Part 3 out of 12
knife in the blood of the slaughtered sheep. The knife is again dipped
in the blood, and the child measured to the waist, when the cane is cut
to that height. He is afterwards measured to the knee with similar
results. The same ceremony is performed on all the children
successively. The meaning of this, if indeed any meaning can be attached
to it, seems to be the symbolical removal of all evils to which the
children might be exposed,--first from the head to the waist, then from
the waist to the knees, and finally, from the knees to the sole of the
The general question of the measurement of sick persons (not especially
children), and of the payment of an image or a rod of precious metal of
the height of a given person, or the height of his waist, shoulders,
knee, etc., of the person, in recompense for some insult or injury, has
been treated of by Grimm, Gaidoz, and Haberlandt. Gaidoz remarks (236.
74): "It is well known that in Catholic countries it is customary to
present the saints with votive offerings in wax, which are
representative of the sicknesses for which the saints are invoked; a wax
limb, or a wax eye, for instance, are representative of a sore limb or
of a sore eye, the cure of which is expected from the saint. Wax bodies
were offered in the same way, as we learn from a ludicrous story told by
Henri Estienne, a French writer of the sixteenth century. The story is
about a clever monk who made credulous parents believe he had saved
their child by his prayers, and he says to the father, 'Now your son is
safe, thanks to God; one hour ago I should not have thought you would
have kept him alive. But do you know what you are to do? You ought to
have a wax effigy of his own size made for the glory of God, and put it
before the image of the holy Ambrose, at whose intercession our Lord did
this favour to you.'" Even poorer people were in the habit of offering
wax candles of the height or of the weight of the sick person.
In 1888, M. Letourneau (299) called attention to the measurement of the
neck as a test of puberty, and even of the virginity of maidens. In
Brittany, "According to popular opinion, there is a close relation
between the volume of the neck and puberty, sometimes even the virginity
of girls. It is a common sight to see three young girls of uncertain age
measure in sport the circumference of the neck of one of them with a
thread. The two ends of this thread are placed between the teeth of the
subject, and the endeavour is made to make the loop of the thread pass
over the head. If the operation succeeds, the young girl is declared
'bonne a marier.'" MM. Hanoteau and Letourneau state that among the
Kabyles of Algeria a similar measurement is made of the male sex. In
Kabylia, where the attainment of the virile state brings on the
necessity of paying taxes and bearing arms, families not infrequently
endeavour to conceal the puberty of their young men. If such deceit is
suspected, recourse is had to the test of neck-measurement. Here again,
as in Brittany, if the loop formed by the thread whose two ends are held
in the teeth passes over the head, the young man is declared of age, and
enrolled among the citizens, whilst his family is punished by a fine. M.
Manouvrier also notes that the same test is also employed to discover
whether an adolescent is to be compelled to keep the fast of Rhamadan.
_Measurements of Limbs and Body._
M. Mahoudeau cites from Tillaux's _Anatomie topographique,_ and MM.
Perdrizet and Gaidoz in _Melusine_ for 1893, quote from the
_Secrets merveilleux de la magie naturette et cabalistique du Petit
Albert_ (1743) extracts relating to this custom, which is also
referred to by the Roman writers C. Valerius, Catullus, Vossius, and
Scaliger. The subject is an interesting one, and merits further
investigation. Ellis (42. 233) has something to say on the matter from a
scientific point of view. Grimm has called attention to the very ancient
custom of measuring a patient, "partly by way of cure, partly to
ascertain if the malady were growing or abating." This practice is
frequently mentioned in the German poems and medical books of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In one case a woman says of her
husband, "I measured him till he forgot everything," and another,
desirous of persuading hers that he was not of sound mind, took the
measure of his length and across his head. In a Zurich Ms. of 1393,
"measuring" is included among the unchristian and forbidden things of
sorcery. In the region about Treves, a malady known as night-grip
(_Nachtgriff_) is ascertained to be present by the following
procedure: "Draw the sick man's belt about his naked body lengthwise and
breadthwise, then take it off and hang it on a nail with the words 'O
God, I pray thee, by the three virgins, Margarita, Maria Magdalena, and
Ursula, be pleased to vouchsafe a sign upon the sick man, if he have the
nightgrip or no'; then measure again, and if the belt be shorter than
before, it is a sign of the said sickness." In the Liegnitz country, in
1798, we are told there was hardly a village without its _messerin_
(measuress), an old woman, whose _modus operandi_ was this: "When
she is asked to say whether a person is in danger from consumption, she
takes a thread and measures the patient, first from head to heel, then
from tip to tip of the outspread arms; if his length be less than his
breadth then he is consumptive; the less the thread will measure his
arms, the farther has the disease advanced; if it reaches only to the
elbow, there is no hope for him. The measuring is repeated from time to
time; if the thread stretches and reaches its due length again, the
danger is removed. The wise woman must never ask money for her trouble,
but take what is given." In another part of Germany, "a woman is stript
naked and measured with a piece of red yarn spun on a Sunday."
Sembrzycki tells us that in the Elbing district, and elsewhere in that
portion of Prussia, the country people are firmly possessed by the idea
that a decrease in the measure of the body is the source of all sorts of
maladies. With an increase of sickness the hands and feet are believed
to lose more and more their just proportional relations one with
another, and it is believed that one can determine how much measure is
yet to be lost, how long the patient has yet to live. This belief has
given rise to the proverbial phrase _das Maas verlieren_--"to lose
one's measure" (462. III. 1163-5).
