Folklore as an Historical Science
by George Laurence Gomme
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[352] Darwin, Journal of Researches, 228.

[353] Anthropological Inst., vii. 502-510.

[354] Quatrefages, The Pygmies, 24, 48, 69.

[355] There is ample evidence of this characteristic. Thus, of the Australians of Port Lincoln district, it is said that "the habit of constantly changing their place of rest is so great that they cannot overcome it even if staying where all their wants can be abundantly supplied."—Trans. Roy. Soc., Victoria, v. 178.

[356] Fortnightly Review, lxxviii. 455.

[357] Secret of the Totem, 125, 140.

[358] British Association Report, 1902, p. 745. Cf. Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, 160.

[359] Lang, Secret of the Totem, 140, quoting Grey, Vocabulary of the Dialects of South-west Australia.

[360] Spencer and Gillen, Tribes of Central Australia, 119.

[361] The reader should consult Mason's Women's Share in Primitive Culture, and Bucher's Industrial Evolution, for evidence on this point.

[362] Livingstone, South Africa, 462.

[363] Sleeman, Rambles of an Indian Official, i. 43. "Banotsarg is the name given to the marriage ceremony performed in honour of a newly planted orchard, without which preliminary observance it is not proper to partake of its fruit. A man holding the Salagram personates the bridegroom, and another holding the sacred Tulsi personates the bride. After burning a hom or sacrificial fire, the officiating Brahmin puts the usual questions to the couple about to be united. The bride then perambulates a small spot marked out in the centre of the orchard. Proceeding from the south towards the west, she makes the circuit three times, followed at a short distance by the bridegroom holding in his hand a strip of her chadar of garment. After this, the bridegroom takes precedence, making his three circuits, and followed in like manner by his bride. The ceremony concludes with the usual offerings" (Elliot, Folklore of North-west Provinces of India, i. 234).

[364] Myths explaining the domestication of animals belong to this stage of culture. The dog is a sacred animal among the Khasis, with certain totemic associations, and there is a very realistic and humanising myth relating how the dog came to be regarded as the friend of man (Gurdon, The Khasis, 51, 172-3). The Kyeng creation legend includes a good example of animal friendship with man (Lewin, Wild Races of South-east India, 238-9). The American creation myths afford remarkable testimony to this view of the case. "Game and fish of all sorts were under direct divine supervision ... maize or Indian corn is a transformed god who gave himself to be eaten to save men from hunger and death" (Curtin, Creation Myths of Primitive America, pp. xxvi, xxxviii). The Narrinyeri Australians "do not appear to have any story of the origin of the world, but nearly all animals they suppose anciently to have been men who performed great prodigies, and at last transformed themselves into different kinds of animals and stones" (Taplin, The Narrinyeri, 59).

[365] Legend of Perseus, i. cap. vi.

[366] Secret of the Totem, 29.

[367] Mitchell, Australian Expeditions, i. 307; cf. Fison and Howitt, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, 200, 224; Taplin, The Narrinyeri, 10.

[368] Curr, Australian Race, i. p. 193; cf. Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, ii. p. 316.

[369] Fison and Howitt, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, 66, 285, 289.

[370] Fison and Howitt, op. cit., 68, 73.

[371] Lang, Secret of the Totem, 64.

[372] Spencer and Gillen, Central Tribes, 7.

[373] Spencer and Gillen, Central Tribes, 120, 124, 133.

[374] Globus, xci, a very important criticism of Spencer and Gillen's work.

[375] Spencer and Gillen, op. cit., 139, 154.

[376] Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes, 144.

[377] Globus, xci, gives important evidence of traces of female descent among the Arunta.

[378] There is conflict of testimony on this point. Spencer and Gillen deny that the Arunta recognise the fact of paternity in any way (see Northern Tribes, pp. xiii, 145, 330), and yet talk of the "actual father" in ceremonial functions (p. 361).

[379] Skeat and Blagden, Malay Peninsula, ii. 218.

[380] Newbold, Political and State Acc. of Malacca, ii.; Skeat and Blagden, op. cit., ii. 56.

[381] Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, Central Tribes, 36, give a useful note on this point.

[382] In this they are exactly paralleled by the Khasi people of Assam, among whom we find a limited sort of male chiefship by succession through females, and an absolute succession to property by females by succession through females (Gurdon, The Khasis, 68, 88). Descent from the female is absolute in both cases, and all we get is male ascendancy.

[383] Secret of the Totem, 73.

[384] Op. cit., 79.

[385] Lang, Secret of the Totem, 148.

[386] Central Tribes, 72. Mrs. Langloh Parker's information as to the origin of the Euahlayi two-class division having arisen from an amalgamation of two distinct tribes, points to the same facts.—Euahlayi Tribe, 12.

[387] Spencer and Gillen, Tribes of Central Australia, 96, 99, 106.

[388] Lang's Introd. to Bolland's Aristotle's Politics (1877), p. 104; Grant Allen's Anglo-Saxon Britain (1888), pp. 79-83.

[389] Topography of Ireland, lib. ii. cap. 19.

[390] Hist. of Ireland, ii. 361.

[391] Irish Nennius, p. 205; Lang, Custom and Myth, p. 265; Revue Celtique, ii. 202.

[392] View of the State of Ireland, p. 99.

[393] Moryson, Hist. of Ireland, ii. 367.

[394] Aubrey, Remaines of Gentilisme, 204.

[395] Camden, Britannia, iii. 455; iv. 459.

[396] The significance of the word "gossip" is worth noting. Halliwell says it "signified a relation or sponsor in baptism, all of whom were to each other and to the parents God-sibs, that is, sib, or related by means of religion." This meaning does not seem to have died out in the days of Spenser, and his use of the word to describe the relationship of the men of Ossory to wolves is very significant. For the history of this important word see Hearn's Aryan Household, 290.

[397] Otway, Sketches in Erris, 383-4.

[398] Folklore Record, iv. 98.

[399] Ulster Journ. Arch., ii. 161, 162. They have also another primitive trait. Their trade emblems are carved on their tombstones. Roy. Irish Acad., vii. 260.

[400] This I gather from Ulster Journ. Arch., ii. 164, where it is stated that the hare is unpropitious.

[401] Folklore Journal, ii. 259.

[402] Folklore Journal, ii. 259; Folklore Record, iv. 104. Miss Ffennell kindly informed me at the meeting of the Folklore Society where I read a paper on the subject, that she had frequently heard the islanders of Achill, off the coast of Ireland, state their belief that they were descended from seals.

[403] Published by the Irish Archaeological Society, p. 27; there is a Seal Island off the coast of Donegal (Joyce, Irish Place-Names, ii. 282); and some Shetland legends of the seal will be found in Soc. Antiq. Scot., i. 86-89. Seals are eaten for food in the island of Harris (see Martin, Western Islands, 36), and one called the Virgin Mary's Seal is offered to the minister (Reeves, Adamnan Vita. Columb., 78, note g). The attitude of the Irish to seals is shown by the two following notes:—"At Erris, in Ireland, seals are considered to be human beings under enchantment, and they consider it unlucky to have anything to do with seals, and to have one live near their dwelling is considered as productive of evil to life and property. A story current, in 1841, describes how a young fisherman came in a fog upon an island whereon lived these enchanted men in their human form, but when they quitted it they turned to seals again" (Otway, Sketches of Erris, 398, 403). Off Downpatrick Head they used to take seals, but have given up the practice, because once two young fellows had urged their curraghs into a cave where the seals were known to breed, and they were killing them right and left when, in the farthest end of the cave and sitting up on its bent tail in a corner, there sat an old seal. One of the boys was just making ready to strike him, when the seal cried out, "Och, boys! och, ma bouchals, spare your old grandfather, Darby O'Dowd." He then proceeded to tell the boys his story. "It's true I was dead and dacently buried, but here I am for my sins turned into a sale as other sinners are and will be, and if you put an end to me and skin me maybe it's worser I'll be, and go into a shark or a porpoise. Lave your ould forefather where he is, to live out his time as a sale. Maybe for your own sakes you will ever hereafter leave off following and parsecuting and murthering sales who may be nearer to yourselves nor you think." The story is universally believed, and on the strength of it the people have given up seal hunting (Otway, Sketches of Erris, 230).

[404] Kinship and Marriage in Arabia, 188. Cf. Mr. Jacobs' articles in Archaeological Review, "Are there totem clans in the Old Testament?" vol. iii. pp. 145-164.

[405] Origins of English History, 297.

[406] Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., x. 436; Lang's Custom and Myth, 265; Elton's Origins of English History, 299-300; Revue Celtique, i. 50; iii. 176.

[407] Rev. Celtique, vi. 232.

[408] Aubrey's Remaines of Gentilisme, 102.

[409] Folklore Record, i. 243.

[410] Xiphilinus in Mon. Hist. Brit., p. lvii.

[411] Choice Notes, Folklore, p. 16.

[412] Vulgar Errors, p. 320.

