Through Intangible Things
Magic Through Intangible Things
of belief in a man's tangible belongings as vehicles of black magic will
have paved the way for examples of like belief about intangible things,
as shadows, reflections, and names.
The savage knows nothing of the action of
the laws of interference of light or sound. The echoes of voices which
the hillside flings back; the reflections which water casts; and the shadows
which follow or precede, and which lengthen or shorten, a man's figure;
all unite in supporting the theory of another self. The Basuto avoids
the river-bank, lest, as his shadow falls on the water, a crocodile may
seize it, and harm the owner. In Wetar Island, near Celebes, the magicians
profess to make a man ill by spearing or stabbing his shadow; the Arabs
believe that if a hyena treads on a shadow, it deprives the man of the
power of speech; and in modern Roumania the ancient custom of burying
a victim as sacrifice to the earth-spirit under any new structure, has
survival in the builder enticing some passer-by to draw near, so that
his shadow is thrown on the foundation-stone, the belief being that he
will die within the year. New England tribes call the soul chermung or
shadow, and civilised speech indicates community of idea in the skia of
the Greeks, the manes or umbra of the Romans, and the shade of our own
language. But any due enlargement of this department of the subject would
fill no small volume, since it involves the story of the origin and development
of spiritual ideas ruling the life of man from the dawn of thought; and,
moreover, those ideas find sufficing illustration in savage notions about
Starting at the bottom of the scale, we have
Mr. Brough Smyth's testimony that the Victoria black-fellows are very
unwilling to tell their real names, and that this reluctance is due to
the fear of putting themselves at the mercy of sorcerers. [a]
Backhouse says that the Tasmanians showed great
dislike to their names being mentioned.
Among the Tshi-speaking tribes of West Africa,
'a man's name is always concealed from all but his nearest relatives,
and to other persons he is always known by an assumed name,' a nickname,
as we should say. [b] The Ewe-speaking
peoples 'believe in a real and material connection between a man and his
name, and that, by means of the name, injury may be done to' the man.'
[c] Mr. Im Thurn says that, although
the Indians of British Guiana have an intricate system of names, it is
'of little use in that the owners have a very strong objection to telling
or using them, apparently on the ground that the name is part of the man,
and that he who knows it has part of the owner of that name in his power.
To avoid any danger of spreading knowledge of their names, one Indian,
therefore, usually addresses another only according to the relationship
of the caller and the called. But an Indian is just as unwilling to tell
his proper name to a white man as to an Indian; and as, of course, between
those two there is no relationship the term for which can serve as a proper
name, the Indian asks the European to give him a name, which is usually
written on a piece of paper by the donor, and shown by the Indian to any
white who asks his name.' [d] The
Indians of British Columbia--and the prejudice 'appears to pervade all
tribes alike'--dislike telling their names; thus you never get a man's
right name from himself, but they will tell each other's names without
hesitation. [e] In correspondence
with this, the Abipones of South America would nudge their neighbour to
answer for them when any one among them was asked his name; and the natives
of the Fiji Islands would get any third party who might be present to
answer as to their names. [f] An
Indian asked Dr. Kane whether his wish to know his name arose from a desire
to steal it; and the Araucanians would not allow their names to be told
to strangers lest these should be used in sorcery. Among the Ojibways,
husbands and wives never told each other's names, and children were warned
that they would stop growing if they repeated their own names. Of the
Abipones just named, Dobriz-hoffer reports that they would knock at his
door at night, and, when asked who was there, would not answer for fear
of letting their names be known to any evilly-disposed listener. A like
motive probably explains the reluctance of which Gregor speaks in his
Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, when 'folk calling at a house
of the better class on business with the master or mistress had a very
strong dislike to tell their names to the servant who admitted them.'
While these sheets are passing through the press, my friend Mr. W. B.
Yeats hands me a letter from an Irish correspondent, who tells of a fairy-haunted
old woman living in King's County. Her tormentors, whom she calls the
'Fairy Band of Shinrone,' come from Tipperary. They pelt her with invisible
missiles, hurl abuse at her, and rail against her family, both the dead
and the living, until she is driven well-nigh mad. And all this spite
is manifested because they cannot find out her name, for if they could
learn that, she would be in their power. Sometimes sarcasm or chaff is
employed, and a nickname is given her to entrap her into telling her real
name,--all which she freely talks about, often with fits of laughter.