Not upon adults alone, however, were these measurements carried out, but
upon infants, children, and youths as well. Even in the New World, among
the more conservative of the population of Aryan origin, these customs
still nourish, as we learn from comparatively recent descriptions of
trustworthy investigators. Professor J. Howard Gore, in the course of an
interesting article on "The Go-Backs," belief in which is current among
the dwellers in the mountain regions of the State of Virginia, tells us
that when some one has suggested that "the baby has the 'go-backs,'" the
following process is gone through: "The mother then must go alone with
the babe to some old lady duly instructed in the art or science of
curing this blighting disease. She, taking the infant, divests it of its
clothing and places it on its back. Then, with a yarn string, she
measures its length or height from the crown of the head to the sole of
the heel, cutting off a piece which exactly represents this length. This
she applies to the foot, measuring off length by length, to see if the
piece of yarn contains the length of the foot an exact number of times.
This operation is watched by the mother with the greatest anxiety, for
on this coincidence of measure depends the child's weal or woe. If the
length of the string is an exact multiple of the length of the foot,
nothing is wrong, but if there is a remainder, however small, the baby
has the go-backs, and the extent of the malady is proportional to this
remainder. Of course in this measuring, the elasticity of the yarn is
not regarded, nor repetitions tried as a test of accuracy" (244. 108).
Moreover, "the string with which the determination was made must be hung
on the hinge of a gate on the premises of the infant's parents, and as
the string by gradual decay passes away, so passes away the 'go-backs.'
But if the string should be lost, the ailment will linger until a new
test is made and the string once more hung out to decay. Sometimes the
cure is hastened by fixing the string so that wear will come upon it."
Professor Gore aptly refers to the Latin proverb _ex pede
Herculem_, which arose from the calculation of Pythagoras, who from
the _stadium_ of 6000 feet laid out by Hercules for the Olympian
games, by using his own foot as the unit, obtained the length of the
foot of the mighty hero, whence he also deduced his height. We are not
told, however, as the author remarks, whether or not Hercules had the
Among the white settlers of the Alleghanies between southwestern Georgia
and the Pennsylvania line, according to Mr. J. Hampden Porter, the
following custom is in vogue: "Measuring an infant, whose growth has
been arrested, with an elastic cord that requires to be stretched in
order to equal the child's length, will set it right again. If the spell
be a wasting one, take three strings of similar or unlike colours, tie
them to the front door or gate in such a manner that whenever either are
opened there is some wear and tear of the cords. As use begins to tell
upon them, vigour will recommence" (480. VII. 116). Similar practices
are reported from Central Europe by Sartori (392 (1895). 88), whose
article deals with the folk-lore of counting, weighing, and measuring.
_Tests of Physical Efficiency._
That certain rude tests of physical efficiency, bodily strength, and
power of endurance have been and are in use among primitive peoples,
especially at the birth of children, or soon after, or just before, at,
or after, puberty, is a well-known fact, further testified to by the
occurrence of these practices in folk-tales and fairy-stories. Lifting
stones, jumping over obstacles, throwing stones, spears, and the like,
crawling or creeping through holes in stones, rocks, or trees, have all
been in vogue, and some of them survive even to-day in England and in
other parts of Europe as popular tests of puberty and virginity. Mr.
Dyer, in his _Church Lore Gleanings_, mentions the "louping," or
"petting" stone at Belford, in Northumberland (England), a stone "placed
in the path outside the church porch, over which the bridal pair with
their attendants must leap"--the belief is that "the bride must leave
all her pets and humours behind her when she crosses it." At
High-Coquetdale, according to Mr. Henderson, in 1868, a bride was made
to jump over a stick held by two groomsmen at the church door (436.
125). Another very curious practice is connected with St. Wilfrid's
"needle" at Ripon Cathedral--said to be an imitation of the Basilican
transenna. Through this passage maidens who were accused of unchastity
crept in order to prove their innocence. If they could not pass through,
their guilt was presumed. It is also believed that "poor palsied folk
crept through in the expectation of being healed." At Boxley Church in
Kent, there was a "small figure of St. Rumbold, which only those could
lift who had never sinned in thought or deed" (436. 312, 313).
At a marriage among the Nootka Indians of Vancouver Island, the groom's
party essay feats like these: "Heavy weights are lifted; they try who is
the best jumper. A blanket with a hole in the centre is hung up, and men
walk up to it blindfolded from a distance of about twenty steps. When
they get near it they must point with their fingers towards the blanket,
and try to hit the hole. They also climb a pole, on top of which an
eagle's nest, or something representing an eagle's nest, is placed. The
winner of each game receives a number of blankets from the girl's
father. When the games are at an end, the groom's father distributes
blankets among the other party" (404. 43). This reminds us of the games
at picnics and social gatherings of our own people.
In the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for January, 1895, S. O. Addy, in an
article entitled "English Surnames and Heredity," points out how the
etymologies give us some indications of the physical characteristics of
the persons on whom the names were conferred. In primitive times and
among the lower races names are even of more importance in this respect.
Clark says: "I have seen a baby not two days old snugly tied up in one
of these little sacks; the rope tied to the pommel of the saddle, the
sack hanging down alongside of the pony, and mother and child
comfortably jogging along, making a good day's march in bitter cold
winter weather, easily keeping up with a column of cavalry which was
after hostile Indians. After being carefully and firmly tied in the
cradle, the child, as a rule, is only taken out to be cleaned in the
morning, and again in the evening just before the inmates of a lodge go
to sleep; sometimes also in the middle of the day, but on the march only
morning and evening" (420. 57).
