up the thread will get 
the warts instead of you ; sometimes to complete the trans- 
ference it is thought necessary that he should undo the 
knots.^ Or you need only place the knotted thread before 
sunrise in the spout of a pump ; the next person who 
works the pump will be sure to get your warts.' Equally • \ 
effective methods are to rub the troublesome excrescences 
with down or fat, or to bleed them on a rag, and then 
throw away the down, the fat, or the bloody rag. The 
person who picks up one or other of these things will be 
sure to release you from your warts by involuntarily 
transferring them to himself.* People in the Orkney Islands 
will sometimes wash a sick man, and then throw the water' 
down at a gateway, in the belief that the sickness will leave 
the patient and be transferred to the first person who passes 
through the gate,* A Bavarian cure for fever is to write 
upon a piece of paper, " Fever, §tay away, I am not at home," 
and to put the paper in somebody's pocket. The latter then 
catches the fever, and the patient is rid of it^ Or the sufferer 
may cure himself by sticking a tw^ of the elder-tree in the 
ground without speaking. The fever then adheres to the 
twig, and whoever pulls up the twig will catch the disease.* 
A Bohemian prescription for the same malady is this. Take 
an empty pot, go with it to a cross-road, throw it down, and 
run away. The first person who kicks against the pot will 
catch your fever, and you will be cured.^ In Oldenburg they 
say that when a person lies sweating with fever, he should 
take a piece of money to himself in bed. The money is 

1 L. Strackerjan, Aberglaube und ^ Q\k,Yjogtx%^ Social Life in Scotland^ 

Sage aus dem ffertegtkum Oidenhurg^ iiu 226. 
u« 7i» § S5 ; E. Monseur, Le Folklore 

IVallon, p. 29 ; H. Zahler, Die Krank- * G- Lammcrt, Volksnuditin und 

hat im Volksglauben des Simmenikqls medizinischer AberglM^ in Btyteni, p. 

(Bern, 1898), p. 93 ; I^ Andree, 264. 

Braunsckwager VMskunde^ p. 306. § yxA/ « ^5- 

« A. Birlinger, Volksthumliches aus ^' ^' 

SckwabeHf L 483. ' J. G. GrohmanD, Aberglauben utid 

' Thiers, Soocfa^, Strackeijan, Mod- GeMitcAe aus Bohmen und Maltnn^ 

sear, p. 167, § 1180. 


afterwards thrown away on the street, and whoever picks 
it up will catch the fever, but the original patient will be 
rid of it^ 

Often in Europe, as among savages, an attempt is 
made to transfer a pain or malady from a man to an 
animal. Grave writers of antiquity recommended that, if 
a man be stung by a scorpion, he should sit upon an ass 
with his face to the tail, or whisper in the animal's ear, 
" A scorpion has stung me " ; in either case, they thought, 
the pain would be transferred from the man to the ass.^ 
Many cures of this sort are recorded by Marcellus. For 
example, he tells us that the following is a remedy for 
toothache. Standing booted under the open sky on the 
ground, you catch a frog by the head, spit into its mouth, 
ask it to carry away the ache, and then let it go. But 
the ceremony must be performed on a lucky day and at 
a lucky hour.' In Cheshire the ailment known as aphtha or 
thrush, which affects the mouth or throat of infants, is not 
uncommonly treated in much the same manner. A young 

j frog is held for a few moments with its head inside the 
mouth of the sufferer, whom it is supposed to relieve by 

• taking the malady to itself. '' I assure you," said an old 
woman who had often superintended such a cure, '' we used 
to hear the poor frog whooping and coughing, mortal bad, 

i for days after ; it would have made your heart ache to hear 

I the poor creature coughing as it did about the garden."^ 
Again Marcellus tells us that if the foam from a mule's 
mouth, mixed with warm water, be drunk by an asthmatic 
patient, he will at once recover, but the mule will die.* An 
ancient cure for the gripes, recorded both by Pliny and 
Marcellus, was to put a live duck to the belly of the 
sufferer ; the pains passed from the man into the bird, to 
which they proved fatal.^ According to the same writers a 

^ L. Strackerjan, op, cii. i. 71, * W. G. Hlack, Folk • medicine^ p. 

§85. 35 J^. 

' Gtoponica^ xiiL 9, xv. i ; Pliny, ^ Marcellus, De MedicamerUis^ xviL 

ASi/. /^iV/. xxviii. 155. The authorities 18. 

for these cures are respectively A puleiua * PHnyt Aa/. Hist, xxx. 61; Mar- 

and Democritus. The latter is prob- cellus, De MedUameniis^ xxvii. 33. The 

ably not the atomic philosopher. See latter writer mentions {pp, cii. xxviiL 

Arthttological Review^ i. 180, note. 123) that the same malady might 

' Marcellus, /?^m^i/fVtfmtf7f//j,xii. 24. similarly be transferred to a live frog. 




Stomachic complaint of which the cause was unknown might 
be cured by applying a blind puppy to the suffering part for 
three days. The secret disorder thus passed into the puppy; 
it died, and a post-mortem examination of its little body 
revealed the cause of the disease from which the man had 
suffered and of which the dog had died.^ Once more, 
Marcellus advises that when a man was afflicted with a 
disorder of the intestines the physician should catch a live 
hare, take the huckle-bone from one of its feet and the down ^ 

from the belly, then let the hare go, pronouncing as he did 
so the words, " Run away, run away, little hare, and take 
away with you the intestine pain." Further, the doctor was ' 
to fashion the down into thread, with which he .was to tie 
the huckle-bone to the patient's body, taking great care that 
the thread should not be touched by any woman.^ A i 
Northamptonshire and Devonshire cure for a cough is to ; 
put a hair of the patient's head between two slices of 
buttered bread and g^ive the sandwich to a dog. The 
animal will thereupon catch the cough and the patient will 
lose it' Sometimes an ailment is transferred to an animal 
by sharing food with it Thus in Oldenburg, if you are sick 
of a fever you set a bowl of sweet milk before a dog and say, 
"Good luck, you hound 1 may you be sick and I be sound 1" 
Then when the dog has lapped some of the milk, you take 
a swig at the bowl ; and then the dog must lap ag^ain, and 
then you must swig again ; and when you and the dog have 
done it the third time, he will have the fever and you will be 
quit of it A peasant woman in Abbehausen told her pastor 
that she suffered from fever for a whole year and found no 
relief. At last somebody advised' her to give some of her 
food to a 6og and a cat She did so and the fever passed 
from her into the animals. But when she saw the poor sick 
beasts always before her, she wished it undone. Then the 
fever left the cat and the dog and returned to her.^ A 
Bohemian cure for fever is to go out into the forest before 
the sun is up and look for a snipe's nest When you have 

> Pliny, Nai, Hist. xxx. 64 ; Mar- N^riJum Cmnties^ p. 143 ; W. G. 

eenus, De Medkameniis^ xxviii 132. Black, Folk-wudkitu^ p. 35. 

' Maxoellas, Dt Medicameniis^ xxix. ^ L. Strackeijan, Abergtaube uni 

35- SagtH aus dem Henagtkum OUenhurg^ 

' W. IlendenoQ, Folk-hre of Hu i. 72, § 86. 


found it, take out one of the young birds and keep it beside 
you for three days. Then go back into the wood and set 
the snipe free. The fever will leave you at once. The 
snipe has taken it away. So in Vedic times the Hindoos 
of old sent consumption away with a blue jay. They said, 
" O consumption, fly away, fly away with the blue jay ! 
With the wild rush of the storm and the whirlwind, oh, 
vanish away !"^ In Oldenburg they sometimes hang up a 
goldfinch or a turtle-dove in the room of a consumptive 
patient, hoping that the bird may draw away the malady 
from the sufferer to itself.^ A prescription for a cough in 
Sunderland is to shave the patient's head and hang the hair 
on a bush. When the birds carry the hair to their nests, 
they will carry the cough with it* In the Mark of 
Brandenburg a cure for headache is to tie a thread thrice 
round your head and then hang it in a loop from a tree ; 
if a bird flies through the loop, it will take your head- 
ache away with it^ A Bohemian remedy for jaundice 
is as follows. Take a living tench, tie it to your bare 
back and carry it about with you for a whole day. The 
tench will turn quite yellow and die. Then throw it into 
running water, and your jaundice will depart with it^ 
In the village of Llandegla in Wales there is a church 
dedicated to the virgin martyr St. Tecla, where the falling 
sickness is, or used to be, cured by being transferred to 
a fowl. The patient first washed his limbs in a sacred 
.well hard by, dropped fourpence into it as an offering, 
walked thrice round the well, and thrice repeated the 
Lord's prayer. Then the fowl, which was a cock or a hen 
according as the patient was a man or a woman, was put 
into a basket and carried round first the well and afterwards 
the church. Next the sufferer entered the church and lay 
down under the communion table till break of day. After 
that he offered sixpence and departed, leaving the fowl in 

* Grohinann, Ab^r^aubtn und Gt- . * I-. Strackerjan, rf. Hi, i. 72, 

hriiuche aus fibhmen und Mdhren^ p. § 87. 

166, I 1 173, quoting Kuhn*s transla- • Henderson, Folk-lore of the 

tion of Rig-veda^ x. 97. 13. A slightly Northern Counting p. 143. 

diflferent translation of the verse is ^ A. Kuhn, Markische Sagm tmd 

given by H. Grassmann, who here A/iirchrn, p. 384, § 62. • 

follows R. Roth (A'i]^-tvr/tf tf^^rA'/s/, vol. ^ Grohmann, op» cif. p. 230, § 

"• P- 379)* 1663. 


the church. If the bird died, the sickness was supposed to 
have been transferred to it from the man or woman, who 
was now rid of the disorder. As late as 1855 the old 
parish clerk of the village remembered quite well to have 
seen the birds staggering about from the effects of the fits 
which had been transferred to them.^ 

Often the sufferer seeks to shift his burden of sickness or 
ill-luck to some inanimate object In Athens there is a 
little chapel of St John the Baptist built against an ancient 
column. Fever patients resort thither, and by attaching a 
waxed thread to the inner side of the column believe that 
they transfer the fever from themselves, to the pillar.* 
In the Mark of Brandenburg they say that if you suffer 
from giddiness you should strip yourself naked and run 
thrice round a flax-field after sunset ; in that way the flax 
will get the giddiness and you will be rid of it' Some- 
times an attempt is made to transfer the mischief, whatever 
it may be, to the moon. In Oldenbui^ a peasant related 
how he rid himself of a bony excrescence by stroking 
it thrice crosswise in the name of the Trinity, and then 
making a gesture as if he were seizing the deformity and 
hurling it towards the moon. ' In the same part of Germany 
a cure for warts is to stand in the light of a waxing moon 
so that you cannot see your own shadow, then hold the 
disfigured hand towards the moon, and stroke it with the 
other hand in the direction of the luminary. Some say 
that in doing this you should pronounce these words, 
" Moon, free me from these vermin." * 

But perhaps thething most commonly employed in Europe 
as a receptacle for sickness and trouble of all sorts is a tree 
or bush. The modes of transferring the mischief to it are 
many. For example, the Esthonians say that you ought not 
to go out of the house on a spring morning before you have 
eaten or drunk ; for if you do, you may chance to hear one 
of '* the sounds which are not heard in winter," such as the 
song of a bird, and that would be unlucky. They think 

^ Brand, Popular Antiquities^ ii. 'A. Kuhn, AfUrkische Sagen und 

375 ; W. G. Black, Folk-medicine^ p. Marcken, p. 386. 

46. * L. Strackerjan, Aberglaube und 

* B. Schmidt. Das Volkslehen der Sagem aus dem Henogtkum Oldenburg^ 

Neugrieckem^ p. 82. i. 74, § 9 1. 


Ill TO TREES 27 

that if you thus let yourself be deceived or outwitted, as 
they call it, by a bird, you will be visited by all sorts of 
ill-luck during the year ; indeed it may very well happen 
that you will fall sick and die before another spring comes 
round. However, there is a way of averting the evil. You 
have merely to embrace a tree or go thrice round it, biting 
into the bark each time or tearing away a strip of the bark 
with your teeth. Thus the bad luck passes from you to the 
tree, which accordingly withers away.^ On St. George's Day, 
South Slavonian lads and lasses climb thrice up and down a 
cornel-tree, saying, " My laziness and sleepiness to you, 
cornel-tree, but health and booty (?) to me." Then as they 
wend homewards they turn once more towards the tree and 
call out, " Cornel-tree 1 cornel-tree I I leave you my laziness 
and sleepiness." * The same people attempt to cure fever 
by transferring it to a dwarf elder-bush. Having found such 
a bush with three shoots springing from the root, the patient 
g^rasps the points of the three shoots in his hand, bends 
them down to the ground, and fastens them there with a 
stone. Under the arch thus formed he creeps thrice ; then 
he cuts off or digs up the three shoots, saying, ''In three 
shoots I cut three sicknesses out When these three shoots 
grow young again, may the fever come back." * A Bulgarian 
cure for fever is to run thrice round a willow-tree at sunrise, 
crying, ^ The fever shall shake thee, and the sun shall warm 
me." ^ In the Greek island of Karpathos the priest ties a red 
thread round the neck of a sick person. Next morning the 
friends of the patient remove the thread and go out to the 
hillside, where they tie the thread to a tree, thinking that they 
thus transfer the sickness to the tree.^ Italians attempt to 
cure fever in like manner by fastening it to a tree. The sufferer 
ties a thread round his left wrist at night, and hangs the thread 
on a tree next morning. The fever is thus believed to be tied 
up to the tree, and the patient to be rid of it ; but he must be 
careful not to pass by that tree again, otherwise the fever 

1 F. J. WiedemaDn, Aus dem in- ^ Krauss, op, cit, p. 39. 

m*rtn und ausum LOen der Eksta,, , ^ g,^^^ ^.^ ^^^^^ ^^^^^^ 

•^•f/s. Krauss, V,lksiUuk und 1898), p. 400. cp. p. 401. 

rdigiostr Brauch der Siidslaven, p. * Blackwood* s Maga&Uw^ February 

35 sq. 1886, p. 239. 




would break loose from its bonds and attack him afresh.^ 
An old French remedy for fever was to bind the patient 
himself to a tree and leave him there for a time ; some said 
the ceremony should be performed fasting and early in the 
morning, that the cord or straw rope with which the person 
was bound to the tree should be left there to rot, and that the 
sufferer should bite the bark of the tree before returning 
home.' In Bohemia the friends of a fever patient will 
sometimes carry him head foremost^ by means of straw 
ropes, to a bush, on which they dump him down. Then he 
must jump up and run home. The friends who carried him 
also flee, leaving the straw ropes and likewise the fever 
behind them on the bush.' Sometimes the sickness is 
transferred to the tree by making a knot in one of its 
boughs. Thus in Mecklenburg a remedy f6r fever is to go 
before sunrise to a willow-tree and tie as many knots in one 
of its branches as the fever has lasted da)^ ; but going and 
coming you must be careful not to speak a word.^ A 
Flemish cure for the ague is to go early in the morning to 
an old willow, tie three knots in one of its branches, say, 
" Good-morrow, Old One, I give thee the cold ; good-morrow, 
Old One," then turn and run away without looking round.^ 
In Rhenish Bavaria the cure for gout is similar. The 
patient recites a spell or prayer while he stands at a willow- 
bush holding one of its boughs. When the mystic words 
have been spoken, he ties a knot in the bough and departs 
cured. But all his life long he must never go near that 
willow-bush again, or the gout will come back to him.^ In 
Sonnenberg, if you would rid yourself of gout you should go 
to a young flr-tree and tie a knot in one of its twigs, saying, 
" God greet thee, noble fir. I bring thee my gout Here will 
I tie a knot and bind my gout into it In the name," etc.^ 

1 Zanetti, La medicifta dette nostrg 
donm^ p. 73. 

' Thiers, Traiti des Superstitioni 
(Paris, 1679), p. 323 sq, 

' Grohmann, Aber^auben und 
Cehrauche aus Bokmen ttnd Afakren^ 
p. 167, I 1 178. A Belgian care of 
the same sort is reported by J. W. 
Wolf (Beitrage tur deuiscken Afythc- 
logU^ i. 223 (wrongly numbered 219), 
f 256). 

* L. Strackeijan, Aberglauhe und 
SagtH mux dim Hert/ogtkum Oldmbmrg^ 

i. 74. I 90. 

* Grimm, Demtscke Mythologies ii. 


* Bavaria^ LamdeS' und VoUskundi 

des Komigreicks Bayem^ iv. 2. p. 406. 
T A. Schleicher, Volkstiimluha out 
Sonnenberg^ p. 150; A. Witzscbel, 
Sagen^ Si/fen und GebrSurke ans Tkar- 
ingtn, p. 283, I 82. 



Ill TO TREES 29 

Not far from Marburg, at a place called Neuhof, there is a 
wood of birches. Thither on a morning before sunrise, in 
the last quarter of the moon, bands of gouty people may 
often be seen hobbling in silence. Each of them takes his 
stand before a separate tree and pronounces these solemn 
words : " Here stand I before the judgment bar of God and 
tie up all my gout All the disease in my body shall 
remain tied up in this birch-tree." Meanwhile the good 
physician ties a knot in a birch-twig, repeating thrice, "In 
the name of the Father," etc^ Another way of transferring 
gout from a man to a tree is this. Fare the nails of the 
sufferer's fingers and clip some hairs from his legs. Bore a 
hole in an oak, stuff the nails and hair in the hole, stop up 
the hole again, and smear it with cow's dung. If, for three 
months thereafter, the patient is free of gout, you may be 
sure the oak has it in his stead.' A German cure for tooth- 
ache is to bore a hole in a tree and cram some of the 
sufferer's hair into it' In these cases, though no doubt 
the tree suffers the pangs of gout or toothache respectively^ 
it does so with a sort of stoical equanimity, giving no outward 
and visible sign of the pains that rack it inwardly. It is 
not always so, however. The tree cannot invariably sup- 
press every symptom of its suffering. It may hide its tooth- 
ache, but it cannot so easily hide its warts. In Cheshire if 
you would be rid of warts, you have only to rub them with 
a piece of bacon, cut a slit in the bark of an ash-tree, and 
slip the bacon under the bark. Soon the warts will dis- 
appear from your hand, only however to reappear in the 
shape of rough excrescences or knobs on the bark of the 
tree.* At Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, there used to 
be certain oak-trees which were long celebrated for the 
cure of ague. The transference of the malady to the tree 
was simple but painful. A lock of the sufferer's hair was 
pegged into an oak ; then by a sudden wrench he left his 
hair and his ague behind him in the tree.* 

It seems clear that, though you may stow away your 
pain or sickness in a tree, there is a considerable risk of 

» W. Kolbc, ffessiscke V^ks- Siiien » H. ZMer, DuAyanJtkei/im Voiks- 

und Gedraucke, p. 88 sf. giaubtn des Simmentkals^ p. 94. 

s C Meyer, Der Alfergiaube da * W. G. Black, Folk-medicim^ p. 38. 

Miiieiaiiers, p. 104. * Ibid. p. 39. 




its coming out again. To obviate this danger common 
prudence suggests that you should plug or bung up the 
hole as tight as you can. And this, as we should naturally 
expect, is often done. A German cure for toothache or 
headache is to wrap some of the sufferer's cut hair and nails 
in paper, make a hole in the tree, stuff the parcel into it, 
and stop up the hole with a plug made from a tree which 
has been struck by lightning.^ In Bohemia they say that, 
if you feel the fever coming on, you should pull out some of 
your hair, tear off a strip of a garment you are wearing, 
and bore a hole in a willow-tree. Having done so, you put 
the hair and the rag in the hole and stop it up with a wedge 
of hawthorn. Then go home without looking back, and if a 
voice calls to you, be sure not to answer. , When you have 
complied with this prescription, the fever will cease.' In 
Oldenburg a common remedy for feVer is to bore a hole in 
a tree, breathe thrice into the hole, and then plug it up. 
Once a man who had thus shut up his fever in a tree was 
jeered at by a sceptical acquaintance for his credulity. So 
he went secretly to the tree and drew the stopper, and out 
came that fever and attacked the sceptic.' Sometimes they 
say that the tree into which you thus breathe your fever 
or ague should be a hollow willow, and that in going to 
the tree you should be careful not to utter a word, and 
not to cross water.^ Again, we read of a man who 
suffered acute pains in his arm. So ^they beat up red 
corals with oaken leaves, and having kept them on the part 
affected till suppuration, they did in the morning put this 
mixture into an hole bored with an auger in the root of an 
oak, respecting the east, and stop up this hole with a p^ 
made of the same tree; from thenceforth the pain did 
altogether cease, and when they took out the amulet im- 
mediately the torments returned sharper than before."* 
These facts seem to put it beyond the reach of reasonable 

t Wuttke, Der deutsche Volksaber- 
^aube? S 490. 

' Grohmann, Aberglauben und d* 
hrSnuke am Bohmen und Mahren^ p. 
165, S 1 160. 

' L. Strackeijan, Abergiauhe und 
Sagen aus dem Hertogthum Oidenhtrg^ 
ii. 74 jf., 5 89. 

* Grimm, Deutsehi Mytkohgie^^ ii. 

• T. J. Pettigrew, On Superstitions 
€cmu€ted wiik thi History and Practice 
of Medicineand Surgery ^joxiAKjXi^ 1844), 
P- 77 ; W. G. Black, Folk-meJicine^ 
P- 37- 





doubt that the pain or malady is actually in the tree and 
waiting to come out, if only it gets the chance. 

Often the patient, without troubling to bore a hole in 
the tree, merely knocks a wedge, a peg, or a nail into it, 
believing that he thus pegs or nails the sickness or pain into 
the wood. Thus a Bohemian cure for fever is to go to a tree 
and hammer a wedge into it with the words " There, I knock 
you in, that you may come no more out to me." ^ A German 
way of getting rid of toothache is to go in silence before sun- 
rise to a tree, especially a willow-tree, make a slit in the bark 
on the north side of the tree, or on the side that looks 
towards the sunrise, cut out a splinter from the place thus 
laid bare, poke the splinter into the aching tooth till blood 
comes, then put back the splinter in the tree, fold down the 
bark over it, and tie a string round the trunk, that the 
splinter may grow into the trunk as before. As it does so, 
your pain will vanish ; but you must be careful not to go 
near the tree afterwards, or you will get the toothache again. 
And any one who pulls the splinter out will also get the 
toothache. He has in fact uncorked the toothache which 
was safely bottled up in the tree, and he must take the 
natural consequence of his rash act.^ A simpler plan, 
practised in Persia as well as in France and Germany, is 
merely to scrape the aching tooth with a nail or a twig till 
it bleeds, and then hammer the nail or the twig into a tree. 
In the Vosges, in Voigtland, and probably elsewhere, it is 
believed that any person who should draw out such a nail 
or twig would get the toothache.' An old lime-tree at 
Evessen, in Brunswick, is studded with nails of various 
shapes, including screw-nails, which have been driven into it 
by persons who suffered from aching teeth.^ In the Mark 
of Brandenburg they say that the ceremony should be per- 

^ Grohmann, Aber^aul^en und 
Cebrduche aus Biihmen und Mdhren^ 
p. 167, § 1 182. 

* L. Strackerjan, Abcrglaube und 
Sagen aus dem //trtoj^hum Oldenburg^ 
i. 73* 8 89; Wutlkc, Der deutsche 
Volksaherglauhe^ § 490. 

' L. F. Sauve, l^ Folk-lore des 
HauteS' Vosges^ p. 40 ; A. Mcyrac, 
Traditions^ Coutumes^ Ligendes tt 

Contes des Ardennes^ p. 174 ; A. 
Schleicher, VolkstUmliches aus Sonnen- 
herg^ p. 149 ; J. A. E. Kohler, Volks- 
*>rauch^ etc., im VoigtlaneU^ p. 414; 
A. Witzschel, Sagen, Sitten und Ge- 
brauche aus Thiiringen^ p. 283, § 79 ; 
H. Zahler, Die Krankheit im Volks- 
qlauben des Simmenthals^ p. 93. 

* R. Andree, BraunschweigerVotkS' 
kunde, p. 307. 



formed when the moon is on the wane, and that the bloody- 
nail should be knocked, without a word being spoken, into 
the north side of an oak-tree, where the sun cannot shine 
on it ; after that the person will have no more toothache so 
long as the tree remains standing.^ Here it is plainly 
implied that the toothache is bottled up in the tree. If 
further proof were needed that in such cases the malady 
is actually transferred to the tree and stowed away in its 
trunk, it would be afforded by the belief that if the tree is 
cut down the toothache will return to the original sufferer.* ^ 

Fresh confirmation is furnished by a comparison of these 
European customs with their parallels in India. Thus the 
Majhwars, a Dravidian tribe in the hill country of South 
Mirzapur, believe that all disease is due to ghosts, but that 
ghosts, when they become troublesome, can be shut up in a 
certain tree, which grows on a little islet in a very deep 
pool of the Sukandar, a tributary of the Kanhar river. 
Accordingly, when the country is infested by ghosts, in other 
words when disease is raging, a skilful wizard seeks for a 
piece of deer-horn in the jungle. When he has found it, 
he hammers it with a stone into the tree and thus shuts up 
the ghost The tree is covered with hundreds of such pieces 
of horn.' Again, when a new settlement is being made in 
some parts of the North- Western Provinces of India, it is 
deemed necessary to apprehend and lay by the heels the 
local deities, who might otherwise do a deal of mischief to 
the intruders on their domain. A sorcerer is called in to 
do the business. For days he marches about the place 
mustering the gods to the tuck of drum. When they are 
all assembled, two men known as the Earthman and the 
Leafman, who represent the gods of the earth and of the 
trees respectively, become full of the spirit, being taken 
possession of bodily by the local deities. In this exalted 
state they shout and caper about in a fine frenzy, and their 
seemingly disjointed ejaculations, which are really the divine 
voice speaking through them, are interpreted by the sorcerer. 

* A. Kuhn, Mdrkiscke Sagem und of the North - Western Provinces and 

Mdrchen^ p. 384, § 66. Oudh^ iii. 436 sq, ; compare /V/., In- 

' H. Zahler, loc. cit. troduction to the Poplar Religion and 

» W. Crobke, The Tribes and Castes Folklore of Northern India, p. 24. 


\ When the critical moment has come, the wizard rushes in 
t between the two incarnations of divinity, clutches at the 
: spirits which are hovering about them in the air, and pours 
! grains of sesame through their hands into a perforated piece 
of the wood of the sacred fig-tree. Then without a 
\ moment's delay he plasters up the hole with a mixture of 
clay and cow-dung, and carefully buries the piece of wood 
on the spot which is to be the shrine of the local deities. 
Needless to say that the gods themselves are bunged up in 
the wood and are quite incapable of doing further mischief, 
provided always that the usual offerings are made to them 
at the shrine where they live in durance vilc.^ In this case 
the source of mischief is imprisoned, not in a tree, but in a 
piece of one ; but the principle is clearly the same. Simi- 
I larly in Corea an English lady observed at a cross-road a 
i small log with several holes like those of a mouse-trap, one 
' ' of which was plugged up doubly with bungs of wood. She 
was told that a demon, whose ravages spread sickness in a 
family, had been inveigled by a sorceress into that hole and 
securely bunged up. It was thought proper for all passers- 
by to step over the incarcerated devil, whether to express 
their scorn and abhorrence of him, or more probably as a 
means of keeping him down, just as you may see a 
courageous and public -spirited passenger sitting on the 
head of a prostrate cab- horse which has fallen on the 
slippery pavement.* 

From knocking the mischief into a tree or a log it is 
only a step to knocking it into a stone, a door-post, a wall, 
or such like. At the head of Glen Mor, near Port Charlotte, 
in Islay, there may be seen a large boulder, and it is said 
that whoever drives a nail into this stone will thereafter be 
secure from attacks of toothache. A farmer in Islay told 
an inquirer some years ago how a passing stranger once 
cured his grandmother of toothache by driving a horse-nail 
into the lintel of the kitchen door, warning her at the same 
time to keep the nail there, and if it should come loose just 
to tap it with a hammer till it had a grip again. She had 

* W. Crooke, Jntrodtution to the * Mrs. Bishop, Korea and her 

Popular Religion and Folklore of Neighbours^ ii. 143 sq. 
Northern India^ p. 62 sq, 

VOL. Ill I> 




no more toothache for the rest of her life,^ In Brunswick it 
is open to any one to nail his toothache either into a wall or 
into a tree, as he thinks fit ; the pain is cured quite as well 
in the one way as in the other.^ A Bohemian who fears he 
is about to have an attack of fever will snatch up the first 
thing that comes to hand and nail it to the wall. That 
keeps the fever from him.' As in Europe we nail toothache 
or fever to a wall, so in Morocco they nail devils. A house 
in Mc^ador having been infested with devils, who threw 
stones about it in a way that made life a burden to the 
inmates, a holy man was called in to exorcise them, which 
he did effectually by pronouncing an incantation and driving 
a nail into the wall ; at every stroke of the hammer a 
hissing sound announced that another devil had received 
his quietus.^ In modem Egypt numbers of people suffering 
from headache used to knock a nail into the great wooden 
door of the old south gate of Cairo, for - the purpose of 
charming away the pain* A holy and miraculous personage, 
invisible to mortal eyes, was supposed to have one of his 
stations at this gate.^ Not far from Neuenkirchen, in Olden- 
burg, there is a farmhouse to which, while the Thirty Years' 
War was raging, the plague came lounging along from the 
neighbouring town in the shape of a bluish vapour. Enter- 
ing the house it popped into a hole in the door-post of one 
of the rooms. The farmer saw his chance, and quick as 
thought he seized a peg and hammered it into the hole, 
so that the plague could not possibly get out After a 
time, however, thinking the danger was past, he drew out 
the peg. Alas! with the peg came creeping and curling 
out of the hole the blue vapour once more. The plague 
thus let loose seized on every member of the family in that 
unhappy house and left not one of them alive.^ 

The simple ceremony, in which to this day the super- 

1 R. C Madagan, « Notes on folk- 
lore objects collected in Argyleshire," 
Fdk'lare^ vi (1895), P* 'S^- 

* R. Andree, BraunsckwdgtrVolkS' 
htfidct p. 307. 

' Grohmann, Abergiauhen und 
Gthrauche aus Bbhwun und Mahren^ 
p. 116, § 1 172. 

* A. \jtzxe^^ Moroccc and the Moors ^ 

p. 275 sqq. 

* Lane, Man$un and Customs of 
the Modem Egyptians (Paisley and 
London, 1895), di. x. p. 24a 

* L. Strackeijan, Abergiauhe und 
Sagen aus dem fforxcgtkum Oldenburg^ 
ii. 120, I 428a. A similar story is 
told of a bouse in Neuenburg {op. cit, 
ii. 182, § 512^). 

! \ 


stition of European peasants sees a sovereign remedy for 
plague and fever and toothache, has come down to us from 
a remote antiquity ; for in days w hen as yet Paris and 
London were not, when France still revered the Druids as 
the masters of all knowledge, human and divine, and when 
our own country was still covered with virgin forests, the 
home of savage beasts and savage men, the same ceremony 
was solemnly performed from time to time by the highest 
magistrate at Rome, to stay the ravages of pestilence or re- 
trieve disaster that threatened the foundations of the national 
life. In the fourth century before our era the city of Rome 
was desolated by a great plague which raged for three years, 
carrying off some of the highest dignitaries and a great 
multitude of common folk. The historian who records the 
calamity informis us that when a banquet had been offered 
to the gods in vain, and neither human counsels nor divine 
help availed to* mitigate the violence of the disease, it was 
resolved for the first time in Roman history to institute 
dramatical performances as an appropriate means of ap- 
peasing the wrath of the celestial powers. But even this 
novel spectacle failed to amuse or touch, to move to tears 
or laughter the sullen gods. The plague still raged, and at 
the very moment when the actors were playing their best in 
the circus beside the Tiber, the yellow river rose in angry 
flood and drove players and spectators, wading and splash- 
ing through the fast-deepening waters, away from the show. 
It was clear that the gods spumed plays as well as prayers 
and banquets ; and in the general consternation it was felt 
that some more effectual measure should be taken to put an 
end to the scourge. Old men remembered that a plague 
had once been stayed by the knocking of a nail into a wall ; 
and accordingly the Senate resolved that now in their 
extremity, when all other means had failed, a supreme 
magistrate should be appointed for the sole purpose of 
performing this solemn ceremony. The appointment was 
made, the nail was knocked, and the plague ceased, sooner 
or later.^ What better proof could be given of the saving 
virtue of a nail ? 

^ Livy, viiL 1-3. The plague raged happily stayed in the manner described 
from 365 to 363 B.C., when it was in the text. 




Twice more within the same century the Roman people 
had recourse to the same venerable ceremony as a cure for 
public calamities with which the ordinary remedies, civil and 
religious, seemed unable to cope. One of these occ93ions 
was a pestilence ; ^ the other was a strange mortality nmong 
the leading men, which public opinion traced, rightly or 
wrongly, to a series of nefarious crimes perpetrated by noble 
matrons, whp took their husbands off by poisqn. The 
crimes, real or imaginary, were set down to frenzy, §nd 
nothing could be thought of so likely to minister tQ min^s 
diseased as the •knocking of a nail into a wall. Search 
s^mong the annals of the city prpved that in a season of civil 
discord, when the state had been rent by party feud, the 
same time-honoured remedy, the same soothing balm had 
been applied with the happiest rcsult3 to the jarring inter^ts 
and heated passions of the disputants. Accordingly the old 
nostrum was tried once more, and again success appQ^i^d to 
justify the experiment^ 

If thq Ropans in the fourth century before Christ thi|s 
deemed it possible to rid themselves of pestUenqe, frenzy, 
and sedition by hammering them into a wall, ev^n as French 
and Germa,n peasants 3till rid themselves of fever and tooth- 
ache by knocking them into a tree, their prudent ancestors 
appear to have determined that so salutary a measure should 
not be restricted in its scope to meeting special and urgent 
emergencies as they arose, but should r^^larly diffuse its 
benefits over the community by anticipating and, as it were, 
nipping in the bud evils which, left unchecked, might grow 
to dangerous proportions. This, we may conjecture, was 
the original intention of an ancient Roman law which 
ordained that the highest magistrate of the republic should 
knock in a nail every year on the thirteenth day of Sep- 
tember. The law might be seen, couched in old-fashioned 
language, engraved on a tablet which was fastened to a wall 
of the temple of Capitoline Jupiter ; and although the place 
where the nails were driven in is nowhere definitely stated 
by classical writers, there are some grounds for thinking that 
it may have been the same wall on which the law that 


1 Livy, ix. 28. This happened in 
the year 313 B.C. 

' Livy, viiL 18. These events took 
place in 331 B.C 




sanctioned the custom was exhibited. Livy tells us that 
the duty of affixing the nail, at one time discharged by the 
consuls, was afterwards committed to dictators, whose higher 
rank consorted better with the dignity and importance of the 
function. At a later time the custom fell into abeyance, and 
the ancient ceremony was revived only from time to time 
in seasons of grave peril or extraordinary calamity, which 
seemed to attest the displeasure of the gods at modern ways 
and disposed men to bethink them of ancestral lore and to 
walk in the old paths.^ 

In antiquity the annual practice of hammering a nail 
into a wall was not confined to Rome. It was observed 
also at Vulsinii, in Etruria, where the nails thus fixed in the 
temple of the goddess Nortia served as a convenient means 
of recording and numbering the years.* To Roman anti- 
quaries of a later period it seemed, naturally enough, that 
such a practice had indeed no other object than that of 
marking the flight of time in ages when writing was but 
little used,* Yet a little reflection will probably convince us 
that this, though it was doubtless a useful consequence of 
the custom, can hardly have been its original intention. For 
it will scarcely be disputed that the annual observance of 
the custom cannot be wholly dissociated from its occasional 
observance in seasons of great danger or calamity, and that 
whatever explanation we give of the one ought to apply to 
the other also. Now it is plain that if we start from the 
annual observance and regard it as no more than a time- 

^ Livy, vii. 3. Livy says nothing 
as to the place where the nails were 
affixed ; but from Festus (p. 56 ed. 
MUUer) we learn that it was the wall 
of a temple, and as the date of the 
ceremony was also the date of the 
dedication of the temple of Jupiter on 
the Capitol (Plutarch, Publicoia^ 14), 
we may fairly conjecture that this 
temple was the scene of the rite. It 
is the more necessary to call attention 
to the uncertainty which exists on this 
point because modem writers, perhaps 
misundentanding the words of Livy, 
have commonly stated as a fact what 
is at best only a more or less probable 

* Livy, vii. 3. Festus speaks (p. 56 
ed. MQller) of " the annual nail, which 
was fixed in the walls of temples for 
the purpose of numbering the years, ** 
as if the practice were common. From 
Cicero's passing reference to the custom 
{"JEx hoc die clavum anni mcvebis,** 
Epist. ad Atticum^ v. 15. I ) we see that 
it was matter of notoriety. Hence we 
may safely reject Mommsen's theor}*, 
which M r. Waxde Fowler is dbposed to 
accept ( The Roman Festivals of the period 
of the Republit^ p. 234 sq.)^ that the 
supposed annual custom never existed 
except in the brains of Roman Dryas- 

' See Livy and Festus, //.a*. 




keeper or mode of recording the years, we shall never reach 
an adequate explanation of the occasional observance. If 
the nails were merely ready reckoners of the years, how could 
they come to be used as supreme remedies for pestilence, 
frenzy, and sedition, resorted to by the state in desperate 
emergencies when all the ordinary resources of policy and 
religion had failed ? On the other hand, if we start from the 
occasional observance and view it, in accordance with modem 
analogies, as a rude attempt to dispose of intangible evils as 
if they were things that could be handled and put away out 
of sight, we can readily understand how such an attempt, from 
being made occasionally, might come to be repeated annually 
for the sake of wiping out all the old troubles and misfortunes 
of the past year and enabling the community to start afresh, 
unencumbered by a fardel of ills, at the banning of a new 
year. Fortunately we can show that the analogy which 
is thus assumed to exist between the Roman custom and 
modem superstition is not a merely fanciful one ; in other 
words, it can be proved that the Romans, like modem clowns, 
did believe in the possibility of nailing down trouble, in a 
literal and physical sense, into a material substance. Pliny 
tells us that an alleged cure for epilepsy or the falling sick- 
ness was to drive an iron nail into the ground on the spot 
which was first struck by the patient's head as he fell.^ In 
the light of the modem instances which have come before 
us, we can hardly doubt that the cure was supposed to consist 
in actually nailing the disease into the earth in such a way 
that it could not get up and attack the sufferer again. Pre- 
cisely parallel is a Suffolk cure for ague. You must go by 
night alone to a cross-road, and just as the clock strikes the 
midnight hour you must turn yourself about thrice and drive 
a tenpenny nail up to the head into the ground. Then 
walk away backwards from the spot before the clock is done 
striking twelve, and you will miss the ag^e.; but the next 
person who passes over the nail will catch the malady in 
your stead.^ Here it is plainly assumed that the ague of 
which the patient is relieved has been left by him nailed 
down into the earth at the cross-road, and we may fairly 

» Pliny, Nat. Hist, xxviii. 63. 
* County FoU'lore^ Suffolk, edited by LAdy E. C Gurdon, p. 14. 





suppose that a similar assumption underlay the Roman cure 
for epilepsy. Further, we seem to be now justified in hold- 
ing that originally, when a Roman dictator sought to stay a 
plague, to restore concord, or to terminate an epidemic of 
madness by knocking a nail into a wall, he was doing for 
the commonwealth exactly what any private man might do 
for an epileptic patient by knocking a nail into the ground 
on the spot where his poor friend had collapsed. In other 
words, he was hammering the plague, the discord, or the 
madness into a hole from which it could not get out to afflict 
the community again.^ 

§ 14. ExptUsion of Evils 

In the foregoing section the primitive principle of the 
transference of ills to another person, animal, or thing was 
explained and illustrated. A consideration of the means 
taken, in accordance with this principle, to rid individuals of 
their troubles and distresses led us to believe that at Rome 
similar means had been adopted to free the whole community, 
at a single blow of the hammer, from diverse evils that afflicted 
it I now propose to show that such attempts to dismiss at 
once the accumulated sorrows of a people are by no means 
rare or exceptional, but that on the contrary they have been 
made in many lands, and that from being occasional they 
tend to become periodic and annual. 

It needs some effort on our part to realise the frame of 
mind which prompts these attempts. Bred in a philosophy 
which strips nature of personality and reduces it to the 
unknown cause of an orderly series of impressions on our 
senses, we find it hard to put ourselves in the place of 
the savage, to whom the same impressions appear in the 
guise of spirits or the handiwork of spirits. For ages the 
army of spirits, once so near, has been receding further and 
further from us, banished by the magic wand of science from 
hearth and home, from ruined cell and ivied tower, from 

1 The analogy of the Roman custom I am unable to accept his general ex- 

to modern superstitious practices has planation of these and some other 

been rightly pointed out by Mr. E. S. practices as modes of communion with 

Hartland {Fo/k-hre^ iv. ( x 893), pp. 457, a divinity. 
464 ; Legend of Perseus ^ ii. 1 88), but 




haunted glade and lonely mere, from the riven murky cloud 
that belches forth the lightning, and from those fairer clouds 
that pillow the silver moon or fret with flakes of burning red 
the golden eve. The spirits are gone even from their last 
stronghold in the sky, whose blue arch no longer passes, 
except with children, for the screen that hides from mortal 
^t:^ the glories of the celestial world. Only in poets' dreams 
or impassioned flights of oratory is it g^ven to catch a glimpse 
of the last flutter of the standards of the retreating host, to 
hear the beat of their invisible wings, the sound of their 
mocking laughter, or the swell of angel music dying away in 
the distance. Far otherwise is it with the savage. To his 
imagination the world still teems with those motley beings 
whom a more sober philosophy has discarded. Fairies and 
goblins^ ghosts and demons, still hover about him both waking 
and sleeping. They dog his footsteps, dazzle his senses, 
enter into him, harass and deceive and torment him in a 
thousand freakish and mischievous ways. The mishaps 
that befall him, the losses he sustains, the pains he has to 
endure, he conimonly sets down, if not to the magic of his 
enemies, to the spite or anger or caprice of the spirits. 
Their constant presence wearies him, their sleepless malignity 
exasperates him ; he longs with an unspeakable longing to 
be rid of them altogether, and from time to time, driven to 
bay, his patience utterly exhausted, he turns fiercely on his 
persecutors and makes a desperate eflbrt to chase the whole 
pack of them from the land, to clear the air of their swarm- 
ing multitudes, that he may breathe more freely and go on 
hb way unmolested, at least for a time. Thus it comes about 
that the endeavour of primitive people to make a clean sweep 
of all their troubles generally takes the form of a grand hunt- 
ing out and expulsion of devils or ghosts. They think that 
if they can only shake off* these their accursed tormentors, 
they will make a fresh start in life, happy and innocent ; the 
talcs of Eden and the old poetic golden age will come true 

Hence, before we review some examples of these spirit- 
hunts, it may be well to adduce evidence of the deep hold 
which a belief in the omnipresence and malignity of spirits 
has upon the primitive mind. The reader will be better 




able to understand the savage remedy when he has an ink- 
ling of the nature of the evil which it is designed to combat. 
In citing the evidence I shall for the most part reproduce 
the exact words of my authorities lest I should incur the 
suspicion of deepening unduly the shadows in a gloomy 

Thus in regard to the aborigines of Australia we are 
told that " the number of supernatural beings, feared if not 
loved, that they acknowledge is exceedingly great ; for not 
only are the heavens peopled with such, but the whole face 
of the country swarms with them ; every thicket, most water- 
ing-places, and all rocky places abound with evil spirits. In 
like manner, every natural phenomenon is believed to be the 
work of demons, none of which seem of a benign nature, one 
and all apparently striving to do all imaginable mischief to 
the poor blackfellow." ^ "The negro," says another writer, 
" is wont to r^ard the whole world around him as peopled 
with invisible beings, to whom he imputes every misfortune 
that happens to him, and from whose harmful influence he 
seeks to protect himself by all kinds of magic means.*'* The 
Bantu negroes of Western Africa " regard their god as the 
creator of man, plants, animals, and the earth, and they hold 
that having made them, he takes no further interest in the 
affair. But not so the crowd of spirits with which the 
universe is peopled, they take only too much interest and 
the Bantu wishes they would not and is perpetually saying 
so in his prayers, a large percentage whereof amounts to, 
* Go away, we don't want you.* * Come not into this house, 
this village, or its plantations.' " Almost all these subordinate 
spirits are malevolent' 

Speaking of the spirits which the Indians of Guiana 
attribute to all objects in nature, Mr. E. F. im Thum observes 
that " the whole world of the Indian swarms with these 
beings. If by a mighty mental effort we could for a moment 
revert to a similar mental position, wc should find ourselves 
everywhere surrounded by a host of possibly hurtful beings, 

^ A. Oldfield, **The aborigines of Eingebomen von Liberia,*' Interna- 

Australia," Transactions of tht Etkno- tionales Archiv fur Etknographie^ i. 

logical Society of London, N.S., iii. (1 888), p. 85. 
(1865), p. 228. ' Mary li. Kingsley, Travels in 

' J. BiiuikofTer, '* Einiges Ubcr die West Africa^ p. 442 sq. 


SO many in number that to describe them as innumerable 
would fall ridiculously short of the truth. It is not therefore 
wonderful that the Indian fears to move beyond the light of 
his camp-iire after dark, or, if he is obliged to do so, carries 
a iire-brand with him that he may at least see among what 
enemies he walks ; nor is it wonderful that occasionally the 
air round the settlement seems to the Indian to grow so full 
of beings, that a peaiman [sorcerer], who is supposed to have 
the power of temporarily driving them away, is employed to i 

effect a general clearance of these beings, if only for a time." ^ 
Very different from the life of these Indians of the Guiana 
forests is the life of the Esquimaux on the desolate shores 
of Labrador ; yet they too live in like bondage to the evil 
creatures of their own imagination* ^All the affairs of 
life are supposed to be under the control of spirits, each of 
which rules over a certain element, and all of which are under 
the direction of a greater spirit Each person is supposed 
to be attended by a special g^uardian, who is malignant in 
character, ever ready to seize upon the least occasion to 
work harm upon the individual whom it accompanies. As 
this is an evil spirit, its good offices and assistance can be 
obtained by propitiation only. The person strives to keep 
the good will of the evil spirit by offerings of food, water, 
and clothing." ^ Besides this class of spirits, there are the 
spirits of the sea, the land, the sky (for be it understood that 
the Eskimo know nothing of the air), the winds, the clouds, 
and everything in nature. Every cove of the seashore, every 
point, island, and prominent rock has its guardian spirit 
All are of the malig^nant type and to be propitiated only by 
acceptable offerings from persons who desire to visit the 
locality where it is supposed to reside. Of course some of 
the spirits are more powerful than others, and these are more 
to be dreaded than those able to inflict less harm. These 
minor spirits are under the control of the great spirit, whose 
name is Tung ak. This one great spirit is more powerful 
than all the rest besides. The lesser spirits are immediately 
under his control and ever ready to obey his command. 
The shaman (or conjuror) alone is supposed to be able to 
deal with the Tung ak. While the shaman does not profess 

^ £• F. im Thum, Awun^ tJu Indians of Cttiana^ p. 356 sq. 


to be superior to the Tung ak, he is able to enh'st his assist- 
ance and thus be able to control all the undertakings his 
profession may call for. This Tung ak is nothing more 
or less than death, which ever seeks to torment and harass 
the lives of people that their spirits may go to dwell with 
him." ^ 

Brighter at first sight and more pleasing is the mythology 
of the islanders of the Pacific, as the picture of it is drawn 
for us by one who seems to have felt the charm of those 
beliefs which it was his mission to destroy. " By their rude 
mythology," he says, " each lovely island was made a sort 
of fairy-land, and the spells of enchantment were thrown 
over its varied scenes. The sentiment of the poet that 

* Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth, 
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep,' 

was one familiar to their minds ; and it is impossible not to 
feel interested in a people who were accustomed to consider 
themselves surrounded by invisible intelligences, and who 
recognised in the rising sun — the mild and silver moon — 
the shooting star — the meteor's transient flame — the ocean's 
roar — the tempest's blast, or the evening breeze — the move- 
ments of mighty spirits. The mountain's summit, and the 
fleecy mists that hang upon its brows — the rocky defile — 
the foaming cataract — and the lonely dell — ^were all regarded 
as the abode or resort of these invisible beingfs." * Yet the 
spiritual powers which compassed the life of the islanders 
on every side appear to have been far from friendly to man. 
Speaking of their beliefs touching the souls of the dead, the 
same writer says that the Polynesians " imagined they lived 
in a world of spirits, which surrounded them night and day, 
watching every action of their lives, and ready to avenge the 
slightest neglect, or the least disobedience to their injunc- 
tions, as proclaimed by their priests. These dreaded beings 
were seldom thought to resort to the habitations of men on 
errands of benevolence." • The Tahitians, when they were 

* L. M. Turner, " Ethnology of the 1S94), p. 193 sg, 
Ungava district, Hudson Bay Tcrri- * W. Ellis, Polymsian Researches, 

Xoiy,** Eleventh Annual Report 0/ the i. 331. 
Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, ^ \V. Ellis, op. <it, i. 406. 

44 GODS EVERYWHERE ' chap. | 

visited by Captain Cook, believed that " sudden deaths and | 

all other accidents are effected by the immediate action of i 
some divinity. If a man only stumble against a stone and 
hurt his toe, they impute it to an Eatooa ; so that they may 
be literally said, agreeably to their system, to tread en- 
chanted ground." ^ " The Maori gods," says a well-informed 
writer, "were demons, whose evil designs could only be 
counteracted by powerful spells and charms ; these proving 
effectual, sacrifices and offerings were made to soothe the 
vanquished spirits and appease their wrath." " The gods in 
general appeared in the whirlwind and lightning, answering 
their votaries in the clap of thunder. The inferior beings 
made themselves visible in the form of lizards, moths, butter- 
flies, spiders, and even flies ; when they spoke it was in a 
low whistling tone. They were supposed to be so numerous 
as to surround the living in crowds, kei te ntuia nga wairua \ 
penei nga wairoa^ * the spirits throng like mosquitoes,' ever 
watching to inflict evil." ^ Again, we are informed that the 
popular religion of the Pelew Islanders " has reference to the 
gods (kalit/is) who may be useful or hattnful to' nien in all 
their doings. Their imagpination peoples the sea, the wood, 
the earth with numerous gods, and whatever a man under- 
takes, be it to catch fish or fell a tree, he must first propitiate 
the deities, or rather guard himself against their spiteful 
anger, which can only be done by means of certain spells 
and incantations. The knowledge of these incantations is 
limited to a very few persons, and forms in fact the secret 
of the arts and industries which are plied in the islands. A 
master of his craft is not he who can build a good house or 
a faultless canoe, but he who possesses the gday or magic 
power to ban the tree-gods, that they may not prove hurt- 
ful to the workmen and to the people who afterwards use 
the things. All these gods of the earth, the woods, the 
mountains, the brooks are very mischievous and dangerous, 
and most diseases arc caused by them. Hence the persons 
who possess the magic power are dreaded, frequently em- 
ployed, and well paid ; but in extreme cases they arc 
regarded as sorcerers and treated accordingly. If one of 

^ Cook, I'ri^'a^fs (London, 1809), ' K. Taylor^ Tg /Jta a Afaut\ or Niew 

vi. 152. Zealand and its Inhabitants t'^ ^. 104. 



them builds a house for somebody and is dissatisfied with 
his remuneration, he stirs up the tree-god to avenge him. 
So the inhabitants of the house he has built fall sick, and if 
help is not forthcoming they die."^ Of the Mortlock 
Islanders we are told that ** their imagination peopled the 
whole of nature with spirits and deities, of whom the 
number was past finding out." ^ 

Among the tribes who inhabit the south-eastern coasts 
of New Guinea '* a death in a village is the occasion of 
bringing plenty of ghosts to escort their new companion, 
and perhaps fetch some one else. All night the friends of 
the deceased sit up and keep the drums going to drive 
away the spirits. When I was sleeping one night at Hood 
Bay, a party of young men and boys came round with 
sticks, striking the fences and posts of houses all through 
the village. This I found was always done when any one 
died, to drive back the spirits to their own quarters on the 
adjacent mountain tops. But it is the spirits of the inland 
tribes, the aborigines of the country, that the coast tribes 
most fear. The road from the interior to Port Moresby 
passed close to our house, and the natives told us that the 
barking of our English dog at night had frightened the evil 
spirits so effectually that they had had no ghostly visitors since 
we came. I was camping out one night in the bush with 
some coast natives, at a time when a number of the natives 
of the interior were hunting in the neighbourhood ; noticing 
that the men with me did not go to sleep, I asked if they 
were afraid of the mountain men. * No,' they replied, * but 
the whole plain is full of the spirits who come with them.' 
All calamities are attributed to the power and malice of 
these evil spirits. Drought and famine, storm and flood, 
disease and death are all supposed to be brought by * Vata ' 
and his hosts." • The inhabitants of Timor, an island to 
the south-west of New Guinea, revere the lord of heaven, 
the sun, the mistress of the earth, and the spirits of the 

* J. Kubary, "Die Religion der geographischtPt CeseUschaft in Hamburg 
Pelauer,*' in Bastian's AlUrUi aus 1878-79, p. 36. 

VolkS' und Afcnscfunkundet i. 46. ^ W. G. Lawes, ** Notes on New 

Guinea and its inhabitants," I'roceed- 

* J. Kubary, ** Die Bewohner dcr ings of the Koyal Ceographual Society, 
Mortlock -Inseln," Mitthei/ungeft der 1880, p. 615. 




dead. " These last dwell, some with the mistress of the 
earth under ground, others on graves, others in stones and 
springs and woods, some on mountains and some in the habi- 
tations of their kinsfolk, where they take up their abode in 
the middle of the principal post of the house or in copper 
cymbals, in swords and pikes. Others again assume the 
shape of pigs and deer and bees ; men who have fallen irt 
battle love especially to turn into bees, that they may roam 
over the earth at will. The ghosts who reside with the 
mistress of the earth are male and female, and their off-* 
spring swarm by myriads in the air, so that the people 
think you cannot stir without striking against one of them. 
According to their whim of the moment the ghosts are good 
or bad." " All diseases which are not due to infection or 
transmitted by inheritance are ascribed to the mistress of 
the earth, to the ghosts, and to their wicked offspring, who 
inflict them as punishments for insults and injuries, for in- 
sufficient food, for the killing of deer and of wild pigs, in 
which the ghosts take up their abode temporarily, and also 
for the sale of cymbals, swords and pikes, in which a ghost 
had settled." ^ The natives of Amboyna think that " woods, 
mountains, trees, stones, indeed the whole universe, is in- 
habited by a multitude of spirits, of whom many are the 
souls of the dead.*** In Bolang Mongondo, a district of 
Celebes, '' all calamities, great and small, of whatever kind 
and by whatever name they are called, that befall men and 
animals, villages, gardens and so forth, are attributed to evil 
or angry spirits. The superstition is indescribably gfreat. 
The smallest wound, the least indisposition, the most trifling 
adversity in the field, at the fishing, on a journey or what 
not, is believed by the natives to be traceable to the anger 
of their ancestors. The superstition cripples every effort to 
remedy the calamities except by sacrifice. There is perhaps 
no country the inhabitants of which know so little about 
simples as Bolang Mongondo. What a native of Bolang 
Mongondo calls medicine is nothing but sacrifice, magic, and 
talismans. And the method of curing a sick man always 


1 J. G. F. Riedcl, " Die Undschaft 
Dawan oder West-Timor," Deutuhe 
Geogr, Blatter^ x. 278 sq. 

« G. W. W. C. van HocYell, Ambon 
en mter bepaaldelijk de Oeliasers, p. 


consists in the use of magic, or in the propitiation of angry- 
ancestral spirits by means of offerings, or in the banishment 
of evil spirits. The application of one or other of these 
three methods depends again on the decision of the sorcerer, 
who plays a great part in every case of sickness." ^ In the 
island of Bali " all the attention paid to the sick has its root 
solely in the excessive superstition of these islanders, which 
leads them to impute every unpleasantness in life, every 
adversity to the influence of evil spirits or of men who are 
in some way in league with them. The belief in witches 
and wizards is everywhere great in the Indies, but perhaps 
nowhere is it so universal and so strong as in Bali."* In 
Java, we are told, it is not merely great shady trees that are 
believed to be the abode of spirits. "In other places also, 
where the vital energy of nature manifests itself strikingly 
and impressively, a feeling of veneration is stirred, as on the 
sea-shore, in deep woods, on steep mountain sides. All such 
spots are supposed to be the abode of spirits of various 
kinds, whose mighty power is regarded with reverence and 
awe, whose anger is dreaded, and whose favour is hoped for. 
But wherever they dwell, whether in scenes of loveliness 
that move the heart, or in spots that affect thie mind with 
fright and horror, the nature and disposition of these spirits 
appear not to differ. They are a source of fear and anxiety in 
the one case just as much as in the other. To none of them did 
I ever hear moral qualities ascribed. They are mighty, they are 
potentates, and therefore it is well with him who has their 
favour and ill with him who has it not ; this holds true of 
them all." " The number of the spirits is innumerable and 
inconceivable. All the phenomena of nature, which we 
trace to fixed laws and constant forces, are supposed by the 
Javanese to be wrought by spirits." ' The natives of the 
valley of the Barito in Borneo hold that " the air is filled 
with countless liantoes (spirits). Every object has such a 

* N. P. Wilken en J. A. Schwarz, eiland Bali," Tijdschrift van Neder- 

** Het heidendom en de Islam in landsch Indiiy August 18S0, p. 83. 
Bolaang Mongondou," Mededeelingen ' S. £. Harthoorn, '*De Zending 

van wege het Nederlandsche Zendeling- op Java en meer bepaald die van 

genootsckap^ xi. (1867), p. 259. Malang," Mededeelingen van wege het 

Nederlandsche Zendelinggenootschap, 

^ R. van Eck, **Schetsen van het iv. (i860), p. 116 j^. 





spirit which watches over it and seeks to defend it from 
danger. It is these spirits especially that bring sickness and 
misfortune on men, and for that reason offerings are often 
made to them and also to the powerful Sangsangs (angels), 
whereas the supreme God, the original fountain of all good, 
is neglected." ^ Of the Battas of Sumatra we are told that 
" the key-note of their religious mood is fear of the unknown 
powers, a childish feeling of dependence, the outcome of a 
belief in supernatural influences to which man is constantly 
exposed, in wonders and witchcraft, which hamper his free 
action. They feel themselves continually surrounded by 
unseen beings and dependent on them for everything." 
'* Every misfortune bespeaks the ill-will of the hostile spirits. 
The whole world is a meeting-place of demons, and most of 
the phenomena of nature are an expression of their power. 
The only means of remedying or counteracting their baleful 
influence is to drive away the spirits by means of certain, 
words, as well as by the use of amulets and the offering of 
sacriflces to the guardian spirits."' To the same effect 
another authority on the religion of the Battas remarks that 
'* the common man has only a very dim and misty notion of 
his triune god, and troubles himself far more about the 
leg^ions of spirits which people the whole world around him, 
and against which he must always be protected by magic 
spells."' The Mantras, an aboriginal race of the Malay 
Peninsula, *' find or put a spirit everywhere, in the air they 
breathe, in the land they cultivate, in the forests they in- 
habit, in the trees they cut down, in the caves of the rocks. 
According to them, the demon is the cause of everything 
that turns out ill. If they are sick, a demon is at the 
bottom of it ; if an accident happens, it is still the spirit 
who is at work ; thereupon the demon takes the name of 
the particular evil of which he is supposed to be the cause. 

^ C A. L. M. Schwaner, Borneo^ Bis- 
chrijving van het stroomgebied van den 
Barito (Amsterdam, 1853-54), i. 176. 

> J. B. Neumann, ** Het Pane- en 
Bila-stroomgebied," Tijdschrift van Met 
Nederlandsck Aeurdrijkskundig Gtnoot- 
ickap^ Tweede Serie, iii. Afdeeling, meer 
uitgebreide artikelen. No. 2, p. 287. 

3 R Hagen, " Beitnige zur Kennt- 

niss der Battareligion," Tijdschrift voor 
Indiuke Tool- Land- en Volkenkunde^ 
xxviiL (1883), p. 508. The persons 
of the Batta Trinity are Bataraguru, 
Son, and BaUbulan. The most funda- 
mental distinction between the persons 
of the Trinity appears to be that one of 
them is allowed to eat pork, while the 
others are not {ibid. p. 505). 



Hence the demon being assumed as the author of every ill, 
all their superstitions resolve themselves into enchantments 
and spells to appease the evil spirit, to render mild and 
tractable the fiercest beasts." ^ To the mind of the Kamt- 
chatkan every corner of earth and heaven seemed full of 
spirits, whom he revered and dreaded more than God.^ 

In India from the earliest times down to the present 
day the real religion of the common folk appears always to 
have been a belief in a vast inultitude of spirits, of whom 
many, if not most, are mischievous and harmful. As in 
Europe beneath a superficial layer of Christianity a faith in 
magic and witchcraft, in ghosts and goblins has always sur- 
vived and even flourished among the weak and ignorant, so 
it has been and so it is in the East. Brahmanism, Buddhism, 
Islam may come and go, but the belief in magic and demons 
remains unshaken through them all, and, if we may judge 
of the future from the past, is likely to survive the rise and 
fall of other historical religions. For the great faiths of the 
world, just in so far as they are the outcome of superior 
intelligence, of purer morality, of extraordinary fervour of 
aspiration after the ideal, fail to touch and move the common 
man. They make claims upon his intellect and his heart 
to which neither the one nor the other is capable of respond- 
ing. The philosophy they teach is too abstract, the morality 
they inculcate too exalted for him. The keener minds cm- 
brace the new philosophy, the more generous spirits are 
fired by the new morality ; and as the world is led by such 
men, their faith sooner or later becomes the professed faith 
of the multitude. Yet with the common herd, who compose 
the gfreat bulk of every people, the new religion is accepted 
only in outward show, because it is impressed upon them by 
their natural leaders whom they cannot choose but follow. 
They yield a dull assent to it with their lips, but in their 
heart they never really abandon their old superstitions ; in 
these they cherish a faith such as they cannot repose in the 
creed which they nominally profess ; and to these, in the 
trials and emergencies of life, they have recourse as to in- 

^ Boric, <* Notice sur les Mantras, en Volkenkunde^ x. (i860), p. 434. 
tribu sauvage de la peninsule Malaise,'* * S. Krascheninnikow, Beschreibung 

Tijdichrift vcor Indiuke Taai- Land" des Lamies Kamtschaika^ p. 315* 

VOL. Ill E 




fallible remedies, when the promises of the higher faith have 
failed them, as indeed such promises are apt to do. 

To establish for India in particular the truth of the pro- 
positions which I have just advanced, it may be enough to 
cite the evidence of two writers of high authority, one of 
whom deals with the most ancient form of Indian religion 
known to us, while the other describes the popular religion 
of the Hindoos at the present day. " According to the 
creed of the Vedic ages," says Professor Oldenberg, "the 
whole world in which man lives is animated. Sky and 
earth, mountain, forest, trees and beasts, the earthly water 
and the heavenly water of the clouds, — all is filled with 
living spiritual beings, who are either friendly or hostile to 
mankind. Unseen or embodied in visible form, hosts of 
spirits surround and hover about human habitations, — 
bestial or misshapen goblins, souls of dead friends and souls 
of foes, sometimes as kindly guardians, oftener as mischief- 
makers, bringing disease and misfortune, sucking the blood 
and strengrth of the living. A soul is attributed even to 
the object fashioned by human hands, whose functions are 
felt to be friendly or hostile. The warrior pays his devotion 
to the divine war-chariot, the divine arrow, the drum ; the 
ploughman to the ploughshare ; the gambler to the dice ; 
the sacrificer, about whom naturally we have the most exact 
information, reveres the stone that presses out the juice of 
the Soma, the straw on which the gods recline, the post to 
which the sacrificial victim is bound, and the divine doors 
through which the gods come forth to enjoy the sacrifice. 
At one time the beings in whose presence man feels himself 
are regarded by him as really endowed with souls ; at 
another time, in harmony with a more advanced conception of 
the world, they are imagined as substances or fluids invested 
with beneficent or maleficent properties : belief oscillates to 
and fro between the one mode of thought and the other. 
The art of turning to account the operations of these 
animated beings, the play of these substances and forces, is 
magic rather than worship in the proper sense of the word. 
The foundations of this faith and magic are an inheritance 
from the remotest past, from a period, to put it shortly, 
of shamanistic faith in spirits and souls, of shamanistic 


Ill IN INDIA 51 

magic. Such a period has been passed through by the 
forefathers of the Indo-Germanic race as well as by other 
peoples." ^ 

Coming down to the Hindoos of the present day, we 
find that their attitude towards the spiritual world is 
described as follows by Professor Monier Williams. " The 
plain fact undoubtedly is that the great majority of the 
inhabitants of India are, from the cradle to the burning- 
ground, victims of a form of mental disease which is best 
expressed by the term demonophobia. They are haunted 
and oppressed by a perpetual dread of demons. They are 
firmly convinced that evil spirits of all kinds, from malignant 
fiends to merely mischievous imps and elves, are ever on the 
watch to harm, harass, and torment them, to cause plague, 
sickness, famine, and disaster, to impede, injure, and mar 
every good work."^ Elsewhere the same writer has ex- 
pressed the same view somewhat more fully. " In fact," he 
says, " a belief in every kind of demoniacal influence has 
always been from the earliest times an essential ingredient 
in Hindu religious thought The idea probably had its 
origin in the supposed peopling of the air by spiritual beings 
— the personifications or companions of storm and tempest 
Certainly no one who has ever been brought into close 
contact with the Hindus in their own country can doubt the 
fact that the worship of at least ninety per cent of the people 
of India in the present day is a worship of fear. Not that 
the existence of good deities presided over by one Supreme 
Being is doubted ; but that these deities are believed to be 
too absolutely good to need propitiation ; just as in ancient 
histories of the Slav races, we are told that they believed in 
a white god and a black god, but paid adoration to the last 
alone, having, as they supposed, nothing to apprehend from 
the beneficence of the first or white deity. The simple 
truth is that evils of all kinds, difficulties, dangers and 
disasters, famines, diseases, pestilences and death, are 
thought by an ordinary Hindu to proceed from demons, or, 
more properly speaking, from devils, and from devils alone. 
These malignant beings are held, as we have seen, to possess 

* H. Oldenberg, Die Religion des * Monier Williams, Religioui Life 

Vetia, p. 39 sg. attd Thought in India^ p. 210 sq. 




varying degrees of rank, power, and malevolence. Some aim at 
destroying the entire world, and threaten the sovereignty of the 
gods themselves. Some delight in killing men, women, and 
children, out of a mere thirst for human blood. Some take 
a mere mischievous pleasure in tormenting, or revel in the 
infliction of sickness, injury, and misfortune. All make it 
their business to mar or impede the progress of good works 
and useful undertakings." ^ 

It would be easy but tedious to illustrate in detail this 
general account of the dread of demons which prevails 
among the inhabitants of India at the present day. A very 
few particular statements must suffice. Thus, we are told 
that the Oraons, a Dravidian race in Bengal, '' acknowledge 
a Supreme God, adored as Dharmi or Dharmesh, the Holy 
One, who is manifest in the sun, and they regard Dharmesh 
as a perfectly pure, beneficent being, who created us and 
would in his goodness and mercy preserve us, but that his 
benevolent desig^ns are thwarted by malignant spirits whom 
mortals must propitiate, as Dharmesh cannot or does not 
interfere, if the spirit of evil once fastens upon us. It is, 
therefore, of no use to pray to Dharmesh or to ofTer 
sacrifices to him ; so though acknowledged, recognised, and 
reverenced, he is neglected, whilst the malignant spirits are 
adored.'* Again, it is said of these Oraons that, " as the sole 
object of their religious ceremonies is the propitiation of the 
demons who are ever thwarting the benevolent intentions of 
Dharmesh, they have no notion of a service of thanksgiving." 
Once more, after giving a list of Oraon demons, the same 
writer goes on : '* Besides this superstitious dread of the 
spirits above named, the Oraon's imagination tremblingly 
wanders in a world of ghosts. Every rock, road, river, and 
grove is haunted." * In Travancore " the minor superstitions 
connected with demon-worship are well-nigh innumerable ; 
they enter into all the feelings, and are associated with the 
whole life of these people. Every disease, accident, or mis- 
fortune is attributed to the agency of the devils, and great 
caution is exercised to avoid arousing their fury."^ With 
regard to the inhabitants of Ceylon we are told that ** the 

^ Monier Williams, 9p, cit, p. 2301^. ' S. Mateer, The Land tf Charity^ 

' Dal ton, Ethnohgy of Bengal ^ pp. p. 207. 
256, 257. 258. 


i \ 



fiends which they conceive to be hovering around them are 
without number. Every disease or trouble that assails them 
is produced by the immediate agency of the demons sent to 
punish them : while, on the other hand, every blessing or 
success comes directly from the hands of the beneficent and 
supreme God. To screen themselves from the power of the 
inferior deities, who are all represented as wicked spirits, and 
whose power is by no means irresistible, they wear amulets 
of various descriptions ; and employ a variety of charms and 
spells to ward off the influence of witchcraft and enchant- 
ments by which they think themselves beset on all sides." 
" It is probable that, by degrees, intercourse with Europeans 
will entirely do away these superstitious fears, as the Cinglese 
of the towns have already made considerable progress in 
subduing their gloomy apprehensions. Not so the poor 
wretched peasants who inhabit the more mountainous parts 
of the country, and live at a distance from our settlements. 
These unhappy people have never for a moment their minds 
free from the terror of those demons who seem perpetually to 
hover around them. Their imaginations are so disturbed by 
such ideas, that it is not uncommon to see many driven to 
madness from this cause. Several Cinglese lunatics have 
fallen under my own observation ; and upon inquiring into 
the circumstances which had deprived them of their reason, 
I universally found that their wretched state was to be traced 
solely to the excess of their superstitious fears. The spirits 
of the wicked subordinate demons are the chief objects of 
fear among the Ceyloncse ; and impress their minds with 
much more awe than the more powerful divinities who 
dispense blessings among them. They indeed think that 
their country is in a particular manner delivered over to the 
dominion of evil spirits." ^ 

In Eastern as well as Southern Asia the same view 
of nature as pervaded by a multitude of spirits, mostly 
mischievous and malignant, has survived the nominal 
establishment of a higher faith. *' In spite of their long 
conversion, their sincere belief in, and their pure form of. 
Buddhism, which expressly repudiates and forbids such 

^ R. Perdval, Account of the Island of Ceylon^ second edition (London, 
1805), pp. 211-213. 




worship, the Burmans and Taleins (or Mons) have in a great 
measure kept their ancient spirit or demon worship. With 
the Taleins this is more especially the case. Indeed, with 
the country population of Pegu the worship, or it should 
rather be said the propitiation, of the *nats' or spirits, 
enters into every act of their ordinary life, and Buddha's 
doctrine seems kept for sacred days and their visits to the 
kyoung (monastery) or to the pagoda."^ Or, as another 
writer puts it, " the propitiating of the nats is a question of 
daily concern to the lower class Burman, while the worship 
at the pagoda is only thought of once a week. For the nat 
may prove destructive and hostile at any time, whereas the 
acquisition of koothoh [merit] at the pagoda is a thing which 
may be set about in a business-like way, and at proper and 
convenient times." * But the term worship, we are informed, 
hardly conveys a proper notion of the attitude of the Bur- 
mese towards the nats or spirits. '* Even the Karens and 
Kachins, who have no other form of belief, do not regard 
them otherwise than as malevolent beings who must be looked 
up to with fear, and propitiated by r^^lar offerings. They 
do not want to have anything to do with the nats ; all they 
seek is to be let alone. The bamboo pipes of spirit, the 
bone3 of sacrificial animals, the hatchets, swords, spears, bows 
and arrows that line the way to a Katchin village, are placed 
there not with the idea of attracting the spirits, but of pre- 
venting them from coming right among the houses in search 
of their requirements. If they want to drink, the rice spirit 
has been poured out, and the bamboo stoop is there in 
evidence of the libation ; the blood-stained skulls of oxen, 
pigs, and the feathers of fowls show that there has been no 
stint of meat offerings ; should the nats wax quarrelsome, 
and wish to fight, there are the axes and dahs with which to 
commence the fray. Only let them be grateful, and leave 
their trembling worshippers in peace and quietness." • Simi- 
larly the Lao or Laosians of Siam, though they are nomin- 
ally Buddhists, and have monks and pagodas with images 

' Forbes, Briiish Bumta^ p. 221 x^. 
' Shway Yoc, The Burman^ i. 276 

» Shway Voc, op. cit. i. 278. "To 

the Burman," says Bastian, ** the whole 
world is filled with nats. Mountains, 
rivers, waters, the earth, etc., have all 
their nat " {Die Vdlker des cstlickm 
Asietiy ii. 497). 



of Buddha, are said to pay more respect to spirits or demons 
than to these idols.^ " The desire to propitiate the good 
spirits and to exorcise the bad ones is the prevailing influ- 
ence upon the life of a Laosian. With pliees [evil spirits] to 
right of him, to left of him, in front of him, behind him, all 
round him, his mind is haunted with a perpetual desire to 
make terms with them, and to ensure the assistance of the 
great Buddha, so that he may preserve both body and soul 
from the hands of the spirits.'*^ In Corea, "among the 
reasons which render the shaman a necessity are these. In 
Korean belief, earth, air, and sea are peopled by demons. 
They haunt every umbrageous tree, shady ravine, crystal 
spring, and mountain crest On green hill-slopes, in peaceful 
agricultural valleys, in grassy dells, on wooded uplands, by 
lake and stream, by road and river, in north, south, east, and 
west, they abound, making malignant sport of human des- 
tinies. They are on every roof, ceiling, fireplace, kang, and 
beam. They fill the chimney, the shed, the living-room, 
the kitchen — they are on every shelf and jar. In thousands 
they waylay the traveller as he leaves his home, beside him, 
behind him, dancing in front of him, whirring over his head, 
crying out upon him from earth, air, and water. They are 
numbered by t/umsands of billions^ and it has been well said 
that their ubiquity is an unholy travesty of the Divine 
Omnipresence. This belief, and it seems to be the only one 
he has, keeps the Korean in a perpetual state of nervous 
apprehension, it surrounds him with indefinite terrors, and 
it may truly be said of him that he * passes the time of his 
sojourning here in fear.' Every Korean home is subject to 
demons, here, there, and everywhere. They touch the 
Korean at every point in life, making his well-being depend 
on a continual scries of acts of propitiation, and they avenge 
every omission with merciless severity, keeping him under 
this yoke of bondage from birth to death." " Koreans attri- 
bute every ill by which they arc afflicted to demoniacal in- 
fluence. Bad luck in any transaction, official malevolence, 
illness, whether sudden or prolonged, pecuniary misfortune, 
and loss of power or position, are due to the malignity of 

* Pallegoix, Description du royaumt - C. Bock, TftnpUs atid Elephants^ 

Thai <m Siam^ i. 42. p. 198. 


demons. It is over such evils that the Pan-su [shaman] is 
supposed to have power, and to be able to terminate them 
by magical rites, he being possessed by a powerful demon, ! 
whose strength he is able to wield." * ? 

When we come westward, we find that the same belief in 
the omnipresence and mischievous power of spirits has pre- 
vailed from ancient times to the present day. Few people 
seem to have suffered more from the persistent assaults of 
demons than the ancient Babylonians, and the demons that y 

preyed on them were of a particularly cruel and malig^nant 
sort, devouring the flesh and sucking the blood of their 
victims and not sparing the gods themselves. These baleful \ 
beings lurked in remote places, in graves, in the shadow of ' 
ruins, on the tops of mountains, in the wilderness. They 
glided noiselessly like serpents, entering houses through holes 
and crevices. To them all manner of evil was ascribed. 
Their presence was felt not merely in the terrible winds that 
swept the land, in the fevers bred of the marshes, and in 
the diseases engendered by the damp heat of summer. All 
the petty annpyances of life — a sudden fall, an unlucky 
word, a headache, a petty quarrel, and so forth — were set 
down to the agency of fiends ; and all the fierce emotions 
that rend the mind — love, hate, jealousy, and madness — 
were equally the work of these invisible tormentors. Men 
and women stood in constant danger of them. Even the 
animals were not safe from their attacks. They drove birds 
out of their nests and struck down lambs and bulls. To 
forestall their assaults was impossible. They entered a 
man's dwelling, they roamed the streets, they made their way 
into food and drink. There was no place, however small, 
which they could not invade, none so large that they 
could not fill. Almost every part of the human frame was 
menaced hy a special fiend. One demon assailed the 
head, another the neck, another the hands, another the hips, 
and so on. Indeed, they threatened the whole world with 
destruction, and there was none that could deliver from them 
save only the mighty god Marduk.* In Egypt the jinn, 

^ Mrs. Bishop, Korea and her Neigh- ^ M. Jastrow, The Religion of Baby- 

bottn^ ii 227 j^., 229. I have taken Ionia and Assyria^ p. 260 sq,; A. Jere- 

the liberty of changing the writer's mias,x.v. **Mardak,"Rotcher'sZ/xiiwt 

"daemon" into "demon.** dergrieck, und rom. Myth. ii. 2352 sq. 




a class of spiritual beings intermediate between angels 
and men, are believed to pervade the solid matter of the 
earth as well as the firmament, and they inhabit rivers, 
ruined houses, wells, baths, ovens, and so forth. So thickly 
do they swarm that in pouring water or other liquids on the 
ground an Egyptian will commonly exclaim or mutter 
"^ Destoor V^ thereby asking the permission or craving the 
pardon of any jinn who might chance to be there, and who 
might otherwise resent being suddenly soused with water or 
less savoury fluids. So too when people light a Are, let 
down a bucket into a well, or perform other necessary 
functions, they will say " Permission ! " or " Permission, ye 
blessed ! " ^ Again, in Egypt it is not considered proper to 
sweep out a house at night, lest in doing so you should 
knock against a jinn, who might avenge the insult^ 

The earliest of the Greek philosophers, Thales, held that 
the world is full of gods or spirits ; ' and the same primitive 
creed was expounded by one of the latest Pagan thinkers of 
antiquity. Porphyry declared that demons appeared in the 
likeness of animals, that every house and every body was 
full of them, and that forms of ceremonial purification, such 
as beating the air and so forth, had no other object but that 
of driving away the importunate swarms of these invisible 
but dangerous beings. He explained that evil spirits de- 
lighted in food, especially in blood and impurities, that they 
settled like flies on us at meals, and that they could only be 
kept at a distance by ceremonial observances, which were 
directed, not to pleasing the gods, but simply and solely to 
beating ofT devils.^ His theory of religious purification seems 
faithfully to reflect the creed of the savage on this subject,* 
but a philosopher is perhaps the last person whom we should 
expect to find acting as a mirror of savagery. It is less 
surprising to meet with the same venerable doctrine, the same 

* Lane, Manners and Customs of the 
modem E^piians (Paisley and London, 
1895), chap. X. p. 231 sq, 

' C. B. Klunzingcr, Bilder aus 
Oberagypten^ der Wusle und dim 
Kaihen Meere, p. 382 ; cp. ibid, p. 

374 iq- 
' Aristotle, De anima/\. 5. 17; Dio- 

Ceocs Laertius, L i. 27. 

* Porphyry, quoted by Eusebiu.«, 
Praeparatio Evangelii^ iv. 23. 

^ Elsewhere I have attempted to 
show that a particular class of purifica- 
tions — those observed by mourners — 
is intended to protect the living from 
the disembodied spirits of the dead 
{Journal of the Anthropological Tnsti- 
tuie^ XV. (1886), p. 64 sqq,). 


world-wide superstition in the mouth of a mediaeval abbot ; 
for we know that a belief in devils has the authority of the 
founder of Christianity, and is sanctioned by the teaching 
of the church. No Esquimaux on the frozen shores of 
Labrador, no Indian in the sweltering forests of Guiana, no 
cowering Hindoo in the jungles of Bengal, could well have a 
more constant and abiding sense of the presence of nialigrnant 
demons everywhere about him than had Abbot Richialm, 
who ruled over the Cistercian monastery of Schonthal in the 
first half of the thirteenth century. In the curious work to 
which he gave the name of Revelations^ he set forth how he 
was daily and hourly infested by devils, whom, though he 
could not see, he heard, and to whom he imputed all the 
ailments of his flesh and all the frailties of his spirit If he 
felt squeamish, he was sure that the feeling was wrought in 
him by demoniacal agency. If puckers appeared on his 
nose, if his lower lip drooped, the devils had again to answer 
for it ; a cough, a cold in the head^ a hawking and spitting, 
could have none but a supernatural and devilish origin. If, 
pacing in his orchard on a sunny autumn morning, the 
portly abbot stooped to pick up the mellow fruit that had 
fallen in the night, the blood that mounted to his purple face 
was sent coursing thither by his invisible foes. If the abbot 
tossed on his sleepless couch, while the moonlight, streaming 
in at the window, cast the shadows of the stanchions like 
black bars on the floor of his cell, it was not the fleas and so 
forth that kept him awake, oh no. "Vermin,'* said he 
sagely, " do not really bite " ; they seem to bite, indeed, but 
it is all the work of devils. If a monk snored in the dor- 
mitory, the unseemly noise proceeded not from him, but from 
a demon lurking in his person. Especially dangerous were 
the demons of intoxication. These subtle fiends commonly 
lodged at the taverns in the neighbouring town, but on feast 
days they were apt to slip through the monastery gates and 
glide unseen among the monks seated at the refectory table, 
or gathered round the roaring fire on the hearth, while the 
bleak wind whistled in the abbey towers, and a more gener- 
ous vintage than usual glowed and sparkled in the flagons. 
If at such times a jolly, rosy-faced brother appeared to the 
carnal eye and car to grow obstreperous or maudlin, to speak 


thick or to reel and stagger in his gait, be sure it was not 
the fiery spirit of the grape that moved the holy man ; it was 
a spirit of quite a different order. Holding such views on 
the source of all bodily and mental indisposition, it was 
natural enough that the abbot should prescribe remedies 
which are not to be found in the pharmacopceia, and which 
would be asked for in vain at an apothecary's. They consisted 
chiefly of holy water and the sign of the cross ; this last he 
recommended particularly as a specific for flea-bites.^ 

It is easy to suggest that the abbot's wits were unsettled, 
that he suffered from hallucinations, and so forth. This may 
have been so ; yet a mode of thought like his seems to be 
too common over a great part of the world to allow us to 
attribute it purely to mental derangement. In the Middle 
Ages, when the general level of knowledge was low, it seems 
probable that a state of mind like Richalm's may have been 
shared by multitudes even of educated people, who have not 
however, like him, left a monument of their folly to posterity. 
At the present day, owing to the advance and spread of 
knowledge, it might be diflicult to find any person of acknow- 
ledged sanity holding the abbot's opinions on the subject of 
demons ; but in remote parts of Europe a little research 
might show that the creed of Porphyry and Richalm is still 
held, with but little variation, by the mass of the people. 
Thus we are told that the Roumanians of Transylvania 
" believe themselves to be surrounded on all sides by whole 
legions of evil spirits. These devils are furthermore assisted 
by ismejus (another sort of dragon), witches, and goblins, and 
to each of these dangerous beings are ascribed particular 
powers on particular days and at certain places. Many and 
curious are therefore the means by which the Roumanians 
endeavour to counteract these baleful influences ; and a whole 
complicated study, about as laborious as the mastering of an 
unknown language, is required in order to teach an unfor- 
tunate peasant to steer clear of the dangers by which he 
supposes himself to be beset on all sides." * 

1 C Meyer, Der Abcrglauhr des the Roumanians of Transylvania have 

MUUlalters (Bile, 1884), pp. 109- in, been collected by W. Schmidt in his 

191 sq, tract Das JtUir umt seitu Tage in 

* E. Gerard, The Land beyond tkr Meinung und Branch der Romanen 

Forest f L 328. The superstitions of Subenbiirgtcns (Hcrmannstadt, 1S66). 




We can now understand why those general clearances of 
evil, to which from time to time the savage resorts, should 
commonly take the form of a forcible expulsion of devils. 
In these evil spirits primitive man s^^^ the cause of many 
if not of most of his troubles, and he fancies that if he can 
only deliver himself from them, things will go better with 
him. The public attempts to expel the accumulated ills of 
a whole community may be divided into two classes, accord- 
ing as the expelled evils are immaterial and invisible or are 
embodied in a material vehicle or scapegoat. The former 
may be called the direct or immediate expulsion of evils ; 
the latter the indirect or mediate expulsion, or the expulsion 
by scapegoat We begin with examples of the former. 

In the island of Rook, between New Guinea and New 
Britain, when any misfortune has happened, all the people 
run together, scream, curse, howl, and beat the air with 
sticks to drive away the devil {Marsdba)^ who is supposed to 
be the author of the mishap. From the spot where the 
mishap took place they drive him step by step to the sea, 
and on reaching the shore they redouble their shouts and 
blows in order to expel him from the island. He generally 
retires to the sea or to the island of Lottin.^ The natives of 
New Britain ascribe sickness, drought, the failure of crops, 
and in short all misfortunes, to the influence of wicked 
spirits. So at times when many people sicken and die, as 
at the beginning of the rainy season, all the inhabitants of a 
district, armed with branches and clubs, go out by moonlight 
to the fields, where they beat and stamp on the ground with 
wild howls till morning, believing that this drives away the 
devils.* Among the Dieri tribe of Central Australia, when a 
serious illness occurs, the medicine-men expel Cootchie or 
the devil by beating the ground in and outside of the camp 
with the stuffed tail of a kangaroo, until they have chased 
the demon away to some distance from the camp.* In some 
South African tribes it is a general rule that no common 
man may meddle with spirits, whether good or bad, except 



^ Paul Reina, « Ueber die Bewohner 
der Insel Rook,*' ZeUsckrift fur allge^ 
wuUu Erdkunde^ N.F., iv. 356. 

' R. Parkinson, Im Bismarck-Ar- 
chipel^ p. 142. 

' S. Gason, in Journal 0/ ike Antkro- 
poUptal Institute^ xxiv. (1895), P- 17<>* 

Ill OF EVILS 61 

to offer the customary sacrifices. Demons may haunt him 
and make his life a burden to him, but he must submit to 
their machinations until the matter is taken up by the proper 
authorities. A baboon may be sent by evil spirits and perch 
on a tree within gunshot, or regale itself in his maize-field ; 
but to fire at the beast would be worse than suicide. As 
long as a man remains a solitary sufferer, he has little chance 
of i^ress. It is supposed that he has committed some crime, 
and that the ancestors in their wrath have sent a demon to 
torment him. But should his neighbours also suffer ; should 
the baboon from choice or necessity (for men do sometimes 
pluck up courage to scare the brutes) select a fresh field for 
its depredations, or the roof of another man's bam for its 
perch, the case begins to wear a different complexion. The 
magicians now deal with the matter seriously. One man 
may be haunted for his sins by a demon, but a whole com- 
munity infested by devils is another matter. To shoot the 
baboon, however, would be useless ; it would merely enrage 
the demon and increase the danger. The first thing to do 
is to ascertain the permanent abode of the devil. It is 
generally a deep pool with overhanging banks and dark 
recesses. There the villagers assemble with the priests and 
' magicians at their head, and set about pelting the demon 
with stones, men, women, and children all joining in the 
assault, while they load the object of their fear and hate with 
the foulest abuse. Drums too are beaten, and horns blown 
at intervals, and when everybody has been worked up to 
such a frenzy of excitement that some even fancy they see the 
imp dodging the missiles, he suddenly takes to flight, and 
the village is rid of him for a time. After that, the crops 
may be protected and baboons killed with impunity.^ 

When a village has been visited by a scries of disasters 
or a severe epidemic, the inhabitants of Minahassa in Celebes 
lay the blame upon the devils who are infesting the village 
and who must be expelled from it. Accordingly, early one 

' J. Macdonald, Religion and Afytk, ** I have noticed frequcntlj a ood- 

pp. I00-I02. The writer, who de- ncction between the quantity of grain 

scribes the ceremony at first hand, re- that could be spared lor making beer, 

marks that " there is no periodic purg- and the frequency of gatherings for 

ing of deriU, nor are more spirits than the purging of evils.** 
one expelled at a time.'* He adds: 




morning all the people, mep, women, and children, quit their 
homes, carrying their household goods with them, and take 
up their quarters in temporary huts which have been erected 
outside the village. Here they spend several days, offering 
sacrifices and preparing for the final ceremony. At last the 
men, .some wearing masks, others with their faces blackened, 
and so on, but all armed with swords, guns, pikes, or brooms, 
steal cautiously and silently back to the deserted village. 
Then, at a signal from the priest, they rush furiously up and 
down the streets and into and under the houses (which are 
raised on piles above the ground), yelling and striking on 
walls, doors, and windows, to drive away the devils. Next, 
the priests, and the rest of the people come with the holy 
fire and march nine times round each house and thrice round 
the ladder that leads up to it, carrying the fire with them. 
Then they take the fire into the kitchen, where it must burn 
for three days continuously. The devils are now driven 
away, and great and general is the joy.^ The Alfoors of 
Halmahera attribute epidemics to the devil who comes from 
other villages to carry them off. So, in order to rid the 
village of the disease, the sorcerer drives away the devil. 
From all the villagers he receives a costly garment and 
places it on four vessels, which he takes to the forest and 
leaves at the spot where the devil is supposed to be. Then 
with mocking words he bids the demon abandon the place.^ 
In the Kei Islands to the south-west of New Guinea, the 
evil spirits, who are quite distinct from the souls of the 
dead, form a mighty host Almost every tree and every 
cave is the lodging -place of one of these fiends, who are 
moreover extremely irascible and apt to fly out on the 
smallest provocation. To speak loudly in passing their 

» [P. N. Wilkcn], " Dc godsdienst 
en godsdienst plegtigheden der Alfoeren 
in de Menahassa op het eiland Celebes/* 
Tijdsckrift voor Ntderlattdsch Indi^, 
December 1S49, pp. 392-394; '<^-t 
**Bijdragen tot de kennis van de 
ceden en gewoonten der Alfoeren in de 
Minahasia," MededuHngen van wege kei 
NedtrlaHduhe Zendelinggenootsthap^yixu 
(1863), p. 149 sqq. ; J. G. F. Riedel, 
««De Minahasa in 1825," Tijdsckrift 
voor Indische Tool- Land- en Volken- 

kunde^ xviiL ( 1 872), p. 52 1 sq, Wilken's 
first and fuller account is reprinted 
in Graafland's De Minahassa^ i. 117. 

> Riedel, '<GalelaundTobeIoresen," 
ZeUsckr^fUr EtknologU, xvii. (1885), 
p. 82 ; G. A. Wilken, •< Het Shama- 
nisme bij de Volken van de Indischen 
ArchipeU" Bijdragen toide Tool- Lattd- 
en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch 
Indie^ xxxvi. (1887), p. 484. 


Ill OF EVILS 63 

abode, to ease nature near a haunted tree or cave is enough 
to bring down their wrath on the offender, and he must 
either appease them by an offering or burn the scrapings 
of a buffalo's horn or the hair of a Papuan slave, in order 
that the smell may drive the foul fiends away. The spirits 
manifest their displeasure by sending sickness and other 
calamities. Hence in times of public misfortune, as when 
an epidemic is raging, and all other remedies have failed, 
the whole population go forth with the priest at their head 
to a place at some distance from the village. Here at 
sunset they erect a couple of poles with a cross-bar between 
them, to which they attach bags of rice, wooden models of 
pivot-guns, gongs, bracelets, and so on. Then, when every- 
body has taken his place at the poles and a death -like 
silence reigns, the priest lifts up his voice and addresses the 
spirits in their own language as follows : '* Ho I ho ! ho I ye 
evil spirits who dwell in the trees, ye evil spirits who live in 
the grottoes, ye evil spirits who lodge in the earth, we give 
you these pivot-guns, these gongs, etc. Let the sickness 
cease and not so many people die of it." Then every- 
body runs home as fast as their legs can carry them.^ 

In the island of Nias, when a man is seriously ill and 
other remedies have been tried in vain, the sorcerer proceeds 
to exorcise the devil who is causing the illness. A pole is 
set up in front of the house, and from the top of the pole a 
rope of palm-cleaves is stretched to the roof of the house. 
Then the sorcerer mounts the roof with a pig, which he kills 
and allows to roll from the roof to the ground. The devil, 
anxious to get the pig, lets himself down hastily from the 
roof by the rope of palm-leaves, and a good spirit, invoked 
by the sorcerer, prevents him from climbing up again. If 
this remedy fails, it is believed that other devils must still be 
lurking in the house. So a general hunt is made after them. 
All the doors and windows in the house are closed, except a 
single dormer-window in the roof. The men, shut up in the 
house, hew and slash with their swords right and left to the 

^ C. M. Pleyte, *' Ethnographische account of the custom had previously 

Beschrijving der Kei - eilanden," been given by Kicdel [,De siuik- en 

Tijdschri/e van fut Nedcrlandsch Aard- kroeiharige rassen tuischen Selehfs €n 

rijkskwtdi^ Genootschap^ Tweede Serie, Papua^ p. 239). 
X. (1893), P- ^34 ^9' ^ briefer 





clash of gongs and the rub-a-dub of drums. Terrified at 
this onslaught, the devils escape by the dormer-window, and 
sliding down the rope of palm -leaves take themselves off. 
As all the doors and windows, except the one in the roof, 
are shut, the devils cannot get into the house again. In the 
case of an epidemic the proceedings are similar. All the 
gates of the village, except one, are closed ; every voice is 
raised, every gong and drum beaten, every sword brandished. 
Thus the devils are driven out and the last gate is shut 
behind them. For eight days thereafter the village is in 
a state of si^e, no one being allowed to enter it* The 
means adopted in Nias to exclude an epidemic from a 
village which has not yet been infected by it are somewhat 
similar ; but as they exhibit an interesting combination of 
religious ritual with the purely magical ceremony of exorcism, 
it may be worth while to describe them. When it is known 
that a village is suffering from the ravages of a dangerous 
malady, the other villages in the neighbourhood take what 
they r^;ard as effective measures for securing immunity 
from the disease. Some of these measures commend them- 
selves to us as rational and others do not In the first 
place, quarantine is established in each village, not only 
against the inhabitants of the infected village, but against 
all strangers ; no person from outside is allowed to enter. 
In the second place, a feast is made by the people for one 
of their idols who goes by the name of Fangeroe wocho, or 
Protector from sickness. All the people of the village must 
participate in the sacrifice and bear a share of the cost 
The principal idol, crowned with palm-leaves, is set up in front 
of the chiefs house, and all the inhabitants who can do so 
gather about it The names of those who cannot attend 
are mentioned, apparently as a substitute for their attendance 
in person. While the priest is reciting the spells for the 

' Nieowenhuisen en Rosenberg, 
^*Venla|; onitrent het eiland Nias,** 
Verkandeiingen ran JUi Batcnriaasck 
Genooisckap xhih Kunsten en Weien' 
Kkapem^ xxx. (Batavia, 1863), p. 
116 if.; Rosenberg, Drr AfalayisdU 
Arekipel^ P- 174 ^^* Cp. Chatelin, 
"Godsdienst eq Bijgeloorder Kiasseis,** 
Tijdsckrift voar Indisehe Taa/-, 

Volkenkunde, xxvL 139; £. Modi- 
gliani, Un via^^gM a Nias^ pp. 195, 
382. The Dyaks also drive the devil 
at the point of the sword from a house 
where there is sickness. See Hupe, 
*'Korte verhandeling over de gods- 
dienst, leden, enz. der Dajakkers,** 
Tijdsckrifi voor NtirJatuU JmdU^ 
x&|6t dL tiL p. 149. 


Ill OF EVILS 6s 

banishment of the evil spirits, all persons present 
come forward and touch the image. A pig is then killed 
and its flesh furnishes a common meal. The mouth of the 
idol is smeared with the bloody heart of the pig, and a 
dishful of the cooked pork is set before him. Of the flesh 
thus consecrated to the idol none but priests and chiefs may 
partake. Idols called daha^ or branches of the principal idol, 
are also set up in front of all the other houses in the village. 
Moreover, bogies made of black wood with white eyes, to 
which the broken crockery of the inhabitants has freely con- 
tributed, are placed at the entrances of the village to scare 
the demon and prevent him from entering. All sorts of 
objects whitened with chalk are also hung up in front of the 
houses to keep the devil out When eight days have elapsed, 
it is thought that the sacriflce has taken eflect, and the 
priest puts an end to the quarantine. All boys and men 
now assemble for the purpose of expelling the evil spirit. 
Led by the priest, they march four times, with a prodigious 
noise and uproar, from one end of the village to the other, 
slashing the air with their knives and stabbing it with their 
spears to frighten the devil away. If all these efforts prove 
vain, and the dreaded sickness breaks out, the people think 
it must be because they have departed from the ways of 
their fathers by raising the price of victuals and pigs too 
high or by enriching themselves with unjust gain. Accord- 
ingly a new idol is made and set up in front of the chiefs 
house ; and while the priest engages in prayer, the chief and 
the magnates of the village touch the image, vowing as they 
do so to return to the old ways and cursing all such as may 
refuse their consent or violate the new law thus solemnly 
enacted. Then all present betake themselves to the river 
and erect another idol on the bank. In presence of this 
latter idol the weights and measures are compared, and any 
that exceed the lawful standard are at once reduced to it. 
When this has been done, they rock the image to and fro to 
signify, or perhaps rather to ensure, thereby that he who 
does not keep the new law shall suffer misfortune, or fall 
sick, or be thwarted in some way or other. Then a pig is 
killed and eaten on the bank of the river. The feast being 
over, each family contributes a certain sum in token that 

VOL. Ill F 




they make restitution of their unlawful gains. The money 
thus collected is tied in a bundle, and the priest holds the 
bundle up towards the sky and down towards the earth to 
satisfy the god of the upper and the god of the nether world 
that justice has now been done. After that he either flings 
the bag of money into the river or buries it in the ground 
beside the idol. In the latter case the money naturally 
disappears, and the people explain its disappearance by 
saying that the evil spirit has come and fetched it^ A 
method like that which at the present day the people of 
Nias adopt for the sake of conjuring the demon of disease 
was employed in antiquity by the Caunians of Asia Minor 
to banish certain foreign gods whom they had imprudently 
established in their country. All the men of military age 
assembled under arms, and with spear -thrusts in the air 
drove the strange gods step by step from the land and 
across the boundaries.* 

When cholera has broken out in a Burmese village 
the able-bodied men scramble on the roofs and lay about 
them with bamboos and billets of wood, while all the rest of 
the population, old and young, stand below and thump 
drums, blow trumpets, yell, scream, beat floors, walls, tin 
pans, everything to make a din. This uproar, repeated on 
three successive nights, is thought to be very effective in 
driving away the cholera demons.* When small -pox 
first appeared amongst the Kumis of South-Eastem India» 
they thought it was a devil come from Arracan. The 
villages were placed in a state of siege, no one being allowed 
to leave or enter them. A monkey was killed by being 
dashed on the ground, and its body was hung at the village 
gate. Its blood, mixed with small river pebbles, was 
sprinkled on the houses, the threshold of every house was 
swept with the monkey's tail, and the fiend was adjured to 
depart^ In Japan the old-fashioned method of staying an 
epidemic is to expel the demon of the plague from every 

^ Fr. Kramer, "Der GoUendienst 
der Niassec," Tijdsckrift voor Indische 
Toed' Land- en VoIkenktuuU^ xxxiii. 
(1890), pp. 486-488. 

' Herodotus, L 172. 

' Forbes, Briiish Burma, p. 233 ; 
Shway Voe, The Burman^ i. 282, u. 
105 sqq, \ Bastian, Die Volker des 
ostlichtti Asien, ii. 98. 

« Lewin, Wild Tribes <f Souths 
Eastern India^ p. 226. 


Ill OF EVILS 67 

house into which he has entered. The treatment begins 
with the house in which the malady has appeared in the 
mildest form. First of all a Shinto priest makes a pre- 
liminary visit to the sick-room and extracts from the demon 
a promise that he will depart with him at his next visit. 
The day after he comes again, and, seating himself near the 
patient, beseeches the evil spirit to come away with him. 
Meanwhile red rice, which is used only on special occasions^ 
has been placed at the sufferer's head, a closed litter made 
of pine boughs has been brought in, and four men equipped 
with flags or weapons have taken post in the four corners of 
the room to prevent the demon from seeking refuge there. 
All are silent but the priest The prayer being over, the 
sick man's pillow is hastily thrown into the litter, and the 
priest cries, " All right now ! " At that the bearers double 
with it into the street, the people within and without beat 
the air with swords, sticks, or anything that comes to hand, 
while others assist in the cure by banging away at drums 
and gongs. A procession is now formed in which only men 
take part, some of them carrying banners, others provided 
with a drum, a bell, a flute, a horn, and all of them wearing 
fillets and horns of twisted straw to keep the demon away 
from themselves. As the procession starts an old man chants, 
" What god are you bearing away ? " To which the others 
respond in chorus, "The god of the pest we are bearing away ! " 
Then to the music of the drum, the bell, the flute, and the horn 
the litter is borne through the streets. During its passage 
all the people in the town who are not taking part in the 
ceremony remain indoors, every house along the route of the 
procession is carefully closed, and at the cross-roads swords- 
men are stationed, who guard the street by hewing the air 
to right and left with their blades, lest the demon should 
escape by that way. The litter is thus carried to a retired 
spot between two towns and left there, while all who escorted 
it thither run away. Only the priest remains behind for 
half an hour to complete the exorcism and the cure. The 
bearers of the litter spend the night praying in a temple. 
Next day they return home, but not until they have plunged 
into a cold bath in the open air to prevent the demon from 
following them. The same litter serves to convey the evil 




spirit from every house in the town.* In Corea, when a 
patient is recovering from the small-pox, a farewell dinner 
IS given in honour of the departing spirit of the disease. 
Friends and relations are invited, and the spirit's share of 
the good things is packed on the back of a hobby-horse and 
despatched to the boundary of the town or village, while 
respectful farewells are spoken and hearty good wishes uttered 
for his prosperous journey to his own place.* In Tonquin 
also a banquet is sometimes given to the demon of sickness 
to induce him to go quietly away from the house. The 
most honourable place at the festive board is reserved for 
the fiend ; prayers, caresses, and presents are lavished on him ; 
but if he proves obdurate, they assail him with coarse abuse 
and drive him from the house with musket-shots.' 

At Great Bassam, in Guinea, the French traveller 
Hecquard witnessed the exorcism of the evil spirit who was 
believed to make women barren. The women who wished 
to become mothers offered to the fetish wine -vessels or 
statuettes representing women suckling children. Then 
being assembled in the fetish hut, they were sprinkled with 
rum by the priest, while young men fired guns and brandished 
swords to drive away the demon.* The Gallas try to drive 
away fever by firing guns, shouting, and lighting great fires.* 
When sickness was prevalent in a Huron village, and all 
other remedies had been tried in vain, the Indians had 
recourse to the ceremony called Lanauyroya^ " which is the 
principal invention and most proper means, so they say, to 
expel from the town or village the devils and evil spirits 

^ This description it taken from a 
newspaper-cutting, which was sent to 
me from the west of Scotland in October 
1 890, bat without the nameor date of the 
paper. The account, which b headed 
'* Exorcism of the pest demon in 
Japan,*' purports to be derired from a 
series of notes on medical customs of the 
Japanese, which were contributed by 
Dr. C. H. H. Hall, of the U.S. Navy, 
to the SH'l ICwoi Medical Journal. 

' Masanao Koike, *' Zwd Jahren in 
Korea,** Iniimaticnalis Arekiv fur 
Etkn^rapkie^ vt, (1891), p. 10; Mrs. 
Bishop, Korea and her Neighbours^ 
ii. 240. 

' iMtres Edifianles et Curieuses^ 
xvi. 206. It will be noticed that in 
this and the preceding case the 
principle of expulsion u applied for 
the bencHt of an individual, not of a 
whole community. Yet the method of 
procedure in both is so similar to that 
adopted in the cases under conxidera- 
tion that I have allowed myself to cite 

^ Hecquard, Reise an die KOste und 
in das Jnnere von IVesi Afrika^ p. 43. 