But the fairies trouble her most at night, coming in through the wall
over her bed-head, which is no laughing matter; and then, being a good
Protestant, she recites chapters and verses from the Bible to charm them
away. And although she has been thus plagued for years, she still holds
her own against the 'band of Shinrone.' Speaking in general terms on this
name-concealment custom, Captain Bourke says that 'the name of an American
Indian is a sacred thing, never to be divulged by the owner himself without
due consideration. One may ask a warrior of any tribe to give his name,
and the question will be met with either a point-blank refusal, or the
more diplomatic evasion that he cannot understand what is wanted of him.
The moment a friend approaches, the warrior first will whisper what is
wanted, and the friend can tell the name, receiving a reciprocation of
the courtesy from the inquirer.' [g] Grinnell
says that 'many Blackfeet change their names every season. Whenever a
Blackfoot counts a new coup (i.e. some deed of bravery), he is entitled
to a new name,' in the same way that among ourselves a successful general
or admiral sinks his name when raised to the peerage. 'A Blackfoot will
never tell his name if he can avoid it, in the belief that if he should
reveal it, he would be unlucky in all his undertakings.' [h]
The warriors of the Plains Tribes 'used to assume agnomens or battle-names,
and I have known some of them who had enjoyed as many as four or five;
but the Apache name, once conferred, seems to remain through life, except
in the case of the medicine-men, who, I have always suspected, change
their names on assuming their profession, much as a professor of learning
in China is said to do,' [i] and,
it may be added, as among high dignitaries of the church, members of ecclesiastical
orders, and so forth. But of this more presently. The foregoing reference
to names of warriors permits the inclusion of a story told by Fraser in
his Tour to the Himalayas. [j] In
one of the despatches intercepted during our war with Nepaul, Gooree Sah
had sent orders to 'find out the name of the commander of the British
army; write it upon a piece of paper: take it and some rice and turmeric;
say the great incantation three times; having said it, send for some plum-tree
wood, and therewith burn it.' There is a story in the annals of British
conquest in India to the effect that General Lake took a city with surprisingly
little resistance, because his name signified in the native language 'Crocodile,'
and there was an oracle that the city would be captured by that reptile.
Phonetic confusion explains the honours paid to Commissioner Gubbins by
the natives of Oude; Govinda being the favourite name of Krishna, the
popular incarnation of Vishnu. [k]
Mr. J. H. Collens, in his Guide to Trinidad,
published in 1887, tells the following story--
A doctor in a remote district had one day
assembled a number of negro children for vaccination. In the course of
his duties he came to a little girl, when the following conversation ensued
with the mother:--
Doctor. Are you the child's mother?
WOMAN. Yes, sir--is me darter.
D And what is your name?
W. Is me name?
D. (rather impatiently). Yes; I asked you
what is your name?
W (hesitatingly). Dey does caal me Sal.
D. Well; Sal what?
W (assuringly, but with a suspicious side-glance
at a neighbour who is intently taking all in). Dey does allus caal me
D. (getting desperate). Oh, botheration!
will you tell me your proper name or not?
W. (with much reluctance approaching the
doctor, whispers in the lowest possible tone of voice). Deiphine Segard.
D. (with intense disgust). Then why couldn't
you say so?
Mr. Collens remarks that his 'medical friend
now bears these little passages with more equanimity, for he has gained
experience, and knows that the reason why the woman was so reluctant to
utter her name aloud was that she believed she had an enemy in the room
who would take advantage of the circumstance if she got hold of her true
name, and would work her all manner of harm. It is a fact that these people
(the negro population of Trinidad) sometimes actually forget the names
of their near relations from hearing and using them so little.'
With this group of examples chosen from widely
sundered sources, and with the ever-growing evidence of continuity of
old ideas lurking in the veriest trifles, it may not be so far-fetched
as at first sight it seems, to detect traces of the avoidance-superstition
in the game-rhyme familiar to our childhood -
'What is your name?