In his account of the habits of the Tarahumari Indians, Lumholtz
observes: "Heat never seems to trouble them. I have seen young babies
sleeping with uncovered heads on the backs of their mothers, exposed to
the fierce heat of the summer sun." The same writer tells us that once
he pulled six hairs at once from a sleeping child, "without causing the
least disturbance," and only when twenty-three had been extracted at
once did the child take notice, and then only scratched its head and
slept on (107. 297).
Colonel Dodge notes the following practice in vogue among the wild
Indians of the West:--
"While the child, either boy or girl, is very young, the mother has
entire charge, control, and management of it. It is soon taught not to
cry by a very summary process. When it attempts to 'set up a yell,' the
mother covers its mouth with the palm of her hand, grasps its nose
between her thumb and forefinger, and holds on until the little one is
nearly suffocated. It is then let go, to be seized and smothered again
at the first attempt to cry. The baby very soon comprehends that silence
is the best policy" (432.187).
Of the Indians of Lower California, who learn to stand and walk before
they are a year old, we are told on the authority of the missionary
Baegert: "When they are born they are cradled in the shell of a turtle
or on the ground. As soon as the child is a few months old, the mother
places it perfectly naked astraddle on her shoulders, its legs hanging
down on both sides in front. In this guise the mother roves about all
day, exposing her helpless charge to the hot rays of the sun and the
chilly winds that sweep over the inhospitable country" (306. 185).
Curious indeed are some of the methods in use among primitive peoples to
induce sleep. According to Mr. Fraser, the natives of a village near the
banks of the Girree, in the Himalayan region of India, had the following
custom (_Quart. Rev._ XXIV. 109):--
"The mother, seizing the infant with both arms and aided by the knees,
gives it a violent whirling motion, that would seem rather calculated to
shake the child in pieces than to produce the effect of soft slumber;
but the result was unerring, and in a few seconds the child was fast
Somewhat akin to this procedure is the practice our modern mothers and
nurses have of swinging the baby through a sort of semicircle in their
arms, accompanying it with the familiar song,--
And that way," etc.
This song and action, their dolls doing duty as children, have been
introduced into the kindergarten, and even figure now in "doll-drills"
on the stage, and at church festivals and society entertainments.
Of the same village the author goes on to say:--
"Several straw sheds are constructed on a bank, above which a cold clear
stream is led to water their fields, and a small portion of this,
probably of three fingers' breadth, is brought into the shed by a hollow
stick or piece of bark, and falls from this spout into a small drain,
which carries it off about two feet below. The women bring their
children to these huts in the heat of the day, and having lulled them to
sleep and wrapt their bodies and feet warm in a blanket, they place them
on a small bench or tray horizontally, in such a way that the water
shall fall upon the crown of the head, just keeping the whole top wet
with its stream. We saw two under this operation, and several others
came in while we remained, to place their children in a similar way.
Males and females are equally used thus, and their sleep seemed sound
The Andamanese baby "within a few hours of its birth has its head shaved
and painted with _kovob_--(an ochre-mixture), while its diminutive
face and body are adorned with a design in _tiela-og_--(white
clay); this latter, as may be supposed, is soon obliterated, and
requires therefore to be constantly renewed." We are further informed
that before shaving an infant, "the mother usually moistens the head
with milk which she presses from her breast," while with older children
and adults water serves for this purpose (498. 114).
The "heroic treatment," meted out by primitive peoples to children, as
they approach puberty, has been discussed in detail by Ploss, Kulischer,
Daniels. Religion and the desire to attract the affection or attention
of the other sex seem to lie very close to the fundamental reasons for
many of these practices, as Westermarck points out in his chapter on the
"Means of Attraction." (166. 165-212). A divine origin is often ascribed
to these strange mutilations. "The Australian Dieyerie, on being asked
why he knocks out two front teeth of the upper jaw of his children, can
answer only that, when they were created, the Muranaura, a good spirit,
thus disfigured the first child, and, pleased at the sight, commanded
that the like should be done to every male or female child for ever
after. The Pelew Islanders believe that the perforation of the septum of
the nose is necessary for winning eternal bliss; and the Nicaraguans say
that their ancestors were instructed by the gods to flatten their
children's heads. Again, in Fiji it is supposed that the custom of
tattooing is in conformity with the appointment of the god Dengei, and
that its neglect is punished after death. A similar idea prevails among
the Kingsmill Islanders and Ainos; and the Greenlanders formerly
believed that the heads of those girls who had not been deformed by long
stitches made with a needle and black thread between the eyes, on the
forehead, and upon the chin, would be turned into train tubs and placed
under the lamps in heaven, in the land of souls" (165. 170, 171).