* Ph. Paulitschke, Eihnegraphie 
Nordost-A/rikas : die maierielle Cuitur 
der DandhU^ Calla undSomdi, p. 177. 





which cause, induce, and import all the maladies and infir- 
mities which they suffer in body and mind." Accordingly, 
one evening the men would begin to rush like madmen 
about the village, breaking and upsetting whatever they came 
across in the wigwams. They threw fire and burning brands 
about the streets, and all night long they ran howling and 
singing without cessation. Then they all dreamed of some- 
thing, a knife, dog, skin, or whatever it might be, and when 
morning came they went from wigwam to wigwam asking 
for presents. These they received silently, till the particular 
thing was given them which they hgid dreamed about On 
receiving it they uttered a cry of joy and rushed from the 
hut, amid the congratulations of all present. The health of 
those who received what they had dreamed of was believed 
to be assured ; whereas those who did not get what they had 
set their hearts upon regarded their fate as sealed.^ 

^ Sagard, Le Grand Voyage du Pays 
des Hurans, p. 279 sqq, (195 sq, of the 
Puis reprint). Compare Relations des 
Jisuites^ 1639, pp. 8S-92 (Canadian 
reprint), from which it appears that 
each man demanded the subject of his 
dream in the form of a riddle, which 
the hearers tried to solve. The cus- 
tom of asking riddles at certain seasons 
or on certain special occasions is curious 
and has not yet, so far as I know, been 
explained. Perhaps enigmas were 
originally circumlocutions adopted at 
times when for certain reasons the 
speaker was forbidden the use of direct 
terms. They appear to be especially 
employed in the neighbourhood of a 
deaid body. Thus in Bolang Mongondo 
(Celebes) riddles may never be asked 
except when there is a corpse in the 
village. See N. P. Wilkcn en J. A. 
Schwarz, "Allerlei over het land en 
volk van Bolaang Mongondou," Mede- 
deelingen van ivtge het Nederlandscke 
Zendelinggenootsckap^ xi. (1867), p. 
357. In the Am archipelago, while 
a corpse u uncoffined, the watchers 
propound riddles to each other, or rather 
they think of things which the others 
have to guess. See Kiedel, De siuik' 
en kroesharige rassen tusschen SeUbes 
en Papua, p. 267 sq. In Brittany after 
a burial, when the rest have gone to 

partake of the funeral banquet, old 
men remain behind in the graveyard, 
and having seated themselves on 
mallows, ask each other riddles. See 
A. de Nore, Couiumes^ Mytkes et 
Traditions des Provinces de France^ p. 
1 99. In Vedic times the priests proposed 
enigmas to each other at the great 
sacrifice of a horse. See H. Oldenberg, 
Die Religion des Veda^ p. 475. Among 
Turkish tribes of Central Asia girls 
publicly propound riddles to their 
wooers, who are punished if they can- 
not read them. See H. Vambery, 
Das THrkenvolk, p. 232 sq. Among 
the Alfoors of Central Celebes riddles 
may only be asked during the season 
when the fields are being tilled and the 
crops are growing. People meeting 
together at this time occupy themselves 
with asking riddles and telling stories. 
As soon as some one has found the 
answer to a riddle, they all cry out, 
** Make our rice to grow, make fat ears 
to grow both in the valleys and on the 
heights.** But during the months 
which elapse between harvest and the 
preparation of new land for tillage the 
propounding of enigmas is strictly for- 
bidden, libe writer who reports the 
custom conjectures that the cry ** Make 
our rice to grow *' is addressed to the 
souls of the ancestors. See A. C 



The observance of such ceremonies, from being occasional, 
tends to become periodic. It comes to be thought desirable 
to have a general riddance of evil spirits at fixed times, 
usually once a year, in order that the people may make a 
fresh start in life, freed from all the malignant influences \ 
which have been long accumulating about them. Some of 
the Australian blacks annually expelled the ghosts of the 
dead from their territority. The ceremony was witnessed by 
the Rev. W. Ridley on the banks of the River Barwan. "A \ \ 
chorus of twenty, old and young, were singing and beating j 
time with boomerangs. • . . Suddenly, from under a sheet of 
bark darted a man with his body whitened by pipeclay, his \ 
head and face coloured with lines of red and yellow, and a 
tuft of feathers fixed by mean^ of a stick two feet above the 
crown of his head. He stood twenty minutes perfectly still, 
gazing upwards. An aboriginal who stood by told me he ! 
was looking for the ghosts of dead men. At last he began 
to move very slowly, and soon rushed to and fro at full 
speed, flourishing a branch as if to drive away some foes 
invisible to us. When I thought this pantomime must be 
almost over, ten more, similarly adorned, suddenly appeared 
from behind the trees, and the whole party joined in a brisk 
conflict with their mysterious assailants. • . • At last, after 
some rapid evolutions in which they put forth all their 
strength, they rested from the exciting toil which they had 
kept up all night and for some hours after sunrise; they 
seemed satisfied that the ghosts were driven away for 
twelve months. They were performing the same ceremony 
at every station along the river, and I am told it is an 
annual custom.*'^ 

Certain seasons of the year mark themselves naturally 
out as appropriate moments for a general expulsion of devils. 
Such a moment occurs towards the close of an Arctic winter, 
when the sun reappears on the horizon after an absence of 
weeks or months. Accordingly, at Point Barrow, the most 
northerly cxtremit)^ of Alaska, and nearly of America, the 

Kniijt, *<Een en ander aangaandc het gewfotsckap^ xxxix. (1S95), P- 14^ ^^* 
geestelijk en maatschappelijk leren van ^ The Rev. W. Ridley, in J. D. 

den Poso-Alfoer," MedetUelingen van Icing's Queensland^ p. 441 ; cp. Ridley, 

wfge ket Nederlandscke Zendeling- Kamilaroi^ p. 1 49. 

Ill OF EVILS 71 

Esquimaux choose the moment of the sun's reappearance to 
hunt the mischievous spirit Tufia from every house. The 
ceremony was witnessed some years ago by the members of 
the United States Polar Expedition, who wintered at Point 
Barrow. A fire was built in front of the council-house, and 
an old woman was posted at the entrance to every house. 
The men gathered round the council-fire, while the young 
women and girls drove the spirits out of every house with 
their knives, stabbing viciously under the bunk and deer- 
skins, and calling upon Tufta to be gone. When they 
thought he had been driven out of every hole and corner, 
they thrust him down through the hole in the floor and 
chased him into the open air with loud cries and frantic 
gestures. Meanwhile the old woman at the entrance of the 
house made passes with a long knife in the air to keep him 
from returning. Each party drove the spirit towards the 
fire and invited him to go into it. All were by this time 
drawn up in a semicircle round the fire, when several of the 
leading men made specific chaises against the spirit ; and 
each after his speech brushed his clothes violently, calling on 
the spirit to leave him and go into the fire. Two men now 
stepped forward with rifles loaded with blank cartridges, 
while a third brought a vessel of urine and flung it on the 
flames. At the same time one of the men fired a shot into 
the fire ; and as the cloud of steam rose it received the other 
shot, which was supposed to finish TufIa for the time being.^ 
In late autumn, when storms rage over the land and 
break the icy fetters by which the frozen sea is as yet but 
slightly bound, when the loosened floes are driven against 
each other and break with loud crashes, and when the cakes of 
ice are piled in wild disorder one upon another, the Esquimaux 
of Baffin Land fancy they hear the voices of the spirits who 
people the mischief-laden air. Then the spirits of the dead 
knock wildly at the huts, which they cannot enter, and woe 
to the hapless wight whom they catch ; he soon sickens and 
dies. Then the phantom of a huge hairless dog pursues the 
real dogs, which expire in convulsions and cramps at sight 
of him. All the countless spirits of evil are abroad, striving 

* Keport of the InUntat tonal Polar Expeditioft to Point Barrow^ Alaska 
(\Va.shington, 1885), p. 42 sq. 




to bring sickness and death, foul weather and failure in 

hunting on the Esquimaux. Most dreaded of all these spectral 

visitants are Sedna, mistress of the nether world, and her 

father, to whose share dead Esquimaux fall. While the other 

spirits fill the air and the water, she rises from under ground. 

It is then a busy season for the wizards. In every house 

you may hear them singing and praying, while they conjure 

the spirits, seated in a mystic gloom at the back of the hut, 

which is dimly lit by a lamp burning low. The hardest 

task of all is to drive away Sedna, and this is reserved for 

the most powerful enchanter. A rope is coiled on the floor 

of a large hut in such a way as to leave a small opening at 

the top, which represents the breathing hole of a seaL Two 

enchanters stand beside it, one of them grasping a spear as 

if he were watching a seal-hole in winter, the other holding 

the harpoon-line. A third sorcerer sits at the back of the 

hut chanting a magic song to lure Sedna to the spot Now 

she is heard approaching under the floor of the hut, breathing 

heavily ; now she emerges at the hole ; now she is harpooned 

and sinks away in angry haste, dragging the harpoon with 

her, while the two men hold on to the line with all their 

might The struggle is severe, but at last by a desperate 

wrench she tears herself away and returns to her dwelling 

in Adlivun. When the harpoon is drawn up out of the hole 

it is found to be splashed with blood, which the enchanters 

proudly exhibit as a proof of their prowess. Thus Sedna 

and the other evil spirits are at last driven away, and next 

day a great festival is celebrated by old and young in honour 

of the event But they must still be cautious, for the 

wounded Sedna is furious and will seize any one she may 

find outside of his hut ; so they all wear amulets on the top 

of their hoods to protect themselves against her. These 

amulets consist of pieces of the first garments that they wore 

after birth.* 

The Iroquois inaugurated the new year in Januar}% 
February, or March (the time varied) with a " festival of 
dreams" like that which the Hurons observed on special 

» Fr. Boas, •« The Eskimo," Proceed- 
ingi and Transactions of the Royal 
Society of Canada for 1 887, vol. v. (Mon- 
treal, i888),iect. iL 36 j^. ; id,, •«The 

Central Eskimo," Sixth Annnal Refoit 
of the Bureau of Ethnohgy (Washing- 
ton, 1888), p. 603 sq. 






occasions.^ The whole ceremonies lasted several days, or 
even weeks, and formed a kind of saturnalia. Men and 
women, variously disguised, went from wigwam to wigwam 
smashing and throwing down whatever they came across. 
It was a time of general licence ; the people were supposed 
to be out of their senses, and therefore not to be responsible 
for what they did. Accordingly, many seized the oppor- 
tunity of paying off old scores by belabouring obnoxious 
persons, drenching them with ice-cold water, and covering 
them with filth or hot ashes. Others seized burning brands 
or coals and flung them at the heads of the first persons 
they met The only way of escaping from these persecutors 
was to guess what they had dreamed of. On one day of the 
festival the ceremony of driving away evil spirits from the 
village took place. Men clothed in the skins of wild beasts, 
their faces covered with hideous masks, and their hands 
with the shell of the tortoise, went from hut to hut making 
frightful noises ; in every hut they took the fuel from the fire 
and scattered the embers and ashes about the floor with their 
hands. The general confession of sins which preceded the 
festival was probably a preparation for the public expulsion 
of evil influences ; it was a way of stripping the people of 
their moral burdens, that these might be collected and cast 
out. This New Year festival is still celebrated by some of 
the heathen Iroquois, though it has been shorn of its former 
turbulence. A conspicuous feature in the ceremony is now 
the sacrifice of the White Dog, but this appears to have been 
added to the festival in comparatively modern times, and 
does not figure in the oldest descriptions of the ceremonies. 
We shall return to it later on.' A great annual festival of 

' Above, p. 68 sq, 

' Charlevoix, Histoire de la NouvtUe 
Froitce, vi. 82 sgg, ; Timothy Dwtght, 
Travels in New England and Nfw 
York^ Vi, 201 sq, ; L. H. Morgan, 
League of Ike Iroquois^ p. 207 sqq, ; 
Mrs. E. A. Smith, •• Myths of the 
Iroquois," Second Annual Report of 
ike Bureau of Elknology (Washington, 
1883), p. 112 sqq,\ Horatio Hale, 
'* Iroquois sacrifice of the White Do|;/' 
American Antiquarian^ vii. 7 sqq. ; 

W. M. Beauchamp, "Iroquois White 
Dog feast,** ibid p. 235 sqq, •• They 
had one day in the year which might 
be called the Festival of Fools ; for in 
fact they pretended to be mad, rushing 
from hut to hut, so that if they ill- 
treated any one or carried off anything, 
they would say next day, ' I was mad ; 
I had not my senses about me.* And 
the others would accept this exphmation 
and exact no vengeance '* (L. Hennepin, 
Description de la Lonisiane, Paris, 
1683, p. 71 sq.). 




the Cherokee Indians was the Propitiation, " Cementation," 
or Purification festival. " It was celebrated shortly after the 
first new moon of autumn, and consisted of a multiplicity of 
rigorous rites, fastings, ablutions, and purifications. Among 
the most important functionaries on the occasion were seven 
exorcisers or cleansers, whose duty it was, at a certain stage 
of the proceedings to drive away evil, and purify the town. 
Each one bore in his hand a white rod of sycamore. ' The 
leader, followed by others, walked around the national 
heptagon, and coming to the treasure or store-house to the 
west of it, they lashed the eaves of the roofs with their rods. 
The leader then went to another house, followed by the 
others, singing, and repeated the same ceremony until every 
house was purified.' This ceremony was repeated daily 
during the continuance of the festival. In performing their 
ablutions they went into the water and allowed their old 
clothes to be carried away by the stream, by which means 
they supposed their impurities removed." * 

In September the Incas of Peru -celebrated a festival 
called Situa, the object of which was to banish from the 
capital and its vicinity all disease and trouble. The festival 
fell in September because the rains begin about this time, 
and with the first rains there was generally much sickness. 
As a preparation for the festival the people fasted on the 
first day of the moon after the autumnal equinox. Having 
fasted during the day, and the night being come, they baked 
a coarse paste of maize. This paste was made of two sorts. 
One was kneaded with the blood of children aged five to ten 
years, the blood being obtained by bleeding the children 
between the eyebrows. These two kinds of paste were 
baked separately, because they were for different uses. Each 
family assembled at the house of the eldest brother to 
celebrate the feast ; and those who had no elder brother 
went to the house of their next relation of greater age. On 
the same night all who had fasted during the day washed 
their bodies, and taking a little of the blood-kneaded paste, 
rubbed it over their head, face, breast, shoulders, arms, and 
legs. They did this in order that the paste might take away 

^ Squter's notes upon Bartram's from the MS. of Mr. Pa}'ne. See 
Cn-fk and Cherokee Indians^ p. 78, aliove, vol. ii. p. 329, note I. 


Ill OF EVILS 75 

all their infirmities. After this the head of the family 
anointed the threshold with the same paste, and left it there 
as a token that the inmates of the house had performed their 
ablutions and cleansed their bodies. Meantime the High 
Priest performed the same ceremonies in the temple of the 
Sun. As soon as the Sun rose, all the people worshipped 
and besought him to drive all evils out of the city, and then 
they broke their fast with the paste that had been kneaded 
without blood. When they had paid their worship and 
broken their fast, which they did at a stated hour, in order 
•that all might adore the Sun as one man, an Inca of the 
blood royal came forth from the fortress, as a messenger of 
the Sun, richly dressed, with his mantle girded round his 
body, and a lance in his hand. The lance was decked with 
feathers of many hues, extending from the blade to the 
socket, and fastened with rings of gold. He ran down the 
hill from the fortress brandishing his lance, till he reached 
the centre of the great square, where stood the golden urn, 
like a fountain, that was used for the sacrifice of the fermented 
juice of the maize. Here four other Incas of the blood 
royal awaited him, each with a lance in his hand, and his 
mantle girded up to run. The messenger touched their four 
lances with his lance, and told them that the Sun bade them, 
as his messengers, drive the evils out of the city. The four 
Incas then separated and ran down the four royal roads 
which led out of the city to the four quarters of the world. 
While they ran, all the people, great and small, came to the 
doors of their houses, and with great shouts of joy and glad- 
ness shook their clothes, as if they were shaking off dust, 
while they cried, " Let the evils be gone. How greatly 
desired has this festival been by us. O Creator of all things, 
permit us to reach another year, that we may see another 
feast like this." After they had shaken their clothes, they 
passed their hands over their heads, faces, arms, and legs, as 
if in the act of washing. All this was done to drive the 
evils out of their houses, that the messengers of the Sun 
might banish them from the city ; and it was done not only 
in the streets through which the Incas ran, but generally in 
all quarters of the city. Moreover, they all danced, the Inca 
himself amongst them, and bathed in the rivers and 




fountains, saying that their maladies would come out of 
them. Then they took great torches of straw, bound round 
with cords. These they lighted, and passed from one to the 
other, striking each other with them, and saying, " Let all 
harm go away." Meanwhile the runners ran with their 
lances for a quarter of a league outside the city, where they 
found four other Incas ready, who received the lances from 
their hands and ran with them. Thus the lances were 
carried by relays of runners for a distance, of five or six 
leagues, at the end of which the runners washed themselves 
and their weapons in rivers, and set up the lances, in sign of 
a boundary within which the banished evils might not 

The negroes of Guinea annually banish the devil from 
all their towns with much ceremony. At Axim, on the Gold 
Coast, this annual expulsion is preceded by a feast of eight 
days, during which mirth and jollity reign, and *' a perftet 
lampooning liberty is allowed, and scandal so highly exalted^ 
that they may freely sing of all the faults, villanies, and 
frauds of their superiors as well as inferiors, without punish- 
ment, or so much as the least interruption." On the eighth 
day they hunt out the devil with a dismal cry, running after 
him and pelting him with sticks, stones, and whatever comes 
to hand. When they have driven him far enough out of the 
town, they all return. In this Mray he is expelled from more 
than a hundred towns at the same time. To make sure that 
he does not return to their houses, the women wash and 
scour all their wooden and earthen vessels, '* to free them 
from all uncleanness and the devil." ' The ceremony as it 

1 Gaictlasso de la Vega, Royal Com- 
wt€Mtaries tf the Yncas^ pt. i. bk. vii. 
ch. 6, Tol. ii. p. 228 sqq,^ Markhain's 
translation ; Molina, '< Fables and 
Rites of the Yncas," in Rites and Laws 
tf ih4 Yiuas (Hakluyt Society, 1873), 
p. 20 sqtf. ; Acosta, History of the 
Indies^ bk. v. ch. 28, vol. ii. p. 375 
sq, (Hakluyt Society, 1880). The 
accounts of Gardlasso and Molina are 
somewhat discrepant, but this may 
be explained by the statement of the 
latter that " in one year they added, 
and in another they reduced the number 
of ceremonies, according to circum- 

stances.** Molina places the festival 
in August, Gardlasso and Acosta in 
September. According to Garcilasso 
there were only four runners in Cu2co ; 
according to Molina there were four 
hundred. Acosta*s account is very 
brief. In the description given in the 
text features have been borrowed from 
all three accounts, where these seemed 
consistent with each other. 

' Bosman*s" Guinea,** in Pinkerton's 
Voyages and Travels^ xvL 402. Cp. 
Pierre Bouche, La C6te des Esclaves^ 

P- 395- 


Ill OF EVILS 77 

IS practised at Gatto, in Benin, has been described by an 
English traveller. He says : " It was about this time that I 
witnessed a strange ceremony, peculiar to this people, called 
the time of the * grand devils.' Eight men were dressed in 
a most curious manner, having a dress made of bamboo 
about their bodies, and a cap on the head, of various colours 
and ornamented with red feathers taken from the parrot's 
tail ; round the legs were twisted strings of shells, which 
made a clattering noise as they walked, and the face and 
hands of each individual were covered with a net These 
strange beings go about the town, by day and by night, for 
the term of one month, uttering the most discordant and 
frightful noises ; no one durst venture out at night for fear 
of being killed or seriously maltreated by these fellows, who 
are then especially eng^aged in driving the evil spirits from 
the town. They go round to all the chiefs houses, and in 
addition to the noise they make, perform some extraordinary 
feats in tumbling • and gymnastics, for which they receive a 
few cowries." * At Onitsha, on the Niger, Mr. J. C. Taylor 
witnessed the celebration of New Year's Day by the negroes. 
It fell on the twentieth of December 1858. Every family 
brought a firebrand out into the street, threw it away, and 
exclaimed as they returned, " The gods of the new year I 
New Year has come round agptin." Mr. Taylor adds, ** The 
meaning of the custom seems to be that the fire is to drive 
away the old year with its sorrows and evils, and to embrace 
the new year with hearty reception." * Of all Abyssinian 
festivals that of Mascal or the Cross is celebrated with the 
greatest pomp. The eve of the festival witnesses a ceremony 
which doubtless belongs to the world-wide class of customs 
wc are dealing with. At sunset a discharge of firearms takes 
place from all the principal houses. "Then every one 
provides himself with a torch, and during the early part of 
the night bonfires are kindled, and the people parade the 
town, carrying their lighted torches in their hands. They 
go through their houses too, poking a light into every dark 

I NarrtUiv€ tf Captain Jama > S. Crowther and J. C Taylor, 7Tu 

FavKktur's Travels on the Coast of Gospel on the Banks «f the Nigtr^ p. 

Benin, IVest Africa (London, 1837), 320. 
p. 102 sq. 


comer in the hall, under the couches, in the stables, kitchen, 
etc., as if looking for something lost, and calling out, * Akho, 
akhoky ! turn out the spinage, and bring in the porridge ; 
Mascal is come ! ' . . . After this they play, and poke fun 
and torches at each other." ^ 

Sometimes the date of the annual expulsion of devils is 
fixed with reference to the agricultural seasons. Among the 
Hos of North-Elastem India the great festival of the year is 
the harvest home, held in January, when the granaries are 
full of g^in, and the people, to use their own expression, are \ 

full of devilry. " They have a strange notion that at this 
period men and women are so overcharged with vicious 
propensities, that it is absolutely necessary for the safety of 
the person to let off steam by allowing for a time full vent 
to the passions." The ceremonies open with a sacrifice to 
the village god of three fowls, two of which must be black. 
Along with them are offered flowers of the Palas-tree, bread 
made from rice-flour, and sesamum seeds. These offerings 
are presented, by the village priest, who prays that during the 
year about to begin they and their children may be preserved 
from all misfortune and sickness, and that they may have 
seasonable rain and good crops. Prayer is also made in 
some places for the souls of the dead. At this time an evil 
spirit is supposed to infest the place, and to get rid of it men, 
women, and children go in procession round and through 
every part of the village with sticks in their hands, as if 
beating for game, singling a wild chant, and shouting 
vociferously, till they feel assured that the evil spirit must 
have fled. Then they give themselves up to feasting and 
drinking rice-beer, till they are in a fit state for the wild 
debauch which follows. The festival now "becomes a 
satumale, during which servants forget their duty to their 
masters, children their reverence for parents, men their 
respect for women, and women all notions of modesty, 
delicacy, and gentleness ; they become raging bacchantes." 
Usually the Hos are quiet and reserved in manner, decorous 
and gentle to women. But during this festival " their nature 
appears to undergo a temporary change. Sons and 
daughters revile their parents in gross language, and parents 

' Mansfield Parkyns, Life in Abyssinia^ p. 285 sqq. 

Ill OF EVILS 79 

their children ; men and women become almost like animals 
in the indulgence of their amorous propensities." The 
Mundaris, kinsmen and neighbours of the Hos, keep the 
festival in much the same manner. " The resemblance to a 
Saturnale is very complete, as at this festival the farm 
labourers are feasted by their masters, and allowed the 
utmost freedom of speech in addressing them. It is the 
festival of the harvest home ; the termination of one year's 
toil, and a slight respite from it before they commence 
agam. * 

Amongst some of the Hindoo Koosh tribes, as among 
the Hos and Mundaris, the expulsion of devils takes place 
after harvest When the last crop of autumn has been gpt 
in, it is thought necessary to drive away evil spirits from the 
granaries. A kind of porridge called mool is eaten, and the 
head of the family takes his matchlock and fires it into the 
floor. Then, going outside, he sets to work loading and 
firing till his powder-horn is exhausted, while all his neigh- 
bours are similarly employed. The next day is spent in 
rejoicings. In Chitral this festival \s called " devil-driving." * 
On the other hand the Khonds of India expel the devils at 
seed-time instead of at harvest At this time they worship 
Pitteri Pennu, the god of increase and of gain in every shape. 
On the first day of the festival a rude car is made of a 
basket set upon a few sticks, tied upon bamboo rollers for 
wheels. The priest takes this car first to the house of the 
lineal head of the tribe, to whom precedence is given in all 
ceremonies connected with agriculture. Here he receives a 
little of each kind of seed and some feathers. He then takes 
the car to all the other houses in the village, each of which 
contributes the same things. Lastly, the car is conducted 
to a field without the village, attended by all the young men, 
who beat each other and strike the air violently with long 
sticks. The seed thus carried out is called the share of the 
•* evil spirits, spoilers of the seed." " These are considered to 
be driven out with the car ; and when it and its contents 

1 Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal^ p. is in like manner a period of licence 

196 sq. We have seen (vol. ii. p. 326 and debauchcr}*. 

iqqj) that among the Pondos of South - Biddulph, Tribes tf the Hindoo 

Africa the harvest festival of first-fruits Koosh ^ p. 103. 




are abandoned to them, they are held to have no excuse for 
interfering with the rest of the seed-corn." Next day each 
household kills a hog over the seed for the year, and prays 
to Pitted Pennu. The elders then feast upon the hogs. 
The young men are excluded from the repast, but enjoy the 
privilege of waylaying and pelting with jungle-fruit their 
elders as they return from the feast. Upon the third day 
the lineal head of the tribe goes out and sows his seed, after 
which all the rest may do so.* 

The people of Bali, an island to the east of Java, have 
periodical expulsions of devils upon a great scale. Generally 
the time chosen for the expulsion is the day of the " dark 
moon " ip the ninth month. When the demons have been 
long unmolested the country is said to be " warm," and the 
priest issues orders to expel them by force, lest the whole 
of Bali should be rendered uninhabitable. On the day 
appointed the people of the village or district assemble at the 
principal temple. Here at a cross-road offerings are set out 
for the devils.. After prayers have been recited by the 
priests, the blast of a horn summons the devils to partake of 
the meal which has been prepared for them. At the same 
time a number of men step forward and light their torches 
at the holy lamp which burns before the chief priest. Im- 
mediately afterwards, followed by the bystanders, they spread 
in all directions and march through the streets and lanes 
crying, "Depart! go away!" Wherever they pass, the 
people who have stayed at home hasten, by a deafening 
knocking on doors, beams, rice-blocks, and so on, to take 
their share in the expulsion of devils. Thus chased from 
the houses, the fiends flee to the banquet which has been set 
out for them ; but here the priest receives them with curses 
which finally drive them from the district. When the last 
devil has taken his departure, the uproar is succeeded by a 
dead silence, which lasts during the next day also. The 


' W. Maq>herson, Memoriab of 
Service in India, P- 357 ^9* Possibly 
this case belongs more strictly to the 
class of mediate expulsions, the devils 
being driven out upon the car. Per- 
haps, howe\'er, the car with its contents 
is regarded rather as a bribe to induce 

them to go than as a vehicle in which 
they are actually carted away. Any- 
how it is convenient to take this case 
along with those other expulsions of 
demons which are the accompaniment 
of an agricultural festival. 




devils, it is thought, arc anxious to return to their old homes, 
and in order to make them think that Bali is not Bali but 
some desert island, no one may stir from his own abode 
for twenty-four hours. Even ordinary household work, 
including cooking, is discontinued. Only the watchmen may 
show themselves in the streets. Wreaths of thorns and 
leaves are hung at all the entrances to warn strangers from 
entering. Not till the third day is this state of siege raised, 
and even then it is forbidden to work at the rice-fields or to 
buy and sell in the market Most people still stay at home» 
striving to while away the time with cards and dice.^ 

The Shans of Southern China annually expel the fire-spirit 
The ceremony was witnessed by the English Mission under 
Colonel Sladen on the thirteenth of August 1 868. Bullocks 
and cows were slaughtered in the market-place ; the meat was 
all sold, part of it was cooked and eaten, while the rest was 
fired out of guns at sundown. The pieces of flesh which fell 
on the land were supposed to become mosquitoes, those 
which fell in the water were believed to turn into leeches. 
In the evening the chiefs retainers beat gongs and blew 
trumpets ; and when darkness had set in torches were lit, 
and a party, preceded by the musicians, searched the central 
court for the fire-spirit, who is supposed to lurk about at this 
season with evil intent They then ransacked all the rooms 
and the gardens, throwing the light of the torches into every 
nook and comer where the evil spirit might find a hiding- 
place.^ In some parts of Fiji an annual ceremony took 
place which has much the aspect of an expulsion of devils. 
The time of its celebration was determined by the appear- 
ance of a certain fish or sea-slug {balolo) which swarms out 
in dense shoals from the coral reefs on a single day of the 

1 R. van £ck, <*Schetsen van het 
eiland Bali," TijdschHft voor Neder- 
landsch /fuiii,Zl^,S., viil (1879), pp. 
58-60. Van Eck's account is reprinted 
in J. Jacobs's Eenigen tijd onder de 
Baiters (Batavia, 1883), p. 190 sqq. 
According to another writer, each 
village may choose its own day for 
expelling the devils, but the ceremony 
must always be performed at the new 
moon. A necessary preliminary b to 

VOL. Ill 

mark exactly the boundaries of the 
village territory, and this is done by 
stretching the leaves of a certain palm 
across the roads at the boundaries. 
See F. A. Liefrinck, *< Bijdrage tot 
de kennis van het eiland Bali," Tijd- 
schrift 7H>or Indische Taal- Land^ en 
Volkatkundi^ xxxiii. (1890), p. 246 

' J. Anderson, Mandaiay to Afomien 
(London, 1876), p. 308. 




year, usually in the last quarter of the moon in November. 
The appearance of the sea-slugs was the signal for a general 
feast at those places where they were taken. An influential I 
man ascended the tree and prayed to the spirit of the sky 
for good crops, fair winds, and so on. Thereupon a i 
tremendous clatter, with drumming and shouting, was raised 
by all the people in their houses for about half an hour. 
This was followed by a dead quiet for four days, during 
which the people feasted on the sea-slug. All this time no 
work of any kind might be done, not even a leaf plucked 
nor the offal removed from the houses. If a noise was made 
in any house, as by a child crying, a forfeit was at once 
exacted by the chief. At daylight on the expiry of the 
fourth night the whole town was in an uproar ; men and 
boys scampered about, knocking with clubs and sticks at the 
doors of the houses and crying *^ Sinariba.** This concluded j 
the ceremony.* 

On the last night of the year there is observed in most 
Japanese houses a ceremony called ^ the exorcism of the evil 
spu-it" It is performed by the head of the family. Clad in 
his finest robes, with a sword, if he has the right of bearing 
one, at his waist, he goes through all the rooms at the hour 
of midnight, -carrying in his left hand a box of roasted beans 
on a lacquered stand. From time to time he dips his right 
hand into the box and scatters a handful of beans on a mat, 
pronouncing a cabalistic form of words of which the meaning 
is, "Go forth, demons! Enter riches!"* According to 
another account, the ceremony takes place on the night 
before the beginning of spring, and the roasted beans are 
flung against the walls as well as on the floors of the houses.' 
On the third day of the tenth month in every year the Hak- 
Ka, a native race in the province of Canton, sweep their 
houses and turn the accumulated fllth out of doors, together 
with three sticks of incense and some mock money made of 

1 U,S, Exploring Expedition ^Ethtuh while the women and boys remained 
graphy and Philology, by H. Hale, p. shut up in their houses. 

67 so, ; Ch. Wilkes, Narrativt of the , . xi^^x^^ r r ^ -n * t 

n c jr«.A/^ rZ^Mfinm iii <v> r/> ^* Humbert, Le Japon tllustri 

U.S. Exploring Expedition, iii. 901^. ip^-js. 1870^ ii 126 

According to the Utter, the sea-slug ^*^^ "^o), n. 320. 

was eaten by the men alone, who lived > Bastian, Die Volker des ostlichen 

during the four days in the temple, Asien, t. 367. 


Ill OF EVILS 83 

paper. At the same time they call out, " Let the devil of 
poverty depart ! Let the devil of poverty depart ! " By 
performing this ceremony they hope to preserve their homes 
from penury.^ Among some of the Hindoos of the Punjaub 
on the morning after Diwali or the festival of lamps, at which 
the souls of ancestors are believed to visit the house, the oldest 
woman of the family takes a corn-sieve or winnowing basket 
and a broom, to both of which magical virtues are ascribed, 
and beats them in every comer of the house, exclaiming, 
" God abide and poverty depart ! " The sieve is then carried 
out of the village, generally to the east or north, and being 
thrown away is supposed to bear away with it the poverty 
and distress of the household. Or the woman flings all the 
sweepings and rubbish out of doors, saying, '' Let all dirt and 
wretchedness depart from here, and all good fortune come 
in." * The Persians used annually to expel the demons or 
goblins {Dives) from their houses in the month of December. 
For this purpose the Magi wrote certain words with saffron 
on a piece of parchment or paper and then held the writing 
over a fire into which they threw cotton, garlic, grapes, wild 
rue, and the horn of an animal that had been killed on 
the sixteenth of September. The spell thus prepared was 
nailed or glued to the inside of the door, and the door was 
painted red. Next the priest took some sand and spread it 
out with a knife, while he muttered certain prayers. After 
that he strewed the sand on the floor, and the enchantment 
was complete. The demons now immediately vanbhed, or 
at least were deprived of all their malignant power.* 

InTonquin a theckydaw ox ^^ntx^ expulsion of malevolent 
spirits commonly took place once a year, especially if there 
was a great mortality amongst men or cattle, ^ the cause of 
which they attribute to the malicious spirits of such men as 
have been put to death for treason, rebellion, and conspiring 
the death of the king, general, or princes, and that in revenge 
of the punishment they have suffered, they are bent to 

> Eitel, •« Les Hak-ka,** VAtUhro- Popular Religion and Folklore tf 

pologie^ iv. (1893), p. 175 If. Northern Jndia^ p. 307. 

' Panjab Notes a$id Queries^ ii. p. . 

146 sq,^ § 792 ; D. C. J. Ibbetson, ' John Richardson, Dictionary of 

Outlines of Panjab Ethnography^ p. Persian^ Arabic^ and English^ New 

119; W. Crooke, Introduction to the Edition (London, 1829), p. liiL 




destroy everything and commit horrible violence. To 
prevent which their superstition has suggested to them the 
institution of this theckydaw as a proper means to drive the 
devil away, and purge the country of evil spirits." The day 
appointed for the ceremony was generally the twenty-fifth of 
February, one month after the beginning of the new year, 
which fell on the twenty-fifth of January. The intermediate 
month was a season of feasting, merry-making of all kinds, 
and general licence. During the whole month the great seal 
was kept shut up in a box, face downwards, and the law was, 
as it were, laid asleep. All courts of justice were closed ; 
debtors could not be seized ; small crimes, such as petty 
larceny, fighting, and assault, escaped with impunity ; only 
treason and murder were taken account of and the male- 
factors detained till the great seal should come into operation 
again. At the close of the saturnalia the wicked spirits 
were driven away. Great masses of troops and artillery 
having been drawn up with flying colours and all the pomp 
of war, ^ the general b^nneth then to offer meat offerings 
to the criminal devils and malevolent spirits (for it is usual 
and customary likewise amongst them to feast the condemned 
before their execution), inviting them to eat and drink, when 
presently , he accuses them in a strange language, by 
characters and figures, etc, of many offences and crimes 
committed by them, as to their having disquieted the land, 
killed his elephants and horses, etc., for all which they 
justly deserved to be chastised and banished the country. 
Whereupon three great guns are fired as the last signal ; 
upon which all the artillery and muskets are discharged, 
that, by their most terrible noise the devils may be driven 
away ; and they are so blind as to believe for certain, that 
they really and effectually put them to flight." * 

* Baron, *' Description of the King- 
dom of Tonqueen," Pinkerton's Voyagts 
and Travels^ ix. 673, 695 sq. ; q>. 
Richard, *' History of Tonquin," ibi± p. 
746. The account of the ceremony by 
Tavemier (whom Baron criticises yery 
unfavourably) is somewhat different. 
According to him, the expulsion of 
wicked souls at the New Year is 
combined with sacrifice to the honoured 
dead. '*At the beginning of every 

year they have a great solemnity in 
honour of the dead, who were in their 
lives renowned for their noble actions 
and valour, reckoning rebels among 
them. They set up several altars, 
some for sacrifices, others for the 
names of the persons they design to 
honour; and the king, princes, and 
mandarins are present at them, and 
make three profound reverences to the 
altars when the sacrifices are finished ; 





In Cambodia the expulsion of evil spirits took place in 
March. Bits of broken statues and stones, considered as 
the abode of the demons, were collected and brought to the 
capital. Here as many elephants were collected as could 
be got together. On the evening of the full moon volleys 
of musketry were fired and the elephants charged furiously 
to put the devils to flight.^ In Siam the banishment of 
demons is annually carried into effect on the last day of the 
old year. A signal gun is fired from the palace ; it is 
answered from the next station, and so on from station to 
station, till the firing has reached the outer gate of the city. 
Thus the demons are driven out step by step. As soon as 
this is done a consecrated rope is fastened round the circuit 
of the city walls to prevent the banished demons from 
returning. The rope is made of tough couch-grass and is 
painted in alternate stripes of red, yellow, and blue.* 
According to a more recent account, the Siamese ceremony 
takes place at the New Year holidays, which are three 
in number, beginning with the first of April. For the feast- 
ing which accompanies these holidays a special kind of cake 
is made, '* which is as much in demand as our own Shrove- 
Tuesday pancakes or our Good - Friday hot cross - buns. 
The temples are thronged with women and children making 
offerings to Buddha and his priests. The people inaugurate 
their New Year with numerous charitable and religious 
deeds. The rich entertain the monks, who recite appropriate 
prayers and chants. Every departed soul returns to the 
bosom of his family during these three days, freed from any 
fetters that may have bound him in the regions of indefin- 

but the king shoots five times against 
the altars where the rebel names are ; 
then the great guns are let off, and the 
soldiers give voUies of small shot, to 
put the souls to flight. The altars and 
papers made use of at the sacrifices are 
burnt, and the bonzes and sages go to 
eat the meat made use of at the 
sacrifice " (Ta vernier, in John Harris's 
Collection of Voyages and Travels^ vol. 
i. (London, I744)t P* S23). 

' Aymonier, Notice sur U Cambodge^ 
p. 62. 

' bastian, Die Volker des bstlichen 

Asien^ iii. 237, 298, 314, 529 iq,\ 
Pallegoix, Royaume Thai ou Siam, L 
252. Bastian (p. 314), with whom 
Pallegoix seems to agree, distinctly 
states that the expulsion takes place on 
the last day of the year. Yet both 
state that it occurs in the fourth month 
of the year. According to Pallegoix 
(i. 253) the Siamese year u competed 
of twelve lunar months, and the first 
month usually begins in December. 
Hence the expulsion of devils would 
commonly take place in March, as in 


able locality. On the third day the religious observances 
terminate, and the remaining hours are devoted to *the 
world, the flesh, and the devil.' Gambling is not confined 
to the licensed houses, but may be indulged in anywhere. [ 
Games of chance hold powerful sway in every house as long j 
as the licence to participate in them lasts. Priests in small j 
companies occupy posts at regular intervals round the city 
wall, and spend their time in chanting away the evil spirits. 
On the evening of the second day, the ghostly visitors from \ 

the lower realms lose the luxury of being exorcised with j 
psalms. Every person who has a gun may fire it as often 
as he pleases, and the noise thus made is undoubtedly fear- 
ful enough in its intensity to cause any wandering traveller 
from the far-off fiery land to retrace his steps with speed. 
The bang and rattle of pistols, muskets, shot-guns, and 
rifles cease not till the break of day, by which time the city 
is effectually cleared of all its infernal visitors." * From this 
account we learn that among the spirits thus banished are the 
souls of the dead, who revisit their living friends once a year. 
A similar belief and a similar custom prevail in Japan. 
There, too, the souls of the departed return to their 
old homes once a year, and a festival called the Feast 
of Lanterns is made to welcome them. They come at 
evening on the thirteenth day of the seventh month of the 
old calendar, which falls towards the end of August It is 
needful to light them on their ^vay. Accordingly bamboos 
with pretty coloured lanterns attached to them are fastened 
on the tombs, and being thickly set they make an illumina- 
tion on the hills, where the burying-grounds are generally 
situated. Lamps of many hues or rows of tapers are also 
lit and set out in front of the houses and in the gardens, and 
small fires are kindled in the streets, so that the whole city 
is in a blaze of light After the sun has set, a great multi- 
tude issues from the town, for every family goes forth to 
meet its returning dead. When they come to the spot 
where they believe the souls to be, they welcome the unseen 
visiters and invite them to rest after their journey, and to 
partake of refreshments, which they offer to them. Having 
allowed the souls time enough to satisfy their hunger and 

* E. Young, The Kingdom of the Yellow Robe^ p. 135 sq. 


recover from their fatigue, they escort them by torchlight, 
chatting gaily with them, into the city and to the houses 
where they lived and died. These are also illuminated with 
brilliant lanterns ; a banquet is spread on the tables ; and 
the places of the dead, who are supposed to absorb the 
ethereal essence of the food, are laid for them as if they 
were alive. After the repast the living go from house to 
house to visit the souls of their dead friends and neighbours ; 
and thus they spend the night running about the town. On 
the evening of the third day of the festival, which is the 
fifteenth day of the month, the time has come for the souls 
to return to their own place. Fires again blaze in the streets 
to light them on the road ; the people again escort them 
ceremoniously to the spot where they met them two days 
before ; and in some places they send the lanterns floating 
away on rivers or the sea in miniature boats, which are 
laden with provisions for the spirits on their way to their 
long home. But there is still a fear that some poor souls 
may have lagged behind, or even concealed themselves in 
a nook or comer, loth to part from the scenes of their 
former life and from those they love. Accordingly steps are 
taken to hunt out these laggards and send them packing 
after their fellow -ghosts. With this intention the people 
throw stones on the roofs of their houses in great profusion ; 
and going through every room armed with sticks they deal 
swashing blows all about them in the empty air to chase 
away the lingering souls. This they do, we are told, out of 
a regard for their own comfort quite as much as from the 
afTection they bear to the dead ; for they fear to be dis- 
turbed by unseasonable apparitions if they suffered the airy 
visiters to remain in the house.* 

Thus in spite of the kindly welcome given to the souls, 
the fear which they inspire comes out plainly in the pains 
taken to ensure their departure ; and this fear justifies us 
in including such forced departures among the ceremonies 
for the expulsion of evils with which we are here concerned. 

' Charlevoix, Histoire ei tUscripticn 364 ; Beaufort, in Journal of the 

generate dit Jafxm {^zn%^ 1736), i. 1 28 Anthropological Institute ^ xv. (1886). 

sq. ; C. P. Thunberg, Voyages an p. 102 ; A. Morgan, in Journal 0/ 

y(i7/V7/i (Paris, 1796), iv. 1 8-20; Bastian, American Folk-lore^ x. (1897), p. 

Die Vblker des ostiichen Asicn, v. 244 sq. 




It may be remembered that the annual banishment of ghosts 
has been practised by savages so low in the scale of humanity 
as the Australian aborigines.^ At the other end of the 
scale it was observed in classical antiquity by the civilised 
Greeks and Romans. The Athenians believed that at the 
festival of the Anthesteria the souls of the dead came back 
from the nether world and went about the city. Accord- 
ingly ropes were fastened round the temples to keep out the 
wandering ghosts; and with a like intention the people 
smeared the doors of their houses with pitch, apparently 
thinking that any rash spirits who might attempt to enter 
would stick fast in the pitch and be glued, like so many 
flies, to the door. But at the end of the festival the souls 
were bidden to depart in these words: "Out of the door 
with you, souls. The Anthesteria is over."* Yet for 
the entertainment of the unseen guests during their short 
stay earthenware pots full of boiled food appear to have 
been everywhere prepared throughout the city ; but probably 

* Above, p. 7a 

' Hes3rchiu8, J.v. /uo/mU i^poi* roO 
*Ap$effT7fpiQpin /ui^t ^ a& r&r ^nrxj^t 

Photius, Lexicon t t.v, 8<l|pa^€ Kapet' 
cimer 'ApBetrr^pia . . . rcWf i^ oOrtat 
rV xapoipUoy ^aal' 06pa^ ^^P^ cdxh^ 
*Ap$€<rr^pta' dn miTd rl^ wUktP roct 
*Av9c<myp^r rOw yfofx^ w^pitpxcfUv^tw, 
ItL^ s,v. fuapii 'hf^pO'' ^ TOit JLovahf 
*Ap$effTripU^ot /LriwhUf iw ^ SoKoDtrv ed 

kui6€P ifixuruvro koI wtrrg rdt ^i^par 
lXp^o¥. Pollux, viii. 141 : Ttpiffxouflffoi 
rd lepd iXtyctf iw nut dwo^pdei koX r6 
Tapa^pd^u As to the closing of the 
temples, see further Athenaeus, x. 49, 
p. 447 c At childbirth also the Greeks 
smeared pitch on their houses to keep 
out the demons {tit dTiXoffUf rw ^• 
filmav) who attack women at such 
times (Photius, Lexicon^ s,v, ^fj»o$). 
To this day the Bulgarians try to keep 
wandering ghosts from their houses by 
painting crosses with tar on the outside 
of their doors, while on the inside they 
hang a tangled skein composed of 
countless broken threads. The ghost 
cannot enter until he has counted all 
the threads, and before he has done 

the sum the cock crows and the poor 
soul must return to the grave. See A. 
Strausz, Die Bulgaren (Leipsic, 1898), 
p. 454* As to the Anthesteria, see 
£. Rohde, Psyche, p. 216 sqq,, who 
rightly adopts Hesychius*s second 
explanation of K^pcf. The reasons 
given by August Mommsen for re- 
jecting that explanation betray an 
imperfect acquaintance with popular 
superstition {Feste der S/adt Atken im 
Aliertum, Leipsic, 1898, p. 386, note 
I ). The Thompson River Indians of 
British Columbia used to bar their 
houses against ghosts by means not 
unlike those adopted by the Athenians 
at the Anthesteria. When a death 
had happened, they hung a string of 
deer -hoofs across the inside of the 
house, and an old woman often pulled 
at the string to make the hooh rattle. 
Thb kept the ghost out They also 
placed branches of juniper at the door 
or burned them in the fire for the same 
purpose. See James Tcit, "The 
Thompson Indians of British Colum- 
bia," Memoirs of the American Museum 
of Natural History, vol. ii. part iv. 
(April 1900), p. 332. Compare the 
old Prussian custom (vol. i. p. 35 1 ). 



these were placed in the street outside the houses, in order 
to give the ghosts no excuse for entering and disturbing the 
inmates. No priest would eat of the food thus offered to 
the dead,^ but prowling beggars probably had no such 
scruples. Similarly when the Sea Dyaks of Sarawak cele- 
brate their great Festival of Departed Spirits at intervals 
which vary from one to three or four years, food is prepared 
for the dead and they are summoned from their far-off 
home to partake of it ; but it is put outside at the entrance 
of the house. And before the general arrival of the souls, 
while the people are busy brewing the drink for the feast, 
each family takes care to hang an earthenware pot full of the 
liquor outside of the single room which it occupies in the large 
common house, lest some thirsty soul should arrive prema- 
turely from the other world, and, forcing his way into the 
domestic circle, should not merely slake his thirst but carry 
off one of the living.^ During three days in May the 
Romans held a festival in honour of the ghosts. The 
temples were shut, doubtless to keep out the ghostly swarms ; 
but, as in Japan, every house seems to have been thrown 
open to receive the spirits of its own departed. When the 
reception was over, each head of a family arose at dead of 
night, washed his hands, and having made with fingers and 
thumb certain magic signs to ward off ghosts, he proceeded 
to throw black beans over his shoulder without looking 
behind him. As he did so, he said nine times, " With these 
beans I redeem me and mine " ; and the ghosts, following 
unseen at his heels, picked up the beans and left him and 
his alone. Then he dipped his hands again in water, clashed 
bronze vessels together to make a din, and begged the 
ghosts to depart from his house, saying nine times, "Go 
forth, paternal shades ! " After that he looked behind him, 
and the ceremony was over — the ghosts had taken their 
leave for another year.® 

* Schol. on Aristophanes, Frogs^ quoted by Nonius Marcellus, p. 135 

218.. (p. 1 42 ed. Quicherat), ; . v. * * Leroures '* ; 

« J. Pcrham, «* Sea Dyak religion," Festus,p. 87 ed. MUller, J.r. ••Fabam." 

Journal of the Straits Bratuh of the Ovid, who is our chief authority for 

Royal Asiatic Society ^ No. 14, Decern- the ceremony, speaks as if the festival 

,ber 1884, pp. 296298. lasted only one day (the ninth of May). 

3 Ovid, FcLsti, V. 419-486 ; Varro, But we know from the inscribed 




Annual expulsions of demons, witches, or evil influences 
are not unknown in Europe at the present day. Amongst 
the heathen Wotyaks, a Finnish people of Eastern Russia, 
all the young girls of the village assemble on the last day of 
the year or on New Year's Day armed with sticks, the ends 
of which are split in nine places. With these they beat 
every comer of the house and yard, saying, " We are driving 
Satan out of the village." Afterwards the sticks are thrown 
into the river below the village, and as they float down 
stream Satan goes with them to the next village, from 
which he must be driven out in turn. In some villages the 
expulsion is managed otherwise. The unmarried men 
receive from every house in the village groats, flesh, and 
brandy. These they take to the fields, light a fire under a 
fir-tree, boil the groats, and eat of the food they have 
brought with them, after pronouncing the words, " Go away 
into the wilderness, come not into the house." Then they 
return to the village and enter every house where there are 
young women. They take hold of the young women and 
throw them into the snow, saying, " May tjie spirits of dis- 
ease leave you." The remains of the groats and the other 
food are then distributed among all the*houses in proportion 
to the amount that each contributed, and each family con- 
sumes its share. According to a Wotyak of the Malmyz 
district the young men throw into the snow whomever they 
find in the houses, and this is called '' driving out Satan " ; 
moreover some of the boiled groats ^are cast into the fire 
with the words, " O god, afllict us not with sickness and 
pestilence, give us not up as a prey to the spirits of the 
wood." But the most antique form of the ceremony is that 
observed by the Wotyaks of the Kasan Government First 
of all a sacrifice is offered to the Devil at noon. Then all 
the men assemble on horseback in the centre of the village, 
and decide wfth which house they shall begin. When this 
question, which often gives rise to hot disputes, is settled, 
they tether their horses to the paling, and arm themselves 
with whips, clubs of lime-wood, and bundles of lighted twigs. 
The lighted twigs are believed to have the greatest terrors 

calendars that it lasted three days. See V€lIs cf the period ef the Republic^ p. 
W. Warde Fowler, The Roman Festi- 1 06 sqq. 


Ill OF EVILS 91 

for Satan. Thus armed, they proceed with frightful cries to 
beat every corner of the house and yard, then shut the door, 
and spit at the ejected fiend. So they go from house to 
house, till the Devil has been driven from every one. Then 
they mount their horses and ride out of the village, yelling 
wildly and brandishing their clubs in every direction. Out- 
side of the village they fling away the clubs and spit once 
more at the Devil.^ The Cheremiss, another Finnish people 
of Eastern Russia, chase Satan from their dwellings by 
beating the walls with cudgels of lime-wood. When he has 
fled to thcf wood, they pelt the trees with some of the cheese- 
cakes and eggs which furnished the feast.^ 

In Albania on Easter Eve the young people light 
torches of resinous wood and march in procession, swinging 
them, through the village. At last they throw the torches 
into the river, crying, " Ha, Kore 1 we throw you into the 
river, like these torches, that you may never return." ' In 
some villages of Calabria the month of March is inaugur- 
ated with the expulsion of the witches. It takes place at 
night to the sound of the church bells, the people running 
about the streets and crying, " March is come." They say 
that the witches roam about in March, and the ceremony is 
repeated every Friday evening during the month.* In the 
Tyrol the expulsion of witches takes place on the famous 
Walpurgis Night, which is the night of the first of May. 
On a Thursday at midnight bundles are made up of resinous 
splinters, black and red spotted hemlock, caper -spurge, 
rosemary, and twigs of the sloe. These are kept and burned 
on May Day by men who must first have received plenary 
absolution from the Church. On the last three days of 
April all the houses are cleansed and fumigated with juniper 
berries and rue. On May Day, when the evening bell has 
rung and the twilight is falling, the ceremony of " burning 
out the witches," as it is called, begins. Men and boys 
make a racket with whips, bells, pots, and pans ; the women 

^ Max Buch, Die Wotjaken^ p. 153 Studicn^ i. i6o. Cp. above, vol. ii. p. 

sq. 108. 

«ti.* n^ar V ' J /" "* Vincenzo Dorsa, La tradizionc 

' Bastian, Der Aiensch ttt der Ot- , ^. ,. • ,, . 

^^ popolan a£t/a Calabna CitenorCy p. 42 

' J. G. von Ilahn, Albanesisthc sq. 




carry censers ; the dogs are unchained and run barking and 
yelping about. As soon as the church-bells begin to ring, 
the bundles of twigs, fastened on poles, are set on fire and 
the incense is ignited. Then all the house-bells and dinner- 
bells are rung, pots and pans are clashed, dogs bark, every 
one must make a noise. And amid this hubbub all scream 
at the pitch of their voices, 

" Witch flee, flee from here, 
Or it will go ill with thee." 

Then they run seven times round the houses, the yards, and 
the village. So the witches are smoked out of their lurking- 
places and driven away.^ The custom of expelling the 
witches on Walpurgis Night is still, or used some thirty or 
forty years ago to be, observed in many parts of Bavaria 
and among the Germans of Bohemia. Thus in the Bohmer- 
wald Mountains, which divide Bavaria from Bohemia, all the 
young fellows of the village assemble after sunset on some 
height, especially at a cross-road, and crack whips for a 
while in unison with all their strength. This drives away 
the witches ; for so far as the sound of the whips is heard, 
these maleficent beings can do no harm. The peasants 
believe firmly in the efficacy of this remedy, A yokel will 
tell his sons to be sure to crack their whips loudly and hit 
the witches hard ; and to give more sting to every blow the 
whip-lashes are knotted. On returning to the village the 
lads often sing songs and collect contributions of eggs, lard. 



^ VoD Alpenburg, Mythen undSagen 
TirolSf p. 260 sq. Compare J.. £. 
Waldfreund, ** Volksgebrauche und 
Aberglauben/' Zeiischrift fiir deutsche 
MythologU und SUttnkunde^ iiL ( 1 85 5 ), 
p. 339. A Westphalian form of the 
expulsion of evil is the driving out the 
Siintevbgfl^ Sunnenvogel^ or Somnier- 
twjfjf/, i,e. the butterfly. On St. 
Peter*s Day, 22nd February, children 
go from house to house knocking on 
them with hammers and singing 
doggerel rhymes in which they bid the 
Sommervcgcl to depart. Presents are 
given to them at every house. Or the 
people of the house themselves go 
through all the rooms, knocking on all 

the doors, to drive away the Sunnen' 
vogel. If this ceremony b omitted, it 
is thought that various misfortunes 
will be the consequence. The house 
will swarm with rats, mice, and other 
vermin, the cattle will be sick, the 
butterflies will multiply at the milk- 
bowls, etc See Woeste, VolksUber- 
lieferungen in der Grafschtift Mark^ p. 
24 ; J. W. Wolf, Beiirage tur deutschitn 
Mytkoicgif, L 87 ; A. Kuhn, IVesi- 
filische Sqgnt, Cebrauche uttd Mar- 
chen, ii. pp. 119-121, §§ 366-374; 
Montanus, Die deutscken Volksjfcste^ 
Volksbrduche^ etc., p. 21 sq,\ Jahn, 
Die dcut5che»i Opfergebrduche bei 
Ackerbau und Viehzuchi^ pp. 94-96. 



bread, and butter. In some places, while the young fellows 
are cracking their whips the herdsmen wind their horns, 
whose long-drawn notes, heard far-off in the silence of night, 
are very effectual for banning the witches. In other places, 
again, the youth blow upon so-called shawms made of peeled 
willow-wood in front of every house, especially in front of 
such houses as are suspected of harbouring a witch.^ At 
Brunnen, in Switzerland, the boys go about in procession on 
Twelfth Night, carrying torches and lanterns, and making a 
great noise with horns, cow-bells, whips, and so forth. This 
is said to frighten away the two female spirits of the wood, 
Strudeli and Stratteli.^ In Labrugui^re, also, a canton of 
Southern France, the evil spirits are expelled at the same 
season. The canton lies in the picturesque and little known 
region of the Black Mountains, which form a sort of link 
between the Pyrenees and the Cevennes, and have preserved 
in their remote recesses certain types of life which have long 
disappeared elsewhere. On the eve of Twelfth Day the 
inhabitants rush through the streets jangling bells, clattering 
kettles, and doing everything to make a discordant noise. 
Then by the light of torches and blazing faggots they set 
up a prodigious hue and cry, an ear-splitting uproar, hoping 
thereby to chase all the wandering ghosts and devils from 
the town.® 

§ 15. Scapegoats 

Thus far we have dealt with that class of the general 
expulsion of evils which I have called direct or immediate. 
In this class the evils are invisible, at least to common eyes, 
and the mode of deliverance consists for the most part in 
beating the empty air and raising such a hubbub as may 
scare the mischievous spirits and put them to flight. It 
remains to illustrate the second class of expulsions, in which 
the evil influences are embodied in a visible form or are 
at least supposed to be loaded upon a material medium, 

1 Bavaria^ Landes- und Volkskunde /^A^ini'sfAes A fusetim,li,F.,xxx, {187$), 

des Konigreicks Bayem^ ii. 272, iii. p. 198. 

302 sq,^ 934 ; Reinsberg-DUringsfeld, ' A. de Nore, Coutumes^ Mythts^ 

Das ftstluke Jahr^ p. 137. et Traditions des Provinces dc France ^ 

* Uscncr,. ••lulischc Mythcn," pp. 81, 85. 


which acts as a vehicle to draw them off from the people, 
village, or town. 

The Pomos of California celebrate an expulsion of devils 
every seven years, at which the devils are represented by dis- 
guised men. "Twenty or thirty men array themselves in 
harlequin rig and barbaric paint, and put vessels of pitch on 
their heads ; then they secretly go out into the surrounding 
mountains. These are to personify the devils. A herald goes 
up to the top of the assembly-house, and makes a speech to 
the multitude. At a signal agreed upon in the evening the 
masqueraders come in from the mountains, with the vessels of 
pitch flaming on their heads, and with all the frightful acces- 
sories of noise, motion, and costume which the savage mind can 
devise in representation of demons. The terrified women and 
children flee for life, the men huddle them inside a circle, and, 
on the principle of fighting the devil with fire, they swing 
blazing firebrands in the air, yell, whoop, and make frantic 
dashes at the marauding and bloodthirsty devils, so creating 
a terrific spectacle, and striking great fear into the hearts of 
the assembled hundreds of women, who are screaming and 
fainting and clinging to their valorous protectors. Finally 
the devils succeed in getting into the assembly-house, and 
the bravest of the men enter and hold a parley with them. 
As a conclusion of the whole farce, the men summon 
courage, the devils are expelled from the assembly-house, 
and with a prodigious row and racket of sham fighting are 
chased away into the mountains." ^ In spring, as soon as 
the willow-leaves were full grown on the banks of the river, 
the Mandan Indians celebrated their great annual festival, 
one of the features of which was the expulsion of the devil. 
A man, painted black to represent the devil, entered the 
village from the prairie, chased and frightened the women, 
and acted the part of a buffalo bull in the buffalo dance, the 
object of which was to ensure a plentiful supply of buffaloes 
during the ensuing year. Finally he was chased from the 
village, the women pursuing him with hisses and gibes, 
beating him with sticks, and pelting him with dirt' Some 

* S. Powers, Tribes of California^ Indians^ t. i66 sqq. ; fVi, 0-kee-pa^ a 
p. 1 59. Religious Ceremony^ and other Customs 

* G. Catlin, North American of the Mandans, 








of the native tribes of Central Queensland believe in a 
noxious being called Molonga, who prowls unseen and would 
kill men and violate women if certain ceremonies were not 
performed. These ceremonies last for five nights and con- 
sist of dances, in which only men, fantastically painted and 
adorned, take part. On the fifth night Molonga himself, 
personified by a man tricked out with red ochre and feathers 
and carrying a long feather-tipped spear, rushes forth from 
the darkness at the spectators and makes as if he would run 
them through. Great is the excitement, loud are the shrieks 
and shouts, but after another feigned attack the demon 
vanishes in the gloom.* On the last night of the year the 
palace of the Kings of Cambodia is purged of devils. Men 
painted as fiends are chased by elephants about the palace 
courts. When they have been expelled, a consecrated 
thread of cotton is stretched round the palace to keep them 
out* The Kasyas, a hill tribe of Assam, annually expel 
the demons. The ceremony takes place in a fixed month 
of the year, and part of it consists in a struggle between 
two bands of men who stand on opposite sides of a stream, 
each side tugging at the end of a rope which is stretched 
across the water. In this contest, which resembles the 
game of " French and English " or " the Tug of War," the 
men on one side probably represent the demons.* Some- 

i W. £. Roth, Ethnologual Studies 
among the North' West-Caitral Queens- 
land Aborigines , pp. 120-125. 

' Moura, Le Royaume du Cambodgt^ 
i. 172. Cp. above, p. 85. 

' A. Bastian, in Verhandl, d, Ber- 
lin, Gesellsch. f, Anthropol, 1881, p. 
151 ; q). id,^ Volkerstamtne am Brah- 
maputra^ p. 6 sq. Amongst the Chuk- 
mas of South-East India the body of a 
priest is conveyed to the place of 
cremation on a car ; ropes are attached 
to the car, the people divide themselves 
into two equal bodies and pull at the 
ropes in opposite directions. **One 
side represents the good spirits ; the 
other, the powers of evil. The con- 
test is so arranged that the former are 
victorious. Sometimes, however, the 
young men representing the demons are 
inclined to pull too vigorously, but a 

stick generally quells this unseemly 
ardour in the cause of evil" (Lewin, 
Wild Tribes of South-Eastem India^ p. 
185). The contest is like that between 
the angels and devils depicted in the 
frescoes of the Campo Santo at Pisa. 
In Burma a similar contest takes place 
at the funeral of a holy man ; but 
there the original meaning of the cere- 
mony appears to be forgotten. See 
Sangermano, Description^ the Burmese 
Empire (ed. 1885), p. 98; Forbes, 
British Burma^ p. 2 16 sq,\ Shway 
Yoe, The Burman^ ii. 334 j^., 342. 
Sometimes ceremonies of this sort are 
instituted for a different purpose. 
Thus in Burma the contest is used as a 
rain - charm ; ** a rain party and a 
drought party tug against each other, 
the rain party being allowed the 
victory" {Folk-lore Journal^ i. (1883) 
p. 214). In the Timor-laut Islands 




times in an Esthonian village a rumour will get about that 
the Evil One himself has been seen in the place. Instantly 
the whole village is in an uproar, and the entire population, 
armed with sticks, flails, and scythes, turns out to give him 
chase. They generally expel him in the shape of a wolf or 

when the people want a rainy wind 
from the west, the population of the 
village, men, women, and children, 
divide into two parties and pull against 
each other at the ends of a long bam- 
boa But the party at the eastern end 
must pull the harder, in order to draw 
the desired wind out of the west 
(Riedel, De sluik- en kroeshorige rassen 
tusschen Selebes en Papua^ p. 282). 
According to another writer, while the 
contest only takes place in these 
islands when rain is wanted, it is 
closely connected with that ceremony 
for the fertilisation of the earth which 
has been already described (vol. it p. 
205 sq, ). The men and women appear 
to take opposite sides, and their motions 
are significant of the union of the 
sexes. See Van Hoevell, **Leti- 
Eilanden," Tijdsckrift voor Jndische 
Tool' Land- en Votkenkunde^ xxxiii. 
(1890), p. 207. In Corea about the 
fifteenth day of the first month villages 
engage in the same kind of contest 
with each other, and it is thought that 
the village which wins will have a 
good harvest Both men and women 
pull at the rope ; the women load their 
skirts with stones to increase the 
strength of their pulL See A. C. 
Haddon, The Study of Man, citing 
Stewart Culin, Korean Games ^ p. 35. 
The Roocooyen Indians of French 
Guiana play at the *< Tug of War " as 
a sort of interlude during the cere- 
monial tortures of the youth. See H. 
Coudreau, Cket not Indiens: queUre 
emnies dans la Guy one Fran^aise (Paris, 
1895), p. 234. The Cingalese per- 
form it as a ceremony in honour of the 
goddess Patin^ (Forbes, Eleven Years 
in Ceylon, London, 1840, i. 358). We 
have seen that the Esquimaux practise 
it to procure good weather in winter 
(voL ii. p. 103 sq,). In November, 
when the fishing -season is over, the 
Kamtchatkans used to divide into two 
parties, one of which tried to pull a 

birch -tree by a strap through the 
smoke - hole into their subterranean 
winter dwelling, while the other party 
outside, pulling at the other end of the 
tree, endeavoured to hinder them. If 
the party in the house succeeded, they 
raised shouts of joy and set up a grass 
effigy of a wolf, which they preserved 
carefully throughout the year, believing 
that it espoused their young women 
and prevented them from giving birth 
to twins. See Steller, Beschreibung 
von dem Lande Kamtsckatka, p. 
327. These instances make it 
probable that wherever the game is 
played only at certain definite seasons 
it was in its origin a magical ceremony 
intended to work some good to the 
community. Thus in the North- West 
Provinces of India it is played on the 
14th of the light half of the month 
Kuir (Sir H. M. Elliot, Memoirs on 
thifiistory, etc, of the ra^es of the North' 
IVestem Provinces of India, i. 235) ; 
and at Ludlow in Shropshire, Pres- 
teign in Radnorshire, and Pontefract 
in Yorkshire it used to be played on 
Shrove Tuesday. See Brand, Popular 
Antiquities, i. 92 ; Burne and Jackson, 
Shropshire Folk-lore, pp. 3 1 9-32 1 . The 
custom has been discussed by Prof. A. C. 
Haddon, Study of Man, pp. 270-276. 
His view that the custom was intended 
to secure a good harvest appears not to 
cover all the cases. In Normandy at 
the Carnival desperate contests used 
to take place between neighbouring 
villages for the possession of a large 
leathern ball stuffed with bran and 
called the soule. It was thought that 
the victorious village would have a 
better crop of apples that year. See 
J. Lecceur, Esquisses du Socage Nor^ 
mand, ii. 153 sqq. Compare Laisnel 
de la Salle, Croyances et Ugendes 
du Centre de la France, i. 86 sqq, ; and 
as to the game of soule, see Guerry, 
in Mimoires des Antiquaires de Fratue, 
viii. (1829), PP* 459*6 1* 



a cat, occasionally they brag that they have beaten the 
devil to death.^ At Carmona, in Andalusia, on one day of 
the year, boys are stripped naked and smeared with glue in 
which feathers are stuck. Thus disguised, they run from 
house to house, the people trying to avoid them and to bar 
their houses against them.* The ceremony is probably a 
relic of an annual expulsion of devils. 

Oftener, however, the expelled demons are not repre- 
sented at all, but are understood to be present invisibly in 
the material and visible vehicle which conveys them away. 
Here, again, it will be convenient to distinguish between 
occasional and periodical expulsions. We begin with the 

The vehicle which conveys away the demons may be of 
various kinds. A common one is a little ship or boat 
Thus, in the southern district of the island of Ceram, when 
a whole village suffers from sickness, a small ship is made 
and filled with rice, tobacco, eggs, and so forth, which have 
been contributed by all the people. A little sail is hoisted 
on the ship. When all is ready, a man calls out in a very loud 
voice, '^ O all ye sicknesses, ye small-poxes, agues, measles, 
etc,- who have visited us so long and wasted us so sorely, 
but who now cease to plague us, we have made ready this 
ship for you and we have furnished you with provender 
sufficient for the voyage. Ye shall have no lack of food 
nor of betel -leaves nor of areca nuts nor of tobacco. 
Depart, and sail away from us directly ; never come near us 
again ; but go to a land which is far from h^. Let all 
the tides and winds waft you speedily thither, and so convey 
you thither that for the time to come we may live sound 
and well, and that we may never see the sun rise on you 
again." Then ten or twelve men carry the vessel to the 
shore, and let it drift away with the land-breeze, feeling con- 
vinced that they are free from sickness for ever, or at least 
till the next time. If sickness attacks them again, they are 
sure it is not the same sickness, but a different one, which 
' in due time they dismiss in the same manner. When the 
demon-laden bark is lost to sight, the bearers return to the 

* J. G. Kohl, Die dtutsch-russischen Ostseeprovinttn^ iL 278. 
* Folk-lore Journal^ yH. (18S9), p. 174. 

VOL. ni H 


village, whereupon a man cries out, " The sicknesses are now 
gone, vanished, expelled, and sailed away." At this all the 
people come running out of their houses, passing the word 
from one to the other with great joy, beating on gongs and 
on tinkling instruments.* 

Similar ceremonies are commonly resorted to in other 
East Indian islands. Thus in Timor-laut, to mislead the 
demons who are causing sickness, a small proa, containing 
the image of a man and provisioned for a long voyage, is 
allowed to drift away with wind and tide. As it is being 
launched, the people cry, ** O sickness, go from here ; turn 
back ; what do you here in this poor land ? " Three days 
after this ceremony a pig is killed, and part of the flesh is 
offered to Dudilaa, who lives in the sun. One of the oldest 
men says, '' Old sir, I beseech you, make well the grand- 
children, children, women, and men, that we may be able to 
cat pork and rice and to drink palm-wine. I will keep my 
promise. Eat your share, and make all the people in the 
village well." If the proa is stranded at any inhabited spot, 
the sickness will break out there. Hence a stranded proa 
excites much alarm amongst the coast population, and they 
immediately bum it, because demons fly from fire.' In the 
island of Buro the proa which carries away the demons of 
disease b about twenty feet long, rigged out with sails, oars, 
anchor, and so on, and well stocked with provisions. For a 
day and a night the people beat gongs and drums, and rush 
about to frighten the demons. Next morning ten stalwart 
young men strike the people with branches, which have been 
previously dipped in an earthen pot of water. As soon as 
they have done so, they run down to the beach, put the 
branches on board the proa, launch another boat in great 
haste, and tow the disease-burdened bark far out to sea. 
There they cast it off, and one of them calls out, " Grand- 
father Smallpox, go away — go willingly away — go visit 
another land ; we have made you food ready for the voyage 
we have now nothing more to give." When they have 

1 Francois Valentjn, Oud-en nuuw ' Riedel, De sluik- en kroeskarigi 

Ost-JndUn^vL \^, Backer (i^'^fr^i- rassen hissckemSeUbes en Papua, ip, yy^ 

pel Indien, p. 377 zq,) copies from sq. 




landed, all the people bathe together in the sea.^ In this 
ceremony the reason for striking the people with the branches 
is clearly to rid them of the disease-demons, which are then 
supposed to be transferred to the branches. Hence the 
haste with which the branches are deposited in the proa and 
towed away to sea. So in the inland districts of Ceram, 
when small-pox or other sickness is raging, the priest strikes 
all the houses with consecrated branches, which are then 
thrown into the river, to be carried down to the sea ; * exactly 
as amongst the Wotyaks of Russia the sticks which have 
been used for expelling the devils from the village are thrown 
into the river, that the current may sweep the baleful burden 
away. In Amboyna, for a similar purpose, the whole body 
of the patient is rubbed with a live white cock, which is then 
placed on a little proa and committed to the waves ; ' and 
in the Babar archipelago the bark which is to carry away to 
sea the sickness of a whole village contains a bowl of ashes 
taken from every kitchen in the village, and another bowl 
into which all the sick people have spat.* The plan of 
putting puppets in the boat to represent sick persons, in 
order to lure the demons after them, is not uncommon.* In 
Selangor, one of the native states in the Malay Peninsula, 
the ship employed in the export of disease is, or used to be, 
a model of a special kind of Malay craft called a landtang. 
This was a two-masted vessel with galleries fore and aft, 
armed with cannon, and used by Malay rajahs on the coast 
of Sumatra. So gallant a ship would be highly acceptable 
to the spirits, and to make it still more beautiful in their 

1 Riedel, op, cit, p. 25 sq, 

^ Ibid, p. 141. 

» Ibid. p. 78. 

* Ibid, p. 357. 

» Ibid. pp. 266, 304 sq., 327, 357 ; 
H. Liog Roth, Natives of Sarawak and 
British North Borneo, i. 2 84. For other 
«xamples of sending away plague-laden 
boats in this region, see Riedel, op. cit, 
pp. 181, 210; Van £ck, **Schetsen 
van het eiland Bali,*' Tijdschrifi voor 
Nederlandsch Indii, N.S., viiu (1879), 
p. 104 ; Bastian, Indonesien^ i. 147 ; 
Hupe, " Korte verhandeling over de 
godsdienst, zeden, enz. der Dajakkers,** 

Tijdschri/t voor Neirlands Indii^ 1846, 
dl. iiL 150; Campen, **De godsdienst- 
begrippen der Halmaherasche Al- 
foeren," Tijdschrift voor Indisehe Taal- 
Land' en Volkenkunde, xxvii. (1882), 
p. 44 1 ; Journal of the Straits Branch ef 
the Royat Asiatic Society ^ No. 12, pp. 
229-231 ; Van Hasselt, Volksbesehrij* 
ving van Alidden-Sumatra^ p. 98 ; C. 
M. Pleyte, " Kthnographische Beschrij- 
ving der Kei-Eilanden," Tijdschrift 
van het Nederlandsch Aardrijkskuudig 
Genootschap, Tweede Serie, x. (1893)^ 
p. 835 ; H. Ling Roth, ** Low's natives 
of Szxtm^,^ Journal of the Anthropo- 
logical Institute, xxii. (1893), p. 25. 





r - ► • ... 

eyes it was not uncommonly stained yellow with turmeric 
or safTron^ for among the Malays yellow is the royal colour. 
Some years ago a very fine model of a lanckang^ with its 
cargo of sickness, was towed down the river to sea by the 
Government steam launch. A common spell uttered at the 
launching of one of these ships runs as follows :- — 

'' H<v elders of the upper reaches, 

£lder& of the lower reaches, 
• ' Eldexs of the dry land, 

Elders of the river-flats. 

Assemble ye, O people, lords of hill and hill-foot, 

Lords of cavern and hill-locked basin, 
. Lords of the deep primeval forest, 

Lords of the river-bends. 

Come on board this lanckang^ assemblmg in yoor multitudes. 

So may ye depart with the ebbing stream. 

Depart on the passing breeze, 

Depart in the yawning earth, 

Depart in the red-dyed earth. 

Go ye to the ocean which has no wave. 

And the plain where no green herb grows, 

And never return hither. 

But if ye return hither, « 

Ye shall be consumed by the curse. 

At sea ye shall get no drink, 

Ashore ye shall' get no food. 

But gape in vain about the world." ^ 

The practice of sending away diseases in boats is known* 
outside the limits of the Malay region. Thus when the 
people of Tikopia, a small island in the Pacific, to the north 
of the New Hebrides, were attacked by an epidemic cough,, 
they made a little canoe and adorned it with flowers. Four 
sons of the principal chiefs carried it on their shoulders all 
round the island, accompanied by the whole population, some 
of whom beat the bushes, while others uttered loud cries. 
On returning to the spot from which they had set out, they 
launched the canoe on the sea.^ In the Nicobar Islands, in 
the Bay of Bengal, when there is much sickness in a village 
or no fish are caught, the blame is laid upon the spirits. 
They must be propitiated with offerings. All relations and 


1 W. W. Skeat, Afalay Magic, pp. 


* J. Dumoot D'Unrillc, Vpyc^geautatir 

dm mande et d la rwcherehe de La 
Pirouse, sur la corvette Astrolabe^ ▼. 




friends are invited, a huge pig is roasted, and the best of it 
is eaten, but some parts are offered to the shades. The 
heap of offerings remains in front of the house till it is carried 
away by the rising tide. Then the priests, their faces reddened 
with paint and swine's blood, pretend to catch the demon of 
disease, and after a hand-to-hand tussle, force him into a 
model boat, made of leaves and decked with garlands, which 
is then towed so far to sea that neither wind nor tide is 
likely to drive it back to the shore.* In Annam, when the 
population of a village has been decimated by cholera, they 
make a raft and lade it with offerings of money and food, 
such as a sucking pig, bananas, and oranges. Sticks of 
incense also smoke on the floating altar ; and when all is 
ready and earnest prayers have been uttered, the raft is 
abandoned to the current of the river. The people hope 
that the demon of cholera, allured and gratified by these 
offerings, will float away on the raft and trouble them no 

Often the vehicle which carries away the collected demons 
or ills of a whole community is an animal or scap^oat 
In the Central Provinces of India, when cholera breaks out 
in a village, every one retires after sunset to his house. The 
priests then parade the streets, taking from the roof of each 
house a straw, which is burnt with an offering of rice, ghee, 
and turmeric, at some shrine to the east of the village. 
Chickens daubed with vermilion are driven away in the 
direction of the smoke, and are believed to carry the disease 
with them. If they fail, goats are tried, and last of all pigs.* 
When cholera is very bad among the Bhars, Mallans, and 
Kurmis of India, they take a goat or a buffalo — in either case 
the animal must be a female, and as black as possible — then 
having tied some grain, cloves, and red lead in a yellow cloth on 
its back they turn it out of the village. The animal is con* 

* Roepstorflf, ** Ein Geisterboot der 
Nicobarcsen," Verhandl, der Berlin, 
Gesellsch, /, Antkropohgie (i88l), p. 
401 ; W. Svoboda, "Die Bewohner 
des Nikobaren - Archipels," Jnier^ 
itaiionaUs Archw ft'ir EthitcgraphU^ 
\n. (1893), P- «o J^- 

* r. Dcnjoy, •* An- nam, Medecins 
et Sorciers, Kemcdes et Superstitions," 

etc., Bullet ins de la SociltJ JTAnihro- 
pologie de Paris ^ v. (1 894), p. 409 sq. 
For Siamese applications of the sune 
principle to the cure of individuals, 
see Bastian, Dit l^lker des cstUektn 
Asiett, iii. 295 sq.^ 485 sq, 

' Panjab Notes and Queries, i. p. 48, 


ducted beyond the boundary and not allowed to return.^ 
Sometimes the bufTalo is marked with a red pigment and 
driven to the next village, where he carries the plague with 
him,' The people of the city and cantonments of Sagar being \ 
afflicted with a violent influenza, " I had an application from \ 
the old Queen Dowager of Sagar to allow of a noisy religious 
procession for the purpose of imploring deliverance from this 
great calamity. Men, women, and children in this procession 
were to do their utmost to add to the noise by * raising their \ 

voices in psalmody,' beating upon their brass pots and pans 
with all their might, and dischai^ing firearms where they 
could get them. Before the noisy crowd was to be driven a 
bufTalo, which had been purchased by general subscription, 
in order that every family might participate in the merit 
They were to follow it out eight miles, where it was to be ' 
turned loose for any man who would take it If the animal 
returned, the disease must return with it, and the ceremony 
be performed over again. ... It was, however, subsequently 
determined that the animal should be a goat ; and he was 
driven before the crowd accordingly. I have on several 
occasions been requested to allow of such noisy ceremonies 
in cases of epidemics." * Once, when influenza was raging 
in Pithuria, a man had a small carriage made, after a plan 
of his own, for a pair of scapegoats, which were harnessed to 
it and driven to a wood at some distance, where they were 
let loose. From that hour the disease entirely ceased in the 
town. The goats never returned ; had they done so, " the 
disease must have come back with them."^ The idea of 
the scapegoat is not uncommon in the hills of the Eastern 
Ghats. In 1886, during a severe outbreak of small-pox, the 
people of Jeypur made fiuja to a goat, marched it to the 
Ghats, and let it loose on the plains.^ In Southern Konkan, 
on the appearance of cholera, the villagers went in pro- 
cession from the temple to the extreme boundaries of the 

* 74/., Hi. p. 81, 9 373. ' Panjab Notes and Queries^ u. p. 

* W. Crooke, Introduction to the 2151^., 9 1 127. 
Pofmlttr Religion and Folklore of 4 -. .. 

Northern India, p. 91. BulU are "^'' "* P* ^'^« « "*^ 

used as scapegoats for cholera in ^ F. Fawcett, '*On the Saoims (ur 

Cashmeer (H. G. M. Murray-Aynsley, ^a^^nj^^)^^^ Journal of the Anthrop. Soc, 

in Polh'lore, iv. (1 893), p. 398 s^,). of Bombay, i« 213, note. 


village, carrying a basket of cooked rice covered with red 
powder, a wooden doll representing the pestilence, and a 
cock. The head of the cock was cut off at the village 
boundary, and the body was thrown away. When cholera 
had thus been transferred from one village to another, the 
second village observed the same ceremony and passed 
on the scourge to its neighbours, and so on through a 
number of villages.^ Among the Korwas of Mirzapur, 
when cholera has broken out, the priest offers a black 
cock or, if the disease is very malignant, a black goat at 
the shrine of the local deity, and then drives the animal 
away in the direction of some other village. But it has 
not gone far before he overtakes it, kills it, and eats it ; 
which he may do with perfect safety in virtue of his 
sacred office. Again, when cholera is raging among the 
Pataris, an aboriginal Dravidian race of South Mirzapur^ 
the wizard and the village elders feed a black cock with 
grain and drive it beyond the boundaries, ordering the fowl 
to take the disease away with it. A little oil, red lead, and 
a spangle worn by a woman on her forehead are usually 
fastened to the bird's head before it is let loose. The cost 
of purchasing the cock is defrayed by public subscription. 
When such a bird of ill-omen appears in a village, the priest 
takes it to the shrine of the local deity and sacrifices it there ; 
but sometimes he merely bows before it at the shrine and 
passes it on to some other village. If disease attacks their 
cattle, the Kharwars of Northern India take a black cock 
and put red lead on its head, antimony on its eyes, a spangle 
on its forehead, and a pewter bangle on its leg ; thus arrayed 
they let it loose, calling out to the disease, " Mount on the 
fowl and go elsewhere into the ravines and thickets ; destroy 
the sin." Perhaps, as has been suggested, this tricking out 
of the bird with women's ornaments may be a relic of some 
grosser form of expiation in which a human being was 
sacrificed or banished.^ Charms of this sort in India no 
doubt date from a remote antiquity. They were known in 
the Vedic ages ; for a ritual text describes the ceremony 

* Jourfi. Anthrop, Sac. Bombay^ i. 37. Northern India, P* 109 sq, ; iV/., Tribes 
' W. Crooke, Introduction to the and Castes of the North' Western Pro* 
Popular Religion and Folklore of vinces and Oudh, iii. 445. 



J[04 //[/Af AN SCAPEGOATS chap. 

of letting loose against a hostile army a white-footed ewe in 
which the power of disease was believed to be incarnate,* 
In 1857, wheii the Aymara Indians of Bolivia and Peru 
were suffering from a plague, they loaded a black llama with 
the clothes of the plague-stricken people, sprinkled brandy on 
the clothes, and then turned the animal loose on the 
mountains, hoping that it would carry the pest away 
with it» 

Occasionally the scapegoat is a man. Some of the . 

aboriginal tribes of China, as a protection against pestilence, 
select a man of great muscular strength to act the part of 
scap^oat« Having besmeared his face with paint, he per- 
forms many antics with the view of enticing all pestilential 
and noxious influences to attach themselves to him only. 
He is assisted by a priest. Finally the scapegoat, hotly 
pursued by men and women beating gongs and tom-toms, I 
is driven with great haste out of the town or village.' A 
Hindoo cure for the murrain is to hire a man of the 
Chamar caste, turn his face away from the village, brand 
him with a red-hot sickle, and let him go out into the jungle 
taking the. murrain with him. He must not look back.^ 
Jn the territory of Kumaon, lying on the southern slopes of 
the Western Himalayas, the custom of employing a human 
scapegoat appears to have taken a somewhat peculiar form in 
the ceremony known as Barat First of all a thick rope of 
grass is stretched from the top of a cliff to the valley be- 
neath, where it is made fast to posts driven into the ground* 
Next a wooden saddle, with a very sharp ridge and unpadded, 
is attached by thongs to the cable, along which it runs in a 
deep groove. A man now seats himself on the saddle and 
is strapped to it, while sand-bags or heavy stones arc sus- 
pended from his feet to secure his balance. Then, after 
various ceremonies have been performed and a kid sacrificed, 
he throws himself as far back in the saddle as he can go, 
and is started off to slide down the rope into the valley. 
Away he shoots at an ever- increasing speed ; the saddle 

1 H. Oldenberg, Ihe Religion des tf the Ethnotogical Sodety of London, 
Feda, p. 498. ii. 237. 

s J. 11. Gray, CAffftf, ii. 306. 
• * D. Forbes, **On ihc Aymmra * Pan/adNfiiesandQturies^i. p.JS, 

Indians of Bolivia and V^xvl" Joumai | 598. 


under him, however well greased, emits volumes of smoke 
during the greater part of his progress ; and he is nearly 
senseless when he reaches the bottom. Here men are wait- 
ing to catch him and run forward with him some distance 
io order to break gradually the force of his descent. This 
ceremony, regarded as a propitiation of Mahadeva, is per- 
formed as a means of delivering a community from present 
or impending calamity. Thus, for example, it was performed 
when cholera was raging at Almora, and the people traced 
the immunity they enjoyed to the due observance of the rite. 
Each district has its hereditary Badi, as the performer is 
called ; he is supported by annual contributions in grain from 
the inhabitants, as well as by special payments for each 
performance. When the ceremony is over, the grass rope 
is cut up and distributed among the villagers, who hang the 
pieces as charms at the eaves of their houses ; and they pre- 
serve the hair of the Badi for a similar purpose. Yet while 
his severed locks bring fertility to other people's lands, he 
entails sterility on his own ; and it is firmly believed that 
no seed sown by his hand could ever sprout. Formerly the 
rule prevailed that, if a Badi had the misfortune to fall from 
the rope in the course of his flying descent, he was im- 
mediately despatched with a sword by the spectators. The 
rule has naturally been abolished by the English government ; 
but its former observance seems to indicate that the custom 
of letting a man slide down a rope as a charm to avert 
calamity is only a mitigation of an older custom of putting 
him to death.^ 

The mediate expulsion of evils by means of a scapegoat 
or other material vehicle, like the immediate expulsion of 
them in invisible form, tends to become periodic, and for a 
like reason. Thus every year, generally in March, the 
people of Leti, Moa, and Lakor send away all their diseases 
to sea. They make a proa about six feet long, rig it with 
sails, oars, rudder, etc., and every family deposits in it some 
rice, fruit, a fowl, two eggs, insects that ravage the fields, and 
so on. Then they let it drift away to sea, saying, " Take 
away from here all kinds of sickness, take them to other 
islands, to other lands, distribute them in places that lie 

* North Indian Xa/i'S and Queries^ i. pp. 55, 74 sq,^ 77, §| 417/499, 516. 




eastward, where the sun rises." ^ The Biajas of Borneo 
annually send to sea a little bark laden with the sins and 
misfortunes of the people. The crew of any ship that falls 
in with the ill-omened bark at sea will suffer all the sorrows 
with which it is laden.* Every year, at the beginning of the 
dry season, the Nicobar islanders carry the model of a ship 
through their villages. The devils are chased out of the 
huts, and driven on board the little ship, which is then 
launched and suffered to sail away with the wind.' At 
Sucla-Tirtha, in India, an earthen pot containing the 
accumulated sins of the people is (annually ?) set adrift on 
the riven Legend says that the custom originated with a 
wicked priest who, after atoning for his guilt by a course of 
austerities and expiatory ceremonies, was directed to sail 
upon the river in a boat with white sails. If the white sails 
turned black, it would be a sig^ that his sins were foi^iven 
him* They did so, and he joyfully allowed the boat to drift 
with his sins to sea.^ Amongst many of the aboriginal 
tribes of China, a great festival is celebrated in the third 
month of every year. It is held by way of a general rejoic- 
ing over what the people believe to be a total annihilation 
of the ills of the past twelve months. This annihilation is 
supposed to be effected in the following way. A lai^e 
earthenware jar filled with gunpowder, stones, and bits of 
iron is buried in the earth. A train of gunpowder, communi- 
cating with the jar, is then laid ; and a match being applied, 
the jar and its contents are blown up. The stones and bits 
of iron represent the ills and disasters of the past year, and 
the dispersion of them by the explosion is believed to remove 
the ills and disasters themselves. The festival is attended 
with much revelling and drunkenness.^ On New Year's 
Day people in Corea seek to rid themselves of all their 
distresses by painting images on paper, writing against them 
their troubles of body or mind, and afterwards giving the 
papers to a boy to bum. Another method of effecting the 
same object at the same season is to make rude dolls of 


' Riedel, De sluik- en kroeskarigt 
rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, p. 


^ Bastian, Der Alensck in der 

Cesckickte, ii. 93. 

* Id,, ii. 91. 

* Asiatic Researches, ix. 96 sq, 

* J. II. Gray, China, it 306 sq. 


straw, stuff them with a few copper coins, and throw them 
into the street. Whoever picks up such an effigy gets all 
the troubles and thereby relieves the original sufferer.^ Mr. 
George Bogle, the English envoy sent to Tibet by Warren 
Hastings, witnessed the celebration of the Tibetan New 
Year's Day at Teshu Lumbo, the capital of the Teshu Lama. 
" The figure of a man, chalked upon paper, was laid upon 
the ground. Many strange ceremonies, which to me who 
did not understand them appeared whimsical, were performed 
about it ; and a great fire being kindled in a comer of the 
court, it was at length held over it, and being formed of 
combustibles, vanished with much smoke and explosion. I 
was told it was a figure of the devil." - At Old Calabar, in 
Guinea, the devils are expelled once every two years. A 
number of figures called nabikems are make of sticks and 
bamboos, and fixed indiscriminately about the town. Some 
of them represent human beings, others birds, crocodiles, 
and so on. After three or four weeks the devils are 
expected to take up their abode in these figures. When 
the night comes for their general expulsion, the people feast 
and sally out in parties, beating at empty comers, and 
shouting with all their might. Shots are fired, the nabike$ns 
are torn up with violence, set in flames, and flung into the 
river. The orgies last till daybreak, and the town is con- 
sidered to be rid of evil influences for two years to come.' 
From another account of the same custom as it is practised 
at Creek Town, in Calabar, we learn that the images — large 
grotesque figures carved of wood — are set up in the houses, 
and that the spirits are believed to huddle among the rags and 
gew-gaws with which the effigies arc bedizened. No sooner are 
these spirit-traps disposed of, by being hurled into the river, 
then fresh images are made and set up in the houses to be 
afterwards treated in the same fashion when the next general 
expulsion of spirits takes place.* On the evening of Easter 
Sunday the gypsies of Southern Europe take a wooden vessel 
like a band-box, which rests cradle-wise on two cross pieces 

^ Mrs. Bishop, Korea and her Neigh- Western jifrua^ p. 162. 
baurs^ ii. 56. ^ Miss Mary H. Kingsley, Travels 

' Bogle and Manning, Tibe/^ edited in West Africa^ p. 494 sq. Compare 

by C. R. Markham, p. 106 sq, J. Macdonald, Religion a9id Myth^ p. 

' T. J. Hutchinson, Impressions of 105 sqq. 




of wood. In this they place herbs and simples, together 
with the dried carcass of a snake, or lizard, which every 
person present must first have touched with his fingers. The 
vessel is then wrapt in white and red wool, carried by the 
oldest man from tent to tent, and finally thrown into running 
-water, not, however, before every member of the band has 
spat into it once, and the sorceress has uttered some spells 
over it They believe that by performing this ceremony they 
dispel all the illnesses that would otherwise have afflicted 
them in the course of the year; and that if any one finds 
the vessel and opens it out of curiosity, he and his will be 
visited by all the maladies which the others have escaped.^ 

On one day of the year some of the people of the 
Western Himalayas take a dog, intoxicate him with spirits 
and bhang or hemp, and having fed him with sweatmeats, 
lead him round the village and let him loose. They then 
chase and kill him with sticks and stones, and believe that, 
when they have done so, no disease or misfortune will visit 
the village during the year.' In some parts of Breadalbane 
it was formerly the custom on New Year's Daj' to take a 
dog to the door, give him a bit of bread, and drive him out, 
saying, " Get away, you dog ! Whatever death of men or 
loss of cattle would happen in this house to the end of the 
present year, may it all light on your head ! " * It appears 
that the white dogs annually sacrificed by the Iroquois at 
their New Year Festival are, or have been, regarded as 
scapegoats. According to Mr. J. V. H. Clark, who 
Avitnessed the ceremony in January 1 841, on the first day 
of the festival all the fires in the village were extinguished, 
the ashes scattered to the winds, and a new fire was kindled 
with flint and steel. On a subsequent day, men dressed in 
fantastic costumes went round the village, gathering the sins 
of the people. When the morning of the last day of the 
festival was come, two white dogs, decorated with red paint, 
wampum, feathers, and ribbons, were led out They were soon 

^ H. von Wlislocki, Vclksgiauhe mtd 
rcligiosrr Branch dtr Zigemur^ P» ^5 

' £. T. Atkinson, «* Notes on the 
History of Religion in the Himalaya of 
the North- West Vtoyvacdt** /auntai c/ 

the Asiatic Sociity tf Bengal^ liii. pt. i. 
(18S4), p. 62. 

' Scotland aftd Scatsfnen in thiEigh' 
tunih Century^ from the MSS. of John 
Ramsay of Ochtertjrre, edited fay Alex. 
Allardyce (Edinbaigh, 1888), ii. 439. 





strangled, and hung on a ladder. Firing and yelling 
succeeded, and half an hour later the animals were taken into 
a house, " where the people's sins were transferred to them.'* 
The carcasses were afterwards burnt on a pyre of wood.^ 
According to the Rev. Mr. Kirkland, who wrote last centur>% 
the ashes of the pyre upon which one of the white dogs was 
burnt were carried through the village and sprinkled at the 
door of every house.^ Formerly, however, as we have seen^ 
the Iroquois expulsion of evils was immediate and not by 
scapegoat* On the Day of Atonement, which was the tenth 
day of the seventh month, the Jewish high-priest laid both 
his hands on the head of a live goat, confessed over it all the 
iniquities of the Children of Israel, and, having thereby 
transferred the sins of the people to the beast, sent it away 
into the wilderness.* 

The scapegoat upon whom the sins of the people are 
periodically laid, may also be a human being. At Onitsha^ 
on the Niger, two human beings used to be annually 
sacrificed to take away the sins of the land. The victims 
were purchased by public subscription. All persons who, 
during the past year, had fallen into gross sins, such as 
incendiarism, theft, adultery, witchcraft, and so forth, were 
expected to contribute 28 ngugas^ or a little over £2. The 
money thus collected was taken into the interior of the country 
and expended in the purchase of two sickly persons " to be 
offered as a sacrifice for all these abominable crimes— one for 
the land and one for the river." A man from a neighbouring 

* \V. M. Beauchamp, "The Iroquois 
^^'^ute Dog Feast," Ameriian An- 
tiquarian^ viL 237. 

« Ibid, p. 236 ; T. Dwight, Trax'cis 
in New England and New Yark^ iv. 

* Above, p. 72 sq, 

^ Leviticus xvL The word trans- 
bted ** scapegoat" in the Authorised 
Version is Azazel, which appears rather 
to be the name of a bad angel or demon, 
to whom the goat was sent away. 
There is some ground for thinking that 
the animal was killed by being thrown 
over a certain crag that overhangs a 
rocky chasm not far from Jerusalem. 
See Encyehpadia Bikliea, ed. T. K. 

Cheyne and J. S. Black, s,v. •* Azazel.*' 
Modern Jews sacrifice a white cock on 
the eve of the Day of Atonement, nine 
days after the beginning of their New 
Year. The father of the family knocks 
the cock thrice against his own head, 
saying, ** Let this cock be a substitute 
for me, let it take my place, let death 
be laid upon this cock, but a happy 
life bestowed on me and on all Israel." 
Then he cuts its throat and dashes the 
bird violently on the ground The 
intestines are thrown on the roof of. 
the house. The flesh of the cock was 
formerly given to the poor. See 
Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaita^ ch. xxv. p. 
508 sqq. 




town was hired to put them to death. On the twenty-seventh k 

of February 1858 the Rev. J. C. Taylor witnessed the sacri- 
fice of one of these victims. The sufferer was a woman, about 
nineteen or twenty years of age. They dragged her alive 
along the ground, face downwards, from the king's house to 
the river, a distance of two miles, the crowds who accom- 
panied- her crying, "Wickedness! wickedness!" The intention 
was " to take away the iniquities of the land. The body was 
dragged along in a merciless manner, as if the weight of all 
their wickedness was thus carried away." ^ In Siam it used 
to be the custom on one day of the year to single out a 
woman broken down by debauchery, and carry her on a 
litter through all the streets to the music of drums and 
hautboys. The mob insulted her and pelted her with dirt ; 
and after having carried her through the whole city, they 
threw her on a dunghill or a hedge of thorns outside the 
ramparts, forbidding her ever to enter the walls again. They 
believed that the woman thus drew upon herself all the 
malign influences of the air and of evil spirits.' The Battas 
of Sumatra offer either a red horse or a buffalo as a public 
sacrifice to purify the land and obtain the favour of the gods* 
Formerly, it is said, a man was bound to the same stake as 
the buffalo, and when they killed the animal, the man was 
driven away ; no one might receive him, converse with him, 
or grive him food.' Doubtless he was supposed to carry 
away the sins and misfortunes of the people. 

Human scapegoats, as we shall see presently, were well 
known in classical antiquity, and even in medisval Europe 
the custom seems not to have been wholly extinct In the 
town of Halberstadt, in Thiiringen, there was a church said to 
have been founded by Charlemagne. In this church every 
year they chose a man, who was believed to be stained with 
h/einous sins. On the first day of Lent he was brought to 
the church, dressed in mourning garb, with his head mufHed 

' S. Crowther and J. C. Taylor, Tfu from Taylor. 

Gospel on iki Banks €f tki Niger ^ pp. * Turpin, *' History of Siam," in 

343-345* Cp. J. F. Schon and S. Pinkerton*s Voyages and Travels^ ix. 

Crowther, Journals ^ p. 48 sq. The 579. 

account of the custom by J. Africanus * Kodding, "DieBatakscheGotter,**' 

'%,'Wox\X3iti{West African Countries and Allgemeine Missions 'Zeitschrifi^ xiL 

Peoples, p. 185 sq,) is taken entirely (1885), pp. 476, 478. 




up. At the close of the service he was turned out of the 
church. During the. forty days of Lent he perambulated 
the city barefoot, neither entering the churches nor speaking 
to any one. The canons took it in turn to feed him. After 
midnight he was allowed to sleep in the streets. On the 
day before Good Friday, after the consecration of the holy 
oil, he was readmitted to the church and absolved from his 
sins. The people gave him money. He was called Adam, 
and was now believed to be in a state of innocence.^ At 
Entlebuch, in Switzerland, down to the close of last century, 
the custom of annually expelling a scapegoat was preserved 
in the ceremony of driving " Posterli " from the village into 
the lands of the neighbouring village. '' Posterli " was 
represented by a lad disguised as an old witch or as a goat 
or an ass. Amid a deafening noise of horns, clarionets, 
bells, whips, and so forth, he was driven out Sometimes 
" Posterli " was represented by a puppet, which was drawn on 
a sledge and left in a corner of the neighbouring village. 
The ceremony took place on the Thursday evening of the 
last week but one before Christmas.' 

Sometimes the scapegoat is a divine animal. The 
people of Malabar share the Hindoo reverence for the cow, to 
kill and eat which '' they esteem to be a crime as heinous as 
homicide or wilful murder." Nevertheless ''the Bramans 
transfer the sins of the people into one or more Cows, which 
are then carry'd away, both the Cows and the Sins where- 
with these Beasts are charged, to what place the Braman 
shall appoint"' When the ancient Egyptians sacrificed a 
bull, they invoked upon its head all the evils that might 
otherwise befall themselves and the land of Egypt, and 
thereupon they either sold the bull's head to the Greeks or 
cast it into the river.^ Now, it cannot be said that in the 
times known to us the Egyptians worshipped bulls in 
general, for they seem to have commonly killed and eaten 
them.* But a good many circumstances point to the 

* Aeneas Sylvius, O/rra (Bile, 1 57 1 ), Religwn^ Manners^ and Learning eftke 
p. 423 sg. People of Malabar^ pp. 6, 12 sq. 

' 11. Usener, ** Italische Mythen,'* * Herodotus, ii« 39. 

^>l^iVf/rrA«j^/wjMf«r,N.F.,xxx.(i875), * Herodotus, u. 38-41 ; Wilkinson, 

p. 198. Manners and Customs of the Ancient 

* J. Thomas Phillips, Account of the Egyptians^ iii 403 sqq, (ed. 1878). 


conclusion that originally all cattle, bulls as well as cows, 
were held sacred by the Egyptians. For not only were all 
cows esteemed holy by them and never sacrificed, but even 
bulls might not be sacrificed unless they had certain natural 
marks ; a priest examined every bull before it was sacrificed ; 
if it had the proper marks, he put his seal on the animal in 
token that it might be sacrificed ; and if a man sacrificed a 
bull which had not been sealed, he was put to death. More- 
over, the worship of the black bulls Apis and Mnevis, 
especially the former, played an important part in Egyptian 
religion ; all bulls that died a natural death were carefully 
buried in the suburbs of the cities, and their bones were 
afterwards collected from all parts of Egypt and buried in 
a single spot ; and at the sacrifice of a bull in the great 
rites of Isi$ all the worshippers beat their breasts and 
mourned.^ On the whole, then, we are perhaps entitled to 
infer that bulls were originally, as cows were always^ 
esteemed sacred by the Egyptians, and that the slain bull 
upon whose head they laid the misfortunes of the people 
was once a divine scapegoat It seems not improbable that 
the lamb annually slain by the Madis of Central Africa is a 
divine scap^[oat, and the same supposition may partly 
explain the Zuni sacrifice of the turtle.^ 

Lastly, the scapegoat may be a divine man. Thus, ir> 
November the Gonds of India worship Ghansyam Deo, the 
protector of the crops, and at the festival the god himself is said 
to descend on the head of one of the worshippers, who is 
suddenly seized with a kind of fit and, after staggering 
about, rushes off into the jungle, where it is believed that, if 
left to himself, he would die mad. However, they bring him 
back, but he does not recover his senses for one or two days. 
The people think that one man is thus singled out as a scape- 
goat for the sins of the rest of the village.* In the temple 
of the Moon the Albanians of the Eastern Caucasus kept a 
number of sacred slaves, of whom many were inspired and 
prophesied. When one of these men exhibited more than 
usual symptoms of inspiration or insanity, and wandered 
solitary up and down the woods, like the Gond in the jungle, 

^ Herodotus, /.r. ' Panjab Notes and Queries, iL p. 

« Sec vol. u. pp. 371 j^^., 439^- 54. § 335- 





the high priest had him bound with a sacred chain and 
maintained him in luxury for a year. At the end of the 
year he was anointed with unguents and led forth to be 
sacrificed. A man whose business it was to slay these 
human victims and to whom practice had given dexterity, 
advanced from the crowd and thrust a sacred spear into the 
victim's side, piercing his heart. From the. manner in which 
the slain man fell, omens were drawn as to the welfare of 
the commonwealth. Then the body was carried to a certain 
spot where all the people stood upon it as a purificatory 
ceremony.* This last circumstance clearly indicates that 
the sins of the people were transferred to the victim, just as 
the Jewish priest transferred the sins of the people to the 
scapegoat by laying his hand on the animal's head ; and 
since the man was believed to be possessed by the divine 
spirit, we have here an undoubted example of a man-god 
slain to take away the sins and misfortunes of the people. 

In Tibet the ceremony of the scapegoat presents some 
remarkable features. The Tibetan new year begfins with the 
new moon, which appears about the fifteenth of February. 
For twenty -three days afterwards the government of 
Lhasa, the capital, is taken out of the hands of the 
ordinary rulers and entrusted to the monk of the Debang 
monastery who offers to pay the highest sum for the privilege. 
The successful bidder is called the Jalno, and he announces 
his accession to power in person, going through the streets 
of Lhasa with a silver stick in his hand. Monks from all 
the neighbouring monasteries and temples assemble to pay 
him homage. The Jalno exercises his authority in the most 
arbitrary manner for his own benefit, as all the fines which 
he exacts are his by purchase. The profit he makes is 
about ten times the amount of the purchase money. His 

^ Strabo, xi. 4. 7. For the custom 
of standing upon a sacrificed victim, 
compare Demosthenes, Or, xxiii. 6S, 
p. 642 ; Pausanias, iii. 20. 9. With 
the practice of anointing the \ictim 
we may compare the treatment which 
Plato proposes in jest to accord to 
such poets as write clever but danger- 
ous verses. He would worship bards 
of that sort as sacred, but would 


anoint their heads with unguent, wreathe 
them with wool, and send them away 
to some other city {Repttblie^ iii. p. 
398 a). Dio Chrysostom, who refers to 
this passage of Plato, tells us that what 
the philosopher proposed to do to the 
])oets was what women did to swallows 
{Or. liii. vol. ii. p. 165, ed. Dindorf). 
Both these passages were pointed out 
to me by my friend Dr. Henry Jackson. 





men go about the streets in order to discover any conduct 
on the part of the inhabitants that can be found fault with. 
Every house in Lhasa is taxed at this time, and the slightest 
fault is punished with unsparing rigour by fines. This 
severity of the Jalno drives all working classes out of the 
city till the twenty-three days are over. Meantime, all the 
priests flock from the neighbourhood into the city in such 
multitudes, that the streets are incarnadined with their red 
cloaks. All day long, from before the peep of dawn till 
after darkness has fallen, these red-cloaked lamas hold 
services in the dim incense-laden air of the great Machin- 
dranath temple, the cathedral of Lhasa ; and thither they 
crowd thrice a day to receive their doles of tea and soup 
and money. The cathedral is a vast building, standing in 
the centre of the city, and surrounded by bazaars and shops. 
The idols in it are richly inlaid with gold and precious 
stones. Twenty-four days after the Jalno has ceased to 
have authority, he assumes it again, and for ten days acts in 
the same arbitrary manner as before. On the first of the 
ten days the priests assemble as before at the cathedral, 
pray to the gods to prevent sickness and other evils among 
the people, " and, as a peace-offering, sacrifice one man. The 
man is not killed purposely, but the ceremony he undergoes 
often proves fatal.^ Grain is thrown against his head, and 
his face is painted half white, half black." Thus grotesquely 
disguised, and carrying a coat of skin on his arm, he is 
called the King of the Years, and sits daily in the market- 
place, where he helps himself to whatever he likes and goes 
about shaking a black yak's tail over the people, who thus 
transfer their bad luck to him. On the tenth day, all the troops 
in Lhasa march to the great temple and form in line before it. 
The King of the Years is brought forth from the temple and 
receives small donations from the assembled multitude. He 
then ridicules the Jalno, saying to him, " What we perceive 
through the five senses is no illusion. All you teach is 
untrue," and the like. The Jalno, who represents the Grand 
Lama for the time being, contests these heretical opinions ; 
the dispute waxes warm, and at last both agree to decide the 

^ The ceremony refeired to b perhaps the one performed on the tenth day, 
as described in the text. 




questions at issue by a cast of the dice, the Jahio offering to 
change places with the scapegoat should the throw be 
against him. If the King of the Years wins, much evil is 
prognosticated ; but if the Jalno wins, there is great rejoic- 
ing, for it proves that his adversary has been accepted by the 
gods as a victim to bear all the sins of the people of Lhasa. 
Fortune, however, always favours the Jalno, who throws 
sixes with unvarying success, while his opponent turns up 
only ones. Nor is this so extraordinary as at first sight it 
might appear ; for the Jalno's dice are marked with nothing 
but sixes and his adversary's with nothing but ones. When 
he sees the finger of Providence thus plainly pointed against 
him, the King of the Years is terrified and flees away upon 
a white horse, with a white dog, a white bird, salt, and so 
forth, which have all been provided for him by the govern- 
ment. His face is still painted half white and half black, 
and he still wears his leathern coat. The whole populace 
pursues him, hooting, yelling, and firing blank shots in 
volleys after him. Thus driven out of the city, he is detained 
for seven days in the great chamber of horrors at the Sam- 
yas monastery, surrounded by monstrous and terrific images 
of devils and skins of huge serpents and wild beasts. 
Thence he goes away into the mountains of Chetang, where 
he has to remain an outcast for several months or a year in 
a narrow den. If he dies before the time is out, the people 
say it is an auspicious omen ; but if he survives, he may 
return to Lhasa and play the part of scapegoat over again 
the following year.^ 

* " Report of a Route Survey by 
Pundit — from Nepal to Lhasa," etc., 
Journal Royal Geogr, Soc. xxxviii. 
(1868), pp. 167, 170 s^. ; •*Four Years' 
Journeying through Great Tibet, by one 
of the Trans-Himalayan Explorers," 
Procetd, Royal Geogr, Soc. X.S. vii. 
(1885), p. 67 sf. ; L. A. Waddcll, TVk^ 
Buddhism of Tibet (London, 1895), 
pp. 504 sqq.^ 512 J^. ; J. L. Dutreuil 
de Rhins, Mission Scicntifique dam la 
Haute Asie iSgo-iSgj: R^cit du I'oy'age 
(Paris, 1897), p. 257 sq. The accounts 
supplement each other, though they 
differ in some particulars. I have 
endeavoured to combine them. Accord- 

ing to the last of the accounts referred 
to, which however rests on second-hand 
information, at one point of the cere- 
monies the troops march thrice round 
the temple and fire numerous volleys 
of musketry to dri%'e away the demons. 
With the like intent they discharge a 
great cannon, said to be a thousand 
years old, which bears the inscription, 
•* I am the destroyer of rebellion." 
The same account speaks of a '* dance 
of axes'' performed b>* young people, 
a festival of lanterns, an exhibition of 
bas-reliefs in butter, a horse-race, a 
foot-race, and a solemn blessing of the 
people by the Grand Lama. 