[413] Aubrey, Gentilisme and Judaisme, 109; Napier, Folklore of West of Scotland, 26. Consult Mr. Billson's valuable paper on "The Easter Hare" in Folklore, iii. 441-466.

[414] Gregor, Folklore of North-East Scotland, 129, 199.

[415] O'Curry, Manners of the Anc. Irish, i. p. ccclxx.

[416] Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iv. 82, 158; Dyer's Popular Customs, 384.

[417] Gordon Cumming, Hebrides, 369.

[418] Gordon Cumming, Hebrides, 369.

[419] Gentleman's Magazine Library, Pop. Sup., 216.

[420] It will be useful to refer to Mr. Thrupp's paper on "British Superstition as to Hares, Geese, and Poultry" in Trans. Ethnological Society of London, new ser. vol. v. pp. 162-167.

[421] Origins of English History, 170.

[422] Gordon Cumming, Hebrides, 365.

[423] Dalyell's Darker Superstitions of Scotland, 431. It should be noted that Dalyell wrote before the age of scientific folklore, and therefore his observations are founded more upon conjectures derived from the practices and beliefs themselves than from any theory as to origins.

[424] White horse, p. 208; black cat, p. 211, note 3; two magpies, p. 224; crickets, p. 238; hawthorn, p. 244.

[425] Fortnightly Review, xii. 562.

[426] It is just possible that the value of investigating Australian totemism may prove to have a still more direct bearing upon British folklore, for Huxley's opinion as to the Australoid race is not entirely to be neglected. He argued that "The Australoid race are dark complexion, ranging through various shades of light and dark chocolate colour; dark or black eyes; the hair of the scalp black and soft, silky and wavy; the skull dolichocephalic. The great continent of Australia is the headquarters of the Australoid race.... The Dekkan, which is so remarkably isolated on the north by the valleys of the Ganges and Indus, beyond these by the Himalaya Mountains, and on the east and west by the sea, was originally inhabited, and is still largely peopled by men who completely come under the definition of the Australoid race given above. In Abyssinia and Egypt there is a smooth-haired, dark-complexioned, long-headed stock which I am strongly inclined to regard as a westward extension of the Australoid race. I would venture to suggest that the dark whites who stretch from Northern Hindostan through Western Asia, skirt both shores of the Mediterranean, and extend through Western Europe to Ireland, may have had their origin in a prolongation of the Australoid race, which has become modified by selection or intermixture" (Huxley in Prehistoric Congress, 1868, pp. 92-94). This point of view is confirmed by Mr. Mathew's conclusions, Eaglehawk and Crow, cap. iii.



Perhaps the most important part of the anthropological aspect of custom, rite, and belief in tradition is sociological. Perhaps, too, it is the most neglected. Inquirers into the origin of religion proceed one after the other to investigate the phenomena of early beliefs as they interpret the origin of religion, without one thought of the sociological conditions of the problem. They interpose, as I have already pointed out, the theory of a state religion, when such a foundation is incidentally found to be necessary to carry the imposing superstructure of Celtic mythology, but they do not pause to inquire whether the state, suddenly introduced into the argument, is a discoverable factor; or they proceed to erect their superstructure of religious origins without any social foundation whatever, and we are left with a great concept of abstract thought having no roots in the source from which it is supposed to be drawn. The sun-god and the dawn-god, even the All-father, are traced in the most primitive thought of man, but it is not deemed necessary to show in what relation these concepts stand to practical life. It is here I must refer back to Robertson-Smith's dictum on mythology, for it is the necessary preliminary to showing that belief cannot enter into life except through the sociological units into which all humanity fits itself; or rather, I would prefer Robertson-Smith's way of putting it, "the circle into which a man was born was not simply a human society, a circle of kinfolk and fellow-citizens, but embraced also certain divine beings, the gods of the family and the state, which to the ancient mind were as much a part of the particular community with which they stood connected as the human members of the social group."[427] Any proposal to examine a group of customs, beliefs, and rites which at their origin take us back to the earliest history of a country must, therefore, be considered from the sociological side. The great mass of the material to be used in such an inquiry is not ancient so far as its date of record is a test of antiquity, but it is ancient as traditional survival, and it is not possible to trace back custom and belief surviving in modern times to the earliest times, except through the medium of the institutions which formed the social basis of the peoples to whom such custom and belief belonged. A custom or belief exists as a living force before it sinks back into the position of a survival. It is the lingering effect of this living force which helps to preserve it for so many ages, and in the midst of such adverse circumstances, as a survival among other customs and beliefs existing under a different living force. It is not possible, therefore, to ascertain the origin of custom or belief in survival, except as a fragment of the social institution to which it originally belonged. No custom or belief has a life of its own separate from all other. It is joined to other customs and beliefs in indissoluble co-partnership, the whole group making up the institutions under which the race or people to whom they belong live and flourish. This, as we have already seen, is a most important principle in the study of survivals. Not only is it strictly true of all primitive peoples, but it is true of the early stages of more advanced communities.[428] Indeed it has been put into a phrase used long ago by an English writer on the manorial tenant, "His religion is a part of his copyhold,"[429] and when the jurist talks to us in highly technical language of lords, freeholders, villans, and serfs, we must bear in mind that at any rate these villans and serfs belonged to a social institution, one element of which was religion. So, too, must the folklorist bear in mind that it is not the individual belief he is concerned with, but with the belief that belongs to a community. It must be assumed that the true test of the antiquity of every custom or belief is its natural and easy assimilation with other customs and beliefs, equally with itself in the position of a survival, and the recognition of the whole group thus brought into relationship as belonging to the institutions of the people from whom it is derived.

It is well to understand what this condition of things exactly means as an element in the study of early beliefs. It will be dealing with beliefs from their place in the social habitat; housing them, so to speak, within the groups of human beings with which they are connected. It will be considering them as part of the living organism which the social units of man have created. All this indicates a method of treating the subject entirely different from what has hitherto obtained. Students of early English institutions are content to construct elaborate arguments from the often conflicting testimony of historical authorities; students of early beliefs construct elaborate systems of religious thought far above the custom and rite with which they are dealing. The two branches of the same subject are never brought together to illustrate each other. Early institutions cannot be separated from early beliefs. Early beliefs cannot properly be separated from the society of which they form a component part. We require to know not only what beliefs a particular people possess, but in what manner these beliefs generate custom and rite and take their place among the influences which affect the social organism. Early man does not live individually. His life is part of a collective group. The group worships collectively as it lives collectively, and it is extremely important to work out the dual conditions. If the several items of custom and belief preserved by tradition are really ancient in their origin, they must be floating fragments, as it were, of an ancient system of custom and belief—the cultus of the people among whom they originated. This cultus has been destroyed, struggling unsuccessfully against foreign and more vigorous systems of religion and society. To be of service to history each floating fragment of ancient custom and belief must not only be labelled "ancient," but it must be placed back in the system from which it has been torn away. To do this is to a great extent to restore the ancient system; and to restore an ancient system of culture, even if the restoration be only a mosaic and a shattered mosaic, is to bring into evidence the people to which it belongs.

In the previous chapter it was necessary to lay somewhat special stress upon the system of social organisation known as totemism, which was not founded upon kinship. This was traced in survival among the pre-Celtic peoples of Britain. If we now turn to the Celts and Teutons of Britain we shall find that we have to deal with a social organisation founded definitely upon kinship; and if there are survivals of belief, custom, and rite, derived from this kinship system, existing side by side in the same culture area with survivals from the kinless system, it will be necessary to explain how two such opposite streams can have been kept flowing.

It is not difficult in the case of countries occupied by Celtic or Teutonic peoples to ascertain what the particular institution was which linked together the beliefs of the people, though it is not easy to trace out all the phases of it. It is the tribe—that system of society which appears as the means by which Greek and Roman, Celt and Teuton, Scandinavian and Slav, Hindu and Persian, were able to conquer, overrun, and finally to settle in the lands which they have made their own. We know something of the Celtic tribe, less of the Teutonic tribe, but all we know is that it possesses features in common with the tribe of its kindred. There is no fact more certainly true as a result of comparative research than that the tribe is the common heritage of those people who have become the dominant rulers of the Indo-European world. I use this term "tribe" in no formal sense, not in the sense of its Roman derivation and use, which shows it quite as a secondary institution, but as the most convenient term to define that grouping of men with wives, families, and descendants, and all the essentials of independent life, which is found as a primal unit of European society in a state of unsettlement as regards land or country. The tie which bound all together was personal not local, kinship with a tribal god, kinship more or less real with fellow-tribesmen, kinship in status and rights. We meet with this tribal organisation everywhere in Indo-European history. It made movement from country to country possible. It made conquest possible. Celt and Teuton did not conquer in families any more than Greek or Hindu did. They conquered in tribes, and it was because of the strength of the tribal organisation during the period, first of migration and wandering and then of conquest, that the settlement after conquest was possible and was so strong. Everywhere we find these people conquerors and settlers. In India, in Iran, in Greece and Rome, in Scandinavia, in Celtic and Teutonic Europe, in Slavic Europe, they are moving tribes of conquerors come to settle and rule the people they conquer.[430] When Dr. Ridgeway asks whence came the Acheans,[431] he answers the question much in the same fashion as that in which Dr. Duncker describes the settlement on the Ganges:—

"The ancient population of the new states on the Ganges was not entirely extirpated, expelled, or enslaved. Life and freedom were allowed to those who submitted and conformed to the law of the conqueror; they might pass their lives as servants on the farms of the Aryas (Manu, i. 91). But though the remnant of this population was spared, the whole body of the immigrants looked down on them with the pride of conquerors—of superiority in arms, blood, and character—and in contrast to them they called themselves Vaicyas, i.e. tribesmen, comrades, in other words those who belong to the community or body of rulers. Whether the Vaicya belonged to the order of the nobles, the minstrels and priests or peasants, was a matter of indifference, he regarded the old inhabitants as an inferior species of mankind.... In the new states on the Ganges therefore the population was separated into two sharply divided masses. How could the conquerors mix with the conquered? How could their pride stoop to any union with the despised servants?"[432]

These two divided masses thus so clearly described were, in fact, tribesmen and non-tribesmen, just that distinction which we meet with in Celtic and Teutonic law, and described in the same terms which Bishop Stubbs was obliged to use when he set forth the facts of the Teutonic invasion of Britain.