Ellis says, 'It appears strange that the
birth-name only, and not an alias, should be believed capable of carrying
some of the personality of the bearer elsewhere, since the latter preserves
the subjective connection just as well as the real name. But the native
view seems to be that the alias does not really belong to the man.' This
view, which is universal through every stage of culture, takes practical
effect from the time that the child is born and made the subject of name-giving
ceremonies. In civilised communities, the 'baptismal name is the real
name, the name registered in heaven,' and this belief is an integral part
of the general body of customs which have for their object the protection
of the infant from maleficent agents at the critical period of birth.
'The ancients,' says Aubrey, 'had a solemne time of giving names,--the
equivalent to our christening.' [l]
Barbaric, Pagan, and Christian folk-lore is full of examples of the importance
of naming and other birth-ceremonies, in the belief that the child's life
is at the mercy of evil spirits watching the chance of casting spells
upon it, of demons covetous to possess it, and of fairies eager to steal
it, and leave a 'changeling' in its place. This last-named superstition
as to theft of the newly born by the 'little folk' is availed of as subject
of humorous incident by the writer of the old mystery play of the 'Shepherds'
(Secunda Pastorum), in the Towneley Collection.[m]
While all the hinds except Mak have fallen asleep, he steals home with
a sheep, which he pops into the cradle, telling his wife to feign lying-in.
Then he returns to his mates, and, shamming sleep, says that they have
roused him from a dream that his wife has given birth to a 'yong lad,'
and so makes excuse to hasten to her. When he is gone, the sheep is missed,
whereupon the shepherds follow Mak home, and are bidden to 'speke soft'
because of the 'seke woman.' They are thus put off guard, but on leaving,
one of them remembers that no gift had been made to the child, so they
return for that kindly office. Despite Mak's entreaties not to, disturb
the sleep of the 'lyttle day starne,' they 'lyft up the clowtt,' and discover
strange likeness between the babe and the 'shepe.' Both Mak and his wife
declare this metamorphosis to be the maliceful work of fairies, the woman
saying that the boy
'Was takyn with an elfe.
'The hour of midnight,' says Brand, 'was
looked on by our forefathers as the season when this species of sorcery
was generally performed.'
In Ireland the belief in changelings is as
strong as it was in pre-Christian times; both there and in Scotland the
child is carefully watched till the rite of baptism is performed, fishermen's
nets being sometimes spread over the curtain openings to prevent the infant
being carried off; while in West Sussex it is considered unlucky to divulge
a child's intended name before baptism. [n]
This reminds us of the incident in the Moray story, Nicht Nought Nothing,
in which the queen would not christen the bairn till the king came back,
saying, 'We will just call him Nicht Nought Nothing until his father comes
Brand says that among Danish women precaution
against evil spirits took the form of putting garlick, bread, salt, or
some steel instrument as amulets about the house before laying the newborn
babe in the cradle. [p] Henderson
[q] says that in Scotland 'the
little one's safeguard is held to lie in the placing of some article of
clothing belonging to the father near the cradle,' while in South China
a pair of the father's trousers are put near the bedstead, and a word-charm
pinned to them, so that all evil influences may pass into them instead
of harming the babe, [r] and in
New Britain a charm is always hung in the house to secure the child from
like peril. [s] In Ruthenia it
is believed that if a wizard knows a man's baptismal name he can transform
him by a mere effort of will. Parkyns says that it is the custom in Abyssinia
'to conceal the real name by which a person is baptized, and to call him
only by a sort of nickname which his mother gives him on leaving the church.
The baptismal names in Abyssinia are those of saints, such as Son of St.