Were all the details of the fairy-tales true, which abound in every
land, the cruelty meted out to the child suspected of being a changeling
would surpass human belief. Hartland enumerates the following procedures
as having been in use, according to legend, to determine the justice of
the suspicion: Flinging the child on a dung-heap; putting in the oven;
holding a red-hot shovel before the child's face; heating a poker
red-hot to mark a cross on its forehead; heating the tongs red-hot to
seize it by the nose; throwing on, or into, the fire; suspending over
the fire in a pot; throwing the child naked on the glowing embers at
midnight; throwing into lake, river, or sea (258. 120-123). These and
many more figure in story, and not a few of them seem to have been
actually practised upon the helpless creatures, who, like the heathen,
were not supposed to call for pity or love. Mr. Hartland cites a case of
actual attempt to treat a supposed changeling in a summary manner, which
occurred no later than May 17,1884, in the town of Clonmel, Ireland. In
the absence of the mother of a three-year-old child (fancied by the
neighbours to be a changeling), two women "entered her house and placed
the child naked on a hot shovel, 'under the impression that it would
break the charm,'"--the only result being, of course, that the infant
was very severely burned (258. 121).
On the other hand, children of true Christian origin, infants who
afterwards become saints, are subject to all sorts of torment at the
hands of Satan and his angels, at times, but come forth, like the
"children" of the fiery furnace in the time of Daniel, in imitation of
whose story many of the hagiological legends have doubtless been put
forth, unscathed from fire, boiling water, roaring torrents, and other
perilous or deadly situations (191. 9,122).
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF CHILD-LIFE: PARENTAL AFFECTION.
These are my jewels.--_Cornelia (mother of the Gracchi)_.
A simple child
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?--_Wordsworth_.
Children always turn towards the light.--_Hare_.
That I could bask in Childhood's sun
And dance o'er Childhood's roses!--_Praed_.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child.--_Shakespeare_.
In his essay on _The Pleasures of Home_, Sir John Lubbock makes the
following statement (494. 102):--
"In the _Origin of Civilization_, I have given many cases showing
how small a part family affection plays in savage life. Here I will only
mention one case in illustration. The Algonquin (North America) language
contained no word for 'to love,' so that when the missionaries
translated the Bible into it they were obliged to invent one. What a
life, and what a language, without love!"
How unfortunately inaccurate, how entirely unjustifiable, such a
declaration is, may be seen from the study of the words for love in two
of the Algonkian dialects,--Cree and Chippeway,--which Dr. Brinton has
made in one of his essays, _The Conception of Love in some American
Languages_. Let us quote the _ipsissima verba_ (411. 415):--
(1) "In both of them the ordinary words for love and friendship are
derived from the same monosyllabic root, _sak_. On this, according
to the inflectional laws of the dialects, are built up the terms for the
love of man to woman, a lover, love in the abstract, a friend,
friendship, and the like. It is also occasionally used by the
missionaries for the love of man to God and of God to man."
(2) "The Cree has several words which are confined to parental and
filial love, and to that which the gods have for men."
(3) "In the Chippeway there is a series of expressions for family love
and friendship which in their origin carry us back to the same
psychological process which developed the Latin _amare_ from the
(4) "The highest form of love, however, that which embraces all men and
all beings, that whose conception is conveyed in the Greek [Greek:
_agapa_], we find expressed in both the dialects by derivatives
from a root different from any I have mentioned. It is in its dialectic
forms _kis_, _keche_, or _kiji_, and in its origin it is
an intensive interjectional expression of pleasure, indicative of what
gives joy. Concretely, it signifies what is completed, permanent,
powerful, perfected, perfect. As friendship and love yield the most
exalted pleasure, from this root the natives drew a fund of words to
express fondness, attachment, hospitality, charity; and from the same
worthy source they selected that adjective [_kije, kise_], which
they applied to the greatest and most benevolent divinity."
Surely this people cannot be charged with a lack of words for love,
whose language enables them so well to express its every shade of
meaning. Nay, they have even seen from afar that "God is Love," as their
concept of Michabo tells us they had already perceived that He was
_Motherhood and Fatherhood_.
The nobility and the sanctity of motherhood have found recognition among
the most primitive of human races. A Mussulman legend of Adam and Eve
represents the angel Gabriel as saying to the mother of mankind after
the expulsion from Paradise: "Thou shalt be rewarded for all the pains
of motherhood, and the death of a woman in child-bed shall be accounted
as martyrdom" (547. 38). The natives of the Highlands of Borneo hold
that to a special hereafter, known as "Long Julan," go those who have
suffered a violent death (been killed in battle, or by the falling of a
tree, or some like accident), and women who die in child-birth; which
latter become the wives of those who have died in battle. In this
Paradise everybody is rich, with no need for labour, as all wants are
supplied without work (475. 199).
Somewhat similar beliefs prevailed in ancient Mexico and among the
Even so with the father. Zoroaster said in the book of the law: "I name
the married before the unmarried, him who has a household before him who
has none, the father of a family before him who is childless" (125. I.
108). Dr. Winternitz observes of the Jews: "To possess children was
always the greatest good-fortune that could befall a Jew. It was deemed
the duty of every man to beget a son; the Rabbis, indeed, considered a
childless man as dead. To the Cabbalists of the Middle Ages, the man who
left no posterity behind him seemed one who had not fulfilled his
mission in this world, and they believed that he had to return once more
to earth and complete it" (385. 5).
Ploss (125. I. 108) and Lallemand (286. 21) speak in like terms of this
children-loving people. The Talmud ranks among the dead "the poor, the
leprous, the blind, and those who have no children," and the wives of
the patriarchs of old cheerfully adopted as their own the children born
to their husband by slave or concubine. To be the father of a large
family, the king of a numerous people, was the ideal of the true
Israelite. So, also, was it in India and China.