The terms are indeed necessary terms. Tribesmen capable of retaining the tribal organisation during the period of migration and conquest did not lightly lose that organisation when they settled. In Sir Alfred Lyall's pure genealogic clan of Central India[433] I recognise the unbroken tribal formation before the family group has arisen as a political unit. In Mr. Tupper's argument against the conclusions of Sir Henry Maine I recognise the Hindu evidence that the tribe was the earliest social group, breaking up, as later influences arose, into village communities and joint families.[434] In Bishop Stubbs's masterly analysis of English constitutional history the tribe appears at the outset—"the invaders," he says, "came in families and kindreds and in the full organisation of their tribes ... the tribe was as complete when it had removed to Kent as when it stayed in Jutland; the magistrate was the ruler of the tribe not of the soil; the divisions were those of the folk and the host not of the land; the laws were the usage of the nation not of the territory."[435] And so I agree with Mr. Skene as to the Celtic tribe that "the tuath or tribe preceded the fine or clan,"[436] and with the editors of the Irish law tracts that "the tribe existed before the family came into being and continued to exist after the latter had been dissolved."[437]

We need not go beyond this evidence. The tribe is the common form into which the early Indo-European peoples grouped themselves for the purpose of conquest and settlement. It was their primal unit. It may have been numerically large or small. It may have been the result of a combination of many smaller tribes into one great tribe. But in any case and under any conditions there stands out the tribal organisation, that great institutional force from which spring all later institutions. Its roots go back into the remotest past of Indo-European history; its active force caused the Indo-European people to become the mightiest in human history; its lasting results have scarcely yet ceased to shape the aspirations of political society and to affect the destinies of nations. The whole life of the early period was governed by tribal conditions—the political, social, legal, and even religious conceptions were tribal in form and expression.

The tribal institution of the Aryan-speaking peoples includes a life outside the tribe. That was an outlaw's life, a kinless outcast, whom no tribesman would look upon or assist, whom every tribesman considered as an enemy until he had reduced him to the position of helot or slave, but for whom every tribe had a place in its organisation and a legal status in its constitution. But it was the legal status imposed by the master over the servant, and the kinless included not only the outcast from the tribe, but the conquered aboriginal who had never been within the tribe. It is important to notice this, for it to some extent measures the strength of the tribal organisation. It not only allowed for a special position for all tribesmen, but it allowed for that position to have a definite relationship to persons who were not tribesmen, and it is in the combined forces of tribesmen and non-tribesmen that the tribal organisation which swept over part of Asia and over all Europe obtains its greatest power. There are tribal systems outside the Semitic and the Indo-European, but these do not have the distinctive features that the tribal systems of these two great civilising peoples possess. Like the Semitic and Aryan tribal systems, savage tribes are fashioned for conquest, but, unlike them, they are not fashioned for settlement and resettlement, and perhaps again and again conquest and resettlement. They spent all their power, or most of their power, in their one great effort of conquest, and whether we turn to the American Indian tribes, to the African tribes, or to the Asiatic tribes we find the same facts of frequent dissipation of power after sudden and complete conquest of it. The tribal system which led to civilisation has a different history. It has, too, a different constitution in that to the strength of tribesmen was added the subordination—politically, industrially, and economically—of non-tribesmen. They were the people who, in the terms of the northern poem,

"Laid fences, Enriched the plough lands, Tended swine, Herded goats, Dug peat."[438]

Unfortunately the institution of the tribe has never been properly studied by the great authorities in history, and students are left without guidance in this important matter. And yet in any attempt to get back to the earliest period of history in lands governed by an Aryan-speaking people we must proceed, can only proceed, on the basis of the tribe, and it is the failure to understand this which has made so much early history unsatisfactory and inconclusive and compels us to the conclusion that the master-hand is still needed to rewrite in terms of tribal history all that has been written in terms merely of political history.

If, however, history from the written records is thus at fault, so too is history from the traditional records. No systematic effort has been made to treat the traditional story or the traditional custom and belief as part of the tribal history of our race, and yet in the few cases where it has been so treated the results are obviously satisfactory. I can illustrate the value of this point of view by an example drawn from the period which witnessed the earliest struggles of our race. I think with Mr. Keary that in those German stories "which delight above all things in that portrait of the youngest son of the house—he is the youngest of three—who is left behind despised and neglected when his brothers go forth to seek their fortunes," we have traces of a veritable fact, of an historical condition where the elder sons actually went forth to conquest and to settlement and the youngest son remained in the original home as the hearth-child.[439] The position of hearth-child, surviving as it does in our law of Borough English, is of great significance, and that we can by the aid of tradition reach a state of society which gave birth to it is a point of the greatest importance, even if we could go no further. But there is a stage beyond it. The majority of these youngest-son stories relate to events not to be identified with any particular tribe or people, but which belong to all the tribes and peoples whose course of conquest and settlement took the common form. But if apart from these all-world stories there exist stories, or if there be but one story which has become identified with an episode, a person, or a place belonging to a particular people, we may claim it as part of the history of that particular people. It may be that the general story has become specialised in this one case, or it may be that an entirely new story has sprung out of the special case. But whichever be the origin of such a story attached to a particular people, it must tell us something of that people at a period when its history was being made rather than recorded. What it tells may be very little, may not lead up to anything very great or definite, so far as later history is concerned; but that for the period to which it belongs it relates to an episode worthy to have been kept in the memories of the descendants of the chief actors in the events is the point to bear in mind.

There is one such story which belongs to English history. One of the most famous of these youngest-son stories is that of Childe Rowland, and Mr. Jacobs, on examining its incidents and details, suggests that "our story may have a certain amount of historic basis and give a record which history fails to give of the very earliest conflict of races in these isles."[440] Mr. Jacobs gives good grounds for this conclusion, and shows up a picture of earliest English history which is certainly not contained elsewhere, and we are able by this means to pass from that large group of youngest-son stories, which have brought with them living testimony of an ancient institution of our race in its oldest home, to the narrower but more direct example which comes to us from events which happened just at the dawn of history in our own land. It is not necessary to emphasise the importance of this service to history at the instance of tradition, for it will be obvious to every student that many a struggle must have remained unrecorded and many a hero must have died unnamed in the events which belong to the period of tribal conquest and settlement. And to have still with us the far-off echo of these events is no slight encouragement to an inquiry which has for its object the reconstruction of the conditions under which such events took place.

This would be all the better understood if we could get a concrete case for illustration, and, fortunately, this is possible by turning to the evidence of India. "What we know of the manner in which the states of Upper India were founded," says Sir Alfred Lyall,

"gives a very fair sample of the movements and changes of the primitive world. When the dominant Rajput families lost their dominion in the rich Gangetic plains one part of their clan seems to have remained in the conquered country, having submitted to the foreigner, cultivating in strong communities of villages and federations of villages and paying such land tax as the ruler could extract. Another part of the clan, probably the near kinsmen of the defeated chief, followed his family into exile, and helped him to carve out another, but a much poorer, dominion. Here the chief built himself a fort upon the hill; his clansmen slew or subdued the tribes they found in possession of the soil, and the lands were all parcelled off among the chief's kinsfolk, the indigenous proprietors being subjected to payment of a land tax, but not otherwise degraded. When the land grew too strait for the support of the chief's family or of the sept—that is, when there were no vacant allotments, a landless son of the chief would assemble a band, and set forth to make room for himself elsewhere."[441]

The evidence from India is fact, the evidence from England is tradition, and yet I do not think any student will deny that both fact and tradition are part and parcel of the same conditions of society, the same forces operating upon the same material. The conditions of society in both cases are tribal conditions, and the common factor having thus been discovered, it is possible to determine not only the inter-relationship between fact and tradition, but the means by which we may estimate the value of both.