George, Slave of the Virgin, Daughter of Moses, etc. Those given by the
mother are generally expressive of maternal vanity regarding the appearance
or anticipated merits of the child. The reason for the concealment of
the Christian name is that the Bouda cannot harm a person whose real name
he does not know.' Should he, however, have learned the true name of his
victim, he adopts a method of which illustrations have been given in the
references to sympathetic magic. 'He takes a particular kind of straw,
and muttering something over it bends it into a circle, and places it
under a stone The person thus doomed is taken ill at the very moment of
the bending of the straw, and should it by accident snap under the operation,
the result of the attack will be the death of the patient.' [t]
Parkyns adds that in Abyssinia all blacksmiths are looked upon as wizards
or Boudas. Among the many characters in which the devil appears is that
of Wayland the Smith, the northern Vulcan, but perhaps the repute attaching
to the Boudas has no connection with that conception, and may be an example
of the barbaric belief in the magic power of iron to which allusion has
been made. They are credited with the faculty of being able to turn themselves
into hyenas and other wild beasts, so that few people will venture to
molest or offend a black smith. 'In all church services in Abyssinia,
particularly in prayers for the dead, the baptismal name must be used.
How they manage to hide it I did not learn; possibly by confiding it only
to the priest.' [u] Mr. Theodore
Bent says that it is a custom in the Cyclades to call a child Iron or
Dragon or some other such name before christening takes place, the object
being to frighten away the evil spirits. Travelling east wards, we find
the Hindu belief that when a child is born an invisible spirit is born
with it and unless the mother keeps one breast tied up for forty days,
while she feeds the child with the other (in which case the spirit dies
of hunger the child grows up with the endowment of the evil eye. [v]
Two names are given at birth, one secret and used
only for ceremonial purposes, and the other for ordinary use. The witch,
if she learns the real name, can work her evil charms through it. Hence
arises the use of many contractions and perversions of the real name,
and many of the nicknames which are generally given to children. [w]
Among the Algonquin tribes children are usually named by the old woman
of the family, often with reference to some dream; but this real name
is kept mysteriously secret, and what commonly passes for it is a mere
nickname, such as 'Little Fox' or 'Red Head.' [x] School-craft
says that the true name of the famous Pocahontas, 'La Belle Sauvage,'
whose pleadings saved the life of the heroic Virginian leader, John Smith,
was Matokes. 'This was concealed from the English in a superstitious fear
of hurt by them if her name was known.'
It is well known that in Roman Catholic countries
the name-day wholly supersedes the birthday in importance; and, as the
foregoing examples testify, the significance attached to the name brings
into play a number of causes operating in the selection, causes grouped
round belief in omens, and in meanings to be attached to certain events,
of which astrology is a world-wide interpreter.
Among the Red Indians 'the giving of name'
to children is a solemn matter, and one in which the medicine-man should
always be consulted The Plains Tribes named their children at the moment
of piercing their ears, which should occur at the first sun-dance after
their birth, or rather, as near their first year as possible.' [y]
At the birth of every Singhalese baby its horoscope is cast by an astrologer;
and so highly is this document esteemed, that even in the hour of death
more reliance is placed upon it than on the symptoms of the patient! Again,
the astrologer is called in to preside at the baby's 'rice-feast, when
some grains of rice are first placed in it mouth. He selects for the little
one a name which is compounded from the name of the ruling planet of that
moment. This name he tells only to the father, who whispers it low in
the baby's ear; no one else must know it, and, like the Chinese 'infantile
name,' this 'rice-name' is never used lest sorcerers should hear it and
be able to work malignant spells. [z]
In every department of human thought evidence
of the non-persistence of primitive ideas is the exception rather than
the rule. Scratch the epiderm of the civilised man, and the barbarian
is found in the derm. In proof of which, there are more people who believe
in Zadkiel's Vox Stellarum than in the Nautical Almanac; and rare are
the households where the Book of Dreams and Fortune-Teller are not to
be found in the kitchen. The Singhalese caster of nativities has many
representatives in the West, and there may lie profit in the reminder
of the shallow depth to which knowledge of the orderly sequence of things
has yet penetrated in the many. Societies and serials for the promulgation
of astrology exist and flourish among us; Zadkiel boasts his circulation
of a hundred thousand, and vaunts the fulfilment of his Delphh prophecies;