Ploss and Haberlandt have a good deal to say of the ridicule lavished
upon old maids and bachelors among the various peoples and races, and
Rink has recorded not a few tales on this head from the various tribes
of the Eskimo--in these stories, which are of a more or less trifling
and _outre_ character, bachelors are unmercifully derided (525.
With the Chippeways, also, the bachelor is a butt for wit and sarcasm. A
tale of the Mississagas of Skugog represents a bachelor as "having gone
off to a certain spot and built a lot of little 'camps.' He built fires,
etc., and passed his time trying to make people believe he was not
alone. He used to laugh and talk, and pretend that he had people living
there." Even the culture-heroes Gluskap and Naniboju are derided in some
of the tales for not being married (166. 376).
According to Barbosa (67. 161), a writer of the early part of the
sixteenth century, the Nairs, a Dravidian people of the Malabar coast
(523. 159), believed that "a maiden who refused to marry and remained a
virgin would be shut out of Paradise." The Fijians excluded from
Paradise all bachelors; they were smashed to pieces by the god
Nangganangga (166. 137).
In the early chronicles and mythic lore of many peoples there are tales
of childless couples, who, in their quaint fashion, praying to the gods,
have been blest with the desired offspring. There is, however, no story
more pathetic, or more touching, than the Russian folk-tale cited by
Ralston, in which we read concerning an old childless couple (520. 176):
"At last the husband went into the forest, felled wood, and made a
cradle. Into this his wife laid one of the logs he had cut, and began
swinging it, crooning the while a tune beginning:--
'Swing, blockie dear, swing.'
After a little time, behold! the block already had legs. The old woman
rejoiced greatly, and began swinging anew, and went on swinging until
the block became a babe."
The rude prayers and uncouth aspirations of barbarous and savage
peoples, these crude ideas of the uncivilized races of men, when sounded
in their deepest depths, are the folk-expression of the sacredness of
the complete family, the forerunners of the poet's prayer:--
"Seigneur! preservez-moi, preservez ceux que j'aime,
Freres, parents, amis, et ennemis meme
Dans le mal triomphants,
De jamais voir, Seigneur! l'ete sans fleurs vermeilles,
La cage sans oiseaux, la ruche sans abeilles,
La maison sans enfants."
The affection of the ancient Egyptians for their children is noted by
Erman. The child is called "mine," "the only one," and is "loved as the
eyes of its parents"; it is their "beauty," or "wealth." The son is the
"fair-come" or "welcome"; at his birth "wealth comes." At the birth of a
girl it is said "beauty comes," and she is called "the lady of her
father" (441. 216-230). Interesting details of Egyptian child-life and
education may be read in the recently edited text of Amelineau (179),
where many maxims of conduct and behaviour are given. Indeed, in the
naming of children we have some evidence of motherly and fatherly
affection, some indication of the gentle ennobling influence of this
emotion over language and linguistic expression. True is it all over the
Liebe Kinder haben viele Namen.
[Dear children have many names.]
_The Dead Child_.
Parental affection is nowhere more strongly brought out than in the
lamentations for the dead among some of the lowest tribes of Californian
Indians. Of the Yokaia, Mr. Powers tells us (519. 166):--
"It is their custom to 'feed the spirits of the dead' for the space of
one year, by going daily to places which they were accustomed to
frequent while living, where they sprinkle pinole upon the ground. A
Yokaia mother who has lost her babe goes every day for a year to some
place where her little one played while alive, or to the spot where its
body was burned, and milks her breasts into the air. This is accompanied
by plaintive mourning and weeping and piteous calling upon her little
one to return, and sometimes she sings a hoarse and melancholy chant,
and dances with a wild, ecstatic swaying of the body."
Of the Miwok the same authority says:--
"The squaws wander off into the forest, wringing their arms piteously,
beating the air, with eyes upturned, and adjuring the departed one, whom
they tenderly call 'dear child,' or 'dear cousin' (whether a relative or
not), to return."
Of the Niskwaili Indians, of the State of Washington, Dr. Gibbs observes
"They go out alone to some place a little distant from the lodge or
camp, and in a loud, sobbing voice, repeat a sort of stereotyped
formula, as, for instance, a mother on the loss of her child:--
'Ah seahb! shed-da bud-dah ah-ta-bud! ad-de-dah!
Ah chief my child dead! alas!'
When in dreams they see any of their deceased friends this lamentation
Very beautiful and touching in the extreme is the conduct of the
Kabinapek of California:--
"A peculiarity of this tribe is the intense sorrow with which they mourn
for their children when dead. Their grief is immeasurable. They not only
burn up everything that the baby ever touched, but everything that they
possess, so that they absolutely begin life over again--naked as they
were born, without an article of property left" (519. 206).
Besides the custom of "feeding the spirits of the dead," just noticed,
there exists also among certain of the Californian Indians the practice
of "whispering a message into the ear of the dead." Mr. Powers has
preserved for us the following most beautiful speech, which, he tells
us, was whispered into the ear of a child by a woman of the Karok ere
the first shovelful of earth was cast upon it (519. 34): "O, darling, my
dear one, good-bye! Never more shall your little hands softly clasp
these old withered cheeks, and your pretty feet shall print the moist
earth around my cabin never more. You are going on a long journey in the
spirit-land, and you must go alone, for none of us can go with you.