We cannot, however, stop here. I carry on the same argument from the traditional legend to the traditional custom and belief, and affirm that it is only by their position as part of the tribal system that custom and belief in survival must be tested. If they have descended from early Celtic or Teutonic custom and belief, they have descended from tribal custom and belief, and somewhere in the stages of descent will be found the link which connects them definitely with the tribe. That not all custom and belief has so descended is due to the fact that much of it belongs to the pre-Celtic period, which was not tribal; some of it, no doubt, to comparatively modern times, when, as we have already seen, superstition had taken the place of thought, while some phases of early belief belong to conditions which transcend the division between pre-Aryan and Aryan folk. On this I will say something by way of explanation presently. In the meantime it is an extremely important task to classify survivals into tribal and non-tribal groups. Those which belong to Celtic or Teutonic origins must show their tribal origin, for they could not have come into existence apart from the tribe, and apart from the tribe they could not have survived after the break-up of the tribe consequent upon the development of national and political life. Custom and belief which do not fit into the ancient tribal system, therefore, cannot be recognised as ancient Celtic or ancient Teutonic custom and belief, and contrariwise when it is seen that they naturally fall into this system it may be argued that there we must search for their origin. Our Anglo-Saxon forefathers have left a curious testimony to this view of the question in their word "holy" or wholesome. What is wholesome is so for the whole group. The Anglo-Saxon idea of holiness implies as its chief element relation to the tribal life.[442]

The classification of survivals in folklore into tribal and non-tribal items is a lengthy and intricate process. Some years ago I made a start in a study of fire worship which I presented to the British Association,[443] and I hope shortly to be ready with a volume on Tribal Custom, which will embody a fuller study of fire worship and its accompanying beliefs, together with a complete study of all the remains of traditional custom, rite, and belief, which only as the detritus of the ancient tribal organisation receive adequate explanation of their presence in the midst of modern political and religious institutions. If I leave this part of my subject without further illustration in this present volume, I must add one important note upon the persistence of survivals of both kinless and kinship societies. I have shown that the tribal system of the advanced races included provision for non-tribesmen, provision which kept non-tribesmen outside the tribal bond, and at the same time kept them tied to the tribe by using them as the necessary dependent adjunct of the tribe, using them as bondmen and serfs in point of fact. This extremely important factor in the history of the tribal organisation, which has not been properly noticed by the few authorities who have investigated tribal institutions, receives additional importance when viewed from the standpoint of folklore, for it allows for the preservation of non-tribal cults side by side with tribal cults. Non-tribesmen preserved their custom, belief, and rite simply because they were not admitted to the custom, belief, and rite of the tribe, and this is the explanation of the existence, in survival, of folklore which goes back to pre-Celtic times. Some of this pre-Celtic folklore we have already had before us, and some of it I have studied in my Ethnology in Folklore. Later on I shall have something more to say on the subject. Here it is only necessary to emphasise the importance of having ascertained why it is that the Celtic conquerors of Britain and the earliest tribal conquerors of the Indo-European world generally permitted to live in their midst what in a sense was opposed to all that they believed, to all that they practised, to all that governed them in thought and action.

I think this is a strong position upon which to conduct folklore research. It includes the whole of the historical position; it takes due count of historical facts instead of ignoring them. It is based upon a scientific conception of the meaning of a survival of culture. A survival is that which has been left stranded amidst the development that is going on around. Its future life is not one of development but of decay. We are not dealing with the evolution of society, but with the decaying fragments of a social system which has passed away. We have to trace out its line of decay from the point where it almost vanishes as the mere superstition or practice of a peasant or an outcast, back to phases where it exists in more strenuous fashion, and finally back to its original position as part and parcel of a living social fabric. Moreover, the strength of our position is based upon a scientific conception of the development of the nation or people among whom survivals exist. It is not all parts of the nation which develop at the same rate, at the same time, and for the same period. There are social strata in every country, and it is the observance of these strata which has made it possible for the inquirer of to-day to use the evidence they afford for historical purposes.


[427] Religion of the Semites, 30. It is worth while quoting here Merivale's note in his Boyle lectures, Conversion of the Northern Nations, 122. "Pagan temples were always the public works of nations and communities. They were national buildings dedicated to national purposes. The mediaeval churches, on the other hand, were the erection of individuals, monuments of personal piety, tokens of the hope of a personal reward." Cf. Stanley, Hist. Westminster Abbey, 12.

[428] Mr. Granger has a very instructive passage on this point in his Worship of the Romans, 210-214; cf. Robertson-Smith, Religion of the Semites, lec. ii.; Mr. MacDonald, Africana, i. 64, notes, too, that "the natives worship not so much individually as in villages or communities." Prof. Sayce, studying early religion, says in its outward form it "was made up of rites and ceremonies which could only be performed collectively."—Science of Language, ii. 290.

[429] Clarke's Survey of the Lakes, 36.

[430] Pritchard's Researches into the Physical Hist. of Mankind, vol. iii., may still be consulted for an account of the tribal movements in Europe.

[431] Early Age of Greece, i. cap. iv.

[432] History of Antiquity, iv. 116-17.

[433] Asiatic Studies, i. 173.

[434] Punjab Customary Law, ii. 3-59. Cf. Baden-Powell's Indian Vill. Com., 230; Duncker, Hist. Antiq., iv. 115-17.

[435] Stubbs's Const. Hist., i. 64. Cf. Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law, 12.

[436] Celtic Scotland, iii. 137, note 4.

[437] Anc. Laws of Ireland, iv. p. 77. Cf. also Mr. Andrews' Old English Manor, p. 20, and Meyer, Geschichte der Alterthums, 2-3.

[438] Du Chaillu, The Viking Age, i. 488.

[439] Keary, Origin of Primitive Belief, 464-5. Mr. MacCulloch, Childhood of Fiction, devotes a chapter to the clever-youngest-son group of tales (cap. xiii.), which should be consulted.

[440] Folklore, ii. 194.

[441] Sir A. Lyall, Asiatic Studies, 184, and compare pp. 198, 208, 211.

[442] Cf. Granger, Worship of the Romans, 211. Mr. Granger uses terms which I do not quite accept, though his suggestion is entirely good in principle.

[443] Report of British Association (Liverpool Meeting).



There are obviously conditions attaching to European culture history which do not apply elsewhere, and as obviously the most important, perhaps the only important one, which it is necessary to consider in connection with the problems of folklore is that resulting from the introduction of a non-European religion and the adoption of this religion as part of the state machinery in the several countries. This religion is, of course, Christianity. It came into the home of a decaying, corrupt, and impossible state religion wherever the Roman Empire was established and into the homes of purer and sterner faiths, faiths that had belonged to the people through all the years of conquest and settlement, migration and resettlement, wherever the empire of Rome had not become established.

Until the advent of Christianity into Britain the Celtic peoples possessed their own customs, their own religious beliefs, their own usages. Until the Anglo-Saxons came into contact with Christianity in their new settlements in England, they also possessed their own customs, usages, and beliefs. So far as Celt and Teuton were responsible for continuing or allowing to continue the still older faiths, the faiths of savagery as we have accustomed ourselves to term them, they brought these faiths also into contact with Christianity, and Christianity dealt with the problem thus presented exactly as it dealt with the Celtic and Teutonic faiths, namely, by treating all alike as pagan, all equally to be set aside or used in any fashion that circumstances might demand. Let it be particularly noted that Christianity did not distinguish between the various shades of paganism. All that was not Christian was pagan.

Christianity was both antagonistic to and tolerant of pagan custom and belief. In principle and purpose it was antagonistic. In practice it was tolerant where it could tolerate safely. At the centre it aimed at purity of Christian doctrine, locally it permitted pagan practices to be continued under Christian auspices. In the earliest days it set itself against all forms of idolatry and non-Christian practices; in later days, after the fifth century, says Gibbon,[444] it accepted both pagan practice and pagan ritual.

The relationship of Christianity to paganism is, therefore, a very complex subject, and it would not be possible in this place to work out one tithe of it. Nor is it needed. The two cardinal facts with which we are now concerned are the principle of antagonism and the practice of toleration. As to the former there need not be any discussion on the fact. Everywhere throughout Europe its effect is to be seen. It formed the most solid and systematic arresting force against the natural development of pagan belief and practice, and it is this fact of arrested development in pagan belief and practice which is of great importance. We can ascertain the point of stoppage, note the stage of arrested development, and trace out the subsequent history of a custom, belief, or rite so arrested. As a survival in a state of arrested development, a custom or belief is observable throughout its later history. All it does is to decay, and decay slowly, and each stage of decay may oftentimes be discovered. On the other hand, if no arrest of development had taken place there would have been no survival and no decay. The custom or belief which is not arrested by an opposing culture becomes a part of the religion or of the institutions of the nation, and the history of its development becomes, as a rule, lost in the general advance of religion and politics—custom develops into law, belief develops into religion, rite develops into ceremonial, and tradition ceases to be the force which keeps them alive. The two classes of custom and belief thus contrasted are of different value to the student. The one is important because it contains the germs and goes back to the origin of existing institutions. The other is important because, having been arrested by a strong opposing force, unable to destroy it altogether, it remains as evidence of custom and belief at the time of its arrestment. It will be seen at once how far this evidence may take us. It stretches back into the remotest past. It survives in the stage at which it was arrested, not of course in the form in which it then appeared, but in the decayed form which years of existence beneath the ever-opposing forces of the established civilisation must have brought about.