1 1 6 HUMAN SCAPEGOA T chap. 

This quaint ceremonial, still annually observed in the 
secluded capital of Buddhism — the Rome of Asia — is par- 
ticularly interesting because it exhibits, in a clearly marked 
religious stratification, a series of divine redeemers them- 
selves redeemed, of vicarious sacrifices vicariously atoned 
for, of gods undergoing a process of fossilisation, who, 
while they retain the privileges, have disburdened themselves 
of the pains and penalties of divinity. In the Jalno 
we may without undue straining discern a successor of 
those temporary kings, those mortal gods, who purchase 
a short lease of power and glory at the price of their 
lives. That he is the temporary substitute of the Grand 
Lama is certain ; that he is, or was once, liable to act 
as scapegoat for the people is made nearly certain by his 
offer to change places with the real scapegoat — the King 
of the Years — if the arbitrament of the dice should go 
against him. It is true that the conditions under which the 
question is now put to the hazard have reduced the offer to 
an idle form. But such forms are no mere mushroom 
growths, springing up of themselves in a night If they 
are now lifeless formalities, empty husks devoid of signifi- 
cance, we may be sure that they once had a life and a 
meaning; if at the present day they are blind alleys 
leading nowhere, we may be certain that in former days 
they were paths that led somewhere, if only to death. 
That death was the goal to which of old the Tibetan scape- 
goat passed after his brief period of licence in the market- 
place, is a conjecture that has much to commend it Analogy 
suggests it ; the blank shots fired after him, the statement 
that the ceremony often proves fatal, the belief that his death 
is a happy omen, all confirm it We need not wonder 
then that the Jalno, after paying so dear to act as deputy- 
deity for a few weeks, should have preferred to die by 
deputy rather than in his own person when his time was up. 
The painful but necessary duty was accordingly laid on 
some poor devil, some social outcast, some wretch with 
whom the world had gone hard, who readily agreed to 
throw away his life at the end of a few days if only he 
might have his fling in the meantime. For observe that 
while the time allowed to the original deputy — the Jalno — 

in IN TIBET 117 

was measured by weeks, the time allowed to the deputy's 
deputy was cut down to days, ten days according to one 
authority, seven days according to another. So short a rope 
was doubtless thought a long enough tether for so black or 
sickly a sheep ; so few sands in the hour-glass, slipping so 
fast away, sufficed for one who had wasted so many precious 
years. Hence in the jack-pudding who now masquerades 
with motley countenance in the market-place of Lhasa, 
sweeping up misfortune with a black yak's tail, we may 
fairly see the substitute of a substitute, the vicar of a vicar, 
the proxy on whose back the heavy burden was laid when 
it had been lifted from nobler shoulders. But the clue, if 
we have followed it aright, does not stop at the Jalno ; it 
leads straight back to the pope of Lhasa himself, the Grand 
Lama, of whom the Jalno is merely the temporary vicar. 
The analogy of many customs in many lands points to the 
conclusion that, if this human divinity stoops to resign his 
ghostly power for a time into the hands of a substitute, it is, or 
rather was once, for no other reason than that the substitute 
might die in his stead. Thus through the mist of ages 
unillumined by the lamp of history, the tragic figure of the 
pope of Buddhism — God's vicar on earth for Asia — looms 
dim and sad as the man-god who bore his people's sorrows, 
the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. 

The foregoing survey of the custom of publicly expelling 
the accumulated evils of a village or town or country suggests 
a few general observations. In the first place, it will not be 
disputed that what I have called the immediate and the 
mediate expulsions of evil are identical in intention ; in 
other words, that whether the evils are conceived of as 
invisible or as embodied in a material form, is a circumstance 
entirely subordinate to the main object of the ceremony, 
which is simply to effect a total clearance of all the ills that 
have been infesting a people. If any link were wanting to 
connect the two kinds of expulsion, it would be furnished by 
such a practice as that of sending the evils away in a litter 
or a boat. . For here, on the one hand, the evils are 
invisible and intangible ; and, on the other hand, there is a 
visible and tangible vehicle to convey them away. And a 
scapegoat is nothing more than such a vehicle. 


In the second place, when a general clearance of evils is 
resorted to periodically, the interval between the celebrations 
of the ceremony is commonly a year, and the time of year 
when the ceremony takes place usually coincides with some 
well-marked change of season — such as the beginning or end 
of winter in the arctic and temperate zones, and the beginning 
or end of the rainy season in the tropics. The increased 
mortality which such climatic changes are apt to produce, 
especially amongst ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed savages, 
is set down by primitive man to the agency of demons, who 
must accordingly be expelled. Hence, in the tropical regions 
of New Britain and Peru, the devils are or were driven out 
at the beginning of the rainy season ; hence, on the dreary 
coasts of Baffin Land, they are banished at the approach of 
the bitter arctic winter. When a tribe has taken to hus- 
bandry, the time for the general expulsion of devils is 
naturally made to agree with one of the great epochs of the 
agricultural year, as sowing, or harvest ; but, as these epochs 
themselves often coincide with changes of season, it does not 
follow that the transition from the hunting or pastoral to the 
agricultural life involves any alteration in the time of cele- 
brating this great annual rite. Some of the agricultural 
communities of India and the Hindoo Koosh, as we have 
seen, hold their general clearance of demons at harvest, 
others at sowing-time. But, at whatever season of the year 
it is held, the general expulsion of devils commonly marks 
the beginning of the new year. For, before entering on a 
new year, people arc anxious to rid themselves of the troubles 
that have harassed them in the past ; hence it comes about 
that amongst so many people the beginning of the new year 
is inaugurated with a solemn and public banishment of evil 

In the third place, it is to be observed that this public 
and periodic expulsion of devils is commonly preceded or 
followed by a period of general licence, during which the 
ordinary restraints of society are thrown aside, and all 
offences, short of the gravest, are allowed to pass unpunished. 
In Guinea and Tonquin the period of licence precedes the 
public expulsion of demons ; and the suspension of the 
ordinary government in Lhasa previous to the expulsion of 




the scapegoat is perhaps a relic of a similar period of 
universal licence. Amongst the Hos the period of licence 
follows the expulsion of the devil. Amongst the Iroquois it 
hardly appears whether it preceded or followed the banish- 
ment of evils. In any case, the extraordinary relaxation of all 
ordinary rules of conduct on such occasions is doubtless to 
be explained by the general clearance of evils which precedes 
or follows it. On the one hand, when a general riddance of 
evil and absolution from all sin is in immediate prospect, men 
are encouraged to give the rein to their passions, trusting 
that the coming ceremony will wipe out the score which they 
are running up so fast On the other hand, when the cere- 
mony has just taken place, men's minds are freed from the 
oppressive sense, under which they generally labour, of an 
atmosphere surcharged with devils ; and in the first revulsion 
of joy they overleap the limits commonly imposed by custom 
and morality. When the ceremony takes place at harvest- 
time, the elation of feeling which it excites is further stimu- 
lated by the state of physical wellbeing produced by an 
abundant supply of food.^ 

^ In the Dassera festival, as cele- 
brated in Nepaul, we seem to have 
another instance of the annual expul- 
sion of demons preceded by a time of 
licence. The festival occurs at the 
beginning of October and lasts ten 
days. " During its continuance there 
is a general holiday among all classes 
of the people. The city of Kathmandu 
at this time is required to be purified, 
but the purification is effected rather by 
prayer than by water-cleansing. All 
the courts of law are closed, and all 
prisoners in jail are removed from 
the precincts of the city. . . . The 
Kalendar is cleared, or there is a jail- 
delivery alwa>*s at the Dassera of all 
prisoners." This seems a trace of a 
period of licence. At this time " it is 
a general custom for masters to make 
an annual present, either of money, 
clothes, buffaloes, goats, etc., to such 
servants as have given satisfaction 
during the past year. ^It is in this 
respect, as well as in the feasting and 
drinking which goes on, something like 
our ' boxing-time ' at Christmas." On 

the seventh day at sunset there is a 
parade of all the troops in the capital, 
including the artillery. At a given 
signal the regiments begin to fire, the 
artillery takes it up, and a general 
firing goes on for about twenty minutes, 
when it suddenly ceases. This prob- 
ably represents the expulsion of the 
demons. *'The grand cutting of the 
rice-crops is always postponed till the 
Dassera is over, and commences all 
over the valley the very day afterwards." 
See the description of the festival in 
Oldfield's Sketches from Ni/ml, ii. 342- 
351. On the Dassera in India, see 
Dubois, Mcntrs, Institutions et CM' 
monies des PeupUs de Plnde^ ii. 329 
sgg. Amongst the Wasuahili of East 
Africa New Year's Day was formerly a 
day of general licence, " every man did 
as he pleased. Old quarrels were 
settled, men were found dead on the 
following day, and no inquiry was 
instituted about the matter" (Ch. 
New, Life^ IVanden'ttgSf and Labours 
in Eastern Africa, p. 65). An annual 
period of anarchy and licence, lasting 



Fourthly, the employment of a divine man or animal as 
a scapegoat is especially to be noted ; indeed, we are here 
directly concerned with the custom of banishing evils only in 
so far as these evils are believed to be transferred to a god who 
is afterwards slain. It may be suspected that the custom of 
employing a divine man or animal as a public scapegoat is 
much more widely diffused than appears from the examples 
cited. For, as has already been pointed out, the custom of 
killing a god dates from so early a period of human history ; \ 
that in later ages, even when the custom continues to be 
practised, it is liable to be misinterpreted. The divine 
character of the animal or man is forgotten, and he comes 
to be regarded merely as an ordinary victim. This is 
especially likely to be the case when it is a divine man who 
is killed. For when a nation becomes civilised, if it does 
not drop human sacrifices altogether, it at least selects as 
victims only such wretches as would be put to death at any 
rate. Thus, as in the Sacaean festival at Babylon, the killing 
of a god may come to be confounded with the execution of a 

If we ask why a dying god should be chosen to take 
upon himself and carry away the sins and sorrows of the 
people, it may be suggested that in the practice of using the 
divinity as a scapegoat we have a combination of two 
customs which were at one time distinct and independent. 
On the one hand we have seen that it has been customary 
to kill the human or animal god in order to save his divine 
life from being weakened by the inroads of age. On the 
other hand we have seen that it has been customary to have 
a general expulsion of evils and sins once a year. Now, if 
it occurred to people to combine these two customs, the 
result would be the employment of the dying god as a scape- 
goat. He was killed, not originally to take away sin, but to 
save the divine life from the degeneracy of old age ; but, 
since he had to be killed at any rate, people may have 
thought that they might as well seize the opportunity to lay 

three days, is reported by Borelli to be annual festival of the new yams is a 

observed by some of the Gallas (Paulit- time of general licence. See Note C, 

schke, Ethnographie Nardost-Afrikas : "Offerings of First-fruits," vol. ii. p. 

die geistige Cultur der Dandkil^ Gal/a . 459. 
und Somal, p. 158). In Ashantee the 


upon him the burden of their sufferings and sins, in order 
that he might bear it away with him to the unknown world 
beyond the grave. 

The use of the divinity as a scapegoat clears up the 
ambiguity which, as we saw, appears to hang about the 
European folk-custom of "carrying out Death." ^ Grounds 
have been shown for believing that in this ceremony the 
so-called Death was originally the spirit of vegetation, who 
was annually slain in spring, in order that he might come to 
life again with all the vigour of youth. But, as I pointed out, 
there are certain features in the ceremony which are not 
explicable on this hypothesis alone. Such are the marks of 
joy with which the effigy of Death is carried out to be buried 
or burnt, and the fear and abhorrence of it manifested by the 
bearers. But these features become at once intelligible if we 
suppose that the Death was not merely the dying god of 
vegetation, but also a public scapegoat, upon whom were 
laid all the evils that had afflicted the people during the past 
year. Joy on such an occasion is natural and appropriate ; 
and if the dying god appears to be the object of that fear 
and abhorrence which are properly due not to himself, but to 
the sins and misfortunes with which he is laden, this arises 
merely from the difficulty of distinguishing or at least of 
marking the distinction betAveen the bearer and the burden. 
When the burden is of a baleful character, the bearer of it 
will be feared and shunned just as much as if he were him- 
self instinct with those dangerous properties of which, as it 
happens, he is only the vehicle. Similarly we have seen that 
disease-laden and sin-laden boats are dreaded and shunned 
by East Indian peoples.^ Again, the view that in these 
popular customs the Death is a scapegoat as well as a repre- 
sentative of the divine spirit of vegetation derives some 
support from the circumstance that its expulsion is always 
celebrated in spring and chiefly by Slavonic peoples. For 
the Slavonic year began in spring ; ^ and thus, in one of its 
aspects, the ceremony of "carrying out Death" would be 
an example of the widespread custom of expelling the 

* See above, vol. ii. p, -107 sq. ' H. Usener, *<Italische Mythen," 

/^hehtisihcs Museum, N. F. ( 1875), xxx. 
- Above, pp. 9S, 106. 194. 




accumulated evils of the past year before entering on a new 

We are now prepared to notice the use of the scapegoat in 
classical antiquity. Every year on the fourteenth of March 
a man clad in skins was led in procession through the streets 
of Rome, beaten with long white rods, and driven out of the 
city. He was called Mamurius Veturius,^ that is, " the old 
Mars," * and as the ceremony took place on the day preceding 
the first full moon of the old Roman year (which began on 
the first of March), the skin-clad man must have represented 
the Mars of the past year, who was driven out at the begin- 
ning of a new one. Now Mars was originally not a god of 
war but of vegetation. For it was to Mars that the Roman 
husbandman prayed for the prosperity of his com and his 
vines, his fruit-trees and his copses ; ' it was to Mars that the 
priestly college of the Arval Brothers, whose business it was 
to sacrifice for the growth of the crops,* addressed their 
petitions almost exclusively ; ^ and it was to Mars, as we 
saw,* that a horse was sacrificed in October to secure an 
abundant harvest Moreover, it was to Mars, under his title 
of " Mars of the woods " {Mars SUvantis) that farmers offered 
sacrifice for the welfare of their cattle.^ We have already 
seen that cattle are commonly supposed to be under the 
special patronage of tree-gods.® Once more, the consecration 


^ Joannes Lydus, De mmsidus, m, 
29, iv. 36. Lydus places the expul- 
sion on the Ides of March, that is 15 th 
March. But this seems to be a mis- 
take. See Usener, '*Italische Mythen," 
Hheinisches Afuseum, xxx. 209 sqg. 
Again, Lydus does not expressly say 
that Mamurius Veturius was driven out 
of the city, but he implies it by mention- 
ing the legend that his mythical pro- 
totype was beaten with rods and 
expelled the city. Lastly, Lydus only 
mentions the name Mamurius. But 
the full name Mamunus Veturius is 
preserved by Varro, Lin^. Lat. vi. 45 ; 
Festus, ed. MUlIer, p. 131 ; Plutarch, 
Numa^ 13. Mr. \V. Warde Fowler is 
disposed to be sceptical as to the 
antiquity of the ceremony of expelling 
Mamurius. See his Rotnati Festivals 
of the period of the Kepublie^ pp. 44-50. 

^ Usener, op. cit, p. 212 sq.% 
Roscher, Apolhn und Marsy p. 27 ; 
Preller, Rotnische Mythologies^ i. 360 ; 
Vani^ek, Griechisch-lateinisches etymo- 
logisches Worterbuch^ p. 715. The 
three latter scholars take Veturius 
as = annutts, because vetus is etymo- 
logically equivalent to'^rof. But, as 
Usener argues, it seems quite unallow- 
able to take the Greek meaning of the 
word instead of the Latin. 

' Cato, De ttgri cult. 141. 

* Varro, De lingua latina, v. 85. 

* See the song of the Arval Brothers 
in Acta Fratrum Arval ium^ ed. 
Henzen, p. 26 sq. ; AVords worth, 
Fragmeftts attd Specimens of Early 
Lat in s p. 158. 

* Vol. ii. p. 315 sq, 

' Cato, De agri mil. %'^. 

* Above, vol. i. pp. 192 sqq.^ 230. 




of the vernal month of March to Mars seems to point him 
out as the deity of the sprouting vegetation. Thus the 
Roman custom of expelling the old Mars at the beginning 
of the new year in spring is identical with the Slavonic 
custom of " carrying out Death," if the view here taken of the 
latter custom is correct. The similarity of the Roman and 
Slavonic customs has been already remarked by scholars, 
who appear, however, to have taken Mamurius Veturius and 
the corresponding figures in the Slavonic ceremonies to be 
representatives of the old year rather than of the old god of 
vegetation.^ It is possible that ceremonies of this kind may 
have come to be thus interpreted in later times even by the 
people who practised them. But the personification of a 
period of time is too abstract an idea to be primitive.* 
However, in the Roman, as in the Slavonic, ceremony, the 
representative of the god appears to have been treated not 
only as a deity of vegetation but also as a scapegoat. His 
expulsion implies this ; for there is no reason why the god 
of vegetation, as such, should be expelled the city. But it is 
otherwise if he is also a scapegoat ; it then becomes necessary 
to drive him beyond the boundaries, that he may carry his 
sorrowful burden away to other lands. And, in fact, 
Mamurius Veturius appears to have been driven away to the 
land of the Oscans, the enemies of Rome.* 

* Prcller, Romische MyOiohgie^ L 
360 ; Roscher, Apolloti und Mars^ p. 
49 ; id, , Lexikon d, griech, tntd rom, 
Slythologity ii. 240S sq. ; Usener, op. cit. 
The ceremony also closely resembles 
the Highland New Year ceremony 
described above, vol. ii. p. 447. 

^ But the Biyars, a mixed tribe 
of North - Western India, observe an 
annual ceremony which they call ** burn- 
ing the old year." The old year is 
represented by a stake of the wood of 
the cotton-tree, which is planted in 
the ground at an appointed place outside 
of the village, and then burned on the 
day of the full moon in the month of 
Pus. Fire is first put to it by the village 
priest, and then all the people follow 
his example, parch stalks of barley 
in the fire, and afterwards eat them. 
Next day they throw the ashes of the 
burnt wood in the air ; and on the 

morrow the festival ends with a regular 
saturnalia, at which decency and order 
are forgotten. See W. Crooke, Tribes 
and Castes of the North- Western Pro^ 
vinces and Oudh^ ii. 137 sq. Com- 
pare, iV£, Introduction to the Popular 
Religion and Folklore of Northern 
India, p. 392. 

' Propertius, v. 2. 61 sq. ; Usener, 
op. cit. p. 210. One ot the functions 
of the Salii or dancing priests, who 
during March went up and down the 
city dancing, singing, and clashing 
their swords against their shields (Livy, 
i. 20 i Plutarch, ^V///;/a, 13 ; Dionysius 
Halicam. Antiq. ii. 70), may have 
been to rout out the evils or demons 
from all parts of the city, as a prepara- 
tion for transferring them to the scape- 
goat Mamurius Veturius. Similarly, 
as we have seen (above, p. 108), 
among the Iroquois, men in fantastic 




The ancient Greeks were also familiar with the use of a 
human scapegoat. In Plutarch's native town of Chaeronea a 
ceremony of this kind was performed by the chief magistrate 
at the Town Hall, and by each householder at his own home. 
It was called the " expulsion of hunger." A slave was beaten 
with rods of the agnus casius^ and turned out of doors with 
the words, " Out with hunger, and in -with wealth and health." 

costume went about collecting the sins 
of the people as a preliminary to trans- 
ferring them to the scapegoat dogs. 
We have had many examples of armed 
men rushing about the streets and 
houses to drive out demons and evils 
of all kinds. The blows which were 
showered on Mamurius Veturius seem 
to have been administered by the Salii 
(Servius on Virgil, Aen, vii. i88 ; 
Minudus Felix, Octavius^ 24. 3 ; Preller, 
Rom, MytkJ^ L 360, note I ; Koscher, 
Apollon und Mars, p. 49). The 
reason for beating the scap^oat will 
be explained presently. As priests of 
Mars, the god of agriculture, the Salii 
probably had also certain agricultural 
functions. They were named from the 
remarkable leaps which they made. 
Now we have seen (vol. i. p. 36 sq, ) that 
dancing and leaping high are common 
sympathetic charms to make the crops 
grow high. Was it one of the functions 
of the Salii to dance and leap on the 
fields at the spring or autumn sowing, 
or at both ? The dancing processions 
of the Salii took place in October as 
well as in March (Marquardt, Sacral- 
wesen^ p. 436 sq.), and the Romans 
sowed both in spring and autumn 
(Columella, ii. 9. 6 sq.). In their song 
the Salii mentioned Satumus or Saetur- 
nus, the god of sowing (Festus, p. 325, 
ed. MUller ; Saetumus is an emenda- 
tion of Ritschl's ; see Wordsworth, 
Fragments and Specimens of Early 
Latin, p. 405). The weapons borne 
by the Salii, while effective against 
demons in general, may have been 
especially directed against the demons 
who steal the seed-corn or the ripe 
grain. Com|>are the Khond and 
Hindoo Koosh customs described 
above, p. 79 sq. In Western Africa 
the field labours of tilling and sowing 
are sometimes accompanied by dances 

of armed men on the field. See 
Labat, Voyage du Chevalier des Mar- 
chais en GuittdCy Isles voisines et h 
Cayenne, ii. p. 99 of the Paris ed., p. 
80 of the Amsterdam ed. ; Olivier de 
Sanderval, De PAtlantique au Niger 
par le Foulah-Djallon (Paris, 1883), 
p. 230. In Calicut (Southern India) 
*' they plough the land with oxen as 
we do, and when they sow the rice in 
the field they have all the instruments 
of the dty continually sounding and 
making merry. They also have ten or 
twelve men clothed like devik, and 
these unite in making great rejoidng 
with the players on the instruments, in 
order that the devil may make that 
rice very productive *' (Varthema, 
Travds (Hakluyt Soc 1863), p. 166 
sq\ The resemblance of the Salii to 
the sword-dancers of Northern Europe 
has been pointed out by K. Miillen- 
hoff ("Ueber den Schwerttanz," in 
Festgaben fiir Custav Homeyer, Berlin, 
1 87 1 ). In England the Morris Dancers 
who accompanied the procession of the 
plough through the streets on Plough 
Monday (the first Monday after Twelfth 
Day) sometimes wore swords (Brand, 
Popular Antiquities, i. 505, Bohn's 
ed.), and sometimes they *' wore small 
bunches of com in their hats, from 
which the wheat was soon shaken out 
by the ungainly jumping which they 
called dancing. . . . B^sy rattled his 
box and danced so high that he showed 
his worsted stockings and corduroy 
breeches" (Chambers, Book of Days, 
L 94). It is to be observed that in the 
** Lord of Misrule," who reigned from 
Christmas till Twelfth Night (see 
Brand, Popular Antiquities^ i. 497 
599')y ^c have a clear trace of one of 
those periods of general licence and 
suspension of ordinary government 
which so commonly occur at the end 




When Plutarch held the office of chief magistrate of his 
native town he performed this ceremony at the Town Hall, 
and he has recorded the discussion to which the custom 
afterwards gave rise.^ The ceremony closely resembles the 
Japanese, Hindoo, and Highland customs already described.* 

But in civilised Greece the custom of the scapegoat took 
darker forms than the innocent rite over which the amiable 
and pious Plutarch presided. Whenever Marseilles, one of the 
busiest and most brilliant of Greek colonies, was ravaged by 
a plague, a man of the poorer classes used to offer himself 
as a scapegoat. For a whole year he was maintained at 
the public expense, being fed on choice and pure food. At 
the expiry of the year he was dressed in sacred garments, 
decked with holy branches, and led through the whole city, 
while prayers were uttered that all the evils of the people 
might fall on his head. He was then cast out of the city.* 
The Athenians regularly maintained a number of degraded 
and useless beings at the public expense ; and when any 
calamity, such as plague, drought, or famine, befell the city, 
they sacrificed two of these outcasts as scapegoats. One of 
the victims was sacrificed for the men and the other for the 
women. The former wore round his neck a string of black, 
the latter a string of white figs. Sometimes, it seems, the 
victim slain on behalf of the women was a woman. They 
were led about the city and then sacrificed, apparently by 
being stoned to death outside the city.* But such sacrifices 
were not confined to extraordinary occasions of public 
calamity ; it appears that every year, at the festival of the 

of the old year or beginning of the 
new one in connection with a general 
expulsion of evils. The fact that this 
period of licence immediately preceded 
the procession of the Morris Dancers 
on Plough Monday seems to indicate 
that the functions of these dancers 
were like those which I have attributed 
to the Salii. But the parallel cannot 
be drawn out here. Cp. meantime 
Dyer, British Popular Customs^ pp. 
3*» 39' The Salii were said to have 
been founded by Morrius, King of 
Veii (Servius on Virgil, Actt. viii. 
285). Morrius seems to be etymo- 
logically the same with Mamuritts and 

Mars (Usener, "Italische Mythen," 
Rhiinisches Museum^ N.F., xxx. p. 
213). Can the English Morris (in 
Morris dancers) be the same ? 

* Plutarch, Quaest. Conviv, vi. 8. 

^ See above, pp. 82 sq.^ 108. 

' Servius on Virgil, Aen. iii. 57, 
following Petronius. 

^ Helladius, in Photius, Bibliotheca^ 
p. 534 A, ed. Bekker ; Schol. on Aris- 
tophanes, FrogSy 734, and on Knights^ 
1 1 36 ; Hesychius, j.r. ^p/uueol ; 
cp. Suidas, s.w. Kd$ap/UL, ^p/uucdt, 
and 4>apfiaKo{'z ; Lysias, Orat, vi. 53. 
That they were stoned is an inference 
from Harpocration. See next note. 




Thargelia in May, two victims, one for the men and one for 
the women, were led out of Athens and stoned to death.^ 
The city of Abdera in Thrace was publicly purified once a 
year, and one of the burghers, set apart for the purpose, was 
stoned to death as a scapegoat or vicarious sacrifice for the 
life of all the others.* 

From the Lover's Leap, a white bluff at the southern 
end of their island, the Leucadians used annually to hurl a 
criminal into the sea as a scapegoat. But to lighten his 
fall they fastened live birds and feathers to him, and a 
flotilla of small boats waited below to catch him and convey 
him beyond the boundary. Probably these humane pre- 
cautions were a mitigation of an earlier custom of flinging 
the scapegoat into the sea to drown, just as in Kumaon the 
custom of letting a man slide down a rope from the top of 
a cliff appears to be a modification of an older practice of 
putting him to death. The Leucadian ceremony took place 
at the time of a sacrifice to Apollo, who had a temple or 
sanctuary on the spot* As practised by the Greeks of 
Asia Minor in the sixth century B.C., the custom of the 
scapegoat was as follows. When a city suffered from 
plague, famine, or other public calamity, an ugly or de- 
formed persion was chosen to take upon himself all the evils 
which afflicted the community. He was brought to a suit- 
able place, where dried figs, a barley loaf, and cheese were 
put into his hand. These he ate. Then he was beaten 
seven times upon his genital organs with squills and 
branches of the wild fig and other wild trees. Afterwards 
he was burned on a pyre built of the wood of forest trees ; 


^ Harpocration, s.v, ^pftoKit, who 
says iOo Ai^dpat 'Atfi^nyo'cy i^riyoi^ 
KaOdpcia iff^upovt rift ir6Xcwf iv roit 
OapyriMoit, Ira fih inrip rOv drdpti>r, Ira 
3^ ifwip Tui^ Tvraarcor. He does not 
expressly state that they were put to 
death ; but as he says that the cere- 
mony was an imitation of the execu- 
tion of a mythical Pharmacus who was 
stoned to death, we may infer that the 
victims were killed by being stoned. 
Suidas (s,v, ^p/toKot) copies Harpocra- 

* Ovid, 3ts, 467 sg, 

** Aut ie dev€fV€ai certis Akkra dkbus 

ScLxaque dtvoium grandine plura 

with the scholiast's note, quoted by J. 
Topffer, Beitrdge utr grieckischen Alter- 
/umswissenuAa// {BeTlin, 1897), p. 132. 
The scholiast refers to Callimachus as 
his authority^ 

' Strabo, x. 2. 9. According to 
the manuscript reading in Photius's 
Lexicon^ s,v, Act;«rdn;t, the priests flung 
themselves into the sea ; but the read- 
ing has been altered by the editors. 
As to the Kumaon ceremony see above, 
p. 104 sq. 




and his ashes were cast into the sea.^ A similar custom 
appears to have been annually celebrated by the Asiatic 
Greeks at the harvest festival of the Thargelia.^ 
J In the ritual just described the scourging of the victim 
with squills, branches of the wild fig, and so forth, cannot 
have been intended to aggravate his sufferings, otherwise any 
stick would have been good enough to beat him with. The 
true meaning of this part of the ceremony has been ex- 
plained by W. Mannhardt.^ He points out that the 
ancients attributed to squills a magical power of averting 
evil influences, and accordingly hung them up at the doors 
of their houses and made use of them in purificatory rites/ 
Hence the Arcadian custom of whipping the image of Pan 
with squills at a festival, or whenever the hunters returned 
empty-handed,* must have been meant, not to punish the 
god, but to purify him from the harmful influences which 
were impeding him in the exercise of his divine functions 
as a god who should supply the hunter with game. 
Similarly the object of beating the human scapegoat on the 
genital organs with squills and so on, must have been to 
release his reproductive energies from any restraint or spell 
under which they might be laid by demoniacal or other 
malignant agency ; and as the Thargelia at which he was 
annually sacrificed was an early harvest festival,® we must 
recognise in him a representative of the creative and fertilis- 
ing god of vegetation. The representative of the god was 
annually slain for the purpose I have indicated, that of 
maintaining the divine life in perpetual vigour, untainted 
by the weakness of age ; and before he was put to death it 
was not unnatural to stimulate his reproductive powers in 
order that these might be transmitted in full activity to his 
successor, the new god or new embodiment of the old god. 

' Tzetzcs, Chiliades^ v. 726-761. 
Tzetzes*s authority is the satirical poet 

* This may be inferred from the verse 
of Ilipponax, quoted by Athenaeus, ix. 
p. 370 B, where for ^ap/xdAov we should 
perhaps read ^op/naKoO with Schneide- 
win (Patiae lyrici Cracd? ed. Bcrgk, 
ii. 763). 

^ See his Mythohg, Forschttugen, p. 

113 sqq., especially 123 sg„ 133. 

* Pliny, Nat. Hist. xx. 10 1 ; 
Dioscorides, De mat, med. ii. 202 ; 
Lucian, Necyom. 7 ; /V/., Alexander^ 
47 ; Theophrastus, Superstitious Man. 

*' Theocritus, vii. 106 sqq, with the 

• Cp. Aug. Mommsen, Hiortologie^ 
414 S(j<f. ; \V. Mannhardt, AAV.F. 
p. 215. 






who was doubtless supposed immediately to take the place 
of the one slain.^ Similar reasoning would lead to a 
similar treatment of the scapegoat on special occasions, 
such as drought or famine. If the crops did not answer to 
the expectation of the husbandman, this would be attributed 
to some failure in the generative powers of the god whose 
function it was to produce the fruits of the earth. It might 
be thought that he was under a spell or was growing old and 
feeble. Accordingly he was slain in the person of his re- 
presentative, with all the ceremonies already described, in 
order that, bom young again, he might infuse his own 
youthful vigour into the stagnant energies of nature. On 
the same principle we can understand why Mamurius 
Veturiiis was beaten with rods, why the slave at the 
Chaeronean ceremony was beaten with the agnus castus 
(a tree to which magical properties were ascribed),* why the 
effigy of Death in some parts of Europe is assailed with sticks 
and stones, and why at Babylon the criminal who played the 
god was scourged before he was crucified. The purpose of 
the scourging was not to intensify the agony of the divine 
sufferer, but on the contrary to dispel any malignant in- 
fluences by which at the supreme moment he might con- 
ceivably be beset. 

The interpretation here given of the custom of beating 
the human scapegoat with certain plants is supported by 
many analogies. With the same intention some of the 
Brazilian Indians beat themselves on the genital organs with 
an aquatic plant, the white aninga^ three days before or 
after the new moon.^ We have already had examples of 
the custom of beating sick people with the leaves of certain 
plants or with branches in order to rid them of noxious 
influences.* Some of the Dravidian tribes of Northern 
India, who attribute epilepsy, hysteria, and similar maladies 


^ At certain sacrifices in Yucatan 
blood was drawn from the genitals of a 
human victim and smeared on the face 
of the idoL See De Landa, Relation 
des choses de Ytuatan^ ed. Brasseur de 
Bourbourg (Paris, 1864), p. 167. Was 
the original intention of this rite to 
transfuse into the god a fresh supply of 
reproductive energy ? 

' Aelian, Nat, Anim, ix. 26. 

^ De Santa -Anna Nery, Folk- lore 
Brisilien (Paris, 1889), p. 253. 

* Above, pp. 2, 98 sq. Compare 
Pluurch, ParalUla^ 35, where a woman 
is represented as going from house to 
house striking sick people with a hammer 
and bidding them be whole. 


to demoniacal possession, endeavour to cure the sufferer by 
thrashing him soundly with a sacred iron chain, which is 
believed to have the effect of immediately expelling the 
demon.^ When a herd of camels refuses to drink, the Arabs 
will sometimes beat the male beasts on the back to drive away 
the jinn who are riding them and frightening the females.^ In 
Bikol, the south-western part of Luzon, it was generally believed 
that if the evil spirit Aswang were not properly exorcised 
he took possession of the bodies of the dead and tormented 
them. Hence to deliver a corpse from his clutches the 
native priestesses used to beat it with a brush or whisk 
made of the leaves of the aromatic China orange, while they 
chanted a certain song, throwing their bodies into con- 
tortions and uttering shrill cries, as if the evil spirit had 
entered into themselves. The soul of the deceased, thus de- 
livered from the cruel tyranny of Aswang, was then free to 
roam at pleasure along the charming lanes or in the thick 
shade of the forest.* 

Sometimes it appears that a beating is administered for 
the purpose of ridding people of a ghost who may be 
clinging too closely to their persons ; in such cases the 
blows, though they descend on the bodies of the living, are 
really aimed at the spirit of the dead, and have no other 
object than to drive it away, just as a coachman will flick 
the back of a horse with his whip to rid the beast of a 
fly. At a funeral in the island of Halmahera, before the 
coffin is lowered into the grave, all the relations whip them- 
selves on the head and shoulders with wands made of plants 
which are believed to possess the power of keeping off 
evil spirits. The intention of the custom is said to be to 
bring back their own spectres or souls and to prevent them 
from following the ghost ; but this may fairly be interpreted 
to mean that the blows are directed to brushing off the 
ghost, who would otherwise abstract the soul of the person 

* W. Crooke, Introduction to the Algiers, 18S4), p. 189. 
Popular Religion and Folklore of * H. Kern, ** Een Spanisch sclirijvcr 

Northern India, pp. 61, loo ; id,, over den godsdienst der heidensche 

7 rihes and Castes ^ the North' Western Wkollers," Bijdragen tot de Taal- 

Provinces eutd Oudh, iii. 333, 441, Land- eti Volkenkunde van Neder- 

44$. laftdsch'/ndii', xlvii. (1S97), p. 232 jy. 

" A. Certeux et E. H. Camoy, The Spanish authority is Father Jose 

UAlgirie Traditionclle (Paris and CastaBo. 

VOL. Ill K 




on whose body he was allowed to settle. This interpreta- 
tion is strongly confirmed by the practice, observed by the 
same people on the same occasion, of throwing the trunk 
of a banana-tree into the grave, and telling the dead man 
that it is a companion for him ; for this practice is ex- 
pressly intended to prevent the deceased from feeling lonely, 
and so coming back to fetch away a friend.^ The Ban- 
manas of Senegambia think that the soul of a dead infant 
becomes for a time a wandering and maleficent spirit 
Accordingly when a baby dies, all the uncircumcised children 
of the same sex in the village run about the streets in a 
band, each armed with three or four supple rods. Some of 
them enter every house to beg, and while they are doing so, 
one of the troop, propping himself against the wall with 
his hands, is lashed by another of the children on his back 
or legs till the blood flows. Each of the children takes it 
in turn to be thus whipped. The object of the whipping, 
we are told, "appears to be to preserve the uncircumcised 
child from being carried off by its comrade who has just 
died.*'* The severe scourgings inflicted on each other by 
some South American Indians at ceremonies connected 
with the dead may be similarly intended to chase away the 
dangerous ghost, who is conceived as sticking like a leech 
or a bur to the skin of the living.* 

At the autumn festival in Peru people used to strike 
each other with torches, saying, " Let all harm go away." * 
Indians of the Quixos, in South America, before they set 
out on a long hunting expedition, cause their wives to whip 
them with nettles, believing that this renders them fleeter, 
and helps them to overtake the peccaries. They resort to the 
same proceeding as a cure for sickness.^ The Roocooyen 


1 }. M. van Baarda, « He de Hal- 
maheira," BuUetins tU la SocUU d'Aft- 
thropohgie de Part's^ Quatri^me S^rie, 
iii. (1892), p. 545. The custom of 
throwing a banana •trunk into the 
grave has been already noticed (vol. 

". p. 345)- 

s Revue d'Ethnographie, iii. (1885), 

P- 395 ^9- 

' R. Schomburgk, Reisen in 

Britisch'Ctdana^ ii« 457 sqq, ; Bernau, 

Missionary Labours in British Guiana^ 
p. 52 ; Von Martius, Zur Ethnographie 
Amerika^s^ p. 694 sq,\ J. Crevaux, 
Voyages dans VAnUrique du Sud^ p. 

♦ Acosta, History of the Indies^ vol. 
ii« P- 375 (Hakluyt Society). See 
above, p. 76. 

* Osculati, Esploratione delle regioni 
equatoriali lungo il Napo ed U fiume 
delle Amatsoni {}\\\aLXk^ 1854), P* Ii8. 


Indians of French Guiana train up young people in the way 
they should go by causing them to be stung by ants and 
wasps ; and at the ceremony held for this purpose the 
grown-up people improve the occasion by allowing them- 
selves to be whacked by the chief with a stick over the 
arms, the legs, and the chest. They appear to labour under 
an impression that this conveys to them all sorts of moral 
and physical excellences. One of the tribe, ambitious of 
acquiring the European virtues, begged a French traveller to 
be so kind as to give him a good hiding. The traveller 
did his best to gratify him, and the face of the Indian 
beamed with gratitude as the blows fell on his naked back.^ 
The Delaware Indians had two sovereign remedies for sin ; 
one was an emetic, the other a thrashing. In the latter 
■case, the remedy was administered by means of twelve 
different sticks, with which the sinner was belaboured from 
the soles of his feet up to his neck. In both cases the sins 
were supposed to be expelled from the body, and to pass 
out through the throat* At Mowat in New Guinea small 
boys are beaten lightly with sticks during December " to 
make them grow strong and hardy." ' 

In some parts of Eastern and Central Europe a similar 
•custom is very commonly observed in spring. On the first 
of March the Albanians strike men and beast with cornel 
branches, believing that this is very good for their health.* 
In March the Greek peasants of Cos switch their cattle, 
saying, " It is March, and up with your tail ! " They think 
that the ceremony benefits the animals, and brings good 
luck. It is never observed at any other time of the year.* 
In some parts of Mecklenburg it is customary to beat the 
<:attle before sunrise on the morning of Good Friday with 
rods of buckthorn, which are afterwards concealed in some 
secret place where neither sun nor moon can shine on them. 
The belief is that though the blows light upon the animals, 

1 H. Coudreau, Chez nos Inditus : Mowat, Daudai, New Guinea,"y47tfrvtf/ 

quaire annJcs dans la Cuyane Fran- of the AntkropologUal Instiiitte, xix. 

faise (Paris, 1 895), p. 544. (1890), p. 464. 

^ G. II. Loskiel, History of the * J.Cv.Hahn^A/daNesucheStudien 

MiasioH of the United Brethren among (Jena, 1854), i. 155. 

the Indians in North America (London, * W. H. D. Rouse, ** Folklore from 

'794)t P« 37- the southern Sporadcs," Folk-lorey x. 

^ E. Ueardmore, ** The natives of (1899), p. 179. 




the pain of them is felt by the witches who are riding the 
beasts.^ In the neighbourhood of Iserlohn, in Westphalia, 
the herdsman rises at peep of dawn on May morning, 
climbs a hill, and cuts down the young rowan-tree which 
is the first to catch the beams of the rising sun. With 
this he returns to the farm-yard. The heifer which the 
farmer desires to ** quicken " is then led to the dunghill, 
and the herdsman strikes it over the hind-quarters, the 
haunches, and the udders with a branch of the rowan- 
tree, saying, 

** Quick, quick, quick ! 
Bring milk into the dugs. 
The sap is in the birches. 
The heifer receives a name. 

*' Quick, quick, quick ! 
Bring milk into the dugs. 
The sap comes in the beeches, 
The leaf comes on the oak. 

" Quick, quick, quick ! 
Bring milk into the dugs. 
In the name of the sainted Greta, 
Gold-flower shall be thy name," 

and so on.^ The intention of the ceremony appears to be 
to make sure that the heifer shall in due time yield a 
plentiful supply of milk ; and this is perhaps supposed to 
be brought about by driving away the witches, who are 
particularly apt, as we have seen,* to rob the cows of their 
milk on the morning of May Day. In the north-east of 
Scotland pieces of rowan-tree and woodbine, or of rowan 
alone, used to be placed over the doors of the cow-houses on 
May Day to keep the witches from the kine ; and a still 
better way of attaining the same object was to tie a cross 
of rowan-tree wood with a scarlet thread to each animal's 
tail.* In Germany also the rowan-tree is a protection 
against witchcraft ; ^ and Norwegian sailors and fishermen 

' K. Bartsch, Sagen^ Marchen und 
CtkraucJu aus Meklenburgy iL p. 258, 

§ 1348. 

« J. F. L. Wocste, VolksiibcrlU' 

ferungen in der Grafschaft Mark 

(Iserlohn, 1848), p. 25 sq, ; A. Kuhn, 

Die Herahkunft des Fetters ttnd des 

GOttertranks^ p. 16 1 sqq. The cere- 

mony takes its name of " quickening; ** 
from Qtiieke or QtiickenAau/m, a German 
name for the rowan-tree. 
' VoL i. p. 194, note 3. 

* W. Gregor, Folk-lore of the North- 
East of Scotland^ p. 188. 

* Wuttke, Der detttsche Volksaber- 
glaube^^ p. 106, § 145. 






cany a piece of it in their boats for good luck.^ Thus the 
benefit to young cows of beating them with rowan is not 
the positive one of pouring milk into their udders, but 
merely the negative one of averting evil influence ; and the 
same may perhaps be said of most of the beatings with 
which we are here concerned. 

On Good Friday and the two previous days people in 
Croatia and Slavonia take rods with them to church, and when 
the service is over they beat each other " fresh and healthy."* 
In some parts of Russia people returning from the church 
on Palm Sunday beat the children and servants who have 
stayed at home with palm branches, saying, " Sickness into 
the forest, health into the bones."' In Germany and Austria 
the custom is widely known as Schmeckostem or "Easter 
smacks," being observed at Eastertide. People beat each 
other, commonly with fresh green twigs of the birch or the 
willow. The beating is supposed to bring good luck ; the 
person beaten will, it is believed, be free of vermin during 
the summer, or will have no pains in his back or his legs 
for a year. Often it is the women only who are treated to 
" Easter smacks," but not uncommonly the two sexes beat 
each other, sometimes on different days. Frequently the 
women and girls arc expected to present red Easter eggs to 
the men or boys who beat them.* The custom appears to be 
of Slavonic origin ; at least it prevails chiefly in districts 
where the people arc, or once were, Slavs. In Masuren the 
rods or bundles of twigs are afterwards laid by and used to 
drive the cattle out to pasture for the first time.** 

If the view here taken of the Greek scapegoat is correct, 
it obviates an objection which might otherwise be brought 
against the main ailment of this chapter. To the theory 
that the priest of Aricia was slain as a representative of the 

* Wocste, op, cit, p. 26. 

' F. S. Krauss, Kroatien und 
SfavonUn (Vienna, 1889), p. 108. 

3 W. Mannhardt, B.A\ p. 257. 

*• Th. Vernalcken, Mythen und 
Briitu'he der Volkfs /// Ofsftrmch^ p. 
300 jy. ; Rcinsbcrg-DUringsfcId, /vj/- 
Kalender aits Boh men ^ pp. 163-167; 
A. l*eter, I'o/ks/huw/iihts atts Ocsttr. 
reuhisch-SihUsien^ \\. 28$; W. Miiller, 

Bt'i/raji^ ziir I 'olkskunde der Deuiscktn 
in Miihreny pp. 322, 399 sq, ; J, A. EI. 
Kcihlcr, I'olksbrauch^ etc, im Voigt' 
huuit\ p. 173 Jy. ; \VuUke,A?r<ir///j<*i^ 
/ olkscther^hnht'^^ p. 70, § 83 ; M. 
Toppen, Aheri^/auhfn ans Masuren^ 
p. 69 ; W. Mannhardt, B,A'. pp. 258* 
263. Sec Mnnnhardt*s whole discus- 
sion of such aistoms, op. n't, pp. 231- 
303, and Afyfh, Borsch, pp. 1 13-153. 




spirit of the grove, it might have been objected that such a 
custom has no analogy in classical antiquity. But reasons 
have now been given for believing that the human being 
periodically and occasionally slain by the Asiatic Greeks 
was regularly treated as an embodiment of a divinity. 
Probably the persons whom the Athenians kept to be 
sacrificed were similarly treated as divine. That they were 
social outcasts did not matter. On the primitive view a 
man is not chosen to be the mouth-piece or embodiment of 
a god on account of his high moral qualities or social rank. 
The divine afflatus descends equally on the good and the 
bad, the lofty and the lowly. If then the civilised Greeks 
of Asia and Athens habitually sacrificed men whom they 
regarded as incarnate gods, there can be no inherent im- 
probability in the supposition that at the dawn of history 
a similar custom was observed by the semi-barbarous Latins 
in the Arician Grove. 

§ 1 6. Killing tfu God in Mexico 

But the religion of ancient Mexico, as it was found 
and described by the Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth 
century, offers perhaps a closer parallel to the rule of the 
Arician priesthood, as I conceive that rule to have been 
originally observed. Certainly nowhere does the custom of 
killing the human representative of a god appear to have been 
carried out so systematically and on so extensive a scale as in 
Mexico. " They took a captive," says Acosta, " such as they 
thought good ; and afore they did sacrifice him unto their 
idols, they gave him the name of the idol, to whom he should 
be sacrificed, and apparelled him with the same ornaments 
like their idol, saying that he did represent the same idol. 
And during the time that this representation lasted, which 
was for a year in some feasts, in others six months, and in 
others less, they reverenced and worshipped him in the same 
manner as the proper idol ; and in the meantime he did 
cat, drink, and was merry. When he went through the 
streets the people came forth to worship him, and every one 
brought him an alms, with children and sick folks, that he 
might cure them, and bless them, suffering him to do all 

Ill IN MEXICO 135 

things at his pleasure, only he was accompanied with ten or 
twelve men lest he should fly. And he (to the end he 
might be reverenced as he passed) sometimes sounded upon 
a small flute, that the people might prepare to worship 
him. The feast being come, and he grown fat, they killed 
him, opened him, and eat him, making a solemn sacriflce 
of him."^ For example, at the annual festival of the great 
god Tezcatlipoca, which fell about Easter or a few days 
later, a young man was chosen to be the living image of 
Tezcatlipoca for a whole year. He had to be of un- 
blemished body, and he was carefully trained to sustain his 
lofty part with becoming grace and dignity. During the 
year he was lapped in luxury, and the king himself took 
care that the future victim was apparelled in gorgeous attire, 
"for already he esteemed him as a god." Attended by 
eight pages clad in the royal livery, the young man roamed 
the streets of the capital day and night at his pleasure, 
carrying flowers and playing the flute. All who saw him 
fell on their knees before him and adored him, and he 
graciously acknowledged their homage. Twenty days before 
the festival at which he was to be sacrificed, four damsels, 
delicately nurtured, and bearing the names of four goddesses, 
were given him to be his brides. For five days before 
the sacrifice divine honours were showered on him more 
abundantly than ever. The king remained in his palace, 
while the whole court went after the destined victim. Every- 
where there were solemn banquets and balls. On the last 
day the young man, still attended by his pages, was ferried 
across the lake in a covered barge to a small and lonely 
temple, which, like the Mexican temples in general, rose in 
the form of a pyramid. As he ascended the stairs of the 
temple he broke at every step one of the flutes on which 
he had played in the days of his glory. On reaching the 
summit he was seized and held down on a block of stone, 
while a priest cut open his breast with a stone knife, and 
plucking out his heart, oflcred it to the sun. His head was 
hung among the skulls of previous victims, and his legs and 

* Acosta, History of the Indies^ vol. Gmeral History of the vast Continent 
ii. p. 323 (Hakluyt Soc. 1880). I have and Islands of America^ trans, by 
modernised the spelling. Cp. Ilcrrera, Stevens, iii. 207 sq. 




arms were cooked and prepared for the table of the lords. 
His place was immediately filled up by another young man, 
who for a year was treated with the same profound respect, 
and at the end of it shared the same fate.^ 

The idea that the god thus slain in the person of his 
representative comes to life again immediately, was graphic- 
ally represented in the Mexican ritual by skinning the slain 
man-god and clothing in his skin a living man, who thus 
became the new representative of the godhead. For example, 
at an annual festival a woman was sacrificed who repre- 
sented Toci, the Mother of the Gods, or the Earth-goddess. 
She was dressed with the ornaments, and bore the name of 
the goddess, whose living image she was believed to be. 
After being feasted and diverted with sham fights for several 
days, she was taken at midnight to the summit of a temple, 
and beheaded on the shoulders of a man. The body was 
immediately flayed, and one of the priests, clothing himself 
in the skin, became the representative of the goddess Toci. 
The skin of the woman's thigh was removed separately, and 
a young man who represented the maize-god Cinteotl, the 
son of the goddess Toci, wrapt it round his face like a mask. 
Various ceremonies then followed, in which the two men, 
clad in the woman's skin, played the parts respectively of 
the god and goddess.' For example, when the principal 
victims had been slain, their blood was offered to the repre- 
sentative of the maize-god in a vessel decked with feathers. 
This he tasted, bending over the vessel and dipping his 
finger in the blood while he uttered a loud and doleful groan, 
which caused all that heard it to shudder and quake. At 


> Sahagun, I/istoire ginirale des 
choses de la NottveUe Espagne (Paris, 
1880), pp. 61 j^., 96-99, 103 ; Acosta, 
History of the Indies^ vol. ii. p. 350 
sqq, (Ilakluyt Society); Clavigero, 
History of Mexico^ trans, by Cullen, i. 
300 ; lirasseur de Bourbourg, Histoire 
dfs Nations civHisies du Alcxique et 
di lAnUriqtu Centrale^vL 510-512; 
Bancroft, jVatiit Races of the Pacific 
States, ii. 319 sg. The sacramental 
banquet on the flesh of this dead god has 
been already noticed (vol. ii. p. 342 sq,). 
For other Mexican instances of persons 

representing deities and slain in that 
character, see Sahagun, pp. 75, 116 
sq,, 123, 158 sq,, 164 sq,, 585 sqq.^ 
589 ; Acosta, ii. 384 sqq. ; Clavigero, 
L 312 ; Brasseur de Bourbourg, ilL 
517 sq,, 519 sq., 527 sq„ 529 sq,, 
535 ^9'> Bancroft, ii. 325 sqq„ 
337 sq. 

' Sahagun, pp. iZ sq,, 68 sq,, 133- 
139; Brasseur de Bourbourg, iii. 
523.525 ; Bancroft, iii. 353-359 ; E. 
J. Payne, History of the New World 
called America, i. 470 sq. 

Ill IN MEXICO 137 

the same moment, as the Indians firmly believed, a tremor 
ran through the earth itself.^ Again, at the annual festival 
of the god Totec, a number of captives having been killed 
and skinned, a priest clothed himself in one of their skins, 
and thus became the image of the god Totec. Then wear- 
ing the ornaments of the god — a crown of feathers, golden 
necklaces and ear-rings, scarlet shoes, and so forth — he was 
enthroned, and received offerings of the first-fruits and first 
flowers of the season, together with bunches of the maize 
which had been kept for seed.* Every fourth year the 
Quauhtitlans offered sacrifices in honour of the god of 
fire. On the eve of the festival they, sacrificed two slaves, 
skinned them, and took out their thigh bones. Next day 
two priests clothed themselves in the skins, took the bones 
in their hands, and with solemn steps and dismal bowlings 
descended the stairs of the temple. The people, who were 
assembled in crowds below, called out, " Behold, there come 
our gods." • 

Thus it appears that human sacrifices of the sort I 
suppose to have prevailed at Aricia were, as a matter of 
fact, systematically offered on a large scale by a people 
whose level of culture was probably not inferior, if indeed it 
was not distinctly superior, to that occupied by the Italian 
races at the early period to which the origin of the Arician 
priesthood must be referred. The positive and indubitable 
evidence of the prevalence of such sacrifices in one part of 
the world may reasonably be allowed to strengthen the 
probability of their prevalence in places for which the 
evidence is less full and trustworthy. Taken all together, 
the facts which we have passed in review seem to show that 
the custom of killing men whom their worshippers regard 
as divine has prevailed in many parts of the world. But 
to clinch the argument, it is clearly desirable to prove 
that the custom of putting to death a human representative 
of a god was known and practised in ancient Italy elsewhere 
than in the Arician Grove. This proof I now propose to 

> E. J. Payne, op, cii, i. 47a j^., 60, 87 sgg., 93; Clavigero, i. 297 ; 

> Sahagun, p. 584 sq. For this Ikincroft, ii. 306 sqq. 
festival see also i^, pp. 37 j^., 58 ' Clavigero, i. 283. 





§ 1 7. The Saturnalia and Kindred Festivals 

In an earlier part of this chapter we saw that many 
peoples have been used to observe an annual period of 
licence, when the customary restraints of law and morality 
arc thrown aside, when the whole population give them- 
selves up to extravagant mirth and jollity, and when the 
darker passions findj a vent which would never be allowed 
them in the more staid and sober course of ordinary life. 
Such outbursts of the pent-up forces of human nature, too 
often degenerating into wild orgies of lust and crime, occur 
most commonly at the end of the year, and are frequently 
associated, as I have had occasion to point out, with one or 
other of the agricultural seasons, especially with the time of 
sowing or of harvest Now, of all these periods of licence 
the one which is best known and which in modem lan- 
guages has given its name to the rest, is the Saturnalia. 
This famous festival fell in December, the last month of the 
Roman year, and was popularly supposed to commemorate 
the merry reign of Saturn, the god of sowing and of 
husbandry, who lived on earth long ago as a righteous 
and beneficent king of Italy, drew the rude and scattered 
dwellers on the mountains together, taught them to till the 
ground, gave them laws, and ruled in peace. His reign was 
the fabled Golden Age ; the earth brought forth abundantly ; 
no sound of war or discord troubled the happy world ; no 
baleful love of lucre worked like poison in the blood of the 
industrious and contented peasantry. Slavery and private 
property were alike unknown ; all men had all things in 
common. At last the good god, the kindly king, vanished 
suddenly ; but his memory was cherished to distant ages, 
shrines were reared in his honour, and many hills and high 
places in Italy bore his name.^ Yet the bright tradition of 

* Virgil, Aen, viii. 319-327, niih 
the comments of Servius ; Ovid, Fasli, 
i. 233 sqq, ; Lucian, Sa/urna/ia, 7 ; 
Macrobius, So/, i. 7. 21-26; Justin, 
xliii. I. 3-5 ; .Aorelius Victor, Orix^o 
j^entis Romanae^ 3; Dionysius Ilali- 
camasensi^, Antiquit, Rom, i. 34. 
On Saturn ami the Saturnalia see. 
especially Preller, Romiscke Mytho- 

lo^e? ii. 10 sqq, A good account of 
the Saturnalia, based on the texts of 
the classical writers, is given by Dezobry 
{Rome au sitcU tTAuguste^ iii. 143 
sqq.). The name Saturn seems to be 
etymoIo(;ically akin to satus and saiic^ 
•« a sowing ** or " planting." Compare 
Festus, s.x\ ** Opima spolia," p. 186 
ed. MlUler : ** ipse \Satumus\ agronim 




his reign was crossed by a dark shadow : his altars are said 
to have been stained with the blood of human victims, for 
whom a more merciful age afterwards substituted effigies.* 
Of this gloomy side of the god's religion there is little or no 
trace in the descriptions which ancient writers have left us 
of the Saturnalia* Feasting and revelry and all the mad 
pursuit of pleasure are the features that seem to have 
especially marked this carnival of antiquity, as it went on 
for seven days in the streets and public squares and houses 
of ancient Rome from the seventeenth to the twenty-third of 
December.^ But no feature of the festival is more remarkable, 
nothing in it seems to have struck the ancients themselves 
more than the licence granted to slaves at this time. The 
distinction between the free and the servile classes was 
temporarily abolished. The slave might rail at his master, 
intoxicate himself like his betters, sit down at table with them, 
and not even a word of reproof would be administered to 
him for conduct which at any other season might have been 
punished with stripes, imprisonment, or death.' Nay, more, 
masters actually changed places with their slaves and 
waited on them at table ; and not till the serf had done 
eating and drinking was the board cleared and dinner set 
for his master/ So far was this inversion of ranks carried, 
that each household became for a time a mimic republic in 
which the high offices of state were discharged by the 
slaves, who gave their orders and laid down the law as if 
they were indeed invested with all the dignity of the 
consulship, the praetorship, and the bench.^ Like the pale 
reflection of power thus accorded to bondsmen at the 
Saturnalia was the mock kingship for which freemen cast 
lots at the same season. The person on whom the lot fell 

cultor habttury nominatus a saiu, 
tenensqtu falcem effingitur^ quae est 
insigne agncolae,** 

1 Dionysius Halicarn. Atit, Rom, i. 
38 ; Macrobius, Sat, L 7. 31; Lac- 
tantius, i. 21 ; Amobius, ii. 68. 

' For the general dissipation of the 
Saturnalia see Seneca, Epist. 18; for 
the seven clays of the popular festival 
see Martial, xiv. 72. 2 ; Macrobius, 
Sat. i. 10. 2 ; Lucian, Saturnalia^ 21. 

' Horace, Sat, it 7. 4 sq, ; Macro- 
bius, Sai, i. 7. 26 ; Justin, xliii. i . 
4 ; Plutarch, Sttlla^ 18 ; Lucian, 
Saturnalia^ 5, 7* 

^ Macrobius, Sat. i. 12. 7, i. 24. 
23 ; Solinus, i. 35 ; Joannes Lydus, 
De niensibuSf iii. 15; Athenaeus, xiv. 
p. 639 B ; Dio Cassius, Ix. 19. 

* Seneca, Epist. 47. 14. Coinj^arc 
Porphyry, De abstinattia^ ii. 23. 


enjoyed the title of king, and issued commands of a playful 
and ludicrous nature to his temporary subjects. One of 
them he might order to mix the wine, another to drink, 
another to sing, another to dance, another to speak in his 
own dispraise, another to carry a flute-girl on his back 
round the house.^ 

Now, when we remember that the liberty allowed to 
slaves at this festive season was supposed to be an imitation 
of the state of society in Saturn's time, and that in general 
the Saturnalia passed for nothing more or less than a 
temporary revival or restoration of the reign of that merry 
monarch, we are tempted to surmise that the mock king 
who presided over the revels may have originally represented 
Saturn himself. The conjecture is strongly confirmed, if not 
established, by a very curious and interesting account of the 
way in which the Saturnalia was celebrated by the Roman 
soldiers stationed on the Danube in the reign of Maximian 
and Diocletian. The account is preserved in a narrative of 
the martyrdom of St Dasius, which has lately been unearthed 
from a Greek manuscript in the Paris library, and published 
by Professor Franz Cumont of Ghent Two briefer descrip- 
tions of the event and of the custom are contained in manu- 
scripts at Milan and Berlin ; one of them had already seen 
the light in an obscure volume printed at Urbino in 1727, 
but its importance for the history of the Roman religion, 
both ancient and modem, appears to have been overlooked 
until Professor Cumont drew the attention of scholars to all 
three narratives by publishing them together a few years ago.* 
According to these narratives, which have all the appearance 
of being authentic, and of which the longest is probably 
based on official documents, the Roman soldiers at Duros- 
tolum in Lower Moesia celebrated the Saturnalia year by 
year in the following manner. Thirty days before the 
festival they chose by lot from amongst themselves a young 

' Tacitus, Annals^ xiii. 15 ; Arrian, courteously sending me a copy of this 

Epitieti Dissert, \. 25. 8 ; Lucian, important paper, llie bearing of the 

Saturnalia^ 4. new evidence on the Saturnalia has 

been further discussed by Messrs. Par- 

' ** I.,es Actes de S. Dasius,*' Ana- mentier and Cumont ("Leroides Satur- 

lt€ta BoUandiana^ xvi. (1897), pp. $• niXc&y^^ Revue de Philclogie^ xx\, {\%^^')^ 

16. I have to thank Prof. Cumont for pp. 143- 1 53). 



and handsome man, who was then clothed in royal attire to 
resemble Saturn. Thus arrayed and attended by a multi- 
tude of soldiers he went about in public with full licence to 
indulge his passions and to taste of every pleasure, however 
base and shameful. But if his reign was merry, it was short 
and ended tragically ; for when the thirty days were up and 
the festival of Saturn had come, he cut bis own throat on 
the altar of the god whom he personated.^ In the year 303 
A.D. the lot fell upon the Christian soldier Dasius, but 
he refused to play the part of the heathen god and soil 
his last days by debauchery. The threats and arguments 
of his commanding officer Bassus failed to shake his con- 
stancy, and accordingly he was beheaded, as the Christian 
martyrologist records with minute accuracy, at Durostolum by 
the soldier John on Friday the twentieth day of November^ 
being the twenty- fourth day of the moon, at the fourth 

This account sets in a new and lurid light the office of 
the King of the Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, 
who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of 
Horace and of Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business 
had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merry- 
andrew whose only care was that the revfelry should run 
high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed 
and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with 
festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to 
the north, Soracte showed his coronal of snow. When we 
compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilised 
metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on 
the Danube, and when we remember the long array of 
similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and 
in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapt in sceptred 
palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or 
days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we 
can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at 
Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a 

' The phrase of the Paris MS. is mock king perished hy his own hand 

ambiguous (roTt (Uwri/fuxt ira2 fiwrapots {tUXKo^ra iavrbf iwifftp^ax rf fiii/ufi rov 

c/dc&Xoif 'rpoc€K6/u^€¥ iavrbtf cxot'd'^i^, Kp6wov, Berlin MS. ; iavr^ ixw^ai. 

dyaiffoi'fjLtwot inrb ftaxulpas) ; but the avToxflp»t fi Kp^y, Milan MS.), 
other two versions say plainly that the 




feeble emasculated copy of that original, whose strong 
features have been fortunately preserved for us by the 
obscure author of the Martyrdom of SL Dasius, In other 
words, the martyrologist*s account of the Saturnalia agrees 
so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere, which 
could not possibly have been known to him, that the 
substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as 
established ; and further, since the custom of putting a mock 
king to death as a representative of a god cannot have 
grown out of a practice of appointing him to preside over a 
holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have 
happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier 
and more barbarous age it was the universal practice in 
ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to 
choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the 
traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, 
whether by his own or another's hand, whether by the knife 
or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the 
good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself 
and other great towns the growth of civilisation had prob- 
ably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan 
age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in 
the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a 
passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But 
in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may long 
have survived ; and even if after the unification of Italy the 
barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, 
the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants 
and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the 
lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a 
recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude 
soldiery on the outskirts of the empire over whom the 
once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grasp.^ 

1 The opinion that at Rome a man 
used to be sacrificed at the Saturnalia 
cannot be regarded as in itself im- 
probable, when we remember that 
down apparently to the esublisbment 
of Christianity a human victim was 
slaughtered every year at Rome in 
honour of Latian Jupiter. See Ter- 
tullian, Apologeticus^ 9, Contra Cnos- 

ticos Scerpiaee, 7 ; Minucius Felix, 
Octavim^ 22 and 30; Lactantius, i. 
21 ; Porphyry, De abstinent ia^ ii. 56. 
We may conjecture that at first the 
sacrifice took place on the top of the 
Alban Mountain, and was oflfered to 
Saturn, to whom, as we have seen, 
high places were sacred. 




The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and 
the Carnival of modern Italy has been often remarked ; but 
in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we 
may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to 
identity. I have shown that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, 
in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest 
and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a 
burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after 
a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, 
burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine 
delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the 
Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other 
than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, 
the master of the revels, the real man who personated 
Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death 
in his assumed character. The King of the Bean on 
Twelfth Night and the mediaeval Bishop of Fools, Abbot 
of Unreason, or Lord of Misrule are figures of the same 
sort and may perhaps have had a similar origin.^ 

^ As to the King of the Bean, see 
Boemus, Afores^ leges et riius omnium 
gentium {Lyons, 1541), p. 222; Laisnel, 
de la Salle, Croyances et IJgtndes du 
Centre de la France^ i. 19-29 ; I^coeur, 
Esquissesdu Bocage Normandy ii. 125 ; 
Schmitz, Sitten und Sagen des Eifler 
Vblkes, i. 6 si/. ; Brand, Popular 
Afttiquities, i. 21 sgq, ; Cortet, Fftes 
religieuses, p. 29 sqg. As to the 
Bishop of Fools, Abbot of Unreason, 
Lord of Misrule, etc, see Brand, op, cit, 
i. 497 sqq. ; B^renger-F^raud, Super' 
s/itions et Survivances, iv. 4 sqq, A 
clue to the original functions of the 
King of the Bean on Twelfth Night 
is perhaps furnished by the popular 
belief that the weather for the ensuing 
twelve months was determined by 
the weather of the twelve days from 
Christmas to Twelfth Day, the weather 
of each particular month being prog- 
nosticated from that of one particular 
day. See Brand, op, cit, i. 28 ; 
Bartsch,54t^M, Aldrchen und Gebrduche 
aus Afeklenburg, ii. 250, § 1 292; 
Birlinger, Volksthumliches aus Schwa- 
ben, \, 468 sq., 470; Haltrich, 
Zur Volkskundc drr Siebenbiirger 

Sachsen (Vienna, 1885), p. 282 ; 
Witzschel, Sagen, Sitten und Gebrduche 
aus ThUringen, p. 1 75, § 29 ; Schneller, 
Aldrchen und Sagen aus IValschtirol, 
p. 231, § 4; Montanus, Die diutsche 
Volksfeste, p. 18; Lecoeur, Esquisses 
du Bocage Normand, ii. 20 sq, ; E. 
Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten und 
Gebrduche cuts Schwaben, p. 473, { 
237 ; Kuhn und Schwartz, Nard- 
deutsche Sagen, Aldrchen und Gebrduche, 
p. 411, § 163; A. Kuhn, Sagen, 
Gcbriinche und Aldrchen aus IVestfaleti, 
ii. p. 1x5, § 354. May we conjecture 
that the King of the Bean formerly 
reigned during these twelve days, and 
that one of his chief functions was to 
perform magical ceremonies for en- 
suring good weather throughout the 
coming year? It is at least notice- 
able that the number twelve meet» 
us often in the present line of inquiry. 
In Gloucestershire on the eve of the 
Twelfth Day the farm-ser\'ants used 
to assemble in a cornfield and kindle 
twelve fires in a row, round the largest 
of which they drank to the health of 
their master and the success of the 
harvest (Pennant, <*Tour in Scot- 




As the Carnival is always held on the last three days 
before the beginning of Lent, its date shifts somewhat from 
year to year, but it invariably falls either in February or 
March. Now, if the Saturnalia, like many other seasons of 
licence, was always observed at the end of the old year or 
the beginning of the new one, it must, like the Carnival, 
have been originally held in February or March at the time 
when March was the first month of the Roman year. So 
strong and persistent are the conservative instincts of the 
peasantry in respect to old custom, that it would be no 
matter for surprise if, in rural districts of Italy, the ancient 
festival continued to be celebrated at the ancient time long 
after the change of the calendar had shifted the official 
celebration of the Saturnalia in the towns from February to 
December. Latin Christianity, which struck at the root of 
official or civic paganism, has always been tolerant of its 
rustic cousins, the popular festivals and ceremonies which, 
unaffected by political and religious revolutions, by the 
passing of empires and of gods, have been carried on by the 
people with but little change from time immemorial, and 
represent in fact the original stock from which the state 
religions of classical antiquity were comparatively late off- 
shoots. Thus it may very well have come about that while 
the new faith stamped out the Saturnalia in the towns, it 
suffered the original festival, disguised by a difference of 
date, to linger unmolested in the country ; and so the old 
feast of Saturn, under the modem name of the Carnival, has 
reconquered the cities, and goes on merrily under the eye 
and with the sanction of the Catholic Church. 

The opinion that the Saturnalia originally fell in Feb- 
ruary or the beginning of March receives some support from 


land,*' in Pinkerton's Voyof^s and 
Travels^ iii. 49 ; Brand, op, at, i. 33, 
compare 28). In Ireland on the same 
day "they use to set up as high as 
they can a sieve of oats, and in it a 
dozen of candles set round, and in the 
centre one larger, all lighted" (Sir 
Henry Piers, quoted by Brand, op, at, 
L 25). We shall see presently that 
at Athens the festival of Cronus — the 
Greek Saturn — fell on the twelfth day 

of the month Hecatombaeon, and ihat 
a cake with twelve knobs was offered 
to him. In the ritual of ancient India 
there was a festival or sacred period of 
twelve days or nights {Dvdt/a/dAa), on 
which apparently the fortune and the 
crops of the year were supposed in 
some measure to depend. See A. 
Hillebrandt, Vidiscke Opfcr und Zaulnr 
(Strasburg, 1897), p. 5 sq. 




the circumstance that the festival of the Matronalia, at which 
mistresses feasted their slaves just as masters did theirs at 
the Saturnalia, always continued to be held on the first of 
March, even when the Roman year began with January.^ 
It is further not a little recommended by the consideration 
that this date would be eminently appropriate for the festival 
of Saturn, the old Italian god of sowing and planting. It 
has always been a puzzle to explain why such a festival 
should have been held at midwinter ; but on the present 
hypothesis the mystery vanishes. With the Italian farmer 
February and March were the great season of the spring 
sowing and planting ; - nothing could be more natural than 
that the husbandman should inaugurate the season with the 
worship of the deity to whom he ascribed the function of 
quickening the seed. Further, the orgiastic character of the 
festival is readily explained by the help of facts which met 
us in a former part of our investigation. We have seen 
that between the sower and the seed there is commonly 
supposed to exist a sympathetic connection of such a nature 
that his conduct directly affects and can promote or retard 
the growth of the crops. What wonder then if the simple 
husbandman imagined that by cramming his belly, by 
swilling and guzzling just before he proceeded to sow his 
fields, he thereby imparted additional vigour to the seed ? 
But while his crude philosophy may thus have painted 
gluttony and intoxication in the agreeable colours of duties 
which he owed to himself, to his family, and to the common- 
wealth, it is possible that the zest with which he acquitted 
himself of his obligations may have been whetted by a less 
comfortable reflection. In modern times the indulgence of 
the Carnival is immediately followed by the abstinence of 
Lent ; and if the Carnival is the direct descendant of the 
Saturnalia, may not Lent in like manner be merely the con- 

' Macrobius, Sat, \, 12.7; Solinus, 
i. 35, p. 13 ed. Mommscn (first edi- 
tion) ; Joannes Lydus, De mensibus^ 
iii. 1 5. On the other hand, we know 
tliat the ceremony of renewing the 
laurels, which originally took place on 
the first of March, was long afterwards 
transferred to the first of January. See 
OWd, Fasti, iii. 135 sqtj.^ and Macro- 

VOL. Ill 

bius, Sa/urN. i. 12. 6, compared with 
Gt'oponica^ xi. 2. 6, where the note of 
the commentator Niclas may be con- 
suited. This transference is strictly 
analogous to the change which I con- 
jecture to have been made in the date 
of celebrating the Saturnalia. 

- See Palladius, De re rustica, books 
iii. and iv. passim, 


146 ORIGIN OF LENT chap. 

tinuation, under a thin disguise, of a period of temperance 
which was annually observed, from superstitious motives, by 
Italian farmers long before the Christian era? Direct 
evidence of this, so far as I am aware, is not forthcoming ; 
but we have seen that a practice of abstinence from fleshly 
lusts has been observed by various peoples as a sympathetic 
charm to foster the growth of the seed ; ^ and such an 
observance would be an appropriate sequel to the Saturnalia, 
if that festival was indeed, as I conjecture it to have been, 
originally held in spring as a religious or magical preparation 
for sowing and planting. In Burma a similar fast, which a 
recent writer calls the Buddhist Lent, is observed for three 
months every year while the ploughing and sowing of the 
fields go forward ; and the custom is believed to be far older 
than Buddhism, which has merely given it a superficial tinge 
like the veneer of Christianity which, if I am right, has over- 
laid an old heathen observance in Lent This Burmese 
Lent, we are told, covers the rainy season from the full 
moon of July to the full moon of October. " This is the 
time to plough, this is the time to sow ; on the villagers' 
exertions in these months depends all their maintenance for 
the rest of the year. Every man, every woman, every child, 
has hard work of some kind or another. And so, what with 
the difficulties of travelling, what with the work there is to do, 
and what with the custom of Lent, every one stays at home. 
It is the time for prayer, for fasting, for improving the soul. 
Many men during these months will live even as the monks 
live, will eat but before midday, will abstain from tobacco. 
There are no plays during Lent, and there are no marriages. 
It is the time for preparing the land for the crop ; it is the time 
for preparing the soul for eternity. The congregations on the 
Sundays will be far greater at this time than at any other ; 
there will be more thought of the serious things of life." - 

Beyond the limits of Italy festivals of the same general 
character as the Saturnalia appear to have been held over a 
considerable area of the ancient world. A characteristic 

* Above, vol. ii. p. 209 sqq. Buddha retired to a monaster}-. But 

' H. Fieldini^, The Sottl of a People '* the custom was far older even than 

(London, 1898), p. 172 sg. The that — so old that we do not know how 

orthodox explanation of the custom is it arose. Its origin is lost in the mists 

that during these three months the of far-away time." 



Ill THE C RON I A 147 

feature of the Saturnalia, as we saw, was an inversion of 
social ranks, masters changing places with their slaves and 
waiting upon them, while slaves were indulged with a 
semblance not merely of freedom but even of power and 
office. In various parts of Greece the same hollow show of 
granting liberty to slaves was made at certain festivals. 
Thus at a Cretan festival of Hermes the servants feasted 
and their masters waited upon them. The Troezenians 
observed a certain solemnity lasting many days, on one of 
which the slaves played at dice with the citizens and were 
treated to a banquet by their lords. The Thessalians held 
a great festival called Peloria, which Baton of Sinope identi- 
fied with the Saturnalia, and of which the antiquity is 
vouched for by a tradition that it originated with the Pelas- 
gians. At this festival sacrifices were offered to Pelorian 
Zeus, tables splendidly adorned were set out, all strangers 
were invited to the feast, all prisoners released, and the 
slaves sat down to the banquet, enjoyed full freedom of 
speech, and were served by their masters.* 

But the Greek festival which appears to have corre- 
sponded most closely to the Italian Saturnalia was the 
Cronia or festival of Cronus, a god whose barbarous myth 
and cruel ritual clearly belong to a very early stratum of 
Greek religion, and who was by the unanimous voice of 
antiquity identified with Saturn. We are told that his 
festival was celebrated in most parts of Greece, but especially 
at Athens, where the old god and his wife Rhea had a 
shrine near the stately, but far more modern, temple of 
Olympian Zeus. A joyous feast, at which masters and 
slaves siat down together, formed a leading feature of the 
solemnity. At Athens the festival fell in the height of 
summer, on the twelfth day of the month Hecatombaeon, 
which answered nearly to July ; and tradition ran that 
Cecrops, the first king of Attica, had founded an altar in 
honour of Cronus and Rhea, and had ordained that master 
and man should share a common meal when the harvest 
was got in." Yet there are indications that at Athens the 

' Athcnacus, xiv. pp. 639 B-640 A. As to the temple of Cronus and Rhea, 

- Macrobius^.SV//. i. 7. 37 ; lA i. lo. see Pausanias, i. 18. 7 ; Bekker*s 

22 ; Demosthenes, Or, xxiv. 26, p. 708. * Anccdota Gracca^ \. p. 273, line 20 sq. 




Cronia may once have been a spring festival. For a cake 
with twelve knobs, which perhaps referred to the twelve 
months of the year, was offered to Cronus by the Athenians 
on the fifteenth day of the month Elaphebolion, which 
corresponded roughly to March,^ and there are traces of a 
licence accorded to slaves at the Dionysiac festival of the 
opening of the wine-jars, which fell on the eleventh day of 
the preceding month Anthesterion.^ At Olympia the festival 
of Cronus undoubtedly occurred in spring ; for here a low 
but steep hill, now covered with a tangled growth of dark 
holly-oaks and firs, was sacred to him, and on its top certain 
men, who bore the title of kings, offered sacrifice to the 
old god at the vernal equinox in the Elean month Elaphius.^ 
In this last ceremony, which probably went on year by 
year long before the upstart Zeus had a temple built for 
himself at the foot of the hill, there are two points of special 
interest, first the date of the ceremony, and second the title 
of the celebrants. First, as to the date, the spring equinox, 
or the twenty-first of March, must have fallen so near the 
fifteenth day of the Athenian month Elaphebolion, that 
we may fairly ask whether the Athenian custom of offering 
a cake to Cronus on that day may not also have been an 
equinoctial ceremony. In the second place, the title of 
kings borne by the sacrificers suggests that they may have 
personated Cronus himself. For, like his Italian counter- 
part Saturn, the Greek Cronus was believed to have been a 
king who reigned in heaven or on earth during the blissful 
Golden Age, when men passed their days like gods without 
toil or sorrow, when life was a long round of festivity, and 
death came like sleep, sudden but gentle, announced by 
none of his sad forerunners, the ailments and infirmities of 

* Corpus Itiscriptionum Aiticarum^ 
iii. No. 77. 

* Aug. Mommsen, Ht'ortohp'e^ p. 
349, quoting Schol. on Hesiod, ITorJbs 
ami DaySy 370. ** When the slaves," 
sa^ Plutarch, ** feast at the Cronia or 
go about celebrating the festival of 
Dionysus in the country, the shouts 
they raise and the tumult they make in 
their rude merriment are intolerable" 
{Non posse sitavitcr vivi sccuttdum 

Epicurum^ 26). That the original 
festival of Cronus fell at Athens in 
Anthesterion is the view of Aug. 
Mommsen {op, at, pp. 22, 79 ; Die 
Feste der Stadt A/heti, p. 402). 

' Pausanias, vi. 20. i. Compare 
Dionysius! Halicamasensis, Autiqttit. 
Rom, i. 34. The title of these men 
(/Satf-fXcu) must undoubtedly be equiva- 
lent to kings {fio^vCKw). 




age.^ Thus the analogy of the Olympian Cronia, probably 
one of the oldest of Greek festivals, to the Italian Saturnalia 
would be very close if originally, as I conjecture, the 
Saturnalia fell in spring and Saturn was personated at it, 
as we have good reason to believe, by a man dressed as a 
king. May we go a step further and suppose that, just as the 
man who acted King Saturn at the Saturnalia was formerly 
slain in that character, so one of the kings who celebrated 
the Cronia at Olympia not only played the part of Cronus, 
but was sacrificed, as god and victim in one, on the top of 
the hill? Cronus certainly bore a sinister reputation in 
antiquity. He passed for an unnatural parent who had 
devoured his own offspring, and he was regularly identified 
by the Greeks with the cruel Semitic Baals who delighted in 
the sacrifice of human victims, especially of children.^ A 
legend which savours strongly of infant sacrifice is reported 
of a shrine that stood at the very foot of the god's own hill 
at Olympia ; ^ and a quite unambiguous story was told of 
the sacrifice of a babe to Lycaean Zeus on Mount Lycaeus 
in Arcadia, where the worship of Zeus was probably nothing 
but a continuation, under a new name, of the old worship of 
Cronus, and where human victims appear to have been 
regularly offered down to the Christian era.* The Rhodians 
annually sacrificed a man to Cronus in the month Meta- 
geitnion ; at a later time they kept a condemned criminal 
in prison till the festival of the Cronia was come, then led 
him forth outside the gates, made him drunk with wine, and 
cut his throat.^ With the parallel of the Saturnalia before 
our eyes, wc may surmise that the victim who thus ended 
his life in a state of intoxication at the Cronia may perhaps 
have personated King Cronus himself, the god who reigned 
in the happy days of old when men had nothing to do but 

* Ilesiod, Worh and Days^ ill, 
1 69 ; rialo, Po/i/hus^ p. 269 A ; 
l>'u)dorus, iii. 61, v. 66; Julian, Con- 
', h'iitm^ p. 317 H l> (pp. 407, 40S ed. 
Ilerilein) ; **Anonymi Chronologica," 
j-krintcd in the Honn edition of Malalas, 
p. 17. Sec further M. Mayer*s article 
** Kronos," Roscher's Lcxikon dcr 
i^ruch. iimi rom. Mytholo^t^ie^ ii. 1 458. 

- See M. Mayer, op. n'f. ii. 1501 

^ Pausanias, vi. 20. 4 sg, 

* Plato, Republic y ix. p. 565 n E ; 
pseudo- Plato, Minos ^ p. 315 C ; Pliny, 
Nat, Hist, viii. 81 ; Pausanias, viii. 2 and 
38 ; Porphyry, De abstinent ia^ ii. 27 ; 
Augustine, De civitate dei^ xviii. 17. 
The suggestion that Lycaean Zeus 
may have been merely a successor of 
Cronus is due to my friend Professor 
W. Ridgeway. 

** Pori)hyry, De abstinentia^ ii. 54, 


to eat and drink and make merry. At least the Rhodian 
custom lends some countenance to the conjecture that 
formerly a human victim may have figured at the sacrifice 
which the so-called kings ofifered to Cronus on his hill at 
Olympia. In this connection it is to be remembered that 
we have already found well-attested examples of a custom 
of sacrificing the scions of royal houses in ancient Greece.^ 
If the god to whom, or perhaps rather in whose character, 
the princes were sacrificed, was Cronus, it would be natural 
that the Greeks of a later age should identify him with 
Baal or Moloch, to whom in like manner Semitic kings 
oflTered up their children. The Laphystian Zeus of Thessaly 
and Boeotia, like the Lycaean Zeus of Arcadia, was probably 
nothing but the aboriginal deity, commonly known as 
Cronus, whose gloomy rites the Greek invaders suffered the 
priests of the vanquished race to continue after the ancient 
manner, while they quieted their scruples of conscience or 
satisfied their pride as conquerors by investing the blood- 
thirsty old savage with the name, if not with the character, 
of their own milder deity, the humane and gracious Zeus. 

When we pass from Europe to Asia Minor, from ancient 
Greece to ancient Babylon and the regions where Babylonian 
influence penetrated, we are still met with festivals which 
bear the closest resemblance to the oldest form of the 
Italian Saturnalia. The reader may remember the festival 
of the Sacaea, on which I had occasion to touch in an 
earlier part of this chapter." It was held at Babylon 
during five days of the month Lous, beginning with the 
sixteenth day of the month. During its continuance, just 
as at the Saturnalia, masters and servants changed places, 
the servants issuing orders and the masters obeying them ; 
and in each house one of the servants, dressed as a king 
and bearing the title of Zoganes, bore rule over the house- 
hold. Further, just as at the Saturnalia in its original form 
a man was dressed as King Saturn in royal robes, allowed 
to indulge his passions and caprices to the full, and then 
put to death, so at the Sacaea a condemned prisoner, who 
probably also bore for the time being the title of Zoganes, was 
arrayed in the king's attire and suffered to play the despot, 

* Above, vol. ii. p. 34 stja, - Vol. ii. p. 24 j^^. 


to use the king's concubines, and to give himself up to 
feasting and debauchery without restraint, only however in 
the end to be stript of his borrowed finery, scoui^ed, and 
hanged or crucified.^ From Strabo we learn that this Asiatic 
counterpart of the Saturnalia was celebrated in Asia Minor 
wherever the worship of the Persian goddess Anaitis had 
established itself He describes it as a Bacchic orgy, at 
which the revellers were disguised as Scythians, and men 
and women drank and dallied together by day and night.^ 

As the worship of Anaitis, though of Persian origin, 
appears to have been deeply leavened with coarse elements 
which it derived from the sensual religion of Babylon,' we 
may perhaps r^ard Mesopotamia as the original home 
from which the Sacaean festival spread westward into other 
parts of Asia Minor. Now the Sacaean festival, described 
by the Babylonian priest Berosus in the first book of his 
history of Babylon, has been plausibly identified ^ with the 
great Babylonian festival of the New Year called Zakmuk 
or Zagmuku which has become known to us in recent times 
through inscriptions. The Babylonian year began with the 
spring month of Nisan, which seems to have covered the 
second half of March and the first half of April. Thus the 
New Year festival, which occupied at least the first eleven 
days of Nisan, probably included the spring equinox. It 
was held in honour of Marduk or Merodach, the chief god 
of Babylon, whose great temple in the city formed the 
religious centre of the solemnity. For here, in a splendid 
chamber of the vast edifice, all the gods were believed to 
assemble at this season under the presidency of Marduk for 
the purpose of determining the fates for the new year, 
especially the fate of the king's life. The festival was of 
hoar antiquity, for it was known to Gudea, an old 
king of Southern Babylonia who flourished about three 
thousand years before the beginning of our era, and 

* Athenaeus, xiv. p. 639c; DioChry- ' See Ed. Meyer*s article "Anaitis," 

sostom, Or. iv. 69 sq. (vol i. p. 76 in Roscher's Lexikon dtr griech, und 

ed. Dindorf ). From Athenaeus we rlim. Mythologies i. 330 sqq. 

learn that the festival was described or * By Bruno Mcissncr, ** Zur Ent- 

mentioned by Berosus in his first book stehungsgeschichte des Purimfestes,'* 

and by Ctesias in his second. Ztitsihrift der deutschen morgenian' 

^ Strabo, xi. 8. 5. 

dischm Geselischafif I. (1896), pp. 296- 




it is mentioned in an early account of the Great Flood. At 
a much later period it is repeatedly referred to by King 
Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Nebuchadnezzar records 
how he built of bricks and bitumen a chapel or altar, " a 
thing of joy and rejoicing," for the great festival of Marduk, 
the lord of the gods ; and we read of the rich and abundant 
offerings which were made by the high priest at this time.^ 
Unfortunately the notices of this Babylonian festival of the 
New Year which have come down to us deal chiefly with 
its mythical aspect and throw little or no light on the mode 
of its celebration. Hence its identity with the Sacaea must 
remain for the present a more or less probable hypothesis. 
In favour of the hypothesis may be alleged in the first place 
the resemblance of the names Sacaea and Zoganes to 
Zakmuk or Zagmuku, and in the second place the very 
significant statement that the fate of the king's life was 
supposed to be determined by the gods, under the presidency 
of Marduk, at the Zakmuk or New Year's festival.^ When 
we remember that the central feature of the Sacaea appears 
to have been the saving of the king's life for another year 
by the vicarious sacrifice of a criminal on the cross or the 
gallows, we can understand that the season was a critical 
one for the king, and may well have been regarded as 
determining his fate for the ensuing twelve months. A 
difficulty, however, in the way of identifying the Sacaea 
with the Zakmuk arises from the statement of Berosus that 
the Sacaea fell on the sixteenth day of Lous, which was the 
tenth month of the Syro-Macedonian calendar, and appears 
to have nearly coincided with July. Thus if the Sacaea 
occurred in July and the Zakmuk in March, the theory of 
their identity could not be maintained. But the identifica- 
tion of the months of the Syro-Macedonian calendar is a 
matter of some uncertainty ; as to the month Lous in 

* Jensen, A'osntohj^'t: dcr Babylonier^ 
p. 84 s*jij,\ H. Zimmern, "Zur Frage 
nach dem Ursprunge des rurimfestes," 
Ztitschrift fur die alttestameutiiche 
Wisst-nschaft^ xi. (1S91), p. 1 59 sqq.\ 
A. Jeremias, j.r*. ** Marduk," Koscher's 
Lexikon dtr }^iech. uud rom. Myth- 
oios^'ft ii. 2347 S(/.\ M. Jastrow, AV- 

lif^ion of Babylonia atid Assyria^ pp. 
186, 677 iqq. According to Jensen's 
transcription the name of the festival 
was Zakmuk ; the other authorities 
referred to S]>ell it Zagmuku. 

^ The Statement occurs in an in- 
scription of Nebuchadnezzar. See Jen- 
sen, Kosmologie der Babyhnier, p. 85. 




particular the evidence of ancient writers appears to be 
conflicting/ and until we have ascertained beyond the reach 
of doubt when Lous fell at Babylon in the time of Berosus, 
it would be premature to allow much weight to the seeming 
discrepancy in the dates of the two festivals. 

A fresh and powerful argument in favour of the identity 
of the two festivals is furnished by the connection which has 
been traced between both of them and the Jewish feast of 
Purim.^ There are good grounds for believing that Purim 
was unknown to the Jews until after the exile and that they 
learned to observe it during their captivity in the East. 
The festival is first mentioned in the book of Esther, which, 
by the majority of critics is assigned to the fourth or third 
century B.C.,^ and which certainly cannot be older than the 
Persian period, since the scene of the narrative is laid in Susa 
at the court of a Persian king Ahasuerus, whose name appears 
to be the Hebrew equivalent of Xerxes. The next reference 
to Purim occurs in the second book of Maccabees, a work 
written probably about the beginning of our era.* Thus 
from the absence of all notice of Purim in the older books 
of the Bible, we may fairly conclude that the festival was 
instituted or imported at a comparatively late date among 
the Jews. The same conclusion is supported by the book 
of Esther itself, which was manifestly written to explain the 
origin of the feast and to suggest motives for its observance. 
For, according to the author of the book, the festival was 
established to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews 
from a great danger which threatened them in Persia under 
the reign of King Xerxes. Thus the opinion of modern 
scholars that the feast of Purim, as celebrated by the Jews, 
was of late date and oriental origin, is borne out by the 
tradition of the Jews themselves. An examination of that 

* See article ** Calendarium,'* in 
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman 
Antiquities^ i. 339 ; and above, vol. 
ii. p. 254, note I. 

2 H. Zimmern, **Zur Frage nach 
<lem Ursprunge des Purimfcslcs," Zcit- 
schrift fiir die alttestamentlichc Wissen- 
scAa/t, xi. ( 1 89 1 ), pp. 1 5 7- 1 69 ; \V. 
Nowack, Lehrbnch dcr hcbraischen 
Archdologie^ ii. \^% sqq. ; Br. Meissner, 

"ZurEntstehungsgeschichte des Purim- 
festcs," Zeitschrift fierdeutschen mori^vU' 
landischen Geselischaft^ 1. (1S96), pp. 
296-301 ; Fr. Cumont, '* I^ roi des 
Saturnales," Revue dc Philolo*ic^ xxi. 

(1897), p. 150. . 

' S. R. Driver, Introduction to the 
Literature of the Oid Testament^'* p. 452. 

*• 2 Maccabees xv. 36. As to the 
date of this book, see Driver, Lc, 


tradition and of the mode of celebrating the feast renders 
it probable that Purim is nothing but a more or less 
disguised form of the Babylonian festival of the Sacaea or 

In the first place, the feast of Purim was and is held on 
the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, the last month 
of the Jewish year, which corresponds roughly to March.^ 
Thus the date agrees nearly, though not exactly, with the 
date of the Babylonian Zakmuk, which fell a fortnight later 
in the early days of the following month Nisan. A trace 
of the original celebration of Purim in Nisan may perhaps 
be found in the statement that '* they cast Pur, that is, the 
lot, before Haman " in Nisan, the first month of the year.* 
It has been suggested with some plausibility that the Jews 
may have shifted the date of Purim in order that the new 
and foreign festival might not clash with their own old 
festival of the Passover, which began on the fourteenth day 
of Nisan. Another circumstance which speaks at once for 
the alien origin of Purim and for its identity with Zakmuk 
is its name. The author of the book of Esther derives the 
name Purim from pur^ **a lot,"* but no such word with 
this signification exists in Hebrew, and hence we are driven 
to look for the meaning and etymology of Purim in some 
other language. A specious theory is that the name was 
derived from an Assyrian word puhru^ " an assembly," and 
referred primarily to the great assembly of the gods which, 
as we have seen, formed a chief feature of the festival of 
Zakmuk, and was held annually in the temple of Marduk 
at Babylon for the purpose of determining the fates or 
lots of the new year ; ^ the august assembly appears to 
have been occasionally, if not regularly, designated by the 
very name pu/jru? On this hypothesis the traditional 
Jewish explanation of the name Purim preserved a genuine 

* We know from Josephus (Antiquit. ^ Esther iii. 7, ix. 26. 

iii. 10. 5) that in the month Nisan, ^ This is the view of Zimmem 

the first month of the Jewish year, the {Zcitsc/trift fiir die aUtestametitliche 

sun yns in Aries. Now the sun is in IVissenscha/t, xL (1891), p. 157 sqq.), 

Aries from March 20th or 21st to and it is favoured by Nowack {Lehr- 

April 19th or 20lh ; hence Nisan buck dtr hebraischen Archdolo^e, ii. 

answers approximately to April, and 198 sq.). 
Adar to March. * Jensen, Kosmologie der Bahylonier^ 

- Esther iii. 7. p. 240 sq. 


kernel of historical truth, or at least of mythical fancy, under 
the husk of a verbal error ; for the name, if this derivation 
of it is correct, really signified not " the lots " but the 
assembly for drawing or otherwise determining the lots. 
Another explanation which has been offered is "that pur 
or bur seems to be an old Assyrian word for * stone,' and 
that therefore it is possible that the word was also used to 
signify * lot,' like the Hebrew ^712, * lot,' which originally, no 
doubt, meant * little stone.' " ^ Either of these explanations 
of the name Purim, by tracing it back to the New Year 
assembly of the gods at Babylon for settling the lots, 
furnishes an adequate explanation of the traditional associa- 
tion of Purim with the casting of lots — an association all 
the more remarkable and all the more likely to be ancient 
because there is nothing to justify it either in the Hebrew 
language or in the Jewish mode of celebrating the festival. 
When to this we add the joyous, nay, extravagant festivity 
which has always been characteristic of Purim and is entirely 
in keeping with a New Year celebration, we may perhaps 
be thought to have made out a fairly probable case for 
holding that the Jewish feast is derived from the Babylonian 
New Year festival of Zakmuk. Whether the Jews borrowed 
the feast directly from the Babylonians or indirectly through 
the Persian conquerors of Babylon is a question which 
deserves to be considered ; but the Persian colouring of 
the book of Esther speaks strongly for the view that Purim 
came to Israel by way of Persia, and this view is confirmed 
by other evidence, to which I shall have to ask the reader's 
attention a little later on. 

If the links which bind Purim to Zakmuk are reason- 
ably strong, the chain of evidence which connects the Jewish 
festival with the Sacaca is much stronger. Nor is this 
surprising when we remember that, while the popular mode 
of celebrating Zakinuk is unknown, we possess important 
and trustworthy details as to the manner of holding the 
Sacaea. We have seen that the Sacaea was a wild Bac- 

^ The explanation is that of Jensen, ' (■/'^^or). I desire to thank the editor* 

quoted by Noldeke in Encychpadia of the Eticychpadia Biblica for their 

Biblica^ s.r. "Esther." In Greek, courtesy in allowing me to see Professor 

for a similar reason, the word for Niildeke's article in proof, 
••pebble" and "vote" is identical 

1 56 RE VELR Y AT P URIM chap. 

chanalian revel at which men and women disguised them- \ 
selves and drank and played together in a fashion that was If 
more gay than modest Now this is, or used to be, pre- 
cisely the nature of Purim. The two days of the festival, 
according to the author of the book of Esther, were to be 
kept for ever as " days of feasting and gladness, and of send- 
ing portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." ^ And 
this joyous character the festival seems always to have 
retained. The author of a tract in the Talmud lays it down 
as a rule that at the feast of Purim every Jew is bound to 
drink until he cannot distinguish between the words " Cursed 
be Haman " and " Blessed be Mordecai " ; and he tells how 
on one occasion a certain Rabba drank so deep at Purim 
that he murdered a rabbi without knowing what he was 
about Indeed Purim has been described as the Jewish 
Bacchanalia, and we are told that at this season every- 
thing is lawful which can contribute to the mirth and 
gaiety of the festival.* Writers of the seventeenth century 
assert that during the two days and especially on the even- 
ing of the second day the Jews did nothing but feast and 
drink to repletion, play, dance, sing, and make merry ; in 
particular they disguised themselves, men and women ex- 
changing clothes, and thus attired ran about like mad, in 
open defiance of the Mosaic law, which expressly forbids 
men to dress as women and women as men.' Among the 
Jews of Frankfort, who inhabited the squalid but quaint and 
picturesque old street known as the Judengasse which many 
of us still remember, the revelry at Purim ran as high as 
ever in the eighteenth century. The gluttony and intoxi- 
cation began punctually at three o'clock in the afternoon of 
the first day and went on until the whole community seemed 
to have taken leave of their senses. They ate and drank, 
they frolicked and cut capers, they reeled and staggered 
about, they shrieked, yelled, stamped, clattered, and broke 

' Esther x. 22. . Gesellschaft der IVhsenschafien zu 

« Buxtorf, Synasoga jHdaica (Bale, ^"""^u'.'""''!:. 'if J'" , C°'"P«'^«= 
./:/:. I ^ I... ••^ Bodenschatz, Atrchiufte I erf as sun ^ 

1661), pp. 554 >i., 559 X?. ^ heutigcn J,uicn (Erlaneen. I748i; 

' Buxtorf, op. (it, p. 559 ; Schick- ii. 256. For the rule forbidding men 
ard, quoted by Lagarde, ** Purim," and women to exchange garments, see 
p. 54 j^., Abhandlnngen dcr kotu Deuteronomy xxii. 5. 


each other's heads with wooden hammers till the blood 
flowed. On the evening of the first day the women were 
allowed, as a special favour, to open their latticed window 
and look into the men's synagogue, because the great 
deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the time of 
King Ahasuerus was said to have been effected by a woman. 
A feature of the festival which should not be overlooked 
was the acting of the story of Esther as a comedy, in which 
Esther, Ahasuerus, Haman, Mordecai, and others played 
their parts after a fashion that sometimes degenerated from 
farce into ribaldry.^ Thus on the whole we may take it 
that Purim has always been a Saturnalia and therefore corre- 
sponds in character to the Sacaea, as that festival has been 
described for us by Strabo. 

But further, when we examine the narrative which pro- 
fesses to account for the institution of Purim, we discover in 
it not only the strongest traces of Babylonian origin, but 
also certain singular analogies to those very features of the 
Sacaean festival with which we are here more immediately 
concerned. The book of Esther turns upon the fortunes of 
two men, the vizier Haman and the despised Jew Mordecai, 
at the court of a Persian king. Mordecai, we are told, had 
given mortal offence to the vizier, who accordingly prepares 
a tall gallows on which he hopes to see his enemy hanged, 
while he himself expects to receive the highest mark of the 
king's favour by being allowed to wear the royal crown and 
the royal robes and thus attired to parade the streets, 
mounted on the king's own horse and attended by one of 
the noblest princes, who should proclaim to the multitude 
his temporary exaltation and glory. But the artful intrigues 
of the wicked vizier miscarried and resulted in precisely the 
opposite of what he had hoped and expected ; for the royal 
honours which he had looked for fell to his rival Mordecai, 
and he himself was hanged on the gallows which he had made 
ready for his foe. In this story we seem to detect a remini- 
scence, more or less confused, of the Zoganes of the Sacaea, 

* J. J. Schudt» Jiidischc Merkwitr- .^.^ty (London, 1S96), p. 261 sqq, 

<//>^r/yt7/ (Frankfort and Lei psic, 17 14), I have to thank my learned friend Dr. 

ii. Theil, pp. *309, *3I4, *3i6, iv. S. Schechter for bringing both thes»c 

Theiles die ii. Continuation, p. 347 : works to my notice. 
J. Abrahams, yt-w/V^ Life in the Miiidlc 



158 PURIM AND SACAEA chap. j. 

in other words, of the custom of investing a private man with I 
the insignia of royalty for a few days and then putting him I 
to death on tbe gallows or the cross. It is true that in the 
narrative the part of the Zoganes is divided between two 
actors, one of whom hopes to play the king but is hanged 
instead, while the other acts the royal part and escapes the 
gallows to which he was destined by his enemy. But this 
bisection, so to say, of the Zoganes may have been deliber- 
ately invented by the Jewish author of the book of Esther 
for the sake of setting the origin of Purim, which it was his 
purpose to explain, in a light that should reflect glory on 
his own nation. Or, perhaps more probably, it points back 
to a custom of appointing two mock kings at the Sacaea, 
one of whom was put to death at the end of the festival, 
while the other was allowed to go free, at least for a time. 
We shall be the more inclined to adopt the latter hypothesis 
when we observe that corresponding to the two rival aspir- 
ants to the temporary kingship there appear in the Jewish 
narrative two rival queens, Vashti and Esther, one of whom 
succeeds to the high estate from which the other has fallen. 
Further, it is to be noted that Mordecai, the successful 
candidate for the mock kingship, and Esther, the successful 
candidate for the queenship, are linked together by close 
ties both of interest and blood, the two being said to be 
cousins. This suggests that in the original story or the 
original custom there may have figured two pairs of kings 
and queens, of whom one pair is represented in the Jewish 
narrative by Mordecai and Esther and the other by Haman 
and Vashti. 

A strong confirmation of this view is furnished by a 
philological analysis of the names of the four personages. 
It seems to be now generally recognised by Biblical scholars 
that the name Mordecai, which has no meaning in Hebrew, 
is nothing but a slightly altered form of Marduk or Merodach, 
the name of the chief god of Babylon, whose great festival 
was the Zakmuk ; and further, it is generally admitted that 
Esther in Hke manner is equivalent to Ishtar, the great 
Babylonian goddess whom the Greeks called Astarte and 
who is more familiar to English readers as Ashtaroth. The 
-derivation of the names of Haman and Vashti is less certain, 




but some high authorities are disposed to accept the view of 
Jensen that Haman is identical with Humman or Homman, 
the national god of the Elamites, and that Vashti is in like 
manner an Elamite deity, probably a goddess whose name 
appears in inscriptions. Now, when we consider that the 
Elamites were from time immemorial the hereditary foes of 
the Babylonians and had their capital at Susa, the very place 
in which the scene of the book of Esther is laid, we can 
hardly deny the plausibility of the theory that Haman and 
Vashti on the one side and Mordecai and Esther on the other 
represent the antagonism between the gods of Elam and the 
gods of Babylon, and the final victory of the Babylonian 
deities in the very capital of their rivals.^ " It is therefore 
possible," says Professor Noldeke, " that we have here to do 
with a feast whereby the Babylonians commemorated a 
victory gained by their gods over the gods of their neighbours 
the Elamites, against whom they had so often waged war. 
The Jewish feast of Purim is an annual merrymaking of a 
wholly secular kind, and it is known that there were similar 
feasts among the Babylonians. That the Jews in Babylonia 
should have adopted a festival of this sort cannot be deemed 
improbable, since in modern Germany, to cite an analogous 
case, many Jews celebrate Christmas after the manner of 
their Christian fellow-countrymen, in so far at least as it is 
a secular institution." * 

Thus if we are right in tracing the origin of Purim to 
the Babylonian Sacaea and in finding the counterpart of the 
Zoganes in Haman and Mordecai, it would appear that the 

' P. Jensen, ** Elamitische Eigen- 
namen,** Wuner Zeitschrift fiir die 
Kunde des Morgenlandes^ vi. ( i S92), pp. 
47-70; compare ib, pp. 209-212. All 
Jensen's etymologies are accepted by 
W. Kowack {Lehrbuch der hebriii- 
scken Archdclogi€f ii. 199 sq,) \ H. 
Gunkel {Schdpfung tind Chaos^ Gcittin- 
gen, 1895, p. 310 j^.) ; D. G. Wildc- 
boer (in his commentar}* on Esther, ]). 
173 sgq,., forming part of K. Marti's 
Kurter Hand -Commentar zum alten 
Testamefit^ Freiburg i. B. 1S98) ; and 
Th. Noldeke {s.v. " Esther," Eneych- 
padia Biblicd). On the other hand, 
Br. Meissner {Zeitschiift dcr dcutichen 

morgenliindischen CcseUschaft^ I. ( 1 896), 
p. 301) and M. Jastrow {The Religion 
of Babylonia and Assyria^ p. 6S6, note 
2) sus]>end their judgment as to the 
identification of Haman and Vashti 
with Elamite deities, though they 
apparently regard the identification of 
Mordecai and Esther with Marduk and 
Ishtar as quite certain. H. Zimmem 
also accepts as unquestionable the 
derivation of Mordecai from Marduk 
{Ztitschri/t fiir die alttestamtntliche 
H'issenschaf/f xi. (1 89 1), p. 1 67). 

- Th. Noldeke, f.r. 
Eitiyclo/Hcdia Hiblica. 