while the late Astronomer-Royal, Sir George Airy, was pestered, as his
successor probably is, with requests to work the planets accompanied by
silver wherewith to cross his expert palm. There lies before me a book
entitled Kabalistic Astrology, in which, darkened by pages of pseudo-philosophic
jargon, a theory is formulated on 'the power of Names and Numbers,' 'all
names being essentially numbers, and vice versa. 'A name is a mantram,
an invocation, a spell, a charm. It gains its efficacy from the fact that,
in pronunciation, certain vibrations, corresponding to the mass-chord
of the name, are set up; not only in the atmosphere, but also in the more
ethereal substance, referred to by a modern philosopher as "mind-stuff,"
whose modifications form the basis of changes of thought. This is evident
to us in the fact that names import to our minds certain characteristics,
more or less definite according to the acuteness of our psychometric sense
how different, for example, are the impressions conveyed to us
While among the Mordvins of the Caucasus
and other peoples accident or whim determines the child's name, among
the Tshi-speaking tribes of West Africa this is given at the moment of
birth and derived from the day of the week when that event happens. After
being washed, charms are bound round the child to avert evil. [ab]
Throughout Australia the custom of deriving the
name from some slight circumstance prevails. 'Like the nomadic Arabs and
the Kaffirs, a sign is looked for, and the appearance of a kangaroo or
an emu at the time of birth, or the occurrence of that event near some
particular spot, or under the shelter of a tree, decides the infant's
name. This name is not the one by which a man will be known in after life.
Another is given him on his initiation to rank in the tribe; and, if his
career should be marked by any striking event, he will then receive a
fitting designation, and his old name will be perhaps forgotten. Or, if
he has had conferred on him, on arriving at manhood, a name similar to
that of any one who dies, it is changed by his tribe.' [ac]With
this may be compared the Aino abstention from giving the name of either
parent to the child, because, when they are dead, they are not to be 'mentioned
without tears,' [ad] and also
the feeling in the North of England against perpetuating a favourite baptismal
name when death has snatched away its first bearer. [ae]
'The clan of the Manlii at Rome avoided giving the name of Marcus to any
son born in the clan. We may infer from this that the possession of the
name was once thought to be bound up with evil consequences,' and this
notwithstanding the legend that the name-avoidance was due to Marius Manlius--who
proved himself the saviour of the city when the clamouring of geese aroused
the garrison of the Capitol to a scaling attack by the Gauls--being afterwards
put to death for plotting to found a monarchy. [af]
The custom of name-giving from some event
has frequent reference in the Old Testament, as, for example, in Genesis
xxx. 11, where Leah's maid gives birth to a son; 'And she said, A troop
cometh, and she called his name, Gad.' So Rachel, dying in childbed, calls
the babe Ben-oni, 'son of sorrow,' but the father changes his name to
Benjamin, 'son of the right hand.' The Nez Percés obtain their
names in several ways, one of the more curious being the sending of a
child in his tenth or twelfth year to the mountains, where he fasts and
watches for something to appear to him in a dream and give him a name.
On the success or failure of the vision which the empty stomach is designed
to secure, his fortunes are believed to depend. No one questions him on
his return, the matter being regarded as sacred, and only years hence,
when he may have done something to be proud of, will he reveal his name
to trusted friends. Of course, throughout his life he is known to his
fellow-tribesmen by some nickname. [ag]
The Maoris had an interesting baptismal or lustration ceremony, during
which the priest repeated a long list of ancestral names. When the child
sneezed, the name which was then being uttered was chosen, and the priest,
as he pronounced it, sprinkled the child with a small branch 'of the karamu
which was stuck upright in the water.' [ah]
In East Central Africa the birth-name is
changed when the initiatory rites are performed, after which it must never
be mentioned. Mr. Duff-Macdonald says that it is a terrible way of teasing
a Wayao to point to a little boy and ask if he remembers what was his
name when he was about the size of that boy. [ai]
Miss Mary Kingsley confirms these reports of the silence and secrecy on
the part of the initiated; and in an unpublished manuscript on the customs
in Loango, which came into my hands, Mr. Dennett makes the interesting
and significant statement that on the initiation of a youth into the tribal
mysteries when he reaches manhood, he lies down in his forest retreat
as if dead, and on rising takes a new name. Here we seem scarcely a step
removed from the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, when the Miserere
is chanted, and a pall flung over the nun who takes the veil and effaces
her old self under another name.