These opposing forces can be detected in working order. What can be more indicative of a dual system of belief than the cry of an old Scottish peasant when he came to worship at the sacred well?—"O Lord, Thou knowest that well would it be for me this day an I had stoopit my knees and my heart before Thee in spirit and in truth as often as I have stoopit them afore this well. But we maun keep the customs of our fathers." It appears over and over again in the lives of early Christian saints who were only just parting from a living pagan faith. Thus St. Bega was the patroness of St. Bees in Cumberland, where she left a holy bracelet which was long an object of profound veneration; and in a prefatory statement by the compiler of a small collection of her miracles, written in the twelfth century, we learn among other things that whosoever forswore himself upon her bracelet swiftly incurred the heaviest punishment of perjury or a speedy death. It is to be observed that Beagas, the French Bague, is the Anglo-Saxon denomination for rings, and Dr. William Bell suggests that holy St. Bega was but a personification of one of the holy rings which, having gained great hold upon the minds of the heathen Cumbrians, it was not politic in their first Christian missionaries wholly to subvert.[445] These rings are, of course, the doom rings of the Scandinavian temples which are so often referred to in the Sagas.[446]

Baptism, an essentially Christian ceremony, might off-hand be supposed to contain nothing but evidence for Christianity. It might at most be expected that the details of the ceremony would contain relics of adapted pagan rites, and this we know is the case. But we can go beyond even this, and discover in the popular conception of the rite very clear indications of the early antagonism between Christianity and paganism—an antagonism which is certainly some eighteen hundred years old in this country, and though so old is still contained in the evidence of folklore.

An analysis of baptismal folklore shows us that its most important section is contained under the group which deals with the effect of non-baptism. In England we have it prevailing in the border counties, in Cornwall, Devonshire, Durham, Lancashire, Middlesex, Northumberland, and Yorkshire, and in North-East Scotland, that children joined the ranks of the fairies if they died unchristened, or that their souls wandered about in the air, restless and unhappy, until Judgment Day. Various penalties attended the condition of non-baptism, but perhaps the most significant is the Northumberland custom of burying an unbaptised babe at the feet of an adult Christian corpse—surely a relic of the old sacrifice at a burial which is indicated so frequently in the graves of prehistoric times, particularly of the long-barrow period. In Ireland we have the effect of non-baptism in a still more grim form. In the sixteenth century the rude Irish used to leave the right arms of their male children unchristened, to the intent that they might give a more ungracious and deadly blow.[447]

These, and their allied and variant customs, are relics, not so much of the absorption by Christian baptism of rites belonging to early paganism as of the struggle between Christianity and paganism for the mastery, of the anathemas of Christians against pagans, and of the terrible answer of the pagan. And what are we to say to it? Is it that the struggle itself has lasted all these centuries, or only its memory? My belief is that the struggle itself has lasted in reality though not in name.

But if we have been able to look through the very portals of Christianity to the regions of paganism behind, can we not boldly pass through altogether and recover from folklore much of the lost evidence of our prehistoric ancestors? I put the question in this way purposely, because it is the way which is indicated by the methods and data of folklore, and it is a question which has much to do with the different views held of the province of folklore.

I will answer by referring to the pre-baptismal rites of washing. In Northumberland we meet with the analogue of the sixteenth-century Irish practice, for there the child's right hand is left unwashed that it may gather riches better[448]—the golden coin taking the place of the ancient weapon in this as in other phases of civilisation. Not only is the water used for this purpose heated in the old-fashioned way by placing red-hot irons in it (i.e. the modern equivalent for stone-boiling), but in Yorkshire we have the custom that the newborn infant must be placed in the arms of a maiden before any one else touches it, two practices represented exactly in the customs of the Canary Islanders, who were in the stone age of culture and are considered to be the last remnants of a race which once included Britain among its lands of occupation.[449]

The Rev. C. O'Connor, in his third letter of Columbanus, gives a very interesting statement of Irish well-worship in a letter addressed to his brother, the late Owen O'Connor Don, and which shows the living antagonism between Christian and pagan belief. He says:—

"I have often enquired of your tenants what they themselves thought of their pilgrimage to their wells of Kill Orcht, Tobbar-Brighde, Tobbar-Muire, near Elphin, and Moore, near Castlereagh, where multitudes assemble annually to celebrate what they, in broken English, termed Patterns; and when I pressed a very old man—Owen Hester—to state what possible advantage he expected to derive from the singular custom of frequenting in particular such wells as were contiguous to an old blasted oak, or an upright unhewn stone, and what the meaning was of the yet more singular custom of sticking rags in the branches of such trees and spitting on them, his answer, and the answer of the oldest men, was that their ancestors always did it; that it was a preservative against Geasa-Dravideacht, i.e. the sorceries of Druids; that their cattle was preserved by it from infectious disorders; that the davini maithe, i.e. the fairies, were kept in good humour by it; and so thoroughly persuaded were they of the sanctity of these pagan practices that they would travel bareheaded and barefooted from ten to twenty miles for the purpose of crawling on their knees round these wells and upright stones and oak trees westward as the sun travels, some three times, some six, some nine, and so on, in uneven numbers until their voluntary penances were completely fulfilled. The waters of Logh-Con were deemed so sacred from ancient usage that they would throw into the lake whole rolls of butter as a preservation for the milk of their cows against Geasa-Dravideacht."[450]

Scarcely less important than the effect of the antagonism of the Church in the production of arrested development is the effect of the toleration of the Church for pagan custom and belief. This toleration took the shape either of allowing the continuation of pagan custom and belief as a matter not affecting Christian doctrine or of actual absorption into Church practice and ritual. The story told to the full is a long and interesting one. And it still awaits the telling. Gibbon, in a few sentences, has told us the outline.[451] Other authorities have told us small episodes. I am, of course, not concerned here with anything more than to adduce sufficient evidence to establish the fact that Christian tolerance of paganism has been one of the assistant causes for the long continuance of pagan survivals.

I shall not hesitate to begin by quoting at length a luminous passage from Grimm's great work. In the preface to his second edition he writes as follows:—

"Oftentimes the Church prudently permitted, or could not prevent, that heathen and Christian things should here and there run into one another; the clergy themselves would not always succeed in marking off the bounds of the two religions: their private leanings might let some things pass which they found firmly rooted in the multitude. In the language, together with a stock of newly-imported Greek and Latin terms, there still remained, even for ecclesiastical use, a number of Teutonic words previously employed in heathen services, just as the names of gods stood ineradicable in the days of the week; to such words old customs would still cling silent and unnoticed and take a new lease of life. The festivals of the people present a tough material: they are so closely bound up with its habits of life that they will put up with foreign additions if only to save a fragment of festivities long loved and tried. In this way Scandinavia, probably the Goths also for a time, and the Anglo-Saxons down to a late period, retained the heathenish Yule as all Teutonic Christians did the sanctity of Easter-tide; and from these two the Yule-boar and Yule-bread, the Easter pancake, Easter-sword, Easter-fire, and Easter-dance could not be separated. As faithfully were perpetuated the name and in many cases the observances of Midsummer. New Christian feasts, especially of saints, seem purposely, as well as accidentally, to have been made to fall on heathen holidays. Churches often rose precisely where a heathen god or his sacred tree had been pulled down, and the people trod their old paths to the accustomed site; sometimes the very walls of the heathen temple became those of the church, and cases occur in which idol images still found a place in a wall of the porch, or were set up outside the door, as at Bamberg Cathedral there lie Slavic heathen figures of animals inscribed with runes. Sacred hills and fountains were rechristened after saints, to whom their sanctity was transferred; sacred woods were handed over to the newly-founded convent or the king, and even under private ownership did not lose their long-accustomed homage. Law usages, particularly the ordeals and oath-takings, but also the beating of bounds, consecrations, image processions, spells and formulas, while retaining their heathen character, were simply clothed in Christian forms. In some customs there was little to change: the heathen practice of sprinkling a newborn babe with water closely resembled Christian baptism; the sign of the hammer, that of the cross; and the erection of tree crosses the irmensuls and world trees of paganism."[452]

This passage, written in 1844, has been abundantly illustrated by the research of specialists since that date, and, of course, Mr. Frazer's monumental work will occur to every reader. But, after all, the chief authority for the action of the Church towards paganism in this country is the famous letter of Pope Gregory to the Abbot Mellitus in A.D. 601, as preserved by the historian Beda. It is worth while quoting this once again, for it is an English historical document of priceless value. "We have been much concerned," writes the good St. Gregory,