*' Esther," 


Zoganes during his five days of office personated not merely 
a king but a god, whether that god was the Elamite Humman, 
the Babylonian Marduk, or some other deity not yet identified. 
The union of the divine and royal characters in a single 
person is so common that we need not be surprised at meet- 
ing with it in ancient Babylon. And the view that the mock 
king of the Sacaea died as a god on the cross or the gallows 
is no novelty. The acute and learned Movers long ago 
observed that ** we should be overlooking the religious signi- 
ficance of oriental festivals and the connection of the Sacaea 
with the worship of Anaitis, if we were to treat as a mere 
jest the custom of disguising a slave as a king. We may 
take it for certain that with the royal dignity the king of the 
Sacaea assumed also the character of an oriental ruler as 
representative of the divinity, and that when he took 
his pleasure among the women of the king's harem, he 
played the part of Sandan or Sardanapalus himself For 
according to ancient oriental ideas the use of the king's 
concubines constituted a claim to the throne, and we know 
from Dio that the five-days' king received full power over 
the harem. Perhaps he began his reign by publicly cohabit- 
ing with the king's concubines, just as Absalom went in to 
his father's concubines in a tent spread on the roof of the 
palace before all Israel, for the purpose of thereby making 
known and strengthening his claim to the throne." ^ What- 
ever may be thought of this latter conjecture, there can be 
no doubt that Movers is right in laying great stress both on 
the permission given to the mock king to invade the real 
king's harem, and on the intimate connection of the Sacaea 
with the worship of Anaitis. That connection is vouched for 
by Strabo, and when we consider that in Strabo's time the 
cult of the old Persian goddess Anaitis was thoroughly 
saturated with Babylonian elements and had practically 
merged in the sensual worship of the Babylonian Ishtar or 
Astarte,- we shall incline to view with favour Movers's further 

* Movers, Die P/ioetn'zicr^ i. 490 2 g^j^ Meyer, s.v. "Anaitis," Ros- 

sq. ; 2 Samuel xvi. 21 sq.^ compare cher's Lexikon^ i. 352 sq. At the 

xii. 8. For other examples of the use temple of Anaitis in Acilisena, a city of 

of the king*s concubines by claimants to Armenia, the daughters of the noblest 

the throne, Movers refers to Herodotus, families regularly prostituted thcm- 

iii. 68 ; Josephus, Contra .•///>//, i. 15. selves for a long time before marriage 




conjecture, that a female slave may have been appointed 
to play the divine queen to the part of the divine king 
supported by the Zoganes, and that reminiscences of such a 
queen have survived in the myth or legend of Semiramis. 
According to tradition, Semiramis was a fair courtesan be- 
loved by the king of Assyria, who took her to wife. She 
won the king's heart so far that she persuaded him to yield 
up to her the kingdom for five days, and having assumed the 
sceptre and the royal robes she made a great banquet on the 
first day, but on the second day she shut up her husband in 
prison or put him to death and thenceforward reigned alone.^ 
Taken with Strabo's evidence as to the association of the 
Sacaea with the worship of Anaitis, this tradition seems 
clearly to point to a custom of giving the Zoganes, during 
his five-days* reig^, a queen who represented the goddess 
Anaitis or Semiramis or Astarte, in short the great Asiatic 
goddess of love and fertility, by whatever name she was 
called. For that in Eastern legend Semiramis was a goddess 
and a form of Astarte has been made practically certain by 
the researches of Robertson Smith, who has further shown 
that the worship of Anaitis is not only modelled on Astarte 
worship in general, but corresponds to that particular type of 
it which was specially associated with the name of Semiramis.- 
The identity of Anaitis and Semiramis is clearly proved by 
the circumstance that the great sanctuary of Anaitis at Zela 
in Pontus was actually built upon a mound of Semiramis ; 
probably the old worship of the Semitic goddess always 
continued here even after her Semitic name of Semiramis 
or Astarte had been exchanged for the Persian name of 

(Strabo, xii. 14. 16). Agathias identi- 
fied Anaitis with Aphrodite {Hist. ii. 
24), and when the Greeks spoke of 
the Oriental Aphrodite, they meant 
Astarte or one of her equivalents. 
Jensen proposes to identify Anaitis with 
an Elamite goddess Nahunti, whom he 
takes to have been equivalent to Ishtar 
or Astarte, especially in her quality of 
the Evening Star. See his article, 
** Elamitische Eigennamen,***- Wiener 
Zeitschrift fiir die Kuncie dis Afotxat- 
landfs^ vi. (1S92), pp. 64-67, 70. 
' Diodorus, ii. 20 ; Aclinn, Var. 

VOL. Ill 

Hist, vii. I. 

' W. Robertson Smith, <*Ctesias 
and the Semiramis Legend,** Enf^lish 
Historical Mevicw^ April 1 887. 
Amongst other evidence, Smith refers 
to r>iodorus, from whose account (ii. 4) 
of the birth of Semiramis he infers 
that she **is the daughter of Derceto, 
the tish goddess of Ascalon, and is her- 
self the Astarte whose sacred doves 
were honoured at Ascalon and through- 
out Syria." 

' Strabo, xii. 3. 37, compare xi; 
8. 4. 




Anaitis, perhaps in obedience to a decree of the Persian king 
Artaxerxes II., who first spread the worship of Anaitis in 
the west of Asia.^ It is highly significant, not only that the 
Sacaean festival was held at this ancient seat of the worship 
of Semiramis or Astarte ; but further, that the whole city of 
Zela was formerly inhabited by sacred slaves and harlots, 
ruled over by a supreme pontiflT, who administered it as a 
sanctuary rather than as a city.* Formerly, we may suppose, 
this priestly king himself died a violent death at the Sacaea in 
the character of the divine lover of Semiramis, while the part 
of the goddess was played by one of the sacred prostitutes. 
The probability of this is greatly strengthened by the exist- 
ence of the so-called mound of Semiramis under the sanctuary. 
For the mounds of Semiramis, which were pointed out all 
over Western Asia,' were said to have been the graves of her 
lovers whom she buried alive.* The tradition ran that the 
great and lustful queen Semiramis, fearing to contract a law- 
ful marriage lest her husband should deprive her of power, 
admitted to her bed the handsomest of her soldiers, only, 
however, to destroy them all afterwards.* Now this tradition 
is one of the surest indications of the identity of Semiramis 
with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar or Astarte. For the 
famous Babylonian epic which recounts the deeds of the hero 
Gilgamesh tells how, when he clothed himself in royal robes 
and put his crown on his head, the goddess Ishtar was 
smitten with love of him and wooed him to be her mate. 
But Gilgamesh rejected her insidious advances, for he knew 
the sad fate that had overtaken all her lovers, and he re- 
proached the cruel goddess, saying : 

** Tammuz, the consort of thy youth, 
Thou causest to weep every year. 
The bright-coloured aliallu bird thou didst love. 

1 I3cr05;us, cited by Clement of 
Alexandria, Protrept, v. 65, p. 57 ed. 
Potter (where for Tapdtdot we should 
read 'Aratndot, as is done by C. .MUller, 
/*'ra^. His/or. Craet. ii. 509). 

' Strabo, xii. 3. 37. The nature of 
the Upj6ov\oi at Zela is indicited by 
Strabo in the preceding section (36), 
where he descril>cs a similar state uf 
things at Cum^ni, a city not far from 

Zela. His words are x\^9oy yvi^aucuw 

xXeiovt tiahf UpaL 

' Strabo, x\'i. i. 2 ; Diodorus, il 

* Ctesias cited by John of Antioch 
(Muller*s Era^, Hhtor, Graet, iv. 539). 

* Diodorus ii. 13. Note that the 
first husband of Semiramis is said to 
have hanged himself (Diodorus, ii 6). 




Thou didst crush him and break his pinions. 

In the woods he stands and laments, * O my pinions ! ' 

Thou didst love a lion of perfect strength, 

Seven and seven times thou didst bury him in the corners. 

Thou didst love a horse superior in the fray, 

With whip and spur thou didst urge him on. 

Thou didst force him on for seven double hours, 

Thou didst force him on when wearied and thirsty ; 

His mother Silili thou madest weep. 

Thou didst also love a shepherd of the flock, 

Who continually poured out for thee the libation, 

And daily slaughtered kids for thee ; 

But thou didst smite him, and didst change him into a leopard, 

So that his own sheep-boy hunted him, 

And his own hounds tore him to pieces." 

The hero also tells the miserable end of a gardener in 
the service of the goddess's father. The hapless swain had 
once been honoured with the love of the goddess, but when 
she tired of him she changed him into a cripple so that he 
could not rise from his bed. Therefore Gilgamesh fears to 
share the fate of all her former lovers and spurns her 
proffered favours.^ But it is not merely that the myth of 
Ishtar thus tallies with the legend of Semiramis ; the worship 
of the goddess was marked by a profligacy which has found 
its echo in the loose character ascribed by tradition to the 
queen. Inscriptions, which confirm and supplement the 
evidence of Herodotus, inform us that Ishtar was served by 
harlots of three different classes all dedicated to her worship. 
Indeed, there is reason to think that these women personated 
the goddess herself, since one of the names given to them is 
applied also to her.^ 

Thus we can hardly doubt that Semiramis is substantially 
a form of Ishtar or Astarte, the great Semitic goddess of 
love and fertility ; and if this is so, we may assume with at 
least a fair degree of probability that the high pontiff of 
Zela or his deputy, who played the king of the Sacaea at 

' A. Jcrcmias, Izdubar-Nimrod^ p. 
23 sqq.', M. Jaslrow, Rclij^ion of Baby- 
Ionia and Assyria^ p. 482 ; L. W, 
KiDg, Babylonian Religion and Mytho' 

'^.•.Ti P* '59 <^^7' The true name of 
the Baliyli>nian hero, which used to be 
rca<l as Izduhar, has been found to be 
Gilgamesh (Jastrow, op, cil, p. 468). 

^ Jcrcmias, op, cit, p. 59 sq, ; M. 
Jastrow, op. tit, pp. 475 sq.^ 4S4 x^. ; 
ilerodoius, i. 199. The name which 
Herodotus gives to the goddess is 
Mylitta, hut this is only a corru|)tion 
of liaalat or Uclit, one of the titles 
of Ishtar. See E. Meyer, ariicle 
'* Astarte,'* Roscher's Lixikon, i. 648. 




the sanctuary of Semiramis, perished as one of the unhappy 
lovers of the goddess, perhaps as Tammuz, whom she caused 
" to weep every year." When he had run his brief meteoric 
career of pleasure and glor}', his bones would be laid in the 
great mound which covered the mouldering remains of many 
mortal gods, his predecessors, whom the goddess had 
honoured with her fatal love. 

Here then at the great sanctuary of the goddess in Zela 
it appears that her myth was regularly translated into action ; 
the story of her love and the death of her divine lover was 
performed year by year as a sort of mystery-play by men 
and women who lived for a season and sometimes died in 
the character of the visionary beings whom they personated. 
The intention of these sacred dramas, we may be sure, was 
neither to amuse nor to instruct an idle audience, and as 
little were they designed to gratify the actors, to whose baser 
passions they gave the reins for a time. They were solemn 
rites which mimicked the doings of divine beings, because 
man fancied that by such mimicry he was able to arrogate 
to himself the divine functions and to exercise them for 
the good of his fellows. The operations of nature, to his 
thinking, were carried on by mythical personages very like 
himself; and if he could only assimilate himself to them 
completely he would be able to wield all their powers. 
This is probably the original motive of most religious dramas 
or mysteries among rude peoples.^ The dramas are played, 
the mysteries are performed, not to teach the spectators the 
doctrines of their creed, still less to entertain them, but for 
the purpose of bringing about those natural effects which 
they represent in mythical disguise ; in a word, they are 
magical ceremonies and their mode of operation is mimicry 

' The elaborate masked dances given 
by some of the coast Indians of Briti»h 
Columbia are dramatised myths, in 
which the actors personate spirits an<i 
legendary animals. The dramas are 
performed only in winter, because it is 
only then that the spirits are present. 
See Fr. Boas, "The social organisa- 
tion and the secret societies of the 
Kwakiutl Indians," Report of the U.S, 
National Must nm for 1S95, PP- 39^» 

420 stf. ; 637 jy., 651 ; /V/., in Tenth 
Report on the North -Western Tribes 
of Canada^ p. 52 (separate reprint from 
the Report of the British Association 
for 1895). With regard, for example, 
to the Bella Coola tribe we are told 
that "the masks used in the dances 
represent mythical personages, and the 
dances are pantomimic representations 
of myths." This was precisely the 
origin of the drama in Greece. 


or sympathy. We shall probably not err in assuming that 
many myths, which we now know only as myths, had once 
their counterpart in magic ; in other words, that they used 
to be acted as a means of producing in fact the events 
which they describe in figurative language. Ceremonies 
often die out while myths survive, and thus we are left to 
infer the dead ceremony from the living myth. If myths 
are, in a sense, the reflections or shadows of men cast upon 
the clouds, we may say that these reflections continue to be 
visible in the sky and to inform us of the doings of the men 
who cast them, long after the men themselves are not only 
beyond our range of vision but sunk beneath the horizon. 

When once we perceive that the gods and goddesses, 
the heroes and heroines of mythology have been represented 
officially, so to say, by a long succession of living men and 
women who bore the names and were supposed to exercise 
the functions of these fabulous creatures, we .have attained 
a point of vantage from which it seems possible to propose 
terms of peace between two rival schools of mythologists 
who have been waging fierce war on each other for ages. On 
the one hand it has been argued that mythical beings are 
nothing but personifications of natural objects and natural 
processes ; on the other hand, it has been maintained that 
they are nothing but notable men and women who in their 
lifetime, for one reason or another, made a great impression 
on their fellows, but whose doings have been distorted and 
exaggerated by a false and credulous tradition. These two 
views, it is now easy to see, are not so mutually exclusive 
as their supporters have imagined. The personages about 
whom all the marvels of mythology have been told may 
have been real human beings, as the Euhemerists allege ; 
and yet they may have been at the same time personifica- 
tions of natural objects or processes, as the adversaries of 
Euhcmerism assert. The doctrine of incarnation supplies 
the missing link that was needed to unite the two seemingly 
inconsistent theories. If the powers of nature or a certain 
department of nature be conceived as personified in a deity, 
and that deity can become incarnate in a man or woman, it 
is obvious that the incarnate deity is at the same time a real 
human being and a personification of nature. To take the 


instance with which we are here concerned, Semiramis may 
have been the great Semitic goddess of love, Ishtar or Astarte, 
and yet she may be supposed to have been incarnate in a series 
of real women, whether queens or harlots, whose memory 
survives in ancient history. Saturn, again, may have been 
the god of sowing and planting, and yet may have been 
represented on earth . by a succession or dynasty of sacred 
Icings, whose gay but short lives may have contributed to 
build up the legend of the Golden Age. The longer the 
series of such human divinities, the greater, obviously, the 
chance of their myth or legend surviving ; and when more- 
over a deity of a uniform type was represented, whether 
under the same name or not, over a great extent of countrj*^ 
by many local dynasties of divine men or women, it is clear 
that the stories about him would tend still further to persist 
and be stereotyped. 

The conclusions which we have reached in regard to the 
legend of Semiramis and her lovers probably holds good of 
all the similar tales that were current in antiquity throughout 
the East ; in particular, it may be assumed to apply to the 
myths of Aphrodite and Adonis in Syria, of Cybele and 
Attis in Phrygia, and of Isis and Osiris in Egypt. If we 
could trace these stories back to their origin, we might find 
that in every case a human couple acted year by year the 
parts of the lovinjg goddess and the 'dying god. We know 
that down to Roman times Attis was personated by priests 
who bore his name ; * and if within the period of which we 
have knowledge the dead Attis and the dead Adonis were 
represented only by effigies, we may surmise that it had not 
always been so, and that in both cases the dead god was 
once represented by a dead man. Further, the licence 
accorded to the man who played the dying god at the 
Sacaea speaks strongly in favour of the hypothesis that 
before the incarnate deity was put to a public death he was 
in all cases allowed or rather required to enjoy the embraces 
of a woman who played the goddess of love. The reason 
for such an enforced union of the human god and goddess 
is not hard to divine. If primitive man believes that the 
growth of the crops can be stimulated by the intercourse of 

' Sec vol. ii. p. 134. 


common men and women/ what showers of blessings will 
he not anticipate from the commerce of a pair whom his 
fancy invests with all the dignity and powers of deities of 
fertility ? 

Thus the theory of Movers, that at the Sacaea the 
Zoganes represented a god and paired with a woman who 
personated a goddess, turns out to rest on deeper and wider 
foundations than that able scholar was aware of. He 
thought that the divine couple who figured by deputy at 
the ceremony were Semiramis, and Sandan or Sardanapalus. 
It now appears that he was substantially right as to the 
goddess ; but we have still to inquire into the god. There 
seems to be no doubt that the name Sardanapalus is only 
the Greek way of representing Ashurbanapal, the name of 
the greatest and nearly the last king of Assyria. But the 
records of the real monarch which have come to light within 
recent years give little support to the fables that attached to 
his name in classical tradition. For they prove that, far 
from being the effeminate weakling he seemed to the Greeks 
of a later age, he was a warlike and enlightened monarch, 
who carried the arms of Assyria to distant lands and fostered 
at home the growth of science and letters.^ Still, though 
the historical reality of King Ashurbanapal is as well attested 
as that of Alexander or Charlemagne, it would be no wonder 
if myths gathered, like clouds, round the great figure that 
loomed large in the stormy sunset of Assyrian glory. Now 
the two features that stand out most prominently in the 
legends of Sardanapalus arc his extravagant debauchery? 
and his violent death in the flames of a great pyre» on 
which he burned himself and his concubines to save them 
from falling into the hands of his victorious enemies. It is 
said that the womanish king, with painted face and arrayed 
in female attire, passed his days in the seclusion of the 
harem, spinning purple wool among his concubines and 
wallowing in sensual delights ; and that in the epitaph 
which he caused to be carved on his tomb he recorded that 
all the days of his life he ate and drank and toyed, remember- 

' Sec vol. ii. p. 204 sqq. Assyrhche Geschuhte^ p. 35 1 Sijtf. ; 

M. Jasirow, Kdi^ion cf Babylonia and 
' Sec C. P. Tide, liabyloNi'sfh' .hsyn'tt^ p. 43. 

1 68 



ing that life is short and full of trouble, that fortune is 
uncertain, and that others would soon enjoy the good things 
which he must leave behind.^ These traits bear little 
resemblance to the portrait of Ashurbanapal either in life 
or death ; for after a brilliant career of conquest the Assyrian 
king died in old age, at the height of human ambition, with 
peace at home and triumph abroad, the admiration of his 
subjects and the terror of his foes. But if the traditional 
characteristics of Sardanapalus harmonise but ill with what 
we know of the real monarch of that name, they fit well 
enough with all that we know or can conjecture of the mock 
kings who led a short life and a merry during the revelr>' 
of the Sacaea, the Asiatic equivalent of the Saturnalia. 
We can hardly doubt that for the most part such men, with 
death staring them in the face at the end of a few days, 
sought to drown care and deaden fear by plunging madly into 
all the fleeting joys that still offered themselves under the 
sun. When their brief pleasures and sharp sufferings were 
over, and their bones or ashes mingled with the dust, what 
more natural that on their tomb — those mounds in which 
the people saw, not untruly, the graves of the lovers of 
Semiramis — there should be carved some such lines as those 
which tradition placed in the mouth of the great Assyrian 
king, to remind the heedless passer-by of the shortness and 
vanity of life ? 

When we turn to Sandan, the other legendary or mythical 
being whom Movers thought that the Zoganes may have per- 
sonated, we find the arguments in support of his theory still 
stronger. The city of Tarsus in Cilicia is said to have been 
founded by a certain Sandan whom the Greeks identified 
with Hercules ; and at the festival of this god or hero an 
effigy of him was burned on a great pyre.^ This Sandan is 

' Athcnaeus, xii. pp. 528 F-530 c ; 
Diodorus Siculus, ii. 23 and 27 ; Justin, 
i. 3. Several difTercnt versions of 
the kin{;*s epitaph hnve come down 
to us. I liave followed the version of 
Choerilus, the original of which is said 
to have been carved in Chaldean letters 
on a tombstone that surmounted a great 
Itarrow at Nineveh. This 1 narrow may, 
as I suggest in the text, have been one 
of the so-called mounds of .Semiramis. 

' Ammianus Marcellinus, xiv. 8 ; 
Dio Chrysostom, Or, xxxiii. p. 408 
(vol. ii. p. 16 ed. Dindorf). Coins of 
Tarsus exhibit the effigy on the pyre, 
which seems to be composed of a pyra- 
mid of great l)eams resting on a cubical 
l»ase. See K. O. Milller, '*Sandon 
und Sardanapal," Kunstarchdologiscke 
Wtrke^ iii. 8 sqq,^ whose valuable 
essay I follow. 

Ill SANDAN 169 

doubtless the same with the Sandes whom Agathias calls the 
old Persian Hercules. Professing to give a list of the gods 
whom the Persians worshipped before the days of Zoroaster, the 
Byzantine historian mentions Bel, Sandes, and Anaitis, whom 
he identifies with Zeus, Hercules, and Aphrodite respectively.* 
As we know that Bel was a Babylonian, not a Persian deity, 
and that in later times Anaitis was practically equivalent to 
the Babylonian Ishtar or Astarte, a strong presumption is 
raised that Sandes also was a Babylonian or at all events 
Semitic deity, and that in speaking of him as Persian the 
historian confused the ancient Persians with the Babylonians 
and perhaps other stocks of Western Asia. The presump- 
tion is strengthened when we find that in Lydia the sur- 
name of Sandon, doubtless equivalent to Sandan, is said 
to have been borne by Hercules because he wore a woman's 
garment called a sandyx^ fine and diaphanous as gossamer, 
at the bidding of Queen Omphale, whom the hero served 
for three years in the guise of a female slave, clad in 
purple, humbly carding wool and submitting to be slapped 
by the saucy queen with her golden slipper.* The familiar 
legend that Hercules burned himself alive on a great 
pyre completes the parallel between the effeminate Her- 
cules Sandon of Lydia and the Assyrian Sardanapalus. 
So exact a parallel must surely rest on a common base 
of custom as well as of myth. That base, according to 
the conjecture of the admirable scholar K. O. Miiller, 
may have been a custom of dressing up an effigy of an 
effeminate Asiatic deity in the semblance of a reveller, 
and then publicly burning it on a pyre. Such a custom 
appears to have prevailed not only at Tarsus in Cilicia, but 
also in Lydia ; for a coin of the Lydian Philadelphia, a city 
which lay not far from the old royal capital Sardes, exhibits 
a device like that on coins of Tarsus, consisting of a figure 
stretched on a pyre. " We may suppose," says Miiller, " that 
in the old Assyrian mythology a certain being called Sandan, 
or perhaps Sardan, figured beside Baal and Mylitta or Astarte. 
The character of this mythical personage is one which often 
meets us in oriental religion — the extreme of voluptuousness 

' A^.ithias, Hist. ii. 24. iii. 64 ; Apollodorus, ii. 6. 2 sq, ; 

'-* Joannes Lydus, De niagistrcUihus^ Lucian, Dial. tUorum^ xiii. 2. 


and senisuaiity combined with miraculous force and heroic 
strength; We may imagine that at the great festivals of 
Nineveh this Sandan or Sardan was exhibited as a buxom 
figure with womanish features, the pale face painted with 
white lead, the eyebrows and eyelashes blackened with kohl, 
his person loaded with golden chains, rings, and earrings, 
arrayed in a bright red transparent garment, grasping a 
*goblet in one hand and perhaps, as a symbol of strength, a 
double axe in the other, while he sat cross-legged and sur- 
rounded by women on a splendidly adorned couch under a 
purple canopy, altogether not unlike the figure of Adonis at 
the court festivals of Alexandria. Then the people of * mad 
Nineveh,* as the poet Phocylides called it, * the well-favoured 
harlot,' as the prophet Nahum has it, would rejoice and 
make merry with this their darling hero. Afterwards there 
may have been another show, when this gorgeous Sandan or 
Sardan was to be seen on a huge pyre of precious wood, 
draped in gold-embroidered tapestry and laden with incense 
and spices of every sort, which being set on fire, to the howl- 
ing of a countless multitude and the deafening din of shrill 
music, sent up a monstrous pillar of fire whirling towards 
heaven and flooded half Nineveh with smoke and smell." ^ 

The distinguished scholar whom I have just quoted docs 
not fail to recognise the part which imagination plays in the 
picture he has set before us ; but he reminds us very properly 
that in historical inquiries imagination must always supply 
the bond that links together the broken fragments of tradi- 
tion. One thing, he thinks, emerges clearly from the present 
investigation, the worship and legend of an effeminate hero 
like Sandan appear to have spread, by means of an early 
diiffusion of the Semitic stock, first to the neighbourhood of 
Tarsus in Cilicia and afterwards to Sardes in Lydia. In 
favour of the former prevalence of the rite in Lydia it may 
be added that the oldest dynasty of Lydian kings traced 
their descent, not only from the mythical Assyrian hero 

* K. O. Mailer, ** Sandon und Sar- ii. p. 202 cti. Dindorf), where the 

danapal," Kunstarchiiolo^^ischf IWrhy unmanly Sardanapalus, scaled cross- 

!ii. 16 sq. The writer adds that there legged on a gilded cuuch with purple 

is authority for every stroke in the pic- hangings, ij» compared to ** the Adonis 

ture. His principal source is thoixty- for wliom the women wail." 
second s|H.*cch of Dio Chrysostom (vol. 




Ninus, but also from the Greek hero Hercules,^ whose 
legendary death in the fire finds at least a curious echo in 
the story that Croesus, the last king of Lydia, was laid by 
his Persian conqueror Cyrus on a great pyre of wood, and 
was only saved at the last moment from being consumed in 
the flames* May not this story embody a reminiscence of 
the manner in which the ancient kings of Lydia, as living 
embodiments of their god, formerly met their end ? It was 
thus, as we have seen, that the old Prussian rulers used to 
burn themselves alive in front of the sacred oak ; • and by 
an odd coincidence, if it is nothing more, the Greek Hercules 
directed that the pyre on which he was to be consumed 
should be made of the wood of the oak and the wild olive.* 
Some grounds have also been shown for thinking that in cer- 
tain South African tribes the chiefs may formerly have been 
burnt alive as a religious or magical ceremony.^ All these 
facts and indications tend to support the view of Movers 
that at the Sacaea also the man who played the god for five 
days was originally burnt at the end of them.* Death by 
hanging or crucifixion may have been a later mitigation of 
his sufferings, though it is quite possible that both forms of 
execution or rather of sacrifice may have been combined by 
hanging or crucifying the victim first and burning him after- 
wards, much as our forefathers used to disembowel traitors 
after suspending them for a few minutes on a gibbet. At 
Tarsus apparently the custom was still further softened by 
burning an effigy instead of a man ; but on this point the 
evidence is not explicit It is worth observing that as late 

* Herodotus, L 7. 

^ Herodotus, i. S6, with Bahr*s note. 

^ Sec above, vol. ii. p. 1 3. 

* Sophocles, Tnuhiniatt 1 195 sqq, : 

roXXi^r fUv dXijr rrjit fiaOvppl^ov 8pv6t 
K€Lparra to\\6¥ 6* &pctp iicrtfi^d* oaov 
ay fKw iXaiWy awfia tov/i6¥ ifilia\€if. 

The passage was pointed out to nw by 
my friend Dr. A. W. Verrall. The 
poet's language suggests that of old a 
sacred fire was kindled by the friction 
of oak and wild olive wood, and that 
in accordance with a notion common 
among rude peoples, one of the pieces 
of wood (in this case the wild olive) was 

regarded as male and the other (the 
oak) as female. On this hypothesis, 
the fire was kindled by drilling a hole 
in a piece of oak with a stick of wild 
olive. As to the different sorts of wood 
used by the ancients in making fire by 
friction, see A. Kuhn, Die Herabkunft 
cLs Fviwrs uttd cits GotUrtranks^ p. 

35 ^y^* ^^'c ^^v*^ '^^ ^^^^ '^^ South 
Africa a special fire is procured for 
sacrifices by the friction of two pieces of 
the Uzwati tree, which are known re- 
spectively as husband and wife (vol. ii. 
p. 326). 

* See alx)vc, vol. ii. p. 32S. 

^ Movers, Die Phoenizur^ i. 496. 




as Lucian's time the principal festival of the year at Hier- 
apolis — the great seat of the worship of Astarte — fell at the 
beginning of spring and took its name of the Pyre or the 
Torch from the tall masts which were burnt in the court of 
the temple with sheep, goats, and other animals hanging 
from them.^ Here the season, the fire, and the gallows-tree 
all fit our hypothesis ; only the man-god is wanting. 

If the Jewish festival of Purim was, as I have attempted 
to show, directly descended either from the Sacaea or from 
some other Semitic festival, of which the central feature was 
the sacrifice of a man in the character of a god, we should 
expect to find traces of human sacrifice lingering about it 
in one or other of those mitigated forms to which I have 
just referred. This expectation is fully borne out by the 
facts. For from an early time it has been customar>' with 
the Jews at the feast of Purim to burn or otherwise destroy 
effigies of Haman, whose original character as a deity has 
recently been made probable by the researches of Jensen. 
The practice was well known under the Roman empire, for 
the emperors Honorius and Theodosius issued a decree 
commanding the governors of the provinces to take care 
that the Jews should not burn effigies of Haman on a cross 
at one of their festivals.* We learn from the decree that 
the custom gave great offence to the Christians, who regarded 
it as a blasphemous parody of the central mystery of their 
own religion, little suspecting that it was nothing but a 
continuation, in a milder form, of a rite that had probably 
been celebrated in the East long ages before the birth of 
Christ. The Arab historian AlbirOni, who wrote in the 
year i ooo A.D., informs us that at Purim the Jews of his time 
rejoiced greatly over the death of Haman, and that they 
made figures which they beat and burned, " imitating the 
burning of Haman." Hence one name for the festival was 
H&mAn-S(ir.* Another Arabic writer, Makrizi, who died in 

* Lucijn, De dea Syria^ 49. 

- Codex Theodosianus, Lib. xvi. 
Tit. viii. § iS : **Jndai'os quodamft'stiri- 
(at is suae solUni A man ad pot-ttae. 
quondam recordaSionttn iturndere, et 
sanrtae cruris adsimuiatam speiicm in 
contemptu Christianas fidi'i sacrihs^a 
mentc txurere pravinciarum restores 

prohiiH-ant : ne locis suis fidci nostrae 
sijinum immisci'ant^ sed ritus suos infra 
contnnptum Christianae Ugis reiineant : 
amissuri sine dubio per mis sa hactettus^ 
nisi ah in/idtis temperat'erinty The 
decree is dated at Constantinople, in 
the consulship of Bassus and Philip. 
' Alhtriint, 7//< Chronology of Ancient 

Ill B URNT AT P URIM \ 75 

1442 A.D., says that at the feast of Purim, which fell on the 
fifteenth day of the month Adar, some of the Jews used to 
make effigies of Haman which they first played with and 
then threw into the fire.^ During the Middle Ages the 
Italian Jews celebrated Purim in a lively fashion which has 
been compared by their own historians to that of the 
Carnival. The children used to range themselves in rows 
opposite each other and pelt one another with nuts, while 
grown-up people rode on horseback through the streets with 
pine branches in their hands or blew trumpets and made 
merry round a puppet representing Haman, which was set 
on a platform or scaffold and then solemnly burnt on a 
pyre.* In the eighteenth century the Jews of Frankfort 
used at Purim to make pyramids of thin wax candles, which 
they set on fire ; also they fashioned images of Haman and 
his wife out of candles and burned them on the reading- 
desk in the synagogue.* 

Now, when we consider the close correspondence in 
character as well as in date between the Jewish Purim and 
the Christian Carnival, and remember further that the effigy 
of Carnival, which is now destroyed at this merry season,^ 
had probably its prototype in a living man who was put to 
a violent death in the character of Saturn at the Saturnalia, 
analogy of itself would suggest that in former times the Jews, 
like the Babylonians, from whom they appear to have 
derived their Purim, may at one time have burned, hanged, or 
crucified a real man in the character of Haman. There are 
some positive grounds for thinking that this was so. The 
early church historian Socrates informs us that at Inmestar, a 
town in Syria, the Jews were wont to observe certain sports 
among themselves, in the course of which they played many 
foolish pranks. In the year 416 A.D., being heated with 
wine, they carried these sports further than usual and began 
deriding Christians and even Christ himself, and to give the 

Natimst translated and edited by Dr. ' M. GUdemann, GeschiihU des 

C. Edward Sachau (London, 1879), Ertiehtiftgswtsens und tier Cuitur der 

p. 2735^. ahendUindhchcn Juden^ ii. 211 sq, i I. 

* Quoted by Lagarde, •• Purim," Abrahams, Jcu/ish Life in the Middle 

p. 13 {Abhaftdiun^tn der koniglidien , Ages (London, 1896), p. 260 sq. 

Gesellschaft dt-r Wlssensehajten zit ^ J. J. Schudt, Jiidische MerkwUr^ 

Gbttingen^ xxxiv. 1S87). digkeiten^ ii. Thcil, p. ^309. 




more zest to their mockery they seized a Christian child, 
bound him to a cross, and hung him up. At first they only 
laughed and jeered at him, but soon, their passions getting 
the better of them, they ill-treated the child so that he died 
under their hands. The thing got noised abroad, and 
resulted in a serious brawl between the Jews and their 
Christian neighbours. The authorities then stepped in, and 
the Jews had to pay dear for the crime they had perpetrated 
in sport^ The Christian historian does not mention, and 
perhaps did not know, the name of the drunken and jovial 
festival which ended so tragically ; but we can hardly doubt 
that it was Purim, and that the boy who died on the cross 
represented Haman.^ In mediseval and modern times 
many accusations of ritual murders, as they are called, have 
been brought against the Jews, and the arguments for and 
against the charge have been discussed on both sides with a 
heat which, however natural, has tended rather to inflame 
the passions of the disputants than to elicit the truth.^ Into 
this troubled arena I prefer not to enter ; I will only observe 
that, so far as I have looked into the alleged cases, and these 
are reported in sufficient detail, the majority of the victims 
are said to have been children and to have met their fate in 
spring, often in the week before Easter. This last circum- 
stance points, if there is any truth in the accusations, to a 
connection of the human sacrifice with the Passover, which 
falls in this week, rather than with Purim, which falls a 
month earlier. Indeed it has often been made a part of the 
accusation that the blood of the youthful victims was intended 
to be used at the Passover. Now if we bear in mind the 
strong grounds which exist for believing that the great 

1 Socrates, Historta Ecclesiastical 
vii. i6 ; Theophanes, Chronographia^ 
«d. Classen, vol. i. p. 1 29. Theophanes 
places the event in the year 408 A.D. 
From a note in Migne's edition of 
Socrates, I learn that in the Alexandrian 
calendar, which Theophanes used, the 
year 408 corresponded to the year 
which in our reckoning began on the 
first of Septeml>er 415. Hence if the 
murder was perpetrated in spring at 
Purim it must have taken place in 416. 

' This is the view of Graetz 

{Geschichte derjuden^ \\\ 393 Jf.) and 
Dr. M. R. James {Life and Miracles 
of St. William of Norwich (Cambridge, 
1896), by A. Jessopp and M. K. James, 
p. Ixiii. j^.). 

' For an examination of some of 
these reported murders, see M. R. 
James, op, cit. p. Ixii. si^q. ; II. L. 
St rack, /)as Blut ini Glauhen und 
Aberglcuiben der Menschheit (Munich, 
1900), p. \2\sqq. Both writers incline 
to dismiss the charges as groundless. 


feature of the original Passover was the sacrifice of the first- 
born children,^ we may hesitate to dismiss as idle calumnies 
all the charges of ritual murder which have been brought 
against the Jews in modern times. The extraordinary 
tenacity of life exhibited by the lowest forms of superstition 
in the minds of ignorant people, whether they are Jews or 
Gentiles, is familiar to all students of popular religion ; and 
there would be no reason for surprise if among the most 
degraded part of the Jewish community there should be from 
time to time a recrudescence of primitive barbarity. To 
make the Jewish community as a whole responsible for 
outrages which, if they occur at all, are doubtless quite 
as repugnant to them as they are to every humane mind, 
would be the height of injustice ; it would be as fair to 
charge Christians in general with complicity in the incalcul- 
ably greater number of massacres and atrocities of every 
kind that have been perpetrated by Christians in the name 
of Christianity, not merely on Jews and heathen, but on men 
and women and children who professed — ^and died for — the 
same faith as their torturers and murderers. If deeds of 
the sort alleged have been really done by Jews — a question 
on which I must decline to pronounce an opinion — ^they 
would interest the student of custom as isolated instances of 
reversion to an old and barbarous ritual which once 
flourished commonly enough among the ancestors both of 
Jews and Gentiles, but on which, as on a noxious monster, 
an enlightened humanity has long set its heel. Such 
customs die hard ; it is not the fault of society as a whole 
if sometimes the reptile has strength enough left to lift its 
venomous head and sting. 

But between the stage when human sacrifice goes on 
unabashed in the light of common day, and the stage when 
it has been driven out of sight into dark holes and comiers, 
there intervenes a period during which the custom is slowly 
dwindling away under the growing light of knowledge and 
philanthropy. In this middle period many subterfuges are 
resorted to for the sake of preserving the old ritual in a form 
which will not offend the new morality. A common and suc- 
cessful device is to consummate the sacrifice on the person 

' See above, vol. ii. p. 47 sqq^ 

176 THE FAST OF ESTHER • chai-. 

of a malefactor, whose death at the altar or elsewhere is little 
likely to excite pity or indignation, since it partakes of the 
character of a punishment, and people recognise that if the 
miscreant had not been dealt with by the priest, it would 
have been needful in the public interest to hand him over to 
the executioner. We have seen that in the Rhodian sacri- 
fices to Cronus a condemned criminal was after a time sub- 
stituted for an innocent victim ; and there can be little doubt 
that at Babylon the criminals, who perished in the character 
of gods at the Sacaea, enjoyed an honour which, at an earlier 
period, had been reserved for more respectable persons. It 
seems therefore by no means impossible that the Jews, in 
borrowing the Sacaea from Babylon under the new name of 
Purim, should have borrowed along with it the custom of 
putting to death a malefactor who, after masquerading as 
Mordccai in a crown and royal robe, was hanged or crucified 
in the character of Haman. There are some grounds for 
thinking that this or something of this sort was done ; but 
a consideration of them had better be deferred till we have 
cleared up some points which still remain obscure in Purim, 
and in the account which the Jews g^ve of its origin. 

In the first place, then, it deserves to be remarked that 
the joyous festival of Purim on the fourteenth and fifteenth 
days of the month Adar is invariably preceded by a fast, 
known as the fast of Esther, on the thirteenth ; indeed, some 
Jews fast for several days before Purim.* In the book of 
Esther the fast is traditionally explained as a commemoration 
of the mourning and lamentation excited among the Jews 
by the decree of King Ahasuerus that they should all be 
massacred on the thirteenth day of the month Adar ; for ** in 
every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and 
his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, 
and fasting and weeping, and wailing ; and many lay in 
sackcloth and ashes." And Esther, before she went into the 
presence of the king to plead for the lives of her people, 
" bade them return answer unto Mordecai, Go, gather together 
all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, 
and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day : I also 

• Buxtorf, Syfia^ffa Judaica^ cap. Verfassung der hcuti^cn Jttdcn^ ii. 253 
xxix. p. 554 ; Bcxlenschatz, KirchlUhe sq. 


and my maidens will fast in like manner." Hence fasting 
and lamentation were ordained as the proper preparation for 
the happy feast of Purim which commemorated the great de- 
liverance of the Jews from the destruction that had threatened 
them on the thirteenth day of Adar.^ Now we have seen 
that, in the opinion of some of the best modern scholars, the 
basis of the book of Esther is not history but a Babylonian 
myth, which celebrated the triumph of the Babylonian deities 
over the gods of their enemies. On this hypothesis, how is 
the fast that precedes Purim to be explained ? The best 
solution appears to be that of Jensen, that the fasting and 
mourning were originally for the supposed annual death 
of a Semitic god or hero of the type of Tammuz or 
Adonis, whose resurrection on the following day occasioned 
that outburst of joy and gladness which is characteristic of 
Purim. The particular god or hero, whose death and resur- 
rection thus touched with sorrow and filled with joy the hearts 
of his worshippers, may have been, according to Jensen, either 
the great hero Gilgamesh, or his comrade and friend Eabani.^ 
The doughty deeds and adventures of this mighty pair are 
the theme of the longest Babylonian poem that has been as 
yet discovered. It is recorded on twelve tablets, and this cir- 
cumstance has suggested to some scholars the view that the 
story may be a solar myth, descriptive of the sun's annual 
course through the twelve months or the twelve signs of the 
zodiac. However this may be, the scene of the poem is 
laid chiefly at the very ancient Babylonian city of Erech, the 
chief seat of the worship of the goddess Ishtar or Astarte, who 
plays an important part in the story. For the goddess is said 
to have been smitten with the charms of Gilgamesh, and to 
have made love to him ; but he spurned her proffered favours, 
and thereafter fell into a sore sickness, probably through the 
wrath of the offended goddess. His comrade Eabani also 
roused the fury of Ishtar, and was wounded to death. For 
twelve days he lingered on a bed of pain, and, when he died, 

* EUther iv. 3 and 16, ix. 31. GUnkel, Schopfutig und Chaos^ P* 311 

^ So far as I know, Professor Jensen stfq. ; Wiideboer, in his commentary 

has not yet published his theory, but on Esther, p. 174 sq, {A'urzer I/ami' 

he has stated it in letters to corre- ConifHt'ntar sum Alten Testament ^ 

spondents. See Xowack, Lehrbuch herausgegeben von D. K. Marti, Lie- 

der Jubriiischen Archdohi^U\ ii. 200 ; ferung 6). 

VOL. Ill N 




his friend Gilgamesh mourned and lamented for him, and 
rested not until he had prevailed on the god of the dead to 
suffer the spirit of Eabani to return to the upper world. The 
resurrection of Eabani, recorded on the twelfth tablet, forms 
the conclusion of the long poem.^ Jensen's theory is that 
the death and resurrection of a mythical being, who com- 
bined in himself the features of a solar god and an ancient 
king of Erech, were celebrated at the Babylonian Zakmuk or 
festival of the New Year, and that the transference of the 
drama from Erech, its original seat, to Babylon led naturally 
to the substitution of Marduk, the great god of Babylon, for 
Gilgamesh or Eabani in the part of the hero. Although 
Jensen apparently does not identify the Zakmuk with the 
Sacaea, a little consideration will show how well his general 
theory of Zakmuk fits in with those features of the Sacaean 
festival which have emerged in the course of our inquiry. 
At the Sacaean festival, if I am right, a man, who personated 
a god or hero of the type of Tammuz or Adonis, enjoyed 
the favours of a woman, probably a sacred harlot, who re- 
presented the great Semitic goddess Ishtar or Astarte ; and 
after he had thus done his part towards securing, by means 
of sympathetic magic, the revival of plant life in spring, he 
was put to death. We may suppose that the death of this 
divine man was mourned over by his worshippers, and espe- 
cially by women, in much the same fashion as the women of 
Jerusalem wept for Tammuz at the gate of the temple,* and 
as Syrian damsels mourned the dead Adonis, while the river 
ran red with his blood. Such rites appear, in fact, to have 
been common all over Western Asia ; the particular name of 
the dying god varied in different places, but in substance the 

' M. Jastrow, Religion of Babytonia 
and Assyria^ pp. 471 sq,t 475 j^., 
481.486, 510-512 ; L. W. King, Baby^ 
Ionian Religion and Mythology^ p. 146 
sqq, Mr. Jastrow points out that though 
a relation cannot be traced between 
each of the tablets of the poem and the 
corresponding month of the year, such 
a relation appears undoubtedly to exist 
between some of the tablets and the 
months. Thus, for example, the sixth 
tablet describes the affection of Ishtar 
for Gilgamesh, and the visit which she 

paid to Anu, her father in heaven, to 
complain of the hero's contemptuous 
rejection of her love. Now the sixth 
Babylonian month was called the *' Mis- 
sion of Ishtar," and in it was held the 
festival of Tammuz, the hapless lover 
of the goddess. Again, the story of the 
great flood is told in the eleventh tablet, 
and the eleventh month was called the 
•* month of rain.** See Jastrow, op, cit. 
pp. 484, 510. 

' Ezekiel viii. 14. 


ritual was the same. Fundamentally, the custom was a re- 
ligious or rather magical ceremony intended to ensure the 
revival and reproduction of life in spring. 

Now, if this interpretation of the Sacaea is correct, it is 
obvious that one important feature of the ceremony is wanting 
in the brief notices of the festival that have come down to us. 
The death of the man-god at the festival is recorded, but 
nothing is said of his resurrection. Yet if he really personated 
a being of the Adonis or Attis type, we may feel pretty sure 
that his dramatic death was followed at a shorter or longer 
interval by his dramatic revival, just as at the festivals of 
Attis and Adonis the resurrection of the dead god quickly 
succeeded to his mimic death.^ Here, however, a difficulty 
presents itself. At the Sacaea the man-god died a real, not 
a mere mimic death ; and in ordinary life the resurrection 
even of a man-god is at least not an everyday occurrence. 
What was to be done ? The man, or rather the god, was 
undoubtedly dead. How was he to come to life again ? 
Obviously the best, if not the only way, was to set another and 
living man to support the character of the reviving god, and 
we may conjecture that this was done. We may suppose 
that the insignia of royalty which had adorned the dead 
man were transferred to his successor, who, arrayed in them, 
would be presented to his rejoicing worshippers as their god 
come to life again ; and by his side would probably be 
displayed a woman in the character of his divine consort, 
the goddess Ishtar or Astarte. In favour of this hypothesis 
it may be observed that it at once furnishes a clear and 
intelligible explanation of a remarkable feature in the book 
of Esther which has not yet, so far as I am aware, been 
adequately elucidated ; I mean that apparent duplication of 
the principal characters to which I have already directed 
the reader's attention. If I am right, Haman represents 
the temporary king or mortal god who was put to death at 
the Sacaea ; and his rival Mordecai represents the other 
temporary king who, on the death of his predecessor, was 
invested with his royal insignia, and exhibited to the people 
as the god come to life again. Similarly Vashti, the deposed 
queen in the narrative, corresponds to the woman who 

' Sec vol. ii. pp. 116, 132. 


played the part of queen and goddess to the first mock ] 

king, the Haman or Humman ; and her successful rival, > 

Esther or Ishtar, answers to the woman who figured as the 
divine consort of the second mock king, the Mordecai or 
Marduk. A trace of the sexual licence accorded to the 
mock king of the festival seems to be preserved in the 
statement that King Ahasuerus found Haman fallen on the 
bed with Esther and asked, " Will he even force the queen 
before me in the house ? " ^ We have seen that the mock 
king of the Sacaea did actually possess the right of using 
the real king's concubines, and there is much to be said for 
the view of Movers that he began his short reign by exer- 
cising the right in public.^ In the parallel ritual of Adonis 
the marriage of the goddess with her ill-fated lover was 
publicly celebrated the day before his mimic death.' A 
clear reminiscence of the time when the relation between 
Esther and Mordecai was conceived as much more intimate 
than mere cousinship appears to be preserved in some of 
the Jewish plays acted at Purim, in which Mordecai appears 
as the lover of Esther; and this significant indication is 
confirmed by the teaching of the Rabbis that King Ahasuerus 
never really knew Esther, but that a phantom in her likeness 
lay with him while the real Esther sat on the lap of 
Mordecai/ Another recommendation of the theory which 
I venture to propound is that it suggests an obvious and 
plausible reason for the Elamite names attached to two of 
the principal characters in the book of Elsther, the discarded 
queen Vashti and the unhappy vizier Haman. If at the 
New Year festival in Babylon the divine drama was played 
by two pairs of mock kings and queens, of whom one pair 
came to a miserable end, while the other pair triumphed 
before the people arrayed in all the mimic pomp of their 
predecessors, it would be natural enough that in time an 
unfavourable comparison should be drawn between the two 
pairs, and that people, foi^etting their real meaning and 
religious identity, should see in their apparent opposition a 
victory of the gods of Babylon over the gods of their eternal 

* I'.sihcr vji. 8. - Sec above, p. i6o. • Above, vol. ii. p. 1 16. 

* f. J. Schudt, y/ir<//Vr/<r Mcrkwiirdi^ktiten^ ii. Theil, p. ♦316. 


foes the Elamites. Hence while the happy pair retained 
their Babylonian names of Marduk and Ishtar, the unhappy 
pair, who were originally nothing but Marduk and Ishtar in 
a different aspect, were renamed after the hated Elamite 
deities Humman and Vashti. 

The Persian setting, in which the Hebrew author of the 
book of Esther has framed his highly -coloured picture, 
naturally suggests that the Jews derived their feast of 
Purim not directly from the old Babylonians, but from their 
Persian conquerors. Even if this could be demonstrated, it 
would in no way invalidate the theory that Purim originated 
in the Babylonian festival of the Sacaea, since we know 
that the Sacaea was celebrated by the Persians.^ Hence it 
becomes worth while to inquire whether in the Persian 
religion we can detect any traces of a festival akin to the 
Sacaea or Purim. Here Lagarde has shown the way by 
directing attention to the old Persian ceremony known as 
the " Ride of the Beardless One." - This was a rite per- 
formed both in Persia and Babylonia at the beginning of 
spring, on the first day of the first month, which in the 
most ancient Persian calendar corresponded to March, so 
that the date of the ceremony agrees with that of the 
Babylonian New Year festival of Zakmuk. A beardless 
and, if possible, one-eyed buffoon was set naked on an ass, 
a horse, or a mule, and conducted in a sort of mock triumph 
through the streets of the city. In one hand he held a 
crow and in the other a fan, with which he fanned himself, 
complaining of the heat, while the people pelted him with 
ice and snow and drenched him with cold water. He was 
supposed to drive away the cold, and perhaps to aid him in 
discharging this useful function he was fed with hot food, 
and hot stuffs were smeared on his body. Riding on his 
ass and attended by all the king's household, if the city 
happened to be the capital, or, if it was not, by all the 

1 Dio Chrysostom makes Diogenes it was associated with the nominal wor- 

say to Alexander the Great, oi-K ship of the Persian goddess Anaitis 

4vv€vbn/iKai Trj¥ tQp Zaxaiup ioprriv, ijp (Strabo, xi. 8. 4 and 5). 
U^paai ciyovfjip {Or, iv. vol. i. p. 76 ed. 

Dindorf). The festival was mentioned 2 Lagarde, ** rurim," p. 51 sqq. 

by Clcsias in the second book of his (Abhattdlungen der konigl, Gesellschaft 

Persian history (Athenaeus, xiv. p. tUr ll'issenschaftenzu Gottingen^xxxix. 

639 c) ; and down to the time of Strain) 1SS7). 

K^ -., 

•'■« ■" jf»* 

rvaf ■■■ 





retainers of the governor, who were also mounted, he 
paraded the streets and extorted contributions. He stopped 
at the doors of the rich, and if they did not give him what 
he asked for, he befouled their garments with mud or a 
mixture of red ochre and water, which he carried in an 
earthenware pot If a shopkeeper hesitated a moment to 
respond to his demands, the importunate beggar had the 
right to confiscate all the goods in the shop ; so the trades- 
men who saw him bearing down on them, not unnaturally 
hastened to anticipate his wants by contributing of their 
substance before he could board them. Everything that he 
thus collected from break of day to the time of morning 
prayers belonged to the king or governor of the city ; but 
everything that he laid hands on between the first and the 
second hour of prayer he kept for himself. After the 
second prayers he disappeared, and if the people caught 
him later in the day they were free to beat him to their 
heart's content " In like manner," proceeds one of the 
native writers who has described the custom, " people at the 
present time appoint a New Year Lord and make merry. 
And this they do because the season, which is the beginning 
of Azur or March, coincides with the sun's entry into Aries, 
for on that day they disport themselves and rejoice because 
the winter is over." ^ 

Now in this harlequin, who rode through the streets 
attended by all the king's men, and levying contributions 
which went either to the royal treasury or to the pocket of 
the collector, we recognise the familiar features of the mock 
or temporary king, who is invested for a short time with the 
pomp and privileges of royalty for reasons which have been 
already explained.* The abrupt disappearance of the 
Persian clown at a certain hour of the day, coupled with 
the leave given to the populace to thrash him if they found 
him afterwards, points plainly enough to the harder fate 
that probably awaited him in former days, when he paid 
with his life for his brief tenure of a kingly crown. The 
resemblance between his burlesque progress and that of 
Mordecai through the streets of Susa is obvious ; though 

* Th. HydiQ^IIistoria religiimisvetertim Pcrsanim(Oxioii3i^ I700),pp. 183,249-251. 

' See especially, vol. ii. p. 26 st/q. 



the Jewish author of Esther has depicted in brighter colours 
the pomp of his hero " in royal apparel of blue and white, 
and with a great crown of gold, and with a robe of fine 
linen and purple," riding the king's own charger, and led 
through the city by one of the king's most noble princes.^ 
The difference between the two scenes is probably not to 
be explained simply by the desire of the Jewish writer to 
shed a halo of glory round the personage whom he regarded 
as the deliverer of his people. So long as the temporary 
king was a real substitute for the reigning monarch, and had 
to die sooner or later in his stead, it was natural that he 
should be treated with a greater show of deference, and 
should simulate his royal brother more closely than a clown, 
who had nothing worse than a beating to fear when he laid 
down his office. In short, after the serious meaning of the 
custom had been forgotten, and the substitute was allowed 
to escape with his life, the high tragedy of the ancient cere- 
mony would rapidly degenerate into farce. 

But while the " Ride of the Beardless One " is, from 
one point of view, a degenerate copy of the original, 
regarded from another point of view, it preserves some 
features which are almost certainly primitive, though they 
do not appear in the kindred Babylonian and Jewish festivals. 
The Persian custom bears the stamp of a popular festivity 
rather than of a state ceremonial, and everywhere it seems 
as if popular festivals, when left to propagate themselves 
freely among the folk, reveal their old meaning and inten- 
tion more transparently than when they have been adopted 
into the official religion and enshrined in a ritual. The 
simple thoughts of our simple forefathers are better under- 
stood by their unlettered descendants than by the majority 
of educated people ; their rude rites are more faithfully pre- 
ser\'ed and more truly interpreted by a rude peasantry than 
by the priest, who wraps up their nakedness in the gorgeous 
pall of religious pomp, or by the philosopher, who dissolves 
their crudities into the thin air of allegory. In the present 
instance the purpose of the "Ride of the Beardless One" 
at the beginning of spring is sufficiently obvious ; it was 
meant to hasten the departure of winter and the approach 

' r.sihcr vi. 8 sq.^ viii. 15. 


of summer. We are expressly told that the clown who 
went about fanning himself and complaining of the heat, 
while the populace snowballed him, was supposed to dispel 
the cold ; and even without any such assurance we should 
be justified in inferring as much from his behaviour. On 
the principles of sympathetic magic, which is little more 
than an elaborate system of make-believe, you can make 
the weather warm by pretending that it is so ; or if you 
cannot, you may be sure that there is some wiser person 
than yourself who can. Such a wizard, in the estimation 
of the Persians, was the beardless one-eyed man who went 
through the performance I have described ; and no doubt 
his physical defects were believed to contribute in some 
occult manner to the success of the rile. The ceremony was 
thus, as Lagarde acutely perceived, the oriental equivalent of 
those popular European customs which celebrate the advent 
of spring by representing in a dramatic form the expulsion 
or defeat of winter by the victorious summer.^ But whereas 
in Europe the two rival seasons are often, if not regularly, 
personated by two actors or two effigies, in Persia a single 
actor sufficed. Whether he definitely represented winter or 
summer is not quite clear ; but his pretence of suffering 
from heat, and his final disappearance suggest that, if he 
personified either of the seasons, it was the departing winter 
rather than the coming summer. 

If there is any truth in the connection thus traced 
between Purim and the " Ride of the Beardless One," we 
are now in a position to finally unmask the leading personages 
in the book of Esther. I have attempted to show that 
Haman and Vashti are little more than doubles of Mordecai 
and Esther, who in turn conceal under a thin disguise the 
features of Marduk and Ishtar, the great god and goddess 
of Babylon. But why, the reader may ask, should the 
divine pair be thus duplicated and the two pairs set in 
opposition to each other? The answer is suggested by 
the popular European celebrations of spring to which I have 
just adverted. If my interpretation of these customs is 
right, the contrast between the summer and winter, or the 
life and death which figure in effigy, or in the persons of 

' See above, vol. ii. p. 99 sqq. 




living representatives at the spring ceremonies of our 
peasantry, is fundamentally a contrast between the dying or 
dead vegetation of the old, and the sprouting vegetation 
of the new year — a contrast, I may add, which would lose 
nothing of its point when, as in ancient Rome and Babylon 
and Persia, the beginning of spring was also the beginning 
of the new year. In these and in all the ceremonies we 
have been examining the antagonism is not between powers 
of a different order, but between the same power viewed in 
different aspects as old and young ; it is in short nothing 
but the eternal and pathetic contrast between youth and 
age. And as the power or spirit of vegetation is repre- 
sented in religious ritual and popular custom by a human 
pair, whether they be called Ishtar and Tammuz, or Venus 
and Adonis, or the Queen and King of May, so we may 
expect to find the old decrepit spirit of the past year per- 
sonated by one pair, and the fresh young spirit of the new 
year by another. This, if my hypothesis is right, is the 
ultimate explanation of the struggle between Haman and 
Vashti on the one side, and their doubles Mordecai and 
Esther on the other. In the last analysis both pairs stood 
for the powers that make for the fertility of plants and 
perhaps also of animals ; but the one pair embodied the 
failing energies of the past, and the other the vigorous and 
growing energies of the coming year. Both powers, on 
my hypothesis, were personified not merely in myth, but in 
custom ; for year by year a human couple undertook to 
quicken the life of nature by a union in which, as in a 
microcosm, the loves of tree and plant, of herb and flower, 
of bird and beast were supposed in some mystic fashion to 
be summed up. Originally, we may conjecture, such couples 
exercised their functions for a whole year, on the conclusion 
of which the male partner — the divine king — was put to 
death ; but in historical times it seems that, as a rule, the 
human god — the Saturn, Zoganes, Tammuz, or whatever he 
was called — enjoyed his divine privileges, and discharged 
his divine duties only for a short part of the year. This 
curtailment of his reign on earth was probably introduced 
at the time when the old hereditary divinities or deified 
kings contrived to shift the most painful part of their 





duties to a substitute, whether that substitute was a son or 
a slave or a malefactor. Having to die as a king, it was 
necessary that the substitute should also live as a king for 
a season ; but the real monarch would naturally restrict 
within the narrowest limits both of time and of power a 
reign which, so long as it lasted, necessarily encroached 
upon and indeed superseded his own. What became of 
the divine king's female partner, the human goddess who 
shared his bed and transmitted his beneficent energies to 
the rest of nature, we cannot say. So far as I am aware, 
there is no evidence either in custom or in myth that she 
like him suffered death when her primary function was dis- 
charged. The nature of maternity suggests an obvious 
reason for sparing her a little longer, till that mysterious 
law, which links together woman's life with the changing 
aspects of the nightly sky, had been fulfilled by the birth 
of an infant god, who should in his turn, reared perhaps 
by her tender care, grow up to live and die for the world. 

An eminent scholar has recently pointed out the re- 
markable resemblance between the treatment of Christ by 
the Roman soldiers at Jerusalem and the treatment of the 
mock king of the Saturnalia by the Roman soldiers at 
Durostolum ; and he would explain the similarity by sup- 
posing that the soldiers ridiculed the claims of Christ to a 
divine kingdom by arraying him in the familiar garb of old 
King Saturn, whose quaint person figured so prominently at 
the winter revels.^ Even if the theory should prove to be 
right, we can hardly suppose that Christ played the part of 
the regular Saturn of the year, since at the beginning of our 
era the Saturnalia fell at midwinter, whereas Christ was 
crucified at the Passover in spring. There is, indeed, as I 
have pointed out, some reason to think that when the 
Roman year began in March the Saturnalia was held in 
spring, and that in remote districts the festival always con- 
tinued to be celebrated at the ancient date. If the Roman 
garrison of Jerusalem conformed to the old fashion in this 
respect, it seems not quite impossible that their celebration 
of the Saturnalia may have coincided with the Passover ; 

' P. Wcndland, "Jesus als Saturnalicn-Konig," Ilernus^ xxxiii. (1898), 
pp. 1 75- > 79- 


and that thus Christ, as a condemned criminal, may 
have been given up to them to make sport with as the 
Saturn of the year. But on the other hand it is rather 
unlikely that the officers, as representatives of the State, 
would have allowed their men to hold the festival at any but 
the official date ; even in the distant town of Durostolum 
we saw that the Roman soldiers celebrated the Saturnalia in 
December. Thus if the legionaries at Jerusalem really in- 
tended to mock Christ by treating him like the burlesque 
king of the Saturnalia, they probably did so only by way of 
a jest which was in more senses than one unseasonable. 

But closely as the passion of Christ resembles the treat- 
ment of the mock king of the Saturnalia, it resembles still 
more closely the treatment of the mock king of the Sacaea.^ 
The description of the mockery by St. Matthew is the fullest 
It runs thus : ** Then released he Barabbas unto them : and 
when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common 
hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And 
they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when 
they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, 
and a reed in his right hand : and they bowed the knee 
before him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 
And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off 
from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away 
to crucify him." ^ Compare with this the treatment of the 
mock king of the Sacaea, as it is described by Dio Chrysostom : 
" They take one of the prisoners condemned to death and 
scat him upon the king's throne, and give him the king's 
raiment, and let him lord it and drink and run riot and use 
the king's concubines during these days, and no man pre- 
vents him from doing just what he likes. But afterwards 
they strip and scourge and crucify him." ^ Now it is quite 
possible that this remarkable resemblance is after all a mere 
coincidence, and that Christ was executed in the ordinary 

* The resemblance had struck me ^ Dio Chrysostom, Or. iv. vol. i. p. 

when I wrote this book originally, but 76 ed. Dindorf. As I h.ive already 

as I could not definitely explain it I mentioned, the Greek word which 

l)referred to leave it unnoticed. describes the execution {^Kpi/iaaar) 

' Matthew xxvii. 26-31. Mark*sdc- le;ives it uncertain whether the man 

scription (xv 15-20) is nearly identical. was crucified or hanged. 

• ^^T 

188 CUR/ST AND HAMAN chap. 

way as a common malefactor ; but on the other hand there 
are so many scattered hints and indications of something 
unusual, so many broken lines seemingly converging towards 
the cross on Calvary, that it is worth while to follow them 
up and see where they lead us. In attempting to draw these 
fragmentary data together, to bridge the chasms, and to 
restore the shattered whole, we must beware of mistaking 
hypothesis for the facts which it only professes to cement ; 
yet even if our hypothesis should be thought to bear a 
somewhat undue proportion to the facts, the excess may 
perhaps be overlooked in consideration of the obscurity and 
the importance of the inquiry. 

We have seen reason to think that the Jewish festival of 
Purim is a continuation, under a changed name, of the 
Babylonian Sacaea, and that in celebrating it by the destruc- 
tion of an effigy of Haman the modern Jews have kept up a 
reminiscence of the ancient custom of crucifying or hanging 
a man in the character of a god at the festival. Is it not 
possible that at an earlier time they may, like the Baby- 
lonians themselves, have regularly compelled a condemned 
criminal to play the tragic part, and that Christ thus perished 
in the character of Haman ? The resemblance between the 
hanged Haman and the crucified Christ struck the early 
Christians themselves; and whenever the Jews destroyed 
an effigy of Haman they were accused by their Christian 
neighbours of deriding the most sacred mystery of the new 
faith.^ It is probable that on this painful subject the Chris- 
tians were too sensitive ; remembering the manner of their 
Founder's death it was natural that they should wince at 
any pointed allusion to a cross, a gallows, or a public execu- 
tion, even when the shaft was not aimed at them. An 
objection to supposing that Christ died as the Haman of the 
year is that according to the Gospel narrative the crucifixion 
occurred at the Passover, on the fourteenth day of the month 
Nisan, whereas the feast of Purim, at which the hanging of 
Haman would naturally take place, fell exactly a month 
earlier, namely, on the fourteenth day of the month Adar. 
I have no wish to blink or extenuate the serious nature of 
the difficulty arising from this discrepancy of dates, but I 

' See above, p. 172. 


would suggest some considerations which may make us 
hesitate to decide that the discrepancy is fatal In the first 
place, it is possible, though perhaps not probable, that Chris- 
tian tradition shifted the date of the crucifixion by a month 
in order to make the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God 
coincide with that annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb 
which in the belief of pious hearts had so long foreshadowed 
it and was thenceforth to cease. Instances of gentle pressure 
brought to bear, for purposes of edification, on stubborn facts 
are perhaps not wholly unknown in the annals of religion. 
But the express testimony of history is never to be lightly 
set aside ; and in the investigation of its problems a solution 
which assumes the veracity and accuracy of the historian is, 
on an even balance of probabilities, always to be preferred 
to one which impugns them both. Now in the present case 
we have seen reason to think that the Babylonian New Year 
festival, of which Purim was a continuation, did fall in Nisan 
at or near the time of the Passover, and that when the Jews 
borrowed the festival they altered the date from Nisan to 
Adar in order to prevent the new feast from clashing with 
the old Passover. A reminiscence of the original date of 
Purim perhaps survives, as I have already pointed out, in 
the statement in the book of Esther that Haman caused pur 
or lots to be cast before him from the month of Nisan 
onward.^ It thus seems not impossible that occasionally, for 
some special reason, the Jews should have celebrated the 
feast of Purim, or at least the death of Haman, at or about 
the time of the Passover. But there is another possibility 
which, remote and fanciful as it may appear, deserves at 
least to be mentioned. The mock king of the Saturnalia, 
whose resemblance to the dying Christ was first pointed out 
by Mr. Wendland, was allowed a period of licence of thirty 
days before he was put to death. If we could suppose that 
in like manner the Jews spared the human representative of 
Haman for one month from Purim, the date of his execution 
would fall exactly on the Passover. Which, if any, of these 
conjectural solutions of the difficulty is the true one, I will 
not undertake to say. I am fully conscious of the doubt 
and uncertainty that hang round the whole subject ; arid if 

' Kslhcr iii. 7. 


St* V 




in this and what follows I throw out some hints and sugges- 
tions, it is more in the hope of stimulating and directing 
further inquiry than with any expectation of reaching definite 

It may be objected that the mockery of Christ was done 
not by the Jews but by the Roman soldiers, who knew and 
cared nothing about Haman ; how then can we suppose that 
the purple or scarlet robe, the sceptre of reed, and the crown 
of thorns, which the soldiers thrust upon Christ, were the 
regular insignia of the Haman of the year ? To this we may 
reply, in the first place, that even if the legions stationed in 
Syria were not recruited in the country, they may have con- 
tracted some of the native superstitions and have fallen in 
with the local customs. This is not an idle conjecture. We 
know that the third legion during its stay in Syria learned 
the Syrian custom of saluting the rising sun, and that this 
formal salute, performed by the whole regiment as one man 
at a critical moment of the great battle of Bedriacum, actually 
helped to turn the scale when the fortune of empire hung 
trembling in the balance.^ But it is not necessary to suppose 
that the garrison of Jerusalem really shared the beliefs and 
prejudices of the mob whom they overawed ; soldiers every- 
where are ready to go with a crowd bent on sport, without 
asking any curious questions as to the history or quality of 
the entertainment, and we should probably do the humanity 
of Roman soldiers too much honour if we imagined that they 
would be deterred by any qualm of conscience from joining 
in the pastime, which is still so popular, of baiting a Jew to 
death. But in the second place it should be observed that 
according to one of the Evangelists it was not the soldiers 
of Pilate who mocked Jesus, but the soldiers of Herod," and 
we may fairly assume that Herod's guards were Jews. 

The hypothesis that the crucifixion with all its cruel 
mockery was not a punishment specially devised for Christ, 
but was merely the fate that annually befell the malefactor 
who played Haman, appears to go some way towards reliev- 
ing the Gospel narrative of certain difficulties which otherwise 
beset it. If, as we read in the Gospels, Pilate was really 

* Tacitus, Hist. iii. 24 sq,^ coinpare<l with ii. 74. 

' Luke xxiii. xi. 


anxious to save the innocent man whose fine bearing seems 
to have struck him, what was to hinder him from doing so ? 
He had the power of life and death ; why should he not 
have exercised it on the side of mercy, if his own judgment 
inclined that way ? His reluctant acquiescence in the im- 
portunate demand of the rabble becomes easier to understand 
if we assume that custom obliged him annually at this season 
to give up to them a prisoner on whom they might play 
their cruel pranks. On this assumption Pilate had no power 
to prevent the sacrifice ; the most he could do was to choose 
the victim. 

Again, consider the remarkable statement of the 
Evangelists that Pilate set up over the cross a superscription 
stating that the man who hung on it was king of the Jews.* 
Is it likely that in the reign of Tiberius a Roman governor, 
with the fear of the jealous and suspicious old emperor before 
his eyes, would have ventured, even in mockery, to blazon 
forth a seditious claim of this sort unless it were the regular 
formula employed on such occasions, recognised by custom 
and therefore not liable to be misconstrued into treason by 
the malignity of informers and the fears of a tyrant ? 

But if the tragedy of the ill-fated aspirant after royal 
honours was annually enacted at Jerusalem by a prisoner 
who perished on the cross, it becomes probable that the part 
of his successful rival was also played by another actor who 
paraded in the same kingly trappings but did not share the 
same fate. If Jesus was the Haman of the year, where was 
the Mordecai? Perhaps we may find him in Barabbas. 

We are told by the Evangelists that at the feast which 
witnessed the crucifixion of Christ it was the custom for the 
Roman governor to release one prisoner, whomsoever the 
people desired, and that Pilate, convinced of the innocence of 
Jesus, attempted to persuade the multitude to choose him as 
the man who should go free. But, hounded on by the 
priests and elders who had marked out Jesus for destruction, 
the rabble would not hear of this, and clamoured for the 
blood of Jesus, while they demanded the release of a certain 
miscreant, by name Barabbas, who lay in gaol for murder 
and sedition. Accordingly Pilate had to give way : Christ 

* Matthew xxvii. 37 ; Mark xv. 26 ; Luke xxiii. 3S ; John xix. 19. 





was crucified and Barabbas set at liberty.^ Now what, we 
may ask, was the reason for setting free a prisoner at this 
festival ? In the absence of positive information, we may 
conjecture that the gaol-bird whose cage was thrown open at 
this time had to purchase his freedom by performing some 
service from which decent people would shrink. Such a 
service may very well have been that of going about the 
streets, rigged out in tawdry splendour with a tinsel crown 
on his head and a sham sceptre in his hand, preceded 
and followed by all the tag-rag and bobtail of the town 
hooting, jeering, and breaking coarse jests at his expense, 
while some pretended to salaam his mock majesty, and 
others belaboured the donkey on which he rode. It was 
in this fashion, probably, that in Persia the beardless and 
one-eyed man made his undignified progress through the 
town, to the delight of ragamuflins and the terror of shop- 
keepers, whose goods he unceremoniously confiscated if they 
did not hasten to lay their peace-offerings at his feet So, 
perhaps, the ruflian Barabbas, when his irons were knocked 
off and the prison door had grated on its hinges to let him 
forth, tasted the first sweets of liberty in this public manner, 
even if he was not suffered, like his one-eyed brother, to 
make raids with impunity on the stalls of the merchants and 
the tables of the money-changers. A curious confirmation 
of this conjecture is supplied by a passage in the writings of 
Philo the Jew, who lived at Alexandria in the time of Christ. 
He tells us that when Agrippa, the grandson of Herod, had 
received the crown of Judaea from Caligula at Rome, the 
new king passed through Alexandria on his way to his own 
country. The disorderly populace of that great city, animated 
by a hearty dislike of his nation, seized the opportunity of 
venting their spite by publicly defaming and ridiculing the 
Jewish monarch. Among other things they laid hold of a 
certain harmless lunatic named Carabas, who used to roam 
the streets stark naked, the butt and laughing-stock of 
urchins and idlers. This poor wretch they set up in a public 
place, clapped a paper crown on his head, thrust a broken 
reed into his hand by way of a sceptre, and having huddled 

' Matthew xxvii. 15-26; Mark xv. 6-15; Luke xxiii. 16-25; John xviii. 



a mat instead of a royal robe about his naked body, and 
surrounded him with a guard of bludgeon-men, they did 
obeisance to him as to a king and made a show of taking 
his opinion on questions of law and policy. To point the 
jest unmistakably at the Syrian king Agrippa, the bystanders 
raised cries of " Marin ! Marin ! " which they understood to 
be the Syrian word for " lord." * This mockery of the 
Jewish king closely resembles the mockery of Christ ; and 
the joke, such as it was, would receive a keener edge if we 
could suppose that the riff-raff of Alexandria were familiar 
with the Jewish practice of setting up a sham king on certain 
occasions, and that they meant by implication to ridicule the 
real King Agrippa by comparing him to his holiday counter- 
feit May we go a step further and conjecture that one at 
least of the titles of the mock king of the Jews was regularly 
Barabbas ? The poor imbecile who masqueraded in a paper 
crown at Alexandria was probably a Jew, otherwise the jest 
would have lost much of its point ; and his name, according 
to the Greek manuscripts of Philo, was Carabas. But Carabas 
is meaningless in Hebrew, whereas Barabbas is a regularly 
formed Hebrew word meaning " Son of the Father." The 
palaeographic difference between the two forms is slight, 
and perhaps we shall hardly be deemed very rash if we con- 
jecture that in the passage in question Philo himself wrote 
Barabbas, which a Greek copyist, ignorant of Hebrew, after- 
wards corrupted into Carabas. If this were granted, we 
should still have to assume that both Philo and the authors 
of the Gospels fell into the mistake of treating as the name 
of an individual what in fact was a title of office. 

Thus the hypothesis which, with great diffidence, I would 
put forward for consideration is this. It was customary, we 
may suppose, with the Jews at Purim, or perhaps occasion- 
ally at Passover, to employ two prisoners to act the parts 
respectively of Haman and Mordecai in the passion-play 
which formed a central feature of the festival. Both men 
paraded for a short time in the insignia of royalty, but their 
fates were different ; for while at the end of the performance 

1 Philo Judaeus, ^^A^^rxiij /Vij<vf/m, was Mr. P. Wendland (** Jesus a]s 
vol ii. pp. 520-523 ed. Mangey. The Saturnalien-Konig/' Hermes^ xxxiii. 
first to call attention to this passage (189S), p. 175 sq,). 

VOL. Ill O 

.' K'^Tf"?."- i-'* 




the one who played Hainan was hanged or crucified, the one 
who personated Mordecai and bore in popular parlance the 
title of Barabbas was allowed to go free. Pilate, perceiving 
the trumpery nature of the charges brought against Jesus, 
tried to persuade the Jews to let him play the part of Bar- 
abbas, which would have saved his life ; but the merciful 
attempt failed and Jesus perished on the cross in the character 
of Haman. The description of his last triumphal ride into 
Jerusalem reads almost like an echo of that brilliant progress 
through the streets of Susa which Haman aspired to and 
Mordecai accomplished ; and the account of the raid which 
he immediately afterwards made upon the stalls of the 
hucksters and money-changers in the temple, may raise a 
question whether we have not here a trace of those arbitrary 
rights over property which it has been customary on such 
occasions to accord to the temporary king.^ 

If it be asked why one of these temporary kings should 
bear the remarkable title of Barabbas or " Son of the Father," 
I can only surmise that the title may perhaps be a relic of 
the time when the real king, the deified man, used to redeem 
his own life by deputing his son to reign for a short time and 
to die in his stead. We have seen that the custom of sacri- 
ficing the son for the father was common, if not universal, 
among Semitic peoples ; and if we are right in our interpreta- 
tion of the Passover, that festival — the traditional date of the 
crucifixion — was the very season when the dreadful sacrifice 
of the first-born was consummated.^ Hence Barabbas or the 
" Son of the Father " would be a natural enough title for the 
man or child who reigned and died as a substitute for his royal 
sire. Even in later times, when the father provided a less 
precious substitute than his own offspring, it would be quite 
in accordance with the formal conservatism of rehgion that 
the old title should be retained after it had ceased to be 
appropriate ; indeed the efficacy of the sacrifice might be 
thought to require and justify the pious fiction that the 
substitute was the very son of that divine father who should 
have died, but who preferred to live, for tlic good of his 
people. If in the time of Christ, as I have conjectured, the 

' Matthew zxi. 1-13 ; Mark xi. 1-17 ; Luke xix. 28-46 ; John xii. 12-15. 

* See abore, vol. ii. pfx 38- 5a 

'^'0 " •/ ' *•■■' - "T^x*-^' ' 


title of Barabbas or Son of the Father was bestowed on 
the Mordecai, the mock king who lived, rather than on the 
Haman, the mock king who died at the festival, this dis- 
tinction can hardly have been original ; for at first, we may 
suppose, the same man served in both capacities at different 
times, as the Mordecai of one year and the Haman of the 
next. The two characters, as I have attempted to show, are 
probably nothing but two different aspects of the same deity 
considered at one time as dead and at another as risen ; hence 
the human being who personated the risen god would in due 
time, after he had enjoyed his divine honours for a season, act 
the dead god by dying in good earnest in his own person ; for 
it would be unreasonable to expect of the ordinary man-god 
that he should play the two parts in the reverse order by 
dying first and coming to life afterwards. In both parts the 
substitute would still be, whether in sober fact or in pious 
fiction, the Barabbas or Son of that divine Father who 
generously gave his own son to die for the world. 

To conclude this speculation, into which I have perhaps 
been led by the interest and importance of the subject some- 
what deeper than the evidence warrants, I venture to urge 
in its favour that it seems to shed fresh light on some of 
the causes which contributed to the remarkably rapid diffusion 
of Christianity in Asia Minor. Wc know from a famous 
letter of the younger Pliny addressed to the Emperor Trajan 
in the year i 1 2 A.r). that by the beginning of our era, less 
than a hundred years after the Founder's death, Christianity 
had made such strides in Bithynia and Pontus that not only 
cities but villages and rural districts were affected by it, and 
that multitudes of both sexes and of every age and every 
rank professed its tenets ; indeed things had gone so far that 
the temples were almost deserted, the sacred rites of the 
public religion discontinued, and hardly a purchaser could be 
found for the sacrificial victims.^ It is obvious therefore that 

* Pliny, I.cttt'rsy No. 98. The pro- Professor Ramsay is of opinion "thai the 

vince which I'liny governei! was known description of ihe great power acquired 

oiricially as Bithynia and Pontus, and by the new religion in the province 

c'xtended from the riwr Khyndacos on applies to Mastern Pontus at least.'* 

the west to l>eyond Amisus on the enst. The chief religious centre of this dis- 

See Prtifessor W. M. Ramsay, The trict appears to have been the great 

Chunk in the Roman Empire^ p. 224. sanctuary of Anaitis or Semiramis at 

«s«rjt.^4PWtsrv5aipjst'ri, ,•.,:■ .rzi* 




the new faith had elements in it which appealed powerfully 
to the Asiatic mind. What these elements were, the present 
investigation has perhaps to some extent disclosed. We 
have seen that the conception of the dying and risen god 
was no new one in these regions. All over Western Asia 
from time immemorial the mournful death and happy re- 
surrection of a divine being appear to have been annually 
celebrated with alternate rites of bitter lamentation and 
exultant joy ; and through the veil which mythic fancy has 
woven round this tragic figure we can still detect the features 
of those great yearly changes in earth and sky which, under 
all distinctions of race and religion, must always touch the 
natural human heart with alternate emotions of gladness and 
regret, because they exhibit on the vastest scale open to our 
observation the mysterious struggle between life and death. 
But man has not always been willing to watch passively this 
momentous conflict ; he has felt that he has too great a 
stake in its issue to stand by with folded hands while it is 
being fought out ; he has taken sides against the forces of 
death and decay — has flung into the trembling scale all the 
weight of his puny person and has exulted in his fancied 
strength when the great balance has slowly inclined towards 
the side of life, little knowing that for all his strenuous efforts 
he can as little stir that balance by a hair's-breadth as can 
the primrose on a mossy bank in spring or the dead leaf 
blown by the chilly breath of autumn. Nowhere do these 
efforts, vain and pitiful yet pathetic, appear to have been made 
more persistently and systematically than in Western Asia. 
In name they varied from place to place, but in substance 
they were all alike. A man, whom the fond imagination of 
his worshippers invested with the attributes of a god, gave 

Zela, to which I have already had 
occasion to call the reader's attention. 
Strabo tells us (.\ii. 3. 37) that all the 
people of Ponlus took their most solemn 
oaths at this shrine. In the same dis- 
trict there was another very popular 
sanctuary of a similar type at Co- 
niana, where the worship of a native 
goddess called Ma was carried on by a 
host of sacred harlots and by a high 
priest, who wore a diadem and, was 
second only to the king in rank. At 

the festivals of the goddess crowds of 
men and women flocked into Comana 
from all the rq^ion round about, from 
the country as well as from the cities. 
The luxury and debauchery 6f this holy 
town suggest to Strabo a comparison 
with the famous or rather infamous 
Corinth. See Strabo, xii. 3. 32 and 
36, compared with xii. 2. 3. Such 
were some of the hot -beds in which 
the seeds of Christianity first struck 

\< :'. > -.'v: .11. .j.ipiiiiiiiwpw Till ^11X11- if '-Ji^*9m»ai^ig&fgaffmsfamr;- .^^ >7^'>^ *: 


his life for the life of the world ; after infusing from his own 
body a fresh current of vital energy into the stagnant veins 
of nature, he was cut off from among the living before his 
failing strength should initiate a universal decay, and his 
place was taken by another who played, like all his pre- 
decessors, the ever-recurring drama of the divine resurrection 
and death. Such a drama, if our interpretation of it is right, 
was the original story of Esther and Mordecai or, to give 
them their older names, of Ishtar and Marduk. It was 
played in Babylonia, and from Babylonia the returning 
captives brought it to Judaea, where it was acted, rather as 
an historical than a mythical piece, by players who, having 
to die in grim earnest on a cross or gallows, were naturally 
drawn rather from the gaol than the green-room. A 
chain of causes which, because we cannot follow them, 
might in the loose language of daily life be called an 
accident, determined that the part of the dying god 
in this annual play should be thrust upon Jesus of 
Nazareth, whom the enemies he had made in high places 
by his outspoken strictures were resolved to put out of the 
way. They succeeded in ridding themselves of the popular 
and troublesome preacher ; but the very step by which they 
fancied they had simultaneously stamped out his revolutionary 
doctrines contributed more than anything else they could 
have done to scatter them broadcast not only over Judaea 
but over Asia ; for it impressed upon what had been hitherto 
mainly an ethical mission the character of a divine revelation 
culminating in the passion and death of the incarnate Son of 
a heavenly Father. In this form the story of the life and 
death of Jesus exerted an influence which it could never 
have had if the great teacher had died, as is commonly 
supposed, the death of a vulgar malefactor. It shed round 
the cross on Calvary a halo of divinity which multitudes 
saw and worshipped afar off; the blow struck on Golgotha 
set a thousand expectant strings vibrating in unison wherever 
men had heard the old, old story of the dying and risen god. 
Every year, as another spring bloomed and another autumn 
faded across the earth, the field had been ploughed and sown 
and borne fruit of a kind till it received that seed which was 
destined to spring up and overshadow the world. In the 




great army of martyrs who in many ages and in many 
lands, not in Asia only, have died a cruel death in the 
character of gods, the devout Christian will doubtless discern 
types and forerunners of the coming Saviour — stars that 
heralded in the morning sky the advent of the Sun of 
Righteousness — earthen vessels wherein it pleased the divine 
wisdom to set before hungering souls the bread of heaven. 
The sceptic, on the other hand, with equal confidence, will 
reduce Jesus of Nazareth to the level of a multitude of other 
victims of a barbarous superstition, and will see in him no 
more than a moral teacher, whom the fortunate accident of 
his execution invested with the crown, not merely of a martyr, 
but of a god. The divergence between these views is wide 
and deep. Which of them is the truer and will in the end 
prevail ? Time will decide the question of prevalence, if not 
of truth. Yet we would fain believe that in this and in all 
things the old maxim will hold good — Magna est Veritas et 

We may now sum up the general results of the inquiry 
which we have pursued in the present section. We have 
found evidence that festivals of the type of the Saturnah'a, 
characterised by an inversion of social ranks and the sacrifice 
of a man in the character of a god, were at one time held 
all over the ancient world from Italy to Babylon. Such 
festivals seem to date from an early age in the history of 
agriculture, when people lived in small communities, each 
presided over by a sacred or divine king, whose primary duty 
was to secure the orderly succession of the seasons and the 
fertility of the earth. Associated with him was his wife or 
other female consort, with whom he performed some of the 
necessary ceremonies, and who therefore shared his divine 
character. Originally his term of office appears to have 
been limited to a year, on the conclusion of which he was 
put to death ; but in time he contrived by force or craft to 
extend his reign and sometimes to procure a substitute, who 
after a short and more or less nominal tenure of the crown 
was slain in his stead. At first the substitute for the divine 
father was probably the divine son, but afterwards this rule 
was no longer insisted on, and still later the growth of a 
humane feeling demanded that the victim should always be 


a condemned criminaL In this advanced stage of defeneration 
it is no wonder if the light of divinity suffered eclipse, and 
many should fail to detect the god in the malefactor. Yet 
the downward career of fallen deity does not stop here ; even 
a criminal comes to be thought too good to personate a god 
on the gallows or in the fire ; and then there is nothing left 
but to make up a more or less grotesque effigy, and so to 
hang, burn, or otherwise destroy the god in the person of 
this sorry representative. By this time the original meaning 
of the ceremony may be so completely forgotten that the 
puppet is supposed to represent some historical personage, 
who earned the hatred and contempt of his fellows in his 
life, and whose memory has ever since been held up to 
eternal execration by the annual destruction of his effigy. 
The figures of Haman, of the Carnival, and of Winter or 
Death which are or used to be annually destroyed in spring 
by Jews, Catholics, and the peasants of Central Europe 
respectively, appear to be all lineal descendants of those 
human incarnations of the powers of nature whose life and 
death were deemed essential to the welfare of mankind. But 
of the three the only one which has preserved a clear trace 
of its original meaning is the effigy of Winter or Death. In 
the others the ancient significance of the custom as a magical 
ceremony designed to direct the course of nature has been 
almost wholly obscured by a thick aftergrowth of legend and 
myth. The cause of this distinction is that, whereas the 
practice of destroying an effigy of Winter or Death has 
been handed down from time immemorial through generations 
of simple peasants, the festivals of Purim and the Carnival, 
as well as their Babylonian and Italian prototypes, the 
Sacaea and the Saturnalia, were for centuries domesticated 
in cities, where they were necessarily exposed to those 
thousand transforming and disintegrating currents of specula- 
tion and inquiry, of priestcraft and policy, which roll their 
turbid waters through the busy haunts of men, but leave 
undefiled the limpid springs of mythic fancy in the country. 
If there is any truth in the analysis of the Saturnalia 
and kindred festivals which I have now brought to a close, 
it seems to point to a remarkable homogeneity of civilisa- 
tion throughout Southern Europe and Western Asia in pre- 


CHAT. Ill 

historic times. How far such homogeneity of civilisation 
may be taken as evidence of homogeneity of race is a 
question for the ethnologist ; it does not concern us here. 
J^ut without discussing it, I may remind the reader that in 
the far east of Asia we have met with temporary kings 
whose magical functions and intimate relation to agriculture 
stand out in the clearest light ; ^ while India furnishes 
examples of kings who have regularly been obliged to 
sacrifice themselves at the end of a term of years.* All 
these things appear to hang together ; all of them may, 
perhaps, be regarded as the shattered remnants of a uniform 
zone of religion and society which at a remote era belted 
the Old World from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. 
Whether that was so or not, I may at least claim to have 
made it probable that if the King of the Wood ,at Aricia 
lived and died as an incarnation of a sylvan deity, the func- 
tions he thus discharged were by no means singular, and 
that for the nearest parallel to them we need not go beyond 
the bounds of Italy, where the divine king Saturn — the god 
of the sown and sprouting seed — was annually slain in the . 
person of a human representative at his ancient festival of 
the Saturnalia. 

' See above, vol. ii. p. 26 if^. 

* See alx>vc, vol. ii. p. 14 s^g. 



i(^.:^ : .^-HlVi 



" Und griin des Lcbens goldner Baum." — Faust. 
§ I . Between Heaven and Earth 

At the outset of this book two questions were proposed for 
answer : Why had the priest of Aricia to slay his pre- 
decessor ? And why, before doing so, had he to pluck the 
Golden Bough ? Of these two questions the first has now 
been answered. The priest of Aricia, if I am right, em- 
bodied in himself the spirit, primarily, of the woods and, 
secondarily, of vegetable life in general. Hence, according 
as he was well or ill, the woods, the flowers, and the fields 
were believed to flourish or fade ; and if he were to die of 
sickness or old age, the plant world, it was supposed, would 
simultaneously perish. Therefore it was necessary that this 
priest of the woodlands, this sylvan deity incarnate in a man, 
should be put to death while he was still in the full bloom 
of his divine manhood, in order that his sacred life, trans- 
mitted in unabated force to his successor, might renew its 
youth, and thus by successive transmissions through a 
perpetual line of vigorous incarnations might remain eternally 
fresh and young, a pledge and security that the buds and 
blossoms of spring, the verdure of summer woods, and the 
mellow glories of autumn would never fail. 

But we have still to ask. What was the Golden Bough ? 
and why had each candidate for the Arician priesthood to 
pluck it before he could slay the priest ? These questions 
I will now try to answer. 


It will be well to begin by noticing two of those rules 
or taboos by which, as we have seen, the life of divine kings 
or priests is regulated. The first of the rules to which I 
desire to call the reader's attention is that the divine per- 
sonage may not touch the ground with his foot. This rule 
was observed by the Mikado of Japan and by the supreme 
pontiff of the Zapotecs in Mexico. The latter profaned his 
sanctity if he so much as touched the ground with his foot.^ 
For the Mikado to touch the ground with his foot was a 
shameful degradation ; indeed, in the sixteenth century, it 
was enough to deprive him of his office. Outside his palace 
he was carried on men's shoulders ; within it he walked on 
exquisitely wrought mats.* The king and queen of Tahiti 
might not touch the ground anywhere but within their 
hereditary domains ; for the ground on which they trod 
became sacred. In travelling from place to place they were 
carried on the shoulders of sacred men. They were always 
accompanied by several pairs of these sacred men ; and 
when it became necessary to change their bearers, the king 
and queen vaulted on to the shoulders of their new bearers 
without letting their feet touch the ground.^ It was an evil 
omen if the king of Dosuma touched the ground, and he had 
to perform an expiatory ceremony.* Within his palace the 
king of Persia walked on carpets on which no one else might 
tread ; outside of it he was never seen on foot but only in a 
chariot or on horseback.* In old days the king of Siam 
never set foot upon the earth, but was carried on a throne of 
gold from place to place.* Formerly, neither the kings of 
Uganda nor their mothers might walk on foot outside the 
palace ; they were always carried.^ The notion that contact 

' Bancroft, Nat we Races of the 
Pacific States^ ii. 1 42. 

* Memorials of Japan (Hakluyt 
Society, 1850), pp. 14, 141 ; Varenius, 
Descriptio rrgnijapoinae^ p. 1 1 ; Caron, 
"Account of Japan/* in Pinkerton's 
Voyages and Travels ^ vii. 61 3 ; 
Kaempfer, ** History of Japan/' in 
id. vii. 716. 

* W. Ellis, Polynesian Pesearekes^ 
iiL 102 sq, ; James Wilson, A/is- 
nonary Voyage to the Southim Pacific 
Ocean ^ p. 329. 

* Bastian, Der Mensch in dcr 
Geschichte^ iii. 8 1. 

^ Athenaeus, xii. p. 514 c. 

• The Voiages and Trcnt/s of John 
Struys (London, 1 684), p. 30. 

' This I have on the authority of my 
friend the Rev. J. Roscoe, missionary 
to Uganda. ** Before horses had been 
introduced into Uganda, the king and 
his mother never walked, but always 
went about perched astride the shoulders 
of a slave — a most ludicrous sight. In 
this way they often travelled hundreds 

' -b - <V' 4 





with the ground carries with it pollution or danger may be 
applied to sacred animals. Thus some Victorian tribes re- 
garded the fat of the emu as sacred, and in taking it from 
the bird or handing it about they treated it reverently. Any 
one who threw away the fat or flesh of the emu was held 
accursed. " The late Mr. Thomas observed on one occasion, 
at Nerre-nerre-Warreen, a remarkable exhibition of the 
effects of this superstition. An aboriginal child — one 
attending the school — having eaten some part of the flesh 
of an emu, threw away the skin. The skin fell to the 
ground, and this being observed by his parents, they showed 
by their gestures every token of horror. They looked upon 
their child as one utterly lost. His desecration of the bird 
was regarded as a sin for which there was no atonement." ^ 

The second rule to be here noted is that the sun may 
not shine upon the divine person. This rule was observed 
both by the Mikado and by the pontiff* of the Zapotecs. 
The latter " was looked upon as a god whom the earth was 
not worthy to hold, nor the sun to shine upon."* The 
Japanese would not allow that the Mikado should expose 
his sacred person to the open air, and the sun was not 
thought worthy to shine on his head.* The Indians of 
Granada, in South America, "kept those who were to be 
rulers or commanders, whether men or women, locked up 
for several years when they were children, some of them 
seven years, and this so close that they were not to see the 
sun, for if they should happen to sec it they forfeited their 
lordship, eating certain sorts of food appointed ; and those 
who were their keepers at certain times went into their re- 
treat or prison and scourged them severely."* Thus, for 
example, the heir to the throne of Bogota had to undergo a 
rigorous training from the age of sixteen ; he lived in com- 

of miles" (I^ Decle, l%ree Years in 
Saiafre A/rUa, p. 445 nolc). The 
use both of horses and of chariots hy 
royal personages may often have been 
intended to prevent their sacretl feel 
from touching the ground. 

* R. Brough Smyth, Abori^'nes of 
Victoria^ i. 450. 

* Bajicxoh^ Native Kaceso/tkf Pacific 
S/a/cs, ii. 142. 

3 Kaempfer, <* History of Japan,** in 
Pinkerton's roy^ges and Travels, vii. 
717; Caron, "Account of Japan,** 
ibid. vii. 613; Varenius, Descripiio 
rejipii Japoniae, p. II: •• Radiis solis 
ca/*ut nunqnam Ulmtrahaiur : in aper- 
turn airem non procedebeUJ*^ 

^ Herrera, General History pf the 
vast Continent and Islands ef America, 
trans, by Stevens, v. 88. 


plete retirement in a temple, where he might not see the sun 
nor eat salt nor converse with a woman.^ So, too, the heir 
to the kingdom of Sogamoso, before succeeding to the 
crown, had to fast for seven years in the temple, being shut 
up in the dark and not allowed to see the sun or light^ 
The prince who was to become Inca of Peru had to fast for 
a month without seeing light.^ Acarnanian peasants tell of 
a handsome prince called Sunless, who would die if he saw 
the sun. So he lived in an underground palace on the site 
of the ancient Oeniadae, but at night he came forth and 
crossed the river to visit a famous enchantress who dwelt in 
a castle on the further bank. She was loth to part with 
him every night long before the sun was up, and as he turned 
a deaf ear to all her entreaties to linger, she hit upon the 
device of cutting the throats of all the cocks in the neigh- 
bourhood. So the prince, whose ear had learned to expect 
the shrill clarion of the birds as the signal of the growing 
light, tarried too long, and hardly had he reached the ford 
when the sun rose over the Aetolian mountains, and its 
fatal beams fell on him before he could regain his dark 

Now it is remarkable that these two rules — not to touch 
the ground and not to see the sun — are observed either 
separately or conjointly by girls at puberty in many parts 
of the world. Thus amongst the negroes of Loango girls at 
puberty are confined in separate huts, and they may not touch 
the ground with any part of their bare body.* Amongst 
the Zulus and kindred tribes of South Africa, when the first 
signs of puberty show themselves " while a girl is walking, 
gathering wood, or working in the field, she runs to the river 
and hides herself among the reeds for the day, so as not to 
be seen by men. She covers her head carefully with her 
blanket that the sun may not shine on it and shrivel her up 

' Waitz, Attthropoht^ie der Natur- ^ Cicia dc I>eon, St-rottd Pari of the 

vi'/Jter, iv. 359. CA ran tWtr o//Wu {\ I akluyt Soc. 1 883), 

' Alonzo de Zurita, ** Rap]x>rt sur p. 18. 

les differentes classes dc chefs dela 4. -, . m, . ^, 

^. „ ,, „ . «, * L. Iieuzey, /,<• A/an/ Oiympe et 

Nouveile-r.spainie, p. 30, in Ternaux- «, • /f» • .oz: . «o 

Companss \ oyaj^fSy Kelaitons et * ' #» 1 -rj t 

Mi'moires on^naux (Paris, 1840); * Pechud-Ixicschc, *• Indiscrelesaus 

Waitz, Le, ; Bastian, Die Culturlander I^umf^o,'* Zeitukrift fiir EthnolcgU^ x. 

des alten Amenta^ ii. 204. (1878), p. 23. 


into a withered skeleton, as would result from exposure to 
the sun's beams. After dark she returns to her home and is 
secluded " in a hut for some time* With the Awa-nkonde, 
a tribe at the north end of Lake Nyasa, it is a rule that after 
her first menstruation a girl must be kept apart, with a few 
companions of her own sex, in a darkened house. The floor 
is covered with dry banana leaves, but no fire may be lit in 
the house, which is called " the house of the Awasungu," that 
is, " of maidens who have hearts." - When a girl reaches 
puberty, the Wafiomi of Eastern Africa hold a festival at 
which they make a noise with a peculiar kind of rattle. 
After that the girl remains for a year in the large common 
hut, where she occupies a special compartment screened off* 
from the men's quarters. She may not cut her hair or touch 
food, but is fed by other women. At night, however, she 
quits the hut and dances with young men.^ 

In New Ireland girls are confined for four or five years 
in small cages, being kept in the dark and not allowed to 
set foot on the ground. The custom has been thus described 
by an eye-witness. ** I heard from a teacher about some 
strange custom connected with some of the young girls here, 
so I asked the chief to take me to the house where they 
were. The house was about twenty-five feet in length, and 
stood in a reed and bamboo enclosure, across the entrance 
to which a bundle of dried grass was suspended to show that 
it was strictly ^ tabu! Inside the house were three conical 
structures about seven or eight feet in height, and about ten 
or twelve feet in circumference at the bottom, and for 
about four feet from the ground, at which point they tapered 
off* to a point at the top. These cages were made of the broad 
leaves of the pandanus-tree, sewn quite close together so 
that no light and little or no air could enter. On one side 
of each is an opening which is closed by a double door of 
plaited cocoa-nut tree and pandanus-trec leaves. About 
three feet from the ground there is a stage of bamboos which 
forms the floor. In each of these cages we were told there 

^ J. Macdonald, '* Manners, customs, /ra/ w^/r/Vii (London, 1897), p. 411. 
superstitions, and religions of South * O. Uaumann, Durck Afassailand 

African Xxxh/ts^* Journal of the Anthropa- zur NilquelU (Ik'rlin, 1 894), p. 178. As 

lineal Institute , xx. (1 89 1), p. 1 1 8. to. the rule not to touch food with the 

* Sir H. H. Johnston, British Cen* hands, see above, yoL i. pp. 323, 326 sq^ 



was a young woman confined, each of whom had to remain 
for at least four or five years, without ever being allowed to 
go outside the house. I could scarcely credit the story 
when I heard it ; the whole thing seemed too horrible to be 
true. I spoke to the chief, and told him that I wished to 
see the inside of the cages, and also to see the girls that I 
might make them a present of a few beads. He told me 
that it was * tabu' forbidden for any men but their own rela- 
tions to look at them ; but I suppose the promised beads 
acted as an inducement, and so he sent away for some old 
lady who had charge, and who alone is allowed to open the 
doors. While we were waiting we could hear the girls talk- 
ing to the chief in a querulous way as if objecting to some- 
thing or expressing their fears. The old woman came at 
length and certainly she did not seem a very pleasant jailor 
or guardian ; nor did she seem to favour the request of the 
chief to allow us to see the girls, as she regarded us with 
anything but pleasant looks. However, she had to undo the 
door when the chief told her to do so, and then the girls peeped 
out at us, and when told to do so, they held out their hands 
for the beads. I, however, purposely sat at some distance away 
and merely held out the beads to them, as I wished to draw 
them quite outside, that I might inspect the inside of the cages. 
This desire of mine gave rise to another difficulty, as these girls 
were not allowed to put their feet to the ground all the time 
they were confined in these places. However, they wished 
to get the beads, and so the old lady had to go out- 
side and collect a lot of pieces of wood and bamboo, which 
she placed on the grcOind, and then going to one of the girls, 
she helped her down and held her hand as she stepped from 
one piece of wood to another until she came near enough to 
get the beads I held out to her. I then went to inspect the 
inside of the cage out of which she had come, but could 
scarcely put my head inside of it, the atmosphere was so hot 
and stifling. It was clean and contained nothing but a few 
short lengths of bamboo for holding water. There was only 
room for the girl to sit or lie down in a crouched position 
on the bamboo platform, and when the doors are shut it must 
be nearly or quite dark inside. The girls are never allowed 
to come out except once a day to bathe in a dish or wooden 







bowl placed close to each cage. They say that they perspire 
profusely. They are placed in these stifling cages when 
quite young, and must remain there until they are young 
women, when they are taken out and have each a great 
marriage feast provided for them." ^ 

In the island of Mabuiag, Torres Straits, when the signs 
of puberty appear on a girl, a circle of bushes is made in a 
dark corner of the house. Here, decked with shoulder-belts, 
armlets, leglets just below the knees, and anklets, wearing a 
chaplet on her head, and shell ornaments in her ears, on her 
chest, and on her back, she squats in the midst of the bushes, 
which are piled so high round about her that only her head 
is visible. In this state of seclusion she must remain for 
three months. All this time the sun may not shine upon 
her, but at night she is allowed to slip out of the hut, and 
the bushes that hedge her in arc then changed. She may 
not feed herself or handle food, but is fed by one or two old 
women, her maternal aunts, who are especially appointed to 
look after her. One of these women cooks food for her at a 
special fire in the forest. The girl is forbidden to cat turtle or 
turtle eggs during the season when the turtles are breeding ; 
but no vegetable food is refused her. No man, not even her 
own father, may come into the house while her seclusion 
lasts ; for if her father saw her at this time he would certainly 
have bad luck in his fishing, and would probably smash his 

* The Rev. G. Brown, quoted by 
the Rev. B. Danks, '* Marriap;e Customs 
of the New Britain k\xo\Si\t^^ Joum. An- 
throp. Inst, xviii. (1S89), p. 284 sg. ; cp. 
Rev. G. Brown, ** Notes on the Duke 
of York (iroup, New Britain, and New 
Ireland," Jotint, Royal Geogr. Soc. 
xlvii. ^1877), p. 142 stf. I'owell's de- 
s(*ription of the New Ireland custom i^ 
similar ( WancUrinf^ in a WildCoutttn\ 
p. 249). According to him, the giils 
wear wreaths of scented herbs round 
the waist and neck ; an old woman or 
a little child occupies the lower floor of 
the cage ; and the confinement lasts 
only a month. Proliably the long 
fieriod mentioned by Mr. Brown is that 
prescrilwd for chief's daughters. Poor 
people could not afford to keep their 
children so long idle. This distinction 

is sometimes expressly stated ; for ex- 
ample, among the Goajtras of Colombia 
rich people keep their daughters shut 
up in scixiratc huts at puberty for 
|>eriods varying from one tg four years, 
l)Ut |XK>r people cannot afford to do so 
for mure than a fortnight or a month. 
See V. A. Sinmns, •* An exploration of 
the Goajira Peninsula,** Proceed. Koyal 
Ccojp^, Sac. N.S., vii. (1 885), p. 791. 
In Fiji, brides uho were Ixring tattooed 
were kept from the sun (Williams, 
/->/'/ afiti the Fijians^ i. 1 70). This 
w.ns |H!rhaps a modincation of tlie 
Melanesian custom of secluding girls 
at pnl)crty. The reason mentioned 
by Mr. Williams, *' to improve her 
complexion,'* can hardly have keen the 
original one. 


canoe the very next time he went out in it At the end of 
the three months she is carried down to a fresh-water creek 
by her attendants, hanging on to their shoulders in such a 
way that her feet do not touch the ground, while the women 
of the tribe form a ring round her, and thus escort her to 
the beach. Arrived at the shore, she is stripped of her orna- 
ments, and the bearers stagger with her into the creek, where 
they immerse her, and all the other women join in splashing 
water over both the girl and her bearers. When they come 
out of the water one of the two attendants makes a heap of 
grass for her charge to squat upon. The other runs to the 
reef, catches a small crab, tears off its claws, and hastens 
back with them to the creek. Here in the meantime a fire 
has been kindled, and the claws are roasted at it. The girl 
is then fed by her attendants with the roasted claws. After 
that she is freshly decorated, and the whole party marches 
back to the village in a single rank, the girl walking in the 
centre between her two old aunts, who hold her by the 
wrists. The husbands of her aunts now receive her and lead 
her into the house of one of them, where all partake of food, 
and the girl is allowed once more to feed herself in the usual 
manner. A dance follows, in which the girl takes a pro- 
minent part, dancing between the husbands of the two aunts 
who had charge of her in her retirement.* 

Among the Yaraibanna tribe of Cape York Peninsula, in 
Northern Queensland, a girl at puberty is said to live by her- 
self for a month or six weeks ; no man may see her, though 
any woman may. She stays in a hut or shelter specially 
made for her, on the floor of which she lies supine. She 
may not see the sun, and towards sunset she must keep her 
eyes shut until the sun has gone down, otherwise it is 
thought that her nose will be diseased. During her seclusion 
she may eat nothing that lives in salt water, or a snake 
would kill her. An old woman waits upon her and supplies 
her with roots, yams, and water.* Some tribes are wont to 
bury their girls at such seasons more or less deeply in the 

' From notes furoished me by Dr. C. Briiish Association for 1 899, and in 

G. Seligmann, member of the recent Journal of the Anthropological Institutt^ 

Cambridge Expedition to Torres xxix. ( 1 899), p. 2 1 2 sq. 

Straits - and Borneo. These notes ' From the notes of Dr. C. G. 

have been printed in the Report of the Seligmann. 