In fact, these correspondences bring us face
to face with the large question of the origin of the rites and ceremonies
of civilised faiths which show no essential difference in character from
those in practice among barbaric races; rites and ceremonies gathering
round the chief events, as birth, maturity, marriage, and death. Those
who contend, for example, that the ordinance of baptism in the Christian
Church is of divine authority, thus possessing warrant which makes 'it
wholly a thing apart from the lustrations and naming-customs which are
so prominent a feature of barbaric life, will not be at pains to compare
the one with the other. If they do, it will be rather to assume that the
lower is a travesty of the higher, in the spirit of the Roman Catholic
missionaries, who on seeing the tonsured Buddhist monks with all the apparatus
of rosaries, bells, holy water, and relics, believed that the devil, as
arch-deceiver, had tempted these ecclesiastics to dress themselves in
the clothes of Christians, and mock their solemn rites. The majority of
Christendom still attaches enormous importance to infant baptism, [aj]
an importance which is shared, for less precise
reasons, by rustics, who believe that 'children never thrive till they're
christened,' [ak] and that the
night air thrills to the cry of the homeless souls of the unbaptized.
That superstitions of this order should be rampant among the unlettered,
evidences their pagan origin rather than the infiltration of sacerdotal
theories of baptismal regeneration and of the doom of the unchristened.
But between the believers in these theories, and those who see in the
ritual of the higher religions the persistence of barbaric ideas, there
will be agreement when the poles meet the equator. The explanation which
the evolutionist has to give falls into line with what is known and demonstrated
about the arrest of human development by the innate conservatism aroused
when doubt disturbs the settled order of things. Rites, like their dispensers,
may change their name, but not their nature, and in the ceremonies of
civil [al] and religious society
we find no inventions, only survivals more or less elaborated. The low
intellectual environment of man's barbaric past was constant in his history
for thousands of years, and his adaptation thereto was complete. The intrusion
of the scientific method in its application to man's whole nature disturbed
that equilibrium. But this, as yet, only within the narrow area of the
highest culture. Like the lower life-forms that constitute the teeming
majority of organisms, and that have undergone little, if any, change
during millions of years, the vaster number of mankind have remained but
slightly, if at all, modified. The keynote of evolution is adaptation,
not continuous development, and this is illustrated, both physically and
mentally, by man. Therefore, the superstitions that still dominate human
life, even in so-called civilised centres and 'high places,' are no stumbling-blocks
to the student of history. He accounts for their persistence, and the
road of inquiry is cleared. Man being a unit, not a duality, thought and
feeling are, in the last resort, in harmony, as are the elements that
make up the universe which includes him. But the exercise of feeling has
been active from the beginning of his history, while thought, speaking
comparatively, has but recently had free play. So far as its influence
on the modern world goes, and this with long periods of arrest between,
we may say that it began, at least in the domain of scientific naturalism,
with the Ionian philosophers, twenty-four centuries ago. And these are
but as a day in the passage of prehistoric ages. In other words, man wondered
long chiliads before he reasoned, because feeling travels along the line
of least resistance, while thought, or the challenge by inquiry, with
its assumption that there may be two sides to a question, must pursue
a path obstructed by the dominance of taboo and custom, by the force of
imitation, and by the strength of prejudice, passion, and fear. 'It is
not error,' Turgot wrote, in a saying that every champion of a new idea
should have ever in letters of flame before his eyes, 'which opposes the
progress of truth; it is indolence, obstinacy, the spirit of routine,
everything that favours inaction.' [am]
In these causes lies the explanation of the
persistence of the primitive; the causes of the general conservatism of
'Born into life, in vain,
as in the striking illustration cited in
Heine's Travel-Pictures. 'A few years ago Bullock dug' up an ancient stone
idol in Mexico, and the next day he found that it had been crowned during
the night with flowers. And yet the Spaniard had exterminated the old
Mexican religion with, fire and sword, and for three centuries had been
engaged in ploughing and harrowing their minds and implanting the seed
of Christianity ' [ao]
The causes of error and delusion, and of
the spiritual nightmares of olden time, being made clear, there is begotten
a generous sympathy with that which empirical notions of human nature
attributed to wilfulness or to man's fall from a high estate. For superstitions
which are the outcome of ignorance can only awaken pity. Where the corrective
of knowledge is absent, we see that it could not be otherwise. And thereby
we learn that the art of life largely consists in that control of the
emotions, and that diversion of them into wholesome channels, which the
intellect, braced with the latest knowledge and with freedom in the application
of it, can alone effect.