"since the departure of our congregation that is with you, because we have received no account of the success of your journey. When, therefore, Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine our brother, tell him what I have, upon mature deliberation on the affair of the English, determined upon, namely, that the temples of the idols [fana idolorum] in that nation [gente] ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled upon the said temples, let altars be erected and relics placed. For if these temples be well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils [daemonum] to the worship of the true God; that the nation seeing that their temples are not destroyed may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account, so that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees, about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting and no more offer beasts to the devil [diabolo], but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and return thanks to the giver of all things for their sustenance."[453]

The church of St. Pancras at Canterbury is claimed to be one of the temples so preserved,[454] and there have survived down to our own times examples of the animal sacrifice which in early Christian days may well have been preserved by this famous edict.[455] But beyond these illustrations of the two stated objects of Pope Gregory's letter there are innumerable additional results from such a policy,[456] results which prove that British pagandom was not stamped out by edict or by sword, but was rather gradually borne down before the strength of the new religion—borne down and pushed into the background out of sight of the Church and the State, relegated to the cottage homes, the cattle-sheds and the cornfields, the countryside and the denizens thereof.[457]

This is where we must search for it, and I think this important element in our studies will be better understood if we turn for one moment to the results of Christian contact with earlier belief in the one country where Christianity has set up its strongest political force, namely, Italy. Dr. Middleton wrote a series of remarkable letters which tell us much on this point, but before referring to this, I wish first to quote a hitherto buried record by an impartial observer[458] in the year 1704. It is a letter written from Venice to Sir Thomas Frankland, describing the travels and observations of a journey into Italy. The traveller writes:—

"I cannot leave Itally without making some general observations upon the country in general, and first as to their religion; it differs in name only now from what it was in the time of the ancient heathen Romans. I know this will sound very oddly with some sort of people, but compare them together and then let any reasonable man judge of the difference. The heathen Itallians had their gods for peace and for war, for plenty and poverty, for health and sickness, riches and poverty, to whom they addressed themselves and their wants; and the Christian Itallians have their patron saints for each of these things, to whom they also address according to their wants. The heathen sacrificed bulls and other beasts, and the Christian ones after the same manner a piece of bread, which a picture in the garden of Aldobrandina at Rome, painted in the time of Titus Vespasian, shews by the altar and the priests' vestments to have been the same as used now. The Pantheon at Rome was dedicated by the ancients to all the gods, and by the moderns to all the saints; the temple of Castor and Pollux at Rome is now dedicated to Cosmo and Damian, also twin brothers. The respect they pay to the Virgin Mary is far greater than what they pay to the Son, and whatever English Roman Catholics may be made to believe by their priests or impose upon us, it is certain that the devotion to the Madonnas in Itally is something more than a bare representation of the Virgin Mary when they desire her intercession. Miracles they pretend not only to be wrought by the Madonnas themselves, but there is far greater respect paid to a Madonna in one place than another, whereas if this statue were only a bare representation of the Virgin to keep them in mind of her, the respect would be equal. I visited all the famous ones, and it would fill a volume to tell you the fopperies that's said of them. That of Loretto, being what they say is the very house where the Virgin lived, is not to be described, the riches are so great, nor the devotion that's paid to the statue.... The Lady of Saronna is another famous one and very rich; she is much handsomer than she of Loretto and a whole church-full of the legend of the miracles she hath wrought. She is in great reputation, and it's thought will at last outtop the Lady of Loretto; there is another near Leghorne that I also visited called La Madonna della Silva Nera, to whom all Itallian ships that enter that port make a present of thanks for their happy voyage, and salute her with their cannon, and most ships going out give her something for her protection during their voyage. I could tire you with she at the Annunciata at Florence, she within a mile of Bollognia, for whom the magistracy have piazza'd the road all the way from her station to the city, that she may not be encumbered with sun or rain when she makes them a visit, and hundreds more that would fill a volume of fopperies that I had the curiosity to see, but it would be imposing too much upon your patience."[459]

This only confirms Dr. Middleton's conclusions, which received the approval of Gibbon, and those of later writers. "As I descended from the Alps," writes the Rev. W. H. Blunt in 1823,

"I was admonished of my entrance into Italy by a little chapel to the Madonna, built upon a rock by the roadside, and from that time till I repassed this chain of mountains I received almost hourly proof that I was wandering amongst the descendants of that people which is described by Cicero to have been the most religious of mankind. Though the mixture of religion with all the common events of life is anything but an error, yet I could not avoid regretting that, like their heathen ancestors, the modern Italians had supplied the place of our great master mover by a countless host of inferior agents."[460]

Mr. Blunt goes on to give interesting details of the close connection between the modern religious festival, ceremony, or service, and those of classical times, and the conclusion is obvious. In modern days Dr. Mommsen has lent the sanction of his great authority to the identification of the birthday of Christ with that of Mithra,[461] and Mr. Leland has given such numerous identifications not only of the cults of pagan and Christian Italy, but of the god-names of ancient Rome with the saint-names or witch-names of modern times,[462] that it seems impossible to deny a place for this evidence. "It was," says Gibbon,

"the universal sentiment both of the Church and of heretics that the daemons were the authors, the patrons, and the objects of idolatry; those rebellious spirits who had been degraded from the rank of angels were still permitted to roam upon earth, to torment the bodies and to seduce the minds of sinful men. It was confessed, or at least it was imagined, that they had distributed among themselves the most important characters of Polytheism, one daemon assuming the name of Jupiter, another of AEsculapius, a third of Venus, and a fourth perhaps of Apollo."[463]

This, then, is recognition and adoption of pagan beliefs, not the uprooting of them. If the Roman Jupiter was a Christian daemon, his existence at all events was recognised. But even this negative way of adopting the old beliefs gave way as the Church spread further. The tribe of daemons soon included the popular fairy, elf, and goblin. And then came the positive adoption of pagan customs. Gibbon describes how the early Christians refused to decorate their doors with garlands and lamps, and to take part in the ceremonial of lifting the bride over the threshold of the house.[464] Both these customs have survived in popular folklore, in spite of the recorded action of the early Church, and it would be curious to ascertain whether they have survived by the help of the Church. We cannot answer that question of historical evidence just now, but it is a question which, in its wider aspect, as including many other items of folklore, ought to be examined into. There is no doubt, however, that by analogy it can be answered, because we have ample evidence, if the writings of reformers may be taken as historical facts and not polemical imaginations, that many very important customs, among the richest as well as the poorest treasures of folklore, have been, so to speak, Christianised by the Church, and that the Church has taken part in and adopted non-Christian customs, the survivors of olden-time life in Europe.[465]

Now it is clear from these considerations, and from the vast mass of information which is gradually being accumulated on the subject, that not only the arresting force of Christianity but also its toleration has assisted in the preservation of pre-Christian belief and custom. But the preservation has been in fragments only. The system which supported the older faith and might, if it had been allowed a natural growth, have produced a newer religion of its own, was completely shattered. It left no preservative force except that of tradition, the traditional instinct to do what has always been done, to believe what has always been believed. Pre-Christian belief and custom has thus become isolated beliefs and customs in survival. It has been broken up into innumerable fragments of unequal character, and containing unequal elements. It has been forced back into secret action wherever Christianity was wholly antagonistic, and hence primitive public worship has tended to become local worship, or household worship, or even personal worship, while all such worship which is not the authorised Church worship has tended to become superstition. Where Christianity was not wholly antagonistic, it absorbed rites, customs, and even beliefs, and these primitive survivals have taken their place in the evolution of Christian doctrine, and thus become lost to the students of Celtic and Teutonic antiquities. But even so, there are discoverable points where the dividing line between non-Christian and Christian belief has not been obliterated by the process of absorption. In all cases it is the duty of the student to note the stage of arrested development in the primitive rite, custom, or belief, whether it be caused by antagonism or by absorption. It is at this point, indeed, that the history of the survival begins. It is here that we have to turn from the polity, the religion, or cultus of a people to the belief, practices, or superstition of that portion of our nation which has not shared its progress from tribesmen to citizens, from paganism to Christianity, from vain imaginings to science and philosophy. It is from this point we have to turn from the dignity of courts, the doings of armies, and the results of commerce, to the doings, sayings, and ideas of the peasantry who cannot read, and who have depended upon tradition for all, or almost all, they know outside the formalities of law and Church.


[444] Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Bury), iii. 214-15.

[445] Royal Irish Academy, viii. 258; Brit. Arch. Assoc. (Gloucester volume), 62.

[446] "The Story of the Ere Dwellers," Morris, Saga Library, ii. 8.

[447] Camden, Britannia, s.v. "Ireland."

[448] Henderson, Folklore of Northern Counties, 16.

[449] Glas, Canary Islands, 148.

[450] Betham, Gael and Cymbri, pp. 236-8.

[451] Decline and Fall, iii. p. 214 (edit. Bury).

[452] Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, by Stallybrass, iii. pp. 35, 36. A passage from Hakon's Saga, quoted by Du Chaillu in his Viking Age, i. p. 464, shows that the northern peoples adopted the same measures.