■""; v; .y V -■■" ■ 




ground, perhaps in order to hide them from the light of the 
sun. Thus the Larrakeeyah tribe in the northern territory of 
South Australia used to cover a girl up with dirt for three days 
at her first monthly period.^ In similar circumstances the 
Otati tribe, on the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula, make 
an excavation in the ground, where the girl squats. A bower 
is then built over the hole, and sand is thrown on the young 
woman till she is covered up to the hips. In this condition 
she remains for the first day, but comes out at night So long 
as the period lasts, she stays in the bower during the day- 
time, but is not again covered with sand. Afterwards her 
body is painted red and white from the head to the hips, and 
she returns to the camp.^ Among the Uijumhwi tribe in 
Red Island the girl lies at full length in a shallow trench 
dug in the foreshore, and sand is thrown over her legs and 
body up to the breasts, which appear not to be covered. A 
rough shelter of boughs is then built over her, and thus she 
remains lying for a few hours." In Prince of Wales Island, 
Torres Strait, the treatment of the patient is similar, but 
lasts for about two months. During the day she lies covered 
up with sand in a shallow hole on the beach, over which a 
hut is built. At night she may get out of the hole, but she 
may not leave the hut. Her paternal aunt looks after her, 
and both of them must abstain from eating turtle, dugong, 
and the heads of fish. Were they to eat the heads of fish 
no more fish would be caught. During the time of the 
girl's seclusion, the aunt who waits upon her has the right to 
enter any house and take from it anything she likes without 
payment, provided she does so before the sun rises. When 
the time of her retirement has come to an end the girl 
bathes in the sea while the morning star is rising, and after 
performing various other ceremonies is readmitted to society.* 

* I^ Crauford, in Journal of the 
AitthropolopceU Itistitutey xxiv. (1895), 
p. I Si. 

- From the notes of Dr. C. G. Sclig- 

' From the notes of Dr. C. G. Selig- 

■• From the notes of Dr. C. G. Selig- 
mann. The practice of burying a girl 
at puberty was observed also by some 

VOL. Ill 

Indian tril)cs of Califoraia, but appar- 
ently rather for the purpose of producing 
a sweat than for the sake of conceal- 
ment. The treatment lasted only twenty- 
four hours, during which the patient was 
removed from the ground and washed 
three or four times, to be afterwards 
reimbedded. Dancing was kept up 
the whole time by the women. Sc« 
Schoolcraft, hidian Tribes^ t. 2 1 5. 


3^^p'v^» •*'•, 

V ■• M. 

r. '^ * .:» 




In some parts of New Guinea " daughters of chiefs, when 
they are about twelve or thirteen years of age, are kept 
indoors for two or three years, never being allowed, under 
any pretence, to descend from the house, and the house is 
so shaded that the sun cannot shine on them." * Among 
the Ot Danoms of Borneo girls at the age of eight or ten 
years are shut up in a little room or cell of the house, and 
cut off from all intercourse with the world for a long time. 
The cell, like the rest of the house, is raised on piles above 
the ground, and is lit by a single small window opening on a 
lonely place, so that the girl is in almost total darkness. 
She may not leave the room on any pretext whatever, not 
even for the most necessary purposes. None of her family 
may see her all the time she is shut up, but a single slave 
woman is appointed to wait on her. During her lonely con- 
finement, which often lasts seven year's, the girl occupies 
herself in weaving mats or with other handiwork. Her 
bodily growth is stunted by the long want of exercise, and 
when, on attaining womanhood, she is brought out, her com- 
plexion is pale and wax-like. She is now shown the sun, 
the earth, the water, the trees, and the flowers, as if she were 
newly born. Then a great feast is made, a slave is killed, 
and the girl is smeared with his blood.* In Ceram girls at 
puberty were formerly shut up by themselves in a hut which 
was kept dark." 

Amongst the Aht or Nootka Indians of Vancouver 
Island, when girls reach puberty they are placed in a sort 
of gallery in the house "and are there surrounded com- 
pletely with mats, so that neither the sun nor any fire can 
be seen. In this cage they remain for several days. Water 
is given them, but no food. The longer a girl remains in 
this retirement the greater honour is it to the parents ; but 
she is disgraced for life if it is known that she has seen fire 
or the sun during this initiatory ordeal." * Pictures of the 

> Chalmers and Gill, IVbri ami 
Adventure in New Guinea^ p. 159. 

• Schwaner, Borneo^ Btsehrijving 
van hit itroomgekied van den Barito, 
etc. ii. 77 sq, ; Zimmennan, Die Insein 
des Indisehen und Stillen Afeeres^ ii. 

632 sg, ; Otto Finsch, Neu Guinea 
und seine Bewohner^ p. 1 16 sq. 

* Riedel, De siuik- en kroesharige 
rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, p. 

^ Sproat, Scenes and Studies of 
Savage Life, p. 93 sq. 



i *'•'.' ^ j-^r. -^^ ' -. ■■ ''' "^ ' " T 'V •'ii^^^nBi; 



mythical thunder-bird are painted on the screens behind 
which she hides. During her seclusion she may neither 
move nor lie down, but must always sit in a squatting 
posture. She may not touch her hair with her hands, but 
is allowed to scratch her head with a comb or a piece of 
bone provided for the purpose. To scratch her body is 
also forbidden, as it is believed that every scratch would 
leave a scar. For eight months after reaching maturity she 
may not eat any fresh food, particularly salmon ; moreover, 
she must eat by herself, and use a cup and dish of her own.^ 
Amongst the Thlinkcet or Kolosh Indians of Alaska, when 
a girl shows signs of womanhood she is confined to a little 
hut or cage, which is completely blocked up with the 
exception of a small air-hole. In this dark and filthy 
abode she had formerly to remain a year, without fire, 
exercise, or associates. Her food was put in at the small 
window ; she had to drink out of the wing-bone of a white- 
headed eagle. The time has now been reduced, at least in 
some places, to six months. The girl has to wear a sort of 
hat with long flaps, that her gaze may not pollute the sky ; 
for she is thought unfit for the sun to shine upon.* In the 
Bilqula or Bella Coola tribe of British Columbia, when a girl 
attains puberty she must stay in the shed which serves as 
her bedroom, where she has a separate fireplace. She is 

berg, **£thnogr. Skizzen Uber die 
Volker d. russischen Amerika," Acta 
Societaiis Scientiantm Fennicae^ it. 
(1856), p. 329 sq,\ Bancroft, Native 
Kates of the Ptuifie States^ i. 1 10 sq. ; 
Krause, Die Tlipikit^Indianer^ p* 217 
sq. ; Rev. Sheldon Jackson, '* Alaska 
and its Inhabitants,*' American Anti- 
quarian^ ii. Ill sq. ; W. M. Grant, in 
fournal of American Folk-lore^ i. (1 888), 
p. 169. For caps, hoods, and veils 
worn by girls at such seasons, compare 
G. H. Loskiel, History of the Mission 
of the United Brethren among the 
Indians^ \. 56 ; Journal Anthrop, 
Institute^ vii. (1 878), p. 206; G. M. 
Dawson, Report of the Queen Charlotte 
Islands t 1878 (Geological Survey of 
Canada), p. iy>h; Petitot, Afono^ 
graphie des Dini-DindjU^ pp. 72, 75 ; 
id.^ Traditions indiennes du Canada 
Nord'Ouest^ p. 258. 

* Fr. Boas in Sixth Report on the 
North- Westertt Tribes of Canada^ pp. 
40-42 (separate reprint from the Report 
of the British Association for 1 890). 
The rule not to lie down is observed 
also during their seclusion at puberty 
by Tsimshian girls, who alwa)'s sit 
propped up between boxes and mats ; 
their heads are covered with small 
mats, and they may not look at men 
nor at fresh salmon and olachen. 
See Boas in Fifth Report^ etc., p. 41 
(reprint from the Report of the British 
Association for 1 889). We have seen 
(vol. i. p. 236) that some divine kings 
are not allowed to lie down. 

* Erman, *• Ethnographische Wahr- 
nehmungen und Erfahrungen an den 
Kiisten des Berings-Mecres,'* Zeitschrift 
fur Ethnologic^ ii. 318 sq. ; LangsdorfT, 
Reise um die IVelt^ ii. 114 sq. ; Holm- 

2«yT - 


not allowed to descend to the main part of the house, and 
may not sit by the fire of the family. For four days she is 
bound to remain motionless in a sitting posture. She fasts 
during the day, but is allowed a little food and drink very 
early in the morning. After the four days* seclusion she 
may leave her room, but only through a separate opening 
cut in the floor, for the houses are raised on piles. She 
may not yet come into the chief room. In leaving the 
house she wears a large hat which protects her face against 
the rays of the sun. It is believed that if the sun were to 
shine on her face her eyes would suffer. She may pick 
berries on the hills, but may not come near the river or sea 
for a whole year. Were she to eat fresh salmon she would 
lose her senses, or her mouth would be changed into a long 
beak.^ In the Tsetsaut tribe of British Columbia, a girl at 
puberty wears a large hat of skin which comes down over 
her face and screens it from the sun. It is believed that if 
she were to expose her face to the sun or to the sky, rain 
would fall. The hat protects her face also against the fire, 
which ought not to strike her skin ; to shield her hands she 
wears mittens. In her mouth she carries the tooth of an 
animal to prevent her own teeth from becoming hollow. 
For a whole year she may not see blood unless her face is 
blackened ; otheru'ise she would grow blind. For two years 
she wears the hat and lives in a hut by herself, although she 
is allowed to see other people. At the end of the two years a 
man takes the hat from her head and throws it away.^ 
Among the Thompson River Indians of British Columbia, 
when a girl attained puberty, she was at once separated 
from all the people. A conical hut of fir branches and bark 
was erected at some little distance from the other houses, 
and in it the girl had to squat on her heels during the day. 
Often a circular hole was dug in the hut and the girl 
squatted in the hole. She might quit the hut for various 
purposes in the early morning, but had always to be back 

1 Fr. Boos, in Fifth Report on the t ion for 1 89 1). 
Norths Western Tribes of Canada, p. 

42 (separate reprint from the Report of * Fr. Boas, in Tenth Report on the 

the British Association for 1 889); /</., North-Westerti Tribes of Canada^ p. 45 

in Seventh Report^ etc, p. 12 (reprint (separate reprint from the Report tf the 

from the Report of the British Associa- British Association for 1895). 

>-:-«|ni*iHi«iH«i?!»*- .^. 

rr AT PUBERTY 213 

at sunrise. A heavy blanket swathed her body from top to 
toe, and during the first four days she wore a conical cap 
made of small fir branches, which reached below the breast 
but left an opening for the face. In her hair was fastened 
an implement made of deer-bone with which she scratched 
herself For the first four days she might neither wash nor 
eat, but a little water was given her in a birch-bark cup 
painted red, and she sucked up the liquid through a tube 
made out of the leg of a crane, a swan, or a goose, for her 
lips might not touch the surface of the water. After the 
four days she was allowed, during the rest of the period of 
isolation, to eat, to wash, to lie down, to comb her hair, and 
to drink of streams and springs. But in drinking at these 
sources she had still to use her tube, otherwise the spring 
would dry up. While her seclusion lasted she performed 
various ceremonies, which were supposed to exert a 
beneficial influence on her future life. For example, she 
carried four stones in her bosom to a spring, where she 
spat upon the stones and threw them one after the other 
into the water, praying that all disease might leave her as 
these stones did. Also she ran four times in the early 
morning with two small stones in her bosom ; and as she 
ran the stones slipped down between her bare body and her 
clothes and fell to the ground. At the same time she 
prayed to the Dawn that when she should be with child, 
she might be delivered as easily as she was delivered of 
these stones. Her seclusion lasted four months. The 
Indians say that long ago it extended over a year, and that 
fourteen days elapsed before the girl was permitted to wash 
for the first time. The dress which she wore during her 
time of separation was afterwards taken to the top of a hill and 
burned, and the rest of her clothes were hung up on trees.^ 
Amongst the Koniags, an Esquimaux people of Alaska, 
girls at puberty were placed in small huts in which they 
had to remain on their hands and knees for six months ; 
then the hut was enlarged enough to let them kneel up- 

* James Teit, ••The Thompson pp. 31 1-3 17. The ceremony intended 

Indians of British Columbia,'* Memoirs to pnKurc an easy delivery is clearly 

of the American Museum of Natural an imit.ntion of childbirth. Sec above, 

History^ vol. ii. part iv. (April 1900), vol. i. p. 19 x^^. 



right, and they had to remain in this posture for six months 

When symptoms of puberty appeared on a girl for the 
first time, the Indians of the Rio de la Plata used to sew 
her up in her hammock as if she were dead, leaving only a 
small hole for her mouth to allow her to breathe. In this 
state she continued so long as the symptoms lasted.^ In 
similar circumstances the Chiriguanos of Bolivia hoisted the 
girl in her hammock to the roof, where she stayed for a 
month ; the second month the hammock was let half-way 
down from the roof; and in the third month old women, 
armed with sticks, entered the hut and ran about striking 
everything they met, saying they were hunting the snake 
that had wounded the girl; This they did till one of the 
women gave out that she had killed the snake.' Among 
the Matacos Indians of the Grand Chaco a girl at puberty 
has to remain in seclusion for some time. She lies covered 
up with branches or other things in a corner of the hut, 
seeing no one and speaking to no one, and during this time 
she may eat neither flesh nor fish. Meanwhile a drum is 
beaten in front of the hut.* Amongst some of the 
Brazilian Indians, when a girl attained to puberty, her 
hair was burned or shaved off close to the head. Then 
she was placed on a flat stone and cut with the tooth of 
an animal from the shoulders all down the back, till she 
ran with blood. Next the ashes of a wild gourd were 
rubbed into the wounds ; the girl was bound hand and 
foot, and hung in a hammock, being enveloped in it so 
closely that no one could see her. Here she had to stay for 
three days without eating or drinking. When the three 
days were over, she stepped out of the hammock upon the 
flat stone, for her feet might not touch the ground. If she 
had a call of nature, a female relation took the girl on her 
back and carried her out, taking with her a live coal to 
prevent evil influences from entering the girl's body. Being 

' \\o\m\xT^,\n Acta Societatis Sa'en- ' Lettres idifiantts et atrieuses^ viii. 

tiarum Fcfinicat^ iv. (1856), p. 40 1 ; 333. On the Chiriguanos sec Von 

Pctroff, Report on the PopuleUion^ etc. , Martius, Zur Ethnograpkie Amerika's 

0/ Alaska, p. 143. tumal Brasilicns, p. 2 12 sqq, 

^ Father Cardus, quoted in J. 

' Lafitau, Ma'urs des Sauvages Pellcschi's lAts Indies Matacos (Buenos 

atrUriguains^ i. 262 sq, Ayres, 1897), P* 47 ^^* 

:,.--'. -.jr^ 


replaced in her hammock, she was now allowed to get some 
flour, boiled roots, and water, but might not taste salt or 
flesh. Thus she continued to the end of the first monthly 
period, at the expiry of which she was gashed on the breast 
and belly as well as all down the back. During the second 
month she still stayed in her hammock, but her rule of 
abstinence was less rigid, and she was allowed to spin. 
The third month she was blackened with a certain pigment 
and began to go about as usual.^ 

Amongst the Macusis of British Guiana, when a girl 
shows the first signs of puberty, she is hung in a hammock 
at the highest point of the hut. For the first few days she 
may not leave the hammock by day, but at night she must 
come down, light a fire, and spend the night beside it, else 
she would break out in sores on her neck, throat, and other 
parts of her body. So long as the symptoms are at their 
height, she must fast rigorously. When they have abated, 
she may come down and take up her abode in a little 
compartment that is made for her in the darkest corner of 
the hut. In the morning she may cook her food, but it 
must be at a separate fire and in a vessel of her own. In 
about ten days the magician comes and undoes the spell by 
muttering charms and breathing on her and on the more 
, valuable of the things with which she has come in contact. 
The pots and drinking-vessels which she used are broken 
and the fragments buried. After her first bath, the girl 
must submit to be beaten by her mother with thin rods 
without uttering a cry. At the end of the second period she 
is again beaten, but not afterwards. She is now " clean," 
and can mix again with people.^ Other Indians of Guiana, 
after keeping the girl in her hammock at the top of the 
hut for a month, expose her to certain large ants, whose bite 
is very painful.^ Sometimes, in addition to being stung 
with ants, the suflerer has to fast day and night so long as 
she remains slung up on high in her hammock, so that 
when she comes down she is reduced to a skeleton. The 

* Thcvct, Cosmof^apkie C/nivtrsflle Ethnographie Ameriktts^ p. 644. 
(Paris, 1575), ii. 946 B sq,\ Lafitau, ' Labat, Voyage du Chevalier des 

op, cit. i. 290 sqq. Marehais en Guinie^ hies voisines^ et J 

' Schombut^k, Reisen in Britisch Cayenne, iv. 365 sq» (Paris ed.), p. 

Guiana, ii. 315 sq. i Martius, Zur 17 jy. (Amsterdam ed.). 



intention of stinging her with ants is said to be to make her 
strong to bear the burden of maternity.^ Amongst the 
Uaupes of Brazil a girl at puberty is secluded in the house 
for a month, and allowed only a small quantity of bread 
and water. Then she is taken out into the midst of her 
relations and friends, each of whom gives her four or five 
blows with pieces of sipo (an elastic climber), till she falls 
senseless or dead. If she recovers, the operation is repeated 
four times at intervals of six hours, and it is considered an 
offence to the parents not to strike hard. Meantime, pots 
of meats and fish have been made ready ; the sipos are 
dipped into them and then given to the girl to lick, who is 
now considered a marriageable woman.* 

The custom of stinging the girl at such times with 
ants or beating her with rods is intended, we may be 
sure, not as a punishment or a test of endurance, but 
as a purification, the object being to drive away the 
malignant influences with which a girl in this condition 
is believed to be beset and enveloped. Examples of 
purification, both by beating and by stinging with ants, 
have already come before us.^ No people, probably, submit 
voluntarily to more excruciating tortures from the stings 
not merely of ants but of the most ferocious wasps 
than the Indians of Cayenne ; yet amongst them, we are 
told, " the custom is by no means an ordeal preparatory to 
marriage ; it is rather a sort of national medicine administered 
chiefly to the youth of both sexes." Applied to men, the 
maraki^ as it is called, " sharpens them, prevents them from 
being heavy and lazy, makes them active, brisk, industrious, 
imparts strength, and helps them to shoot well with the bow, 
without it the Indians would always be slack and rather 
sickly, would always have a little fever, and would lie 
perpetually in their hammocks. As for the women, the 
maraki keeps them from going to sleep, renders them 
active, alert, brisk, gives them strength and a liking for 

' A. Caulin, Historia Corc-^aphiia Gilij, Saji^io di Storia Americana^ \\. 

natural y evangeiUa dcla Nurva (Rome, 1 781), p. 133. 
Andalucia (1779), p. 93. A similar - A. R. Wallace, Narrative of 

custom, with the omission of the sting- Tratrls on the Amazon aud Rio Negro^ 

ing, is reported of the Tamanaks in p. 496. 
the region of the Orinoco. See F. S. ' Above, p. 127 xyy.; vol. i. p. 301. 



work, makes them good housekeepers, good workers at the 
stockade, good makers of cachiri. Every one undergoes the 
viaraki at least twice in his life, sometimes thrice, and 
oftener if he likes. It may be had from the age of about 
eight years and upward, and no one thinks it odd that a 
man of forty should voluntarily submit to it" ^ Similarly 
the Indians of St. Juan Capistrano in California used to be 
branded on some part of their bodies, generally on the right 
arm, but sometimes on the leg also, not as a proof of manly 
fortitude, but because they believed that the custom " added 
greater strength to the nerves, and gave a better pulse for 
the management of the bow." Afterwards " they were 
whipped with nettles, and covered with ants, that they 
might become robust, and the infliction was always performed 
in summer, during the months of July and August, when the 
nettle was in its most fiery state. They gathered small 
bunches, which they fastened together, and the poor deluded 
Indian was chastised, by inflicting blows with them upon his 
naked limbs, till unable to walk ; and then he was carried 
to the nearest and most furious species of ants, and laid 
down among them, while some of his friends, with sticks, 
kept annoying the insects to make them still more violent. 
What torments did they not undergo I What pain ! What 
hellish inflictions ! Yet their faith gave them power to 
endure all without a murmur, and they remained as if dead. 
Having undergone these dreadful ordeals, they were con- 
sidered as invulnerable, and believed that the arrows of their 
enemies could no longer harm them." - Among the Alur, 
a tribe inhabiting the south-western region of the upper 
Nile, to bury a man in an ant-hill and leave him there for a 
while is the regular treatment for insanity.* In like manner 
it is probable that beating or scourging as a religious or 
ceremonial rite was originally a mode of purification. It 
was meant to wipe off* and drive away a dangerous contagion, 
whether personified as demoniacal or not, which was supposed 

' II. Coudrcau, Chtz nos Indicns : 
quatrc antUts dans la Cuyatu Fra»i^ahe 
(Paris, 1895), p. 228. For details as 
to the different modes of administering 
the marakt\ see ibid, pp. 228-235. 

^ Boscana, ** Chinigchinich,** in A. 

Robinson*s Life in California (New 
York, 1846), p. 273 sq, 

' F. Stuhlmann, Mit Emi$t Pascha 
ins Hen von Afrika (Berlin, 1894), p. 



I. . »^ -?■■ 


to be adhering physically, though invisibly, to the body of the 
sufferer.* The pain inflicted on the person beaten was no 
more the object of the beating than it is of a surgical opera- 
tion with us ; it was a necessary accident, that was all. In 
later times such customs were interpreted otherwise, and the 
pain, from being an accident, became the prime object of 
the ceremony, which was now regarded either as a test of 
endurance imposed upon persons at critical epochs of life, 
or as a mortification of the flesh well pleasing to the god. 
But asceticism, under any shape or form, is never primitive. 
The savage, it is true, in certain circumstances will 
voluntarily subject himself to pains and privations which 
appear to us wholly needless ; but he never acts thus unless 

' As a confirmation of this Tiew it 
may be pointed out that beating or 
scourging is inflicted on inanimate 
objects expressly for the purpose in- 
dicated in the text Thus the Indians 
of Costa Rica hold that there are two 
kinds of ceremonial uncleanness, nya 
and bu'ku-ni. Anything that has been 
connected with a death is nya. But 
bu^ku-ni is much more virulent. It 
can not only make one sick but kill. 
<*The worst bu-ku-ni of all is that of 
a young woman in her first pregnancy. 
She infects the whole neighbourhood. 
Persons going from the house where 
she lives carry the infection with them 
to a distance, and all the deaths or 
other serious misfortunes in the vicinity 
are laid to her charge. In the old 
times, when the savage laws and customs 
were in full force, it was not an un- 
common thing for the husband of such 
a woman to pay damages for casualties 
thus caused by his unfortunate wife. . . . 
Bu'ku-ru emanates in a variety of 
ways ; arms, utensils, even houses 
become affected by it after long disuse, 
and before they can be used again 
must be purified. In the case of 
portable objects left undisturbed for a 
long time, the custom is to beat them 
with a stick before touching them. I 
have seen a woman take a long walking- 
stick and beat a basket hanging from 
the roof of a house by a cord. On 
asking what that was for, I was told 
that the basket contained her treasures, 

that she would probably want to take 
something out the next day, and that she 
was driving off the bu-ku-ni, A house 
long unused must be swept, and then 
the person who is purifying it must 
take a stick and beat not only the 
movable objects, but the beds, posts, 
and in short every accessible part of 
the interior. The next day it is fit for 
occupation. A place not visited for a 
long time or reached for the first time 
is bu-ku-ni. On our return from the 
ascent of Pico Blanco, nearly all the 
party suffered from little calenturas, 
the result of extraordinary exposure to 
wet and cold and want of food. The 
Indians said that the peak was especi- 
ally bu-ku-ni, since nobody had ever 
been on it before.'* One day Mr. Gabb 
took down some dusty blow-guns amid 
cries of bu-ku-ni from the Indians. 
Some weeks afterwards a boy died, and 
the Indians firmly l>elicved that the 
bu'ku-ru of the blow-guns had killed 
him. ** From all the foregoing, it 
would seem that bu-ku-ni is a sort of 
evil spirit that takes possession of the 
object, and resents being disturbed ; 
but I have never been able to learn 
from the Indians that they consider it 
so. They seem to think of it as a 
property the object acquires.*' \V. 
M. Gabb, Indian Tribes and Lan- 
guages of Costa Rica (read before the 
American Philosophical Society, 20th 
August 1875), P- 504 5q, 

• ■ ''^TF,.^- • 




he believes that some soh'd temporal advantage is to be 
gained by so doing. Pain for the sake of pain, whether as 
a moral discipline in this life or as a means of winning a 
glorious immortality hereafter, is not an object which he sets 
himself deliberately to pursue. 

When a Hindoo maiden reaches maturity she is kept in 

a dark room for four days, and is forbidden to see the sun. 

She is regarded as unclean ; no one is allowed to touch her. 

Her diet is restricted to boiled rice, milk, sugar, curd, and 

tamarind without salt.^ The Rarhi Brahmans of Bengal 

compel a girl at puberty to live alone, and do not allow her 

to see the face of any male. For three days she remains 

shut up in a dark. room, and has to undergo certain penances. 

Fish, flesh, and sweetmeats are forbidden her ; she must live 

upon rice and ghee.^ In Cambodia a girl at puberty is put 

to bed under a mosquito curtain, where she should stay a 

hundred days. Usually, however, four, five, ten, or twenty 

days arc thought enough ; and even this, in a hot climate 

and under the close meshes of the curtain, is sufficiently 

trying.^ According to another account, a Cambodian maiden 

at puberty is said to " enter into the shade." During her 

retirement, which, according to the rank and position of her 

family, may last any time from a few days to several years, 

she has to observe a number of rules, such as not to be seen 

by a strange man, not to eat flesh or fish, and so on. She 

goes nowhere, not even to the pagoda. But this state 

of seclusion is discontinued during eclipses ; at such times 

she goes forth and pays her devotions to the monster who is 

supposed to cause eclipses by catching the heavenly bodies 

between his teeth."* This permission to break her rule of 

* S. C. Bose, The Hindoos as they 
are^ p. S6. Similarly, after a Brahman 
I>oy has been invested with the sacre<l 
thread, he is for three days strictly 
forbidden to see the sun. He may not 
cat salt, and he is enjoined to sleep 
cither on a carpet or a deer's skin, 
without a mattress or mosquito curtain 
{ibid. p. 186). In Bali, boys who have 
had their teeth filed, as a preliminary 
to marriage, are kept shut up in a 
dark room for three days (Van Eck, 
**Schctsen \*an het eiland Bali," 

Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indie ^ 
N.S., ix. (1880), p. 428 sq,Y 

« H. II. Risley, Tribes and Castes 
of Bent^ai^ Ethnographie Glossary^ i. 

■' Moura, Royaume du Cambodgc^ i. 


^ Aymonier, ' ' Notes sur les coutumes 

et cro}*ances superstitieuses des Cam- 
bodgiens," Cochinehine Fran^aise : Ex- 
cursions et Reconnaissances t No. 16 
(Saigon, 1883), p. 193 sq, Cp. /</., 
Notice sur le Cambodge^ p. 50. 

- ^1 


A'rj..-- ^ 


ATor 7X7 5i5:i5: 7w:e sun 


retirement and show herself abroad during an eclipse seems 
to show how literally the injunction is interpreted which 
forbids maidens entering on womanhood to look upon the 

A superstition so widely diffused as this might be 
expected to leave traces in legends and folk-tales. And it 
has done so. In a Danish story we read of a princess who 
was fated to be carried off by a warlock if ever the sun 
shone on her before she had passed her thirtieth year ; so 
the king her father kept her shut up in the palace, and had 
all the windows on the east, south, and west sides blocked 
up, lest a sunbeam should fall on his darling child, and he 
should thus lose her for ever.^ A Tyrolese story tells how 
it was the doom of a lovely maiden to be transported into 
the belly of a whale if ever a sunbeam fell on her.^ In a 
modern Greek folk-tale the Fates predict that in her fifteenth 
year a princess must be careful not to let the sun shine on 
her, for if this were to happen she would be turned into a 
lizard.* In another modern Greek tale the Sun bestows a 
daughter upon a childless woman on condition of taking the 
child back to himself when she is twelve years old. So, 
when the child was twelve, the mother closed the doors and 
windows, and stopped up all the chinks and crannies, to 
prevent the Sun from coming to fetch away her daughter. 
But she forgot to stop up the key-hole, and a sunbeam 
streamed through it and carried off the girl.^ In a Sicilian 
story a seer foretells that a king will have a daughter who, 
in her fourteenth year, will conceive a child by the Sun. 
So, when the child was born, the king shut her up in a 
lonely tower which had no window, lest a sunbeam should 
fall on her. When she was nearly fourteen years old, it 
happened that her parents sent her a piece of roasted kid, 
in which she found a sharp bone. With this bone she 
scraped a hole in the wall, and a sunbeam shot through the 
hole and impregnated her.* The old Greek story of Danae, 

* Grundtvig, Danische Volkimar- 
^hcHf ubersetzt von A. Strocltroann, 
Zweitc Sammlung (Leipsic, 1879), p. 

199 Si/q, 

^ Schneller, Afarcken umd Sagen atis 
Wiilsrhtirol^ Na 22. 

' B. Schmidt, GrUckische Miirchen^ 
Sateen tiftd Volkslieder^ p. 98. 

*• J. G. von Ilahn, GrUckische und 
alhanesiscke Miircken^ No. 41. 

^ Gonzenbach,5iW7rVwi>r^ Afdrcken, 
No. 28. The incident of the bone 


Konfincd by her father in a subterraneaa chamber 
Ben tower, but impregnated by Zeus, who reached 
: shape of a shower of gold,' perhaps belongs to 
: class of tales. It has its counterpart in the legend 
: Kirghiz of Siberia tell of their ancestry. A certain 
I had a fair daughter, whom he kept in a dark iron 
I, that no man might sec her. An old woman tended 
r; and when the girl was grown to maidenhood she asked 
e old woman, " Where do you go so often ? "- — " My child," 
lid the old dame, "there is a bright world. In that bright 
""world your father and mother live, and all sorts of people 
live there. That is where I go," The maiden said, "Good 
mother, 1 will tell nobody, but show me that bright world." 
So the old woman took the girl out of the iron house. But 
when she saw the bright world, the girl tottered and fainted ; 
and the eye of God fell upon her, and she conceived. Her 
angry father put her in a golden chest and sent her floating 
away (fairy gold can float in fairyland) over the wide sea." 
The shower of gold in the Greek storj', and the eye of God 
in the Kirghiz legend, probably stand for sunlight and the 

k-la!cb. A piince 
up for safely in a 
lower and makes his or hei escape by 
scrapinc a hole in Ihe wall with a bone 
which has been accidentally conveyed 
into Ihe town ; sometimes it is expressly 
said Ihat care was taken to let the 
3 bones with her meat 
(llahn. 0/. lit. No. 15: Gonienloch, 
Kos. 16, 27 ; Pealsmerear, No, J3). 
From this we should infec that il is a 
rule with savages not to let women 
handle the bone* of animals during 
(heir monthly seclusions. We have al- 
ready seen the great respect with « hich 
li Ihe bones of game (si-e 
above, vol. ii. p. 4041^;.): ami women 
in IheiT couiies arc specially forbidden 
10 meddle with (he hunter 01 fisher, as 
their contact or neighbourhood would 
spoil his sport (see below, pp. 322 
jy., 226 IS"., 219 jy.). In folk-talc! 
the hero who uses the bone is some- 
limes a boy ; but Ihe incident might 
easily be transferred from a girl to a 
boy afler in real meaning had been 
forgotten. Among*! the Hare- skin 

Indians a girl at puberty is forbidden 
lu break the bones uf hares (retilot. 
Traditions iiiJitniie! rlu Canada A'orJ- 
Oufit,p.3l%). On the other hand, she 
drinks out of a lube made of a swan's 
bone (Pelilol, I.e. ; id., jl/anegra- 
pkit dtt Dini-DiHdjii, p. 76), and Ihe 
same instrument i* used for Ihe same 
purpose by girts of the Canier trihe of 
Indians {see lielow, p. aaS). We hate 
seen that a Thiinkeel girl in Ihe same 
circumstances uhxI to drink out of Ihe 
wing-biine of a while-headeil eagle 
(LangsdorfT, Keist urn die fStil, ii, 
1 14), and that among the Koolka and 
^ihushwap Irilirs girls at puberty are 
provided with bones or combs with 
which to scratch themselves, because 
they may not use their fingers for thi« 
purpose (above, p. 311 ; and rol. i- 
1>. 316, note D- 

' Sophocles, Aniijfime, 944 j^. ; 
Apollodonis, ii, 4. I ; Horace. Odd, 
iii. 16- J ijg. ; }'ausanias, ii. 3], 7, 

< \\. Kadloff, PnieM dtr I'Ms- 
litttratur der liirkisfktn Stimmt iiid- 
SiUiiml, iii. 83 If. 



sun. The idea that women may be impregnated by the sun 
is not uncommon in legends/ and there are even traces of 
it in marriage customs.^ 

The ground of this seclusion of girls at puberty lies in 
the deeply engrained dread which primitive man universally 
entertains of menstruous blood. Evidence of this has already 
been given,^ but a few more facts may here be added. 
Amongst the Australian blacks " the boys are told from their 
infancy that, if they see the blood, they will early become 
gray-headed, and their strength will fail prematurely." Hence 
a woman lives apart at these times ; and if a young man or 
boy approaches her she calls out, and he immediately makes 
a circuit to avoid her. The men go out of their way to 
avoid even crossing the tracks made by women at such 
times. Similarly the woman may not walk on any path 
frequented by men, nor touch anything used by men ; she 
may not eat fish, or go near water at all, much less cross it ; 
for if she did, the fish would be frightened, and the fishers 
would have no luck ; she may not even fetch water for the 
camp ; it is sufficient for her to say Thama to ensure her 
husband fetching the water himself. A severe beating, or 
even death, is the punishment inflicted on an Australian 

> Bastian, DU VUlker des ostlichen. 
Asun^ i. 416, Ti. 25 ; Turoer, Samoa, 
p. 200 ; Panjab Notes and Queries, ii. 
p. 148, § 797; A. Pfizmaier, '*Nach- 
richten von den alten Bewohnern des 
heutigcn Corea," Sitzungsberichte der 
phihs,-histor. Classed, kais, Akademie 
der Wissenschaft {Wtiivia.), Ivii. (1 868), 
p. 495 sq. 

* Amongst the Chaco Indians of 
South America a newly-married couple 
sleep the first night on a skin with 
their heads towards the west ; "for 
the marriage is not considered as rati- 
fied till the rising sun shines on their 
feet the succeeding morning** (T. J. 
Hutchinson, **The Chaco Indians," 
Transact, Ethnology Soc, N.S., iii. 
<i865), p. 327). At old Hindoo mar- 
riages, the first ceremony was the 
* * Impregnation - rite " ( GarbhddhdMa), 
"During the previous day the young 
married woman was made to look 

towards the sun, or in some way ex- 
posed to its rays" (Monier Williams, 
Religious Life and Thought in India, 
p. 354). Amongst the Turks of Siberia 
it was formerly the custom on the 
morning after marriage to lead the 
young couple out of the hut to greet 
the rising sun. The same custom is 
said to be still practised in Iran and 
Central Asia, the belief being that the 
beams of the rising sun are the surest 
means of impregnating the new bride 
(Vambcry, Das Tiirkenvolk, p. 112). 
The Greenlanders attribute the same 
power of impregnation to the moon, 
which they regard as a masculine 
being. Hence young girls are afraid 
to look long at it, and no Greenland 
woman will sleep on her back unless 
she has first spat upon her 6ngers and 
rubbed the spittle on her stomach 
(H. Egede, Description of Green lastd^ 
London, 181 8, p. 209). 
' Above, vol. i. p. 325 sq. 




woman who breaks these rules.^ The Dieri of Central 
Australia believe that if women at these times were to eat 
fish or bathe in a river, the fish would all die and the water 
would dry up. In this tribe a mark made with red ochre 
round a woman's mouth indicates that she has her courses ; 
no one would offer fish to such a woman.*'^ Other Central 
Australian tribes will not allow menstruous women to 
gather a certain bulb, which forms a staple food of these 
people ; they think that if the rule were broken, the supply 
of bulbs would fail.* In Galela women at their monthly 
periods may not enter a tobacco-field, or the plants would 
be attacked by disease.* The Minangkabauers of Sumatra 
are persuaded that if a woman in her unclean state were to 
go near a rice-field, the crop would be spoiled.* The Bush- 
men think that, by a glance of a girl's eye at the time 
when she ought to be kept in strict retirement, men become 
fixed in whatever position they happen to occupy, with 
whatever they were holding in their hands, and are changed 
into trees which talk.^ Cattle-rearing tribes of South Africa 
hold that their cattle would die if the milk were drunk by 
a menstruous woman ; and lest they should suddenly be 
overtaken by their infirmity, women are forbidden to enter 
the villages by the paths which the men use.^ According 
to the Talmud, if a woman at the beginning of her period 
passes between two men, she thereby kills one of them ; if 
she passes between them towards the end of her period, she 
only causes them to quarrel violently.** 

' Native Tribes of South Australia^ 
p. 1 86 ; E. J. Eyre, Journals^ il 295, 
304 ; W. Ridley, Kamilaroi^ p. 157; 
id.,, \iiJoum, Anthrop, Inst, ii. (1 873), 
p. 268; W. E. Armit, in Journ. 
Anthrop. hist. \x. (1880), p. 459 sq,% 
Brough Smyth, Ahorii^nes of Victoria^ 
i. 65, 236. Cp. Sir George Grey, 
Journals^ ii. 344 ; J. Dawson, Aus- 
tralian Aborigines^ p. ci. sq. 

* S.G^son/\T\/oumalof the Anthro- 
pological Institute^ xxiv. (1895), p. 171. 

* Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes 
of Central Australia, p. 473. 

^ M. J. van Baarda, '< Fabelen, 
Verhalen en Overlereringen der 
Galelareezen,*' Bijdragen tot de Taal- 

Land- en Volkcnkunde van Neder- 
landsch-Indif, xlv. (1 895), p. 489. 

* J. L. van der Toom, •• Het ani- 
misme bij dcB Minangkabauer der 
Padagnsche Bovcnlanden," liijdragen 
tot de Taal- Land- en Volkcnkunde van 
Ncderlandsch-Indiv^ xxxix. (1 890), p. 

• Bleek, Brief Account of Bushman 
Folk-lore^ P- 14 ; cp. ibid, p. lo. 

' J. Macdonald, in Journal of the 
Anthropological Institute, xx. (189 1), 
p. 138 ; id.. Light in Africa^ p. 221 ; 
id.. Religion and Myth, p. 198. 

B J. Mergel, Die Medexin do- Tal- 
mudisten (Leipsic and Berlin, 1885), 
p. IS sq. 

V <••■■»■■"•• 

^i' ' - ' *• 



The miraculous virtue ascribed to menstruous blood is well 

illustrated in a story told by the Arab chronicler Tabari. He 

relates how Sapor, king of Persia, besieged the strong city of 

Atrae, in the desert of Mesopotamia, for several years without 

being able to take it. But the king of the city, whose name 

was Daizan, had a daughter, and when it was with her after 

the manner of women she went forth from the city and dwelt 

for a time in the suburb, for such was the custom of the place. 

Now it fell out that, while she tarried there, Sapor saw her 

and loved her, and she loved him ; for he was a handsome 

man and she a lovely maid. And she said to him, " What 

will you give me if I show you how you may destroy the 

walls of this city and slay my father?" And he said to her, 

" I will give you what you will, and I will exalt you above 

my other wives, and will set you nearer to me than them 

all." Then she said to him, " Take a greenish dove with a 

ring about its neck, and write something on its foot with the 

menstruous blood of a blue-eyed maid ; then let the bird 

loose, and it will perch on the walls of the city, and they 

will fall down." For that, says the Arab historian, was the 

talisman of the city, which could not be destroyed in any 

other way. And Sapor did as she bade him, and the city 

fell down in a heap, and he stormed it and slew Daizan on 

the spot.^ 

The Parsees, who reverence fire, will not suffer men- 
struous women to see it or even to look on a lighted 
taper." Maimonides tells us that down to his time it was a 
common custom in the East to keep women at their j)criods in 
a separate house, and to burn everything on which they had 
trodden ; a man who spoke with such a woman or who was 
merely exposed to the same wind that blew over her, be- 
came thereby unclean.' In Syria to this day a woman who 

' Th. Noldcke, GeschichU tier Pcrser 
und Araber tur Zeit der Sassaniden^ 
am der arabischen Chronik des Tabari 
ubersetzt (Lcydcn, 1879), pp. 33-38. 
I have to thank my friend Prof. A. A. 
Bevan for pointing out to me this and 
the passage referred to in the next note. 
Many ancient cities had talismans on 
the preservation of which their safety 
was believed to depend. The Palla- 

dium of Troy is the iii«»st familiar 
instance. Sec Lol)cck, ^//.'/</i'/Aaw//j, 
p. 278 j^y.,and my note 011 Pausanias, 
viii. 47. 5. 

* G. Hoffmann, Austu^'r aus Syr- 
ischen Akten persischer Mariyrrr ubrr- 
setzt (Leipsic, 1880), p. 99. 

• Maimonides, translatrd by Chwol- 
sohn, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 
ii. 483. 



has her courses on her may neither salt nor pickle, for the 
people think that whatever she pickled or salted would not 
keep.^ The Toaripi of New Guinea, doubtless for a similar 
reason, will not allow women at such times to cook.* The 
Bhuiyars, a Dravidian tribe of South Mirzapur, are said to 
feel an intense dread of menstrual pollution. Every house 
has two doors, one of which is used only by women in this 
condition. During her impurity the wife is fed by her 
husband apart from the rest of the family, and whenever 
she has to quit the house she is obliged to creep out on her 
hands and knees in order not to defile the thatch by her 
touch.^ The Kharwars, another aboriginal tribe of the 
same district, keep their women at such seasons in the outer 
verandah of the house for eight days, and will not let them 
enter the kitchen or the cow-house ; during this time the 
unclean woman may not cook nor even touch the cooking 
vessels. When the eight days are over, she bathes, washes 
her clothes, and returns to family life."* 

The Guayquiries of the Orinoco think that, when a 
woman has her courses, everything upon which she steps 
will die, and that if a man treads on the place where she 
has passed, his legs will immediately swell up.* The Creek 
and kindred Indians of the United States compelled women 
at menstruation to live in separate huts at some distance 
from the village. There the women had to stay, at the risk 
of being surprised and cut off by enemies. It was thought 
*'a most horrid and dangerous pollution" to go near the 
women at such times ; and the danger extended to enemies 
who, if they slew the women, had to cleanse themselves from 
the pollution by means of certain sacred herbs and roots.'* 
Similarly, the Choctaw women had to quit their huts during 
their monthly periods, and might not return till after they 
had been purified. While their unclcanness lasted they had 
to prepare their own food. The men believed that if they 

' Eijub Abcla, •* BeitrHge rur Kennt- thf North- Western Prcvinees ami Oudk^ 

niss abcrgliiubtscher Gebrauche in ii. 87. 

Syricn," Zeitschrift des deutschen * \V. Cruoke, in North Indian Notes 

Palcustina-Vereins^ vii. (1S84), p. III. attd Queries, i. p. 67, § 467. 

* J. Chalmers, ** Toaripi," Journai * Gumilla, llistoire di VOr^ncque 

of the Anthrop, institute^ xxvii. (1898), (Avignon, 1758), i. 249. 
p. 328. * James Adair, History of the 

' W. Crooke, Tribes and Castes ef American Indians, p. 123 sq» 

VOL. Ill Q 


were to approach a menstruous woman, they would fall ill, 
and that some mishap would overtake them when they went to 
the wars.^ When an Omaha woman has her courses on her, 
she retires from the family to a little shelter of bark or grass, 
supported by sticks, where she kindles a fire and cooks her 
victuals alone. Her seclusion lasts four days. During this 
time she may not approach or touch a horse, for the Indians 
believe that such contamination would impoverish or weaken 
the animal.* Among the Thompson River Indians of 
British Columbia every woman had to isolate herself from 
the rest of the people during every recurring period of 
menstruation, and had to live some little way off in a small 
brush or bark lodge made for the purpose. At these times 
she was considered unclean, must use cooking and eating 
utensils of her own, and was supplied with food by some 
other woman. If she smoked out of a pipe other than her 
own, that pipe would ever afterwards be hot to smoke. If 
she crossed in front of a gun, that gun would thenceforth 
be useless for the war or the chase, unless indeed the owner 
promptly washed the weapon in " medecine " or struck the 
woman with it once on each principal part of her body. If 
a man ate or had any intercourse with a menstruous 
woman, nay if he merely wore clothes or moccasins made 
or patched by her, he would have bad luck in hunting and 
the bears would attack him fiercely. Before being admitted 
again among the people, she had to change all her clothes 
and wash several times in clear water. The clothes worn 
during her isolation were hung on a tree, to be used next 
time, or to be washed. For one day after coming back 
among the people, she did not cook food. Were a man to 
eat food cooked by a woman at such times, he would have 
incapacitated himself lor hunting and exposed himself to sick- 
ness or death.* Among the Chippeways and other Indians 
of the Hudson Bay Territory, menstruous women are ex- 
cluded from the camp, and take up their abode in huts of 
branches. They wear long hoods, which effectually conceal 

' Bossu, NouTfeaux Voyagei aux 
Indes occideniaUs (Puis, 1 768), ii. 

' E. James, Expedition from Pitts* 
burgh to tho Rocky Afountains^ L 214. 

* James Tcit, "The Thompson 
Indians of British Columbia," Meutoirs 
oj the American Museum of NcUural 
History^ vol. ii. part iv. (April 1 900), 
p. 326 i^. 




the head and breast. They may not touch the household 
furniture nor any objects used by men ; for their touch ^is 
supposed to defile them, so that their subsequent use would 
be followed by certain mischief or misfortune/' such as disease 
or death. They may not walk on the common paths nor 
cross the tracks of animals. They " are never permitted to 
walk on the ice of rivers or lakes, or near the part where 
the men are hunting beaver, or where a fishing-net is set, 
for fear of averting their success. They are also prohibited 
at those times from partaking of the head of any animal, 
and even from walking in or crossing the track where the 
head of a deer, moose, beaver, and many other animals have 
lately been carried, either on a sledge or on the back. To 
be guilty of a violation of this custom is considered as of 
the greatest importance ; because they firmly believe that 
it would be a means of preventing the hunter from having 
an equal success in his future excursions." ^ So the Lapps 
forbid women at menstruation to walk on that part of the 
shore where the fishers are in the habit of setting out their 

But the beliefs and superstitions of this sort that 
prevail among the western tribes of the great D^n^ or 
Tinneh stock, to which the Chippeways belong, have been 
so well described by an experienced missionary, that I 
will give his description in his own words. Prominent 
among the ceremonial rites of these Indians, he says, 
''are the observances peculiar to the fair sex, and many 
of them are remarkably analogous to those practised by 
the Hebrew women, so much so that, were it not savour- 
ing of profanity, the ordinances of the D^nd ritual code 
might be termed a new edition * revised and considerably 
augmented* of the Mosaic ceremonial law. Among the 
Carriers,* as soon as a girl had experienced the first flow of 
the menses which in the female constitution arc a natural 

' S. I \tzxTit^ Journey to the Xorthern 
OtYan, p. 314 s^.; Alex. Mackenzie, 
Vojuiges tkrott^i^h the Continent of North 
America (London, iSof), p. cxxiit. ; 
Petitot, Monographie des Din^-DinJJi^^ 
p. 75 sq. 

* C. Leemius, Di Lappomibus Fin- 
marchiae ecrumqui limgma Hta ei re* 

h\i^ione fristina (Copenhagen, 1767), 
1>. 494. 

3 The Carriers are a tribe of D^n^ 
or Tinneh Indinns who get their name 
from a custom oliser%ed among them 
hy widows, who carry the charred 
Ixmes of their dead husbands about 
with them in bundles. 




discharge, her father believed himself under the obligation 
of atoning for her supposedly sinful condition by a small 
impromptu distribution of clothes among the natives. This 
periodical state of women was considered as one of legal 
impurity fateful both to the man who happened to have any 
intercourse, however indirect, with her, and to the woman 
herself who failed in scrupulously observing all the rites 
prescribed by ancient usage for persons in her condition. 

" Upon entering into that stage of her life, the maiden 
was immediately sequestered from company, even that of 
her parents, and compelled to dwell in a small branch hut 
by herself away from beaten paths and the gaze of passers- 
by. As she was supposed to exercise malefic influence on 
any man who might inadvertently glance at her, she had to 
wear a sort of head-dress combining in itself the purposes of 
a veil, a bonnet, and a mantlet. It was made of tanned 
skin, its forepart was shaped like a long fringe completely 
hiding from view the face and breasts ; then it formed on 
the head a close-fitting cap or bonnet, and finally fell in a 
broad band almost to the heels. This head-dress was made 
and publicly placed on her head by a paternal aunt, who 
received at once some present from the girl's father. When 
three or four years later the period of sequestration ceased, 
only this same aunt had the right to take off her niece's 
ceremonial head-dress. Furthermore, the girl's fingers, 
wrists, and legs at the ankles and immediately below the 
knees, were encircled with ornamental rings and bracelets of 
sinew intended as a protection against the malign influences 
she was supposed to be possessed with.^ To a belt girding 
her waist were suspended two bone implements called 
respectively Tsoenkuz (bone tube) and Tstltsoet (head 
scratcher). The former was a hollowed swan bone to drink 
with, any other mode of drinking being unlawful to her. 
The latter was fork-like and was called into requisition 
whenever she wanted to scratch her head — immediate con- 
tact of the fingers with the head being reputed injurious to 
her health. While thus secluded, she was called asta^ that 
is ' interred alive ' in Carrier, and she had to submit to a 

^ Hence we may conjecture that the girls in timilar circumstances are al>o 
similar ornaments worn by Mabuiag amulets. See above, p. 207. 


=*}*- .'•-•■ .** v'^'" ■ '. ■• 


rigorous fast and abstinence. Her only allowed food con- 
sisted of dried fish boiled in a small bark vessel which 
nobody else must touch, and she had to abstain especially 
from meat of any kind, as well as fresh fish. Nor was this 
all she had to endure ; even her contact, however remote, 
with these two articles of diet was so dreaded that she could 
not cross the public paths or trails, or the tracks of animals. 
Whenever absolute necessity constrained her to go beyond 
such spots, she had to be packed or carried over them lest 
she should contaminate the game or meat which had passed 
that way, or had been brought over these paths ; and also 
for the sake of self-preservation against tabooed, and conse- 
quently to her, deleterious food. In the same way she was 
never allowed to wade in streams or lakes, for fear of causing 
death to the fish. 

'' It was also a prescription of the ancient ritual code for 
females during this primary condition to eat as little as 
possible, and to remain lying down, especially in course of 
each monthly flow, not only as a natural consequence of the 
prolonged fast and resulting weakness ; but chiefly as an 
exhibition of a becoming penitential spirit which was believed 
to be rewarded by long life and continual good health in 
after years. 

" These mortifications or seclusion did not last less than 
three or four years. Useless to say that during all that 
time marriage could not be thought of, since the girl could 
not so much as be seen by men. When married, the same 
sequestration was practised relatively to husband and fellow- 
villagers — without the particular head-dress and ring spoken 
of — on the occasion of every recurring menstruation. Some- 
times it was protracted as long as ten days at a time, especi- 
ally during the first years of cohabitation. Even when she 
returned to her mate, she was not permitted to sleep with 
liim on the first nor frequently on the second night, but 
would choose a distant corner of the lodge to spread her 
blanket, as if afraid to defile him with her dread unclean- 
ness." ' Elsewhere the same writer tells us that most of 

» A. G. Mnricc, "The Western 7ivw//tf, Third Series, vii. (18S8-89), 
IK'nc^ their manners and customs," pp. 162*164. The writer has repeateil 
Proceedififis of the CanaJiaH InstUut*'^ the sulwtancc «»l this account in a later 

-•^f-t* irf^V 




the devices to which these Indians used to resort for the 
sake of ensuring success in the chase " were based on their 
regard for continence and their excessive repugnance for, 
and dread of, menstruating women." ^ But the strict obser- 
vances imposed on D^n^ women at such times were 
designed at the same time to protect the women themselves 
from the evil consequences of their dangerous condition. 
Thus it was thought that women in their courses could not 
partake of the head, heart, or hind part of an animal that 
had been caught in a snare without exposing themselves to 
a premature death through a kind of rabies. They might 
not cut or car\'e salmon, because to do so would seriously 
endanger their health, and especially would enfeeble 
their arms for life. And they had to abstain from cutting 
up the grebes which are caught by the Carriers in great 
numbers every spring, because otherwise the blood with 
which these fowls abound would occasion haemorrhage or an 
unnaturally prolonged flux in the transgressor.* Similarly 
Indian women of the Thompson River tribe abstained from 
venison and the flesh of other large game during menstru- 
ation, lest the animals should be displeased and the menstrual 
flow increased.* For a similar reason, probably, Shushwap 
girls during their seclusion at puberty are forbidden to eat 
anything that bleeds."* The same principle may perhaps 
partly explain the rule, of which we have had some examples, 
that women at such times should refrain from fish and flesh, 
and restrict themselves to a vegetable diet 

The philosophic student of human nature will observe, 
or learn, without surprise that ideas thus deeply ingrained 
in the savage mind reappear at a more advanced stage of 
society in those elaborate codes which have been drawn up 
for the guidance of certain peoples by lawgivers who claim 

work, Au pays tie fOurs Xoir: chit 
Us sata'a^es de la Colonihic Britannique 
(I*aris and Lyons, 1897), p. 72 sq, 

* A. G. M or ice, •* Notes, archaeo- 
logical, industrial, and sociological, on 
the Western Denes," Transactions of 
the Canadian Institute^ iv. (1892-93), 
|K 106 sq, 

* A. G. M or ice, in Transactions of 
the Cancuiian Institute^ iv. (1892*93), 

pp. X07, no. 

' James Teit, "The Thompson 
Indians of British Columbia," il/4?isr/(;/>j 
of the American Museum of NcUural 
History^ vol. ii. part iv. (April 1 900), 

p. 327. 

* Fr. boas, in ^V.rM Report an the 
Xorth' Western Tribes rf Canada^ p. 
89 (separate reprint from the Report of 
the Brit, Assoc, for 1890). 



to have derived the rules they inculcate from the direct 
inspiration of the deity. However we may explain it, the 
resemblance which exists between the earliest official 
utterances of the deity and the ideas of savages is un- 
questionably close and remarkable ; whether it be, as some 
suppose, that God communed face to face with man in 
those early days, or, as others maintain, that man mistook 
his wild and wandering thoughts for a revelation from 
heaven. Be this as it may, certain it is that the natural 
uncleanness of woman at her monthly periods is a conception 
which has occurred or been revealed with singular unanimity 
to several ancient legislators. The Hindoo lawgiver Manu, 
who professed to have received his institutes from the creator 
Brahman, informs us that the wisdom, the energy, the strength, 
the sight, and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman 
in her courses will utterly perish ; whereas, if he avoids her, 
his wisdom,energy,strength,sight,and vitality will all increase.^ 
The Persian lawgiver Zoroaster, who, if we can take his word 
for it, derived his code from the mouth of the supreme being 
Ahura Mazda, devoted special attention to the subject. 
According to him, the mcnstruous flow, at least in its abnormal 
manifestations, is a work of Ahriman, or the devil. Therefore, 
so long as it lasts, a woman " is unclean and possessed of the 
demon ; she must be kept confined, apart from the faithful 
whom her touch would defile, and from the fire which her 
very look would injure ; she is not allowed to eat as much 
as she wishes, as the strength she might acquire would accrue 
to the fiends. Her food is not given her from hand to 
hand, but is passed to her from a distance, in a long leaden 
spoon." - The Hebrew lawgiver Moses, whose divine legation 
is as little open to question as that of Manu and Zoroaster, 
treats the subject at still greater length ; but I must leave 
to the reader the task of comparing the inspired ordinances 
on this head with the merely human regulations of the 
Carrier Indians which they so closely resemble. 

Amongst the civilised nations of Europe the super- 
stitions which cluster round this mysterious aspect of 

* Ijiws of Manu^ translated by - J. Darmcstctcr, Thi Zend-Avesta^ 

G. HUhler, ch. iv. 41 jy., p. 135. i. p. xcH. See Far^ard^ i. 18 and 19, 

xvL i-iS. 

i'V-j<* ♦ 

>«»MT -m 



woman's nature are not less extravagant than those which 
prevail among savages. In the oldest existing cyclopaedia 
— the Natural History of Pliny — the list of dangers appre- 
hended from menstruation is longer than any furnished by 
mere barbarians. According to Pliny, the touch of a men- 
struous woman turned wine to vinegar, blighted crops, killed 
seedlings, blasted gardens, brought down the fruit from trees, 
dimmed mirrors, blunted razors, rusted iron and brass (espe- 
cially at the waning of the moon), killed bees, or at least 
drove them from their hives, caused mares to miscarry, and 
so forth.^ Similarly, in various parts of Europe, it is still 
believed that if a woman in her courses enters a brewery 
the beer will turn sour ; if she touches beer, wine, vinegar, 
or milk it will go bad ; if she makes jam, it will not keep ; 
if she mounts a mare, it will miscarry ; if she touches buds, 
they will wither ; if she climbs a cherry tree, it will die.* 
In Brunswick people think that if a menstruous woman 
assists at the killing of a pig, the pork will putrefy.* In the 
Greek island of Calymnos a woman at such times may not 
go to the well to draw water, nor cross a running stream, 
nor enter the sea. Her presence in a boat is said to raise 

Thus the object of secluding women at menstruation is 
to neutralise the dangerous influences which arc supposed to 
emanate from them at such times. That the danger is 
believed to be especially great at the first menstruation 
appears from the unusual precautions taken to isolate girls 
at this crisis. Two of these precautions have been illustrated 
above, namely, the rules that the girl may not touch the 

* Pliny, Kai, Hist. vii. 64 sq. , xxviii. 
77 S4]<f, Cp. Geoponka^ xii. 20. 5 
and 25. 2 ; Columella, xi. 3. 50. 

' A. Schleicher, Volkstiimlkhes atis 
SoHfunberg^ p. 134 ; B. Souche, Cray- 
ances^ Presages et Tradithfts diverses, 
p. 1 1 ; A. Meyrac, Traditions^ Com- 
tames^ Ugendes et CotUes des Ardennes 
(Charle\ille, 1890), p. 171 ; V. Fossel, 
Voiksmedicin und mediiitiischer Aber- 
gtaube in Steiermark (Graz, 1 886), p. 
124. A correspondent, who with- 
holds her name, writes to me that in a 
Suflblk village, where she used to live 

some twenty or thirty years ago, 
** every one pickled their own liecf, 
and it was held that if the pickling 
were performed by a woman during 
her menstrual period the meat wouKI 
not keep. If the cook were incapaci* 
tated at the time when the pickling 
was due, another woman was sent for 
out of the village rather than risk what 
was considered a certainty." 

' R. Andree, Braunsekweiger Volks- 
kunde^ p. 291. 

< \V. K. Pat«m, in Folklore, i. (1890), 
p. 524. 

-. rrl^i^ 



{ground nor see the sun. The general effect of these rules 
is to keep the girl suspended, so to say, between heaven 
and earth. Whether enveloped in her hammock and slung 
up to the roof, as in South America, or raised above the 
ground in a dark and narrow cage, as in New Ireland, she 
may be considered to be out of the way of doing mischief, 
since, being shut off both from the earth and from the sun, 
she can poison neither of these great sources of life by her 
d^Nidly contagion. In short, she is rendered harmless by 
being, in electrical language, insulated. But the precautions 
thus taken to isolate or insulate the girl are dictated by a 
regard for her own safety as well as for the safety of others. 
For it is thought that the girl herself would suffer if she 
were to neglect the prescribed regimen. Thus Zulu girls, 
as we have seen, believe that they would shrivel to skeletons 
if the sun were to shine on them at puberty, and in some 
l^razilian tribes the girls think that a transgression of the 
rules would entail sores on the neck and throat. In short, 
the girl is viewed as charged with a powerful force which, if 
not kept within bounds, may prove destructive both to the girl 
herself and to all with whom she comes in contact To 
repress this force within the limits necessary for the safety 
of all concerned is the object of the taboos in question. 

The same explanation applies to the observance of the 
same rules by divine kings and priests. The uncleanness, 
as it is called, of girls at puberty and the sanctity of .holy 
men do not, to the primitive mind, differ from each other. 
They are only different manifestations of the same mysterious 
energy which, like energy in general, is in itself neither good 
nor bad, but becomes beneficent or maleficent according to 
its application.* Accordingly, if, like girls at puberty, divine 

' 'J*he Greeks and Romans thought 
that a field wait completely protected 
against insects if a menstruous woman 
walked round it with hare feet and 
streaming hair (Pliny, Nai, Hist, xvii. 
266, xxviii. 78; Columella, x. 358/^., 
xi. 3. 64 ; Palladius, De re rttstua^ 
i* 35* 3 1 Gt^aponica^ xii. 8. 5 jy. ; 
Aelian, Xat, Anim, vi 36). A similar 
pre%'enti%'e is emplojred for the same 
pur|x>se by North American Indians 
and Kuropean pcannti. See School- 

craft, Indian Tribes ^ v. 70; Wiede- 
mann, Aus Jt'm innerm und Hussem 
Js^ht-n dt-r Ehsten^ p. 484. Cp. Halt- 
rich. 'Aitr I 'oikskunde der SiehenhHrger 
Saeksfn^ p. 280 ; Heinrich, A^rariseke 
Sittifi und Gfhrmtcki nnter den Sack* 
s,M Siehcnburj^'ns, p. 14 : Grimm, 
Jhuische Mytkologii^^ iii. 468 ; I^m- 
nicrt, Volksmfdizin atts Bayfm^ p. 
147. Among the Western I>6iies it is 
lielieved that one or two trmnsverse lines 
taiuioed on the arms or legs of a >'ouDg 

■~ >Jl 



personages may neither touch the ground nor see the sun, 
the reason is, on the one hand, a fear lest their divinity 
might, at contact with earth or heaven, discharge itself with 
fatal violence on either ; and, on the other hand, an appre- 
hension that the divine being, thus drained of his ethereal 
virtue, might thereby be incapacitated for the future per- 
formance of those magical functions, upon the proper dis- 
charge of which the safety of the people and even of the 
world is believed to hang. Thus the rules in question fall 
under the head of the taboos which wc examined in the 
second chapter ; they are intended to preserve the life of 
the divine person and with it the life of his subjects and 
worshippers. Nowhere, it is thought, can his precious yet 
dangerous life be at once so safe and so harmless as when 
it is neither in heaven nor in earth, but, as far as possible, 
suspended between the two. 

In l^ends and folk-tales, which reflect the ideas of 
earlier ages, we find this suspension between heaven and 
earth attributed to beings who have been endowed with the 
coveted yet burdensome gift of immortality. The wizened 
remains of the deathless Sibyl are said to have been pre- 
served in a jar or urn which hung in a temple of Apollo at 
Cumae ; and when a group of merry children, tired, perhaps, 
of playing in the sunny streets, sought the shade of the 
temple and amused themselves by gathering underneath the 
familiar jar and calling out, " Sibyl, what do you wish ? " a 
hollow voice, like an echo, used to answer from the urn, " I 
wish to die."^ A story, taken down from the lips of a 

man by a pubescent girl are a s|^>ecific 
against premature weakness of these 
limbf^ See A. G. Moricc, •• Notes, 
archaeological, industrial, and sociologi- 
i*al, on the Western Denes," Transoi- 
tionsoftht Canadian Institute^ iv. ( 1 892- 
93), p. 182. The Thompson River 
Indians of British Columbia thought 
that the Dawn of Day could and would 
cure hernia if only an adolescent girl 
prayed to it to do so. Just before day- 
break the girl would put some charcoal 
in her mouth, chew it fine, and spit it 
out four times on the diseased place. 
Then she prajred : ** O Day-dawn I 
thy child relies on me to obtain healing 

from thee, who art m)'stery. Remove 
thou the swelling of thy child. Pity 
thou him, I>ay-dawn ! " 5>ee James 
Teit, "The Tliompson Indians of 
British Columbia," Memoirs of the 
American Museum of Natural IJistory^ 
vol. ii. part iv. (April 1900), p. 345 
stf. These are examples of the l>cne- 
ficent application of the menstruous 

^ Petronius, Sat. 48 ; Pausanias, 
X. 12. 8; Justin Martyr, Cohort, ad 
Graecos^ 37, p. 34 c, ed. 1 742. Ac- 
cording to another account, the re- 
mains of the Sibyl were enclosed in an 
iron cage which hung from a pillar in 

■ .■■■■ ■> •■ .. ■■■*-■' 


German peasant at Thomsdorf, relates that once upon a 
time there was a girl in London who wished to live for 
ever, so they say : 

** London, London is a fine town. 
A maiden prayed to live for ever." 

And still she lives and hangs in a basket in a church, and 
every St. John's Day, about the hour of noon, she eats a 
roll of bread.^ Another German story tells of a lady who 
resided at Danzig and was so rich and so blest with all that 
life can give that she wished to live always. So when she 
came to her latter end, she did not really die but only 
looked like dead, and very soon they found her in a hollow 
of a pillar in the church, half standing and half sitting, 
motionless. She stirred never a limb, but they saw quite 
plainly that she was alive, and she sits there down to this 
blessed day. Every New Year's Day the sacristan comes 
and puts a morsel of the holy bread in her mouth, and that 
is all she has to live on. Long, long has she rued her 
fatal wish who set this transient life above the eternal 
joys of heaven.^ A third German story tells of a noble 
damsel who cherished the same foolish wish for immortality. 
So they put her in a basket and hung her up in a 
church, and there she hangs and never dies, though many a 
year has come and gone since they put her there. But 
every year on a certain day they give her a roll, and she 
eats it and cries out, " For ever ! for ever ! for ever ! " And 
when she has so cried she falls silent again till the same 
time next year, and so it will go on for ever and for ever.' 
A fourth story, taken down near Oldenburg in Holstcin, 
tells of a jolly dame that ate and drank and lived right 
merrily and had all that heart could desire, and she wished 
to live always. For the first hundred years all went well, 
but after that she began to shrink and shrivel up, till at last 

an ancient temple of Hercules at M. K. Jnmcs {Classical Kci*ieu\ vi. 

Ari^yrus (Ampclius, Liher Mt'morialis^ (1S92), p. 74). I have already gi%'cn 

viii. 16). the .slurics at length in a note on ]*nu- 

' Kuhn und Schwartz, A<yniU<.v//jr^<f sanies, x. 12. 8. 

Sagetty Marchcn und Gehrdncfu^ p. 70, - Kuhn und Schwartx, op, di, p. 

No. 72. I. This and the following 70 sq,^ No. 72. 2. 

German parallels to the story of the ^ Kuhn und Schwartz^ of. fit, p. 

Sibyl's wish were first indicated by Dr. 71, No. 72. 3. 




she could neither walk nor stand nor eat nor drink. But 
die she could not. At first they fed her as if she were a 
little child, but when she grew smaller and smaller they put 
her in a glass bottle and hung her up in the church. And 
there she still hangs, in the church of St. Mary, at Lubeck. 
She is as small as a mouse, but once a year she stirs.^ 

§ 2. Balder 

A god whose life might in a sense be said to be neither 
in heaven nor on earth but between the two, was the Norse 
Balder, the good and beautiful god. The story of his death 
is as follows : Once on a time Balder dreamed heavy dreams 
which seemed to forebode his death. Thereupon the gods 
held a council and resolved to make him secure against every" 
danger. So the goddess Frigg took an oath from fire and 
water, iron and all metals, stones and earth, from trees, sick- 
nesses and poisons, and from all four-footed beasts, birds, 
and creeping things, that they would not hurt Balder. 
When this was done Balder was deemed invulnerable ; so 
the gods amused themselves by setting him in their midst, 
while some shot at him, others hewed at him, and others 
threw stones at him. But whatever they did, nothing could 
hurt him ; and at this they were all glad. Only Loki, the 
mischief-maker, was displeased, and he went in the guise of 
an old woman to Frigg, who told him that the weapons of 
the gods could not wound Balder, since she had made them 
all swear not to hurt him. Then Loki asked, " Have all 
things sworn to spare Balder?" She answered, "East of 
Walhalla grows a plant called mistletoe ; it seemed to me 
too young to swear." So Loki went and pulled the mistle- 
toe and took it to the assembly of the gods. There he 
found the blind god Hodur standing at the outside of the 
circle. Loki asked him, " Why do you not shoot at 
Balder?" Hodur answered, " Because I do not see where 
he stands ; besides I have no weapon." Then said Loki, 
'* Do like the rest and show Balder honour, as they all do. 
I will show you where he stands, and do you shoot at him 

' K. MUllenhoff, Sagen^ Afdrchen On this subject see further Note A at 
umH Lifdfr^ p. 158 j^., No. 217. the end of the volume. 

^iGpr.' ••• ■- • • (:>^ i.w>i!i ii iiM il |Wji i j> .rr r.y. 


with this twig." Hodur took the mistletoe and threw it at 
Balder, as Loki directed him. The mistletoe struck Balder 
and pierced him through and through, and he fell down 
dead. And that was the greatest misfortune that ever befell 
gods and men. For a while the gods stood speechless, then 
they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They took 
Balder's body and brought it to the sea-shore. There stood 
Balder's ship ; it was called Ringhorn, and was the hugest 
of all ships. The gods wished to launch the ship and to 
burn Balder's body on it, but the ship would not stir. So 
they sent for a giantess called Hyrrockin. She came riding 
on a wolf and gave the ship such a push that fire flashed 
from the rollers and all the earth shook. Then Balder*s 
body was taken and placed on the funeral pile upon his 
ship. When his wife Nanna saw that, her heart burst for 
sorrow and she died. So she was laid on the funeral pile 
with her husband, and fire was put to it. Bauer's horse, 
too, with all its trappings, was burned on the pile.^ 

The minute details with which this story is told suggest 
that it belongs to that class of myths which have been 
dramatised in ritual, or, to put it otherwise, which have been 
performed as magical ceremonies for the sake of producing 
those natural eflTects which they describe in figurative language. 
A myth is never so graphic and precise in its details as when 
it is, so to speak, the book of the words which are spoken 
and acted by the performers of the sacred rite. That the 
Norse story of Balder was a myth of this sort will become 
probable if we can prove that ceremonies resembling the 
incidents in the tale have been performed by Norsemen and 
other European peoples. Now the main incidents in the 
tale arc two — first, the pulling of the mistletoe, and second, 
the death and burning of the god ; and both of them can 
be shown to have had their counterparts in yearly rites 
observed, whether separately or conjointly, by people in 
various parts of Europe. 

All over Europe the peasants have been accus- 
tomed from time immemorial to kindle bonfires on certain 

* Die EdtiOf Ubersetzt von K. Sim- length !»y Prof. Khys, CV//iV lit-at/un* 
rock,* pp. 286-288, cp. pp. 8, 34, 264. doM^ p. 529 st/q. 
In English the Balder story is told at 


i *r 




days of the year, and to dance round or leap over them. 
Customs of this kind can be traced back on historical 
evidence to the Middle Ages/ and their analogy to similar 
customs observed in antiquity goes with strong internal evi- 
dence to prove that their origin must be sought in a period 
long prior to the spread of Christianity. Indeed the earliest 
proof of their observance in Northern Europe is furnished 
by the attempts made by Christian synods in the eighth 
century to put them down as heathenish rites.* Not un- 
commonly effigies are burned in these fires, or a pretence is 
made of burning a living person in them ; and there are 
grounds for believing that anciently human beings were 
actually burned on these occasions. A general survey of the 
customs in question will bring out the traces of human 
sacrifice, and will serve at the same time to throw light on 
their meaning.' 

The seasons of the year at which these bonfires are 
most commonly lit are spring and midsummer, but in some 
places they are kindled at Hallow E'en (the thirty-first of 
October) and Christmas. In spring the first Sunday in 
Lent (Quadragesima), Easter Eve, and the first of May are 
the days on which the ceremony has been oftcnest observed. 

The custom of kindling bonfires on the first Sunday in 
Lent has prevailed in Belgium, the north of France, and in 
many parts of Germany. Thus in the Belgian Ardennes 
for a week or a fortnight before the " day of the great fire," 
as it is called, children go about from farm to farm collecting 
fuel. At Grand Halleux any one who refuses their request 
is pursued next day by the children, who try to blacken his 
face with the ashes of the extinct fire. When the day has 
come, they cut down bushes, especially juniper and broom, 
and in the evening great bonfires blaze on all the heights. 
It is a common saying that seven bonfires should be seen ii 
the village is to be safe from conflagrations. If the Meuse 

' Sec Grimm, Deutsche My thologie^^ 
i. 502, 510, 516. 

* Mannhardt, Baumkuliui^ p. 518 

' In the following survey of these 
fire-customs I follow chiefly W. Mann- 
hardt, Baumkultus^ kap. vL p. 497 

sgg. Compare also Grimm, Deutsche 
Mythohgie^^ i. 500 sqq. ; Kelly, 
Curiosities of I uJo- European Tradi^ 
tiofi and Folk- tore ^ p. 46 sgg. ; F. 
Vogt, '*Scheil>entreiben und Friihlings- 
feuer," Zeitschrift des Vereins fur 
Votkskunde^ iii. (1893), pp. 349-369; 
ibid. iv. (1894), pp. 195.197. 

:w*AiWMw«'v .- 

IN LENT 239 

happens to be frozen hard at the time, bonfires are lit also on 
the ice. At Grand Halleux they set up a pole called makral^ 
or "the witch," in the midst of the pile, and the fire is 
kindled by the man who was last married in the village. In 
the neighbourhood of Morlanwclz a straw man is burnt in 
the fire. Young people and children dance and sing round 
the bonfires, and leap over the embers to secure good crops 
or a happy marriage within the year, or as a means of 
guarding themselves against colic. In Brabant on the same 
Sunday, down to the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
women and men disguised in female attire used to go with 
burning torches to the fields, where they danced and sang 
comic songs for the purpose, as they alleged, of driving away 
" the wicked sower," who is mentioned in the Gospel for the 

In the French department of the Ardennes the whole 
village used to dance and sing round the bonfires which 
were lighted on the first Sunday in Lent. Here, too, it was 
the person last married, sometimes a man and sometimes a 
woman, who put the match to the fire. The custom is still 
kept up very commonly in the district. Cats used to be 
burnt in the fire or roasted to death by being held over it ; 
and while they were burning the shepherds drove their 
flocks through the smoke and flames as a sure means 
of guarding them against sickness and witchcraft. In some 
communes it was believed that the livelier the dance round 
the fire, the better would be the crops that year.* In the 
Vosges Mountains it is still customary to light great fires on 
the heights and around the villages on the first Sunday in 
Lent ; and at Rupt and elsewhere the right of kindling them 
belongs to the person who was last married. Round the 
fires the people dance and sing merrily till the flames have 
di^d out. Then the master of the fire, as they call the 
man who kindled it, invites all who contributed to the 
erection of the pile to follow him to the nearest tavern, where 
they partake of good cheer. At Dommartin they say that, 
if you would have the hemp tall, it is absolutely necessary 

* Rcinsl)crg-DUringsfcld, Caletidriet * A. Meyrac, Traditions^ cotiitimes^ 

Btlffft i* M>-143* ^- Monseur, /> i^gnides ei tontes des Anltmnes {OmxXe- 
Folklore Wallon^ p. 124 sq, ville, 1890), p. 68. 

that the women should be tipsy on the evening of this day.* 
At ]£pinal in the Vosges, on the first Sunday in Lent, bon- 
fires used to be kindled at various places both in the town and 
on the banks of the Moselle. They consisted of pyramids 
of sticks and faggots, which had been collected some days 
earlier by young folks going from door to door. When the 
flames blazed up, the names of various couples, whether 
young or old, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, were called 
out, and the persons thus linked in mock marriage were 
forced, whether they liked it or not, to march arm in arm 
round the fire amid the laughter and jests of the crowd. 
The festivity lasted till the fire died out, and then the spec- 
tators dispersed through the streets, stopping under the 
windows of the houses and proclaiming the names of the 
fichenots and f^clunottes or Valentines whom the popular 
voice had assigned to each other. These couples had to 
exchange presents ; the mock bridegroom gave his mock 
bride something for her toilet, while she in turn presented 
him with a cockade of coloured ribbon. Next Sunday, if 
the weather allowed it, all the couples, arrayed in their best 
attire and attended by their relations, repaired to the wood 
of Saint Antony, where they mounted a famous stone called 
the danserosse or danseresse. Here they found cakes and 
refreshments of all sorts, and danced to the music of a 
couple of fiddlers. The evening bell, ringing the Angclus, 
gave the signal to depart. As soon as its solemn chime 
was heard, every one quitted the forest and returned home. 
The exchange of presents between the Valentines went by 
the name of ransom or redemption {rachat\ because it was 
supposed to redeem the couple from the flames of the bon- 
fire. Any pair who failed thus to ransom themselves were 
not suffered to share the merrymaking at the great stone in 
the forest ; and a pretence was made of burning them in 
small fires kindled before their own doors.^ 

In some parts of France people used to go about the roads 
and fields with lighted torches on the first Sunday in Lent, 
warning the fruit-trees that if they did not take heed and 
bear fruit they would surely be cut down and cast into the 

* L. F. Sauvc, Le Folk-lore d<s * E. Cortet, Essai sur Us /ties re* 

ffoMies- Vosges^ p. 56. ligieuses, p. loi sq. 



fire.^ On the same day peasants in the department of Loiret 
used to run about the sowed fields with burning torches in their 
hands, while they adjured the field-mice to quit the wheat on 
pain of having their whiskers burned.^ In the department of 
Ain the great fires of straw and faggots which are kindled in the 
fields at this time arc or were supposed to destroy the nests 
of the caterpillars.^ At Verges, a lonely village surrounded 
by forests between the Jura and -the Combe d'Ain, the 
torches used at this season were kindled in a peculiar 
manner. The young people climbed to the top of a moun- 
tain, where they placed three nests of straw in three trees. 
These nests being then set on fire, torches made of dry lime- 
wood were lighted at them, and the merry troop descended 
the mountain to their flickering light, and went to every 
house in the village, demanding roasted peas and obliging 
all couples who had been married within the year to dance.^ 
In the centre of France it appears that bonfires are not 
lighted on this day, but when the sun has set the whole 
population of the villages, armed with blazing torches of 
straw, disperse over the country and scour the fields, the 
vineyards, and the orchards. Seen from afar, the multitude 
of moving lights, twinkling in the darkness, appear like will- 
o'-the-wisps chasing each other across the plains, along the 
hillsides, and down the valleys. While the men wave their 
flambeaus about the branches of the fruit-trees, the women 
and children tic bands of wheaten-straw round the tree- 
trunks. The effect of the ceremony is supposed to be to 
avert the various plagues from which the fruits of the earth 
are apt to suffer ; and the bands of straw fastened round the 
stems of the trees are believed to render them fruitful.^ 
In the peninsula of La Manchc the Norman peasants 
used to spend almost the whole night of the first Sunday in 
Lent rushing about the country with lighted torches for the 
purpose, as they supposed, of driving away the moles and 
field-mice ; fires were also kindled on some of the dolmens.* 

> Cortct, op, cit. p. 99 j^. ' A. de Norc, op. cit, p. 302. 

' A. de Nore, Coitfitnus^ mythes ft * D. Monnier, Traditio9ts populaires 

ircuiitions des pravhues de France ^ p. fompariles^ p. 191 sq. 

283 sq. A similar, though not identi- ^ Laisnel de la Salle, Crayanas tt 

cal, custom prevailed at Valenciennes Ici^emUsducentredeia France ^i,'^^sqq, 

{ibid, p. 338). • Lecoeor, Esqnissa du Bocage 

VOL. Ill R 


In Germany at the same season similar customs have 
prevailed. Thus in the Eifel Mountains, Rhenish Prussia, 
on the first Sunday in Lent young people used to collect 
straw and brushwood from house to house. These they 
carried to an eminence and piled up round a tall, slim 
beech-tree, to which a piece of wood was fastened at right 
angles to form a cross. The structure was known as the 
" hut " or " castle." Fire was set to it and the young people 
marched round the blazing " castle " bareheaded, each carrying 
a lighted torch and praying aloud. Sometimes a straw-man 
was burned in the " hut." People observed the direction in 
which the smoke blew from the fire. If it blew towards the 
corn-fields, it was a sig^ that the harvest would be abundant. 
On the same day, in some parts of the Eifel, a great wheel 
was made of straw and dragged by three horses to the top 
of a hill. Thither the village boys marched at nightfall, set 
fire to the wheel, and sent it rolling down the slope. Two 
lads followed it with levers to set it in motion again, in case 
it should anywhere meet with a check. At Oberstattfeld the 
wheel had to be provided by the young man who was last 
married.^ About Echternach the same ceremony is called 
** burning the witch " ; while it is going on, the older men 
ascend the heights and observe what wind is blowing, for 
that is the wind which will prevail the whole year.^ At 
Voralberg in the Tyrol, on the first Sunday in Lent, a slender 
young fir-tree is surrounded with a pile of straw and fire- 
wood. To the top of the tree is fastened a human figure 
called the "witch," made of old clothes and stuffed with 
gunpowder. At night the whole is set on fire and boys 
and girls dance round it, swinging torches and singing 
rhymes in which the words " com in the winnowing-basket, 
the plough in the earth" may be distinguished.* In Swabia 
on the first Sunday in Lent a figure called the " witch " or 
the ** old wife " or " winter's grandmother " is made up of 

Xormand^ ii. 131 sij. For more cvi- Eijler Volkes^ i. 21-25; N. I locker, in 

deoce of customs of this sort observed Z^itschrift fitr dattsche Mythohtpe uuJ 

in various parts of France on the first Sittcukuudc^ \. (1853), p. 90; B.K, 

Sanday in Lent, see Madame Clement, p. 501. 

Jfistoire dts Fites dviUs et relif^uses^ ^ N. Mocker, op, cit. p. 89 sq, ; 

etc, du D^parfemefii du Nord'^ (Cam- B,K, p. 501. 

brai, 1836), p. 351 sqg. ' Vonbun, Beitriif^ tur drutschen 

• Sxi^m\\z^SUUnu9uiSagen^tXc.^de5 Mytholo^U^ p. 20 ; />.A'. p. 501. 

V •^;:i, a- f2tx«Si'tf*i>-^v 



/A^ ZJ?A^r 


clothes and fastened to a pole. This is stuck in the middle 
of a pile of wood, to which fire is applied. While the 
" witch " is burning, the young people throw blazing discs 
into the air. The discs are thin round pieces of wood, a 
few inches in diameter, with notched edges to imitate the 
rays of the sun or stars. They have a hole in the middle, 
by which they are attached to the end of a wand. Before 
the disc is thrown it is set on fire, the wand is swung to and 
fro, and the impetus thus communicated to the disc is 
augmented by dashing the rod sharply against a sloping 
board. The burning disc is thus thrown off, and mounting 
high into the air, describes a long curve before it reaches the 
ground. A single lad may fling up forty or fifty of these 
discs, one after the other. The object is to throw them as 
high as possible. The wand by which they are hurled 
must, at least in some parts of Swabia, be of hazel. Some- 
times the lads also leap over the fire brandishing lighted 
torches of pine- wood. The charred embers of the burned 
" witch " and discs are taken home and planted in the flax- 
fields the same night, in the belief that they will keep 
vermin from the fields.^ At Wangen, near Molsheim in 
Baden, a like custom is observed on the first Sunday in 
Lent. The young people kindle a bonfire on the crest of 
the mountain above the village ; and the burning discs 
which they hurl into the air are said to present in the dark- 
ness the aspect of a continual shower of falling stars. When 
the supply of discs is exhausted and the bonfire begins to 
burn low, the boys light torches and run with them at full 
speed down one or other of the three steep and winding 
paths that descend the mountain-side to the village. Bumps, 
bruises, and scratches are often the result of their efforts to 
outstrip each other in the headlong race.- In the Rhon 
Mountains, Bavaria, on the first Sunday in Lent, the people 

' E. Meier, Deutsche Sa^en, Siftrn 
itnd Gtbrauchc atts SfkitHMhen^ p. 380 
stfq. ; Birlinger, Volksihiimliches aus 
Schvabcri, ii. 59 j^., 66 j^. ; hofaria, 
iMfidcs- wui / 'olkskunde dcs /iom'jp'i'ii'hs 
Bayertty ii. 2, p. 83S sq. ; Panzer, Heitraf^ 
zur deutscheu Mytho!o*^e^ i. 211, §232; 
B,K» p. 501 sq. One of the popular 
German names for the first Sunday in 

Lent is White Sunday, which is not to 
\yt confusc<] with the first Sunday after 
I'^ster, which also j^ocs by the name 
of White Sunday (E. Meier, op. cit» p. 
380 ; Hirlin{;er, op. cit, ii. 58). 

'II. Gaidoz, ** Le dieu gaulois du 
soleil et le symlx>Iisme de la roue,'* 
Kc7*uc ArchioUy^ique^ iii. s^rie, iv. 
(1884), p. 1 39 v. 


used to march to the top of a hill or eminence. Children 
and lads carried torches, brooms daubed with tar, and poles 
swathed in straw. A wheel, wrapt in combustibles, was 
kindled and rolled down the hill ; and the young people 
rushed about the fields with their burning torches and brooms, 
till at last they flung them in a heap, and standing round 
them, struck up a hymn or a popular song. The object of 
running about the fields with the blazing torches was to 
" drive away the wicked sower." Or it was done in honour 
of the Virgin, that she might preserve the fruits of the earth 
throughout the year and bless thcm.^ In neighbouring 
villages of Hesse, between the Rhon and the Vogel Moun- 
tains, it is thought that wherever the burning wheels roll, the 
fields will be safe from hail and storm.^ 

It seems hardly possible to separate from these bonfires, 
kindled on the first Sunday in Lent, the fires in which, about 
the same season, the eflligy called Death is burned as part of 
the ceremony of " carrying out Death." We have seen that 
at Spachendorf, in Austrian Silesia, on the morning of 
Rupert's Day (Shrove Tuesday ?), a straw-man, dressed in a 
fur coat and a fur cap, is laid in a hole outside the village 
and there burned, and that while it is blazing every one 
seeks to snatch a fragment of it, which he fastens to a branch 
of the highest tree in his garden or buries in his field, 
believing that this will make the crops to grow better. The 
ceremony is known as the "burying of Death."* Even 
when the straw-man is not designated as Death, the meaning 
of the observance is probably the same ; for the name 
Death, as I have tried to show, does not express the original 
intention of the ceremony. At Cobern in the Eifel Moun- 
tains the lads make up a straw-man on Shrove Tuesday. 
The c^lfi^ is formally tried and accused of having perpe- 
trated all the thefts that have been committed in the neigh- 
bourhood throughout the year. Being condemned to death, 
the straw-man is led through the village, shot, and burned 
upon a pyre. They dance round the blazing pile, and the 

' Wiizschcl, Sagefit Sitten uml Cc- und GebrdtuhCy p. 36. 

drauc/ieaus T/itiriMj^fifP, iSgiVanzvf, • Th. Vcmalcken, My that wid 

Reiirai^ zttr daitschen MythcicgUt ii. Briiuche des I'o/Ars in Oesterreich^ p. 

207; />.A' p. 500/^. 293 sq,\ Ii,k\ p. 498. See above, 

^ \V. Kolbe, HessicJU VolkS'Siitcn voL ii. p. 95. 

I ^' *!,*■' f^' '■ ^ / ' '■ ■'"■•• ■ '■ .-'^'^.iHfPlMOv^fwEnff^'*^''* 


last bride must leap over it.^ In Oldenburg on the evening 
of Shrove Tuesday people used to make long bundles of 
straw, which they set on fire, and then ran about the fields 
waving them, shrieking, and singing wild songs. Finally 
they burned a straw-man on the field.^ In the district of 
Dusseldorf the straw-man burned on Shrove Tuesday was 
made of an unthreshed sheaf of corn.' On the first Monday 
after the spring equinox the urchins of Zurich drag a straw- 
man on a little cart through the streets, while at the same 
time the girls carry about a May-tree. When vespers ring, 
the straw-man is burned.^ In the district of Aachen on 
Ash Wednesday a man used to be encased in peas-straw and 
taken to an appointed place. Here he slipped quietly out 
of his straw casing, which was then burned, the children 
thinking that it was the man who was being burned.* In 
the Val di Ledro (Tyrol) on the last day of the Carnival a 
figure is made up of straw and brushwood and then burned. 
The figure is called the Old Woman, and the ceremony 
** burning the Old Woman." ^ 

Another occasion on which these fire-festivals are held is 
Easter Eve, the Saturday before Easter Sunday. On that 
day it has been customary in Catholic countries to extinguish 
all the lights in the churches, and then to make a new fire, 
sometimes with flint and steel, sometimes with a burning- 
glass. At this fire is lit the great Paschal or Easter candle, 
which is then used to rekindle all the extinguished lights in 
the church. In many parts of Germany a bonfire is also 
kindled, by means of the new fire, on some open space near 
the church. It is consecrated, and the people bring sticks of 
oak, walnut, and beech, which they char in the fire, and then 
take home with them. Some of these charred sticks arc 
thereupon burned at home in a newly-kindled fire, with a 
prayer that God will preserve the homestead from fire, 
lightning, and hail. Thus every house receives " new fire.'* 
Some of the sticks are kept throughout the year and laid on 
the hearth-fire during heavy thunder-storms to prevent the 

* Schmitz, Sitten u, Sagen des Eifier ' B. K. p. 499. 

I'oIktSy i. 20; B,K, p. 499. ♦ H.K, p. 498 $q. 

' Strackerjan, Abergiaube 11, Sagen ^ />.A'. \\ 499. 

atts dtm JierzDgtkum Oldttibttrg^ ii. ^ Schneller, Marchm u. Sagen aus 

39t § 306 ; B,K, 498. Ualsfktirai^ p. 234 sg, ; B.A\ p. 499 $q. 


house from being struck by lightning, or they are inserted in 
the roof with the h'ke intention. Others are placed in the 
fields, gardens, and meadows, with a prayer that God will 
keep them from blight and hail. Such fields and gardens 
are thought to thrive more than others ; the corn and the 
plants that grow in them are not beaten down by hail, nor 
devoured by mice, vermin, and beetles ; no witch harms them, 
and the ears of corn stand close and full. The charred 
sticks are also applied to the plough. The ashes of the 
Easter bonfire, together with the ashes of the consecrated 
palm -branches, are mixed with the seed at sowing. A 
wooden figure called Judas is sometimes burned in the 
consecrated bonfire, and even where this custom has been 
abolished the bonfire itself in some places goes by the name 
of " the burning of Judas." ^ Some of these customs have 
been transported by the Catholic Church to the New World. 
Thus in Mexico the new fire is struck from a flint early in 
the morning of Holy Saturday, and a candle which has been 
lighted at the sacred flame is carried through the church by 
a deacon shouting ^^ Luvien Christi** Later in the da}- 
effigies of Judas, made of paper pulp, are everywhere burned 
or exploded, to the delight of the rabble. They are of all 
shapes and sizes, and in the larger towns they dangle by 
scores or hundreds from cords stretched across the streets. 
Some of them are stuffed with meat, bread, soap, clothing, 
and candy, for which the crowd scramble and scuffle while 

' /?.A' pp. 502-505 ; Leoprechting, 
A us dent Lechrain^ p. 1 72 iq,\ Bir- 
linger, Volksthiimluhes aus Schwaheft^ 
i. 472 sq. ; Montanus, Die dadsche 
Fo/ksfcsUf p. 26 ; Panxer, Beiirag zur 
deutschcfi Mythologies ii. 241 j^., 
533 -f^' J E. Meier, Detdsche Sagev^ 
Sittett und Gebrtiiuhe aus Sthwalh'ti^ 
i. 391 sq. ; WuUke, Derdtutsche I'olks- 
cdfirglaube^ p. 68 j^., § 81 ; Zingerle, 
Sitten, Brduihe und Meiuungen tics 
Tiroier I'olkes? p. 1 49, g§ 1286-1289; 
BaiHxria^ Laudts- und I'olkskunde dcs 
IConigTiichs Baycrn^ i. 371 ; W. Kolbc, 
Ilessische \ 'oiks- Sittcn und Celn'iiucht^ 
p. 44 sqq, ; County Folk-lorty I^icestcr- 
shire and Kutlatui^ collected by C. J. 
Uillson, p. 75 sg, ; A. Tiraboschi, 
** Usi pasquali nel Bergamasco," Areki- 

via per lo studio delle tradiziofie popoiari^ 
i. (1892), p. 442 sq. The ecclesiastical 
custom of lighting the I^aschal or Easter 
candle is very fully described by Mr. 
H. J. Feascy, Ancient English Holy 
Week Ceremonial (London, 1S97), p. 
'79 ^'i'i- These candles were some- 
times of prodigious size ; in the cathe- 
drals of Norwich and Durham, for 
example, they reached almost to the 
roof, from which they had to be 
lighted. Often they went by the name 
of the Judas Light or the Judas Candle ; 
and sometimes small waxen figures of 
Judas were hung on them. See Feasey, 
op. cit. pp. 193, 213 sqq. As to the 
ritual of the new fire at St. Peter^s in 
Rome, see Chambers, Book of Days, 
i. 421. 

;31f JI^Sm JE/ X> • 



the effigies are burning.^ Similarly in Brazil the mourning 
for the death of Christ ceases at noon on Easter Saturday and 
gives place to an extravagant burst of joy at his resurrection. 
Shots are fired everywhere, and effigies of Judas are hung on 
trees or dragged about the streets, to be finally burned or 
otherwise destroyed.^ 

But usages of this sort are not confined to the Latin 
Church ; they are common to the Greek Church also. 
Every year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday a new 
fire is miraculously kindled at the Holy Sepulchre in 
Jerusalem. It descends from heaven and ignites the 
candles which the patriarch holds in his hands, while 
with closed eyes he wrestles in prayer all alone in the 
chapel of the Angel. The worshippers meanwhile wait 
anxiously in the body of the church, and great arc their 
transports of joy when at one of the windows of the chapel, 
which had been all dark a minute before, there suddenly 
appears the hand of an angel, or of the patriarch, holding a 
lighted taper. This is the sacred new fire ; it is passed out 
to the expectant believers, and the desperate struggle which 
ensues among them to get a share of its blessed influence is 
only terminated by the intervention of the Turkish soldiery, 
who restore peace and order by hustling the whole multitude 
impartially out of the church.^ At Athens the new fire is 
kindled in the cathedral at midnight on Holy Saturday. A 
dense crowd with unlit candles in their hands fills the square 
in front of the cathedral ; the king, the archbishop, and the 
highest dignitaries of the church, arrayed in their gorgeous 
robes, occupy a platform ; and at the presumed moment of 
the resurrection the bells ring out, and the whole square 
bursts as by magic into a blaze of light. Theoretically all 
the candles arc lit from the sacred new fire in the cathedral, 
but practically it may be suspected that the matches which 
bear the name of Lucifer have some share in the sudden 
illumination.* Effigies of Judas used to be burned at Athens 

» F. Starr, "Holy Week in Mexico," 
JoMmaf of Mmerkan Folk- lore ^ xii. 
(1899), p. 164 sq. 

* K. von den Steinen, Vnier den 
Naturi'olkerti Zentral-Brasiliens^ p. 
458 sq, : E. Montet. " Religion et 

Superstition dans TAm^rique du Sud,'* 
Re^'ite dc Phisfoire des Religions^ xxxi?. 
(1895), p. 145- 

' E. Cortet, Essai stir Us files n- 
liSieuses^ pp. 1 37* » 39- 

* I have descrilied the ceremony as 

fa ■*'■■ 



on Blaster Saturday, but the custom has been forbidden by 
the Government However, firing goes on more or less 
continuously all over the city both on Easter Saturday and 
Easter Sunday, and the cartridges used on this occasion are 
not always blank. The shots are aimed at Judas, but some- 
times they miss him and hit other people. Outside of 
Athens the practice of burning Judas in effigy still survives 
in some places. For example, in Cos a straw image of the 
traitor is made on Easter Day, and after being hung up and 
shot at it is burned.^ A similar custom appears to prevail at 
Thebes.^ In the Armenian Church the sacred new fire is 
kindled not at Easter but at Candlemas, that is, on the 
second of February, or on the eve of that festival. The 
materials of the bonfire are piled in an open space near a 
church, and they are generally ignited by young couples who 
have been married within the year. However, it is the 
bishop or his vicar who lights the candles with which the 
young married pairs set fire to the pile. When the ceremony 
is over the people eagerly pick up charred sticks or ashes of 
the bonfire and preserve them at home with a sort of super- 
stitious veneration.* 

In spite of the thin cloak of Christianity thrown over 
these customs by representing the new fire as an emblem of 
Christ and the figure burned in it as an effigy of Judas, we 
can hardly doubt that both practices are of pagan origin. 
Neither of them has the authority of Christ or of his disciples ; 
but both of them have abundant analogies in popular custom 
and superstition. Some instances of the practice of annually 
extinguishing fires and relighting them from a new and sacred 

I witnessed it at Athens, on April 13th, 
1890. Compare Folk-lore, i. (1890), 
p. 275. Having httn honoured, like 
other strangers, with a place on the 
platform, I did not myself detect 
Lucifer at work among the multitude 
below ; I merely suspected his presence. 

» W. H. D. Rouse, " Folklore from 
the southern Sporades," Folk-lore, x. 
(1899), p 178. 

* Mrs. v.. A. Gardner was so kind 
as to send me a photograph of a 
Theban Judas dangling from a gallows 
and partially enveloped in smoke. 

The photograph was taken at Thebes 
during the Easter celebration of 1 891. 
' Cirbicd, ** Memoire sur le gouvem- 
ment et sur la religion des anciens 
Arm^niens," AUntcires publices par la 
SocUURoyaU des Antiquaires deFratue, 
ii. (1820), pp. 285-287. The writer 
tells us that the ceremony is merely a 
continuation of an old heathen festival 
which was held at the beginning of 
spring in honour of the fire-god Mihr. 
A bonfire was made in a public place, 
.ind lamps kindled at it were kept bom- 
iog throughout the year in each of the 
fiie-god's temples. 




flame have already come before us ; ^ but a few more examples 
may here be cited for the sake of illustrating the wide diffusion 
of a custom which has found its way into the ritual both of 
the Eastern and of the Western Church. 

The Incas of Peru celebrated a festival called Raymi, a 
word which their native historian Garcilasso de la Vega tells 
us was equivalent to our Easter. It was held in honour of 
the sun at the solstice in June. For three days before the 
festival the people fasted, men did not sleep with their wives, 
and no fires were lighted in Cuzco, the capital. The sacred 
new fire was obtained direct from the sun by concentrating 
his beams on a highly polished concave plate and reflecting 
them on a little cotton wool. With this holy fire the sheep 
and lambs offered to the sun were consumed, and the flesh 
of such as were to be eaten at the festival was roasted. 
Portions of the new fire were also conveyed to the temple of 
the sun and to the convent of the sacred virgins, where they 
were kept burning all the year, and it was an ill omen if the 
holy flame went out. When the sun happened to be hidden 
by clouds at the time of the festival, as might often happen 
in the rainy climate of Cuzco, the new fire was obtained by 
the friction of two sticks ; but the people looked on it as an 
evil augury if the fire had to be kindled in this manner, for 
they said that the sun must be angr>' with them since he 
refused to light the flame with his own hand.^ At a festival 
held in the last month of the old Mexican year all the fires 
both in the temples and in the houses were extinguished, and 
the priest kindled a new fire by rubbing two sticks against 
each other before the image of the fire-god.^ Once a year the 
Iroquois priesthood supplied the people with a new fire. As 
a preparation for the annual rite the fires in all the huts were 
extinguished and the ashes scattered about. Then the priest, 
wearing the insignia of his office, went from hut to hut re- 
lighting the fires by means of a flint.* Among the Esquimaux 

' .Sec above, vol. ii. i>i>. 329 sq*/,, 

' Garcilasso de la Vega, Koyal Com' 
tuentaries of the Yfuas^ Markham*s 
translation, vol. il pp. 155-163. 

' Sahagtin, Histoire ^n^raU des 
ekcses di la Noui*elU Espagtu^ bk. ii. 

cli. 18 ami 37, pp. 76, 161 (French 
translation by Jourdanet and Simeon); 
Hrasseur de liourbourg, Histoire ties 
uatiom civi/ist'es du Afexiqui et de 
r Aftu'riqut'Crntraie, iii. 1 36. 

* Schoolcraft, Notes on the Iroquois^ 

P- 137. 


with whom C. F. Hall resided, it was the custom that at a 
certain time, which answered to our New Year's Day, two 
men went about from house to house blowing out every light 
in the village. One of the men was dressed to represent a 
woman. Afterwards the lights were rekindled from a fresh 
fire. An Esquimaux woman being asked what all this meant, 
replied, " New sun — new light." ^ 

In the Soudanese kingdom of Wadai all the fires in the 
villages are put out and the ashes removed from the houses 
on the day which precedes the New Year festival. At the 
beginning of the new year a new fire is lit by the friction of 
wood in the great straw hut where the village elders lounge 
away the sultry hours together ; and every man takes from 
thence a burning brand with which he rekindles the fire on his 
domestic hearth.* Among the Swahilis of East Africa the 
greatest festival is that of the New Year, which falls in the 
second half of August. At a given moment all the fires are 
extinguished with water and afterwards relit by the friction of 
two dry pieces of wood. Formerly no awkward questions 
were asked about any crimes committed on this occasion, so 
some people improved the shining hour by knocking a few 
poor devils on the head. Shooting still goes on during the 
whole day, and at night the proceedings generally wind 
up with a great dance.* The King of Benamatapa in East 
Africa used to send commissioners annually to every town in 
his dominions ; on the arrival of one of these officers the in- 
habitants of each town had to put out all their fires and to 
receive a new fire from him. Failure to comply with this 
custom was treated as rebellion.* Some tribes of British 
Central Africa carefully extinguish the fires on the hearths at 
the beginning of the hoeing season and at harvest ; the fires 
are afterwards rekindled by friction, and the people indulge 
in dances of various kinds.^ 

' C. F. Hall, Life ivith the Esgui- 
Mtatix, ii. 323. 

* G. Nachligal, Sahiird und SAdAtt^ 
iii. 251 (I^ipsic, 1889). 

* Jerome IJecker, La vie eft Afrique 
(Paris and Brussels, 1887), ii. 36; 
O. Ikiumann, Usainbara und seine 
ATaeASar/reiie/e {BerWiit 1 891), p. 551^. 

* fiarbosa, Deseription of the eooits 

of East Africa and Malabar (Hakluyt 
Society, 1S66), p. 8. It is to this cus- 
tom doubtless that Montaigne refers in 
his essays (i. 22, vol. i. p. 140 of 
Charpentier's edition), though he men- 
tions no names. 

* Sir II. II. Johnston, British 
Central Africa (London, 1897), pp. 
426, 439. 


When the Nagas of Northern India have felled the 
timber and cut down the scrub in those patches of jungle 
which they propose to cultivate, they put out all the fires 
in the village and light a new fire by rubbing two dry 
pieces of wood together. Then having kindled torches at 
it they proceed with them to the jungle and ignite the 
felled timber and brushwood. The flesh of a cow or bufialo 
is also roasted on the new fire and furnishes a sacrificial 
meal.^ Near the small town of Kahma in Burma, between 
Prome and Thayetmyo, certain gases escape from a hollow 
in the ground and burn with a steady flame during the dry 
season of the year. The people regard the flame as the 
forge of a spectral smith who here carried on his business 
after death had removed him from his old smithy in the 
village. Once a year all the household fires in Kahma are 
extinguished and then lighted afresh from the ghostly flame.^ 
In China every year, about the beginning of April, certain 
officials, called Sz'hiien^ used of old to go about the country 
armed with wooden clappers. Their business was to summon 
the people and command them to put out every fire. This 
was the beginning of a season called Han-shili'tsieh^ or " eating 
cold food." For three days all household fires remained 
extinct as a preparation for the solemn renewal of the fire, 
which took place on the fifth or sixth day of April, being 
the hundred and fifth day after the winter solstice. The 
ceremony was performed with great pomp by the same 
officials, who procured the new fire from heaven by reflecting 
the sun's rays either from a metal mirror or from a crystal 
on dry moss. Fire thus obtained is called by the Chinese 
heavenly fire, and its use is enjoined in sacrifices ; whereas 
fire elicited by the friction of wood is termed by them 
earthly fire, and its use is prescribed for cooking and other 
domestic purposes. When once the new fire had thus 
been drawn down from the sun, all the people were free 
to rekindle their domestic hearths ; and, as a Chinese distich 
has it — 

* Lieut. R. Stewart, "Notes on 
Northern Cachar,** Journal of the 
Asiatic Socidy of Bmgal^ xxiv. (1855), 
p. 612. 

* A. Bastian, Die V'olkcr Jt$ vsf- 
lithtn Aiicn^ ii. 49 sq» ; Shway Voc, 
The Burmatif ii. 325 sq. 

^- ■* a* ■ 


^*At the festival of the cold food there are a thousand white stalks 
among the flowers ; 
On the day Tsing-ming, at sunrise, you may see the smoke of ten 
thousand houses." 