These remarks have direct bearing on the inferences to be drawn from the examples gathered from barbaric and civilised sources. For those examples fail in their intent if they do not indicate the working of the law of continuity in the spiritual as in the material sphere. Barbaric birth and baptism customs, and the importance attached to the name with accompanying invocation and other ceremonies, explain without need of import of other reasons, the existence of similar practices, impelled by similar ideas, in civilised society. The priest who christens the child 'in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost' is the lineal descendant, the true apostolic successor, of the medicine-man. He may deny the spiritual father who begat him, and vaunt his descent from St. Peter. But the first Bishop of Rome, granting that title to the apostle, was himself a parvenu compared to the barbaric priest who uttered his incantations on the hill now crowned by the Vatican. The story of the beginnings of his order in a prehistoric past is a sealed book to the priest. For, in East and West alike, his studies have run between the narrow historical lines enclosing only such material as is interpreted to support the preposterous claims to the divine origin of his office which the multitude have neither the courage to challenge nor the knowledge to refute. Did those studies run on the broad lines laid down by anthropology, the sacerdotal upholders of those claims would be compelled to abandon their pretensions and thus sign the death-warrant of their caste. The modern sacerdotalist represents in the ceremony of baptism the barbaric belief in the virtue of water as--in some way equally difficult to both medicine-man and priest to define--a vehicle of supernatural efficacy. In the oldest fragment of Hebrew song the stream is addressed as a living being, [ap] and the high authority of the late Professor Robertson Smith may be cited for the statement that the Semitic peoples, to whom water, especially flowing water, was the deepest object of reverence and worship, regarded it not merely as the dwelling-place of spirits, but as itself a living organism. That has been the barbaric idea about it everywhere; and little wonder. For the primitive mind associates life with motion; [aq] and if in rolling stone and waving branch it sees not merely the home and haunt of spirit, but spirit itself, how much more so in tumbling cataract, swirling rapid, and tossing sea, swallowing or rejecting alike the victim and the offering. Birthplace of life itself, and ever life's necessity; mysterious fluid endowed with cleansing and healing qualities, the feeling that invests it can only be refined, it cannot perish. And we therefore think with sympathy of that 'divine honour' which Gildas tells us out forefathers 'paid to wells and streams'; of the food-bringing rivers which, in the old Celtic faith, were 'mothers'; of the eddy in which the water-demon lurked; of the lakes ruled by lonely queens; of the nymphs who were the presiding genii of wells. Happily, the Church treated this old phase of nature-worship tenderly, adapting what it could not abolish, substituting the name of Madonna or saint for the pagan presiding deity of the spring. Most reasonable therefore, is the contention that the barbaric lustrations re appear in the rite at Christian fonts; that the brush of the pagan temple sprinkles the faithful with holy water, as it still sprinkles with benediction the horses in the Palio or prize races at Siena; [ar] and that the leprous Naaman repairing to the Jordan, together with the sick waiting their turn on the margin of Bethesda, have their correspondences in the children dipped in wells to be cured of rickets, in the dragging of lunatics through deep water to restore their reason, and in the cripples who travel by railway to bathe their limbs in the well of St. Winifred in Flintshire. The influence which pagan symbolism had on Christian art and doctrine has interesting illustration in a mosaic of the sixth century at Ravenna, representing the baptism of Jesus. The water flows from an inverted urn, held by a venerable figure typifying the river-god of the Jordan, with reeds growing beside his head, and snakes coiling round it.
[a] Aborigines of Victoria, vol.
i. p. 469.
[b] Sir A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-speaking
Peoples of the Gold Coast, p. 109.