[453] Beda, lib. i. cap. 30; and consult Mr. Plummer's learned notes on this (vol. ii. 57-61).

[454] Stanley, Memorials of Canterbury, 37-38.

[455] Cf. my Ethnology in Folklore, 30-36, 136-140. Compare St. Patrick's dedication of pagan sacred stones to Christian purposes.—Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, i. 107.

[456] Thus Henry of Huntingdon records that Redwald, King of the East Angles, after his conversion to Christianity, "set up altars to Christ and the devil in the same chapel" (lib. iii.).

[457] Cf. Kemble, Saxons in England, i. 330-335. Dr. Hearn writes: "Even as the good Pope Gregory the Great permitted the newly converted English to retain their old temples and accustomed rites, attaching, however, to them another purpose and a new meaning, so his successors found means to utilize the simple beliefs of early animism. Long and vainly the Church struggled against this irresistible sentiment. Fifteen centuries ago it was charged against the Christians of that day that they appeased the shades of the dead with feasts like the Gentiles. In the Penitentials we find the prohibition of burning grains where a man had died. In the Indiculus superstitionum et Paganiarum among the Saxons complaint is made of the too ready canonisation of the dead; and the Church seems to have been much troubled to keep within reasonable bounds this tendency to indiscriminate apotheosis. At length a compromise was effected, and the Feast of All Souls converted to pious uses that wealth of sentiment which previously was lavished on the dead" (The Aryan Household, p. 60). And, to close this short note upon an important subject, Mr. Metcalfe, speaking of the old poetic literature of the pagan English, says: "It was kidnapped, and its features so altered and disguised as not to be recognisable. It was supplanted by Christian poetical legends and Bible lays produced in rivalry of the popular lays of their heathen predecessors. Finding that the people would listen to nothing but these old lays, the missionaries affected their spirit and language, and borrowed the words and phrases of heathenism" (Metcalfe's Englishman and Scandinavian, p. 155).

[458] For some reason not apparent in the document itself, Mrs. S. C. Lomas, the editor of this report, says this interesting letter gives "a curious and evidently prejudiced description of the religious houses and observances." See preface to Hist. MSS. Com. Report on the MSS. of Chequers Court, Bucks, p. x.

[459] Hist. MSS. Com., Chequers Court Papers, pp. 171-2.

[460] Vestiges of Ancient Manners and Customs in Italy, p. 1.

[461] Corpus insc. Lat., i. 409; and cf. Cumont's Mysteries of Mithra (1903).

[462] Leland, Etruscan Roman Remains (1892).

[463] Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Bury), ii. 15.

[464] Decline and Fall, ii. 17.

[465] Evidence is scattered far and wide in most of the reliable studies in folklore. Two special books may be mentioned. A great storehouse of examples is to be found in The Popish Kingdoms, by Thomas Naogeorgus, Englyshed by Barnabe Googe, 1570, a new edition of which was published by Mr. R. C. Hope in 1880; and Mr. H. M. Bower has exhaustively examined one important Italian ceremony in his The Elevation and Procession of the Ceri at Gubbio, published by the Folklore Society in 1897.



Already I have had to point out that an appeal to ethnological evidence is the means of avoiding the wholesale rejection of custom and belief recorded of early Britain, because it has been rejected as appertaining to the historic Celt. I will now proceed with the definite proposition that the survivals in folklore may be allocated and explained by their ethnological bearing.

Some years ago I advanced this proposition in my little book entitled Ethnology in Folklore. Only haltingly have my conclusions been accepted, but I nowhere find them disproved,[466] while here and there I find good authorities appealing to the ethnological element in folklore to help them in their views. Mr. MacCulloch, for instance, prefers to go for the basis of the Osiris and Dionysius myths to an earlier custom than that favoured by Mr. Frazer and Mr. Grant Allen, namely, to the practices of the neolithic folk, in Egypt and over a wide tract of country which includes Britain, of dismembering the dead body previous to its burial.[467] Mr. Lang, Mr. Frazer, Mr. Hartland, and others are strangely reticent on this subject. That Mr. Lang should be content to trace a story from the Vedas, in which Urvasi tells Pururavas that he must never let her see him naked, to "a traditional Aryan law of nuptial etiquette,"[468] seems to be using the heaviest machinery for the smallest purposes, while for other and greater purposes he fails to find in ethnological distinctions, explanations which escape his research.[469] That Mr. Frazer should have been able to examine in so remarkable a manner the agricultural rites of European peoples, and only to have touched upon their ethnological bearings in one or two isolated cases, seems to me to be neglecting one of the obvious means of arriving at the solution of the problem he starts out to solve.[470]

I do not want to discount these fragmentary appeals to the ethnological element in folklore. I accept them as evidence that the appeal has to be made. I would only urge that it may be done on more thorough lines, after due consideration of all the elements of the proposition and of all that it means to the study of folklore. We cannot surrender to the palaeontologist all that folklore contains in tradition and in custom as to pygmy peoples, or to the Egyptologist all that it contains as to dismemberment burial rites, without at the same time realising that if it is correct to refer these two groups of folklore respectively to the earliest ages of man's existence as man and to the neolithic stage of culture, they must be withdrawn from all other classification. We cannot use the same items of folklore in two totally different ways. The results of withdrawal are as important as the results of allocation, and the necessity for the correct docketing of all groups of folklore is thus at once illustrated.

The first point in the argument for ethnological data being discoverable in folklore is that a survey of the survivals of custom, belief, and rites in any given country shows one marked feature, which results in a dividing line being drawn as between two distinct classes. This feature is the antagonism which is discoverable in these classes. On one side of the dividing line is a set of customs, beliefs, and rites which may be grouped together because they are consistent with each other, and on the other side is another set of customs, beliefs, and rites which may be grouped together on the same ground. But between these two sets of survivals there is no agreement. They are the negations of each other. They show absolutely different conceptions of all the phases of life and thought which they represent, and it is impossible to consider that they have both come from the same culture source. I have applied the test of ethnology to such cases in Britain, and this appears to answer the difficulty which their antagonism presents. It appears too to be the only answer.

The subjects which show this antagonism are all of vital importance. They include friendly and inimical relations with the dead; marriage as a sacred tribal rite and marriage as a rule of polyandrous society; birth ceremonies which tell of admittance into a sacred circle of kinsmen, and birth ceremonies which breathe of revenge and hostility; the reverential treatment of the aged folk and the killing of them off; the preservation of human life as part of the tribal blood, and human sacrifice as a certain cure for all personal evils; the worship of waters as a strongly localised cult, preserved because it is local by whatsoever race or people are in occupation and in successive occupation of the locality; totemic beliefs connected with animals and plants contrasted with ideas entirely unconnected with totemism—all this, and much more which has yet to be collected and classified, reveals two distinct streams of thought which cannot by any process be taken back to one original source.

This fact of definite antagonism between different sets of surviving beliefs existing together in one country leads to several very important conclusions. This is the case with the Irish Sids. These beings are said to be scattered over Ireland, and around them assembled for worship the family or clan of the deified patron. While there were thus a number of topical deities, each in a particular spot where he was to be invoked, the deities themselves with the rest of their non-deified but blessed brother spirits had as their special abode "Lands of the Living," the happy island or islands somewhere far away in the ocean. Now this Sid worship, we are told by Irish scholars, "had nothing to do with Druidism—in fact, was quite opposed to it," the Sids and the Druids being "frequently found at variance with each other in respect to mortals."[471]

This is the commencing point of the evidence which proves Druidism to have belonged to the pre-Celtic people, though finding an adopted home among them. This is so important a subject and has been so strangely and inconsistently dealt with by most authorities that it will be well to indicate where we have to search for the non-Celtic, and therefore pre-Celtic, origin of Druidism. The Druidism revealed by classical authorities is, for the most part, the Druidism of continental peoples and not of Britain, and I hesitate to accept off-hand that it is proper to transfer the continental system to Britain and say that the two systems were one and the same. There is certainly no evidence from the British side which would justify such a course, and I think there is sufficient argument against it to suspend judgment until the whole subject is before us. If Professor Rhys is right in concluding that Druidism is at its roots a non-Celtic religion,[472] we must add to this that it was undoubtedly a non-Teutonic religion. Celts and Teutons were sufficiently near in all the elements of their civilisation for this want of parallel in their relationship to Druidism to be an additional argument against the Celts having originated this cult. And then the explanation of the differences between continental and British Druidism becomes comparatively easy to understand. The continental Celts, mixing more thoroughly with the pre-Celtic aborigines than did the British Celts, would have absorbed more of the pre-Celtic religion than the British Celts, and hence all the details which classical authorities have left us of continental Druidism appear as part of the Celtic religion, while in Britain these details are for the most part absent. But this is not all. There are certain rites in Britain noted by the early authorities which are not attached to any particular cult. They are not Druidic; they are not Celtic. They are, as a matter of fact, special examples of rites practised in only one locality, and accordingly referred to as something extraordinary and not general. From this it is clearly correct to argue that the British Celts had in their midst a cult which, if they did not destroy, they certainly did not absorb, and that therefore this cult being non-Celtic must have been pre-Celtic.