Listen then to the words which I speak to you and heed them well, for I
speak the truth. In the spirit-land there are two roads. One of them is
a path of roses, and it leads to the Happy Western Land beyond the great
water, where you shall see your dear mother. The other is a path strewn
with thorns and briars, and leads, I know not whither, to an evil and
dark land, full of deadly serpents, where you wander forever. O, dear
child, choose you the path of roses, which leads to the Happy Western
Land, a fair and sunny land, beautiful as the morning. And may the great
Kareya [the Christ of these aborigines] help you to walk in it to the
end, for your little tender feet must walk alone. O, darling, my dear
This whispering to the dead is found in other parts of the world. Mr.
Hose, describing the funeral of a boy, which he witnessed in Borneo,
says (475. 198):--
"As the lid of the coffin was being closed, an old man came out on the
verandah of the house with a large gong (Tetawak) and solemnly beat it
for several seconds. The chief, who was sitting near, informed me that
this was done always before closing the lid, that the relations of the
deceased might know that the spirit was coming to join them; and upon
his arrival in Apo Leggan [Hades] they would probably greet him in such
terms as these: 'O grandchild, it was for you the gong was beating,
which we heard just now; what have you brought? How are they all up
above? Have they sent any messages?'" The new arrival then delivers the
messages entrusted to him, and gives the cigarettes--which, rolled up in
a banana-leaf, have been placed in his hand--as proof of the truth of
what he says. These cigarettes retain the smell of the hand that made
them, which the dead relations are thought to be able to recognize.
_Motherhood and Infanticide_.
The intimate relationship recognized as existing between the infant and
its mother has been among many primitive peoples a frequent cause of
infanticide, or has been held at least to excuse and justify that crime.
Of the natives of Ashanti, Ellis says:--
"Should the mother die in childbirth, and the child itself be born
alive, it is customary to bury it with the mother.... The idea seems to
be that the child belongs to the mother, and is sent to accompany her to
_Srahmanadzi_ [ghost-land], so that her _srahman_ [ghost] may
not grieve for it" (438. 234). Post states that in Unyoro, when the
mother dies in childbirth, the infant is killed; among the Hottentots it
was exposed (if the mother died during the time of suckling, the child
was buried alive with her); among the Damara, "when poor women die and
leave children behind them, they are often buried with the mother" (127.
According to Collins and Barrington, among certain native tribes of
Australia, "when the mother of a suckling dies, if no adoptive parents
can be found, the child is placed alive in the arms of the corpse and
buried together with it" (125. II. 589). Of the Banians of Bombay,
Niebuhr tells us that children under eighteen months old are buried when
the mother dies, the corpse of the latter being burned at ebb tide on
the shore of the sea, so that the next tide may wash away the ashes
(125. II. 581). In certain parts of Borneo: "If a mother died in
childbirth, it was the former practice to strap the living babe to its
dead mother, and bury them both, together. 'Why should it live?' say
they. 'It has been the death of its mother; now she is gone, who will
suckle it?'" (481 (1893). 133).
In certain parts of Australia, "children who have caused their mother
great pain in birth are put to death" (127. I. 288), and among the
Sakalavas of Madagascar, the child of a woman dying in childbed is
buried alive with her, the reason given being "that the child may thus
be punished for causing the death of its mother" (125. II. 590).
As has been noted elsewhere, not a few primitive peoples have considered
that death, in consequence of giving birth to a child, gained for the
mother entrance into Paradise. But with some more or less barbarous
tribes quite a different idea prevails. Among the Ewe negroes of the
slave coast of West Africa, women dying in childbirth become
blood-seeking demons; so also in certain parts of Borneo, and on the
Sumatran island of Nias, where they torment the living, plague women who
are with child, and kill the embryo in the womb, thus causing abortion;
in Java, they make women in labour crazy; in Amboina, the Uliase and Kei
Islands, and Gilolo, they become evil spirits, torturing women in
labour, and seeking to prevent their successful delivery; in Gilolo, the
Kei group, and Celebes, they even torment men, seeking to emasculate
them, in revenge for the misfortune which has overtaken them (397.19).
Of the Doracho Indians of Central America, the following statement is
made: "When a mother, who is still suckling her child, dies, the latter
is placed alive upon her breast and burned with her, so that in the
future life she may continue to suckle it with her own milk" (125. II.
589). Powers remarks concerning the Korusi (Patwin) Indians of
California (519. 222): "When a woman died, leaving her infant very
young, the friends shook it to death in a skin or blanket. This was done
even with a half-breed child." Of the Nishinam Indians, the same
authority informs us: "When a mother dies, leaving a very young infant,
custom allows the relatives to destroy it. This is generally done by the
grandmother, aunt, or other near relative, who holds the poor innocent
in her arms, and, while it is seeking the maternal fountain, presses it
to her breast until it is smothered. We must not judge them too harshly
for this. They knew nothing of bottle nurture, patent nipples, or any
kind of milk whatever, other than the human" (519. 328).
Among the Wintun, also, young infants are known to have been buried when
the mother had died shortly after confinement (519. 232).
The Eskimo, Letourneau informs us, were wont to bury the little child
with its dead mother, for they believed that unless this were done, the
mother herself would call from _Killo_, the other world, for the
child she had borne (100. 147, 148).