According to a Chinese philosopher, the reason for thus 
renewing fire periodically is that the vital principle grows 
weaker and weaker in old fire, whereas in new fire it is young 
and vigorous. This annual renewal of fire was a ceremony 
of very great antiquity in China, since it is known to have 
been observed in the time of the first dynasty, about two 
thousand years before Christ. Under the Tcheou dynasty a 
change in the calendar led to shifting the fire-festival from 
spring to the summer solstice, but afterwards it was brought 
back to its original date. Although the custom appears to 
have long fallen into disuse, the barbarous inhabitants of 
Hainan, an island to the south of China, still call a year 
" a fire," as if in memory of the time when the years were 
reckoned by the annually recurring ceremony of rekindling 
the sacred firc.^ In classical antiquity the Greek island 
of Lemnos was devoted to the worship of the smith -god 
Hephaestus, who was said to have fallen on it when Zeus 
hurled him from heaven.^ Once a year every fire in the 
island was extinguished and remained extinct for nine days, 
during which sacrifices were offered to the dead and to the 
infernal powers. New fire was brought in a ship from the 
sacred isle of Delos, and with it the fires in the houses and 
the workshops were relit. The people said that with the 
new fire they made a new beginning of life. If the ship that 
bore the sacred flame arrived too soon, it might not put in 
to shore, but had to cruise in the oflRng till the nine days 
were expired.* At Rome the sacred fire in the temple of 
Vesta was kindled anew every year on the first of March, 
which used to be the beginning of the Roman year ; * the 
task of lighting it was entrusted to the Vestal Virgins, and 
they performed it by drilling a hole in a board of lucky 

* G. Schlegcl, Urano^tp-aphie Chifwise * O^nd, Fasti^ iii. 82 ; Homer, Iliad^ 

(The Ilaj^e and Leyden, 1875), pp. i. 590 sqq, 
1 39- 143 : C. ruini. •• 11 fuoco nelU , phiio,^t„^ jj^^i „. , 

tradizione degn antichi Cinesi, Gwr» f -» t 

fuUe delta Societh Asiatica Italiana, i. * Ovid, Fasii^ iii. 143 sg. ; M.icro- 

(1887), PP> 20-23. bitts, Saium, i. 12. 6. 




wood till the flame was elicited by friction. The new fire 
thus produced was carried into the temple of Vesta by 
one of the virgins in a bronze sieve.^ Among the Celts of 
Ireland a new fire was kindled at a place called Tlachtga 
on the eve of the first of November, which was the beginning 
of the Irish new year, and from this fresh fire all the hearths 
in Ireland are said to have been rekindled.^ In the villages 
near Moscow at the present time the peasants put out all their 
fires on the eve of the first of September, and next morning 
at sunrise a wise man or a wise woman rekindles them with 
the help of muttered incantations and spells.^ 

Instances of such practices might doubtless be multi- 
plied, but the foregoing examples may suffice to render it 
probable that the ecclesiastical ceremony of lighting a sacred 
new fire on Easter Saturday had originally nothing to do 
with Christianity, but is merely one case of a world-wide 
custom which the Church has seen fit to incorporate in its 
ritual. It might be supposed that in the Western Church the 
custom was merely a survival of the old Roman usage of 
renewing the fire on the first of March, were it not that the 
observance by the Eastern Church of the custom on the 
same day seems to point back to a still older period when 
the ceremony of lighting a new fire in spring, perhaps at the 
vernal equinox, was common to many peoples of the Mediter- 
ranean area. We may conjecture that wherever such a cere- 
mony has been observed, it originally marked the beginning 
of a new year, as it did in ancient Rome and Ireland, and as 
it still does in the Soudanese kingdom of Wadai and among 
the Swahilis of Eastern Africa. 

• Kestus, cd. M tiller, p. 106, s.v. 
** Ignis." Plutarch describes a method 
of rekindling the sacred fire by means 
of the sun*s rays rcflectetl from a hollow 
mirror {Numa, 9) ; but he seems to be 
referring to a Greek rather than to the 
Roman custom. The rule of celibacy 
imposed on the Vestals, whose duty it 
was to relight the sacred fire as well as 
to preserve it when it was once made, 
is perhaps explained by a superstition 
current among French peasants that 
if a girl can blow up a smouldering 
candle into a flame she is a virgin, but 
that if she fails to do so, she is not. 

See Lecceur, Esquisses du Boca^^c 
Normandy ii. 27 ; B. Souche, Croy- 
ameSf Pnsai^is^ ct Treuiitions drvcrscsy 
p. 12. At least it seems more likely 
that the rule sprang from a superstition 
of this sort than from a simple calcula- 
tion of expediency, as I formerly sug- 
gested (jotirttal of PhiMosy^ **^'* 
(1885), p. 158). 

* I. Rhys, Celtic Heathendom^ p. 
514 sq, Tlachtga has been identified 
with an ancient rath or fort on the 
Hill of Ward near Athboy in Meath. 

» W. R. S. Ralston, Songs of ihe 
Kussian people^ p. 254 sq. 

254 EASTER FIRES chap. 

The essentially pagan character of the Easter fire fes- 
tival appears plainly both from the mode in which it 
is celebrated by the peasants and from the superstitious 
beliefs which they associate with it All over Northern and 
Central Germany, from Altmark and Anhalt on the east, 
through Brunswick, Hanover, Oldenburg, the Harz district, 
and Hesse to Westphalia the Easter bonfires still blaze 
simultaneously on the hill-tops. As many as forty may 
sometimes be counted within sight at once. Long before 
Easter the young people have been busy collecting firewood ; 
every farmer contributes, and tar-barrels, petroleum cases, 
and so forth go to swell the pile. Neighbouring villages vie 
with each other as to which shall send up the greatest blaze. 
The fires are always kindled, year after year, on the same hill, 
which accordingly often takes the name of Easter Mountain. 
It is a fine spectacle to watch from some eminence the 
bonfires flaring up one after another on the neighbouring 
heights. As far as their light reaches, so far, in the belief of 
the peasants, the fields will be fruitful, and the houses on 
which they shine will be safe from conflagration or sickness. 
At Volkmarsen, in Hesse, the people used to observe which 
way the wind blew the flames, and then they sowed flax 
seed in that direction, confident that it would grow well. 
Brands taken from the bonfires preserve houses from being 
struck by lightning ; and the ashes increase the fertility 
of the fields, protect them from mice, and mixed with 
the drinking-water of cattle make the animals thrive and 
ensures them against plague. As the flames die down, 
young and old leap over them, and cattle are sometimes 
driven through the smouldering embers. In some places 
tar- barrels or wheels wrapt in straw used to be set on 
fire, and then sent rolling down the hillside. In others 
the boys light torches and wisps of straw at the bonfires 
and rush about brandishing them in their hands. 
Where the people are divided between Protestantism and 
Catholicism, as in Hildesheim, it has been observed that 
among Protestants the Easter bonfires are generally left 
to the boys, while in Catholic districts they are cared 
for by grown-up persons, and here the whole population 
will gather round the blazing pile and join in singing 


choral hymns, which echo far and wide in the stillness of 

In Miinsterland, these Easter fires are always kindled 
upon certain definite hills, which are hence known as 
Easter or Paschal Mountains. The whole community 
assembles about the fire. Fathers of families form an 
inner circle round it. An outer circle is composed of the 
young men and maidens, who, singing Easter hymns, march 
round and round the fire in the direction of the sun, till the 
blaze dies down. Then the girls jump over the fire in a 
line, one after the other, each supported by two young men 
who hold her hands and run beside her. When the fire 
has burned out, the whole assembly marches in solemn 
procession to the church, singing hymns. They go thrice 
round the church, and then break up. In the twilight boys 
with blazing bundles of straw run over the fields to make 
them fruitful.- At Delmenhorst, in Oldenburg, it used to be 
the custom to cut down two trees, plant them in the ground 
side by side, and pile twelve tar-barrels, one above the other, 
against each of the trees. Brushwood was then heaped 
about the trees, and on the evening of Easter Saturday the 
boys, after rushing about with blazing bean-poles in their 
hands, set fire to the whole. At the end of the ceremony 
the urchins tried to blacken each other and the clothes of 
grown-up people.* In Schaumburg, the Easter bonfires 
may be seen blazing on all the mountains around for miles. 
They are made with a tar-barrel fastened to a pine-tree, which 
is wrapt in straw. The people dance singing round them.* 

' Kuhn und Schwartz, Norddeutsche 
Sa^ftf Mdrcken und Gebrijwkt^ P* 373 J 
A. Kuhn, Saf^cu^ (Jt'bniuchc und A/ar- 
chen aus Westfalcn^ ii. 1 34 sqq. ; 
fV/,, Afarkische Saipcn und Alarchen^ 
p. 312 5q,\ Temmc, t'oll'ssai^en der 
Altmark^ p. 75 iq.\ K. Lynkcr, 
Deutsche Sagen und Sit ten in hessischen 
Cauen, p. 240; II. Prohlc, Jlarzbilder^ 
p. 63 ; R. Andree, Braunsehwci^r 
I'olkskunde (Hrunsuick, 1S96), pp. 
240-242 ; W. Kolbc, Hessiseke Volks- 
Sit ten und (tt'bniueke {^larhuTg, 1 888}, 
pp. 44-47 ; K. A. Keimann, Deutscke 
Volksfeitt (Weimar, 1839), p. 37 ; 
** Sitten und Gebrauche in D«der- 

stadt," Zeitsikri/t fiir deutscke Afy- 
tkoloji^e und Sittenkunde, ii. (185 5), 
p. 107 ; K. Seifart, StT^cn, AA'irckcn, 
Sckwiinkc und Gehrauckc aus Stadt und 
Stift ///7i/cv//*'/w-(HiIdc8heim, 1889), 
pp. 177, 180; O. liartunp, "Zur 
Volkskunde aus Anhalt,*' Zeitschrift 
des Vereins fiir Volkskundc^svL (1 897), 
p. 76. 

- Strackcrjan, Ahcri^laube und Sagm 
aus dem J/crzojitkutn Oldenburg^ ii. 
43 ^i^-. § Z^Z ; ^'-A'. p. 505 sq, 

' Strackerjnn, c/>. cit. ii. 43, ^ 313. 

* Grimm, Deutscke Afythohgie^^ i. 
512; B,K, p. 506 sq. 

. •-•* - 




In the Harz Mountains the fire is commonly made by 
piling brushwood about a tree and setting it on fire. At 
Osterode, every one tries to snatch a brand from the bonfire 
and runs about with it; the better it bums, the more lucky 
it is. In Grund there are torch-races.* In the Ahmark the 
Easter bonfires are composed of tar-barrels, bee-hives, and 
so forth piled round a pole. The young folk dance round 
the fire ; and when it has died out, the old folk come and 
collect the ashes, which they preserve as a remedy for the 
ailments of bees. It is also believed that as far as the blaze 
of the bonfire is visible, the com will grow well throughout 
the year, and no conflagration will break out.^ At Braun- 
rode, in the Harz Mountains, it was the custom to burn 
squirrels in the Easter bonfire.* In the Altmark, bones 
were burned in it* 

Further south the Easter fires are, or used to be, lit in 
many districts of Bavaria. Thus on Easter Monday in some 
parts of Middle Franken the schoolboys collect all the old 
worn-out besoms they can lay hands on, and march with 
them in a long procession to a neighbouring height. When 
the first chime of the evening bell comes up from the dale 
they set fire to the brooms, and run along the ridges waving 
them, so that seen from below the hills appear to be crested 
with a twinkling and moving chain of fire.^ In some parts 
of Upper Bavaria at Easter burning arrows or discs of wood 
were shot from hill-tops high into the air, as in the Swabian 
custom already described. At Oberau, instead of the discs, 
an old cart-wheel was sometimes wrapt in straw, ignited, and 
sent rolling and blazing down the mountain. The lads 
who hurled the discs received painted Easter eggs from the 
girls.^ Near Forchheim, in Upper Franken, a straw-man 
called the Judas used to be burned in the churchyards on 

* H. Prohlc, Ifaribildcr^ p. 63; /V/.. 
in Zeitschrift fiir dcutsihe Myfholojpe 
undSittenkunJfy L (iS53),p. 79 : Kuhii 
und Schwartz, Nonidcutsche Saf^n^ 
MHrchen uiid Gchriittcfuy p. 373 ; H.K. 
p. 507. 

' Kuhn, Mdrkischt Sagen und Afar- 
cAnt^ p. 312 j^.; B./C, p. 507. 

» B. a: p. 508. Compare J. \V. Wolf, 
Biitragt tur dcutsch. Myth, I 74; 

Grimm, Deutsche Myth,* i. 512. The 
two latter writers only state that before 
the fires were kindled -it was customar)* 
to hunt squirrels in the woods. 
^ Kuhn, /.r.; B.A'. p. 508. 

• Bavaria^ Lamies- und Volkskundt' 
des Konigreichs Baycm^ iii. 956. 

• Panzer, Btitrai; zur dtutschat 
Mythohgie^ i. 211 jy., § 233; B,K, 
p. 507 sq. 



Easter Saturday. The whole village contributed wood to 
the pyre on which he perished, and the charred sticks were 
afterwards kept and planted in the fields on Walpurgis Day 
(the first of May) to preserve the wheat from blight and 
mildew.^ About a hundred years ago the custom at 
Althenneberg, in Upper Bavaria, used to be as follows. On 
the afternoon of Easter Saturday the lads collected wood» 
which they piled in a cornfield, while in the middle of the 
pile they set up a tall wooden cross all swathed in straw. 
After the evening service they lighted their lanterns at the 
consecrated candle in the church, and ran with them at full 
speed to the pyre, each striving to get there first. The first 
to arrive set fire to the heap. No woman or girl might 
come near the bonfire, but they were allowed to watch it 
from a distance. As the flames rose the men and lads 
rejoiced and made merry, shouting, " We are burning the 
Judas ! " Two of them had to watch the glowing embers 
the whole night long, lest people should come and steal 
them. Next morning at sunrise they carefully collected the 
ashes, and threw them into the running water of the Roten 
brook. The man who had been the first to reach the pyre 
and to kindle it was rewarded on Easter Sunday by the 
women, who gave him coloured eggs at the church door. 
Well-to-do women gave him two ; poorer women gave him 
only one. The object of the whole ceremony was to keep 
off the hail. About a century ago the Judas fire, as it was 
called, was put down by the police.*"^ At Giggenhausen and 
Auflxirchen, two other villages of Upper Bavaria, a similar 
custom prevailed, yet with some interesting differences. 
Here the ceremony, which took place between nine and ten 
at night on Easter Saturday, was called " burning the 
Easter Man." On a height about a mile from the village 
the young fellows set up a tall cross enveloped in straw, so 
that it looked like a man with his arms stretched out. This 
was the Easter Man. No lad under eighteen years of age 
might take part in the ceremony. One of them stationed 
himself beside the Easter Man, holding in his hand a con- 
secrated taper which he had brought from the church and 

> Bavaria, Landes- und Voikskunde ' Panzer, Beitrag tttr deutuken 

dcs Kbnigreicks Bayem^ iiL 357. Afyikolcgii^ i p. 212 if., | 236. 

VOL. Ill S 

»H ■»( ^J^f^ 







lighted. The rest stood at equal intervals in a great circle 
round the cross. At a given signal they raced thrice round 
the circle, and then at a second signal ran straight at the 
cross and at the lad with the lighted taper beside it ; the one 
who reached the goal first had the right of setting fire to the 
Easter Man. Great was the jubilation while he was burning. 
When he had been consumed in the flames, three lads were 
chosen from among the rest, and each of the three drew a 
circle on the ground with a stick thrice round the ashes. 
Then they all left the spot. On Easter Monday the 
villagers gathered the ashes and strewed them on their fields ; 
also they planted in the fields palm-branches which had 
been consecrated on Palm Sunday, and sticks which had 
been charred and hallowed on Good Friday, all for the 
purpose of protecting their fields against showers of hail. 
The custom of burning an Easter Man made of straw on 
Easter Saturday was observed also at Abensberg, in Lower 
Bavaria.^ In some parts of Swabia the Easter fires might 
not be kindled with iron or steel or flint, but only by the 
friction of wood.^ 

Thus the custom of the Easter fires appears to have 
prevailed all over Central Germany from north to south. We 
find it also in Holland, where the fires were kindled on the 
highest eminences, and the people danced round them and 
leaped through the flames or over the glowing embers. 
Here too, as so often in Germany, the materials for the 
bonfire were collected by the young folk from door to door.* 
In many parts of Sweden firearms are, as at Athens, dis- 
charged in all directions on Easter eve, and huge bonfires 
are lighted on hills and eminences. Some people think that 
the intention is to keep off" the Troll and other evil spirits 
who are especially active at this season.^ When the after- 
noon service on Good Friday is over, German children in 
Bohemia drive Judas out of the church by running about the 
sacred edifice and even the streets shaking rattles and 

' Panzer, of. cit. ii. p. 78 sq.^ §§ 1 14» 
115. llie customs observed at these 
places and at Ahhenncberg are de- 
scribed together by Mannhardt, B.K, 

p. 505. 

* Birlinger, Vdksthiimiuha aus 

Sch'ivabeft, ii. p. 82, § 106 ; B.HT, p. 

' J. W. Wolf, Bdtrdge zur dcutschtn 
Mythohf^ie, i. 75 jy. ; B,K\ p. 506. 

* L. Lloyd, Peasant Life in Sweden^ 
p. 228. 



clappers. Next day, on Easter Saturday, the remains of 
the holy oil are burnt before the church door in a fire which 
must be kindled with flint and steel. This fire is called ** the 
burning of Judas/' but in spite of its evil name a beneficent 
virtue is ascribed to it, for the people scuffle for the cinders, 
which they put in the roofs of their houses as a safeguard 
against fire and lightning.^ 

In the central Highlands of Scotland bonfires, known as 
the Beltane fires, were formerly kindled with great ceremony 
on the first of May, and the traces of human sacrifices at 
them were particularly clear and unequivocal. The custom 
of lighting the bonfires lasted in various places far into the 
eighteenth century, and the descriptions of the ceremony by 
writers of that period present such a curious and interesting 
picture of primitive heathendom surviving in our own country 
that I will reproduce them in the words of their authors. 
The fullest of the descriptions, so far as I know, is the one 
bequeathed to us by John Ramsay, laird of Ochtertyre, 
near Stirling, the patron of Burns and the friend of Sir 
Walter Scott. From his voluminous manuscripts, written in 
the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a selection has 
been published in recent years. The following account of 
Beltane is extracted from a chapter dealing with Highland 
superstitions. Ramsay says : " But the most considerable 
of the Druidical festivals is that of Beltane, or May-day, 
which was lately observed in some parts of the Highlands 
with extraordinary ceremonies. Of later years it is chiefly 
attended to by young people, persons advanced in years 
considering it as inconsistent with their gravity to give it 
any countenance. Yet a number of circumstances relative 
to it may be collected from tradition, or the conversation of 
very old people, who witnessed this feast in their youth, 
when the ancient rites were better observed. 

"This festive is called in Gaelic Beal-tenc — ix. the fire 

> W. MUlIcr, Beitnige ztir Volks- 
kuncU dtr Deutschnt in Miihren^ pp. 
32 If 397 sg' In Wagsiadt, a town of 
Austrian Silesia, a 1x)y in a red waist- 
coat used to play the part of Judas on 
the Wednesday before Good Friday. 
He was chased from l)efore the church 
door by the other school children, who 

pursued him tlirough the streets with 
shouts and the noise of rattles and 
clappers till they reached a certain 
suburb, where they always cau^^ht him 
and beat because he had betraye<1 the 
Redeemer. See A. Peter, Volksthum- 
iUkiS aus cstcmickis<k Siklesim^ ii. 
282 sq. 


of Bel. . . . Like the other public worship of the Dniids» 
the Beltane feast seems to have been performed on hills or 
eminences. They thought it degrading to him whose temple 
is the universe to suppose that he would dwell in any house 
made with hands. Their sacrifices were therefore offered in 
the open air, frequently upon the tops of hills, where they 
were presented with the grandest views of nature, and were 
nearest the seat of warmth and order. And, according to 
tradition, such was the manner of celebrating this festival in 
the Highlands within the last hundred years. But since the 
decline of superstition, it has been celebrated by the people 
of each hamlet on some hill or rising ground around which 
their cattle were pasturing. Thither the young folks repaired 
in the morning and cut a trench, on the summit of which 
a seat of turf was formed for the company. And in the 
middle a pile of wood or other fuel was placed, which of old 
they kindled with tein-eigin — ix, forced fire or need fire. 
Although, for many years past, they have been contented 
with common fire, yet we shall now describe the process, 
because it will hereafter appear that recourse is still had to 
the tein-eigin upon extraordinary emergencies. 

"The night before, all the fires in the country were 
carefully extinguished, and next morning the materials for 
exciting this sacred fire were prepared. The most primitive 
method seems to be that which was used in the islands of 
Skye, Mull, and Tiree. A well-seasoned plank of oak was 
procured, in the midst of which a hole was bored. A 
wimble of the same timber was then applied, the end of 
which they fitted to the hole. But in some parts of the 
mainland the machinery was different. They used a frame 
of green wood, of a square form, in the centre of which was 
an axle-tree. In some places three times three persons, in 
others three times nine, were required for turning round by 
turns the axle-tree or wimble. If any of them had been 
guilty of murder, adultery, theft, or other atrocious crime, 
it was imagined either that the fire would not kindle, or 
that it would be devoid of its usual virtue. So soon as any 
sparks were emitted by means of the violent friction, they 
applied a species of agaric which grows on old birch-trees, 
and is very combustible. This fire had the appearance of 

•> f •■■ 

■.- ■» 

r-.; r^^: 


being immediately derived from heaven, and manifold were 
the virtues ascribed to it They esteemed it a preservative 
against witchcraft, and a sovereign remedy against malignant 
diseases, both in the human species and in cattle ; and by 
it the strongest poisons were supposed to have their nature 

"After kindling the bonfire with the tein-eigin the 
company prepared their victuals. And as soon as they had 
finished their meal they amused themselves a while in sing- 
ing and dancing round the fire. Towards the close of the 
entertainment, the person who officiated as master of the 
feast produced a large cake baked with eggs and scalloped 
round the edge, called am bonnach beal-tine — i,e, the Beltane 
cake. It was divided into a number of pieces, and distri- 
buted in great form to the company. There was one 
particular piece which whoever got was called cailleach 
bealtine — i,e, the Beltane carline^ a term of great reproach. 
Upon his being known, part of the company laid hold of 
him and made a show of putting him into the fire ; but the 
majority interposing, he was rescued. And in some places 
they laid him flat on the ground, making as if they would 
quarter him. Afterwards, he was pelted with eg^-shells, 
and retained the odious appellation during the whole year. 
And while the feast was fresh in people's memory, they 
affected to speak of the cailleach beal-tine as dead. 

" This festival was longest observed in the interior 
Highlands, for towards the west coast the traces of it are 
faintest. In Glenorchy and Lome, a large cake is made on 
that day, which they consume in the house ; and in Mull it 
has a large hole in the middle, through which each of the 
cows in the fold is milked. In Tiree it is of a triangular 
form. The more elderly people remember when this festival 
was celebrated without-doors with some solemnity in both 
islands. There are at present no vestiges of it in Skye or 
the Long Island, the inhabitants of which have substituted 
the bonnach MicJuil or St. Michael's cake. It is made at 
Michaelmas with milk and oatmeal, and some eggs are 
sprinkled on its surface. Part of it is sent to the neigh- 

"It is probable that at the original Beltane festival there 



were two fires kindled near one another. When any person 
is in a critical dilemma, pressed on each side by unsurmount- 
able difficulties, the Highlanders have a proverb, The e' eada 
anda theine bealtuin — />. he is between the two Beltane 
fires. There are in several parts small round hills, which, it 
is like, owe their present names to such solemn uses. One 
of the highest and most central in Icolmkil. is called Cnoch- 
nan-ainneal — i,e, the hill of the fires. There is another of 
the same name near the kirk of Balquhidder ; and at Killin 
there is a round green eminence which seems to have been 
raised by art. It is called Tom-nan-ainneal — t,e. the 
eminence of the fires. Around it there are the remains of 
a circular wall about two feet high. On the top a stone 
stands upon end. According to the tradition of the inhabit- 
ants, it was a place of Druid ical worship ; and it was 
afterwards pitched on as the most venerable spot for holding 
courts of justice for the country of Breadalbane. The earth 
of this eminence is still thought to be possessed of some 
healing virtue, for when cattle are observed to be diseased, 
some of it is sent for, which is rubbed on the part affected." ^ 
The same writer tells us that on Beltane day the people of 
Strathspey used to make a hoop of rowan-tree, through 
which they forced all the sheep and lambs to pass both 
evening and morning,^ doubtless as a precaution against 

In the parish of Callander, a beautiful district of western 
Perthshire, the Beltane custom was still in vogue towards 
the end of the eighteenth century. It has been described 
as follows by the parish minister of the time : " Upon the 
first day of May, which is called Beltan, or Bal-tein day, all 
the boys in a township or hamlet, meet in the moors. They 
cut a table in the green sod, of a round figure, by casting a 
trench in the ground, of such circumference as to hold the 
whole company. They kindle a fire and dress a repast of 
eggs and milk in the consistence of a custard. They knead 
a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the embers against a 

' Scotlcmd and Scotsmen in the etymology of the word Beltane is 

Eighteenth Century^ from the MSS. of uncertain ; the popular deriration of 

John Ramsay, Esq., of Ochtertyre, the first part from the Phoenician Baal 

edited by A. Allardyce (Edinbuiigh is absurd, 
and London, 1888), ii 439-445. The * Op. eit, iL 254. 

V?:iita3:ji>K-..^. ?..; 


stone. After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake 
into so many portions, as similar as possible to one another 
in size and shape, as there are persons in the company. 
They daub one of these portions all over with charcoal, 
until it be perfectly black. They put all the bits of cake 
into a bonnet. Every one, blindfold, draws out a portion. 


He who holds the bonnet is entitled to the last bit Who- 
ever draws the black bit is the devoted person, who is to be 
sacrificed to Baal, whose favour they mean to implore, in 
rendering the year productive of the sustenance of man and 
beast. There is little doubt of these inhuman sacrifices 
having been once offered in this country, as well as in the 
east, although they now pass from the act of sacrificing, 
and only compel the devoted person to leap three times 
through the flames ; with which the ceremonies of this 
festival are closed." * 

Thomas Pennant, who travelled in Perthshire in the 
year 1769, tells us that** on the ist of May, the herds- 
men of every village hold their Bel-tien, a rural sacrifice. 
They cut a square trench on the ground, leaving the turf 
in the middle ; on that they make a fire of wood, on 
which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal 
and milk ; and bring besides the ingredients of the caudle, 
plenty of beer and whisky ; for each of the company 
must contribute something. The rites begin with spilling 
some of the caudle on the ground, by way of libation : on 
that every one takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are 
raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular 
!)eing, the supposed prescr\'er of their flocks and herds, or 
to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them : each 
person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off* a knob, and 
flinging it over his shoulders, says, * This I give to thee, 
preserve thou my horses ; this to thee, preserve thou my 
sheep ; and so on.' After that, they use the same ceremony 
to the noxious animals : * This I give to thee, O fox ! spare 
thou my lambs ; this to thee, O hooded crow I this to thee, 
O eagle ! ' When the ceremony is over, they dine on the 
caudle ; and after the feast is finished, what is left is hid by 
two persons deputed for that purpose ; but on the next 

^ J. Robertson, in Sinclair's Statistifa! Aecautii ^ Scotland^ xL 620 sq. 

?64 BELTANE CAKES chap. 

Sunday they re-assemble, and finish the reliques of the first 
entertainment" ^ 

Another writer of the same period has described the 
Beltane festival as it was held in the parish of Logierait 
in Perthshire. He says: "On the ist of May, O.S., a 
festival called Beltan is annually held here. It is chiefly 
celebrated by the cow-herds, who assemble by scores in 
the .fields, to dress a dinner for themselves, of boiled milk 
and eggs. These dishes they eat with a sort of cakes 
baked for the occasion, and having small lumps in the form 
of nipples^ raised all over the surface." ^ In this last account 
no mention is made of bonfires, but they were probably 
lighted, for a contemporary writer informs us that in the 
parish of Kirkmichael, which adjoins the parish of Logierait 
on the east, the custom of lighting a fire in the fields and 
baking a consecrated cake on the first of May was not quite 
obsolete in his time.^ We may conjecture that the cake 
with knobs was formerly used for the purpose of determin- 
ing who should be the " Beltane carline " or victim doomed 
to the flames. A trace of this custom survived, perhaps, in 
the custom of baking oatmeal cakes of a special kind and 
rolling them down hill about noon on the first of May ; for 
it was thought that the person whose cake broke as it rolled 
would die or be unfortunate within the year. These cakes, 
or bannocks as we call them in Scotland, were baked in the 
usual way, but they were washed over with a thin batter 
composed of whipped egg, milk or cream, and a little 
oatmeal. This custom appears to have prevailed at or near 
Kingussie in Inverness-shire. At Achterneed, near Strath- 
peffer in Ross-shire, the Beltane bannocks were called 
tcJuirnican or hand-cakes, because they were kneaded entirely 
ill the hand, and not on a board or table like common 
cakes ; and after being baked they might not be placed 
anywhere but in the hands of the children who were to eat 
them.* In the north-east of Scotland the Beltane fires were 

' Pennant's "Tour in Scotland," in Accotmt of Scotland ^ xv. 517 note. 

Pinkerton*s Voyages and Travels^ iii. ^ W. Gregor, ** Notes on Beltane 

49. cakes," Folk-lore^ vi. (1895), p. 2 sq. 

^ Th. Bis!H!t, in Sinclair's 5'/tf/ij//Va/ Thel^ltanecakeswiththenineknobson 

Account of Scotiandy v. 84. them remind us of the cake with twelve 

' A. Stewart, in Sinclair's Statistical knobs which the Athenians oflered 

:t •"■* . 



still kindled in the latter half of the eighteenth century ; the 

herdsmen of several farms used to gather dry wood, kindle 

it, and dance three times " southways " about the burning 

pile.^ But in this region, according to a later authority, the 

Beltane fires were lit not on the first but on the second of 

May, Old Style. They were called bone-fires. The people 

believed that on that evening and night the witches were 

abroad and busy casting spells on cattle and stealing cows' 

milk. To counteract their machinations, pieces of rowan 

tree and woodbine, but especially of rowan-tree, were placed 

over the doors of the cow-houses, and fires were kindled by 

every farmer and cottar. Old thatch, straw, furze, or broom 

was piled in a heap and set on fire a little after sunset. 

While some of the bystanders kept tossing the blazing mass, 

others hoisted portions of it on pitchforks or poles and ran 

hither and thither, holding them as high as they could. 

Meantime the young people danced round the fire or ran 

through the smoke shouting, " Fire ! blaze and bum the 

witches ; fire ! fire ! burn the witches." In some districts a 

large round cake of oat or barley meal was rolled through 

the ashes. When all the fuel was consumed, the people 

scattered the ashes far and wide, and till the night grew 

quite dark continued to run through "them, crying, " Fire ! 

burn the witches." " 

The Beltane fires appear to have been kindled also in 
Ireland, for Cormac, "or somebody in his name, says that 
Beltane, May-day, was so called from the * lucky fire,' or the 
* two fires ' which the Druids of Erinn used to make on that 
day with great incantations ; and cattle, he adds, used to be 
brought to those fires, or driven between them, as a safe- 
guard against the diseases of the year." ' The first of May 
is a great popular festival in the more midland and southern 
parts of Sweden. On the eve of the festival, huge bonfires. 

to Saturn (see above, p. 148). The 
King of the Bean on Twelfth Night 
was chosen l»y means of a cake, which 
was broken in as many pieces as there 
were persons present, and the person 
who received the piece containing a 
l)ean or a coin became king. See 
J. lioemus, Mores^ leges et riius cmmttm 
gentium (Lyons, 1541), p. 223; Brand, 

Popular Antiquities^ i. 22 sq, 

* Shaw, in Pennant's "Tour in 

Scotland,*' printed in Pinkerton's 

Vovai^fs and Travels^ iii. 136. 
'» \V. Gregor, Folk-lore ^ the North- 

East of Scotland^ p. 167. 

' J. Rhys, " Manx folk-lore and 

superstitions,** Folk-lore^ iL (1891), 

p. 303 J^ 

A.«V- ■' •/ -Trrfei 


which should be lighted by striking two flints together, blaze 
on all the hills and knolls. Every large hamlet has its own 
fire, round which the young people dance in a ring. The old 
folk notice whether the flames incline to the north or to the 
south. In the former case, the spring will be cold and back- 
ward ; in the latter, it will be mild and genial.^ Similarly, in 
Bohemia, on the eve of May-day, young people kindle fires 
on hills and eminences, at crossways, and in pastures, and 
dance round them. They leap over the glowing embers or 
even through the flames. The ceremony is called " burning 
the witches." ^ We have to remember that the eve of May- 
day is the notorious Walpurgis Night, when the witches are 
everywhere speeding unseen through the air on their hellish 
errands. On this witching night children in Voigtland 
also light bonfires on the heights and leap over them. 
Moreover, they wave burning brooms or toss them into the 
air. So far as the light of the bonfire reaches, so far will a 
blessing rest on the fields. The kindling of the fires on 
Walpurgis Night is called " driving away the witches." ^ 

But the season at which these fire-festivals have been 
most generally held all over Europe is the summer solstice, 
that is Midsummer Eve (the twenty-third of June) or Mid- 
summer Day (the twenty-fourth of June). A faint tinge of 
Christianity has been given to them by naming Midsummer 
Day after St. John the Baptist, but we cannot doubt that the 
celebration dates from a time long before the beginning of 
our era. The summer solstice, or Midsummer Day, is the 

' L. Lloyd, Peasant Life in Svieden^ 
P- 233 sq, 

^ Br. JeHnek, *' Materialien zur 
Vorgeschichte und Volkskunde Boh- 
mens," Mittheilungen <Ur oftthropo/o- 
gischen Gesellschaft in IVirn, xxi. 
(1891). p. 13. 

3 J. A. E. Kohlcr, Volksbrauch, 
Abtrglauben^ Sagen und andre alU 
Uel»trlitferu9t^en im Voigtlaftdt, p. 
373. The superstitions relating to 
witches at this season are legion. For 
instance, in Saxony and ThUringen 
any one who labours under a physical 
blemish can easily rid himself of it by 
transferring it to the witches on Wal- 
pur]gis Night. He has only to go out 

to a cross-road, make three crosses on 
the blemish, and say, *' In the name 
of God the Father, the Son, and the 
Holy Ghost." Thus the blemish, 
whatever it may be, is left behind him 
at the cross-road, and when the witches 
sweep by on their way to the Brocken, 
they must take it with them, and it 
sticks to them henceforth. Moreover, 
three crosses chalked up on the doors 
of houses and cattle-stalls on Walpurgis 
Night will effectually prevent any of 
the infernal crew from entering and 
doing harm to man or beast. See E. 
Sommer, Sagen^ Mdrcken und Ce- 
brduckt aus Sachscn und ThUringen^ 
p. \4^Z\sq. \ Die gestriegelie Hocken- 
phihsopkie^ p. 1 1 6. 

•'••%J >. -.«J 


great turning-point in the sun's career, when, after climbing 
higher and higher day by day in the sky, the luminary 
stops and thenceforth retraces his steps down the heavenly 
road. Such a moment could not but be regarded with 
anxiety by primitive man so soon as he began to observe 
and ponder the courses of the great lights across the celestial 
vault ; and having still to learn his own powerlessness in 
face of the vast cyclic changes of nature, he fancied that 
he might help the sun in his seeming decline — might prop 
his failing steps and rekindle the sinking flame of the red 
lamp in his feeble hand. In some such thoughts as these 
the midsummer festivals of our European peasantry may be 
supposed to have taken their rise. Whatever their origin, 
they have prevailed all over this quarter of the globe, from 
Ireland on the west to Russia on the east, and from Sweden 
on the north to Spain and Greece on the south. According 
to a mediaeval writer, the three great features of the mid- 
summer celebration were the bonfires, the procession with 
torches round the fields, and the custom of rolling a wheel. 
He tells us that boys burned bones and filth of various kinds 
to make a foul smoke, and that the smoke drove away certain 
noxious dragons which at this time, excited by the summer 
heat, copulated in the air and poisoned the wells and rivers 
by dropping their seed into them ; and he explains the 
custom of trundling a wheel to mean that the sun, having 
now reached the highest point in the ecliptic, begins thence- 
forward to descend.* From his description, which still holds 
good, we see that the main features of the midsummer fire- 
festival resemble those which we have found to characterise 
the vernal festivals of fire. The similarity of the two sets of 
ceremonies will plainly appear from the following examples. 
A writer of the sixteenth century informs us that in 
almost every village and town of Germany public bonfires 
were kindled on the Eve of St. John, and young and old, of 

' Kemble, The Saxons in England^ summer fires as a means of dispersing 

i. 361 sq.^ quoting *'an ancient MS. the aerinl dragons is given also by 

written in England, and now in the John lieleth, a writer of the twelfth 

Harleian Collection, No. 2345, fol. century. See J. W. Wolf, Bcitrage 

50." The passage is quoted in part zur deutschcn Mythologies it 387. 

by Brand, Popular Antiifuitits, L 298 Compare Grimm, Deutsche Mythologii^^ 

j^., and 1^ Mannhardt, Baumkultus^ p. i. 516. 
509. The explanation of the Mid- 


both s^tint:^^ gathered about them and passed the time in 
dancing and singing. People on this occasion wore chaplets 
of mugwort and vervain, and they looked at the fire through 
bunches of larkspur which they held in their hands, believing 
that this would preserve their tyt,s in a healthy state through- 
out the year. As each departed, he threw the mugwort and 
vervain into the fire, saying, " May all my ill-luck depart 
and be burnt up with these." ^ At Lower Konz, a village 
prettily situated on a hillside overlooking the Moselle, in the 
midst of a wood of walnut-trees and fruit-trees, the mid- 
summer festival used to be celebrated as follows. A quantity 
of straw was collected on the top of the steep Strom berg 
Hill. Every inhabitant, or at least every householder, had 
to contribute his share of straw to the pile ; a recusant was 
looked at askance, and if in the course of the year he 
happened to break a leg or lose a child, there was not a 
gossip in the village but knew the reason why. At nightfall 
the whole male population, men and boys, mustered on the 
top of the hill ; the women and girls were not allowed to 
join them, but had to take up their position at a certain 
spring half-way down the slope. On the summit stood a 
huge wheel completely encased in some of the straw which 
had been jointly contributed by the villagers ; the rest of the 
straw was made into torches. From each side of the wheel 
the axle-tree projected about three feet, thus furnishing 
handles to the lads who were to guide it in its descent. The 
mayor of the neighbouring town of Sierck, who always 
received a basket of cherries for his services, gave the signal ; 
a lighted torch was applied to the wheel, and as it burst into 
flame, two young fellows, strong-limbed and swift of foot, 
seized the handles and began running with it down the 
slope. A great shout went up. Every man and boy waved 
a blazing torch in the air, and took care to keep it alight so 
long as the wheel was trundling down the hill. Some of 
them followed the fiery wheel, and watched with amusement 
the shifts to which its guides were put in steering it round 
the hollows and over the broken ground on the mountain- 
side. The great object of the young men who guided the 

' J. Boemus, Mores ^ leges et ritus omnium gaUium (Lyons, 1541)* p. 
225 jf. 




wheel was to plunge it blazing into the water of the Moselle; 
but they rarely succeeded in their efforts, for the vineyards 
which cover the greater part of the declivity impeded their 
progress, and the wheel was often burned out before it 
reached the river. As it rolled past the women and girls at 
the spring, they raised cries of joy which were answered by 
the men on the top of the mountain ; and the shouts were 
echoed by the inhabitants of neighbouring villages who watched 
the spectacle from their hills on the opposite bank of the 
Moselle. If the fiery wheel was successfully conveyed to the 
bank of the river and extinguished in the water, the people 
looked for an abundant vintage that year, and the inhabitants 
of Konz had the right to exact a waggon-load of white wine 
from the surrounding vineyards. On the other hand, they 
believed that, if they neglected to perform the ceremony, the 
cattle would be attacked by giddiness and convulsions and 
would dance in their stalls.^ ^ 

Down at least to some forty years ago the midsummer 
fires used to blaze all over Upper Bavaria. They were 
kindled especially on the mountains, but also far and wide 
in the lowlands, and we are told that in the darkness and 
stillness of night the moving groups, lit up by the flickering 
glow of the flames, presented an impressive spectacle. In 
some places the people showed their sense of the sanctity 
of the fires by using for fuel the trees past which the gay 
procession had defiled, with fluttering banners, on Corpus 
Christi Day. In others the children collected the firewood 
from door to door on the eve of the festival, singing their 
request for fuel at every house in doggerel verse. Cattle 
were driven through the fire to cure the sick animals and to 
guard such as were sound against plague and harm of every 
kind throughout the year. Many a householder on that 
day put out the fire on the domestic hearth and rekindled 
it by means of a brand taken from the midsummer bonfire. 

' Tessier, '* Sur la r^te annuclle de 
la roue flamboyante de la Saint-Jean, a 
Basse-Kontz, arrondissement de Thion- 
ville," M^moires it dissertations f*ttb/it's 
par la SociHi KoyaU des Antiquaires de 
France, v, ( 1823), pp. 379-393- Tessier 
witnessed the ceremony, 23rd June 1822 
(not 1823, as b sometimes stated). His 

account has been reproduced more or 
less fully by Grimm {Deutsche Myth- 
cloj^ef^ i* 515 -fyOf Mannhardt {Ban/ft- 
Jtu/tHS, p. 510 sq.), and H. Gaidoz 
(** Le dicu };aulois du Soleil et le 
symbolisme de la Roue,'* Revue Arck^- 
oipgi^ue, iiL Serie, iv. (1884), p.. 
24 sq.). 

i vs 




The people judged of the height to which the flax would 
grow in the year by the height to which the flames of the 
bonfire rose ; and whoever leaped over the burning pile was 
sure not to suffer from backache in reaping the com at 
harvest. But it was especially the practice for lovers to 
spring over the fire hand in hand, and the way in which 
each couple made the leap was the subject of many a jest 
and many a superstition. In one district the custom of 
kindling the bonfires was combined with that of lighting 
wooden discs and hurling them in the air after the manner 
which prevails at some of the spring festivals.^ In many 
parts of Bavaria it was believed that the flax would grow as 
high as the young people leaped over the fire.* In others 
the old folk used to plant three charred sticks from the 
bonfire in the fields, believing that this would make the flax 
grow tall.^ Elsewhere an extinguished brand was put in 
the roof of the house to protect it against fire. In the towns 
about Wiirzburg the bonfires used to be kindled in the 
market-places, and the young people who jumped over them 
wore garlands of flowers, especially of mugwort and vervain, 
and carried sprigs of larkspur in their hands. They thought 
that such as looked at the fire holding a bit of larkspur 
before their face would be troubled by no malady of the 
eyes throughout the year.* Further, it was customary at 
Wiirzburg, in the sixteenth century, for the bishop's followers 
to throw burning discs of wood into the air from a mountain 
which overhangs the town. The discs were discharged by 
means of flexible rods, and in their flight through the dark- 
ness presented the appearance of fiery dragons,* 

In the valley of the Lech, which divides Upper Bavaria 
from Swabia, the midsummer customs and beliefs are, or 
used to be, very similar. Bonfires are kindled on the 

* Bavaria^ Laudcs- und Volkskuude 
des Konip-fiihs Baycm^ i. yj"^ sq. As 
to the burning discs at the spring 
festivals, see above, p. 243. 

- Oji. cif. ii. 260 sq., iii. 936, 956, 
iv. 2. p. 360. 

' C?/. fit. ii. 260. 

* Op. cii. iv. I. p. 242. We have 
seen (p. 267) that in the sixteenth 

century these customs and beliefs were 
common in Germany. It is also a 
German superstition that a house which 
contains a brand from the midsummer 
bonfire will not be struck by lightning 
(J. W, Wolf, Bet/rage zur dcuiscfun 
Mythologies i. p. 2 1 7, § 185). 

* J. Boemus, Mores, Uges ei ritus 
omnium gentium (Lyons, 1541), p. 






mountains on Midsummer Day; and besides the bonfire 
a tall beam, thickly wrapt in straw and surmounted by a 
cross-piece, is burned in many places. Round this cross as 
it burns the lads dance with loud shouts ; and when the 
flames have subsided, the young people leap over the fire in 
pairs, a young man and a young woman together. If they 
escape unsmirched, the man will not suffer from fever, and 
the girl will not become a mother within the year. Further, 
it is believed that the flax will grow that year as high as 
they leap over the fire ; and that if a charred billet be taken 
from the fire and stuck in a flax-field it will promote the 
growth of the flax.^ Similarly in Swabia, lads and lasses, 
hand in hand, leap over the midsummer bonfire, praying 
that the hemp may grow three ells high, and they set fire to 
wheels of straw and send them rolling down the hill.- At 
Deffingen, in Swabia, as they sprang over the midsummer 
bonfire they cried out, " Flax, flax ! may the flax this year 
grow seven ells high ! " * Near Offcnburg, in the Black 
Forest, on Midsummer Day the village boys used to collect 
faggots and straw on some steep and conspicuous height, 
and they spent some time in making circular wooden discs 
by slicing the trunk of a pine-tree across. When darkness 
had fallen, they kindled the bonfire, and then, as it blazed 
up, they lighted the discs at it, and, after swinging them to 
and fro at the end of a stout and supple hazcl-wand, they 
hurled them one after the other, whizzing and flaming, into 
the air, where they described great arcs of fire, to fall at 
length, like shooting-stars, at the foot of the mountain.* In 
many parts of Elsace and Lorraine the midsummer fires 
still blaze annually.* At Speichcr in the Eifcl, a district 
which lies on the middle Rhine, to the west of Coblcntz, a 
bonfire used to be kindled in front of the village on St. 
John's Day, and all the young people had to jump over it. 

' I .eoprechting, Atts dcm Leckraht, 
p. 181 sqq, ; B.A", p. 510. 

* liirlingcr, Volkithumliches aus 
Schwahen^ ii. p. 96 sqq.^ § 1 28, p. 
103 sq.^ % 129; rlf/., Aus Schwaht'tt^ 
ii. 116- 120; E. Meier, Deutsche 
Sagen^ Sitten und Gebraucke aus 
Sckivahen, p. 423 sqq, ; B.k\ p. 510. 

' Panzer, Btitrag sur dcuischen 

Mythologies i. p. 21 5 j^., § 242; ii. 


^ H. Gaidoz, **Le dieu Gaulois du 
Soleil et Ic synil)olismc dc la Roue,** 
Kevue Archi'ologique^ iii. Scrie, iv. 
(18S4), p. 29 sq, 

* ♦• Die Sommerwendreier im St. 
AmariDthale,** Der Urquelt^ K.F., i. 
(1897), p. 181 sqq. 


272 MIDSUMMER FIRES ^ chap. 

Those who failed to do so were not allowed to join the 
rest in begging for eggs from house to house. Where no 
eggs were given, they drove a wedge into the keyhole of the 
door. On this day children in the Eifel used also to gather 
flowers in the fields, weave them into garlands, and throw 
the garlands on the roofs or hang them on the doors of the 
houses. So long as the flowers remained there, they were 
supposed to guard the house from fire and lightning.* In the 
southern Harz district and in Thiiringen the midsummer or 
St. John's fires used to be commonly lighted some fifty years 
ago, and the custom has probably not died out. At Eders- 
leben, near Sangerhausen, a high pole was planted in the 
ground and a tar-barrel was hung from it by a chain which 
reached to the ground. The barrel was then set on fire and 
swung round the pole amid shouts of joy.^ 

According to one account, German tradition required 
that the midsummer fire should be lighted, not from a 
common hearth, but by the friction of two sorts of wood^ 
namely oak and fir.* In some old farm-houses of the 
Surcnthal and Winenthal a couple of holes or a whole row 
of them may be seen facing each other in the door-posts of 
the barn or stable. Sometimes the holes are smooth and 
round ; sometimes they are deeply burnt and blackened. 
The explanation of them is this. About midsummer, but 
especially on Midsummer Day, two such holes are bored 
opposite each other, into which the extremities of a strong 
pole are fixed. The holes are then stuffed with tow steeped 
in resin and oil ; a rope is looped round the pole, and two 
young men, who must be brothers or must have the same 
baptismal name, and must be of the same age, pull the ends 
of the rope backwards and forwards so as to make the pole 
revolve rapidly, till smoke and sparks issue from the two 
holes in the door-posts. The sparks are caught and blown 
up with tinder, and this is the new and pure fire, the 
appearance of which is greeted with cries of joy. Heaps of 
combustible materials are now ignited with the new fire, and 

* Schmitz, Sitten und Sagen^ LUder^ dtutschen Volksfeste^ p. 33). 

Sprichworter tout Riukiel des Eijier ' Kuhn and 5>chwartz, NordJeutsche 

Polkes, i. 40 sq. According to one Saxcfi^ Mdrcken utid Gebrduthe^ p. 390. 

writer, the garlands are composed of ' Mootanut, Dit deuttcken Voiks' 

St. John's wort (Montanus, Die fiste^ p. 33 sq. 



blazing bundles are placed on boards and sent floating down 
the brook. The boys light torches at the new fire and run 
to fumigate the pastures. This is believed to drive away all 
the demons and witches that molest the cattle. Finally the 
torches are thrown in a heap on the meadow and allowed to 
burn out. On their way back the boys strew the ashes over 
the fields, which is supposed to make them fertile. If a 
farmer has taken possession of a new house, or if servants 
have changed masters, the boys fumigate the new abode and 
arc rewarded by the farmer with a supper.* 

In Austria the midsummer customs and superstitions 
resemble those of Germany. Thus in some parts of the 
Tyrol bonfires arc kindled and burning discs hurled into the 
air." At Reutte, in the Tyrol, people believed that the flax 
would grow as high as they leaped over the midsummer 
bonfire, and they took pieces of charred wood from the fire 
and stuck them in their flax-fields the same night, leaving 
them there till the flax harvest had been got in.^ In Lower 
Austria fires are lit in the fields, commonly in front of a 
cross, and the people dance and sing round them and throw 
flowers into the flames. Before each handful of flowers is 
tossed into the fire, a set speech is made ; then the dance is 
resumed and the dancers sing in chorus the last words of the 
speech. At evening bonfires are kindled on the heights, 
and the boys caper round them, brandishing lighted torches 
drenched in pitch. Whoever jumps thrice across the fire 
will not suffer from fever within the year. Cart-wheels are 
often smeared with pitch, ignited, and sent rolling and 
blazing down the hillsides.* All over Bohemia bonfires still 
bum on Midsummer Eve. Sometimes the young men fell a 
tall straight fir in the woods and set it up on a height, 
where the girls deck it with nosegays, wreaths of leaves, and 
red ribbons. Then brushwood is piled about it, and at 
nightfall the whole is set on fire. While the flames break 
out, the young men climb the tree and fetch down the 
wreaths which the girls had placed on it. After that, lads 

* Kochhuiz, Dcutschcr Glauhi umi ' Panzer, fieitrai; zur deutschen 

Jiraitchf ii. 144 sqq, Mythohi^u, i. \u 2IO, § 231. 

^ /ingerie, Si/Uft, BrottJu' tin J 
Mt'intingen d(s Tirolt'r Vo'kis^- ii. p. * Vernaleken, AJythcn und Braucht 

159, ^ 1354. des I'Mt'S in OtsitrreUh^ p. 307 /y. 


.'^. ^'-*\ ■^•-ii* ■• .- 




and lasses stand on opposite sides of the fire and look at 
one another through the wreaths to 5ee whether they will 
be true to each other and marry within the year. Also the 
girls throw the wreaths across the flames to the men, and 
woe to the awkward swain who fails to catch the wreath 
thrown him by his sweetheart. When the blaze has died 
down, each couple takes hands, and leaps thrice across the 
fire. The singed wreaths are taken home and carefully 
preserved throughout the year. During thunderstorms a 
bit of the wreath is burned on the hearth with a prayer ; 
some of it is given to kine that are sick or calving, and some 
of it serves to fumigate house and cattle-stall, that man and 
beast may keep hale and well. Sometimes an old cart- 
wheel is smeared with resin, ignited, and sent rolling down 
the hill. Often the boys collect all the worn-out besoms 
they can get hold of, dip them in pitch, and having set them 
on fire wave them about or throw them high into the air. 
Or they rush down the hillside in troops, brandishing the 
flaming brooms and shouting, only however to return to the 
bonfire on the summit when the brooms have burnt out. 
The stumps of the brooms and embers from the fire are 
preserved and stuck in cabbage gardens to protect the 
cabbages from caterpillars and gnats. Some people insert 
charred sticks and ashes from the bonfire in their sown fields 
and meadows, in their gardens and the roofs of their houses, 
as a talisman against foul weather ; or they fancy that the 
ashes placed in the roof will prevent any fire from breaking 
out in the house. In some districts they crown or gird 
themselves with mugwort while the midsummer fire is 
burning, for this is supposed to be a protection against 
ghosts, witches, and sickness ; in particular, a wreath of 
mugwort is a sure preventive of sore eyes. Sometimes the 
girls look at the bonfires through garlands of wild flowers, 
praying the fire to strengthen their eyes and eyelids. She 
who does this thrice will have no sore eyes all that year. 
In some parts of Bohemia they used to drive the cows 
through the midsummer fire to guard them against witch- 
craft.^ In Austrian Silesia the custom also prevails of 

' Grimm, Deutsche MyfhobQie,^ i. lit's I 'olkes in OestcrreUk^ p. 308 ; 
519; Vemaleken, Mythcn u»ui Brduche Kcinsberg - Dilring^fcld, /•*«/• Kalatdcr 



lighting great bonfires on hilltops on Midsummer Eve, and 
here too the boys swin<; blazing besoms or hurl them high 
in the air, while they shout and leap and dance wildly. 
Next morning every door is decked with flowers and birchen 
saplings.^ In the district of Cracow, especially towards the 
Carpathian Mountains, great fires are kindled by the 
peasants in the fields or on the heights at nightfall on 
Midsummer Eve, which among them goes by the name of 
Kupalo's Night. The fire must be kindled by the friction 
of two sticks. The young people dance round or leap over 
it ; and a band of sturdy fellows run a race with lighted 
torches, the winner being rewarded with a peacock's feather, 
which he keeps throughout the year as a distinction. Cattle 
also arc driven round the fire in the belief that this is a 
charm against pestilence and disease of every sort.^ 

The name of Kupalo's Night, applied in this part of 
Galicia to Midsummer Eve, reminds us that we have now 
passed from German to Slavonic ground ; even in Bohemia 
the midsummer celebration is common to Slavs and 
Germans. We have already seen that in Russia the 
summer solstice or Eve of St. John is celebrated by young 
men and maidens, who jump over a bonfire in couples 
carrying a straw effigy of Kupalo in their arms.' In some 
parts of Russia the young folk wear garlands of flowers and 
girdles of holy herbs when they spring through the smoke 
or flames ; and sometimes they drive the cattle also through 
the fire in order to protect the animals against wizards and 
witches, who are then ravenous after milk.* In Little 
Russia a stake is driven into the ground on St. John's 
Night, wrapt in straw, and set on fire. As the flames 
rise the peasant women throw birchen boughs into them, 
saying, "May my flax be as tall as this bough !"^ In 

atts Bohffit'ftf pp. 306-31 1 ; Hr. Jeliiiek, 
** MaterialicMi zur Vorgcscliichte untl 
Volkskunde B..hmens," Mitt/ui/ttn::tn 
dcr anthrofoloj^ischm Geselischaft in 
Wim^ xxi. (1 89 1), p. 13. 

* A. I*ctcr, Volhthiimlichei aus 
ocsterrtichisch SchUsietiy ii. 287. Com- 
pare Philo vom Waltic, SchU'skn in 
Sage und Branchy p. 1 24. 

* Th. Vcmaleken, Mvlkat und 

Blanche des Volkes in Ocsttrreichy p. 
308 sq^ 

^ Vol. ii. p. 105. Compare M. 
Kowalewsky, in Foik'loit\ i. (1890), 
IX 467. 

* Grimm, D.M,^ i. 519; Ralston, 
Songs of the Mnssian People^ pp. 240, 

^ Ralston, op. at, p. 240. 



Ruthenia the bonfires are lighted by a flame procured by 
the friction of wood. While the elders of the party are 
engaged in thus " churning " the fire, the rest maintain a 
respectful silence ; but when the flame bursts from the 
wood, they break forth into joyous songs. As soon as the 
bonfires are kindled, the young people take hands and leap 
in pairs through the smoke, if not through the flames ; and 
after that the cattle in their turn are driven through the 
fire.^ In many parts of Prussia and Lithuania great fires 
are kindled on Midsummer Eve. All the heights are ablaze 
with them, as far as the eye can see. The fires arc supposed 
to be a protection against witchcraft, thunder, hail, and 
cattle disease, especially if next morning the cattle are 
driven over the places where the fires burned. Above all, 
the bonfires ensure the farmer against the arts of witches, 
who try to steal the milk from his cows by charms and 
spells. That is why next morning you may see the young 
fellows who lit the bonfire going from house to house and 
receiving jugfuls of milk. And for the same reason they 
stick burs and mugwort on the gate or the hedge through 
which the cows go to pasture, because that is supposed to 
be a preservative against witchcraft." In Masuren, a district 
of Eastern Prussia inhabited by a branch of the Polish 
family, it is the custom on the evening of Midsummer Day 
to put out all the fires in the village. Then an oaken stake 
is driven into the ground and a wheel is fixed on it as on 
an axle. This wheel the villagers, working by relays, cause 
to revolve with great rapidity till fire is produced by friction. 
Every one takes home a lighted brand from the new fire 
and with it rekindles the fire on the domestic hearth.* 
Among the Letts who inhabit the Baltic provinces of Russia 
the most joyful festival of the year is held on Midsummer 
Day. The people drink and dance and sing and adorn 
themselves and their houses with flowers and branches. 
Chopped boughs of fir are strewn about the rooms, and 
leaves are stuck in the roofs. In every farm-yard a birch 
tree is set up, and every person of the name of John who 

* Ralston, /.<•. Westpranscns^ p. 277. 

* Tettau und Tcmmc, DU Voiks- ^ Top|Kn, Aheri^auhctt aus Masif 
sa^en Ostpreussens^ IJtthauats ttud ren^ p. 7 1. 

^' i^ f .^>--'^^i<«MWWMMBaW >ag » ft g «vac' )#i4Sip. 


enters the farm that day must break off a twig from the tree 
and hang up on its branches in return a small present for 
the family. When the serene twilight of the summer night 
has veiled the landscape, bonfires gleam on all the hills, and 
wild shouts of " Ligho ! Ligho ! " echo from the woods and 
fields. In Riga the day is a festival of flowers. From all 
the neighbourhood the peasants stream into the city laden 
with flowers and garlands. A market of flowers is held in 
an open square and on the chief bridge over the river ; here 
wreaths of immortelles, which grow wild in the meadows 
and woods, are sold in great profusion and deck the houses 
of Riga for long afterwards. Roses too are now at the 
prime of their beauty, and masses of them adorn the flower- 
stalls. Till far into the night gay crowds parade the streets 
to music or float on the river in gondolas decked with 
flowers.^ In Servia on Midsummer Eve herdsmen light 
torches of birch bark and march round the sheepfolds and 
cattle-stalls ; then they climb the hills and there allow the 
torches to burn out.^ 

Among the Magyars in Hungary the midsummer fire- 
festival is marked by the same features that meet us in so 
many parts of Europe. On Midsummer Eve in many 
places it is customary to kindle bonfires on heights and to 
leap over them, and from the manner in which the young 
people leap the bystanders predict whether they will marry 
soon. At Nograd-Ludany the young men and women go 
out, each carrying a truss of straw, to a meadow, where they 
pile the straw in seven or twelve heaps and set it on fire. 
Tlien they go round the fire singing, and hold a bunch of 
iron-wort in the smoke, while they say, " No boil on my body, 
no sprain in my foot ! " This holding of the flowers over 
the flames is regarded, we are told, as equally im|X>rtant 
with the practice of walking through the fire barefoot and 
stamping it out. On this day also many Hungarian swine- 
herds make fire by rotating a wheel round a wooden axle 
wrapt in hemp, and through the fire thus made they drive 
their pigs to prcser\'e them from sickness.* In vill.iges on 

' J, G. Kohl, /^h Ut'u/sih'riissisi/ttn ' (irimni, I). A/.* i. 5 1 9. 

Ostseepravhtzm^ L 178-180, ii. 24^^. ^ II. von Wlislocki, rolksj^/atifu- uttii 

Ligho was an oM heathen <lciiy. v^hose tvtiji^'itser firaurk dt-r Mai^yar (.Miinster 

joyous festival u*ie<l tci fall in spring;. i. \V., 1S93), pp. 40-44. 



the Danube, where the population is a cross between Magyar 
and German, the young men and maidens repair to the 
high banks of the river on Midsummer Eve ; and while the 
girls post themselves low down the slope, the lads on the 
height above set fire to little wooden wheels and, after 
swinging them to and fro at the end of a wand, send them 
whirling through the air to fall into the Danube. As he 
does so, each lad sings out the name of his sweetheart, and 
she listens well pleased down below.^ The Esthonians of 
Russia, who, like the Magyars, belong to the great Turanian 
family of mankind, also celebrate the summer solstice in the 
usual way. On the Eve of St. John all the people of a 
farm, a village, or an estate, walk solemnly in procession, the 
girls decked with flowers, the men with leaves and carrying 
bundles of straw under their arms. The lads carry lighted 
torches or flaming hoops steeped in tar at the top of long 
poles. Thus they go singing to the cattle-sheds, the 
granaries, and so forth, and afterwards march thrice round 
the dwelling-house. Finally, preceded by the shrill music 
of the bagpipes and shawms, they repair to a neighbouring 
hill, where the materials of a bonfire have been collected. 
Tar-barrels filled with combustibles are hung on poles, or 
the trunk of a felled tree has been set up with a great mass 
of juniper piled about it in the form of a pyramid. When 
a light has been set to the pile, old and young gather about 
it and pass the time merrily with song and music till break 
of day. Every one who comes brings fresh fuel for the fire, 
and they sa}% " Now we all gather together, where St. John's 
fire bums. He who comes not to St. John's fire will have 
his barley full of thistles, and his oats full of weeds." Three 
logs arc thrown into the fire with special ceremony ; in 
throwing the first they say, " Gold of pleasure (a plant with 
yellow flowers) into the fire ! " in throwing the second they 
say, " Weeds to the unploughed land ! " but in throwing the 
third they cry, " Flax on my field ! " The fire is said to 
keep the witches from the cattle.' According to others, it 

* A. von Iix>lyi, •• Beitrage zur - J. G. Kohl, Die deutsch-nissischcn 

(leutschcn Mythologic aus Ungarn,*' Ostsft'prat'inzeft^ \\, 268 sq, ; F. J. 

/.citiihrift fiir deutscke. Mytkologie und Wiedemann, Aus dem ittnern titui 

S///ef/h/»di\ i. (lS$^), \}. 2yo sq, tiussern Lehen der Ehsten^ p. 362. 



ensures that for the whole year the milk shall be "as 
pure as silver and as the stars in the sky, and the butter as 
yellow as the sun and the fire and the gold."* In the 
Esthonian island of Oesel, while they throw fuel into the 
midsummer fire, they call out, " Weeds to the fire, flax to 
the field," or they fling three billets into the flames, saying, 
" Flax grow long ! " And they take charred sticks from the 
bonfire home with them and keep them to make the cattle 
thrive. In some parts of the island the bonfire is formed 
by piling brushwood and other combustibles round a tree, 
at the top of which a flag flies. Whoever succeeds in 
knocking down the flag with a pole before it begins to bum 
will have good luck. Formerly the festivities lasted till 
daybreak, and ended in scenes of debauchery which looked 
doubly hideous by the growing light of a summer morning.- 
Still farther north, among a people of the same Turanian 
stock, we learn from an eye-witness that Midsummer Night 
used to witness a sort of witches* sabbath on the top of 
every hill in Finland. The bonfire was made by setting up 
four tall birches in a square and piling the intermediate 
space with fuel. Round the roaring flames the people sang 
and drank and pranced in the usual way.' Farther cast, 
in the valley of the Volga, the Cheremiss celebrate about 
midsummer a festival which Haxthausen regarded as 
identical with the midsummer ceremonies of the rest of 
Europe. A sacred tree in the forest, generally a tall and 
solitary oak, marks the scene of the solemnity. All the 
males assemble there, but no woman may be present A 
heathen priest lights seven fires in a row from north-west to 
south-east ; cattle are sacrificed and their blood jxjured in 
the fires, each of which is dedicated to a separate deity. 
Afterwards the holy tree is illumined by lighted candles 
placed on its branches ; the people fall on their knees and 
with faces bowed to the earth pray that God would be 

The word which I have tramlated schaftzuDorpat^\\\.{\%^^%'^.(}^sq, 

"weeds'* is Thatiiptts. Apparently it Wiedemann also ol>scr\*es that ihc sports 

is the name of a s|>ccial kind of weed. in which young couples engage in the 

* Fr. Kreutzwald und H. Xeiis, woods on this evening are not always 
Mythisfhc und Miv'isihc LtWrr dcr decorous {Atis dent inncrai timi aus- 
Ehstt-n (St. IVlersliurij. 1S54), p. 62. wren I^heit der EhsttH^ p. 362). 

* Holzmayer, "Osi liana," I'et-haud- ' J. G. Ko\i\^ Die dtu/sck-rHSS is f ken 
lu9V*en dcr geh'hrtcM listitisikoi Ciisell- Oslserprovinznt^ ii. 447 sq. 



pleased to bless them, their children, their cattle, and their 
bees, grant them success in trade, in travel, and in the chase, 
enable them to pay the Czar's taxes, and so forth.^ 

When we pass from the east to the west of Europe we 
still find the summer solstice celebrated with rites of the 
same general character. About half a century ago the 
custom of lighting bonfires at midsummer prevailed so 
commonly in France that there was hardly a town or a 
village, we are told, where they were not kindled.^ In 
Brittany the custom is kept up to this day. Thus in 
Lower Brittany every town and every village still lights its 
tantad or bonfire on St. John's Night. When the flames 
have died down, the whole assembly kneels round about the 
bonfire and an old man prays aloud. Then they all rise 
and march thrice round the fire ; at the third turn they stop 
and every one picks up a pebble and throws it on the burn- 
ing pile. After that they disperse.' At Quimper, and in 
the district of Lfon, chairs used to be placed round the mid- 
summer bonfire, that the souls of the dead might sit on them 
and warm themselves at the blaze.^ At Brest on this dav 
thousands of people used to assemble on the ramparts to- 
wards evening and brandish lighted torches, which they swunc; 
in circles or flung by hundreds into the air. The closing of 
the town gates put an end to the spectacle, and the lights 
might be seen dispersing in all directions like wandering will- 
o'-the-wisps.* In Upper Brittany the materials for the mid- 
summer bonfires, which generally consist of bundles of furze and 
heath, are furnished by voluntary contributions, and piled on 
the tops of hills round poles, each of which is surmounted by 
a nosegay or a crown. This nosegay or crown is generally 
provided by a man named John or a woman named Jean, 

* J. G. Georgi, Beschreihutti;^ aiUr 
Nationen des russischtn A\u/is (St. 
Petersburg, 1776), p. 36; von Ilaxt- 
hnusen, Simiun ithrr die in tie re Zus- 
tdndtt etc, Kuislands^ i. 446 yy</. 

' Dc Norc, Coutiimei^ mythtS d 
traditions des provinces dc tratue^ y. 

^ A. Le Braz, La L^ji:eftde de la 

Mort en Beuse-Bretagtie (Taris, 1 893), 

p. 279. For an explanation of the 

custom of throwinj; n pebMe into tlic 
tire, see below, p. 296. 

^ J. W. Wolf, Jii'ih iv^c zur di'utscht II 
Mytkolctfp'e^ i. p. 217, j5 i^^S ; A. Breuil, 
*»Du Culle de Si. Jean Haptistc." 
Ml' moires de ia Soeit'W des Atitiquaires 
de Pieardie^sm. (Amiens, 1S45), I** '^9 

* K. Cortet, Essai stir Us fftes 
relij^ieitses^ p. 2 1 6. 


and it is always a John or a Jean who puts a light to the 
bonfire. While the fire is blazing the people dance and sing 
round it, and when the flames have subsided they leap over 
the glowing embers. Charred sticks from the bonfire arc 
thrown into wells to improve the water, and they are also 
taken home as a protection against thunder.^ To make 
them thoroughly effective, however, against thunder and 
lightning you should keep them near your bed, between a 
bit of a Twelfth Night cake and a sprig of boxwood which 
has been blessed on Palm Sunday.^ Flowers from the nose- 
gay or crown which overhung the fire are accounted charms 
against disease and pain, both bodily and spiritual ; hence 
girls hang them at their breast by a thread of scarlet wool. 
In many parishes of Brittany the priest used to go in procession 
with the crucifix and kindle the bonfire with his own hands ; 
and farmers were wont to drive their flocks and herds through 
the fire in order to preserve them from sickness till midsummer 
of the following year. Also it was believed that every girl 
who danced round nine of the bonfires would marr>' within 
the ycar.^ In Normandy the midsummer fires have now 
almost disappeared, at least in the district known as the 
Hocage, but they used to shine on every hill. They were 
commonly m.idc by piling brushwood, broom, and ferns 
about a tall tree, which was decorated with a crown of moss 
and sometimes with flowers. While they burned, people 
danced and sang round them, and young folk leaped over 
the flames or the glowing ashes. In the valley of the Omc 
the custom to kindle the bonfire just at the moment 
when the sun was about to dip below the horizon ; and the 
peasants drove their cattle through the fires to protect them 
against witchcraft, especially against the spells of witches and 
wizards who attempted to steal the milk and butter.* 

At Jumieges in Normandy, down to about sixty years 
ago, the midsummer festival was marked by certain singular 
features which bore the stamp of a vcr}' high antiquity. 

' SvUxWi^K, Coitfuffus fopttlatrcs tit' la •'* I>c Norc, Cotiftt/iies^ mytkcs et 

J/iittt^- /irrtax'nt'^\i\\ 192-195. In Upper tratiitiotn dts frofhurs de France^ pp. 

Hrittnny these Ixinfires arc called 219, 228, 231 ; Corlct, <»/. riV. p. 

rUux or rtri'urs, 2 1 5 iq, 

* I)e Nore, of*, n't, p. 219; Cortct, * J. Lecoeur, Fsquissfs tfn Socage 

cf*. fit, p. 216. Kormattd^ ii. 219-224. 

. . . ^ • ? * ■' 


Every year, on the twenty-third of June, the Eve of St. John, 
the Brotherhood of the Green Wolf chose a new chief or 
master, who had always to be taken from the hamlet of 
Conihout. On being elected the new head of the brother- 
hood took the title of the Green Wolf, and assumed a 
peculiar costume consisting of a long green mantle and a 
very tall green hat of a conical shape and without a brim. 
Thus arrayed he stalked solemnly at the head of the brothers, 
chanting the hymn of St John, the crucifix and holy banner 
leading the way, to a place called Chouquet Here the 
procession was met by the priest, precentors, and choir, who 
conducted the brotherhood to the parish church. After 
hearing mass the company adjourned to the house of the 
Green Wolf, where a simple repast, such as is required by 
the church on fast-days, was ser\'ed up to them. Then they 
danced before the door till it was time to light the bonfire. 
Night being come, the fire was kindled to the sound of 
hand -bells by a young man and a young woman, both 
decked with flowers. As the flames rose, the Te Deum was 
sung, and a villager thundered out a parody in the Xorman 
dialect of the hymn ut queant laxis. Meantime the Green 
Wolf and his brothers, with their hoods down on their 
shoulders and holding each other by the hand, ran round 
the fire after the man who had been chosen to be the Green 
Wolf of the following year. Though only the first and the 
last man of the chain had a hand free, their business was to 
surround and seize thrice the future Green Wolf, who in his 
efforts to escape belaboured the brothers with a long wand 
which he carried. When at last they succeeded in catching 
him they carried him to the burning pile and made as if 
they would throw him on it. This ceremony over, they 
returned to the house of the Green Wolf, where a supper, 
still of the most meagre fare, was set before them. Up till 
midnight a sort of religious solemnity prevailed. Xo un- 
becoming word might fall from the lips of any of the 
company, and a censor, armed with a hand -bell, was 
appointed to mark and punish instantly any infraction of 
the rule. But at the stroke of twelve all this was changed. 
Constraint gave way to licence ; pious hymns were replaced 
by Bacchanalian ditties, and the shrill quavering notes of the 



village fiddle hardly rose above the roar of voices that went 
up from the merry brotherhood of the Green Wolf. Next 
day, the twenty-fourth of June or Midsummer Day, was 
celebrated by the same personages with the same noisy 
gaiety. One of the ceremonies consisted in parading, to 
the sound of musketry, an enormous loaf of consecrated bread, 
which, rising in tiers, was surmounted by a pyramid of 
verdure adorned with ribbons. After that the holy hand- 
bells, deposited on the step of the altar, were entrusted as 
insignia of office to the man who was to be the Green Wolf 
next year.^ 

In the canton of Breteuil in Picardy the priest used to 
kindle the midsummer bonfire, and the people marched 
thrice round it in procession. Some of them took ashes of 
the fire home with them to protect the houses against light- 
ning.* In the department of the Ardennes every one used 
to contribute his faggot to the midsummer bonfire, and the 
clergy marched at the head of the procession to kindle it. 
Failure to light the fires would, in the popular belief, have 
exposed the fields to the greatest danger. At Revin the 
young folk, besides dancing round the fire to the strains of 
the village fiddler, threw garlands of flowers across the flames 
to each other.* In the Vosges it is still customary to kindle 
bonfires upon the hill-tops on Midsummer Eve ; the people 
believe that the fires help to preserve the fruits of the earth 
and ensure good crops.* In the Jura Mountains the mid- 
summer bonfires went by the name of bA or beau. They 
were lit on the most conspicuous points of the landscape.* 
Near St. Jean, in the Jura, it appears that at this season 
young people still repair to the cross-roads and heights, and 
there wave burning torches so as to present the appearance 

* This description is quoted by 
Madame Clement {//istoir^ dt-s fiUs 
civile s et reii^cuscSy etc., dc la Hel^^que 
Ariri(iiofia!c (Avesncs, 1846), pp. 394- 
396) ; F. Liebrecht {Gen-asitts von 
Tilbury y p. 209 sif,) ; and W. Mann- 
hardt {Ant ike IVald und luldkultf, p. 
323 s*iq.) from the Mas^azin pi/forfsf/itt, 
Paris, \ iii. ( 1840), p. 287 sqt/, A slightly 
conciensed account is pven, from the 
same source, by Cortci {Esmi sur Us 
files reli^ieuseSt p. 221 sq,). 

^ Bazin, quoted l>y Breuil, in 
Mhnoires de la Soiit'U* d' Antiquaires 
de Picardii\ viii. (1 845), p. 1 91 note. 

' A. Meyrac, Traditions^ Coutumes^ 
IJgendi's^ it Conies des Ardenms, p. 

* L. F. Sauvc, Folk-lore des Haute. 
I'osj^s^ \\ 186. 

* D. Monnier, Traditions popttlai re. 
eoMi/Hir^eSt p. 207 sqq, ; Cortet, Essai 
sur les files relijipeusest p. 217 sq. 

c*.* * 


*of fiery wheels in the darkness.^ In Berry, a district of 
Central France, the midsummer fire was lit on the Eve of St. 
John and went by the name of the jSn^e^joanfi^e, ov jouann^e. 
Every family according to its means contributed faggots, 
which were piled round a pole on the highest place in the 
neighbourhood. In the hamlets the office of kindling the 
fire devolved on the oldest man, but in the towns it was the 
priest or the mayor who discharged the duty. Here, as in 
Brittany, people supposed that a girl who had danced round 
nine of the midsummer bonfires would marry within the 
year. To leap several times over the fire was regarded as a 
sort of purification which kept off" sickness and brought ^ood 
luck to the leaper. Hence the nimble youth bounded through 
the smoke and flames, and when the fire had somewhat abated 
parents jumped across it with their children in their arms 
in order that the little ones might also partake of its bene- 
ficent influence. Embers from the extinct bonfire were taken 
home, and after being dipped in holy water were kept as a 
talisman against all kinds of misfortune, but especially against 
lightning.- The same virtue was ascribed to the ashes and 
charred sticks of the midsummer bonfire in P^rigord, where 
•everybody contributed his share of fuel to the pile and 
the whole was crowned with flowers, especially with roses 
and lilies.^ 

Bonfires were lit in almost all the hamlets of Poitou on the 
Eve of St. John. People marched round them thrice, carrying 
a branch of walnut in their hand. Shepherdesses and children 
passed sprigs of mullein {verbascum) and nuts across the flames; 
the nuts were supposed to cure toothache, and the mullein to 
protect the cattle from sickness and sorcery. When the fire 
•died down people took some of the ashes home witii them, 
■either to keep them in the house as a preservative against 
thunder or to scatter them on the fields for the purpose of 
destroying corn-cockles and darnel. Stones were also placed 
round the fire, and it was believed that the first to lift one of 

' BcrengcT - KcraucI, Ktminisccnci's 
popuiaircs de la l^rcn'ftue^ p. 142. 

* Laisnel de la Salic, Croyances et 

IJf>e»ides du Centre de la France^ i. 

78 sqq. The writer adopts the aljsurd 

•derivation o^jdnfe from Janus. Need- 

less to say that our old friend Itaal, 
liel, or Belus figures prominently in 
this and many other accounts of the 
European fire-festivals. 

' De Nore, op, fit, p. 1 50. 




these stones next morning would find under it the hair of St. 
John.^ In Poitou also it used to be customary on the Eve 
of St. John to trundle a blazing wheel wrapt in straw over the 
fields to fertilise them.- This last custom is said to be now 
extinct,^ but it is still usual in Poitou to kindle fires on this 
day at cross-roads or on the heights. The oldest or youngest 
person present sets a light to the pile, which consists of broom, 
gorse, and heath. A bright and crackling blaze shoots up, 
but soon dies down, and over it the young folk leap. They 
also throw stones into it, picking the stone according to the 
size of the turnips that they wish to have that year. It is 
said that " the good Virgin " comes and sits on the prettiest 
of the stones, and next morning they see there her beautiful 
golden tresses. At Lussac, in Poitou, the lighting of the 
midsummer bonfire is still an affair of some ceremony. A 
pyramid of faggots is piled round a tree or tall pole on the 
ground where the fair is held ; the priest goes in procession 
to the spot and kindles the pile. When prayers have been 
said and the clergy have withdrawn, the people continue to 
march round the fire, telling their beads, but it is not till the 
flames have begun to die down that the youth jump over 
them. A brand from the midsummer bonfire is supposed 
to be a preservative against thunder.* 

In the department of Vienne the bonfire was kindled by 
the oldest man, and before the dance round the flames began 
it was the custom to pass across them a great bunch of mullein 
{bouillon bianc) and a branch of walnut, which next morning 
before sunrise were fastened over the door of the chief cattle- 
shed/' A similar custom prevailed in the neighbouring de- 
partment of Deux-Sevres ; but here it was the priest who 
kindled the bonfire, and old men used to put embers of the fire 

' Ciucrry, **Sur les usages et tradi- 
tions du roilou,'' Mthnoins «■/ Disserta- 
tions ptth/ii\s par la Sdit'tt' Roy ale dcs 
Antitjuaircs dv Frami\ viii. (1S29), p. 

* lireuil, in Mi^moins tit- /a SocitUt* 
(Us Antiqiiaircs (U Piiardii^ viii. (1845), 
p. 206 ; Curtet, op, (it. p. 21C ; Laisncl 
dc la Salle, Croyattas et Lt^^^etuies du 
Centre de ta Fratue^ i. ^"^ ; Lccneur, 
Esquisses du Bocage Normandy ii. 

^11. Gaidt'Z, *'l.c dicu gaulois du 
soleil et le .symliolisnic de la roue," 
A*ci'tte Ar,/h*o/oji;i(/ue^ iii. Scric, iv. 
(1884), p. 20, note 3. 

* L. rincui, A* Folk-lore du Poitou 
(Paris, 1892). p. 499 >ij. In Perigord 
the a:»i)cs of tlic midsummer bonfire arc 
searched for tlic hnir of the Virgin 
(I'ortet, Essiii >ur les fetes rt/ij^ieuscs, 
p. 219). 

* Dc Nore, rp. eit, p. 149 sf. ; 
Cortet, op. (it, p. 218 st/. 


in their wooden shoes as a preservative against many evils.^ 
In some towns and villages of Saintonge and Aunis, provinces 
of Western France now mostly comprised in the department 
of Charente Inf^rieure, the fires of St. John are still kindled 
on Midsummer Eve, but the custom is neither so common 
nor carried out with so much pomp and ceremony as formerly. 
Great quantities of wood used to be piled on an open space 
round about a huge post or a tree stripped of its leaves and 
branches. Every one took care to contribute a faggot to the 
pile, and the whole population marched to the spot in pro- 
cession with the crucifix at their head and the priest bringing 
up the rear. The squire, or other person of high degree, put 
the torch to the pyre, and the priest blessed it. In the 
southern and eastern parts of Saintonge children and cattle 
were passed through the smoke of the bonfires to preserve 
them from contagious diseases, and when the fire had gone 
out the people scuffled for the charred fragments of the 
great post, which they regarded as talismans against thunder. 
Next morning, on Midsummer Day, every shepherdess in 
the neighbourhood was up very early, for the first to drive 
her sheep over the blackened cinders and ashes of the great 
bonfire was sure to have the best flock all that year. Where 
the shepherds shrunk from driving their flocks through the 
smoke and flames of the bonfire they contented themselves 
with marking the hinder-quarters of the animals with a broom 
which had been blackened in the ashes." 

In the mountainous part of Comminges, a province of 
Southern France, now comprised in the department of Haute 
Garonne, the midsummer fire is made by splitting open the 
trunk of a tall tree, stuffing the crevice with shavings, and 
igniting the whole. A garland of flowers is fastened to 
the top of the tree, and at the moment when the fire is 
lighted the man who was last married has to climb up 
a ladder and bring the flowers down. In the flat 
parts of the same district the materials of the midsummer 
bonfires consist of fuel piled in the usual way ; but 

' Dupin, " Notice sur quelqucs fetes (1 823), p. I lo. 
et divertissemens populaires <lu dcparte- 

mcnt des Dcux-Scvres," Mi'moircs ei * J. L. M. Nogu^s, Ixs morurs 

Dissertations publics par !a Soci^ti d^autrefois en Saintonge et en Aunis 

Royale des Antiqnaires dc France^ iv. (Saintes, 1 891), pp. 72, 178 sq. 



they must be put together by men who have been married 
since the last midsummer festival, and each of these benedicts 
IS obliged to lay a wreath of flowers on the top of the pile.^ 
In some districts of the French Pyrenees it is deemed 
necessary to leap nine times over the midsummer fire if 
you would be assured of prosperity.- In Provence the 
midsummer fires are still popular. Children go from door to 
door begging for fuel, and they arc seldom sent empty away. 
Formerly the priest, the mayor, and the aldermen used to walk 
in procession to the bonfire, and even deigned to light it ; 
after which the assembly marched thrice round the burning 
pile, while the church bells pealed and rockets fizzed and 
sputtered in the air. Dancing began later, and the by- 
standers threw water on each other. At Ciotat, while the 
fire was blazing, the young people plunged into the sea and 
splashed each other vigorously. At Vitrolles they bathed 
in a pond in order that they might not suffer from fever 
during the year, and at Saintcs- Maries they watered the 
horses to protect them from the itch.^ At Aix a nominal 
king, chosen from among the youth for his skill in shooting 
at a popinjay, presided over the festival. He selected his 
own officers, and escorted by a brilliant train marched to the 
bonfire, kindled it, and was the first to dance round it. 
Next day he distributed largesse to his followers. His 
reign lasted a year, during which he enjoyed certain privileges. 
He was allowed to attend the mass celebrated by the com- 
mander of the Knights of St. John on St. John's Day ; the 
right of hunting was accorded to him ; and soldiers might 
not be quartered in his house. At Marseilles also on this 
day one of the guilds chose a king of the badachc or double 
a.xe ; but it does not appear that he kindled the bonfire, 
which is said to have been lighted with great ceremony by 

* II. Gaido7., '* Lc dieu solcil et le 
symlwlisme <lc la roue," Kcvu€ Archi*- 
olof^iquc^ iii. Scrie, iv. (1S84), p. 30. 

* I)c Norc, op, cit, p. 127. 

3 I)e Norc, Coutumi's^ mythcs tt 
traditions dis prat'ina's tie France^ p. 
19 sq. \ Hcrcnger - Feraud, Kemin- 
iscetues populaires de la Proi'cme^ pp. 
1 35- 14 1. .\s to the custom at Toulon, 
see Poncy, «pioteil by Brcuil, Mfmoirts 

de la Sorit'titles Antiquaires de Piiardie^ 
viii. (1S45), p. 190 note. The custom 
of drenching |)cnple on this occasion 
uith water usi-d to prevail in Toulon, 
Marseilles, and other towns in the 
south of France. The water was 
s^juirted fiom syrinj»es, poured on the 
heads of passers-by from windows, 
and so on. See Breuil, /»/. *//. p. 237 

288 AflDSUMMER FIRES chap. 

the pr^fet and other authorities.^ In Belgium people jump 
over the midsummer bonfires as a preventive of colic, and 
they keep the ashes at home to hinder fire from breaking out.^ 
The custom of lighting bonfires at midsummer has been 
observed in many parts of our own country. In the North 
of England these fires used to be lit in the open streets. 
Young and old gathered round them, and while the young 
leaped over the fires and engaged in games, their ciders 
looked on and probably remembered with regret the days 
when they used to foot it as nimbly. Sometimes the fires 
were kindled on the tops of high hills. The people also 
carried firebrands about the fields.^ We are told that " on 
midsummer's eve, reckoned according to the old style, it was 
formerly the custom of the inhabitants, young and old, not 
only of Whalton, but of most of the adjacent villages, to 
collect a large cartload of whins and other combustible 
materials, which was dragged by them with great rejoicing 
(a fiddler being seated on the top of the cart) into the 
village and erected into a pile. The people from the sur- 
rounding country assembled towards evening, when it was 
set on fire; and while the young danced around it, the 
elders looked on smoking their pipes and drinking their beer 
until it was consumed." In a law-suit, which was tried in 
1878, the rector of Whalton gave evidence of the constant 
use of the village green for the ceremony since 1 843. " The 
bonfire," he said, " was lighted a little to the north-east of the 
well at Whalton, and partly on the footpath, and people danced 
round it and jumped through it. That was never inter- 
rupted." The Rev. G. R. Hall, writing in 1879, ^^Y^ ^hat 
•* the fire festivals or bonfires of the summer solstice at the 
Old Midsummer until recently were commemorated on 
Christenburg Crags and elsewhere by leaping through and 
dancing round the fires, as those who have been present 
have told me."* In Herefordshire and Somersetshire the 

* I)c Norc, op, cit. p. 20 .«y. ; * /*//. Di-nham 7/v/r/y, edited hy J. 
Cortcl, op, (it, pp. 218, 2iy si^. Hardy, ii. 342 sq.^ quoting Aiwhtroioi^ia 

* E. Monseur, Folklore Wallon^ p. Ailiana^ N.S., viii. 73, and Ihe Pro- 
130, J5S5 1783. 17S6, 1787. <vr/////-y of the Berwickshire Naturalists' 

' Brand, Popular Antiquitus^ i. 300 Club, vi. 242 sq, Whalton is a village 
J^M 3'^» cp- PP' 305» 306, 30S .f./. ; i.f Northumljerland, not far fioni 
A A', p. 512. MoqHrth. 



peasants used to make fires in the fields on Midsummer Eve 
•* to bless the apples." ^ In Devonshire the custom of 
leaping over the midsummer fires was also observed.- In 
Cornwall bonfires were lit on Midsummer Eve and the 
people marched round them with burning torches, which 
they also carried from village to village. On Whiteborough, 
a large tumulus near Launccston, a huge bonfire used to be 
kindled on Midsummer Eve ; a tall summer pole with a 
large bush at the top was fixed in the centre of the bonfire.^ 
The Cornish fires at this season appear to have been com- 
monly lit on high and conspicuous hills, such as Tregonan, 
Godolphin, Carnwarth, and Cambrae. When it grew dusk 
on Midsummer Eve, old men would hobble away to some 
height whence they counted the fires and drew a presage 
from their number.^ At Darowcn in Wales small bonfires 
were kindled on Midsummer Eve.* On the same day people 
in the Isle of Man were wont to light fires to the windward 
of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn ; 
and they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or 
gorse round them several times.*^ 

In Ireland, "on the Eves of St. John Baptist and St. 
Peter, they always have in every town a bonfire late in the 
evening, and carry about bundles of reeds fast tied and 
fired ; these being dry, will last long, and flame better than 
a torch, and be a pleasing divertive prospect to the distant 
beholder ; a stranger would go near to imagine the whole 
country was on fire." ^ Another writer says of the South of 
Ireland : " On Midsummer's Eve, every eminence, near which 
is a habitation, blazes with bonfires ; and round these they 
carry numerous torches, shouting and dancing."* An author 
who described Ireland in the first quarter of the eighteenth 
century says : " On the vigil of St. John the Baptist s nativity. 

* .Aubrey, Kcmaincs of Gnttiiismv 
and Judaistnc^ p. 96, cj). /</., p. 26. 

- Brand, op, at, i. 311. 

3 A/., i. 303, 3I«, 319; Dyer, 
British Popular Customs , p. 315. 

* J. Napier, J-'olk-lort^ or Supersti- 
tious Be I iff s in the West of Seotiatui^ p. 
173, quoting W. liotrcill's Traditions 

VOI- 111 

and Hcarthside Stories of West Corn- 

•'' Brand, op, cil. i. 31S. 

** J. Train, Aeeount of the Isle cf 
J/i///, ii. 120. 

" Brand, i. 303, (|U(>tin{; Sir Ilcnr}' 
riers*s Deseription of West meat h, 

*" Brand, /./*., quoting the author of 
the Sun'ey of the South of Ireland, 


'^ -mm 

13 'i^^Ts^^^WS 





they make bonfires, and run along the streets and fields with 
wisps of straw blazing on long poles to purify the air, which 
they think infectious by believing all the devils, spirits, 
ghosts, and hobgoblins fly abroad this night to hurt man- 
kind."^ Another writer states that he witnessed the festival 
in Ireland in 1782: ** Exactly at midnight the fires began 
to appear, and taking advantage of going up to the leads of 
the house, which had a widely extended view, I saw on a 
radius of thirty miles, all around, the fires burning on every 
eminence which the country afforded. I had a further satis- 
faction in learning, from undoubted authority, that the people 
danced round the Jires^ 2LX\d at the close went through these 
fires, and made their sons and daughters, together with their 
cattle, pass through the fire ; and the whole was conducted 
with religious solemnity."*- That the custom prevailed in 
full force as late as 1867 appears from a notice in a news- 
paper of that date, which runs thus : " The old pagan fire- 
worship still survives in Ireland, though nominally \x\ honour 
of St. John. On Sunday night bonfires were observed 
throughout nearly every county in the province of Lcinster. 
In Kilkenny fires blazed on every hillside at intervals of 
about a mile. There were very many in the Queen's County, 
also in Kildare and Wexford. The effect in the rich sunset 
appeared to travellers very grand. The people assemble 
and dance round the fires, the children jump through the 
flames, and in former times live coals were carried into the 
corn-fields to prevent blight."* In County Lcitrim on St. 
John's Eve, which is called Bonfire Day, fires arc still lighted 
after dusk on the hills and along the sides of the roads/ 
All over Kerry the same thing continues to be done, though 
not so commonly as of old. Small fires were made across 
the road, and to drive through them brought luck for the year. 
Cattle were also driven through the fires. On Lcltcrmorc 
Island, in South Conncmara, some of the ashes from the 
midsummer bonfire are thrown on the fields to fertilise 

^ Hrand, i. 305, quoting the author 
of the Comical Pii^iw^s Pi/jp-ima^i^t' 
into Ireland. 

' Hrand, i. 304, quotinjj Thf Gnttlc- 
mans Maj^azine^ February 1795, P* 

^ Dyer, British Popular CustotPts^ p. 
321 jy., quoting the Liviipool Mfnury 
of June 29lh, 1867. 

* L. L. Duncan, " Further Notes 
from County Leiirim,*' Folk-Ion^ v. 
(1894), p. 193. 

%M^ ' >^ . " ■• ■.•.'.-• ...■-•. Jit 

... ^. 

i . ■ ^, 


them.^ One writer informs us that in Munster and Con- 
naught a bone must always be burned in the fire ; for other- 
wise the people believe that the fire will bring no luck. He 
adds that in many places sterile beasts and human beings are 
passed through the fire, and that as a boy he himself jumped 
through the fire " for luck." - 

Lady Wilde's account of the midsummer festival in Ireland 
is picturesque and probably correct in substance, although she 
does not cite her authorities. As it contains some interesting 
features which are not noticed by the other writers on Ireland 
whom I have consulted, I will quote the greater part of it in 
full. " In ancient times," she says, "the sacred fires were lighted 
with great ceremony on Midsummer Eve, and on that night 
all the people of the adjacent country kept watch on the 
western promontory of Howth, and the moment the first 
flash was seen from that spot the fact of ignition was 
announced with wild cries and cheers repeated from village 
to village, when all the local fires began to blaze, and 
Ireland was circled by a cordon of flame rising up from 
every hill. Then the dance and song began round every 
fire, and the wild hurrahs filled the air with the most frantic 
revelry. Many of these ancient customs are still continued, 
and the fires are still lighted on St. John's Eve on every hill 
in Ireland. When the fire has burned down to a red glow 
the young men strip to the waist and leap over or through 
the flames ; this is done backwards and forwards several 
times, and he who braves the greatest blaze is considered 
the victor over the powers of evil, and is greeted with 
tremendous applause. When the fire burns still lower, the 
young girls leap the flame, and those who leap clean over 
three times back and forward will be certain of a speedy 
marriage and good luck in after-life, with many children. 
The married women then walk through the lines of the 
burning embers ; and when the fire is nearly burnt and 
trampled down, the yearling cattle are driven through the 
hot ashes, and their back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. 
These rods arc kept safely afterwards, being considered of 

* A. C. Haddon, ** A latch of Irish - G. II., ** N«)tcs on Irish 

rolk-lorc,*' /•i>A67i;/v, iv. (1S93), pp. Folk-lorcV/v.'X-A?/r AVr<?r»/, iv.(i88l), 
35^ 359. p. 97- 

•• 7 ■.'1 


immense power to drive the cattle to and fro from the 
watering-places. As the fire diminishes the shouting grows 
fainter, and the song and the dance commence ; while pro- 
fessional story-tellers narrate tales of fairy-land, or of the 
good old times long ago, when the kings and princes of 
Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there was food 
to eat and wine to drink for all comers to the feast at the 
king's house. When the crowd at length separate, every 
one carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is 
attached to the lighted brone which is safely carried to the 
house without breaking or falling to the ground. Many 
contests also arise amongst the young men ; for whoever 
enters his house first with the sacred fire brings the good 
luck of the year with him." ^ 

In Scotland the traces of midsummer fires are few. We 
are told by a writer of the eighteenth century that " the 
midsummer-even fire, a relict of Druidism," was kindled in 
some parts of the county of Perth.^ Another writer of the 
same period, describing what he calls the Druidical festivals 
of the Highlanders, says that " the least considerable of 
them is that of midsummer. In the Highlands of Perth- 
shire there are some vestiges of it. The cowherd goes three 
times round the fold, according to the course of the sun, 
with a burning torch in his hand. They imagined this 
rite had a tendency to purify their herds and flocks, and to 
prevent diseases. At their return the landlady makes an 
entertainment for the cowherd and his associates."* In the 
north-east of Scotland, down to the latter half of the 
cii^htccnth century, farmers used to go round their lands with 
burning torches about the middle of June.** At the village 
of Tarbolton in Ayrshire a bonfire has been annually kindled 
from time immemorial on the evening of the first Monday 
after the eleventh of June. A noted cattle-market was 
formerly held at the fair on the following day. The bonfire 

* Lady Wilde, Aiuicnt I^\ritJs^ 3 John Ramsay of Ochterlyrc, Siof- 
Mystic Charms^ and Superstitions of land and Scotsmen in the Eightcintii 
/re/and^ ii. 214 si/. Century^ edited by A. AUardyce, ii. 

* A. Johnstone, de>crilHng the parish 436. 

of Monquhitter in IVrthahirc, in Sin- * Shaw, in Pennant's ** Tour in Scot- 

flair's Staiistiidi Anount 0/ Siot/and^ land,** printed in Pinkerton's f<y'i/;'«x 
xxi. 145. attd Travels f ill. 136. 




is still lit at the gloaming by the lads and lasses of the 
village on a high mound or hillock just outside of the 
village. Fuel for it is collected by the lads from door to 
door. The youth dance round the fire and leap over the 
fringes of it. The many cattle-drovers who used to assemble 
for the fair were wont to gather round the blazing pile, 
smoke their pipes, and listen to the young folk singing in 
chorus on the hillock. Afterwards they wrapped themselves 
in their plaids and slept round the bonfire, which was 
intended to last all night.^ Moresin states that on St. Peter's 
Day, which is the twenty-ninth of June, the Scotch ran 
about with lighted torches on mountains and high grounds,- 
and towards the end of the eighteenth century the parish 
minister of Loudoun, a district of Ayrshire whose " bonn>' 
woods and braes" have been sung by Burns, wrote that 
** the custom still remains amongst the herds and young 
people to kindle fires in the high grounds, in honour of 
Bel tan. Be/tan^ which in Gaelic signifies Baal, or Bets-fire, 
was antiently the time of this solemnity. It is now kept on 
St. Peter's day." ^ 

Far more important in Scotland, however, than the mid- 
summer fires were the bonfires kindled on Allhallow Even 
or Hallowe'en, that is on the thirty-first of October, the 
day preceding All Saints or Allhallows* Day. As these 
Hallowe'en bonfires belong to the class of celebrations with 
which we are here concerned, we may interrupt our ex- 
amination of the midsummer festivals to notice them. Like 
the Beltane fires on the first of May, they seem to have 
prevailed most commonly in the Perthshire Highlands. On 
the evening of Hallowe'en " the young people of every hamlet 
assembled upon some eminence near the houses. There they 
made a bonfire of ferns or other fuel, cut the same day, which 
from the feast was called Samh-nag or Strcnag^ a fire of rest 

* From notes kindly furnished to 
me by the Rev. J. C. Ilig^ins, parish 
minister of Tarbolton. Mr. Higgins 
adds that he knows of no superstition 
connected with the fire, and no tra- 
dition of its origin. I visited the 
scene of the bonfire in 1898, Init, as 
Pausanias says (viii. 41. 6) in similar 
circumstances, ** I di«I nui happen to 

arrive at the season of the festival." 
Indeed the snow was falling thick as 
I truflged to the village through the 
beautiful wtxxls of ** the Castle o' 
Montgomer)* ** immortalised by Bums. 

^ Quoted by Mannhardt, An/////- 
kuituSy p. 512. 

^ G. Lawrie, in .Sinclair's Statistkat 
AtiOiint of Scotland^ iii. 105. 

*'■•■. .-r ■.- ■• ■ ■ ' ■• ■ . " •' - 


p:¥»iRP5B^s.' .r ,.i,?;"r:: ^ 







and pleasure. Around it was placed a circle of stones, one 
for each person of the families to whom they belonged. 
And when it grew dark the bonfire was kindled, at which a 
loud shout was set up. Then each person taking a torch of 
ferns or sticks in his hand, ran round the fire exulting ; and 
sometimes they went into the adjacent fields, where, if there 
was another company, they visited the bonfire, taunting the 
others if inferior in any respect to themselves. After the 
fire was burned out they returned home, where a feast was 
prepared, and the remainder of the evening was spent in 
mirth and diversions of various kinds. Next morning they 
repaired betimes to the bonfire, where the situation of the 
stones was examined with much attention. If any of them 
were misplaced, or if the print of a foot could be discerned 
near any particular stone, it was imagined that the person 
for whom it was set would not live out the year. Of late 
years this is less attended to, but about the beginning of the 
present century it was regarded as a sure prediction. The 
Hallowe'en fire is still kept up in some parts of the Low 
Country ; but on the western coast and in the isles it is 
never kindled, though the night is spent in merriment and 
entertainments."^ In the Perthshire parish of Callander, 
which includes the now famous pass of the Trossachs open- 
ing out on the winding and wooded shores of the lovely 
Loch Katrine, the Hallowe'en bonfires were still kindled 
down to near the end of the eighteenth century. When the 
fire had died down, the ashes were carefully collected in the 
form of a circle, and a stone was put in, near the cir- 
cumference, for every person of the several families interested 
in the bonfire. Next morning, if any of these stones was 
found to be displaced or injured, the people made sure that 
the person represented by it was fey or devoted, and that 
he could not live twelve months from that day.* In the 
parish of Logierait, which covers the beautiful valley of 
the Tunimcl, one of the fairest regions of all Scotland, the 
Hallowe'en fire was somewhat different. Faggots of heath, 

* John Kainsay of Ochlcrlyrc, SiOt- 
iand ami SiOtsnwn in the Ei^htvntth 
Cnttuiy, edited by A. Allardyce, ii. 
437 St/, This account was written in 

the eighteenth cenlur)'. 

- J. Kolicrtson, in Sinclair'^ H/a/- 
isthal Aaoiait 0/ Stot/and^ xi. 621 

^..- jii --f .V ■•; ', 




broom, and the dressings of flax were kindled and carried on 
poles by men, who ran with them round the villages, attended 
by a crowd. As soon as one faggot was burnt out, a fresh 
one was lighted and fastened to the pole. Numbers of these 
blazing faggots were often carried about together, and when 
the night happened to be dark, they formed a splendid 
illumination.^ Hallowe'en fires were also lighted in some 
parts of the north-cast of Scotland. Villagers and farmers 
alike must have their fire. In the villages the boys went 
from house to house and begged a peat from each house- 
holder, generally with the words, " Ge*s a peat t* burn the 
witches." When the peats and other fuel had been got 
together, they were piled in a heap and set on fire. Then 
each of the youths, one after another, laid himself down on the 
ground as near to the fire as he could without being burned, 
and thus lying allowed the smoke to roll over him. The 
others ran through the smoke and jumped over their prostrate 
comrade. When the fire had gone out, the ashes were scattered, 
the boys vying with each other who should scatter the most. 
After that they continued to run through them and to pelt 
each other with the charred peats. At each farm the spot 
chosen for the bonfire was as high as conveniently possible ; 
and the proceedings at it were much the same as at the 
village bonfires. The lads of one farm, when their own fire 
was burnt out, sometimes went to a neighbouring fire and 
helped to kick the ashes about." 

In the northern part of Wales, that other great Celtic 
region of Britain, it used also to be customary for ever)- 
family to make a great bonfire called Cod Coeth on Hallow- 
e'en. The fire was kindled on the most conspicuous spot 
near the house ; and when it had nearly gone out every one 
threw into the ashes a white stone, which he had first marked. 
Then having said their prayers round the fire, they went to 
bed. Next morning, as soon as they were up, they came to 

' A Stewart, in Sinclair's St-Uistuai 
.t<\ouitf 0/ Stof/tiittl^ V. 84 St/. 

' W. Clrej;or, I-olk-Ion- 0/ the North- 
/Cast 0/ Siotland^ p. 1 67 .v^. A different 
interpretation is put u)X)n this last 
custom hy another writer, who, in 
describing; the Hallowe'en customs of 
Ituchan, say> : '* The hallow fire was 

kindled, and guarded by the male part 
of the family. Societies were formed, 
either by pi(}ue or humour, to scatter 
certain fires, and the attack and defence 
were often con<lucted with art and 
with fury '* (A. Johnstone, in Sinclair's 
Statist it til Anoutit of SiOtlaud^ xxi. 




search out the stones, and if any one of them was found to 
be missing, they had a notion that the person who threw it 
would die before he saw another Hallowe'en.^ A writer on 
Wales says that " the autumnal fire is still kindled in North 
Wales, being on the eve of the first day of November, and 
is attended by many ceremonies ; such as running through 
the fire and smoke, each casting a stone into the fire, and all 
running off at the conclusion to escape from the black short- 
tailed sow ; then supping upon parsnips, nuts, and apples ; 
catching up an apple suspended by a string with the mouth 
alone, and the same by an apple in a tub of water : each 
throwing a nut into the fire ; and those that burn bright, 
betoken prosperity to the owners through the following 
year, but those that burn black and crackle, denote mis- 
fortune. On the following morning the stones are searched 
for in the fire, and if any be missing, they betide ill to those 
who threw them in." - According to Professor Rhys, the 
habit of celebrating Hallowe'en by lighting bonfires on the 
hills is perhaps not yet extinct in Wales, and men still living 
can remember how the people who assisted at the bonfires 
would wait till the last spark was out and then would 
suddenly take to their heels, shouting at the top of their 
voices, " The cropped black sow seize the hindmost ! " The 
saying, as Professor Rhys justly remarks, implies that origin- 
ally one of the company became a victim in dc«id earnest. 
Down to the present time the saying is current in Carnarvon- 
shire, where allusions to the cutty black sow are still occasion- 
ally made to frighten children.' We can now understand why 
in Lower Brittany every person throws a pebble into the 
midsummer bonfire.** Doubtless here, as in Wales and the 
Highlands of Scotland, omens of life and death have at one 
time or other been drawn from the position and state of 
the pebbles on the morning of All Saints* Day. The custom, 
thus found among three separate branches of the Celtic 

* Pennanfs manuscript, quoted l)y 
Brand, Popular AtttiquitieSy i. 3S9 sq, 

^ Sir Richard Coll lloare, The /fin- 
frary of Archbishop Baldwin through 
Wales A.D, MCLXXXmi. by Ciraldus 
de Harri (London, 1806), ii. 315; 
Brand, Popular Apitiquities^ i. 390. 
The passage quoted in the text occurs 

in one of IIoare*s notes on the Itinerary. 

' J. Khys, Celtic Hcathcudotn^ p. 
515/^. These 1 lallowe'en fire-festivals 
in Wales and Scotland can hardly lie 
dissevered from the ancient Irish cus- 
tom of kindling a new fire on that day. 
See alx)ve, p. 253. 

* Sec above, p. 280. 





stock, probably dates from a period before their dispersion, or 
at least from a time when alien races had not yet driven 
home the wedges of separation between them.^ 

But it is time to return to the midsummer festival and 
to pass from the cloudy homes of the Celt to sunnier climes. 
All over Spain great bonfires called lumcs are still lit on 
Midsummer Eve. They are kept up all night, and the 
children leap over them in a certain rhythmical way which 
is said to resemble the ancient dances. On the coast, people 
at this season plunge into the sea ; in the inland districts 
the villagers go and roll naked in the dew of the meadows, 
which is supposed to be a sovereign preservative against 
diseases of the skin. On this evening, too, girls who would 
pry into the future put a vessel of water on the sill out- 
side their window ; and when the clocks strike twelve, 
they break an egg in the water and see, or fancy they 
sec, in the shapes assumed by the pulp, as it blends 
with the liquid, the likeness of future bridegrooms, 
castles, coffins, and so forth. But generally, as might 
perhaps have been expected, the obliging egg exhibits the 
features of a bridegroom.- In Corsica on the Eve of St. 
John the people set fire to the trunk of a tree or to a whole 
tree, and the young men and maidens dance round the 
blaze, which is called fucaraia? We have seen that at 
Ozicri, in Sardinia, a great bonfire is kindled on St. John's 
Eve, and that the young people dance round it* Passing 
to Italy, we find that the midsummer fires are still lighted 

' Ii In worth noting that in the 
I'rcnch «lcpnrlmenl of Deux -Sevres 
younj; |H'oj)Ie used to assemble in the 
licliis on All Saints' Day (the first of 
November) and kindle great fires of 
ferns, thorns, leaves, and stubble, at 
which iliey roastetl chestnuts. They 
also danced round the Hres and in- 
<iulged in noisy pastimes. Sec Baron 
Dupin. in JAwiu'ns ptthlu^cs par la 
Socii'ti' Koyali litS Antiquaires di 
Franit\ iv. (1S23), p. 108. 