I do not wish to argue this point out further than is necessary to explain the position which, it appears to me, Druidism occupies, and I will therefore only add a note as to the authorities for the statements I have advanced. The differences between continental and British Druidism are definite and pronounced,[473] the mixture of the continental Celts with the Iberic people, which they displaced, is attested, by ancient authority and modern anthropology,[474] while the only evidence of such a mixture in Britain is the prominently recorded instance of the Picts intermarrying with the Gael,[475] and this has to be set against the close distinction between tribesmen and non-tribesmen, which is such a remarkable feature of Celtic law;[476] the existence of local cults in early Britain having all the characteristics of a ruder and more savage origin, and not identified with Celticism, is a point derived from our early authorities.[477] These are the main facts of the case, and the subject has to be worked out in considerable detail before it can be settled.

There is one other primary subject which bears upon the question of race distinctions in folklore. With the fact of conquest to reckon with, the relationship of the conqueror to the conquered is a matter to consider. In the European tribal system it was a definite relationship, so definite that the conquered, as we have seen, formed an essential part of the tribal organisation—the kinless slaves beneath the tribal kindred. There was a place for the kinless in the tribal economy and in the tribal laws. There was also a place for them in the tribal system of belief, and the mythic influence of the conquered is a subject that needs very careful consideration.

It is an influence which appears in all parts of the world. Thus, to give a few instances, in New Guinea they have no idols, and apparently no idea of a supreme being or a good spirit. Their only religious ideas consist in a belief in evil spirits. They live a life of slavish fear to these, but seem to have no idea of propitiating them by sacrifice or prayer. They believe in the deathlessness of the soul. A death in the 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; they strike the fences and posts of houses all through the village with sticks. This is done 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. They believe, when the natives are in the neighbourhood, that the whole plain is full of spirits who come with them. All calamities are attributed to the power and malice of these evil spirits. Drought, famine, storm and flood, disease and death are all supposed to be brought by Vata and his hosts, so that the people are an easy prey to any designing individuals who claim power over these. Some disease charmers and rain-makers levy heavy toll on the people.[478]

It appears that the native population of New Zealand was originally composed of two different races, which have retained some of their characteristic features, although in course of time they have in all other respects become mixed, and a number of intermediate varieties have thence resulted. From the existence of two races in New Zealand the conclusion might be drawn that the darker were the original proprietors of the soil anterior to the arrival of a stock of true Polynesian origin, that they were conquered by the latter and nearly exterminated. There is a district in the northern island, situated between Taupo and Hawke's Bay, called Urewera, consisting of steep and barren hills. The scattered inhabitants of this region have the renown of being the greatest witches in the country. They are very much feared, and have little connection with the neighbouring tribes, who avoid them if possible. If they come to the coast the natives there scarcely venture to refuse them anything for fear of incurring their displeasure. They are said to use the saliva of the people whom they intend to bewitch, and visitors carefully conceal their spittle to give them no opportunity of working their evil. Like our witches and sorcerers of old, they appear to be a very harmless people, and but little mixed up with the quarrels of their neighbours.[479] The Australians, according to Oldfield, ascribe spirit powers to those residing north of themselves and hold them in great dread.[480]

In Asia the same idea prevails among the native races. Thus Colquhoun says,

"it was amusing to find the dread in which the Lawas [a hill tribe] are held by both Burmese and Siamese. This is due to a fear of being bitten by them and dying of the bite. They are called by their Burmese neighbours the 'man-bears.' A singular custom obtains amongst these people which may perhaps partly account for this superstition. On a certain night in the year the youths and maidens meet together for the purpose of pairing. Unacceptable youths are said to be bitten severely if they make advances to the ladies."[481]

The Semang pygmy people, afraid to approach the Malays even for purposes of barter, "learnt to work upon the superstition of the Malays by presenting them with medicines which they pretended to derive from particular shrubs and trees in the woods."[482] That this is a real superstition of the conquerors for the conquered is proved from other sources to which I have referred elsewhere.[483]

In Africa it appears as a living force, and we are told that the stories current in the country of the Ukerewe, "about the witchcraft practised by the people of Ukara island, prove that those islanders have been at pains to spread abroad a good repute for themselves; that they are cunning, and aware that superstition is a weakness of human nature have sought to thrive upon it."[484]

It appears in more definite form with the Hindus. The Kathkuri, or Katodi, have a belief that they are descended from the monkeys and bears which Adi Narayun in his tenth incarnation of Rama, took with him for the destruction of Rawun, King of Lanka, and he promised his allies that in the fourth age they should become human beings. They practise incantation, and encourage the awe with which the Hindu regards their imprecations, for a Hindu believes that a Katodi can transform himself into a tiger.[485]

To this day the Aryans settled in Chota-Nagpore and Singbhoom firmly believe that the Moondahs have powers as wizards and witches, and can transform themselves into tigers and other beasts of prey with the view of devouring their enemies, and that they can witch away the lives of man and beast. They were in all probability one of the tribes that were most persistent in their hostility to the Aryan invaders.[486] In Ceylon the remnants of the aborigines are found in the forests and on the mountains, and are universally looked upon and feared as demons, the beliefs engendered therefrom being exactly parallel to the witch beliefs of our own country.[487]

There is similar evidence among European peoples. Formerly in Sweden the name of Lapp seems to have been almost synonymous with that of sorcerer, and the same was the case with Finn. The inhabitants of the southern provinces of Sweden believed their countrymen in the north to have great experience in magic.[488] The famous Gundhild, of Saga renown, was believed to be a sorceress brought up among the Finns,[489] and even in respect of classical remains Mr. Warde Fowler "prefers to think of the Fauni as arising from the contact of the first clearers and cultivators of Italian soil with a wild aboriginal race of the hills and woods."[490]

These facts are sufficient to show that the mythic influence of a conquered race is a factor which may assist in the discussion of the ethnological conditions of folklore, and it is obvious that they reveal a very powerful influence for the continuance of ancient ideas as well as for the creation of fresh examples of ancient ideas applied to new experiences. It is well in this connection to remember certain historical facts connected with the settlement of the English in Britain.

From Freeman's Old English History it appears that at the beginning of the seventh century "the tract of country which the English then ruled over south of the Humber, coincided almost exactly with the boundary of the Gaulish portion of Britain," as distinct from non-Aryan Britain. This apparent recognition of Celtic landmarks, says Professor Rhys, by the later invaders, "is a fact, the historical and political significance of which I leave to be weighed by others,"[491] and I venture to suggest that one important result is to show Britain to have contained an Aryan culture-ground and a non-Aryan culture-ground. If we try to step from one to the other we quickly discover the mythic relationship of conqueror to the conquered.

Thus in the Anglo-Saxon life of St. Guthlac we have an interesting glimpse into the conditions of the country and the attitude of the two hostile races, Celts and Teutons, to each other.

"There is in Britain a fen of immense size which begins from the river Granta, not far from the city, which is named Grantchester ... a man named Tatwine said that he knew an island especially obscure, which ofttimes many men had attempted to inhabit, but no man could do it on account of manifold horrors and fears, and the loneliness of the wild wilderness.... No man ever could inhabit it before the holy man Guthlac came thither on account of the dwelling of the accursed spirits there.... There was on the island a great mound raised upon the earth, which same of yore men had dug and broken up in hopes of treasure.... Then in the stillness of the night it happened suddenly that there came great hosts of the accursed spirits, and they filled the house with their coming, and they poured in on every side from above and beneath and everywhere. They were in countenance horrible, and they had great heads and a long neck and lean visage; they were filthy and squalid in their beards, and they had rough ears and distorted face, and fierce eyes and foul mouths: and their teeth were like horses' tusks, and their throats were filled with flame, and they were grating in their voice: they had crooked shanks and knees, big and great behind, and distorted toes, and shrieked hoarsely with their voices, and they came with such immoderate noises and immense horror that it seemed to him that all between heaven and earth resounded with their dreadful cries. Without delay, when they were come into the house, they soon bound the holy man in all his limbs, and they pulled and led him out of the cottage and brought him to the black fen and threw and sunk him in the muddy waters. After that they brought him to the wild places of the wilderness, among the dense thickets of brambles that all his body was torn. After they had a long time thus tormented him in darkness they let him abide and stand awhile, then commanded him to depart from the wilderness, or if he would not do so they would torment and try him with greater plagues."[492]

These doings are not sufficiently remote from sober fact for us to be unable to detect human enemies in the supposed beings of the spirit world, and this conclusion is confirmed by a later passage in the same narrative describing Guthlac awakened from his sleep and hearing "a great host of the accursed spirits speaking in British [bryttisc] and he knew and understood their words because he had been erewhile in exile among them."[493] Guthlac in England is only experiencing what other saints experienced elsewhere,[494] and we cannot doubt we have in these reminiscences of saintly experience that mixture of fact with traditional belief which would follow the priests of the new religions from their native homes to the cell.

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