_The Dead Mother._
To none of the saintly dead, to none of our race who have entered upon
the life beyond the grave, is it more meet to pray than to the mother;
folk-faith is strong in her power to aid and bless those left behind on
earth. That sympathetic relation existing between mother and child when
both are living, is often believed to exist when one has departed into
the other world. By the name _wa-hde ca-pi_, the Dakota Indians
call the feeling the (living) mother has for her absent (living) child,
and they assert that "mothers feel peculiar pain in their breasts when
anything of importance happens to their absent children, or when about
to hear from them. This feeling is regarded as an omen." That the
mother, after death, should feel the same longing, and should return to
help or to nourish her child, is an idea common to the folk-belief of
many lands, as Ploss (125. II. 589) and Zmigrodzki have noted.
"Amid the song of the angels," says Zmigrodzki (174. 142), "the plaint
of her child on earth reaches the mother's ear, and pierces her heart
like a knife. Descend to earth she must and does." In Brittany she is
said to go to God Himself and obtain permission to visit earth. Her
flight will be all the easier, if, before burial, her relatives have
loosed her hair. In various parts of Germany and Switzerland, the belief
is that for six weeks the dead mother will come at night to suckle her
child, and a pair of slippers or shoes are always put into the coffin
with the corpse, for the mother has to travel over thistles, thorns, and
sharp stones to reach her child. Widespread over Europe is this belief
in the return of the mother, who has died in giving life to her little
one. Till cock-crow in the morning she may suckle it, wash it, fondle
it; the doors open of themselves for her. If the child is being well
treated by its relatives, the mother rejoices, and soon departs; but if
it has been neglected, she attends to it, and waits till the last
moment, making audible her unwillingness to depart. If the neglect
continues, the mother descends to earth once more, and, taking the child
with her, returns to heaven for good. And when the mother with her
offspring approaches the celestial gates, they fly wide open to receive
them. Never, in the folk-faith, was entrance readier granted, never was
Milton's concept more completely realized, when
"Heaven open'd wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound,
On golden hinges moving."
In a modern Greek folk-song three youths plot to escape from Hades, and
a young mother, eager to return to earth to suckle her infant child,
persuades them to allow her to accompany them. Charon, however, suddenly
appears upon the scene and seizes them just as they are about to flee.
The beautiful young woman then appeals to him: "Let go of my hair,
Charon, and take me by the hand. If thou wilt but give my child to
drink, I will never try to escape from thee again" (125. II. 589).
The watchful solicitude of the mother in heaven over her children on
earth appears also in the Basque country (505. 73), and Ralston, noting
its occurrence in Russia, observes (520. 265):--
"Appeals for aid to a dead parent are of frequent occurrence in the
songs still sung by the Russian peasantry at funerals or over graves;
especially in those in which orphans express their grief, calling upon
the grave to open, and the dead to appear and listen and help. So in the
Indian story of Punchkin, the seven hungry, stepmother-persecuted
princesses go out every day and sit by their dead mother's tomb, and
cry, and say, 'Oh, mother, mother, cannot you see your poor children,
how unhappy we are,' etc., until a tree grows up out of the grave laden
with fruits for their relief. So, in the German tale, Cinderella is
aided by the white bird, which dwells in the hazel-tree growing out of
her mother's grave."
Crude and savage, but born of a like faith in the power of the dead
mother, is the inhuman practice of the people of the Congo, where, it is
said, "the son often kills his mother, in order to secure the assistance
of her soul, now a formidable spirit" (388. 81).
Heavy upon her offspring weighs the curse of a mother. Ralston, speaking
of the Russian folk-tales, says (520. 363):--
"Great stress is laid in the skazkas and legends upon the terrible power
of a parent's curse. The 'hasty word' of a father or a mother will
condemn even an innocent child to slavery among devils, and, when it has
once been uttered, it is irrevocable," The same authority states,
however, that "infants which have been cursed by their mothers before
their birth, or which are suffocated during their sleep, or which die
from any causes unchristened or christened by a drunken priest, become
the prey of demons," and in order to rescue the soul of such a babe from
the powers of evil "its mother must spend three nights in a church,
standing within a circle traced by the hand of a priest; when the cocks
crow on the third morning the demons will give her back her dead child."
That the father, as well as the mother, feels for his child after death,
and appears to him, is an idea found in fairy-story and legend, but
nowhere so sweetly expressed as in the beautiful Italian belief that
"the kind, dear spirits of the dead relatives and parents come out of
the tombs to bring presents to the children of the family,--whatever
their little hearts most desire." The proverb,--common at Aci,--_Veni
me patri?--Appressu_, "Is my father coming?--By and by," used "when
an expected friend makes himself long waited for," is said to have the
"There was once a little orphan boy, who, in his anxiety to see his dead
father once again, went out into the night when the kind spirits walk,
and, in spite of all the fearful beating of his little heart, asked of
every one whom he met: _Veni me patri?_ and each one answered:
_Appressu_. As he had the courage to hold out to the end, he
finally had the consolation of seeing his father and having from him
caresses and sweetmeats" (449. 327).
Rev. Mr. Grill speaks highly of the affection for children of the
Polynesians. Following is the translation of a song composed and sung by
Rakoia, a warrior and chief of Mangaia, in the Hervey Archipelago, on
the death of his eldest daughter Enuataurere, by drowning, at the age of
fifteen (459. 32):--
"My first-born; where art thou?
Oh that my wild grief for thee,
Pet daughter, could be assuaged!
Snatched away in time of peace.
Thy delight was to swim,
Thy head encircled with flowers,
Interwoven with fragrant laurel
And the spotted-leaved jessamine.