[c] The Ewe-speaking Peoples, p.
[d] Among the Indians of Guiana,
[e] Mayne, British Columbia, p.
[f] Farrer, Primitive Manners and Customs,
[g] John C. Bourke, The Medicine Men
of the Apache, p. 461 (Washington, 1892).
[h] Blackfoot Lodge Tales, p. 194.
[i] Bourke, p. 462.
[j] p. 530
[k] For these two illustrations I am indebted
to my friend Mr. W. B. Morfihl, Reader in Russian, University of Oxford.
[l] Remaines of Gentilsme and Judaisme,
[m] Surtees Society, 1836 (Re-issued
by the English Dialect Society, 1888).
[n] Henderson, Folk-Lore of Northern
Counties, pp. 15, 66; Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East Scotland,
[o] Andrew Lang, Custom and Myth,
[p] Vol. ii. p. 143.
[q] Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties,
[r] Dennys, Folk-Lore of China,
[s] Journal, Anthrop Institute,
1889, p. 293.
[t] Life in Abyssinia, vol. ii,
[u] William Simpson, 'An Artist's Jottings
in Abyssinia,' Good Words, 1868, p. 607.
[v] W. Crooke, Folk-Lore of North-West
India, vol. ii. p. 2.
[w] Ibid. vol. ii. p. 5.
[x] Tylor, Early History of Mankind,
[y] Bourke, p. 461.
[z] Miss Gordon Cumming, Two Happy
Years in Ceylon, vol. i. pp. 278. 279.
[aa] Kabalistic Astrology, or Your
Fortune in Your Name. By Sepharial. (The Astrological Publishing Association,
[ab] Ellis, p. 332.
[ac] Brough Smyth, vol. i. p. xxi.
[ad] Folk-Lore Journal, vol. vi.
[ae] Denham Tracts, vol. ii. p.
[af] Grainger, Worship of the Romans,
[ag] American Society Folk-Lore Journal,
vol. iv. p. 329.
[ah] Taylor, Te-Ika a Maori, or New
Zealand and Its Inhabitants, p. 185.
[ai] Africana, vol. i. p. 128.
[aj] 'How can your boy sing acceptable
hymns to God in His Church if he has not been baptized?' recently asked
the vicar of a parish in Suffolk when the boy's mother expressed a wish
that he should join the choir.
[ak]Henderson, p. 14.
[al] There appears to be no ground for
assuming a survival of the avoidance-superstition in the threat of the
Speaker of the House of Commons to 'name' a recalcitrant member. Sir Frederick
Pollock says, in a letter to me:--'It cannot be older than the etiquette
of not usually calling members by their proper names in debate, and I
suspect that is not very old. There was a great deal of innovating and
recasting in forms and ceremonies in the last quarter of the seventeenth
century or so, and I should not wonder if it began then; but this is a
[am] John Morley, Miscellanie,
vol. ii. p. 77.
[an] Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on
[ao] Eng. trans. by F. Storr, p. 106.
[ap] Then Israel sang this song: Spring
up, O well, sing ye unto it.--Numbers xxi. 17.
[aq] The Indian does not see any sharp
line of distinction, such as we see, between man and other animals, between
one kind of animal and another, or between animals--man included--and
inanimate objects. On the contrary, to the Indian all objects, animate
and inanimate, seem exactly of the same nature, except that they differ
in the accident of bodily form. Every object in the whole world is a being,
consisting of a body and spirit, and differs from every other object in
no respect except that of bodily form, and in the greater or less degree
of brute power and cunning consequent on the difference of bodily form
and bodiIy habits. Our next step, therefore, is to note that animals,
other than men, and even inanimate objects, have spirits which not at
all in kind from those of men.--Everard Im Thurn, Among the Indians
of Guiana, p. 350.
[ar] W. W. Story gives a graphic account
of these races, as also of the annual blessing and sprinkling of animals
on the feast-day of St. Antonio, their protecting saint, in Roba di
Roma, pp. 454 ff.
Clodd, Edward. Tom Tit Tot: An Essay on Savage Philosophy in Folk-Tale. London: Duckworth and Co. 1898.