* Letter from Dr. Otero Acevado of 
Madrid, published in Ix Tcni/s^ Septem- 
\kt 189S. An extract from the news- 
pa{>er was sent me, but without mention 
of the day of the month when it appearetl. 

The fires on St. Jtdm's Kvc in Spain are 
mentioned also by Hrand, Popular Jm- 
//.//////t-j, i. 317. Grimm inferred the 
custom from a passage in a romance 
(n,iihrhc J/v//io/oi:t\\* i. 518). To 
roll in the dew on the morning of 
St. John's Day is a cure for diseases 
of the skin in Normandy, Pcrigord, 
and the Abruzzo, as well as in S|>ain 
(I^cccur, /'ls(fuissrs du Hot'a;^ A'or- 
Ntattd, ii. 8 ; De Norc, Couluims^ 
fttythcs et traditions dts prm*inces de 
france^ p. 1 50 ; Finamore, Crtdtiize^ 
Usi V Costutni Ahruzzesi^ p. 157). 

^ ( !ul>ernatis, Mvtholof^t des Plantes^ 
i. 185. 

* Atx>ve, vol. ii. p. 127. 

jf^V^"...,:-.. ■■■ 

r .i.^: 





on St. John's Eve in many parts of the Abruzzo. They are 
commonest in the territory which was inhabited in antiquity 
by the Vestini ; they are rarer in the land of the ancient 
Marsi, and they disappear entirely in the lower valley of the 
Sangro. F*or the most part, the fires are fed with straw and 
dry grass, and are kindled in the fields near the villages or 
on high ground. As they blaze up, the people dance round 
or over them. In leaping across the flames the boys cry 
out, " St. John, preserve my thighs and legs ! " Formerly 
it used to be common to light the bonfires also in the 
towns in front of churches of St. John, and the remains of 
the sacred fire were carried home by the people ; but this 
custom has mostly fallen into disuse. However, at Cclano 
the practice is still kept up of taking brands and ashes from 
the bonfires to the houses, although the fires are no longer 
kindled in front of the churches, but merely in the streets.^ 
At Orvieto the midsummer fires were specially excepted 
from the prohibition directed against bonfires in general.' 

In Greece, the custom of kindling fires on St. John's Eve 
and jumping over them is said to be still universal. One 
reason assigned for it is a wish to escape from the fleas.* 
According to another account, the women cry out, as they 
leap over the fire, " I leave my sins behind me." ^ In Lesbos 
the fires are usually lighted by threes, and the people spring 
thrice over them, each with a stone on his head, saying, " I 
jump the hare's fire, my head a stone ! ""^ In Calymnos the 
midsummer fire is supposed to ensure abundance in the 
coming year as well as deliverance from fleas. The people 
dance round the fires singing, with stones on their heads, 
and then jump over the blaze or the glowing embers. When 
the fire is burning low, they throw the stones into it ; and 
when it is nearly out, they make crosses on ihcir legs and 

* Kinamore, Cirt/ittzi\ L'si c Cost u mi 
.Ibntzztsi (Palermo, 1S90), p. 154 st/. 
In the Abruzzo water aUo is supposed 
to acquire certain marvellous and liene- 
ticent projH:nies on St. John's Nijjlit. 
Hence many people make a point of 
bathinif in the sea or a river at that 
s;:as(>n, cs|H:ciaIly at the moment uf 
N'mrisc. See Finanjore, o/*, tit. pp. 
158-160. We n)ay compare the Pro- 
ven^-al custom of liaihing and spla^ihing 

water at midsummer (aU»ve, p. 2S7). 

- Grimm, DtiitSifw MytholxX'*^^ •• 

*• \V. K. Palon, in lollc-lori^ ii. 
(1 89 1), p. 128. The custom was re- 
|>ortetl to mc when I was in (ireece in 
1890 {Folklore^ i. (1S90), p. 520). 

* Grimm, /)c///.v*//.- Mytlwlt\i^it\^^ i. 


* Gcorgeakis ct Pineau, /'oll-hir d,- 

/.esltoSf p. 308. 

•• iiji..i**; 

.■•.•.*' oUvT-'-J-V >• 





then go straightway and bathe in the sea.^ In Cos the lads 
and lasses dance round the bonfires on St. John's Eve. 
Each of the lads binds a black stone on his head, signifying 
that he wishes to become as strong as the stone. Also they 
make the sign of the cross on their feet and legs and jump 
over the fire.- On Midsummer Eve the Greeks of Macedonia 
light fires after supper in front of their gates. The garlands, 
now faded, which were hung over the doors on May Day, 
are taken down and cast into the flames, after which the 
young folk leap over the blaze, fully persuaded that St. 
John's fire will not burn them.^ Even the Mohammedans 
of Algeria and Morocco are reported to have kindled great 
midsummer bonfires of straw, into which they kept throwing 
incense and spices the whole night, invoking the divine 
blessing on their fruit-trees.* From the Old World the 
midsummer fires have been carried across the Atlantic to 
America. In Brazil people jump over the fires of St. John, 
and at this season they can take hot coals in their mouths 
without burning themselves/' In Bolivia on the Eve of St. 
John it is usual to sec bonfires lighted on the hills and even 
in the streets of the capital La Paz. The writer who reports 
the custom adds that he cannot say whether it was in- 
troduced by the Spaniards, or was prevalent before the 

It remains to show that the burning of effigies of human 
beings in the midsummer fires was not uncommon. At 
Rottenburg in Wurtemberg, down to the beginning of the 
present century, a ceremony was observed on Midsummer 
Day which was called ** beheading the angcl-man." A stump 
was driven into the ground, wrapt with straw, and fashioned 
into the rude likeness of a human figure, with arms, head, 

' \V. K. I'aton, in /v/v- /«»/•», \i. 
(1S95), p. 94. From the stones cn.>t 
into the fire oIntfn^ may perhaps l>e 
drawn, as in Scotland, Wales, and 
probably Hritlany. See aKne, pp. 
2S0, 294, 295 s,/. 

- \V. II. D. Kouse, ** Folklore from 
I he Southern Sp<»ra<les,"' lolk-lony x. 
(1899), p. 179. 

2 Lucy M. J. (.larncll, The Wonitii 
of Turlry and thtir I'olk - /*»/•. , th, 
Christ iiiit IVoiiitu^ p. 122. 

* (i. I'erriiro, Sifj\r>ti-Jom\ iisi < 
f.'vi-til'i Mott/tir:m\ p. 34 jry., refcr- 
linii to Alvi>e da CadanioNto, A't/aziv/i 
ti\ i r/inxi i/'.l/'r/nt in Kaniusio. 

^ K. von den Slcinen, Uittcr tint 
Xtttttr- 1 \ii:, nt /.i ntral- JirasilUtts^ p. 

•• I). Ki»rl)es, ** On the Aymara 
Indian> of Ikdivia anil I'eru," fvurnal 
#•/' //•«• Kthnoh}^fal Sotufy of I vmhtiy 
ii. (1870), p. 235. 

T^ ■■:#' 


and face. This was the angel-man ; round about him wood 
was piled up. The boys, armed with swords, assembled in 
crowds, covered the figure completely over with flowers, and 
eagerly awaited the signal. When the pile of wood was 
fired and the angel -man burst into a blaze, the word was 
given and all the boys fell upon him with their swords and 
hewed the burning figure in pieces. Then they leaped back- 
wards and forwards over the fire.^ In some parts of the 
Tyrol a straw-man is carted about the village on Midsummer 
Day and then burned. He is called the Loiter, which has 
been corrupted into Luther.^ In French Flanders down to 
1789 a straw figure representing a man was always burned 
in the midsummer bonfire, and the figure of a woman was 
burned on St. Peter's Day, the twenty-ninth of June.* At 
Griitz on the twenty-third of June the common people used 
to make a puppet called the Tatennann, which they dragged 
to the bleaching-ground, and pelted with burning besoms till 
it took fire.* In some parts of Russia a figure of Kupalo is 
burned or thrown into a stream on St. John's Night.^ The 
Russian custom of carrying a straw effigy of Kupalo over 
the midsummer bonfire has been already described.*^ 

The best general explanation of these European fire- 
festivals seems to be the one given by Mannhardt, namely, 
that they are sun-charms or magical ceremonies intended to 
ensure a proper supply of sunshine for men, animals, and 
plants. We have seen that savages resort to charms for 
making sunshine," and it is no wonder that primitive man \w 
Europe has done the same. Indeed, when we consider the 
cold and cloudy climate of Europe during a great part of the 
year, we shall find it natural that sun-charms should have 
played a much more prominent part among the superstitious 
practices of European peoples than among those of savages 
who live nearer the equator. This view of the festivals is 
supported by various arguments drawn partly from the 

' Birlingcr, Volksthumliches atts p. 364 ; Wolf, Beitriiji^c zur deutschcn 

Sih'i*ahfn^ \\. lOO sq, ; H.K. p. 513 sq. Mythologies ii. 392 ; B,K, p. 513. 

^ Zingcrle, Sit ten ^ etc., des Tiroler * // A' p 513 

Volhs,-^ p. 159. S 1353. cp. S .355 : , K,,,;„^ ^; ,f M. Russian 

//.A. p. 513. P hi 20 

3 >iadainc Clement, Histoirc des S ' 

fetes etrites et relifpeuses, etc., du Dt'- * Above, vol. ii. p. 105. 

partcment dit Nord (Cambrai, 1836), ^ Above, vol. i. p. 115 sqq. 

■''- :>'■ 




rites themselves, partly from the influence which they are 
believed to exert upon the weather and on vegetation. For 
example, the custom of rolling a burning wheel down a hill- 
side, which is often observed at these times, seems a \ety 
natural imitation of the sun's course in the sky, and the 
imitation is especially appropriate on Midsummer Day when 
the sun's annual declension begins.^ Not less graphic is the 
mimicry of his apparent revolution by swinging a burning 
tar-barrel round a pole.- The custom of throwing blazing 
discs, shaped like suns, into the air is probably also a piece 
of imitative magic. In these, as in so many cases, the magic 
force is supposed to take effect through mimicry or sympathy ; 
by imitating the desired result you actually produce it ; by 
counterfeiting the sun's progress through the heavens you 
really help the luminary to pursue his celestial journey with 
punctuality and despatch. The name " fire of heaven," by 
which the midsummer fire is sometimes popularly known,* 
clearly indicates a consciousness of the connection between 
the earthly and the heavenly flame. 

Again, the manner in which the fire appears to have 
been originally kindled on these occasions favours the view 
that it was intended to be a mock -sun. For, as various 
scholars have seen,** it is highly probable that originally at 
these festivals fire was universally obtained by the friction of 
two pieces of wood. We have seen that this is still the case 
in some places both at the Easter and midsummer fires, and 
that it is expressly stated to have been formerly the case at 
the Beltane fircs.^ But what makes it almost certain that 
this was once the invariable morJc of kindling the fire at 
these periodic festivals is the analogy of the need -fires. 
Xccd-fircs arc kindled, not at fixed periods, but on occasions 
of special distress, particularly at the outbreak of a murrain. 

* On the wheel as an emblem of the 
sun, sec Grimm, Deutsche J/jY//^/i\'/>,* 
li. 585 ; II. Gauioz, " Le dicu gaulois 
(lu soleil et le symbolisme de la ruiic,'' 
A'cz'uc Archi^o/oi^iifiii\ iiu scrio, iv. 
(1884), p. 14 /^y. In the old Mexican 
picture-books the sun is often repre- 
sented as a wheel of many coh)urs (E. 
J. Payne, History of the Xcu} Worlti 
fa/led America f i. 521). 

' Above, p. 272. 

•* l»irlinj;cr, \'elf:>thumliihcs ants 
Schwiiihn, ii. 57, 97; A. A', p. 510: 
cp. Panzer, /»\i/ra^'^ utr tiiti/y^'. n 
Mytholoi;i>\ ii. 240. 

* Cp. (irimm, />..!/.* i. 521 ; Wolf. 
I>eitra}^c iiir (ittitsihtii .\Jythoioxit-^ ii. 
389 ; Ad. Kuhn, IliyahLnnjt a. 
/'htt'rsr pp.41 -V-»'l7 J ^^*« Mannhard*, 
/v. A', p. 521. 

•* See alx>ve, pp. 2 58, 260 «./•♦ -7-t 
275, 276. 

. «l 




and the cattle are driven through the need-fire, just as they 
are sometimes driven through the midsummer fires.^ Now, 
the need-fire has almost always been produced by the friction 
of wood and sometimes by the revolution of a wheel ; in 
Mull, for example, it was made by turning an oaken wheel 
over nine oaken spindles from east to west, that is, in the 
direction of the sun.^ It is a plausible conjecture that the 
wheel employed to produce the need-fire represents the sun ;* 
and if the spring and midsummer fires were originally pro- 

' On the need -fires, see Grimm, 
D,M. i. 501 sqq, ; Wolf, op. cit. i. 
116 sq.^ ii. 378 sqq. ; Kuhn, op, cit. 
p. 41 sqq. ; li.K. p. 518 sqq. ; Kelly, 
Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition 
atut Folk-iore^ p. 48 sqq. ; Elton, Ori- 
gins of English History^ p. 293 sq. ; 
Jahn, Die deutschen Opfergebriinche 
bci Afkerbau ufui Viehzucht^ p. 26 sqq. 

3 Grimm, D.M.^ i. 506. The fire 
was made on the top of Cammoor 
Hill, every common fire in every house 
within sight of the hill having l>een 
previously extinguished. In 17^7 ^ 
delay in the production of the need-fire 
was attributed to the obstinacy of one 
householder who would not let his 
fires be put out. The rule that all 
fires in the neigh liourhood must be 
extinguished while the need -fire is 
beinu made is common to Scotland 
and Germany. See Martin, ** Dcscrip- 
tion of the Western Islands of Scot- 
land," in Pinkcrlon's Voyages and 
Travels, iii. 611 ; Grimm, />..!/.* i. 
502, 503, 504, 507 ; Colshorn, Saiyn 
und Miinhi-n (ILmover, 1854), p. 
234 sq. ; Pnihle, Harzbildcr (Lcipsic, 
1S55), p. 74 sq. In Prcihlc's account 
we read how in a village near Quedlin- 
burg the kindlinj; of the need-fire was 
imixrded by a night-light burning in the 
|)arsunage ; how the people knocked at 
the window and lK*ggcd earnestly, but 
in vain, that ihc light might Iw ex- 
tinguished ; ami how their ho|)c of 
pniducing the nced-firc revived t»>\vards 
morning when llic night-light went out 
of itself. A.c«»rdin^ to one account, 
in the IIi<'hlanii« of Scotland the lule 
thit all common fires nmst l»e previ- 
ously extinguished applied only to the 
houics situated lietween the two nearest 

running streams (Kelly, Curiosities of 
Indo-European Tradition and Foik-iore, 
p. 53 sq.). In Bulgaria also every fire 
in the village must be extinguished 
l>efore the need-fire is kindled ; even 
smoking is forbidden. Two naked 
men produce the fire by rubbing dry 
branches together in the forest ; and 
with the flame thus elicited they light 
two fires, one on each side of a cross- 
road haunted by wolves. The cattle 
are then driven between the two fires, 
from which glowing embers are after- 
wards taken to rekindle the cold hearths 
in the houses (A. Strausz, Die Bulgarcn, 
p. 198). In Caithness the men who 
kindled the need-fire had previously to 
divest themselves of all metal (Jamieson, 
Dictionary of the Scottish Langtiagc, s.v. 
**Xeid-fire," vol. iii. p. 349 sq.^ ed. 
Longmuir and Donaldson). In some 
of the Hebrides the men who made the 
need- fire had to be eighty-one in number 
and all married ; they worked at rubbing 
the two planks together by relays of nine 
men at a time (Martin, I.e. ). Sometimes 
the fire is produced, not by the friction 
of two pieces of wood, but by the friction 
of a rope on wood. In the Ilalberstadt 
district the rope had to Ix: pulled by 
two chaste boys ((irimm, />..!/.* i. 504). 
It is reported, contrary to the usual 
custom, that near WolfenbiUtel the 
need -fire had to be struck by the 
smith from the cold anvil (R. Andree, 
Hrtiiinschwcigcr Voikskunde, p. 314). 
In Kngland the need -fire is said to 
have been kindled at liirtley within 
t!»e last half- century {The Dcnham 
Tract >, ii. 342 ; compare ibid. pp. 50, 
365 sq. ). 

^ This is the view of Grimm, Wolf, 
Kuhn, Kelly, and Mannhardt. 


duced in the same way, it would be a confirmation of the 
view that they were originally sun-charms. In point of fact 
there is, as Kuhn has pointed out,^ some evidence to show 
that the midsummer fire was originally thus produced. Wc 
have seen that many Hungarian swineherds make fire on 
Midsummer Eve by rotating a wheel round a wooden axle 
wrapt in hemp, and that they drive their pigs through the 
fire thus made.^ At Obermedlingen, in Swabia, the " fire of 
heaven," as it was called, was made on St. Vitus's Day (the 
fifteenth of June) by igniting a cart-wheel, which, smeared 
with pitch and plaited with straw, was fastened on a pole 
twelve feet high, the top of the pole being inserted in the 
nave of the wheel. This fire was made on the summit of 
the mountain, and as the flame ascended, the people uttered 
a set form of words, with eyes and arms directed heaven- 
ward.* Here the fixing of a wheel on a pole and igniting it 
suggests that originally the fire was produced, as in the case 
of the need-fire, by the revolution of a wheel. The day on 
which the ceremony takes place (the fifteenth of June) is 
near midsummer ; and we have seen that in Masuren fire is 
or used to be actually made on Midsummer Day by turning 
a wheel rapidly about an oaken pole, though it is not said 
that the new fire so produced is used to light a bonfire. 

Once more, the influence which these bonfires are sup- 
posed to exert on the weather and on v^etation, goes to 
show that they are sun-charms, since the effects ascribed to 
them are identical with those of sunshine. Thus, we have 
seen that in the Vosges Mountains the people believe that 
the midsummer fires help to preserve the fruits of the earth 
and ensure good crops. In Sweden the warmth or cold of 
the coming season is inferred from the direction in which the 
flames of the May Day bonfire are blown ; if they blow to 
the south, it will be warm, if to the north, cold. No doubt 
at present the direction of the flames is regarded merely as 
an augury of the weather, not as a mode of influencing it. 
But we may be pretty sure that this is one of the cases in 
which magic has dwindled into divination. So in the Eifel 
Mountains, when the smoke blows towards the corn-fields, 

* Herahkunft dcs Fi'Hi'rsr p. 47. ^ I*anzcr, /icitraji;^ zur deuisekm 

^ Sec above, p. 277. Mythoh^f^ ii. 240, § 443. 


this is an omen that the harvest will be abundant. But 
doubtless the older view was, not merely that the smoke 
and flames prognosticated, but that they actually produced 
an abundant harvest, the heat of the flames acting like sun- 
shine on the corn. Indeed, this older view must still have 
been held by people in the Isle of Man when they lit fires to 
windward of their fields in order that the smoke might blow 
over them. Notions of this sort are not confined to Europe. 
In South Africa, about the month of April, the Matabele light 
huge fires to the windward of their gardens, " their idea being 
that the smoke, by passing over the crops, will assist the ripen- 
ing of them." ^ Among the Zulus also " medicine is burned 
on a fire placed to windward of the garden, the fumigation 
which the plants in consequence receive being held to improve 
the crop." * Again, the idea of our European peasants that 
the corn will grow well as far as the blaze of the bonfire is 
visible, is certainly a remnant of the belief in the quickening 
and fertilising power of the bonfires. The same belief re- 
appears in the notion that embers taken from the bonfires 
and inserted in the fields will promote the growth of the 
crops, and again it plainly underlies the customs of sowing flax- 
seed in the direction in which the flames blow, of mixing the 
ashes of the bonfire with the seed-corn at sowing, and of 
scattering the ashes by themselves over the field. The belief 
that the flax will grow as high as the flames rise or the 
people leap over them belongs clearly to the same class of 
ideas. Once more, we saw that at Konz, on the banks of 
the Moselle, if the blazing wheel which was trundled down 
the hillside reached the river without being extinguished, 
this was hailed as a proof that the vintage would be 
abundant. So firmly was this belief held that the success- 
ful performance of the ceremony entitled the villagers to levy 
a tax upon the owners of the neighbouring vineyards. Here 
the unextinguished wheel meant an unclouded sun, and this 
again portended an abundant vintage. So the waggon-load of 
white wine which the villagers received from the vineyards 
round about was in fact a payment for the sunshine which 
they had procured for the grapes. 

' L. Decle, 77irce Vt-ars in Sazti^r - J. Shooter, 7'he Kajiis of Aa/ii/^ 

Africa ^ p. l6o sq. p. i8. 


But in popular belief the quickening and fertilising in- 
fluence of the bonfires is not limited to the vegetable world ; 
it extends also to animals. This plainly appears both from 
the Irish custom of driving barren cattle through the mid- 
summer fires, and from the German practice of mixing the 
ashes of the bonfires with the drink of cattle in order to 
make the animals thrive. Further, there are clear indications 
that even human fecundity is supposed to be promoted by 
the genial heat of the fires. It is an Irish belief that a girl 
who jumps thrice over the midsummer bonfire will soon 
marry and become the mother of many children ; and in 
various parts of France they think that if a girl dances 
round nine fires she will be sure to marry within the year. 
On the other hand, in Lechrain people say that if a young 
man and woman, leaping over the midsummer fire together, 
escape unsmirched, the young woman will not become a 
mother within twelve months — the flames have not touched 
and fertilised her. The rule observed in some parts of France 
and Belgium that the bonfires on the first Sunday in Lent 
should be kindled by the person who was last married seems 
to belong to the same class of ideas, whether it be that such 
a person is supposed to receive from, or to impart to, the fire 
a generative and fertilising influence. The common practice 
of lovers leaping over the fires hand in hand may very well 
have originated in a notion that thereby their marriage would 
be more likely to be blessed with offspring. And the scenes 
of profligacy which appear to have marked the midsummer 
celebration among the Esthonians, as they once marked the 
celebration of May Day among ourselves, may have sprung, 
not from the mere licence of holiday-makers, but from a 
crude notion that such orgies were justified, if not required, 
by some mysterious bond which linked the life of man to the 
courses of the heavens at this turning-ix>int of the year. 

The interpretation of these fire-customs as charms for 
making sunshine is confirmed by a parallel custom observed 
by the Hindoos of Southern India at the Pongol or Feast 
of Ingathering. The festival is celebrated in the early part 
of January, when, according to Hindoo astrologers, the sun 
enters the tropic of Capricorn, and the chief event of the 
festival coincides with the passage of the sun. For some 

VOL. Ill X 

I* '3T"''* -.•?." •'•' "jir if*: 


days previously the boys gather heaps of sticks, straw, dead 
leaves, and everything that will burn. On the morning of 
the first day of the festival the heaps are fired. Every street 
and lane has its bonfire. The young folk leap over the flames 
or pile on fresh fuel. This fire is an offering to SOrya, the 
sun -god, or to Agni, the deity of fire ; it " wakes him from 
his sleep, calling on him again to gladden the earth with 
his light and heat."^ To say that the fires awaken the 
sun-god from his sleep is only a metaphorical and perhaps 
modernised expression of the belief that they actually help 
to rekindle the sun's light and heat. 

A festival of Northern India which presents points of 
resemblance to the popular European celebrations which we 
have been considering is the Holi. This is a village festival 
held in early spring at the full moon of the month Phalgun. 
Large bonfires are lit and young people dance round them. 
The people believe that the fires prevent blight, and that 
the ashes cure disease. At Barsana the local village priest 
is expected to pass through the Holi bonfire, which, in the 
opinion of the faithful, cannot burn him. Indeed he holds 
his land rent-free simply on the score of his being fire-proof. 
On one occasion when the priest disappointed the expectant 
crowd by merely jumping over the outermost verge of the 
smouldering ashes and then bolting into his cell, they 
threatened to deprive him of his benefice if he did not dis- 
charge his spiritual functions better when the next Holi 
season came round. Another feature of the festival which 
has, or once had, its counterpart in the corresponding 
European ceremonies is the unchecked profligacy which 
prevails among the Hindoos at this time.*' In Kumaon, a 
district of North- West India, at the foot of the Himalayas, 
each clan celebrates the Holi festival by cutting down a tree, 
which is thereupon stripped of its leaves, decked with shreds of 
cloth, and burnt at some convenient place in the quarter of 
the town inhabited by the clan. Some of the songs sung 
on this occasion arc of a ribald character. The people leap 

* Ch. E. Govcr, ** The I'ongol * W. Crooke, Introduction to the 

festival in Southern India,*' Jountat Popular Rdi^on ami Folklore of Nor- 

of the Koyal AsieUk Society, N.S., v. them Indian pp. 387-393. 
(1870), p. 96/^. 



over the ashes of the fire, believing that they thus rid them- 
selves of itch and other diseases of the skin. While the 
trees are burning, each clan tries to carry off strips of cloth 
from the tree of another clan, and success in the attempt is 
thought to ensure good luck. In Gwalior large heaps of 
cow-dung are burnt instead of trees. Among the Marwaris 
the festival is celebrated by the women with obscene songs 
and gestures. A monstrous and disgusting image of a 
certain Nathuram, who is said to have been a notorious 
profligate, is set up in a bazaar and then smashed with blows 
of shoes and bludgeons while the bonfire of cow-dung is 
blazing. No household can be without an image of Nathuram, 
and on the night when the bride first visits her husband, the 
image of this disreputable personage is placed beside her 
couch. Barren women and mothers whose children have 
died look to Nathuram for deliverance from their troubles.^ 

In the Chinese province of Fo-Kien we also meet with 
a vernal festival of fire which may be compared to the fire- 
festivals of Europe. The ceremony, according to an eminent 
authority, is a solar festival in honour of the renewal of 
vegetation and of the vernal warmth. It falls in April, on 
the thirteenth day of the third month in the Chinese calendar, 
and is doubtless connected with the ancient custom of 
renewing the fire, which, as we saw, used to be observed in 
China at this season.- The chief performers in the cere- 
mony are labourers, who refrain from women for seven days, 
and fast for three days before the festival. During these 
days they are taught in the temple how to discharge the 
difficult and dangerous duty which is to be laid upon 
them. On the eve of the festival an enormous brazier 
of charcoal, sometimes twenty feet wide, is prepared in 
front of the temple of the Great God, the protector of life. 
At sunrise next morning the brazier is lighted and kept 
burning by fresh supplies of fuel. A Taoist priest throws a 
mixture of salt and rice on the fire to conjure the flames and 
ensure an abundant year. Further, two exorcists, barefooted 
and followed by two peasants, traverse the fire again and 
again till it is somewhat beaten down. Meantime the pro- 

' Pandit Janardan Josbi, in North Indian Notes and Quen'fs, iii. p. 92 sq.^ 
§ 199. ^ See above, p. 251 //. 

" >*??»." 



f - • ■ i.' 


cession is forming in the temple. The image of the god of the 
temple is placed in a sedan-chair, resplendent with red paint 
and gilding, and is carried forth by a score or more of bare- 
footed peasants. On the shafts of the sedan-chair, behind the 
image, stands a magician with a dagger stuck through the upper 
parts of his arms and grasping in each hand a great sword, 
with which he essays to deal himself violent blows on the back ; 
however the strokes as they descend are mostly parried by 
peasants, who walk behind him and interpose bamboo rods 
between his back and the swords. Wild music now strikes 
up, and under the excitement caused by its stirring strains, 
the procession passes thrice across the furnace. At their 
third passage the performers are followed by other peasants 
carrying the utensils of the temple ; and the rustic mob, 
electrified by the frenzied spectacle, falls in behind. Strange 
as it may seem, burns are comparatively rare. Inured from 
infancy to walking barefoot, the peasants can step with 
impunity over the glowing charcoal, provided they plant 
their feet squarely and do not stumble ; for usage has so 
hardened their soles that the skin is converted into a sort of 
leathery or horny substance which is almost callous to heat. 
But sometimes, when they slip and a hot coal touches the 
sides of their feet or ankles, they may be seen to pull a wry 
face and jump out of the furnace amid the laughter of the 
spectators. When this part of the ceremony is over, the 
procession defiles round the village, and the priests distribute 
to every family a leaf of yellow paper inscribed with a magic 
character, which is thereupon glued over the door of the 
house. The peasants carry off the charred embers from the 
furnace, pound them to ashes, and mix the ashes with the 
fodder of their cattle, believing that it fattens them. How- 
ever, the Chinese Government disapproves of these fx^rform- 
ances, and next morning a number of the performers may 
generally be seen in the hands of the police, laid face down- 
wards on the ground and receiving a sound castigation on a 
part of their person which is probably more sensitive than 
the soles of their feet.* 

' G. Schlcgel, Urauo-^raphk Chi noise 
(The Hague and Le>'den, 1S75), p. M3 
1^. ; id.^ ** La fete de fouler le feu 

celebrce en Chine et par les Chinob 
k Java,** /fiUma/ionales Archiv fiir 
Ethfi^graphie, ix. (1 896), pp. 193* 19$. 

Xti L '• » > 

■.*»j*fj^.v:i«:,-;- uir*.' -i*- 

■» •- 



In this last festival the essential feature of the ceremony 
appears to be the passage of the image of the deity across 
the fire ; it may be compared to the passage of the straw 
t,^^ of Kupalo across the midsummer bonfire in Russia. 
As we shall see presently, such customs are probably magi- 
cal rites designed to produce light and warmth by subjecting 
the deity himself to the heat and glow of the furnace. 
Meantime we may conjecture that where, as at Barsana, 
priests or sorcerers have been accustomed in the discharge 
of their functions to walk through or over fire, they have 
sometimes done so as the living representatives or embodi- 
ments of deities, spirits, or other supernatural beings. Some 
confirmation of this view is furnished by the beliefs and 
practices of the Dosadhs, a low Indian caste in Behar and 
Chota Nagpur. On the fifth, tenth, and full-moon days of 
three months in the year, the priest walks over a narrow 
trench filled with smouldering wood ashes, and is supposed 
thus to be inspired by the tribal god Rahu, who becomes 
incarnate in him for a time. Full of the spirit and also, it 
is surmised, of drink, the man of god then mounts a bamboo 
platform, where he sings hymns and distributes to the crowd 
leaves of iulsi^ which cure incurable diseases, and flowers 
which cause barren women to become happy mothers. The 
service winds up with a feast lasting far into the night, at 
which the line that divides religious fer\our from drunken 
revelry cannot always be drawn with absolute precision.' 
Similarly the Bhuiyas, a Dravidian tribe of Mirzapur, worship 
their tribal hero Bir by walking over a short trench filled with 
fire, and they say that the man who is possessed by the hero 
does not feel any pain m the soles of his feet." Ceremonies 
of this sort used to be observed in most districts of the Madras 
Presidency, sometimes in discharge of vows made in time of 

According to Mr. Schlcgcl, ihc con- 
nection between this festival and the 
old custom of solemnly extinguishing 
and relighting the lire in spring is 

* n. II. Risley, Tribes and Castes 
of Jyenzafy Ethiwi^rapkic Glossary^ i. 
255 j#/. Compare W. Crook e, Intrih 
iiuetion to the Popular Kelt/*iott ami 
Folklore of Northern I ttdia^ p. lo; /</., 
Tribes ami Castes of the North' Western 

Pm'imes ami Omih^ ii. 355. .\ccord- 
ing to Mr. Risley, the trench filled with 
smoulilering ashei is so narrow (only a 
sp.nn and a (juarter wiilc) 'Mhat very 
little dexterity would enable a man to 
walk with his feet on either edge, so as 
not to touch the smouldering ashes at 
the l»otlom.** 

• W. Crooke, Tribts ami Castes of 
the North' // VyA/v/ Troz'imts aiul Omih^ 
ii. 82. 





sickness or distress, sometimes periodically in honour of a 
deity. Where the ceremony was observed periodically, it 
generally occurred in March or June, which are the months of 
the vernal equinox and the summer solstice respectively. A 
narrow trench, sometimes twenty yards long and half a foot 
deep, was filled with small sticks and twigs, mostly of tamarind, 
which were kindled and kept burning till they sank into a 
mass of glowing embers. Along this the devotees, often fifty 
or sixty in succession, walked, ran, or leaped barefoot. In 
1854 the Madras Government instituted an inquiry into 
the custom, but found that it was not attended by danger or 
instances of injury sufficient to call for governmental inter- 
ference.^ The French traveller Sonnerat has described how, 
in the eighteenth century, the Hindoos celebrated a fire- 
festival of this sort in honour of the god Darma Rajah and 
his wife Drobed6. The festival lasted eighteen days, during 
which all who had vowed to take part in it were bound to 
fast, to practise continence, to sleep on the ground without 
a mat, and to walk on a furnace. On the eighteenth day 
the images of Darma Rajah and his spouse were carried in 
procession to the furnace, and the performers followed dan- 
cing, their heads crowned with flowers and their bodies 
smeared with saffron. The furnace consisted of a trench 
about forty feet long, filled with hot embers. When the 
images had been carried thrice round it, the worshippers 

* M.J. Walhouse, ** Passing throujjh 
the Fire," Indian Antiquary^ vii. 
(1878), p. 126 jy. At Akk.i timanully, 
one of the many villages which help to 
make up the town of liangalore in 
Southern India, one woman at Iea.Kt 
from every house is expected to walk 
through the fire at the village festival. 
Captain J. S. K. Mackenzie witnessed 
the ceremony in 1873. A trench, four 
feet long by two feet wide, was tilled 
with live embers. The priest walkeil 
through it thrice, and the women after- 
wards passed through it in Ixitches. 
Capt. Mackenzie remarks : ** Krom the 
description one readsof walking through 
fire, I expected something sensational. 
Nothing could be more tame than the 
ceremony we saw performed ; in which 
there never was nor ever could be the 

slightest danger to life. Some young 
girl, whose soles were tender, might 
next morning fmd that she had a blister, 
but this would be the extent of harm 
she could receive." Sec Indian Anti- 
quary^ iii. (1874), p|). 68. Hut to fall 
on the hot eml)ers might result in in- 
juries which would prove fatal, and 
such an accident is known to have 
occurred at a village in liengal (II. J. 
Stokes, ** Walking through Fire, '* 
Indian Afitiquary^ ii. (1873), p. 190 
stf.). Accounts of similar rites prac- 
tised inTiji, Tonga, and other parts of 
the world have been cited by Mr. 
Andrew Lang {^Modern Myf/iolo^'^ p. 
154 sqq. ; Athtnatum^ 26th August and 
14th October 1 899), but these accounts 
shed little light on the origin and 
meaning t>f the custom. 


walked over the embers, faster or slower, according to the 
degree of their religious fervour, some carrying their children 
in their arms, others brandishing spears, swords, and stand- 
ards. This part of the ceremony being over, the bystanders 
hastened to rub their foreheads with ashes from the furnace, 
and to beg from the performers the flowers which they had 
worn in their hair ; and such as obtained them preserved 
the flowers carefully. The rite was performed in honour of 
the goddess Drobed6. For she married five brothers all at 
once ; every year' she left one of her husbands to betake 
herself to another, but before doing so she had to purify 
herself by fire. There was no fixed date for the celebration 
of the rite, but it could only be held in one of the first three 
months of the year.' 

Similar rites were performed in antiquity at Castabala 
in Cappadocia by the priestesses of an Asiatic goddess, 
whom the Greeks called Artemis Perasia;^ and at the foot 
of Mount Soracte, in Italy, there was a sanctuary of a god- 
dess Feronia, where once a year the men of certain families 
walked barefoot, but unscathed, over the glowing embers 
and ashes of a great fire of pinewood in presence of a vast 
multitude, who had assembled from all the country round 
about to pay their devotions to the deity or to ply their 
business at the fair. The families from whom these latter 
performers were drawn went by the name of Hirpi Sorani, 
or " Soranian Wolves"; and in consideration of the services 
which they rendered the state by walking through the fire, 
they were exempted, by a special decree of the senate, from 
military service and all public burdens. In the discharge of 
their sacred function, if we can trust the testimony of Strabo, 
they were believed to be inspired by the goddess Feronia. 
The ceremony certainly took place in her sanctuary, which 
was held in the highest reverence alike by Latins and Sabines ; 
but according to Virgil and Pliny the rite was performed 
in honour of the god of the mountain, whom they call by 
the Greek name of Apollo, but whose real name appears 

r > Sonncnit, Voyage aux Indes ori- * Strain), xii. 2. 7 : cV roif Kcwra/SdAotf 

nitalis ./ it la Chiiw (Paris, 1 782), i. icrl rh rtft Ilepcuftar *Apr4fudot^ Ufdv^ 
247 Si/, dvov 0a<rt rit Uptlat yvfuttit rtSs voffl 

9i' dif0paKiat fia^i^ur dva^ctr. 

tpm 'd:R'2r:««»**»a*w?i!W*»f /;■^:^r-»!* '» 

;•, .,•* 

■'■ :^:-' ' . i' ;« r 

V ■ ." .- ^ ' 



77^i? N/RPJ SO If AN/. 


to have been Soranus.^ If Soranus was a sun -god, as 
his name appears to indicate,^ we might perhaps conclude 
that the passage of his priests through the fire was a 
magical ceremony designed to procure a due supply of 
light and warmth for the earth by mimicking the sun's 
passage across the firmament For so priceless a service, 
rendered at some personal risk, it would be natural 
that the magicians should be handsomely rewarded by a 
grateful country, and that they should be released from the 
common obligations of earth in order the better to devote 
themselves to their celestial mission. The neighbouring 
towns paid the first-fruits of their harvest as tribute to the 
shrine, and loaded it besides with offerings of gold and 
silver, of which, however, it was swept clean by Hannibal 
when he hung with his dusky army, like a storm-cloud 
about to break, within sight of the sentinels on the walls of 

The custom of leaping over the fire and driving cattle 
through it may be intended, on the one hand, to secure for 
man and beast a share of the vital energy of the sun, and, 
on the other hand, to purge them of all evil influences ; for 
to the primitive mind fire is the most powerful of all purifi- 
catory agents. The latter idea is obviously uppermost in 
the minds of Greek women when they leap over the mid- 
summer fire saying, " I leave my sins behind me." So in 

' Pliny, A'fl/. J/is/. vii. 19 ; Virgil, 
Aeft, xi. 784 s^^.t with the comment 
of Servius ; Strabo, v. 2. 9 ; Dionysius 
Halicarnasensis, .Intiguit. Rom. iii. 
32. From a reference to the custom 
in Silius Italicus (v. 175 xyy.) it 
seems that the men passed thrice 
through the furnace holdini^ the en- 
trails of the sacrificial victims in their 
hands. The learned but sceptical 
Varro attributed their immunity in the 
tire to a drug with which they took 
care to anoint the soles of their feet 
l>efore they planted them in the 
furnace. See Varro, cited by Servius, 
on Virgil, Aeti. xi. 787. The whole 
subject has been treated by Mannhardt 
{Ant ike IVaU- und FiUiktdtey p. 327 
sqqJ) and Mr. Andrew Lang {Modfrit 
Afytkoiogy^ p. 148 sqq.). .Mannhardt 
compares the rites of these " Soranian 

Wolves" with the ceremonies performed 
by the brotherhood of the Green Wolf 
at Jumicgcs in Normandy. Sec above, 
p. 281 ;^y. 

* I^ Preller {Roniische Mytholo^e^ 
i. 268), following Ci. Curtius, would 
connect the first syllable of Soranus nnd 
Soracte with the Latin so!^ *' sun." 
W. Ridgeway |)oints out to me that as 
r in Ilirpi (** wolves ") answers to / in 
/////, so r in Soraiti probably answers 
to / in so/. Thus the Ilirpi Sorani 
would be ** the solar wolves." 

•'' Livy, xxvi. 11. Alxmt this time 
the Carthaginian army encamped only 
three miles from Rome and ILinnibal 
in person, at the head of two thous;ind 
cavalry, rode close up to the walls and 
leisurely reconnoitred them. See 
Li^-y xxvi. 10. 


1 » • ■ 




Yucatan at a New Year's festival the people used to light a 
huge bonfire and pass through it, in the belief that this was 
a means of ridding themselves of their troubles.^ The 
custom of driving cattle through a fire is not confined to 
Europe. At certain times the Hottentots make a fire of 
chips, dry branches, and green twigs, so as to raise a great 
smoke. Through this fire they drive their sheep, dragging 
them through by force, if necessary. If the sheep make 
their escape without passing through the fire, it is reckoned 
a heavy disgrace and a very bad omen. But if they pass 
readily through or over the fire, the joy of the Hottentots is 

The procession or race with burning torches, which so 
often forms a part of these fire-festivals, appears to be simply 
a means of diffusing far and wide the genial influence of the 
bonfire or of the sunshine which it represents. Hence on 
these occasions lighted torches are very frequently carried 
over the fields, sometimes with the avowed intention of 
fertilising them ; ^ and for the same purpose live coals 
from the bonfire arc sometimes placed in the field " to 
prevent blight." On the eve of Twelfth Day in Normandy 
men, women, and children run wildly through the fields and 
orchards with lighted torches, which they wave about the 
branches and dash asjainst the trunks of the fruit-trees for 
the sake of burning the moss and driving away the moles 
and field mice. ** They believe that the ceremony fulfils the 
double object of exorcising vermin whose multiplication 
would be a real calamity, and of imparting fecundity to the 
trees, the fields, and even the cattle " ; and they imagine that 
the more the ceremoin- is prolonged, the greater will be the 
crop of fruit next autumn/ In Bohemia they say that the 
corn will grow as high as they fling the blazing besoms into 
the air.'' Xor arc such notions confined to Europe. In 

' Oici^i) cic Lnmln, A*, latictt (/, < i/:r^rs 
de Vtifafan (Paris, 1S64), p. 233. 

- Kollicn, PrtSi-'tit St.Uc of the CiJ/h: 
0/ Gooti //o/u\ i. 129 /r//. 

' V. 255. The torches of Dcmclor. 
which fij^urc so largely in her myth an«l 
on the monuments, arc pi^rhnps to 1h> 
explained lyy this custom. To re^^ani. 
with Mannhanit (/».A*. p. 5361, the 

!«»rt?hes in the modern Kuro|x?an cus- 
toms as imitations of lij^htning seems 

"* A. I^>s<|uet, fut Normamiic roman^ 
' <i/ttt' ft •uen'i'ilifiisi\ p. 295 $q, ; I^- 
«'trur, Esqtiisses dit /><»«vr;'i' Xonnandy 
ii. 126-129. 

-*' \\\, JeHnek, *' Materialien zur 
X'orgi'schiclite und Volkskunde lioh- 

314 SUN-CHARMS chap. 

Corea, a few days before the New Year festival, the eunuchs 
of the palace swing burning torches, chanting invocations the 
while, and this is supposed to ensure bountiful crops for the 
next season.^ The custom of trundling a burning wheel over 
the fields, which used to be practised in Poitou for the express 
purpose of fertilising them, embodies the same idea in a still 
more graphic form ; since in this way the mock-sun itself, not 
merely its light and heat represented by torches, is made 
actually to pass over the ground which is to receive its 
quickening and kindly influence. Again, the custom of 
carrying lighted brands round the cattle is plainly equivalent 
to driving the animals through the fire. It is quite possible 
that in these customs the idea of the quickening power of 
fire may be combined with the conception of it as a purgative 
agent for the expulsion or destruction of evil beings, such as 
witches arid the vermin that destroy the fruits of the earth. 
Certainly the fires arc often interpreted in the latter way by 
the persons who light them ; and this purgative use of the 
element comes out very prominently, as we have seen, in the 
general expulsion of demons from towns and villages. But 
in the present class of cases this aspect of fire may be 
secondary, if indeed it is more than a later misinterpretation 
of the custom. 

It remains to ask. What is the meaning of burning an 
effigy in these bonfires ? The effigies so burned, as I have 
already remarked, can hardly be separated from the effigies 
of Death which are burned or otherwise destroyed in spring ; 
and grounds have been already given for regarding the so- 
called effigies of Death as really representatives of the tree- 
spirit or spirit of vegetation. Are the other effigies, which 
are burned in the spring and midsummer bonfires, susceptible 
of the same explanation ? It would seem so. For just as 
the fragments of the so-called Death arc stuck in the fields 
to make the crops grow, so the charred embers of the figure 
burned in the spring bonfires are sometimes laid on the 
fields in the belief that they will keep vermin from the crop. 
Again, the rule that the last married bride must leap over 

mens,'* Mitthciliuif^n der aiithropoioi^, * Mrs. Hishop, Korea aud he i Neigh^ 

iitscllschaft in iyiat^xx\. (1 89 1), p. 13 botirs^ ii. 56 j^. 



the fire in which the straw-man is burned on Shrove Tuesday, 
is probably intended to make her fruitful.^ But, as we have 
seen, the power of blessing women with offspring is a special 
attribute of tree-spirits ; - it is therefore a fair presumption 
that the burning effigy over which the bride must leap is a 
representative of the fertilising tree-spirit or spirit of vegeta- 
tion. This character of the effigy, as representative of the 
spirit of vegetation, is almost unmistakable when the figure is 
composed of an unthrcshed sheaf of corn or is covered from 
head to foot with flowers.* Again, it is to be noted that, 
instead of a pupi3ct, trees, cither living or felled, are some- 
times burned both in the spring and midsummer bonfires.* 
Now, considering the frequency with which the tree-spirit is 
represented in human shape, it is hardly rash to suppose that 
when sometimes a tree and sometimes an Q^^y is burned in 
these fires, the effigy and the tree are regarded as equivalent 
to each other, each being a representative of the tree-spirit. 
This, again, is confirmed by observing, first, that sometimes the 
^^^gy which is to be burned is carried about simultaneously 
with a May-tree, the former being carried by the boys, the 
latter by the girls ; '• and, second, that the effigy is sometimes 
tied to a living tree and burned with it.*^ In these cases, we 
can scarcely doubt, the tree-spirit is represented, as we have 
found it represented before, in duplicate, both by the tree and 
by the effigy. That the true character of the effigy as a 
representative of the beneficent spirit of vegetation should 
sometimes be forgotten, is natural. The custom of burning 
a beneficent god is too foreign to later modes of thought to 
escape misinterpretation. Naturally enough the people who 
continued to burn his image came in time to identify it as 
the effigy of persons, whom, on various grounds, they re- 
garded with aversion, such as Judas Iscariot, Luther, and 
a witch. 

The general reasons for killing a god or his repre- 
sentative have been examined in the preceding chapter. 
But when the god happens to be a deity of vegetation, 
there are special reasons why he should die by fire. For 

' See above, p. 244 stf, ^ Pp. 242, 255, 256, 273, 279, 281, 

^ Above, vol. i. p. 192 jryy. 285, 286, 297. 

* Pp. 245, 300. * r. 245. •* \\ 242. 

3 1 6 TREE'SPIRIT B URNT chap. 

light and heat arc necessary to vegetable growth ; and, on 
the principle of sympathetic magic, by subjecting the 
personal representative of vegetation to their influence, 
you secure a supply of these necessaries for trees and crops. 
In other words, by burning the spirit of vegetation in a fire 
which represents the sun, you make sure that, for a time at 
least, vegetation shall have plenty of sun. It may be 
objected that, if the intention is simply to secure enough 
sunshine for vegetation, this end would be better attained, on 
the principles of sympathetic magic, by merely passing the 
representative of vegetation through the fire instead of 
burning him. In point of fact this is sometimes done. In 
Russia, as we have seen, the straw figure of Kupalo is not 
burned in the midsummer fire, but merely carried backwards 
and forwards across it.^ But, for the reasons already given, 
it is necessary that the god should die ; so next day Kupalo 
is stripped of her ornaments and thrown into a stream. In 
this Russian custom, therefore, the passage of the image 
through the fire is a sun-charm pure and simple ; the killing 
of the god is a separate act, and the mode of killing him — 
by drowning — is probably a rain-charm. But usually people 
have not thought it necessary to draw this fine distinction ; 
for the various reasons already assigned, it is advantageous, 
they think, to expose the god of vegetation to a considerable 
degree of heat, and it is also advantageous to kill him, and 
they combine these advantages in a rough-and-ready way by 
burning him. 

Finally, we have to ask. Were human beings formerly 
burned as representatives of the tree -spirit or deity of 
ve<;ctation ? We have seen reasons for believing that living 
persons have often acted as representatives of the tree-spirit, 
and have suffered death as such. There is no reason, there- 
fore, why they should not have been burned, if any special 
advantages were likely to be attained by putting them to 
death in that way. The consideration of human suffering is 
not one which enters into the calculations of primitive man. 
It would have been surprising if it did, when we remember 
the record of Christian Europe. Xow, in the fire-festivals 
which we are discussing, the pretence of burning people is 

' Vol. ii. p. 105. 


sometimes carried so far that it seems reasonable to regard it 
as a mitigated survival of an older custom of actually burning 
them. Thus in Aachen, as we saw, the man clad in peas- 
straw acts so cleverly that the children really believe he is 
being burned. At Jumi^es in Normandy the man clad all 
in green, who bore the title of the Green Wolf, was pursued 
by his comrades, and when they caught him they feigned to 
fling him upon the midsummer bonfire. Similarly at the 
Beltane fires the pretended victim was seized, and a show 
made of throwing him into the flames, and for some time after- 
wards people affected to speak of him as dead. The titular 
king at Aix, who reigned for a year and danced the first 
dance round the midsummer bonfire, may perhaps in days of 
old have discharged the less agreeable duty of serving as fuel 
for that fire which in later times he only kindled. In the 
following customs Mannhardt is probably right in recognising 
traces of an old custom of burning a leaf-clad representative 
of the spirit of vegetation. At Wolfeck, in Austria, on Mid- 
summer Day, a boy completely clad in green fir branches 
goes from house to house, accompanied by a noisy crew, 
collecting wood for the bonfire. As he gets the wood he 
sings — 

" Forest trees I want, 
No sour milk for me, 
But beer and wine. 
So can the wood-man be jolly and gay." ^ 

In some parts of Bavaria, also, the boys who go from house 
to house collecting fuel for the midsummer bonfire envelop 
one of their number from head to foot in green branches of 
firs, and lead him by a rope through the whole village.^ At 
Moosheim, in VVurtembcrg, the festival of St. John's Fire 
usually lasted for fourteen days, ending on the second 
Sunday after Midsummer Day. On this last day the bon- 
fire was left in charge of the children, while the older people 
retired to a wood. Here they encased a young fellow in 
leaves and twigs, who, thus disguised, went to the fire, 

' /i,A'. p. 524. Breitcnbrunn the lad who collects fuel 

' Havaria^ jMiideS' wid V'olkskundt at this season has his face blackened 

des Konij^rcUhs Haytrn^vkx, i^^(i\ H,K, and is called "the Charcoal Man" 

p. 524. In the neighbourhood of {Bavaria^ etc, ii. 261). 

ssafe.. .% -':-.^'--r- ■ ..vV;.-.'^ -astttpiteyir-tv:-' vjar,^'9»::ai«i(:«3HHHHHMHMnHnPi^ 


■* !.•» 

■s^- ' . 


scattered it, and trod it out. All the people present fled at 
the sight of him.^ 

In this connection it is worth while to note that in pagan 
Europe the water as well as the fire seems to have claimed 
its human victim on Midsummer Day. Some German rivers, 
such as the Saale and the Spree, arc believed still to require 
their victim on that day ; hence people are careful not to 
bathe at this perilous season. Where the beautiful Neckar 
flows, between vine-clad and wooded hills, under the castled 
steep of Heidelberg, the spirit of the river seeks to drown 
three persons, one on Midsummer Eve, one on Midsummer 
Day, and one on the day after. On these nights, if you hear 
a shriek as of a drowning man or woman from the water, 
beware of running to the rescue ; for it is only the water- 
fairy shrieking to lure you to your doom. Many a fisher- 
man of the Elbe knows better than to launch his boat and 
trust himself to the treacherous river on Midsummer Day. 
And Samland fishermen will not go to sea at this season, 
because they know that the sea is then hollow and demands 
a victim. In the neighbourhood of the Lake of Constance 
the Swabian peasants say that on St. John's Day the Angel 
or St. John must have a swimmer and a climber ; hence no 
one will climb a tree or bathe even in a brook on that day.'^ 
According to others, St. John will have three dead men on 
his day ; one of them must die by water, one by a fall, and 
one by lightning : therefore old-fashioned people warn their 
children not to climb or bathe, and are very careful them- 
selves not to run into any kind of danger on Midsummer 
Day.^ Accordingly when we find that, in one of the districts 
where a belief of this sort prevails, it used to be customary to 
throw a person into the water on Midsummer Day, we can 
hardly help concluding that this was only a modification of 
an older custom of actually drowning a human being in the 
river at that time. In Voigtland it was formerly the practice 

* Birlinger, VolksthMmtUJus aus Tellau und Tcinmc, Die Volkssat^cn 
Sckivabcn^ ii. 12 1 jy., § 146; />*.A'. Ost-preusscns^ IMthaucHs uud West- 
p. 524 sq. prcussctis^ p. 277 sq. \ K. Haupt, 

* E. Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitfcn Sat^Jihuch dtr JxiusitZy i. 48. 

und Gebrduche am Schwaben^ p. 42S ^ Montanus, Die dnttschen Volks- 

sq,^ ^ 120, 122; J. A. E. Kohler, feste^ Voiksbrdtuhe uud deutschtr Volks- 
Volksbrauch^ etc., im Voigtlande^ p- 1 76 ; glaube^ p. 34. 

*Ji^v:\.-'>..L.. s-v-WSMS 

.--/;_ -A 


to set up a fine May tree, adorned with all kinds of things, 
on St. John's Day. The people danced round it, and when 
the lads had fetched down the things with which it was 
tricked out, the tree was thrown into the water. But before 
this was done, they sought out somebody whom they treated 
in the same manner, and the victim of this horseplay was 
called " the John." The brawls and disorders, which such 
a custom naturally provoked, led to the suppression of the 
whole ceremony.^ 

But it seems possible to go farther than this. Of human 
sacrifices offered on these occasions the most unequivocal 
traces, as we have seen, are those which, about a hundred 
years ago, still lingered at the Beltane fires in the Highlands 
of Scotland, that is, among a Celtic people who, situated in 
a remote corner of Europe, enjoying practical independence, 
and almost completely isolated from foreign influence, had 
till then conserved their old heathenism better than any 
other people in the West of Europe. It is significant, there- 
fore, that human sacrifices by fire are known, on unquestion- 
able evidence, to have been systematically practised by the 
Celts. The earliest description of these sacrifices has been 
bequeathed to us by Julius Caesar. As conqueror of the 
hitherto independent Celts of Gaul, Caesar had ample 
opportunity of observing the national Celtic religion and 
manners, while these were still fresh and crisp from the 
native mint and had not yet been fused in the melting-pot 
of Roman civilisation. With his own notes Caesar appears 
to have incorporated the observations of a Greek explorer, by 
name Posidonius, who travelled in Gaul about fifty years 
before Caesar carried the Roman arms to the English 
Channel. The Greek gcoi^rapher Strabo and the historian 
Diodorus seem also to have derived their descriptions of 
the Celtic sacrifices from the work of Posidonius, but in- 
dependently of each other and of Caesar, for each of the 
three derivative accounts contains some details which are not 
to be found in either of the others. By combining rtiem, 
therefore, we can restore the original account of Posidonius 
with some certainty, and thus obtain a picture of the 
sacrifices offered by the Celts of Gaul at the close of the 

* Kohler, toe, cit. 


second century B.C.^ The following seem to have been the 
main outlines of the custom. Condemned criminals were 
reserved by the Celts in order to be sacrificed to the gods at 
a great festival which took place once in every five years. 
The more there were of such victims, the greater was believed 
to be the fertility of the land.- If there were not enough 
criminals to furnish victims, captives taken in war were 
immolated to supply the deficiency. When the time came the 
victims were sacrificed by the Druids or priests. Some they 
shot down with arrows, some they impaled, and some they 
burned alive in the following manner. Colossal images of 
wicker-work or of wood and grass were constructed ; these 
were filled with live men, cattle, and animals of other kinds ; 
fire was then applied to the images, and they were burned 
with their living contents. 

Such were the great festivals held once every five years. 
But besides these quinquennial festivals, celebrated on so 
grand a scale and with, apparently, so large an expenditure 
of human life, it seems reasonable to suppose that festivals 
of the same sort, only on a lesser scale, were held annually, 
and that from these annual festivals arc lineally descended 
some at least of the fire-festivals which, with their traces of 
human sacrifices, are still celebrated year by year in many 
parts of Europe. The gigantic images constructed of osiers 
or covered with grass in which the Druids enclosed their 
victims remind us of the leafy framework in which the human 
representative of the tree-spirit is still so often encased."* 
Considering, therefore, that the fertility of the land was ap- 
parently supposed to depend upon the due performance of 
these sacrifices, Mannhardt is probably right in viewing the 
Celtic victims, cased in osiers and grass, as representatives of 
the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation. These wicker giants 
of the Druids seem to have had till lately their representa- 
tives at the spring and midsummer festivals of modem 
Europe. At Douay, down to the early part of the nineteenth 
century, a procession took place annually on the Sunday 

' Caesar, Hell. Gall. vi. 15 ; Strabo, iwtrirpaTTo Sticd^cd', Irav rt ^topd rot- 

iv. 4. 5 ; Diodorus, v. 32. Sec Mann- twi' J, ^opdi^ Kal r^i x^pa* pofiiioiteiv 

hardt, H,A\ p. 525 sqq, vwdpxai^. On this passage see Mann- 

2 Stra)x>, iv. 4. 4: rdt W ^orurdt harch, H.A\ p. 529 j^y. 

dUat fAdXiara roi/rott [i.e, the Druids] ' See vol. i. p. 209 si/</. 


.-'■' ff- ' It' IK 

^-■"tj^/rr j.-^^ ' ■^ - 

It^^.,^ r^4^.»<'% 

;v « 

.^^,VWs . 

\l. ' . , ■•■■♦.•*!'' 

- • ■ I , 




nearest to the seventh of July. The great feature of the 
procession was a colossal figure, some twenty or thirty feet 
high, made of osiers, and called ''the giant," which was 
moved through the streets by means of rollers and ropes 
worked by men who were enclosed within the effigy. The 
wooden head of the giant is said to have been carved and 
painted by Rubens. The figure was armed as a knight 
with lance and sword, helmet and shield. Behind him 
marched his wife and his three children, all constructed of 
osiers on the same principle, but on a smaller scale.^ At 
Dunkirk the procession of the giants took place on Mid- 
summer Day, the twenty-fourth of June. The festival, 
which was known as the Follies of Dunkirk, attracted such 
multitudes of spectators, that the inns and private houses 
could not lodge them all, and many had to sleep in cellars 
or in the streets. In 1755 ^" eye-witness estimated that 
the number of onlookers was not less than forty thousand, 
without counting the inhabitants of the town. The streets 
through which the procession took its way were lined with 
double ranks of soldiers, and the houses crammed with 
spectators from top to bottom. High mass was celebrated in 
the principal church and then the procession got under weigh. 
First came the guilds or brotherhoods, the members walking 
two and two with great waxen ta(>ers, lighted, in their hands. 
They were followed by the friars and the secular priests, and 
then came the Abbot, magnificently attired, with the Host 
borne before him by a venerable old man. When these 
were past, the real " Follies of Dunkirk " began. They con- 
sisted of pageants of various sorts wheeled through the streets 
in cars. These appear to have varied somewhat from year 
to year ; but if we may judge from the processions of 1755 
and 1757, both of which have been described by eye-witnesses, 
a standing show was a car decked with foliage and branches 
to imitate a wood, and carrying a number of men dressed in 

* Madame Clement, llistoire iLs 
fi'tiS iiviit'S it relif^usis dtt dt parte- 
iiunt du Xorti^ (Caml)rai, 1836), pp. 
193-200 ; De Nore, Coutumcs^ Mythts 
tt Traditions dcs Prcviihcs de Fraun\ 
p. 323 sq. ; A. A", p. 523, note. In 
the eighteenth century the procession 

VOL. Ill 

took place on the third Sunday in 
June, which must always have been 
within about, a week of Midsummer 
Day (H. Gaidoz, " Le dieu gaulois du 
soleil et le syml>oIisme dc la roue,** 
Rct*ti€ ArchMoj^iqut^ iii. serie iv. 
32 sq.). 






leaves or in gfreen scaly skins, who squirted water on the 
people from pewter syringes. An English spectator has 
compared these maskers to the Green Men of our own country 
on May Day. Last of all came the giant and giantess. 
The giant was a huge figure of wicker-work, occasionally as 
much as forty-five feet high, dressed in a long blue robe with 
gold stripes, which reached to his feet, concealing the dozen 
or more men who made it dance and bob its head to the 
spectators. This colossal effigy went by the name of Papa 
Reuss, and carried in its pocket a bouncing infant of Brob- 
dingnagian proportions, who kept bawling " Papa ! papa ! " 
in a voice of thunder, only pausing from time to time to 
devour the victuals which were handed out to him from the 
windows. The rear was brought up by the daughter of the 
giant, constructed, like her sire, of wicker-work, and little, if 
at all, inferior to him in size. She wore a rose-coloured robe, 
with a gold watch as large as a warming pan at her side ; 
her breast glittered with jewels ; her complexion was high, 
and her eyes and head turned with as easy a grace as the 
men inside could contrive to impart to their motions. The 
procession came to an end with the revolution of 1789, and 
has never been revived. The giant himself indeed, who had 
won the affections of the townspeople, survived his ancient 
glory for a little while and made shift to appear in public a 
few times more at the Carnival and other festal occasions ; 
but his days were numbered, and within fifty years even his 
memory had seemingly perished.^ 

Most towns and even villages of Brabant and Flanders 
have, or used to have, similar wicker giants which were 
annually led about to the delight of the populace, who 
loved these grotesque figures, spoke of them with patriotic 
enthusiasm, and never wearied of gazing at them. The 
name by which the giants went was Reuzes, and a sj^ccial 
song called the Rcuze song was sung in the F'lemish dialect 

* 'J7i€ Gcnt/cmaHs JAz^'n :///<•, xxix. 
( * 759^ PP* 263-265; Madame Clement, 
ilistoire des ftft's civiUs it reiit^icuSiS 
du lU'l^irti'mcnt du Xord^' pp. 169- 1 75 ; 
1 )e Norc, CoutumiS„ Mythcs it Tradi- 
tions dcs Profi'inccs dt' Fratuc^ pp. 32S- 
332. Compare John Milner, The 
History^ Civil and Ecclesiastical^ and 

Sttn'cy of the Antiquities of //7//<7;.'.'< » , 
i. 8 sq. ; Hrand, Popnlar AntitjuHic , 
i. 325 sq. ; James Ix)j;an, 'J he Siotii^h 
Gaely ii. 358 (new eciiiion). Aca)nl- 
injj to the writer in The (itn/Iiman's 
M>i!^azine \\\q nair.c of the procession 
wa^i the Cor-mass. 

•* ^v . 




while they were making their triumphal progress through 
the streets. The most celebrated of these monstrous effigies 
were those of Anvers and Wettercn. At Ypres a whole 
family of giants contributed to the public hilarity at the 
Carnival. At Cassel and Hazebrouch, in the French de- 
partment of Nord, the giants made their annual appearance 
on Shrove Tuesday.^ In England artificial giants seem to 
have been a standing feature of the midsummer festival. 
A writer of the sixteenth century speaks of " Midsommer 
pageants in London, where, to make the people wonder, are 
set forth great and u*jlie gyants, marching as if they were 
alive, and armed at all points, but within they are stuffed 
full of browne paper and tow, which the shrewd boyes, 
underpeeping, do guilefully discover, and turne to a greate 
derision."^ The Mayor of Chester in 1599 "altered many 
antient customs, as the shooting for the sheriff's breakfast ; 
the going of the giants at Midsommer, etc." ^ 

In these cases the giants only figure in the proces- 
sions. But sometimes they were burned in the summer 
bonfires. Thus the people of the Rue aux Ours in Paris 
used annually to make a great wicker-work figure, dressed 
as a soldier, which they promenaded up and down the 
streets for several days, and solemnly burned on the third 
of July, the crowd of spectators singing Salve Regina, 
A personage who bore the title of king presided over the 
ceremony with a lighted torch in his hand. The burning 
fragments of the image were scattered among the people, 
who eagerly scrambled for them. The custom was abolished 
in 1743.* In Brie, Isle de France, a wicker-work giant, 
eighteen feet high, was annually burned on Midsummer Eve.'' 

Again, the Druidical custom of burning live animals, 
enclosed in wicker-work, has its counterpart at the spring and 
midsummer festivals. At Luchon in the Pyrenees on Mid- 

* Madame Clement, Ili'toirc dcs 
fetes civiles et relij^ieuses^ etc. . de Li He!- 
j^^it/iic merhiiona/e^ e/r. (Avesncs, 1^46), 
p. 252 ; Reinslwrg-Durini^sfelil, Cahn- 
drier /ie/i^e^ pp. 1 23- 1 26. We may 
conjecture that the Flemi>h A\it'.e, like 
the A*r/tss of Dunkirk, is only another 
form of the (lerman /C/ese, **j;iant." 

2 Puttcniiam, Arte of Kn\;!ish JWsie, 

1 580, p. 128, quoted by Itr.ind, Popular 
.litti,/tn'ties^ i. 323. 

*'* Kinjj's i'tt/e A'>vtt/ 0/ Jin^hind^ p. 
20S, fpioteil l»y I'rniid, /.f. 

* Liebrecht, (*tr7\isiiis tvn Tilbury ^ 
p. 212 sif. ; Do Nore, Coutumes^ 
Mythes^ et Traditions des Pnriuttees tie 
Trau'-e, p. 354 ^y. : H.K. p. 5 1 4. 

•'• //.A*, pp. 514, 523. 

324 ANIMALS BURNT chap. 

summer Eve " a hollow column, composed of strong wicker- 
work, is raised to the height of about sixty feet in the centre 
of the principal suburb, and interlaced with green foliage up 
to the very top ; while the most beautiful flowers and shrubs 
procurable are artistically arranged in groups below, so as to 
form a sort of background to the scene. The column is 
then filled with combustible materials, ready for ignition. 
At an appointed hour — about 8 P.M. — a grand procession, 
composed of the clergy, followed by young men and maidens 
in holiday attire, pour forth from the town chanting hymns, 
and take up their position around the column. Meanwhile, 
bonfires are lit, with beautiful effect, in the surrounding hills. 
As many living serpents as could be collected are now thrown 
into the column, which is set on fire at the base by means 
of torches, armed with which about fifty boys and men 
dance around with frantic gestures. The serpents, to avoid 
the flames, wriggle their way to the top, whence they arc 
seen lashing out laterally until finally obliged to drop, their 
struggles for life giving rise to enthusiastic delight among 
the surrounding spectators. This is a favourite annual cere- 
mony for the inhabitants of Luchon and its neighbourhood, 
and local tradition assigns it to a heathen origin."^ In the 
midsummer fires formerly kindled on the Place de Grive at 
Paris it was the custom to bum a basket, barrel, or sack full 
of live cats, which was hung from a tall mast in the midst of 
the bonfire ; sometimes a fox was burned. The people 
collected the embers and ashes of the fire and took them 
home, believing that they brought good luck. The French 
kings often witnessed these spectacles and even lit the bon- 
fire with their own hands. In 1648 Louis the Fourteenth, 
crowned with a wreath of roses and carrying a bunch of 
roses in his hand, kindled the fire, danced at it and partook 
of the banquet afterwards in the town hall. But this was 
the last occasion when a monarch presided at the midsummer 
bonfire in Paris.- At Metz midsummer fires were lighted 

* Athenaeum^ 24lh July 1 869, p. ct Tradition;: de5 Pi'(n'i9iccs d* Fratni\ 

115 ; />.A'. p. 515 stj. p. 355 sq, ; J. W. Wolf, J^ciiriii^c zur 

dcntuhi'ii Mythoht^i'y \\, 3S8 ; Corlel, 

- A. iSrcuil, ** I)u cullc de Sl.-Jcan Essai sur Us /iUs rdifiieuscs^ p. 213 

Uapiistc," Mt* moires dc hi Sotii'tt! dts sq. ; Laisnel de la Salle, Cro)'afucs et 

Aittiifuaircs dc Picardii\ viiL (1 845), p. f^ji^tides dii centre de la France^ i. 82 ; 

187 sq. ; Dc Nore, Coutumes^ Mythcs Mannhardt, Haumkultus^ p. 515. 

■■ ■*/^ 

r:^ ■ 

c. >.■ 


■ )*«>-»^^ 




with great pomp on the esplanade, and a dozen cats, en- 
closed in wicker-cages, were burned alive in them, to the 
amusement of the people.^ In Russia a white cock was 
sometimes burned in the midsummer bonfire ; *' in Meissen 
or Thiiringen a horse's head used to be thrown into \t? 
Sometimes animals are burned in the spring bonfires. In 
the Vosges cats were burned on Shrove Tuesday ; in Elsass 
they were thrown into the Easter bonfire/ In the depart- 
ment of the Ardennes cats were flung into the bonfires kindled 
on the first Sunday in Lent ; sometimes, by a refinement of 
cruelty, they were hung over the fire from the end of a pole 
and roasted alive. As a diabolic animal, the cat could never 
suffer enough. While the creatures were perishing in the 
flames, the shepherds gathered their flocks and forced them 
to leap over the fire, esteeming this an infallible means of 
preserving them from disease and witchcraft.* We have 
seen that squirrels were sometimes burned in the Easter fire. 
If the men who were burned in wicker frames by the 
Druids represented the spirit of vegetation, the animals 
burned along with them may have had the same meaning. 
Amongst the animals burned by the Druids or in modern 
bonfires have been, as we saw, cattle, cats, foxes, and cocks ; 
and all of these creatures are variously regarded by European 
jxioples ^as embodiments of the corn-spirit.® I am not aware 
of any certain evidence that in Europe serpents have been 
regarded as representatives of the tree-spirit or corn-spirit ; " 
as victims at the midsummer festival in Luchon they may 

* Tcssicr, in A/t'fiioircs ft Disstr/a- 
iions puhiu's par !a Sotit'/t' RoyaU des 
Antiijuaires lic Frafia\ v. (1S23), p. 
388; H.K. p. 515. 

- Grimm, Deutsche Mythch^e^^ i. 
519; li,k\ p. 515. 

•* /?.A'. p. 515; Monlanus /V.- 
t/eittsehen I'o/ksjesteit^ p. 34. 

♦ />.A'. p. 515. 

•'• A. Mcyrac, Traditions^ lA^^emhs^ 
it Contes des Ardeunes^ p. 68. 

*' Almve, vol. ii. p. 261 stfq, 

" Some of the serpents wor>hip|K*d 
l»v ihe old rrussians livc<l in hollow 
ciks, and as oaks were sacred among 
the rrussians, the serpents may have 

l)een regarded as genii of the trees. 
See Simon Grunau, Prcussisehc Chrcniky 
ed. Peril )ach, i. 89 ; llartknoch, Alt 
II nd A'eiics Preussen^ pp. 143, 163. 
Serpents, again, played an important 
part in the worship of Demcter, as wc 
luivc seen. Jiut that they were regarded 
.IS emlKxiiments of her can hardly he 
assumed. In Siam the spirit of the 
lakhicn tree is believed tu appear, 
sometimes in the form of a woman, 
sometimes in the form of a serpent 
(Bostian, Die Voiker des ostliehen 
. Isien^ iii. 25 1 ). The vipers that haunted 
t))c l)al.>am trees in Arabia were re- 
garded by the Arabs as sacred to the 
trees (Pausanias, ix. 28. 4U 

%*i.:'.: r.. ■: .- 

V- ..^ f: 


•:■ n.^tui 




have replaced animals which really had this representative 
character. When the meaning of the custom was forgotten, 
self-interest and humanity might unite in suggesting the sub- 
stitution of noxious reptiles as victims in room of harmless 
and useful animals. 

Thus it appears that the sacrificial rites of the Celts of 
ancient Gaul can be traced in the popular festivals of modern 
Europe. Naturally it is in France, or rather in the wider 
area comprised within the limits of ancient Gaul, that these 
rites have left the clearest traces in the customs of burning 
giants of wicker-work and animals enclosed in wicker-work 
or baskets. These customs, it will have been remarked, are 
generally observed at or about midsummer. From this we 
may infer that the original rites of which these are the de- 
generate successors were solemnised at midsummer. This 
inference harmonises with the conclusion suggested by a 
general survey of European folk-custom, that the midsummer 
festival must on the whole have been the most widely diffused 
and the most solemn of all the yearly festivals celebrated by 
the primitive Aryans in Europe. And in its application to 
the Celts this general conclusion is corroborated by the more 
or less perfect vestiges of midsummer fire-festivals which we 
have found lingering in all those westernmost promontories 
and islands which are the last strongholds of the Celtic race 
in Europe — Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Man, 
Scotland, and Ireland. In Scotland, it is true, the chief 
Celtic firc-fcstivals certainly appear to have been held at 
Beltane (the first of May) and Hallowe'en ; but this was 

To sum up : the combined evidence of ancient writers 
and of modern folk-custom points to the conclusion that 
amongst the Celts of Gaul an annual festival was celebrated 
at midsummer, at which living men, representing the tree- 
spirit or spirit of vegetation, were enclosed in wicker-frames 
and burned. The whole rite was designed as a charm to 
make the sun to shine and the crops to grow. 

But there are some grounds for thinking that another 
great feature of the Celtic midsummer festival was the 
gathering of the sacred mistletoe by the Druids. The 
elaborate ceremonies which were observed by these wizards 






when they culled the holy plant have been described by 
Pliny. After enumerating the different kinds of mistletoe, 
he proceeds : " In treating of this subject, the admiration 
in which the mistletoe is held throughout Gaul ought not 
to pass unnoticed. The Druids, for so they call their 
wizards, esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe 
and the tree on which it grows, provided only that the tree 
is an oak. But apart from this they choose oak-woods 
for their sacred groves and perform no sacred rites with- 
out oak-leaves ; so that the very name of Druids may be 
regarded as a Greek appellation derived from their wor- 
ship of the oak.^ For they believe that whatever grows on 
these trees is sent from heaven, and is a sign that the tree 
has been chosen by the god himself. The mistletoe is very 
rarely to be met with ; but when it is found, they gather it 
with solemn ceremony. This they do especially on the 
sixth day of the moon, from which they date the beginning 
of their months, of their years, and of their thirty years* 
cycle, because by the sixth day the moon has plenty of 
vigour and has not run half its course. After due pre- 
parations have been made for a sacrifice and a feast under 
the tree, they hail it as the universal healer and bring to 
the spot two white bulls, whose horns have never been 
bound before. A priest clad in a white robe climbs the 
tree and with a golden sickle cuts the mistletoe, which 
is caught in a white cloth. Then they sacrifice the victims, 
praying that God may make his own gift to prosper with those 
upon whom he has bestowed it. They believe that a potion 
prepared from mistletoe will make barren animals to bring 
forth, and that the plant is a remedy against all poison." - 

* IMiny derives the name Druid from 
the Greek drus^ "oak." Me did not 
know that the Celtic word for oak was 
ihc same {liaur)^ and that therefore 
Druid, in the sense of priest of the 
oak, was };cnuinc Celtic, not borrowed 
from the Greek. See Curtius, Grinh. 
Etymoli\i;iCy'* p. 238 sif, ; Vani^ck, 
Crit'ihisih-latcinischcs ctymoloii;, W'crt- 
t-rbm/t^ p. 368 s<ft/, ; J. Khys, C«///. 
Ihathiudohi^ p. 221 sq(f. In the llijjh- 
lands of Scotland the word is found 
in place-names like liendarroch (the 

mountain of the oak), Craigandarnxrh, 

- Pliny, Xat. Hist, xvi. 249 /yy. 
On the Celtic worship of the oak, see 
also Maximus Tyrius, Dissert, viii. 8 : 
Kf\ro2 aifioi'Ci /li^ Atd Ay aXfia 6i A(6t 
KtXrtKby vrfriXrj 6pvs. With the Druid- 
ical mode of gathering the mistletoe 
compare the following. In Cambodia 
when a man |ierceives a certain para- 
sitic plant growing on a tamarind-tree, 
he dresses in white and taking a new 
earthen pot climbti the tree at mid-day. 


■ r-- 

cs- a^j.-v ■■!::■ 




In saying that the Druids cut the mistletoe especially on 
the sixth day of the moon,^ Pliny seems to imply that they 
procured a fresh supply of it every month. But we may 
surmise that they also gathered the sacred plant with the 
same solemn ceremony on Midsummer Eve. For in France 
and England, the countries where the sway of the Druids is 
known to have been most firmly established, Midsummer 
Eve is still the time for culling certain magic plants, whose 
evanescent virtue can be secured at this mystic season alone. 
Indeed all over Europe antique fancies of the same sort have 
lingered about Midsummer Eve, imparting to it a fragrance 

He puts the plant in the pot and lets 
the whole fall to the ground. Then in 
the pot he makes a decoction which 
renders invulnerable. See Aymonier, 
"Notes sur les coutumes et croyances 
saperstitieuses des Cambodgiens/' 
Cochinchhu Frati^aise : Excursions ct 
Reconnaissaticesy No. 16, p. 136. 
Branches of the sacred olive at Olympia, 
which were to form the victors* crowns, 
had to l)e cut with a golden sickle by a 
boy whose ])arents were both alive 
(Schol. on Pindar, Olymp. iii. 60). It 
has been a rule of superstition both in 
ancient and modem times that certain 
plants, to which medical or magical 
virtues were attributed, should not 
be cut with iron. See Pliny, Nat. 
Hist. XX. 19, xxiv. 68, 103, 176; 
Villemarqu^, Barzaz Brtiz^ Chants 
Populaires dc /a Hretagtuf p. 76 ; 
Laisnel de le Salle, Croyances ct 
IJ^ndcs du centre de la Frattce, i. 233 ; 
Zeitschrift fiir deutsche Mytholo^c und 
Sittcnkttnde^ iv. (1859), p. 153 sq. In 
antiquity some thought that the mar- 
vellous properties of the mistletoe were 
heightened if the plant had liecn 
gathered from the oak without the use 
of iron and without being allowed to 
touch the ground ; in that case the 
plant could cure epilepsy and aid 
women to conceive (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 
xxiv. 12). Swabian peasants, who 
ascribe great virtue to mistletoe that 
grows on an oak, say that it should not 
l)e cut in the common way but shot 
down with an arrow, when the sun is 
in Sagittarius, on the first, third, or 
fourth day before the new moon, and 

that it should be caught in the left hand 
ns it falls from the tree (E. Meier, in 
Zeitschrift fiir dentsche Mytholo^f^e und 
Sittenkunde^ i. (1853), p. 443 sq.). On 
the objection to the use of iron in such 
cases, see Liebrecht, Gervasius von Tii- 
bury,\t. 103; andabove,vol.i. p.344J^y. 
* In the 6rst edition of this book I 
understood Pliny to say that the cere- 
mony fell in the sixth month — that is, 
in June, and hence I argued that it 
probably formed part of the midsummer 
festival. But in accordance with 
Latin usage the words of Pliny {scxta 
iuna^ literally ** sixth moon ") can 
only mean *' the sixth day of the 
moon." I have to thank Mr. \V. 
Warde Fowler for courteously pointing 
out my mistake to me. Compare my 
note in ihc ^ItAena^im, November 21st, 
1 89 1, p. 687. I also misunderstood 
Pliny's words "«•/ saecu/i post irice* 
si mum annum^quia jam virium ahunde 
haheat nee sit sui dimidia,''^ api)lying 
them to the tree instead of to the 
moon, t«> which they really refer. After 
scuculi we must understand principinm 
from the preceding pHncipia. Wiih 
the thirty years* cycle of the Druids we 
may compare the sixty years' cycle t»f 
the Ik>eotian festival of the Great 
Daedala (vol. i. p. 225 sq.), which like 
the Druidical rite in question was 
essentially a worship, or perhaps rather 
a conjuration, of the sacred oak. 
Whether any deeper affinity, based on 
common Aryan descent, may lie traced 
l)etween the lk>eotian and the Druidical 
ceremony, I do not pretend to deter- 


of the pasty like withered rose leaves that, found by chance in 
the ps^es of an old volume, still smell of departed summers. 
Thus in Saintonge and Aunis, two of the ancient provinces 
of Western France, we read that "of all the festivals for 
which the merry bells ring out there is not one which has 
given rise to a greater number of superstitious practices than 
the festival of St. John the Baptist. The Eve of St. John 
was the day of all days for gathering the wonderful herbs by 
means of which you could combat fever, cure a host of 
diseases, and guard yourself against sorcerers and their spells. 
But in order to attain these results two conditions had to be 
observed ; first, you must be fasting when you gathered the 
herbs, and second, you must cull them before the sun rose. 
If these conditions were not fulfilled, the plants had no 
special virtue." * In the neighbouring province of Perigord 
the person who gathered the magic herbs before sunrise at 
this season had to walk backwards, to mutter some mystic 
words, and to perform certain ceremonies. The plants thus 
collected were carefully kept as an infallible cure for fever ; 
placed above beds and the doors of houses and of cattle- 
sheds they protected man and beast from disease, witchcraft, 
and accident^ In Normandy a belief in the marvellous 
properties of herbs and plants, of flowers and seeds and 
leaves gathered, with certain traditional rites, on the Eve or 
the Day of St. John has remained part of the peasant's creed 
to this day. Thus he fancies that seeds of vegetables and 
plants, which have been collected on St. John's Eve, will 
keep better than others, and that flowers plucked that day 
will never fade.^ In the Vosges Mountains they say that 
wizards have but one day in the year, and but one hour in 
that day, to find and cull the baleful herbs which they use in 
their black art. That day is the Eve of St. John, and that 
hour is the time when the church bells are ringing the noon- 
day Angelus. Hence in many villages they say that the 
bells ought not to ring at noon on that day.* In the Tyrol 

'J. I.. M. Nogucs, /xs tmiitis •' I^ca-ur, /ist/i/issrs tin /Wtitfl; 

<f autrefois e*// Suiftfofixv vt en .lufi/s, Xonitttmi, ii. pp. S, 224 : lb liquet, lui 

j». 71. Xorwandit romaut>ifiii i/ w *»•:•* i//ciisf, 

* I>c Nore, Coutmnes^ Mythes. </ p. 294. 

TraditioMs des Provinces tie Frame ^ p. * Sauvc, I- oik 'Ion dts JlanteS" 

150 sif, I'os^i^es^ p. 168 stf. 


''^ ^^mwm f^^ 




they think that the witching hour is when the Ave Maria 
bell is ringing on Midsummer Eve, for then the witches go 
forth to gather the noxious plants whereby they raise 
thunderstorms. Therefore in many districts the bells ring 
for a shorter time than usual that evening ; ^ at Folgareit the 
sexton used to steal quietly into the church, and when the 
clock struck three he contented himself with giving a few 
pulls to the smallest of the bells.^ In the Mark of Branden- 
burg the peasants gather all sorts of simples on Midsummer 
Day, because they are of opinion that the drugs produce 
their medicinal effect only if they have been culled at that 
time. Many of these plants, especially roots, must be dug 
up at midnight and in silence.' In Mecklenburg not merely 
is a special healing virtue ascribed to simples collected on 
Midsummer Day ; the very smoke of such plants, if they are 
burned in the fire, is believed to protect a house against 
thunder and lightning, and to still the raging of the storm.* 
The Wends of the Sprecwald twine wreaths of herbs and 
flowers at midsummer, and hang them up in their rooms ; 
and when any one gets a fright he will lay some of the 
leaves and blossoms on hot coals and fumigate himself with 
the smoke.*^ In Eastern Prussia, some two hundred years 
ago, it used to be customary on Midsummer Day to make 
up a bunch of herbs of various sorts and fasten it to a pole, 
which was then put up over the gate or door through which 
the corn would be brought in at harvest. Such a pole was 
called Kaupole, and it remained in its place till the crops 
had been reaped and garnered. Then the bunch of herbs 
was taken down ; part of it was put with the corn in the 
barn to keep rats and mice from the grain, and part was 
kept as a remedy for disc.iscs of all sorts.'* A writer of the 
early part of the seventeenth century informs us that the 

* Zingerle, in ZcitSihrift fiii' *it'titi*ff*^ 
Mythohi^ic uiid Sittt'iikHmU\ i. (1 853), 
p. 332 Sif. ; /V/., Si/ttity /iniUi/it' und 
Mciiiuiii^in lits TiioUr I'oUrSf- p. 158, 

i^S '345» '34«. 

* Schnellcr. MHirht'ii ttml Sai^cn aiis 

WiHschtii'ol^ p. 237, j5 24. 

3 A. Ktihn, Markischc Sni^vn uiid 
M tire he M^ p. 330. 

* K. li.nrtsch, Saf^u, Manhat wtd 

Ciiniiuchc aus Mckienhuri^^ ii. p. 2S7, 
J5 1436. 

*'» W. von Schulenburg, Wemiischc 
Vo/l'Ssai^tN tiitd itchrauclw aus dt'in 
S/tret'Uui/d^ p. 254. 

^ I'raetorius, /k/iiAu- Pnissuae^ p. 
24 s(/. Kaupole is pri>bably iiicntiral 
in name with Kupole or Kupnio, as to 
whom sec above, vol. ii. pp. 105, 129 


Livonians, among whom he lived, were impressed with a 
belief in the great and marvellous properties possessed by 
simples which had been culled on Midsummer Day. Such 
simples, they thought, were sure remedies for fever and for 
sickness and pestilence in man and beast ; but if gathered 
one day too late they lost all their virtue.^ Among the 
I-rCtts of the Baltic provinces of Russia girls and women go 
about on Midsummer Day crowned with wreaths of aromatic 
plants, which are afterAvards hung up for good luck in the 
houses. The plants are also dried and given to cows to eat, 
because they are supposed to help the animals to calvc' In 
Bulgaria St. John's Day is the special season for culling 
simples. On this day, too, Bulgarian girls gather nosegays 
of a certain white flower, throw them into a vessel of water, 
and place the vessel under a rose-tree in bloom. Here it 
remains all night. Next morning they set it in the courtyard 
and dance singing round it. An old woman then takes 
the flowers out of the vessel, and the girls wash themselves 
with the water, praying that God would grant them 
health throughout the year. After that the old woman 
restores her nosegay to each girl and promises her a rich 

Sometimes in order to produce the desired effect it is 
deemed necessary that seven or nine different sorts of plants 
should be gathered at this mystic season. Norman peasants, 
who wish to fortify themselves for the toil of harvest, will 
sometimes go out at dawn on St. John's Day and pull seven 
kinds of plants, which they afterwards eat in their soup as a 
means of imparting strength and suppleness to their limbs in 
the harvest field.^ In Mecklenburg maidens are wont to 
gather seven sorts of flowers at noon on Midsummer Eve. 
These they weave into garlands, and sleep with them under 
their pillows. Then they arc sure to dream of the men who 
will marr}' them.^ But the flowers on which youthful lovers 

* r. Kinhorn, ** Wiedcrlcgungc dcr •'• A. Strausz, Dii /iiir^ii-iK 

Al>i;i»licrey : der ander {sit) Theil/' sic, 1S9S), pp. 34S, 3S6. 

printed ni Riga in 1627, and reprinted 4 , /• • j t^ 

in .Srri.*'foirs irnim I.wonicantm^ 11. ., . .. ' "^ 

,,.. jT- 001 £. J\oniiaiui^ 11. 0. 

(Ki^a and Leii>sic, 1 040), p. 651 sq, " 

- \. ij. Ko\\\y Dhdi'itisi A' mssisi/wn " Hartsch, .Vt^vi//, Miinli.ti luui 

O^tsit'prcvinzcn^ ii. 26. Gehniuihi aits MckUulnu};^ ii. 2S5. 

^^ ' ■■• ''■ ^^M^^^^^ • r ^^'"^^ ^--^^ ' ■ """^"TgaMMMmMii^ ""• : 


dream at Midsummer Eve are oftener nine in number. 
Thus in Voigtland nine different kinds of flowers are twined 
into a garland at the hour of noon, but they may not enter 
the dwelh'ng by the door in the usual way ; they must be 
passed through the window, or, if they come in at the door, 
they must be thrown, not carried, into the house. Sleeping on 
them that night you will dream of your future wife or future 
husband.^ The Bohemian maid, who gathers nine kinds of 
flowers on which to dream of love at Midsummer Eve, takes 
care to wrap her hand in a white cloth, and afterwards to 
wash it in dew ; and when she brings her garland home she 
must speak no word to any soul she meets by the way, for 
then all the magic virtue of the flowers would be gone.^ Other 
Bohemian girls look into the book of fate at this season 
after a different fashion. They twine their hair with wreaths 
made of nine sorts of leaves, and go, when the stars of the 
summer night are twinkling in the sky, to a brook that flows 
beside a tree. There, gazing on the stream, the girl beholds, 
beside the broken reflections of the tree and the stars, the 
watery image of her future lord.* So in Masuren maidens 
gather nosegays of wild flowers in silence on Midsummer 
Eve. At the midnight hour each girl takes the nosegay and 
a glass of water, and when she has spoken certain words she 
sees her lover mirrored in the water.* Sometimes Bohemian 
damsels make a different use of their midsummer garlands 
twined of nine sorts of flowers. They lie down with the 
garland laid as a pillow under their right ear, and a hollow 
voice, swooning from underground, proclaims their destiny.^ 
Yet another mode of consulting the oracle by means of these 
same garlands is to throw them backwards and in silence 
upon a tree at the hour of noon, just when the flowers have 
been gathered. For every time that the wreath is thrown 
without sticking to the branches of the tree the girl will have 
a year to wait before she weds. This mode of divination is 
practised in Voigtland,*^ and the same thing is done in 
Masuren, although we are not told that there the wreaths 

'J. A. K. Kohler, Volkshrauch^ * Tr)p|>cn, Ahcrf^laiiUn aus Mas- 

etc, /'/// io/xf/ttf/i/rf p. 376. ttnn^' p. 72. 

* Keinsbertx-DUringsfeld, Fcst-Kal- * Reinsberg-DUringsfeld, lof, tit. 

aider am Boh men ^ p. 312. • J. A. E. Krihlcr, Voiksbrauch^tXc.^ 

^ Reinsbcrg-DUringsftflil, loc. tit, im ]'oi\i/amif, j». 376. 


. -. . ■'«••'?■" '• c- .M- ^ 




must be composed of nine sorts of flowers.^ However, in 
Masuren chaplets of nine kinds of herbs are gathered on St. 
John's Eve and put to a more prosaic use than that of 
presaging the course of true love. They are carefully pre- 
served, and the people brew a sort of tea from them, which 
they administer as a remedy for many ailments ; or they keep 
the chaplets under their pillows till they are dry, and there- 
upon dose their sick cattle with them.^ In Esthonia the 
virtues popularly ascribed to wreaths of this sort are many 
and various. These wreaths, composed of nine kinds of 
herbs culled on the Eve or the Day of St. John, are some- 
times inserted in the roof or hung up on the walls of the 
house, and each of them receives the name of one of the 
inmates. If the plants which have been thus dedicated to a 
girl happen to take root and grow in the chinks and 
crannies, she will soon wed ; if they have been dedicated to 
an older person and wither away, that person will die. The 
people also give them as medicine to cattle at the time when 
the animals are driven forth to pasture ; or they fumigate 
the beasts with the smoke of the herbs, which are burnt 
along with shavings from the wooden threshold. Bunches 
of the plants are also hung about the house to keep off evil 
spirits, and maidens lay them under their pillows to dream 
on.^ In Sweden the " Midsummer Brooms," made up of nine 
sorts of flowers gathered on Midsummer Eve, are put to 
nearly the same uses. Fathers of families hang up such 
** brooms " to the rafters, one for each inmate of the house ; 
and he or she whose broom {quasf) is the first to wither will 
be the first to die. Girls also dream of their future husbands 
with these bunches of flowers under their pillows. A 
decoction made from the flowers is, moreover, a panacea for 
all disorders, and if a bunch of them be hung up in the 
cattle shed, the Troll cannot enter to bewitch the beasts.* 

Of the flowers which it has been customary to gather for 
purposes of magic or divination at midsummer none perhaps 
is so widely popular as St. John's wort {Hypericum per- 

* To^i^n^Abcixlatifhtt aits A/dstmii^' umi atisscnt l^ihcn der E/ishn^ p. 362 

' Toppen, op. at. p. 71. * I« lAoyiX, Peasafii Life in Suvdctt^ 

3 A. Wiedemann, .ttis din inncntt p. 267 sq. 

v- S-'. 




foratuni). The reason for associating this particular plant 
with the great summer festival is perhaps not far to seek, for 
the flower blooms about Midsummer Day, and with its bright 
yellow petals and masses of golden stamens it might well 
pass for a tiny copy on earth of the great sun which reaches 
its culminating point in heaven at this season. Gathered on 
Midsummer Eve, or on Midsummer Day before sunrise, the 
blossoms are hung on doorways and windows to preserve the 
house against thunder, witches, and evil spirits ; and various 
healing properties are attributed to the different species of 
the plant. In the Tyrol they say that if you put St. John's 
wort in your shoe before sunrise on Midsummer Day you 
may walk as far as you please without growing weary. In 
Scotland people carried it about their persons as an amulet 
against witchcraft. On the lower Rhine children twine 
chaplets of St. John's wort on the morning of Midsummer 
Day, and throw them on the roofs of the houses. Here, too, 
the people who danced round the midsummer bonfires used 
to wear wreaths of these yellow flowers in their hair, and to 
deck the images of the saints at wayside shrines with the 
blossoms. Sometimes they flung the flowers into the 
bonfires. In Sicily they dip St. John's wort in oil, and so 
apply it as a balm for every wound. During the Middle 
Ages the power which the plant notoriously possesses of 
banning devils won for it the name q{ fuga daemonum ; and 
before witches and wizards were stretched on the rack or 
otherwise tortured, the flower used to be administered to 
them as a means of wringing the truth from their lips.^ In 
Saintonge and Aunis the flowers served to detect the 

* Montnnus, Die dititschcn I'olks- 
fi'sit'^ p. 145 : Wutlkc, Dcr diutsihc 
Volksabt'ri^liUther ^ 134 ; Zin-^cile, in 
Ztitschrift ftir dcutschc Mythoht^ic umi 
Sittcnkuml\ i. (1S53). p. 329; A. 
Sclil<Hsar, ** Volksmcinun^ und Volks- 
alH:r;:laul)e aus dcr deulschcn Sicier- 
mark," German ia^ X. R. , xxi v. ( i S9 1 ), p. 
3S7 ; IC. Meier, Deutsche S^v^cn^ Sitt* // 
und Cnhrauehe aus Sehwabcn^ p. 428 ; 
Hrnnd, Popular Autiquiiics, i. 307, 
312 ; Dyer, Fo!k-lore of l*lants^ pp. 
02, 2S6 ; Friend, l-!o:>.*ers and I'lo-.^'cr 
/.ore, pp. 147, 149. »SO« 540; 

Kinaniorc. CnJenze, C'si e Coi/u/u/ 
.-ihriizzesi, |>. 16 1 si/. One aulhoriiy 
lays dt)wn the rule that ym shouKI 
pilher the plant fastinj; and in silence 
(Itrand, op. .//. p. 312). Accordinj^ 
to Sowcrby, the Ilyperieuni p rforatnm 
flowersin I'mjlandaiMUit lulvand .Aujiusi 
{En^Ush /io.Wiy, xi. 295). We should 
reniciuber, however, ihnl in the old 
calendar Midsummer Day fell twelve 
days later than at present. The 
refotin of the calendar probably put 
many f»)<l floral su]K'rstilions out of 


!U«Kmm « *>pSa 

V . -.-T. 



presence of sorcerers, for if one of these pestilent fellows entered 
a house, the bunches of St. John's wort, which had been gathered 
on Midsummer Eve and hung on the walls, immediately 
dropped their yellow heads as if they had suddenly faded.^ 
Further, the edges of the calyx and petals of St. John's wort, 
as well as their external surface, are marked with dark purple 
spots and lines, which, if squeezed, yield a red essential oil 
soluble in spirits." German peasants believe that this red 
oil is the blood of St. John,^ and this may be why the plant 
is supposed to heal all sorts of wounds.* In Mecklenburg 
they say that if you pull up St. John's wort at noon on 
Midsummer Day you will find at the root a bead of red 
juice called St. John's blood ; smear this blood on your shirt 
just over your heart, and no mad dog will bite you.^ In the 
Mark of Brandenburg the same blood, procured in the same 
manner and rubbed on the barrel of a gun, will make every 
shot from that gun to hit the mark.^ According to others, 
St. John's blood is found at noon on St. John's Day, and 
only then, adhering in the form of beads to the root of a 
weed called knawcl, which grows in sandy soil. But som.e 
people say that these beads of red juice are not really the 
blood of the martyred saint, but only insects resembling the 
cochineal or kermes-berry." 

Yet another plant whose root has been thought to 
yield the blood of St. John is the mouse-ear hawkweed 
{Hieradum piloseUa\ which grows very commonly in dry 
exposed places, such as gravelly banks, sunny lawns, and 
the tops of park walls. " It blossoms from May to the 
end of July, presenting its elegant sulphur-coloured flowers 
to the noontide sun, while the surrounding herbage, and even 
its own foliage, is withered and burnt up ; " '^ and these round 

* Noc;ucs, Ixs mours (fanftrfois «// 
Sainiotti^i' ct en Aitnis^ p. 7 1 .<</. 

^ Sowcrby, Eiti^lisli Jiolan\\ \\, 295. 
^ Montnnus, Die thuiuJun Vo/ls- 
J,stc, p. 35. 

* Dyer, ivik'hrc of Piuits^ p. 2S6 : 
iJartsch, .V*/;-*//, Marih,n timi Cnhrauchc 
tilts A/t'l'hnbtiri^t ii. p. 291, J? 1450*?. 
The Germans of IJoIicmia a>cril>c 
wonderful virlucs !<» the ret! juice ex- 
lracte<l fr<»m the yrl!<»w flowers of St. 
John's won (\V. Miillcr, Jiiihiti^e uir 

/ 'olhsLundt' liti- I\ittstlun in Mahnii^ 
p. 264). 

•*• Harlech, op. cit. ii. p. 2S6, ji 1433. 
The blood is also a preservative against 
many diseases (/»/.<•//. ii. p. 200, § 1444). 

'' Kuhn, Mtjrkiwlw Sa;^ctt umi 
.l/.//-.7/<7/, p. 3S7, S 105. 

' Pic ,i^tstritxt/fc Kotit iiphiIosophit\ 
p. 246 sq.\ Montanus, Die diutSihtn 
I'oiksfi'sten^ p. 147. 

** Sowerby, lin^Iish /io/jtij\ xii. 

coin.- Near Gablonz, in Bohemia, it used to be custoi 
to make a bed of St. John's flowers, as they were calle( 
St. John's Eve, and in the night the saint himself came 
laid his head on the bed ; next morning you could sec 
print of his head on the flowers, which derived a he 
virtue from the blessed touch, and were mixed with 
fodder of sick cattle to make them whole.^ But wh< 
these St. John's flowers were the mouse-ear hawkwec 
not is doubtful.^ 

More commonly in Germany the name of St. J 
flowers (Johannisblumeti) appears to be given to 
mountain arnica. In Voigtland the mountain arnii 
plucked on St. John's Day and stuck in the fields, laid i 
the roof, or hung on the wall, is believed to protect 1 
and fields from lightning and hail.* So in some pat 
Bavaria they think that no thunderstorm can harm a I 
which has a blossom of mountain arnica in the roof, a 
the Tyrol the same flower fastened to the door will r 
the house fire-proof. But it is needless to remark tha 
flower, which takes its popular name from St. John, w 
no protection against cither fire or thunder unless it has 
culled on the saint's own day.^ On the same day i 
Slavonian peasants gather white " St John's flowers,' 
lay them in a sieve, one for each person in the house ; 






she whose flower droops its head before morning will die 
within the year.^ 

Another plant which possesses wondrous virtues, if only 
it be gathered on the Eve or the Day of St. John, is 
mugwort or wormwood {Artemisia vulgaris). Hence, in 
France it goes by the name of the herb of St. John.* Near 
P^ronne, in the French department of Somme, people used 
to go out fasting before sunrise on St. John's Day to cull 
the plant ; put among the wheat in the barn it protected 
the corn against mice. In Artois people carried bunches of 
mugwort, or wore it round their body ; ^ in Poitou they still 
wear girdles of mugwort or hemp when they warm their 
backs at the midsummer fire as a preservative against back- 
ache at harvest ; * and the custom of wearing girdles of 
mugwort on the Eve or Day of St. John has caused the 
plant to be popularly known in Germany and Bohemia as 
St. John's girdle. In Bohemia such girdles are believed to 
protect the wearer for the whole year against ghosts, magic, 
misfortune, and sickness. People also weave garlands of 
the plant and look through them at the midsummer bonfire 
or put them on their heads ; and by doing so they ensure 
that their heads will not ache nor their Qycs smart all that 
year. Another Bohemian practice is to make a decoction 
of mugwort which has been gathered on St. John's Day ; 
then, when your cow is bewitched and will yield no milk, 
you have only to wash the animal thrice with the decoction 
and the spell will be broken.* In Germany, people used to 
crown their heads or gird their bodies with mugwort, which 
they afterwards threw into the midsummer bonfire, pronoun- 
cing certain rhymes and believing that they thus rid them- 
selves of all their ill-luck.^ Sometimes wreaths or girdles of 

* F. S. Krauss, Volksi^iauhe t4ud 
rcHgioser Branch der Siidslavcn^ p. 34. 

* Grimm, Deutsche Mytholo<^ie^^ ii. 
1013 ; Gubernatis, MyihoIo};ie dcs 
Plant es^ i. 189 j^. ; Friend, Fltnvers 
and Flower Ij>re, p. 751. 

3 Breuil, «* Du culie de Sl.-Jean- 
Baptiste/* MJmohrs dc la SocitU<? dcs 
Antiqnaircs dc Picardic^ viii. (1845), 
p. 224, note I, quoting the curt* of 
Manancourt, near Peronne. 

VOL. Ill 

* L. Pineau, J^e folk-lore dn Poitott 
(Paris, 1892), p. 499. 

* Grohmann, Abcrglauhen und Cc- 
hriinchc ans Hohmcn und Miihren^ p. 
90 j^., §§ 635-637. 

* Panzer, fieitraff zur deutschai 
Mythohi^ic, i. p. 249, § 283 ; 
Cirimm, D.M.^ ii. 1013 ; Zingerle, in 
Zcitschrift fiir dcutsche Mythologie und 
Sittcnkunde^ \. (1853), p. 33 1, and ib. 
iv. (1859), p. 42 (quoting a work of 


r' > if" 

. „W«S^'; 




mugfwort were kept in houses, cattle-?heds, and sheep-folds 
throughout the year.^ In Normandy such wreaths are a 
protection against thunder and thieves ; * and stalks of 
mugwort hinder witches from laying their spells on the 
butter.* In Mecklenburg, they say that if you will dig up 
a plant of mugwort at noon on Midsummer Day, you will 
find under the root a burning coal, which vanishes away as 
soon as the church bells have ceased to ring. If you find 
the coal and carry it off in silence, it will prove a remedy 
for all sorts of maladies.* According to another German 
superstition, such a coal will turn to gold.* English writers 
record the popular belief that a rare coal is to be found 
under the root of mugwort at a single hour of a single day 
in the year, namely, at noon on Midsummer Eve, and that 
this coal will protect him who carries it on his person from 
plague, carbuncle, lightning, fever, and ague.® In Eastern 
Prussia, on St John's Eve, people can foretell a marriage by 
means of mugwort ; they bend two stalks of the growing 
plant outward, and then observe whether the stalks, after 
straightening themselves again, incline towards each other 
or not.^ 

A similar mode of divination has been practised both in 
England and in Germany with the orpine {Sedum teUphiufn\ 
a plant which grows on a gravelly or chalky soil about 
hedges, the borders of fields, and on bushy hills. It flowers 
in August, and the blossoms consist of dense clustered tufts 
of crimson or purple petals ; sometimes, but rarely, the 
flowers are white.® In England the plant is popularly 
known as Midsummer Men, because people used to plant 
slips of them in pairs on Midsummer Eve, one slip standing 

the seventeenth century) ; Vonbun, 
Beitrdge zur deutsthen Mythoiogie^ p. 
133, note **. See also above, pp. 
268, 270, 274. 

' Gubernatis, Mythologie dcr Pia9it€S, 
i. 190, quoting Du Cange. 

'^ De No re, Coutunies, Mythes et 
Traditiofts dis Ptai'imes dc France^ p. 

' Lecoeur, Esquisses du Bocagt Nor- 
mafid, ii. 8. 

* Birtsch, Sai^M, Mdnhen^ und 
Cebrduche am MckUftburg^ ii. 290, 

§ U45- 

'' Montanus, Du diutschtii VolkS" 
fcstcn^ p. 141. 

* Brand, Pojntlar Antiquities^ i. 
334, quoting Lupton and Thomas 

' Lemke, VolksthUmliclus in Ost' 
picussen^ i. 21. As to mugwort (Ger- 
man Bfi/tiss, French armoise)^ sec 
further Gubernatis, Mythologie des 
Plantes^ ii. 16 sqq. ; Grimm, Deutsche 
Mytho/ogic^* iii. 356 sq, 

** Sowerby, English Botany^ vii. 

^■■V^" - 




for a young man and the other for a young woman. If the 
plants, as they grew up, bent towards each other, the couple 
would marry ; if either of them withered, he or she whom it 
represented would die.^ In Masuren and the Mark of 
Brandenburg the method of forecasting the future by means 
of the orpine is precisely the same.- 

Another plant which popular superstition has often 
associated with the summer solstice is vervain. In some 
parts of Spain people gather vervain after sunset on Mid- 
summer Eve, and wash their faces next morning in the 
water in which the plants have been allowed to steep over- 
night.* In Normandy, the peasants cull vervain on the Day 
or the Eve of St John, believing that, in addition to its 
medical properties, it possesses at this season the power of 
protecting the house from thunder and lightning, from 
sorcerers, demons, and thieves/ Bohemian poachers wash 
their guns with a decoction of vervain and southernwood, 
which they have gathered naked before sunrise on Mid- 
summer Day ; guns which have been thus treated never miss 
the mark.* In our own country vervain used to be sought for 
its magical virtues on Midsummer Eve.® In the Tyrol they 
think that he who finds a four- leaved clover while the 
vesper-bell is ringing on Midsummer Eve can work magic 

' Aubrey, Remains of Gcntilismc 
and Judaisme^ p. 25 sq, ; Brand, 
Popular AniiquitUs, i. 329 sqq, ; 
Friend, Flowers and Flower Lore^ p. 
136. It seems that in England the 
course of love has sometimes been 
divined by means of sprigs of red sage 
placed in a basin of rose-water on 
Midsummer Eve (Brand, op, a'l, i. 


* Topi^en, Ahcrqlaulnn atis Masuren^' 

p. 71 sq. \ Kuhn, Saj^n^ Cehrdnchc 

und Miirchen aus Westfalcn^ ii. 176, 

4; 487. In Germany a root of 

orpine, dug up on St. John's morning 

.tnd hung between the shoulders, is 

sometimes thought to be a cure for 

hemorrhoids (Montanus, Die dentschen 

I'olksfcste^ p. 145). Perhaps the 

** oblong, tapering, fleshy, white 

lumps " of the roots (Sowerby, English 

J^oian)% vii. 1319) are thought to bear 

some likeness to the hemorrhoids, and 

to heal them on the principle that the 
remedy should resemble the disease. 

^ Dr. Otero Acevado, in I^ Temps^ 
September 1898. See above, p. 297, 
note 2. 

* De Nore, Couiumes, Mythes et 
Traditions des Provinces de Fratue^ p. 
262 ; Bosquet, La Normandie roman- 
tsque et merveiileuse^ p. 294 ; Lecueur, 
Esq Misses dn Hocage Normandy i. 287, 
ii. 8. In Saintonge and Aunis the 
plant was gathered on Midsummer 
Eve for the purpose of evoking or 
exorcising spirits (Nogues, I^s mcetirs 
d" autrefois en Saintonge et en Aunis^ 
p. 72). 

^ Grohman, Aberglauben und Ge- 
briiuchc aus Bohtnen ufui Mahren^ p. 
207, § 1437. 

** Kuhn, SageUy Cebrducke und 
Mdrchen aus Westfalen^ ii. 177, citing 
Chambers, Edinburgh Journal^ 2nd 
July 1S42. 





from that time forth.^ People in Berry say that the four- 
leaved clover is endowed with all its marvellous virtues only 
when it has been plucked by a virgin on the night of Mid- 
summer Eve.^ In Saintonge and Aunis the four-leaved 
clover, if it be found on the Eve of St. John, brings good 
luck at play.' 

At Kirchvers, in Hesse, people run out to the fields 
at noon on Midsummer Day to gather camomile ; for the 
flowers, plucked at the moment when the sun is at the 
highest point of his course, are supposed to possess the 
medicinal qualities of the plant in the highest degree. In 
heathen times the camomile flower, with its healing qualities, 
its yellow calix and white stamens, is said to have been 
sacred to the kindly and shining Balder and to have borne 
his name, being called Balders-brd^ In Westphalia, also, 
the belief prevails that camomile is most potent as a drug 
when it has been gathered on Midsummer Day ; ^ in 
Masuren the plant must always be one of the nine different 
kinds of plants that arc culled on Midsummer Eve to form 
wreaths, and tea brewed from the flower is a remedy for 
many sorts of maladies.^ Thuringian peasants hold that if 
the root of the yellow mullein ( Verbascum) has been dug up 
in silence with a ducat at midnight, on Midsummer Eve, 
and is worn in a piece of linen next to the skin, it will 
preserve the wearer from epilepsy.^ In Prussia girls go out 
into the fields on Midsummer Day, gather mullein, and 
hang it up over their beds. The girl whose flower is the 
first to wither will be the first to die.® Perhaps the bright 
yellow flowers of mullein, clustering round the stem like 
lighted candles, may partly account for the association of 
the plant with the summer solstice. In Germany great 
mullein {Verbascum thapsus) is called the King's Candle; in 

* Zingerle, SitUn^ Braucht ttnd 
Mcinungen des TiroUr Voikes, p. 107, 

§ 919. 

- Laisnel de la Salle, Croyanccs ft 
I.i'i^»id€S du Centre de la France^ i. 

3 N<^es, Les rncntrs cC autrefois en 
Sainton^ ct en Aunis ^ P- 7 1 -^V* 

< W. Kolbc, Hessisehe Volks-Sitten 
ttnd Gebrduehe^ p. 72. 

^ Kuhn, Sagen^ Cebrduehe und 

Mitnhen aus Westfalett^ ii. 177, 

^ Tbppcn, Aberglattbett aus Mas- 
ttren^ P- 71* 

" A. Witzschel, Sagen^ Sittcn und 
Cehriittche atts Thtiringen^ p. 2S9, 

% 139. 

* Teltau und Tcmmc, Volkssai:,-n 
Ostpreussens^ Litthauens und //«./- 
fnrcussens^ p. 283. 


England it is popularly known as High Taper. The 
yellow, hoary mullein ( Verbascum pulverulentuvi) " forms a 
golden pyramid a yard high, of many hundreds of flowers, 
and is one of the most magnificent of British herbaceous 
plants."^ We may trace a relation between mullein and 
the sun in the Prussian custom of bending the flower, after 
sunset, towards the point where the sun will rise, and pray- 
ing at the same time that a sick person or a sick beast may 
be restored to health.- In Bohemia poachers fancy that they 
can render themselves invulnerable by swallowing the seed 
from a fir-cone which they have found growing upwards before 
sunrise on the morning of St John's Day.^ Again, wild 
thyme gathered on Midsummer Day is used in Bohemia to 
fumigate the trees on Christmas Eve in order that they may 
grow well ;* in Voigtland a tea brewed from wild-thyme 
which has been pulled at noon on Midsummer Day is given 
to women in childbed/ 

More famous, however, than these are the miraculous 
properties which popular superstition in many parts of 
Europe has attributed to the fern at this season. At 
midnight on Midsummer Eve the plant is supposed to 
bloom and soon afterwards to seed ; and whoever catches 
the bloom or the seed is thereby endowed with super- 
natural knowledge and miraculous powers ; above all, he 
knows where treasures lie hidden in the ground, and he 
can render himself invisible at will. But great precautions 
must be observed in procuring the wondrous bloom or seed, 
which else quickly vanishes like dew on sand or mist in the 
air. The seeker must neither touch it with his hand nor 
let it touch the ground ; he spreads a white cloth under the 
plant, and the blossom or the seed falls into it. Beliefs of 
this sort concerning fern-seed have prevailed, with trifling 
variations of detail, in England, France, Germany, Austria, 
Italy, and Russia.*' In Bohemia the magic bloom is said to 

* Sowerliy, En^!i<h Iictau\\ iv. •*• J. A. K. Kohler, Volkshrauch^ etc., 

549, 487. //// roij^/atidt', p. 377. 

- Tettau und Tenimc, /<».. cit. •' Brand, Popular AfitiquitUs^ »• 314 

•' Grohmann, .ihtixiauinu iitui Cc- st/(/. ; Friend, /-Vauvrs and Fl<nvt'r 

hriiiuhe aits Hohmai tmd Mahnn^ p. Lorc^ p. 342 ; Burne and Jackson, 

205, § 1426. Shropshire Foik'lorc^'^, 242; Leca^ur, 

"* Grohmann, op, at. p. 93, § 648. Esqitisses du Hocafft Normandy 1. 290 ; 






be golden, and to glow or sparkle like fire.^ In Russia, 
they say that at dead of night on Midsummer Eve the 
plant puts forth buds like glowing coals, which on the stroke 
of twelve burst open with a clap like thunder and light up 
everything near and far." 

Once more, people have fancied that if they cut a branch 
of hazel on Midsummer Eve it would serve them as a divining 
rod to discover treasures and water. This belief has existed 
in Moravia, Mecklenburg, and apparently in Scotland.^ In 
the Mark of Brandenburg, they say that if you would procure 
the mystic wand you must go to the hazel by night on Mid- 
summer Eve, walking backwards, and when you have come 
to the bush you must silently put your hands between your 
legs and cut a fork -shaped stick ; that stick will be the 
divining-rod, and, as such, will detect treasures buried in the 
ground. If you have any doubt as to the quality of the wand, 
you have only to hold it in water ; for in that case your true 
divining-rod will squeak like a pig, but your spurious one 
will not.** 

Many more examples might be cited of the marvellous 
virtues which certain plants have been supposed to acquire 

Wuttke, Der deutsche Volksabcrglaiibt ^ 
§123; Vonbun, Beitriige zur dcutschen 
Mythologies p. 133 sqq. ; Montanus, 
Die deutschen Volksfcsttit^ p. 144 ; 
Bartsch, Sagen^ Miinhcn umi Gc- 
brduche aus Mekienburg^ ii. 288, 
§ 1437 ; Toppen, Aber^latiben aus 
Masitren^^ p. 72 ; A. Schlossar, **VoIks- 
meinung und Volksabcrglaube aus dcr 
deutschen Sleiermark,*' Gcnnaiiia, 
N. R.,xxiv. (1S91), p. 3S7; Vernalckcn, 
My/ /ten und Hriiuchf dt< l'o/kt\< in 
Ocstcrreich^ p. 309 ; \*on Alpcnburg, 
Mythcn und Sagcn Tirols^ p. 407 f//. ; 
Zingcrle, Sitten^ Hriiuihi und Mcin- 
ungcn des Tiroler Volkcs^ p. 103, S 
8S2. p. 158, § 1350: Schneller, 
Mtinhen und Sagcn aus Walsihtiroi, 
p. 237; Grohmann, Akr^^'iauKn und 
Gibrauchc aus Hohmcn und Mtihi\-n^ 
p. 97» §§ 673-677; Rcinslwrg-Durings. 
fold, I'cst KaUndar aus Hchnun^ p. 
311 sq. \ W. M tiller, Bt it rage zur 
I 'olkskunde dcr Deutschen in Muhrcn^ 
p. 265 ; Finamorc, Crcdcnze, Csi c 
Cost umi Abruzsesif p. 161 ; Guber- 

nalis, Mythologic des Plantcs^ ii. 144 
sqq. In a South Slavonian story 
we read how a cowherd understood the 
language of animals, liecause fern -seed 
accidentally fell into his shoe on Mid- 
summer Day (F. S. Krauss, Sagen uptd 
Mdrehen der Siidsiax'en^ ii. 424 sqq,^ 
No. 159). On this subject I may 
refer to my article, **The Lmguage of 
Animals,'* The ArchacoU^icai A'cx'inv^ i. 
(1 888), p. 164 sqq. 

» Grohmann, ^/. ci/. \\ 97, §§ 673, 

- Zcitschrift Jiir dcutschi Mythologic 
und Sittenkundc^ iv. (1S59), p. 152 
sq. ; Gubcrnatis, op. cit. ii. 146. 

•' \V. Mailer, op. cit. p. 265; Bartsch, 
op. cit. ii. 288, <S 1439; J. Napier, 
I'olk'hrc^ or Suptrstitioiis Beliefs in 
the West of .Scotland^ p. 125. 

* Kuhn, .Markischc .Sagcn und 
Mdrehen, p. 330. As to the divining- 
rod in general, sec Baring -Gould, 
Curious .Myths of the .Middle Ages, p. 

55 ^<11' 





at the summer solstice, but the foregoing instances may 
suffice to prove that the superstition is widely spread, deeply 
rooted, and therefore probably very ancient in Europe. 
Hence it seems reasonable to conjecture that like so many 
other plants the sacred mistletoe may have acquired, in the 
eyes of the Druids, a double portion of its mystic qualities 
at the solstice in June, and that accordingly they may have 
regularly cut it with solemn ceremony on Midsummer Eve. 
The conjecture is confirmed when we find it to be still a 
rule of folk-lore that the mistletoe should be cut on this 
day.^ Further, the peasants of Piedmont and Lombardy 
still go out on Midsummer morning to search the oak-leaves 
for the **oil of St. John," which is supposed to heal all 
wounds made with cutting instruments.^ Originally, per- 
haps, the " oil of St. John " was simply the mistletoe, or a 
decoction made from it. For in Holstein the mistletoe, 
especially oak-mistletoe, \s still regarded as a panacea for 
green wounds;^ and if, as is alleged, "all -healer" is the 
name of the plant in the modern Celtic speech of 
Brittany, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland,* this can be no- 
thing but a survival of the name by which, as we have seen, 
the Druids addressed the oak, or rather, perhaps, the 
mistletoe. At Lacaune, in France, the old Druidical belief 
in the mistletoe as an antidote to all poisons still survives 
among the people ; they apply the plant to the stomach of 
the sufferer or give him a decoction of it to drink.* In 
the north-east of Scotland people used to cut withes of 
mistletoe at the full moon in March ; these they bent into 
circles and kept them for a year to cure hectics and other 
troubles.^ In some parts of Germany the mistletoe is 

* Grimm, Pcutscht' M\f/ir/i\'it\^ iii. 
78, 353, referring lo Dybcck. 

* Gul)ernatis, Mytholoi^u dcs Plantt.^. 

". 73- 

' Friend, F/rut-rs and hhyii'-r /.on, 

p. 37S. Hunters believe that the 

mistletoe heals all woum]> and brings 

luck in hunting (Kiihn, I[tr,ibkuuU 

des Femrs^' p. 206). 

* Grimm, />.-!/.* ii. 1009. My 
friend Mr. R. A. Xcil (»f IVmbroke 
College has pointc<i out to me that 
in N. M 'Alpine's iiaviii Picticiuvy 

(Seventh Kdiiion, Edinburgh and 
London, 1^77, p. 432) the Gaelic 
word for mistletoe is given as an i^uil 
/Vr, which, Mr. Neil tells me, means 
** all -healer." 

•"• De N«>re, Contumcs^ Mythcs ct 
Tradition^ dts Pr<n'inii's dv France^ p. 

102 .w/. 

'• Shaw, in Pennant's ** Tour in 
.Scotl.ind," prinie<l in rinkerton'.«( 
I'oya^^t's and Travels y\y\. 1 36; Hrand, 
Popular Antiquities^ iii. 1 5 1 . 


..■.•f^:'?^%*-^i^'*^ ■'■■-•■ ••' 

viACW^^.'-ii^.A-i v*. ;' ■ . : ' iu.'-:^ 




i "I 




especially esteemed as a remedy for the ailments of children, 
who sometimes wear it hung round their neck as an 

Thus it appears probable that the two main features of the 
Balder myth— the pulling of the mistletoe and the burning of 
the god — were reproduced in the great midsummer festival 
of the Celts. But in Scandinavia itself, the home of Balder, 
both these features of his myth can still be traced in the 
popular celebration of midsummer. For in Sweden on 
Midsummer Eve mistletoe is " diligently sought after, they 
believing it to be, in a high degree, possessed of mystic 
qualities ; and that if a sprig of it be attached to the ceiling 
of the dwelling-house, the horse's stall, or the cow's crib, 
the * Troll ' will then be powerless to injure either man or 
beast." ^ The oak mistletoe, we are told, is held in the 
highest repute in Sweden, and is commonly seen in farm- 
houses hanging from the ceiling to protect the dwelling from 
all harm, but especially from fire ; and persons afflicted with 
the falling sickness think they can ward off attacks of the 
malady by carrying about with them a knife which has a 
handle of oak mistletoe. A Swedish remedy for other 
complaints is to hang a sprig of mistletoe round the 
sufferer's neck, or to make him wear on his finger a ring 
made from the plant.^ Again, in Sweden, Norway, and 
Denmark huge bonfires are kindled on hills and eminences 
on Midsummer Eve.^ It does] not appear, indeed, that any 
tffigy is burned in these bonfires ; but the burning of an 
c^^ is a feature which might easily drop out after its 
meaning was forgotten. And the name of Baldcr's bale- 
fires {Balder*s B&lar\ by which these midsummer fires were 
formerly known in Sweden,^ puts their connection with 
Balder beyond the reach of doubt, and makes it certain that 
in former times either a living representative or an effigy of 
Balder must have been annually burned in them. Mid- 
summer was the season sacred to Balder, and the Swedish 
poet Tegner, in placing the burning of Balder at mid- 

' Zcits^hrifl fiirdeutschc Mythohgu'^ ' KcWy, Cun'ositiis of IfuioEuro/^'att 

>• (1853), p. 444 ; «/., iv. (1859), p. Tradition and Folk- lore ^ p. 1S5 sq. 
41 J^. * Lloyd, op. at. p. 259; Grimm, 

* L. Lloyd, Peasant Life in Sioeden^ D.M.* *• 51? •^^« 
p. 269. * Lloyd, I.e. 

"• ..-■-_, ^ JX.*/-*. 


summer,^ may very well have followed an old tradition that 
the summer solstice was the time when the good god came 
to his untimely end. 

Thus it has been shown that the leading incidents of 
the Balder myth have their counterparts in those fire-festivals 
of our European peasantry which undoubtedly date from a 
time long prior, to the introduction of Christianity. The 
pretence of throwing the victim chosen by lot into the 
Beltane fire, and the similar treatment of the man clad all 
in green at the midsummer bonfire in Normandy, are in- 
dubitable traces of an older custom of actually burning 
human beings on these occasions ; and the green dress of 
the Norman victim, coupled with the leafy envelope of the 
young fellow who trod out the midsummer fire at Moosheim, 
seems clearly to indicate that the persons who perished at 
these festivals did so in the character of tree-spirits or 
deities of vegetation. From all this wc may reasonably 
infer that in the Balder myth on the one hand, and the fire- 
festivals and custom of gathering mistletoe on the other 
hand, we have, as it were, the two broken and dissevered 
halves of an original whole. In other words, we may 
assume with a fair degree of probability that the myth of 
Balder's death was not merely a myth, that is, a description 
of physical phenomena in imagery borrowed from human 
life ; we may suppose that it was at the same time the 
explanation given of an annual custom of burning a human 
representative of the god, and cutting the mistletoe with 
solemn ceremony. If I am right, the story of Balder's 
tragic end formed, so to say, the text of the sacred drama 
which was acted year by year as a magical rite to cause the 
sun to shine and the trees to grow. The tale belonged, in 
short, to that class of nature myths which arc meant to be 
supplemented by ritual ; here, as so often, myth stood to 
magic in the relation of theory to practice. 

But if the victims — the human Baldcrs — who died by 
fire, whether in spring or at midsummer, did so as living 

* Grimm, A.V.* iii. 7S, who adds, the whole myth, has been quite lost on 

•* Mahncft die Johannis/tmr tjtt Haldrs the myihologisls who since Grimm*s 

/^ichefibrattd f^* This pregnant hint, day have envelo|)ed the subject in a 

which contains in germ the sohition of cloud of learned dust. 

X -"TW- 

fctSS*. .S"£^ ■ v-t?T- f-Ti? 

■•"r •■ ' .?/»*t*]^''J#' •■^*" 




embodiments of tree-spirits or deities of vegetation, it would 
seem that Balder himself must have been a tree-spirit or 
deity of vegetation. It becomes desirable, therefore, to 
determine, if we can, the particular kind of tree or trees, of 
which a personal representative was burned at the fire- 
festivals. For we may be quite sure that it was not as a 
representative of vegetation in general that the victim 
suffered death. The idea of vegetation in general is too 
abstract to be primitive. Most probably the victim at first 
represented a particular kind of sacred tree. Now of all 
European trees none has such claims as the oak to be 
considered as pre-eminently the sacred tree of the Aryans. 
Its worship is attested for all the great branches of the 
Aryan stock in Europe. We have seen that it was not only 
the sacred tree, but the principal object of worship of both 
Celts and Lithuanians.^ The roving Celts appear to have 
carried their worship of the oak with them even to Asia ; 
for in the heart of Asia Minor the Galatian senate met in a 
place which bore the pure Celtic name of Drynemetum or 
" temple of the oak." - Among the Slavs the oak seems to 
have been the sacred tree of the great god Perun.^ Accord- 
ing to Grimm, the oak ranked first among the holy trees of 
the Germans, and was indeed their chief god. It is certainly 
known to have been adored by them in the age of heathendom, 
and traces of its worship have survived in various parts of 
Germany almost to the present day.* Among the ancient 
Italians the oak was sacred above all other trees.'* The 
image of Jupiter on the Capitol at Rome seems to have 
been originally nothing but a natural oak-tree.^ At Dodona, 
perhaps the oldest of all Greek sanctuaries, Zeus was 
worshipped as immanent in the sacred oak, and the rustling 
of its leaves in the wind was his voice." If, then, the 

* Alx)ve, p. 327, and vil. i. pp. 168 
S(j.y 186. On the worship of the 0.1k in 
Kurope, sec V. Waj^lcr. /VV Fit In- in 
alter uiui ;/»•//./• Zt it ( Ikriin, 1S91 ). 

' StralK), xii. 5. i. The name is a 
compound o{ dryii, •* oak," and iwiiud^ 
** temple*' (11. K. Tozer, Select ious 
from Strabo^ p. 2S4). We know from 
Jerome (Co/nnitnttir. in Epist. ad 
Galat. l)ook ii. proef.) that the Gala- 
tians retaine<1 their native Celtic sixrech 

as late as the fourth century of our era. 

•' See above, vol. i. p. 1 68. 

^ Grimm, D.M.* i. 55 jy., 58 sq.^ 
ii. 542, iii. 187 Stj. ; AVaglcr, o/*. cit. 
p. 40 stjq, 

•'• Preller, Kont. Mythol? i. loS. 

•*• Livy, i. 10. Cp. C. TMitticher, 
Di'r Haumkultus dcr Hellcmn^ p. 

' B(>tticher, ^/. tit. p. in sgq, ; 
Preller, Cricch, Mythol.^ ci\, C. RolJert, 


■- 1-*-*.-,* 

u -i-N* 


'♦•rtiidfchv' ?< 


07?' roe OA/c 


great god of both Greeks and Romans was represented 
in some of his oldest shrines under the form of an oak, and 
if the oak was the principal object of worship of Celts, 
Germans, and Lithuanians, we may certainly conclude that 
this tree was one of the chief, if not the very chief divinity 
of the Aryans before the dispersion ; and that their primitive 
home must have lain in a land which was clothed with forests 
of oak.^ 

Now, considering the primitive character and remarkable 
similarity of the fire-festivals observed by all the branches of 
the Aryan race in Europe, we may infer that these festivals 
form part of the common stock of religious observances which 
the various peoples carried with them in their wanderings 
from their old home. But, if I am right, an essential feature 
of those primitive fire-festivals was the burning of a man who 
represented the tree-spirit. In view, then, of the place occupied 
by the oak in the religion of the Aryans, the presumption is 
that the tree so represented at the fire-festivals must originally 
have been the oak. So far as the Celts and Lithuanians arc 
concerned, this conclusion will perhaps hardly be contested. 
But both for them and for the Germans it is confirmed by 
a remarkable piece of religious conservatism. The most 
primitive method known to man of producing fire is by 
rubbing two pieces of wood against each other till they 
ignite ; and we have seen that this method is still used in 
Europe for kindling sacred fires such as the need-fire, and 

i. 122 stf^ ; Waglcr, o/>. cit. p. 2 sqq. 
It is noteworthy that at Olympia the 
only wood that might be used in 
sacrificing to Zeus was the white poplar 
( I\iusanias, v. 14. 2). But it is prob- 
able that herein Zeus, who was an 
intruder at Olympia, merely accepted 
an old local custom which, long l^- 
fore his arrival, had been ol)scr\-ed in 
the worship of Pelops (Pausanias, v. 

13- 3);. 
* Without hazarding an opinion on 

the vcxc<l question of the cradle of 
the Aryans, I may observe that in 
various parts of Europe the oak seems 
to have been formerly more common 
than it is now. In Denmark the pre- 
sent l)ccch woods were precetled by 
oak wooils, and these by the Scotch fir 

(Lyell, Antiquity of Man^ p. 9 ; J. 
Geikie, Prehistoric Europe ^ p. 486 jy.). 
In parts of North Cicrmany it appears 
from the evidence of archives that the 
tir has ousted the oak (O. Schradcr, 
Sprachvir^lt'iihuui^ umi Urf^cschichte - 
(Jena, 1S90), p. 394). In prehistoric 
times the oak seems to have been the 
chief tree in the forests which clothed 
the valley of the Po ; the piles on which 
the pile villages rested were of oak 
(W. Ilelbig, Pic Italiktr ituhr Pot'htue^ 
p. 25 sq.). The classical tradition that 
in the olden time men sul>siste<l largely 
on acorns is Ixirne out by the evidence 
of the pile villages in Northern Italy, 
in which great quantities of acorns have 
been discovered. Sec Ilelbig, op, cit, 
pp. 16 sq,, 26, 72 Si/. 

• '<■■.'• -i. ■■ ■ '• •;• " ■ . -■ •■•■• '-• ■ • - ■ • » . f 




that most probably it was formerly resorted to at all the 
fire -festivals under discussion. Now it is sometimes pre- 
scribed that the need-fire, or other sacred fire, must be made 
by the friction of a particular kind of wood ; and wherever 
the kind of wood is prescribed, whether among Celts, 
Germans, or Slavs, that wood is always the oak. Thus we 
have seen that amongst the Slavs of Masuren the new fire 
for the village is made on Midsummer Day by causing a 
wheel to revolve rapidly round an axle of oak till the axle 
takes fire.* When the perpetual fire which the ancient 
Slavs used to maintain chanced to go out, it was rekindled 
by the friction of a piece of oak-wood, which had been 
previously heated by being struck with a gray (not a red) 
stone.- In Germany the need-fire was regularly kindled by 
the friction of oak-wood ; ^ and in the Highlands of Scot- 
land, both the Beltane and the need-fires were lighted by 
similar means.* Now, if the sacred fire was regularly 
kindled by the friction of oak-wood, we may infer that 
originally the fire was also fed with the same material. In 
point of fact, the perpetual fire which burned under the 
sacred oak at the great Lithuanian sanctuary of Romove 
was fed with oak-wood ;^ and that oak-wood was formerly 
the fuel burned in the midsummer fires may perhaps be 
inferred from the circumstance that in many mountain 
districts of Germany peasants are still in the habit of making 
up their cottage fire on Midsummer Day with a heavy block 

' Al)ovc, p. 276. 

*^ Practorius, Pcliiiiic /Vtissnai't 19 
/y. Mr. kalsion slates (on what 
authority I <lo not know) that if the 
tire maintained in honour of the Lithu- 
anian y(»<i I'erkunas went out, it was 
rekindled by sparks struck from a stone 
which iho iinaj;o of the j;o<l lield in his 
hand {Sivi^^s of the A'ttssian l\opli\ 
p. 8S). 

3 Grimm, A J/.* i. 502, 503; 
Kuhn, liitabkuuft dcs /-cuers^'^ yi. 43 ; 
Colshom, Murcluu nmi Sai^ctt (Han- 
over, 1S54), ]>p. 234-236; Pn»hle, 
Harzhiliur^ \\ 75 ; Hartsch, SV/;'*"* 
Man/ten umi Cehratuhc aus MtkLn- 
hu/Xy ii. 1 50 ; Kochholz, DtHfstht-r 
Glaubc umi Ihaiuhy ii. 148. The 
writer who styles himself Mont.mus 

says (/^/V thiitschen Volksfestc, etc., 
p. 127) that the need-fire was made by 
ti)e friction of oak and fir. Sometimes 
it is said that the need-fire should \yt 
made with nine different kinds of wood 
(Grimm, /).M.^ i. 503, 505 ; Wolf, 
/>ti/riij^v ztir dcutschcn .\fytholoi^i'y ii. 
3S0 ; J aim, Die dcutschm Opfcri^^e- 
h'lnteht'y p. 27) ; but the kinds of wood 
arc not specified. At Delphi the 
perpetual fire was fed with fir-wood 
only (Plutarch, De E a/>nd DelphoSy 

* John Ramsay, Scotland and Stots- 
men in the Eighteenth Century^ ii. 442 ; 
Grimm, A J/.* i. 506. Sec al)Ove, 
p. 260. 

^ Above, vol. i. p. 168 jy. 

• •■"■ Vn ."•*-•■ ■ 

IV WITH oak-wood 349 

of oak-wood. The block is so arranged that it smoulders 
slowly and is not finally reduced to charcoal till the expiry 
of a year. Then upon next Midsummer Day the charred 
embers of the old log are removed to make room for the 
new one, and are mixed with the seed-corn or scattered 
about the garden. This is believed to promote the growth 
of the crops and to preserve them from blight and vermin.^ 
It may be remembered that at the Boeotian festival of the 
Daedala, the analogy of which to the spring and mid- 
summer festivals of modem Europe has been already pointed 
out, the great feature was the felling and burning of an 
oak.* The general conclusion is, that at those periodic or 
occasional ceremonies, of which the object was to cause the 
sun to shine and the fruits of the earth to grow, the ancient 
Aryans both kindled and fed the fire with the sacred oak- 

But if at these solemn rites the fire was regularly made 
of oak-wood, it follows that the man who was burned in it 
as a personification of the tree-spirit could have represented 
no tree but the oak. The sacred oak was thus burned in 
duplicate ; the wood of the tree was consumed in the fire, 
and along with it was consumed a living man as a personi- 
fication of the oak-spirit. The conclusion thus drawn for 
the European Aryans in general is confirmed in its special 
application to the Scandinavians by the relation in which 
amongst them the mistletoe appears to have stood to the 
burning of the victim in the midsummer fire. We have 
seen that among Scandinavians it has been customary to 
gather the mistletoe at midsummer. But so far as appears 
on the face of this custom, there is nothing to connect it 
with the midsummer fires in which human victims or effigies 
of them were burned. Even if the fire, as seems probable, 
was originally always made with oak-wood, why should it 
have been necessary to pull the mistletoe ? The last link 
between the midsummer customs of gathering the mistletoe 
and lighting the bonfires is supplied by Balder's myth, which 
certainly cannot be disjoined from the Customs in question. 
The myth shows that a vital connection must once have been 

* Montanu^, Die deutschen Volksfcstt-^ etc., p. 127. 
^ Above, vol. i. p. 225 st;. 


believed to subsist between the mistletoe and the human 
representative of the oak who was burned in the fire. Accord- 
ing to the myth, Balder could be killed by nothing in heaven 
or earth except the mistletoe ; and so long as the mistletoe 
remained on the oak, he was not only immortal but invulner- 
able. Now, as soon as we see that Balder was the oak, the 
origin of the myth becomes plain. The mistletoe was viewed 
as the seat of life of the oak, and so long as it was uninjured 
nothing could kill or even wound the oak. The conception 
of the mistletoe as the seat of life of the oak would naturally 
be suggested to primitive people by the observation that 
while the oak is deciduous, the mistletoe which grows on it 
is evergreen. In winter the sight of its fresh foliage among 
the bare branches must have been hailed by the worshippers 
of the tree as a sign that the divine life which had ceased to 
animate the branches yet survived in the mistletoe, as the 
heart of a sleeper still beats when his body is motionless. 
Hence when the god had to be killed — when the sacred 
tree had to be burnt — it was necessary to begin by breaking 
off the mistletoe. For so long as the mistletoe remained 
intact, the oak (so people might think) was invulnerable ; all 
the blows of their knives and axes would glance harmless from 
its surface. But once tear from the oak its sacred heart — 
the mistletoe — and the tree nodded to its fall. And when 
in later times the spirit of the oak came to be represented by 
a living man, it was logically necessary to suppose that, 
like the tree he personated, he could neither be killed nor 
wounded so long as the mistletoe remained uninjured. The 
pulling of the mistletoe was thus at once the signal and the 
cause of his death. 

But since the idea of a being whose life is thus, in a 
sense, outside itself, must be strange to many readers, and 
has, indeed, not yet been recognised in its full bearing on 
primitive superstition, it will be worth while to illustrate it 
by examples drawn both from story and custom. The 
result will be to show that, in assuming this idea as the 
explanation of the relation of Balder to the mistletoe, I 
assume a principle which is deeply engraved on the mind of 
primitive man. 


V*^*■ ^»^'&%T-.iH 


§ 3. ZA^ external Soul in Folk-tales 

In a former chapter we saw that, in the opinion of 
primitive people, the soul may temporarily absent itself from 
the body without causing death. Such temporary absences 
of the soul are often believed to involve considerable risk, 
since the wandering soul is liable to a variety of mishaps at 
the hands of enemies, and so forth. But there is another 
aspect to this power of disengaging the soul from the body. 
If only the safety of the soul can be ensured during its 
absence, there is no reason why the soul should not continue 
absent for an indefinite time ; indeed a man may, on a pure 
calculation of personal safety, desire that his soul should 
never return to his body. Unable to conceive of life 
abstractly as a "permanent possibility of sensation" or a 
" continuous adjustment of internal arrangements to external 
relations," the savage thinks of it as a concrete material 
thing of a definite bulk, capable of being seen and handled, 
kept in a box or jar, and liable to be bruised, fractured, or 
smashed in pieces. It is not needful that the life, so con- 
ceived, should be in the man ; it may be absent from his 
body and still continue to animate him, by virtue of a sort 
of sympathy or "action at a distance." So long as this 
object which he calls his life or soul remains unharmed, the 
man is well ; if it is injured, he suffers ; if it is destroyed, he 
dies. Or, to put it otherwise, when a man is ill or dies, the 
fact is explained by saying that the material object called 
his life or soul, whether it be in his body or out of it, has 
either sustained injury or been destroyed. But there may 
be circumstances in which, if the life or soul remains in the 
man, it stands a greater chance of sustaining injury than if 
it were stowed away in some safe and secret place. Accord- 
ii^gly» ii^ such circumstances, primitive man takes his soul 
out of his body and deposits it for security in some snug 
spot, intending to replace it in his body when the danger is 
past. Or if he should discover some place of absolute 
security, he may be content to leave his soul there per- 
manently. The advantage of this is that, so long as the 
soul remains unharmed in the place where he has deposited 




it, the man himself is immortal ; nothing can kill his body, 
since his life is not in it. 

Evidence of this primitive belief is furnished by a class 
of folk-tales of which the Norse story of " The giant who had 
no heart in his body " is perhaps the best-known example. 
Stories of this kind are widely diffused over the world, and 
from their number and the variety of incident and of details 
in which the leading idea is embodied, we may infer that 
the conception of an external soul is one which has had a 
powerful hold on the minds of men at an early stage of 
history. For folk-tales are a faithful reflection of the world 
as it appeared to the primitive mind ; and we may be sure 
that any idea which commonly occurs in them, however 
absurd it may seem to us, must once have been an ordinary 
article of belief. This assurance, so far as it concerns the 
supposed power of disengaging the soul from the body for a 
longer or shorter time, is amply corroborated by a com- 
parison of the folk-tales in question with the actual beliefs 
and practices of savages. To this we shall return after 
some specimens of the tales have been given. The specimens 
will be selected with a view of illustrating both the character- 
istic features and the wide diffusion of this class of tales.^ 

In the first place, the story of the external soul is told, 
in various forms, by all Ar>'an peoples from Hindoostan to 

^ A number of the following examples 
were collected by Mr. E. Clodd in his 
paper, "The Philosophy of Punchkin," 
Folk-lore JournaJ^ ii. (1884), pp. 288- 
303 ; and again in \i\s Myths €utd Dreams 
(London, 1885), pp. 188-198. The 
subject of the external soul, both in 
folk -tales and in custom, has been well 
handled by G. A. Wilken in his two 
pa))ers, ** De betrckking tusschen men- 
schen- dieren- en plantenleven naar het 
volksgeloof," De Jtidisehe Ctds, Nov. 
ember 1884, pp. 595-612, and '<De 
Simsonsage," De Cids^ 1888, No. 5. 
In ** De Simsonsage" Wilken has 
reproduced, to a great extent in the 
same words, most of the evidence cited 
by him in •* De betrekking," yet with- 
out referring to that paper. When I 
wrote this book in 1 889- 1 890 I was 
unacquainted with **De betrekking," 
but used with advantage " De Simson- 

sage," a copy of it having l^een kindly 
sent me by the author. I am the 
more anxious to express my obligations 
to " De Simsonsage," because I have 
had little occasion to refer to it, most 
of the original authorities cited by the 
author being either in my own libmry 
or easily accessible to me in Cambridge. 
It would be a convenience to anthro- 
pologists if Wilken 's valuable papers, 
dispersed as they are in various Dutch 
periodicals which are seldom to l»e met 
with in England, were collected and 
published together. After the appear- 
ance of my first anthropological essay 
in 1S85, Professor Wilken entered into 
corres|K>ndcncc with me, and thence- 
forward sent me copies of his papers as 
they appeared ; but of his papers pub- 
lished before that date I have not a 
complete set. (Note to the Second 


..- •-•%»•»* I 


the Hebrides. A very common form of it is this: A 
warlock, giant, or other fairyland being is invulnerable and 
immortal because he keeps his soul hidden far away in 
some secret place ; but a fair princess, whom he holds 
enthralled in his enchanted castle, wiles his secret from him 
and reveals it to the hero, who seeks out the warlock's soul, 
heart, life, or death (as it is variously called), and, by destroy- 
ing it, simultaneously kills the warlock. Thus a Hindoo 
story tells how a magician called Punchkin held a queen 
captive for twelve years, and would fain marry her, but she 
would not have him. At last the queen's son came to 
rescue her, and the two plotted together to kill Punchkin. 
So the queen spoke the magician fair, and pretended that 
she had at last made up her mind to marry him. " And 
do tell me," she said, ** are you quite immortal ? . Can death 
never touch you ? And are you too great an enchanter 
ever to feel human suffering? " "It is true," he said, " that 
I am not as others. Far, far away — hundreds of thousands 
of miles from this — there lies a desolate country covered 
with thick jungle. In the midst of the jungle grows a 
circle of palm-trees, and in the centre of the circle stand 
six chattees full of water, piled one above another ; below 
the sixth chattee is a small cage, which contains a little 
green parrot — on the life of the parrot depends my life — 
and if the parrot is killed I must die. It is, however," he 
added, " impossible that the parrot should sustain any 
injury, both on account of the inaccessibility of the country, 
and because, by my appointment, many thousand genii 
surround the palm -trees, and kill all who approach the 
place." But the queen's young son overcame all difficulties, 
and got possession of the parrot. He brought it to the 
door of the magician's palace, and began playing with it. 
Punchkin, the magician, saw him, and, coming out, tried to 
persuade the boy to give him the parrot. " Give me my 
parrot ! " cried Punchkin. Then the boy took hold of the 
parrot and tore off" one of his wings ; and as he did so the 
magician's right arm fell off". Punchkin then stretched out 
his left arm, cr>M*ng, " Give me my parrot ! " The prince 
pulled off" the parrot's second wing, and the magician's left 
arm tumbled off^ " Give me my parrot ! " cried he, and fell 

vol.. Ill 2 A 

354 rJfE EXTERNAL SOUL chap. 

on his knees. The prince pulled off the parrot's right leg, 
the magician's right leg fell off; the prince pulled off the 
parrot's left leg, down fell the magician's left. Nothing 
remained of him except the lifeless body and the head ; but 
still he rolled his eyes, and cried, " Give me my parrot ! " 
** Take your parrot, then," cried the boy ; and with that he 
wrung the bird's neck, and threw it at the magician ; and, 
as he did so, Punchkin's head twisted round, and, with a 
fearful groan, he died !^ In another Hindoo tale an ogre 
is asked by his daughter, " Papa, where do you keep your 
soul ? " " Sixteen miles away from this place," he said, " is 
a tree. Round the tree are tigers, and bears, and scorpions, 
and snakes ; on the top of the tree is a very great fat 
snake ; on his head is a little cage ; in the cage is a bird ; 
and my soul is in that bird." The end of the ogre is 
like that of the magician in the previous tale. As the bird's 
wings and legs are torn off, the ogre's arms and legs drop 
off; and when its neck is wrung he falls down dead.'- 

In another Hindoo story a princess called Sodewa Bai 
was born with a golden necklace about her neck, and the 
astrologer told her parents, " This is no common child ; the 
necklace of gold about her neck contains your daughter's 
soul ; let it, therefore, be guarded with the utmost care ; for 
if it were taken off and worn by another person, she would 
die." So her mother caused it to be firmly fastened round 
the child's neck, and, as soon as the child was old enough to 
understand, she told her its value, and warned her never to 
let it be taken off. In course of time Sodewa Bai was 
married to a prince who had another wife living. The 
first wife, jealous of her young rival, persuaded a negress to 
steal from Sodewa Bai the golden necklace which contained 
her soul. The negress did so, and, as soon as she put the 
necklace round her own neck, Sodewa Bai died. All day 
long the negress used to wear the necklace ; but late at 
night, on going to bed, she would take it off and put it by 
till morning ; and whenever she took it off, Sodewa Bai's 

* Mary Frcrc, Old Diccan Days, p. sec id., p. 187 sq, ; Lai Bchari Day, 

1 2 sgg. I'dk-taks of Bettgal, p. 121 sq, ; F. 

' Maive Slokcs, htdiau Fairy Tales, A. Slccl and R. C. Temple, Wide- 

p. 58 sqq* For similar Hindoo stories, awake Stories, p. 58 sqq» 



soul returned to her and she lived. But when morning 
came, and the negress put on the necklace, Sodewa Bai 
died again. At last the prince discovered the treachery of 
his elder wife and restored the golden necklace to Sodewa 
Bai.^ In another Hindoo story a holy mendicant tells a 
queen that she will bear a son, adding, " As enemies will 
try to take away the life of your son, I may as well tell you 
that the life of the boy will be bound up in the life of a big 
boal'^s\i which is in your tank in front of the palace. In 
the heart of the fish is a small box of wood, in the box is a 
necklace of gold, that necklace is the life of your son." 
The boy was born and received the name of Dalim. His 
mother was the Suo or younger queen. But the Duo or 
elder queen hated the child, and learning the secret of his 
life, she caused the ^W-fish, with which his life was bound 
up, to be caught. Dalim was playing near the tank at the 
time, but " the moment the ^^a/-fish was caught in the net, 
that moment Dalim felt unwell ; and when the fish was 
brought up to land, Dalim fell down on the ground, and 
made as if he was about to breathe his last. He was 
immediately taken into his mother's room, and the king was 
astonished on hearing of the sudden illness of his son and 
heir. The fish was by the order of the physician taken into 
the room of the Duo queen, and as it lay on the floor 
striking its fins on the ground, Dalim in his mother's room 
was given up for lost. When the fish was cut open, a 
casket was found in it ; and in the casket lay a necklace of 
gold. The moment the necklace was worn by the queen, 
that very moment Dalim died in his mother's room." The 
queen used to put off the necklace every night, and when- 
ever she did so, the boy came to life again. But every 
morning when the queen put on the necklace, he died 

In a Cashmeer story a lad visits an old ogress, pretend- 
ing to be her grandson, the son of her daughter who had 
married a king. So the old ogress took him into her con- 
fidence and showed him seven cocks, a spinning-wheel, a 

* Mary Frerc, Old Dvaan Days^ p. For similar stories of necklaces, see 
239 ■'^y* Old Dct'can Days^ p. 233 sq, ; Wide- 

- Lai Dehari Day, op, cit, p. i .-v/y. awake Stories^ p. S3 sqq. 

. / 

:«z>: ■ ■ ^ 




pigeon, and a starling. " These seven cocks," said she, 
•* contain the lives of your seven uncles, who are away for a 
few days. Only as long as the cocks live can your uncles 
hope to live ; no power can hurt them as long as the seven 
cocks are safe and sound. The spinning-wheel contains my 
life ; if it is broken, I too shall be broken, and must die ; but 
otherwise I shall live on for ever. The pigeon contains your 
grandfather's life, and the starling your mother's ; as long as 
these live, nothing can harm your grandfather or your 
mother." So the lad killed the seven cocks and the pigeon 
and the starling, and smashed the spinning-wheel ; and at 
the moment he did so the ogres and ogresses perished.^ In 
another story from Cashmeer an ogre cannot die unless a 
particular pillar in the verandah of his palace be broken. 
Learning the secret, a prince struck the pillar again and 
again till it was broken in pieces. And it was as if each 
stroke had fallen on the ogre, for he howled lamentably and 
shook like an aspen every time the prince hit the pillar, 
until at last, when the pillar fell down, the ogre also fell 
down and gave up the ghost." In another Cashmeer tale an 
ogre is represented as laughing very heartily at the idea that 
he might possibly die. He said that " he should never die. 
No power could oppose him ; no years could age him ; he 
should remain ever strong and ever young, for the thing 
wherein his life dwelt was most difficult to obtain." It was 
in a queen bee, which was in a honeycomb on a tree. But 
the bees in the honeycomb were many and fierce, and it was 
only at the greatest risk that any one could catch the queen. 
However, the hero achieved the enterprise and crushed the 
queen bee ; and immediately the ogre fell stone dead to the 
ground, so that the whole land trembled with the shock.* In 
some Bengalee tales the life of a whole tribe of ogres is de- 
scribed as concentrated in two bees. The secret was thus 
revealed by an old ogress to a captive princess who pre- 
tended to fear lest the ogress should die. " Know, foolish 
girl," said the ogress, " that we ogres never die. We are not 
naturally immortal, but our life depends on a secret which 
no human being can unravel. Let me tell you what it is, 

* J. H. Knowles, Fofk-ta/cs of Kashmir (London, 18S8), p. 49 jy. 
- A/., p. 134. a /r/., p. 382 Siiq, 

i... ■. . V -v..-3»i45 


that you may be comforted. You know yonder tank ; there 
is in the middle of it a crystal pillar, on the top of which in 
deep water are two bees. If any human being can dive 
into the water and bring up the two bees from the pillar in 
one breath, and destroy them so that not a drop of their 
blood falls to the ground, then we ogres shall certainly die ; 
but if a single drop of blood falls to the ground, then from it 
will start up a thousand ogres. But what human being will 
find out this secret, or, finding it, will be able to achieve the 
feat ? You need not, therefore, darling, be sad ; I am prac- 
tically immortal." As usual, the princess reveals the secret 
to the hero, who kills the bees, and that same moment all 
the ogres drop down dead, each on the spot where he 
happened to be standing.^ In another Bengalee story it is 
said that all the ogres dwell in Ceylon, and that all their 
lives are in a single lemon. A boy cuts the lemon in pieces, 
and all the ogres die.- 

In a Siamese or Cambodian story, probably derived from 
India, we are told that Thossakan or Ravana, the King of 
Ceylon, was able by magic art to take his soul out of his 
body and leave it in a box at home, while he went to the 
wars. Thus he was invulnerable in battle. When he was 
about to give battle to Rama, he deposited his soul with a 
hermit called Fire-eye, who was to keep it safe for him. So 
in the fight Rama was astounded to see that his arrows 
struck the king without wounding him. But one of Rama's 
allies, knowing the secret of the king's invulnerability, trans- 
formed himself by magic into the likeness of the king, and 
going to the hermit asked back his soul. On receiving it he 
soared up into the air and flew to Rama, brandishing the 
box and squeezing it so hard that all the breath left the 
King of Ceylon's body, and he dicd.'^ In a Bengalee stor>' 
a prince going into a far country planted with his own hands 
a tree in the courtyard of his father's palace, and said to his 
parents, " This tree is my life. When you sec the tree green 
and fresh, then know that it is well with me ; when you sec 

* Lai Ikhari Day, op, n't, p. 85 sq.^ ami Fit t ions ^ L 350. 

cp. /V/., p. 253 sifQ,\ Indian Anti' n r j- 4 a- '/.c.-x 

• t o K J V t J- Indian Antiquary ^ 1. ( 1 872), p. 1 7 1 . 

r///<ir)M. (1872). p. 117. For .in Indian ^ -" ^ ' "* ' 

sior)- in which a giant's life is in five ^ A. Uastian, Die Voiker dcs vstfithen 

l)l.ick Ijccs, see Clouston, Popular Tales Asien^ iv. 304 sq. 

•>».-i •; 




the tree fade in some parts, then know that I am in an ill 
case ; and when you see the whole tree fade, then know that 
I am dead and gone."^ In another Indian tale a prince, 
setting forth on his travels, left behind him a barley plant, 
with instructions that it should be carefully tended and 
watched, for if it flourished, he would be alive and well, but 
if it drooped, then some mischance was about to happen to 
him. And so it fell out. For the prince was beheaded, and 
as his head rolled off, the barley plant snapped in two and 
the ear of barley fell to the ground." In the legend of the 
origin of Gilgit there figures a fairy king whose soul is in 
the snows and who can only perish by fire.* 

In Greek tales, ancient and modern, the idea of an 
external soul is not uncommon. When Meleager was seven 
days old, the Fates appeared to his mother and told her that 
Meleager would die when the brand which was blazing on the 
hearth had burnt down. So his mother snatched the brand 
from the fire and kept it in a box. But in after-years, being 
enraged at her son for slaying her brothers, she burnt the 
brand in the fire and Meleager expired in agonies, as if 
flames were preying on his vitals."* Again, Nisus King of 
Megara had a purple or golden hair on the middle of his 
head, and it was fated that whenever the hair was pulled out 
the king should die. When Megara was besieged by the 
Cretans, the king's daughter Scylla fell in love with Minos, 
their king, and pulled out the fatal hair from her father's 
head. So he died.* Similarly Poseidon made Pterelaus 
immortal by giving him a golden hair on his head. But 

> La! Behari Day, op. cit. p. 1S9. 

^ Widi-tniHike Stories^ pp. 52, 64. 

' G. W. Leitner, The Latif^ta^^cs atu( 
Kaces of DardistaHy p. 9. 

^ Apollodorus, i. 8 ; Dioclorus, iv. 
34 ; Pausanias, x. 31. 4 ; Aeschylus, 
Choeph, 604 jy//. ; Antoninus Lil)eral is. 
Transform, ii. ; Dio Chr)'sostom, 
Or. Ixvii. vol. ii. p. 231, cd. Dimlorf ; 
Ilyginus, J^'ab. 171, 174; Ovid, 
Metam. viii. 445 iqq. In his play on 
this theme Euripides made the life of 
Meleager to depend on an olive-leaf 
which his mother had given birth to 
along with the babe. See Malalas, 

C/ironoj^'aphia,\\. p. 165 sq. ed. L. Din- 
dorf; Tzetzes, Sihoiia on Lycophron^ 
492 sq. ; G. Knaack, *• Zur Meleager- 
s.ige," Rheinisches Museum, N.F., 
xlix. (1894). pp. 310-313. 

^ Apollo<Iorus, iii. 15. 8 ; Aeschylus, 
Choeph. 612 sqq. ; Pausanias, i. 19. 4 ; 
CiriSf 116 sqq. ; Ovid, Meiam. viii. %sqq. 
According to Tzetzes {Scho!. on I.yto- 
phron^ 650) not the life but the strength 
of Nisus was in his golden hair ; when 
it was pulled out, he l)ecame weak and 
was slain by Minos. According to 
Ilyginus {Fab. 198) Nisus was destined 
to reign only so long as he kept the 
purple lock on his head. 

1 . \*--t" ,■ •■.■.*# 




when Taphos, the home of Pterelaus, was besi^ed by 
Amphitryo, the daughter of Pterelaus fell in love with 
Amphitryo and killed her father by plucking out the golden 
hair with which his life was bound up.^ In a modern Greek 
folk-tale a man's strength lies in three golden hairs on his 
head. When his mother pulls them out, he grows weak and 
timid and is slain by his enemies.' Another Greek story, in 
which we may perhaps detect a reminiscence of Nisus and 
Scylla, relates how a certain king, who was the strongest man 
of his time, had three long hairs on his breast. But when 
he went to war with another king, and his own treacherous 
wife had cut off the three hairs, he became the weakest of 
men.^ In another modern Greek story the life of an en- 
chanter is bound up with three doves which are in the belly 
of a wild boar. When the first dove is killed, the magician 
grows sick; when the second is killed, he grows very sick; and 
when the third is killed, he dies.* In another Greek story of 
the same sort an ogre's strength is in three singing birds 
which are in a wild boar. The hero kills two of the birds, 
and then coming to the ogre's house finds him lying on the 
ground in great pain. He shows the third bird to the ogre, 
who begs that the hero will either let it fly away or give it 
to him to eat. But the hero wrings the bird's neck and the 
ogre dies on the spot* In a variant of the latter story 
the monster's strength is in two doves, and when the hero 
kills one of them, the monster cries out, " Ah, woe is me ! 
Half my life is gone. Something must have happened to 
one of the doves." When the second dove is killed, he 

* Apollodorus, ii. 4. 5 and 7. 

* Ilahn, Gt-it'ihisfkc und albancs- 
ische Marchcn^ i. 217 ; a similar stor}*, 
ibid. ii. 282. 

* B. Schmidt, Criechiscke Mdrchen^ 
Sagen und Volkslicder^ P* 9' ^'i' The 
same writer found in the island of 
Zacynthus a belief that the whole 
strength of the ancient Greeks resided 
in three hairs on their Iireasts, and that 
it vanished whenever these hairs were 
cut ; but if the hairs were allowed to 
grow again, their strength returned 
( B. Schmidt, Das Vdkslcbtn d*'r Xm- 
fp-iechen^ p. 206). The Biblical stor)' 
of Samson and I>elilah (judges xvi.) 

implies a belief of the same sort, as 
G. A. Wilken abundantly showed in his 
paper, ** Dc Simsonsage," Dc Gids^ 
1888, No. 5. 

^ Hahn, <y». cii. ii. 215 sq. 

* Ibid, ii. 275 sq. Similar stories, 
ibid. ii. 204, 294 sq. In an Albanian 
story a monster's strength is in three 
pigeons, which are in a hare, which is 
in the silver tusk of a wild boar. When 
the boar is killed, the monster feels ill ; 
when the hare is cut open, he can 
hardly stand on his feet ; when the 
three pigeons are killed, he expires 
(I)ozon, Coittcs albattaiSy p. 132 sq.). 



^ '^^^^^ 

fc^^^^j ■■ ^ tJjTJ ^L .. ■— ... t. - • tm 

360 jy^iE: EXTERNAL SOUL chap. 

dies.^ In another Greek story the incidents of the three 
golden hairs and three doves are artificially combined. A 
monster has on his head three golden hairs which open the 
door of a chamber in which are three doves : when the first 
dove is killed, the monster grows sick ; when the second is 
killed, he grows worse; and when the third is killed, he dies.*- 
In another Greek tale an old man's strength is in a ten- 
headed serpent. When the serpent's heads are being cut off, he 
feels unwell ; and when the last head is struck off, he expires.* 
In another Greek story a dervish tells a queen that she will 
have three sons, that at the birth of each she must plant a 
pumpkin in the garden, and that in the fruit borne by the 
pumpkins will reside the strength of the children. In due 
time the infants are born and the pumpkins planted. As 
the children grow up, the pumpkins grow with them. One 
morning the eldest son feels sick, and on going into the 
garden they find that the largest pumpkin is gone. Next 
night the second son keeps watch in a summer-house in the 
garden. At midnight a negro appears and cuts the second 
pumpkin. At once the boy's strength goes out of him, and 
he is unable to pursue the negro. The youngest son, how- 
ever, succeeds in slaying the negro and recovering the lost 

Ancient Italian legend furnishes a close parallel to the 
Greek story of Meleager. Silvia, the young wife of Scp- 
timius Marcellus, had a child by the god Mars. The god 
gave her a spear, with which he said that the fate of the 
child would be bound up. When the boy grew up he 
quarrelled with his maternal uncles and slew them. So in 
revenge his mother burned the spear on which his life de- 
pended.* In one of the stories of the Pentamerone a certain 
queen has a twin brother, a dragon. The astrologers de- 
clared at her birth that she would live just as long as the 
dragon and no longer, the death of the one involving the death 
of the other. If the dragon were killed, the only way to 

' Ilahn, op, cif. ii. 260 si/t/, ^ IMutarch, ParalUia^ 26. In both 

s jftifji^ j, \%i^ the Greek and Italian stories the sub- 

3 ,.., .. ^ jecl of quarrel l)etween nephew and 

' '^ ''' uncles is the skin of a Iwar, which the 

* I-cgnind, Contts populaires jtprrs^ nephew presented to his lady-love and 

p. 191 sqq, which his uncles took from her. 


restore the queen to life would be to smear her temples, breast, 
'pulses, and nostrils with the blood of the dragon.^ In a 
modern Roman version of ** Aladdin and the Wonderful 
Lamp," the magician tells the princess whom he holds captive 
in a floating rock in mid-ocean that he will never die. The 
princess reports this to the prince her husband, who has 
come to rescue her. The prince replies, " It is impossible 
but that there should be some one thing or other that is 
fatal to him ; ask him what that one fatal thing is." So 
the princess asked the magician, and he told her that in 
the wood was a hydra with seven heads ; in the middle 
head of the hydra was a leveret, in the head of the leveret 
was a bird, in the bird's head was a precious stone, and if 
this stone were put under his pillow he would die. The 
prince procured the stone, and the princess laid it under 
the magician's pillow. No sooner did the enchanter lay his 
head on the pillow than he gave three terrible yells, turned 
himself round and round three times, and died.'- Another 
Italian tale sets forth how a great cloud, which was really a 
fair)', used to receive a young girl as tribute every year from 
a certain city ; and the inhabitants had to give the girls up, 
for if they did not, the cloud would throw things at them 
and kill them all. One year it fell to the lot of the king's 
daughter to be handed over to the cloud, and they took her 
in procession, to the roll of muffled drums, and attended by 
her weeping father and mother, to the top of a mountain, 
and left her sitting in a chair there all alone. Then the 
fairy cloud came down on the top of the mountain, set the 
princess in her lap, and began to suck her blood out of her 
little finger ; for it was on the blood of girls that this wicked 
fairy lived. When the poor princess was faint with the loss 
of blood and lay like a log, the cloud carried her away 
up to her fairy palace in the sky. But a brave youth had 
seen all that happened from behind a bush, and no sooner 
did the fairy spirit away the j)rincess to her palace than he 
turned himself into an eagle and flew after them. He 
lighted on a tree just outside the palace, and looking in 
at the window he beheld a room full of young girls all in 

* Hasile, P£ntanu'roni\ ii. 60 j^r. - K. II. Busk, /a/X*-/<Wt' <»/* AVwr, p. 

(Liebrecht's German trans.). 164 37/. 

■ •■ ■ >'. ; !■.• ■?- ■«• -ial T^'- • • ' - •■ ■ ' • ■•■■■.'^■1* ■ ** '•/ • ■ 


bed ; for these were the victims of former years whom the 
fairy cloud had half killed by sucking their blood ; yet they 
called her mamma. When the fairy went away and left the 
girls, the brave young man had food drawn up for them by 
ropes, and he told them to ask the fairy how she might be 
killed and what was to become of them when she died. It 
was a delicate question, but the fairy answered it, saying, " I 
shall never die." However, when the girls pressed her, she 
took them out on a terrace and said, " Do you see yonder 
mountain afar off? On that mountain is a tigress with 
seven heads. If you wish me to die, a lion must fight that 
tigress and tear off all her seven heads. In her body is an 
cgg> and if anybody hits me with that egg in the middle of 
my forehead, I shall die. But if the egg falls into my 
hands, the tigress will come to life again, resume her seven 
heads, and I shall live." When the young girls heard this 
they pretended to be glad and said, " Good ! certainly our 
mamma can never die," but naturally they were discouraged. 
However, when she went away again, they told it all to the 
young man, and he bade them have no fear. Away he went 
to the mountain, turned himself into a lion, and fought the 
tigress. Meantime the fairy came home, saying, " Alas ! I 
feel ill ! " For six days the fight went on, the young man 
tearing off one of the tigress's heads each day, and each day 
the strength of the fairy kept ebbing away. Then after 
allowing himself two days* rest the hero tore off the seventh 
head and secured the egg, but not till it had rolled into the 
sea and been brought back to him by a friendly dog-fish. 
When he returned to the fairy with the egg in his hand, she 
begged and prayed him to give it her, but he made her first 
restore the young girls to health and send them away in 
handsome carriages. When she had done so, he struck her 
on the forehead with the egg, and she fell down dead.' 
Similarly in a story from the western Riviera a sorcerer 
called Body-without-Soul can only be killed by means of an 
egg which is in an eagle, which is in a dog, which is in ci 

' Crane, Pofntlar Italian Taies^ pp. shares in a dead ass he had composed. 

31-34. The hero had acquired the This incident occurs in other talcs of 

l>ower of turning himself into an eagle, the same type. See below, pp. 363, 

a lion, and an ant from three creatures 365, 368 note 3, 369, 370, 374. 375, 

of these sorts whose quarrel about their 38 1 . 

^- ■ «•• ■ - ; i- -*.:v\''af v^ V--'" 




lion ; and the egg must be broken on the sorcerer's forehead. 
The hero, who achieves the adventure, has received the 
power of changing himself into a lion, a dog, an eagle, or an 
ant from four creatures of these sorts among whom he had 
fairly divided the carcass of a dead ass.^ 

Stories of the same sort are current among Slavonic 
peoples. Thus in a Russian tale a warlock called Koshchei 
the Deathless is asked where his death is. " My death," he 
answered, " is in such and such a place. There stands an oak, 
and under the oak is a casket, and in the casket is a hare, 
and in the hare is a duck, and in the duck is an egg, and in 
the ^g is my death." A prince obtained the egg and 
squeezed it, whereupon Koshchei the Deathless bent double. 
But when the prince shivered the egg in pieces the warlock 
died.^ "In one of the descriptions of Koshchei's death, he 
is said to be killed by a blow on the forehead inflicted by 
the mysterious egg — that last link in the magic chain by 
which his life is darkly bound. In another version of the 
same story, but told of a snake, the fatal blow is struck by 
a small stone found in the yolk of an egg, which is inside a 
duck, which is inside a hare, which is inside a stone, which 
is on an island."** In another variant the prince shifts the 
fatal ^% from one hand to the other, and as he does so 
Koshchei rushes wildly from side to side of the room. At 
last the prince smashes the egg, and Koshchei drops dead.* 
In another Russian story the death of an enchantress is in 
a blue rose-tree in a blue forest. Prince Ivan uproots the 
rose-tree, whereupon the enchantress straightway sickens. 
He brings the rose-tree to her house and finds her at the 
point of death. Then he throws it into the cellar, crying, 
" Behold her death ! " and at once the whole building shake.s, 
" and becomes an island, on which are i>cople who had been 

' J. H. Andrews, Contis /Jji^ris zenbach, Siii/iattischc Miinhcii^ No. 6, 

(Paris, 1892), No. 46, p. 213 sqq. In pp. 34-38. 

a parallel Sicilian stor}' the hero Bep- 2 Ralston, Russian /-oik'/aUs, p. 

pino slays a sorcerer in the same ,q. . Djcuich, /Russian Popular 

manner after he had received from an y;,/,._,^ p ^3 sq, ; J. Curtin, Myths 

eagle, a lion, and an ant the same gift ^,^^ h'olk-iaUs of the Russians, Westertt 

of transformation in return for the same ^^^^^ ^,,^ Mao'aru !>• 119 W- 
service. Sec G. Pitre, /VViAf, Navelle e 

RaccoHti fopolari Siniiani, ii. 215 ; Kalston. ^/. af, p. 109. 

and for another Sicilian parallel, Gon- ** ff'itf- 

-■'<*" tt. •.-■ 





sitting in Hell, and who offer up thanks to Prince Ivan." ^ In 
another Russian story a prince is grievously tormented by a 
witch who has got hold of his heart, and keeps it seething in 
a magic cauldron.^ In a Bohemian tale a warlock's strength 
lies in an egg which is in a duck, which is in a stag, which 
is under a tree. A seer finds the egg and sucks it. Then 
the warlock grows as weak as a child, " for all his strength 
had passed into the seer." ^ In a Serbian story a fabulous 
being called True Steel declares, " Far away from this place 
there is a very high mountain, in the mountain there is a 
fox, in the fox there is a heart, in the heart there is a bird, 
and in this bird is my strength." The fox is caught and 
killed and its heart is taken out. Out of the fox's heart is 
taken the bird, which is then burnt, and that very moment 
True Steel falls dead.* In a South Slavonian story a dragon 
tells an old woman, " My strength is a long way off, and you 
cannot go thither. Far in another empire under the em- 
peror's city is a lake, in that lake is a dragon, and in the 
dragon a boar, and in the boar a pigeon, and in that is my 
strength." ^ 

Amongst peoples of the Teutonic stock stories of the 
external soul are not wanting. In a tale told by the Saxons 
of Transylvania it is said that a young man shot at a witch 
again and again. The bullets went clean through her but 
did her no harm, and she only laughed and mocked at him. 
" Silly earthworm," she cried, " shoot as much as you like. 
It does me no harm. For know that my life resides not in 
me but far, far away. In a mountain is a pond, on the pond 
swims a duck, in the duck is an egg, in the ^^% burns a 
light, that light is my life. If you could put out that light, 
my life would be at an end. But that can never, never be." 
However, the young man got hold of the egg, smashed it, 
and put out the light, and with it the witch's life went out 
also.* In this last stor\', as in many other stories of the same 

* Ralston, op, lit. p. 113 .♦/. 
- A/., p. 114. 

' //., p. 1 10. 

* Mijatovics, Serbian rclk'loit\ 
ediicd by the Rev. \Y. Denton, p. 172 ; 
F. S. Krauss, Sat^n utid Marchtpi der 
SndsiaiHtt^ i. 168 sq. (No. 34). 

''* A. II. Wratislaw, Sixty /-'oik-ta/cs 
from cxiiusivtly Slavonic sources 
I London, 1889), p. 225. 

^ llaltrich, Deutsche Volksmdrchen 
aiis dent Scuhscnlcuidc in Siebenbi4rgcH.t^ 
No. 34 (No. 33 of the first cd.), p. 
149 j^. 

•• • " • ■* ■■f .•■;■ .-K.- .• , ■ i,- •'. ■ -■ / ■• ■•.■'-■■;■ ■■■■■ 


type, the hero achieves his adventure by the help of certain 
grateful animals whom he had met and done a service 
to on his travels. The same incident occurs in another 
German tale of this class which runs thus. Once upon a 
time there was a young fellow called Body-without-Soul, or, 
for short, Soulless, and he was a cannibal who would eat 
nothing but young girls. Now it was a custom in that 
country that the girls drew lots every year, and the one on 
whom the lot fell was handed over to Soulless. In time it 
happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter. The king 
was exceedingly sorry, but what could he do? Law was 
law, and had to be obeyed. So they took the princess to 
the castle where Soulless resided ; and he shut her up in the 
larder and fattened her for his dinner. But a brave soldier 
undertook to rescue her, and off he set for the cannibal's 
castle. Well, as he trudged along, what should he sec but 
a fly, an eagle, a bear, and a lion sitting in a field by the 
side of the road, and quarrelling about their shares in a 
dead horse. So he divided the carcass fairly between them, 
and as a reward the fly and the eagle bestowed on him the 
power of changing himself at will into either of their shapes. 
That evening he made himself into an eagle, and flew 
up a high tree ; there he looked about, but could sec nothing 
but trees. Next morning he flew on till he came to a great 
castle, and at the gate was a big black board with these 
words chalked up on it : " Mr. Soulless lives here." When 
the soldier read that he was glad, and changed himself into 
a fly, and flew buzzing from window to window, looking in 
at every one till he came to the one where the fair princess 
sat a prisoner. He introduced himself at once and said, " 1 
am come to free you, but first you must learn where the soul 
of Soulless really is." " I don't know," replied the princess, 
" but I will ask." So after much coaxing and entreaty she 
learned that the soul of Soulless was in a box, and that the 
box was on a rock in the middle of the Red Sea. When 
the soldier heard that, he turned himself into an eagle again, 
flew to the Red Sea, and came back with the soul of 
Soulless in the box. Arrived at the castle he knocked and 
banged at the door as if the house was on fire. Soulless 
did not know what was the matter, and he came down and 

i*r*^ : *rf ■ v:*<*. «. I 


opened the door himself. When he saw the soldier standing 
at it, I can assure you he was in a towering rage. ** What do 
you mean," he roared, " by knocking at my door like that ? Til 
gobble you up on the spot, skin and hair and all." But the 
soldier laughed in his face. " You'd better not do that," said 
he, " for here I've got your soul in the box." When the can- 
nibal heard that, all his courage went down into the calves 
of his legs, and he begged and entreated the soldier to give 
him his soul. But the soldier would not hear of it ; he 
opened the box, took out the soul, and flung it over his 
head ; and that same instant down fell the cannibal, dead as 
a door-nail.^ 

Another German story, which embodies the notion of 
the external soul in a somewhat different form, tells how 
once upon a time a certain king had three sons and a 
daughter, and for each of the king's four children there 
grew a flower in the king's garden, which was a life-flower ; 
for it bloomed and flourished so long as the child lived, but 
drooped and withered away when the child died. Now the 
time came when the king's daughter married a rich man 
and went to live with him far away. But it was not long 
before her flower withered in the king's garden. So the 
eldest brother went forth to visit his brother-in-law and com- 
fort him in his bereavement. But when he came to his 
brother-in-law's castle he saw the corpse of his murdered 
sister weltering on the ramparts. And his wicked brother- 
in-law set before him boiled human hands and feet for his 
dinner. And when the king's son refused to eat of them, 
his brother-in-law led him through many chambers to a 
murder-hole, where were all sorts of implements of murder, 
but especially a gallows, a wheel, and a pot of blood. Here 
he said to the prince, " You must die, but you may choose 
your kind of death." The prince chose to die on the 
gallows ; and die he did even as he had said. So the 
eldest son's flower withered in the king's garden, and the 
second son went forth to learn the fate of his brother 
and sister. But it fared with him no better than with his 
elder brother, for he too died on the gallows in the murder- 

' J. \V. Wolf, Deutsche Mdrchcn und Sagen (Lcipsic, 1845), No. 20, 
PP- 87-93- 


hole of his wicked brother-in-law's castle, and his flower also 
withered away in the king's garden at home. Now when 
the youngest son was also come to his brother-in-law's castle 
and saw the corpse of his murdered sister weltering on the 
ramparts, and the bodies of his two murdered brothers dang- 
ling from the gallows in the murder-hole, he said that for his 
part he had a fancy to die by the wheel, but he was not 
quite sure how the thing was done, and would his brother- 
in-law kindly show him ? '* Oh, it's quite easy," said his 
brother-in-law, "you just put your head in, so," and with 
that he popped his head through the middle of the wheel. 
"Just so," said the king's youngest son, and he gave the 
wheel a twirl, and as it spun round and round, the wicked 
brother-in-law died a painful death, which he richly deserved. 
And when he was quite dead, the murdered brothers and 
sister came to life again, and their withered flowers bloomed 
afresh in the king's garden.^ In another German story an 
old warlock lives with a damsel all alone in the midst of a 
vast and gloomy wood. She fears that being old he may 
die and leave her alone in the forest. But he reassures her. 
" Dear child," he said, " I cannot die, and I have no heart in 
my breast." But she importuned him to tell her where his 
heart was. So he said, " Far, far from here in an unknown 
and lonesome land stands a great church. The church is 
well secured with iron doors, and round about it flows a 
broad deep moat. In the church flies a bird and in the bird 
is my heart. So long as that bird lives, I live. It cannot 
die of itself, and no one can catch it ; therefore I cannot die, 
and you need have no anxiety." However the young man, 
whose bride the damsel was to have been before the warlock 
spirited her away, contrived to reach the church and catch 
the bird. He brought it to the damsel, who stowed him and 
it away under the warlock's bed. Soon the old warlock 
came home. He was ailing, and said so. The girl wept 
and said, " Alas, daddy is dying ; he has a heart in his 
breast after all." " Child," replied the warlock, " hold your 

^ Strackcrjan, ./<^(r^Vii//^( #///</ .Sdr^'i'// external souls. The life -token has 

aus dem Ilcrzci^thum OlJiiti'urjf, ii. I^een carefully studied by Mr. K. S. 

306-308, $i 622. In this story the llartland in the second volume of his 

flowers are rather life -tokens tlian J^^ind of Perseus, 






tongue. I can't die. It will soon pass over." At that the 
young man under the bed gave the bird a gentle squeeze ; 
and as he did so, the old warlock felt very unwell and sat 
down. Then the young man gripped the bird tighter, and 
the warlock fell senseless from his chair. " Now squeeze 
him dead," cried the damsel. Her lover obeyed, and when 
the bird was dead, the old warlock also lay dead on the 

In the Norse tale of " the giant who had no heart in his 
body," the giant tells the captive princess, " Far, far away in 
a lake lies an island, on that island stands a church, in that 
church is a well, in that well swims a duck, in that duck 
there is an egg, and in that egg there lies my heart." The 
hero of the tale, with the help of some animals to whom 
he had been kind, obtains the egg and squeezes it, at which 
the giant screams piteously and begs for his life. But the 
hero breaks the egg in pieces and the giant at once bursts.- 
In another Norse story a hill-ogre tells the captive princess 
that she will never be able to return home unless she finds 
the grain of sand which lies under the ninth tongue of the 
ninth head of a certain dragon ; but if that grain of sand 
were to come over the rock in which the ogres live, they 
would all burst " and the rock itself would become a gilded 
palace, and the lake green meadows." The hero finds the 
grain of sand and takes it to the top of the high rock in 
which the ogres live. So all the ogres burst and the rest 
falls out as one of the ogres had foretold.^ In a Danish tale 
a warlock carries off a princess to his wondrous subterranean 
palace ; and when she anxiously inquires how long he is 
likely to live, he assures her that he will certainly survive 
her. •* No man," he says, " can rob me of my life, for it is 
in my heart, and my heart is not here ; it is in safer keep- 
ing." She urges him to tell her where it is, so he says : 

* K. M iillenhofr, Sa^vN, Miirchat und 
Lieder der I/crzoj^hthNcr Schiestvi\'' 
llohUin und I.auenbur^^ p. 404 sqtj, 

- Asbjomsen og Moc, Norskc J-'olke- 
Eventyr^ No. 36 ; Dascnt, Popular 
TaUs from the Xorst:^ p. 55 sqg. 

•* Asbjornscn og Moc, Norske /'o/ke- 
Eventyr^ Ny Samling, No. 70 ; Dasent, 
TaUs from the /ycld, p. 229 (** Boots 

and the Beasts ''\ As in other tales 
of this type, it is said that the hero 
found three animals (a lion, a falcon, 
and an ant) (luarrelling over a dead 
horse, and receivetl from them the 
power of transforming himself into 
animals of these species as a reward 
for dividing the carcass fairly among 

i-'V'.- ■ 



" Very far from here, in a land that is called Poland, there 
is a great lake, and in the lake is a dragon, and in the 
dragon is a hare, and in the hare is a duck, and in the duck 
is an egg, and in the egg is my heart. It is in good keep- 
ing, you may trust me. Nobody is likely to stumble upon 
it." However, the hero of the tale, who is also the husband 
of the kidnapped princess, has fortunately received the 
power of turning himself at will into a bear, a dog, an ant, 
or a falcon as a reward for having divided the carcass of a 
deer impartially between four animals of these species ; and 
availing himself of this useful art he not only makes his way 
into the warlock's enchanted palace but also secures the egg 
on which the enchanter's life depends. No sooner has he 
smashed the egg on the enchanter's ugly face than that mis- 
creant drops down as dead as a herring.^ In an Icelandic 
parallel to the story of Meleager, the spae-wives or sibyls 
come and foretell the high destiny of the infant Gestr as he 
lies in his cradle. Two candles were burning beside the 
child, and the youngest of the spae-wives, conceiving herself 
slighted, cried out, " I foretell that the child shall live no 
longer than this candle burns." Whereupon the chief sibyl 
put out the candle and gave it to Gestr's mother to keep, 
charging her not to light it again until her son should wish 
to die. Gestr lived three hundred years ; then he kindled 
the candle and expired.*- 

In a Celtic tale a giant says, "There is a great flagstone 
under the threshold. There is a wether under the flag. 
There is a duck in the wether's belly, and an egg in the 
belly of the duck, and it is in the egg that my soul is." 
The egg is crushed, and the giant falls down dead.' In 
another Celtic tale, a sea beast has carried off" a king's 
daughter, and an old smith declares that there is no way of 
killing the beast but one. " In the island that is in the 
midst of the loch is Eillid Chaisthion — the white-footed 
hind, of the slenderest legs, and the swiftest step, and, though 
she should be caught, there would spring a hoodie out of 
her, and though the hoodie should be caught, there would 

* Grundlvig, A////Vi//t/<>/^'j///<irr^^//, p. 592; Jamicson, Dictionary of tk€ 

ttbersclzt von A. Sirodimann, Zweite Scottish Lam^uai^c^ s.v, **Vule." 
Sammlun;; (Leipsic, 1S79), p. 194 sqq, ^ J. F. Campbell, Popular TaUs of 

' Mannhardt, Gcrmanischt Mythtn^ the West Highlands^ i. 10 sq, 

VOL. in 2 B 

370 77/:^ EXTERNAL SOUL chap. 

spring a trout out of her, but there is an egg in the mouth 
of the trout, and the soul of the beast is in the egg, and if 
the egg breaks, the beast is dead." As usual the egg is 
broken and the beast dies.^ 

In these Celtic tales the helpful animals reappear and 
assist the hero in achieving the adventure, though for the 
sake of brevity I have omitted to describe the parts they 
play in the plot. They figure also in an Argyleshire story, 
which seems however to be of Irish origin ; for the Cruachan 
of which we hear in it is not the rugged and lofty mountain 
Ben Cruachan which towers above the beautiful Loch Awe, 
but Roscommon Cruachan near Belanagare, the ancient 
palace of the kings of Connaught, long famous in Irish 
tradition.* The story relates how a big giant, King of 
Sorcha, stole away the wife and the shaggy dun filly of the 
herdsman or king of Cruachan. So the herdsman baked a 
bannock to take with him by the way, and set off in quest 
of his wife and the filly. He went for a long, long time, 
till at last his soles were blackened and his cheeks were 
sunken, the yellow-headed birds were going to rest at the 
roots of the bushes and the tops of the thickets, and the 
dark clouds of night were coming and the clouds of day 
were departing ; and he saw a house far from him, but 
though it was far from him he did not take long to reach it. 
He went in, and sat in the upper end of the house, but there 
was no one within ; and the fire was newly kindled, the 
house newly swept, and the bed newly made ; and who 
came in but the hawk of Glencuaich, and she said to him, 
" Are you here, young son of Cruachan ? '* "I am," said 
he. The hawk said to him, " Do you know who was here 
last night ? " "I do not," said he. " There were here," 
said she, " the big giant. King of Sorcha, your wife, and the 
shaggy dun filly ; and the giant was threatening terribly 
that if he could get hold of you he would take the head off 
you." " I well believe it," said he. Then she gave him 
food and drink, and sent him to bed. She rose in the 
morning, made breakfast for him, and baked a bannock for 
him to take with him on his journey. And he went away 

* J. F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Hit^hlands^ i. 80 r/y. 
' See above, vol. i. p. 240, note 2. 


^yS^fPS»v-^<^-.T--:-' .*^>''2:r^?«"^ •-•:'- :^- 


and travelled all day, and in the evening he came to another 
house and went in, and was entertained by the green-headed 
duck, who told him that the giant had rested there the night 
before with the wife and shaggy dun filly of the herdsman 
of Cruachan. And next day the herdsman journeyed again, 
and at evening he came to another house and went in and 
was entertained by the fox of the scrubwood, who told him 
just what the hawk of Glencuaich and the green-headed 
duck had told him before. Next day the same thing 
happened, only it was the brown otter of the bum that 
entertained him at evening in a house where the fire was 
newly kindled, the floor newly swept, and the bed newly 
made. And next morning when he wakened, the first 
thing he saw was the hawk of Glencuaich, the green-headed 
duck, the fox of the scrubwood, and the brown otter of the 
burn all dancing together on the floor. They made break- 
fast for him, and partook of it all together, and said to him, 
** Should you be at any time in straits, think of us, and we 
will help you." Well, that very evening he came to the 
cave where the giant lived, and who was there before him 
but his own wife ? She gave him food and hid him under 
clothes at the upper end of the cave. And when the giant 
came home he sniffed about and said, " The smell of a 
stranger is in the cave." But she said no, it was only a 
little bird she had roasted. " And I wish you would tell 
me," said she, " where you keep your life, that I might take 
good care of it." " It is in a grey stone over there," said 
he. So next day when he went away, she took the grey 
stone and dressed it well, and placed it in the upper end of 
the cave. When the giant came home in the evening he 
said to her, " What is it that you have dressed there ? " 
^* Your own life," said she, " and we must be careful of it." 
*' I perceive that you are very fond of me, but it is not 
there," said he. " Where is it ? " said she. " It is in a grey 
sheep on yonder hillside," said he. On the morrow, when 
he went away, she got the grey sheep, dressed it well, and 
placed it in the upper end of the cave. When he came 
home in the evening he said, " What is it that you have 
dressed there ? " " Your own life, my love," said she. ** It 
is not there as yet," said he. ** Well ! " said she, " you are 

372 T//£ EXTERNAL SOUL chap. 

putting me to great trouble taking care of it, and you have 
not told me the truth these two times." He then said, " I 
think that I may tell it to you now. My life is below the 
feet of the big horse in the stable. There is a place down 
there in which there is a small lake. Over the lake are 
seven grey hides, and over the hides are seven sods from 
the heath, and under all these are seven oak planks. There 
is a trout in the lake, and a duck in the belly of the trout, 
an egg in the belly of the duck, and a thorn of blackthorn 
inside of the egg, and till that thorn is chewed small I 
cannot be killed. Whenever the seven grey hides, the seven 
sods from the heath, and the seven oak planks are touched 
I shall feel it wherever I shall be. I have an axe above 
the door, and unless all these are cut through with one blow 
of it the lake will not be reached ; and when it will be 
reached I shall feel it." Next day, when the giant had 
gone out hunting on the hill, the herdsman of Cruachan 
contrived, with the help of the friendly animals — the hawk, 
the duck, the fox, and the otter — to get possession of the 
fateful thorn and to chew it before the giant could reach 
him ; and no sooner had he done so than the giant dropped 
stark and stiff, a corpse.^ 

Another Highland story sets forth how Hugh, prince of 
Lochlin, was long held captive by a giant who lived in a 
cave overlooking the Sound of Mull. At last, after he had 
spent many years of captivity in that dismal cave, it came 
to pass that one night the giant and his wife had a great 
dispute, and Hugh overheard their talk, and learned 
that the giant's soul was in a precious gem which he 
always wore on his forehead. So the prince watched his 
opportunity, seized the gem, and having no means of 
escape or concealment, hastily swallowed it. Like lightning 
from the clouds, the giant's sword flashed from its scabbard 
and flew between Hugh's head and his body to intercept the 
gem before it could descend into the prince's stomach. But 
it was too late ; and the giant fell down, sword in hand, and 
expired without a gasp. Hugh had now lost his head, it is 
true, but having the giant's soul in his body he felt none the 
worse for the accident. So he buckled the giant's sword at 

* D. y\^c\T\i\cs, Fo/k ami Hero 7aii's (London, 1S90), pp. 103-121. 


..■ •• 


his side, mounted the grey filly, swifter than the east wind, 
that never had a bridle, and rode home. But the want of 
his head made a painful impression on his friends ; indeed 
they maintained that he was a ghost and shut the door 
in his face, so now he wanders for ever in shades of 
darkness, riding the grey filly fleeter than the wind. On 
stormy nights, when the winds howl about the gables and 
among the trees, you may see him galloping along the 
shore of the sea " between wave and sand." Many a 
naughty little boy, who would not go quietly to bed, has 
been carried off by Headless Hugh on his grey filly and 
never seen again.^ 

In Sutherlandshire at the present day there is a sept of 
Mackays known as " the descendants of the seal," who 
claim to be sprung from a mermaid, and the story they tell 
in explanation of their claim involves the notion of the 
external soul. They say that the laird of Borgie used to go 
down to the rocks under his castle to bathe. One day he 
saw a mermaid close in shore, combing her hair and swim- 
ming about, as if she were anxious to land. After watching 
her for a time, he noticed her cowl on the rocks beside him, 
and knowing that she could not go to sea without it, he 
carried the cowl up to the castle in the hope that she would 
follow him. She did so, but he refused to give up the cowl 
and detained the sea-maiden herself and made her his wife. 
To this she consented with great reluctance, and told him 
her life was bound up with the cowl, and if it rotted or was 
destroyed she would instantly die. So the cowl was placed 
for safety in the middle of a great hay-stack, and there it 
lay for years. One unhappy day, when the laird was from 
home, the servants were working among the hay and found 
the cowl. Not knowing what it was, they showed it to the 
lady of the house. The sight revived memories of her old 
life in the depths of the sea, so she took the cowl, and 
leaving her child in its cot. plunged into the sea and never 
came home to Borgie any more. Only sometimes she 
would swim close in shore to sec her boy, and then she 
wept because he was not of her own kind that she might 

* J. Macdonald, Keiigiott ami Myth^ his youth a certain old IJelty Miles 
p. 187 sq. The wiiter tells us that in used to terrify him with this tale. 


take him to sea with her. The boy grew to be a man, and 
his descendants are famous swimmers. They cannot drown, 
and to this day they are known in the neighbourhood as 
Slioclid an roin, that is, " the descendants of the seal." ^ 

In an Irish story we read how a giant kept a beautiful 
damsel a prisoner in his castle on the top of a hill, which 
was white with the bones of the champions who had tried 
in vain to rescue the fair captive. At last the hero, after 
hewing and slashing at the giant all to no purpose, dis- 
covered that the only way to kill him was to rub a mole on 
the giant's right breast with a certain egg, which was in a 
duck, which was in a chest, which lay locked and bound at 
the bottom of the sea. With the help of some obliging 
salmon, rams, and eagles, the hero as usual makes himself 
master of the precious egg and slays the giant by merely 
striking it against the mole on his right breast- Similarly 
in a Breton story there figures a giant whom neither fire nor 
water nor steel can harm. He tells his seventh wife, whom 
he has just married after murdering all her predecessors, " I 
am immortal, and no one can hurt me unless he crushes on 
my breast an egg, which is in a pigeon, which is in the 
belly of a hare ; this hare is in the belly of a wolf, and this 
wolf is in the belly of my brother, who dwells a thousand 
leagues from here. So I am quite easy on that score." A 
soldier, the hero of the tale, had been of ser\ice to an ant, 
a wolf, and a sea-bird, who in return bestowed on him the 
power of turning himself into an ant, a wolf, or a sea-bird at 
will. By means of this magical power the soldier con- 
trived to obtain the egg and crush it on the breast of the 
giant, who immediately expired.'* Another Breton story 
tells of a giant who was called Body-without-Soul because 
his life did not reside in his body. He himself dwelt in a 
beautiful castle which hung between heaven and earth, 
suspended by four golden chains ; but his life was in an egg, 
and the egg was in a dove, and the dove was in a hare, and 
the hare was in a wolf, and the wolf was in an iron chest at 

* J. Macdonald, cp, n't, p. 191 /y., Ireland^ p. 71 sqq. 
from information furnished by the Kcv. ^ Sebillot, Coitt€s pofmlaires dc la 

A. Mackay. I/atitf • Hre/a^fn- (Paris, 1885), p. 

- J. Curtin, Myths and Folk-talcs of 63 sqq. 





the bottom of the sea. In his castle in the air he kept 
prisoner a beauteous princess whom he had swooped down 
upon and carried off in a magic chariot But her lover 
turned himself into an ant and so climbed up one of the 
golden chains into the enchanted castle, for he had done a 
kindness to the king and queen of ants, and they rewarded 
him by transforming him into an ant in his time of need. 
When he had learned from the captive princess the secret of 
the giant's life, he procured the chest from the bottom of the 
sea by the help of the king of fishes, whom he had also 
obliged ; and opening the chest he killed first the wolf, then 
the hare, and then the dove, and at the death of each animal 
the giant grew weaker and weaker as if he had lost a limb. 
In the stomach of the dove the hero found the egg on which 
the giant's life depended, and when he came with it to the 
castle he found Body-without-Soul stretched on his bed at 
the point of death. So he dashed the egg against the 
giant's forehead, the egg broke, and the giant straightway 
expired.^ In another Breton tale the life of a giant resides 
in an old box-tree which grows in his castle garden ; and to 
kill him it is necessary to sever the tap-root of the tree at a 
single blow of an axe without injuring any of the lesser 
roots. This task the hero, as usual, successfully accomplishes, 
and at the same moment the giant drops dead.- 

The notion of an external soul has now been traced in 
folk-tales told by Aryan peoples from India to Brittany and 
the Hebrides. We have still to show that the same idea occurs 
commonly in the popular stories of peoples who do not belong 
to the Aryan stock. In the first place it appears in the ancient 
Egyptian story of " The Two Brothers." This story was 
written down in the rci^n of Ramcscs II., about 1300 B.C. 

* F. M. Luzel, Cofi/i's popttlaiirs tie 
Basse Brt'tatiue (Paris, 18S7), i. 435. 
449. Compare /V/., ViUh'cs Bretoitms 
(Morlaix, 1879), p. 133 jy. For two 
other French stories of the same type, 
taken down in Lorraine, sec Cosquin, 
Contcs fopttiaircs dc Lorraim\ Nos. 1 5 
and 50 (vol. i. p. 166 sgq.^ vol. ii. \\ 12S 
sqq,Y In l)oth of them there rii;ures a 
miraculous beast which can only Ix; 
slain by breaking a certain egg against 

its he«id ; but we are not told that the 
life of the beast was in the Q^'g. In 
both of them also the hero receives 
from three animals, whose dispute 
alK>ut the carcass of a <lcad beast he 
has settled, the power of changing 
himself into animals of the same sort. 
Sec the remarks and comparisons of 
Cosquin, of*, fit. i. 170 si/i/. 

- Luzel, I'ei/it^es Breton ties ^ p. 127 

.' - ■ . 1- ■ • 

•V ■* • ■ 


It is therefore older than our present redaction of Homer, 
and far older than the Bible. The outline of the story, 
so far as it concerns us here, is as follows. Once upon 
a time there were two brethren ; the name of the elder was 
Anpu and the name of the younger was Bata. Now Anpu 
had a house and a wife, and his younger brother dwelt with 
him as his servant. It was Anpu who made the garments, 
and every morning when it grew light he drove the kine 
afield. As he walked behind them they used to say to 
him, " The grass is good in such and such a place," and he 
heard what they said and led them to the good pasture that 
they desired. So his kine grew very sleek and multiplied 
greatly. One day when the two brothers were at work in 
the field the elder brother said to the younger, " Run and 
fetch seed from the village." So the younger brother ran 
and said to the wife of his elder brother, " Give me seed 
that I may run to the field, for my brother sent me saying, 
Tarry not." She said, " Go to the barn and take as much as 
thou wouldst." He went and filled a jar full of wheat and 
barley, and came forth bearing it on his shoulders. When 
the woman saw him her heart went out to him, and she laid 
hold of him and said, " Come, let us rest an hour together." 
But he said, " Thou art to me as a mother, and my brother 
is to me as a father." So he would not hearken to her, but 
took the load on his back and went away to the field. In 
the evening, when the elder brother was returning from the 
field, his wife feared for what she had said. So she took 
soot and made herself as one who has been beaten. And 
when her husband came home, she said, " When thy younger 
brother came to fetch seed, he said to me. Come, let us rest 
an hour together. But I would not, and he beat me." 
Then the elder brother became like a panther of the south ; 
he sharpened his knife and stood behind the door of the 
cow-house. And when the sun set and the younger brother 
came laden with all the herbs of the field, as was his wont 
every day, the cow that walked in front of the herd said to 
him, " Behold, thine elder brother stands with a knife to kill 
thee. Flee before him." When he heard what the cow 
said, he looked under the door of the cow-house and saw 
the feet of his elder brother standing behind the door, his 



knife in his hand. So he fled and his brother pursued him 
with the knife. But the younger brother cried for help to 
the Sun, and the Sun heard him and caused a great water 
to spring up between him and his elder brother, and the 
water was full of crocodiles. The two brothers stood, the 
one on the one side of the water and the other on the other, 
and the younger brother told the elder brother all that had 
befallen. So the elder brother repented him of what he 
had done and he lifted up his voice and wept. But he 
could not come at the farther bank by reason of the 
crocodiles. His younger brother called to him and said, 
" Go home and tend the cattle thyself. For I will dwell no 
more in the place where thou art. I will go to the Valley 
of the Acacia. But this is what thou shalt do for me. 
Thou shalt come and care for me, if evil befalls me, for I 
will enchant my heart and place it on the top of the flower 
of the Acacia ; and if they cut the Acacia and my heart 
falls to the ground, thou shalt come and seek it, and when 
thou hast found it thou shalt lay it in a vessel of fresh 
water. Then I shall come to life again. But this is the 
sign that evil has befallen me ; the pot of beer in thine hand 
shall bubble." So he went away to the Valley of the 
Acacia, but his brother returned home with dust on his head 
and slew his wife and cast her to the dogs. 

For many days afterwards the younger brother dwelt 
alone in the Valley of the Acacia. By day he hunted the 
beasts of the field, but at evening he came and laid him 
down under the Acacia, on the top of whose flower was his 
heart. And many days after that he built himself a house 
in the Valley of the Acacia. But the gods were grieved 
for him ; and the Sun said to Khnumu, " Make a wife for 
Bata, that he may not dwell alone." So Khnumu made 
him a woman to dwell with him, who was perfect in her 
limbs more than any woman on earth, for all the gods were 
in her. So she dwelt with him. But one day a lock of 
her hair fell into the river and floated down to the land 
of Eg>*pt, to the house of Pharaoh's washerwomen. The 
fragrance of the lock perfumed Pharaoh's raiment, and the 
washerwomen were blamed, for it was said, " An odour of 
perfume in the garments of Pharaoh!" So the heart of 

378 T^E EXTERNAL SOUL chap. 

Pharaoh's chief washerman was weary of the complaints 
that were made every day, and he went to the wharf, and 
there in the water he spied the lock of hair. He sent one 
down into the river to fetch it, and, because it smelt sweetly, 
he took it to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh's magicians were 
sent for and they said, " This lock of hair belongs to a 
daughter of the Sun, who has in her the essence of all the 
gods. Let messengers go forth to all foreign lands to seek 
her." So the woman was brought from the Valley of the 
Acacia with chariots and archers and much people, and all 
the land of Egypt rejoiced at her coming, and Pharaoh loved 
her. But when they asked her of her husband, she said to 
Pharaoh, " Let them cut down the Acacia and let them 
destroy it." So men were sent with tools to cut down the 
Acacia. They came to it and cut the flower upon which 
was the heart of Bata ; and he fell down dead in that evil 
hour. But the next day, when the earth grew light and 
the elder brother of Bata was entered into his house and 
had sat down, they brought him a pot of beer and it 
bubbled, and they gave him a jug of wine and it grew 
turbid. Then he took his staff and his sandals and hied 
him to the Valley of the Acacia, and there he found his 
younger brother lying dead in his house. So he sought 
for the heart of his brother under the Acacia. For three 
years he sought in vain, but in the fourth year he found it 
in the berry of the Acacia. So he threw the heart into a 
cup of fresh water. And when it was night and the heart 
had sucked in much water, Bata shook in all his limbs and 
revived. Then he drank the cup of water in which his 
heart was, and his heart went into its place, and he lived as 

In the Arabian Nights we read how Scyf el-Mulook, 
after wandering for four months over mountains and hills 
and deserts, came to a lofty palace in which he found the 
lovely daughter of the King of India sitting alone on a 
golden couch in a hall spread with silken carpets. She tells 

* Maspcro. ConfiS po/m/aiirs di sqq. Compare W. Mnnnhardt, ** Das 

I*£,Q'p/i' aitciiune (Paris, 18S2), p. 5 altcste Marchcn," Ziitsc/inj'f ftir 

sqq.\ Flinders Petrie, ^^'///W// 7a/ts^ t/ttt/st/u- Mytholoi^ic uiid Si/tttiknndc, 

Second Series (I^ndon, 1895), p. 36 iv. (1S59), pp. 232-259. 

r..^>':.^.-;W.V-;?-Krv-. - '■■'^■■■Vi'»mr7mSi^?^ri^r 

^^*- •>:>•«&••-•-' ' 


him that she is held captive by a jinnee, who had swooped 
down on her and carried her off while she was disporting 
herself with her female slaves in a tank in the great garden 
of her father the king. Seyf el-Mulook then offers to smite 
the jinnee with the sword and slay him. " But," she replied, 
" thou canst not slay him unless thou kill his soul." " And 
in what place," said he, " is his soul ?" She answered, " I 
asked him respecting it many times ; but he would not 
confess to me its place. It happened, however, that I urged 
him, one day, and he was enraged against me, and said to 
me, * How often wilt thou ask me respecting my soul ? 
What is the reason of thy question respecting my soul ?' 
So I answered him, ' O Hatim, there remaineth to me no one 
but thee, excepting God ; and I, as long as I live, would 
not cease to hold thy soul in my embrace ; and if I do not 
take care of thy soul, and put it in the midst of my eye, 
how can I live after thee ? If I know thy soul, I would 
take care of it as of my right eye.* And thereupon he said 
to me, * When I was born, the astrologers declared that the 
destruction of my soul would be effected by the hand of one 
of the sons of the human kings. I therefore took my soul, 
and put it into the crop of a sparrow, and I imprisoned the 
sparrow in a little box, and put this into another small box, 
and this I put within seven other small boxes, and I put 
these within seven chests, and the chests I put into a coffer 
of marble within the verge of this circumambient ocean ; for 
this part is remote from the countries of mankind, and none 
of mankind can gain access to it.*" But Seyf el-Mulook got 
possession of the sparrow and strangled it, and the jinnee 
fell upon the ground a heap of black ashes.^ In a modern 
Arabian tale a king marries an ogress, who puts out the 
eyes of the king's forty wives. One of the blinded queens 
gives birth to a son whom she names Mohammed the Prudent. 
But the ogress queen hated him and compassed his death. 
So she sent him on an errand to the house of her kinsfolk 
the ogres. In the house of the ogres he saw some things 
hanging from the roof, and on asking a female slave what 
they were, she said, " That is the bottle which contains the 
life of my lady the queen, and the other bottle beside it 

* Lanc*s Arabian .\7-^7.f (I^ndon, 1 84 1), iii. 339 sqg. 

-* :i:vtf. -vr..-»r-'>;. ■.• 

-■ ..■■■:'..*•'■ .■ : 




contains the eyes of the queens whom my mistress Winded." 
A little afterwards he spied a beetle and rose to kill it. 
** Don't kill it," cried the slave, " for that is my life." But 
Mohammed the Prudent watched the beetle till it entered 
a chink in the wall ; and when the female slave had fallen 
asleep, he killed the beetle in its hole, and so the slave died. 
Then Mohammed took down the two bottles and carried 
them home to his father's palace. There he presented him- 
self before the ogress queen and said, " See, I have your life 
in my hand, but I will not kill you till you have replaced 
the eyes which you took from the forty queens." The ogress 
did as she was bid, and then Mohammed the Prudent said, 
" There, take your life." But the bottle slipped from his 
hand and fell, the life of the ogress escaped from it, and she 

A Basque story, which closely resembles some of the 
stories told among Aryan peoples, relates how a monster — 
a Body-without-Soul — detains a princess in captivity, and is 
questioned by her as to how he might be slain. With some 
reluctance he tells her, " You must kill a terrible wolf which 
is in the forest, and inside him is a fox, in the fox is a 

* G. Spina - Hey, ConUs arabes 
modi'iitt's (Leyden and Paris, 1883), 
Xo. 2, p. 12 S(f(/. The story in its 
main outlines is identical with the 
Cashnicer story of * * The Ogress Queen " 
(J. n. Knowles, Folk-taUs of Kashmir^ 
p. 42 /</y. ) and the Bengalee story of 
** Tlic Boy whom Seven Mothers 
Suckled" (Lai Bchari Day, Folk-talcs 
of Hctt;^aly p. 117 sijtj. ; Indian Anti- 
if nary, i. 1 70 jry</. ). In another .\rabian 
story the life of a witch is bound up 
with a phial ; when it is broken, she 
dies (W. A. Clouston, .4 Cronp of 
Eas/tin Kofuann's and Storust p. 30). 
A similar incident occurs in a Cash- 
mcor story (Knowles, <?/. <//. p. 73). 
In the Arabian story mentioned in the 
text, the hero, by a genuine touch of 
local colour, is made to drink the milk 
of an (>i;ress*s breasts and hence is 
regarded by her as her son. The 
same incident occurs in Kabyl and 
lierber tales. Sec J. Riviere, ContiS 
/k>/'n/atfvs di' la A'ahylu' dn Djurdjnra 
(Paris, 1882), p. 239; R. Basset, 

Notn't'aujc Conies Berd^rtis (Vslus, 1S97), 
p. 128, with the editor's note, p. 339 
s^^. In a Mongolian story a king 
refuses to kill a lad because he has 
unwittingly partaken of a cake kneaded 
with the milk of the lad*s mother (Jiilg, 
Mongolische Mdrchen - Sammlnng, die 
neun Mdrchen des Siddhi-A'iir, p. 
183). Cp. W. Robertson Smith, A'in- 
skip and Marriage in Early Arabia, 
p. 149 ; and for the same mode of 
creating kinship among other races, 
see D'Abbadie, Donzc ans dans la 
//ante Ethiopie, p. 272 sq. ; Tausch, 
"Notices of the Circassians," y<v//7/. 
Royal Asiatic Soc. i. (1834), p. 104 ; 
Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo A'oosh, 
pp. 77, 83 (cp. Leitner, /.an^ita^rs 
and A*accs of Dardistan, p. 34) ; Denzil 
Ibbetson, Settlement Report of the 
J^anipat, Tahsil, and A'arnal Par;;anah 
of the Karnal /district, p. 10 1 ; Moura, 
Royanme dn Cainbodge^ i. 427 ; K. S. 
Krauss, Sitte tind Hranch der Slid- 
slavcn, p. 14. 


pigeon ; this pigeon has an egg in his head, and whoever 
should strike me on the forehead with this egg would kill 
me." The hero of the story, by name Malbrouk, has learned, 
in the usual way, the art of turning himself at will into 
a wolf, an ant, a hawk, or a dog, and on the strength of 
this accomplishment he kills the animals, one after the 
other, and extracts the precious egg from the pigeon's 
head. When the wolf is killed, the monster feels it and says 
despondently, " I do not know if anything is going to happen 
to me. I am much afraid of it." When the fox and the 
pigeon have been killed, he cries that it is all over with him, 
that they have taken the q^^ out of the pigeon, and that he 
knows not what is to become of him. Finally the princess 
strikes the monster on the forehead with the egg, and he falls 
a corpse.^ In a Kabyl story an ogre declares that his fate 
is far away in an egg, which is in a pigeon, which is in a 
camel, which is in the sea. The hero procures the egg and 
crushes it between his hands, and the ogre dies." In a 
Magyar folk-tale, an old witch detains a young prince called 
Ambrose in the bowels of the earth. At last she confided 
to him that she kept a wild boar in a silken meadow, and if 
it were killed, they would find a hare inside, and inside the 
hare a pigeon, and inside the pigeon a small box, and inside 
the box one black and one shining beetle : the shining beetle 
held her life, and the black one held her power ; if these two 
beetles died, then her life would come to an end also. When 
the old hag went out, Ambrose killed the wild boar, took 
out the hare, from the hare he took the pigeon, from the 
pigeon the box, and from the box the two beetles ; he killed 
the black beetle, but kept the shining one alive. So the 
witch's power left her immediately, and when she came home, 
she had to take to her bed. Having learned from her how 
to escape from his prison to the upper air, Ambrose killed 
the shining beetle, and the old hag's spirit left her at once.^ 

* W. Webster, linsijiic /.iXtfnis r|uarrclling about their shares in a dead 

(London, 1877), p. So st/q. ; J. VinNon. beast. 

I^ foik'hn du pitys Basque (I'aris, * Riviere, Con/is populaircs lU la 

1883), p. 84 sqq. As so often in tales KahylU' du Djurdjuia^ p. 191. 
of this ty|w, the hero is said to have ' W. II. Jones antl L. L. Kropf, 

received his wonderful |K)wers of nieta- The Folk-tales of the Mns^'ar (London, 

morphosis from animals uhoni he found 1889), p. 205 5</. 


■X^-. X *■•*.-• ■rtf^..- -| 


In another Hungarian story the safety of the Dwarf-king 
resides in a golden cockchafer, inside a golden cock, inside a 
golden sheep, inside a golden stag, in the ninety -ninth 
island. The hero overcomes all these golden animals and 
so recovers his bride, whom the Dwarf-king had carried off.^ 
A Lapp story tells of a giant who slew a man and took 
away his wife. When the man's son grew up, he tried to 
rescue his mother and kill the giant, but fire and sword were 
powerless to harm the monster ; it seemed as if he had no 
life in his body. " Dear mother," at last inquired the son, 
" don't you know where the giant has hidden away his life ?" 
The mother did not know, but promised to ask. So one 
day» when the giant chanced to be in a good humour, 
she asked him where he kept his life. He said to her, 
" Out yonder on a burning sea is an island, in the island is 
a barrel, in the barrel is a sheep, in the sheep is a hen, in the 
hen is an egg, and in the egg is my life." When the woman's 
son heard this, he hired a bear, a wolf, a hawk, and a diver-bird 
and set off in a boat to sail to the island in the burning sea. 
He sat with the hawk and the diver-bird under an iron tent in 
the middle of the boat, and he set the bear and the wolf to 
row. That is why to this day the bear's hair is dark brown 
and the wolf has dark brown spots ; for as they sat at the 
oars without any screen they were naturally scorched by 
the tossing tongues of flame on the burning sea. However, 
they made their way over the fiery billows to the island, and 
there they found the barrel. In a trice the bear had knocked 
the bottom out of it with his claws, and forth sprang a sheep. 
But the wolf soon pulled the sheep down and rent it in pieces. 
From out Ihc sheep flew a hen, but the hawk stooped on it and 
tore it with his talons. In the hen was an ^^^, which dropped 
into the sea and sank ; but the diver -bird dived after it. 
Twice he dived after it in vain and came up to the surface 
gasping and spluttering ; but the third time he brought up 
the egg and handed it to the young man. Great was the 
young man's joy. At once he kindled a great bonfire on 
the shore, threw the egg into it, and rowed away back across 
the sea. On landing he went away straight to the giant's 
abode, and found the monster burning just as he had left the 

> R. H. Busk, Th€ Folk-lore of Romt, p. 168. 


egg burning on the island. " Fool that I was," lamented 
the dying giant, " to betray my life to a wicked old woman," 
and with that he snatched at an iron tube through which in 
happier days he had been wont to suck the blood of his 
human victims. But the woman was too subtle for him, for 
she had taken the precaution of inserting one end of the 
tube in the glowing embers of the hearth ; and so, when the 
giant sucked hard at the other end, he imbibed only fire and 
ashes. Thus he burned inside as well as outside, and when 
the fire went out the giant's life went out with it.' 

A Samoyed story tells how seven warlocks killed a certain 
man's mother and carried off his sister, whom they kept to 
serve them. Every night when they came home the seven 
warlocks used to take out their hearts and place them in a 
dish, which the woman hung on the tent-poles. But the 
wife of the man whom they had wronged stole the hearts of 
the warlocks while they slept, and took them to her husband. 
By break of day he went with the hearts to the warlocks, 
and found them at the point of death. They all begged for 
their hearts ; but he threw six of their hearts to the ground, 
and six of the warlocks died. The seventh and eldest war- 
lock begged hard for his heart, and the man said, " You 
killed my mother. Make her alive again,