Whither is my pet gone--
She who absorbed all my love--
She whom I had hoped
To fill with ancestral wisdom?
Red and yellow pandanus drupes
Were sought out in thy morning rambles,
Nor was the sweet-scented myrtle forgotten.
Sometimes thou didst seek out
Fugitives perishing in rocks and caves.
Perchance one said to thee,
'Be mine, be mine, forever;
For my love to thee is great.'
Happy the parent of such a child!
Alas for Enuataurere! Alas for Enuataurere!
Thou wert lovely as a fairy!
A husband for Enuataurere!
Each envious youth exclaims:
'Would that she were mine!'
Enuataurere now trips o'er the ruddy ocean.
Thy path is the foaming crest of the billow.
Weep for Enuataurere--
This song, though, published in 1892, seems to have been composed about
the year 1815, at a _fete_ in honour of the deceased. Mr. Gill
justly calls attention to the beauty of the last stanza but one, where
"the spirit of the girl is believed to follow the sun, tripping lightly
over the crest of the billows, and sinking with the sun into the
underworld (Avaiki), the home of disembodied spirits."
Among others of the lower races of men, we find the father, expressing
his grief at the loss of a child, as tenderly and as sincerely as, if
less poetically than, the Polynesian chief, though often the daughter is
not so well honoured in death as is the son. Our American Indian tribes
furnish not a few instances of such affectionate lamentation.
Much too little has been made of the bright side of child-life among the
lower races. But from even the most primitive of tribes all traces of
the golden age of childhood are not absent. Powers, speaking of the
Yurok Indians of California, notes "the happy cackle of brown babies
tumbling on their heads with the puppies" (519. 51), and of the Wintun,
in the wild-clover season, "their little ones frolicked and tumbled on
their heads in the soft sunshine, or cropped the clover on all-fours
like a tender calf" (519. 231). Of the Pawnee Indians, Irving says (478.
214): "In the farther part of the building about a dozen naked children,
with faces almost hid by their tangled hair, were rolling and wrestling
upon the floor, occasionally causing the lodge to re-echo with their
childish glee." Mr. im Thurn, while among the Indians of Guiana, had his
attention "especially attracted by one merry little fellow of about five
years old, whom I first saw squatting, as on the top of a hill, on top
of a turtle-shell twice as big as himself, with his knees drawn up to
his chin, and solemnly smoking a long bark cigarette" (477. 39). Of the
wild Indians of the West, Colonel Dodge tells us: "The little children
are much petted and spoiled; tumbling and climbing, unreproved, over the
father and his visitors in the lodge, and never seem to be an annoyance
or in the way" (432. 189). Mr. MacCauley, who visited the Seminole
Indians of Florida, says: "I remember seeing, one day, one jolly little
fellow, lolling and rollicking on his mother's back, kicking her and
tugging away at the strings of beads which hung temptingly between her
shoulders, while the mother, hand-free, bore on one shoulder a log,
which, a moment afterwards, still keeping her baby on her back as she
did so, she chopped into small wood for the camp-fire." (496. 498).
There is a Zuni story of a young maiden, "who, strolling along, saw a
beautiful little baby boy bathing in the waters of a spring; she was so
pleased with his beauty that she took him home, and told her mother that
she had found a lovely little boy" (358. 544). Unfortunately, it turned
out to be a serpent in the end.
As Darwin and other authorities have remarked, there are races of men
upon the face of the earth, in America, in Africa, in Asia, and in the
Island world, who, when first seen of white discoverers, knew not what
it meant to kiss (499. 139). The following statement will serve for
others than the people to whom it refers: "The only kiss of which the
Annamite woman is cognizant is to place her nose against the man's
cheek, and to rub it gently up and down, with a kind of canine sniff."
Mantegazza tells us that Raden-Saleh, a "noble and intelligent" Javanese
painter, told him that, "like all Malays, he considered there was more
tenderness in the contact of the noses than of the lips," and even the
Japanese, the English of the extreme Orient, were once ignorant of the
art of kissing (499. 139).
Great indeed is the gulf between the Javanese artist and the American,
Benjamin West, who said: "A kiss from my mother made me a painter." To a
kiss from the Virgin Mother of Christ, legend says, St. Chrysostom owed
his "golden mouth." The story runs thus: "St. Chrysostom was a dull boy
at school, and so disturbed was he by the ridicule of his fellows, that
he went into a church to pray for help to the Virgin. A voice came from
the image: 'Kiss me on the mouth, and thou shalt be endowed with all
learning.' He did this, and when he returned to his schoolfellows they
saw a golden circle about his mouth, and his eloquence and brilliancy
astounded them" (347. 621).
Among the natives of the Andaman Islands, Mr. Man informs us, "Kisses
are considered indicative of affection, but are only bestowed upon
infants" (498. 79).
"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some divine despair,
Rise in the heart and gather to the eyes,
In looking at the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more."
Thus sang the great English laureate, and to the simple folk--the
treasure-keepers of the lore of the ages--his words mean much.
Pliny, the Elder, in his _Natural History_, makes this statement:
"Man alone at the very moment of his birth, cast naked upon the naked
earth, does she [Nature] abandon to cries and lamentations;" the writer
of the _Wisdom of Solomon_, in the Apocrypha, expresses himself in
like manner: "When I was born, I drew in the common air, and fell upon
the earth, which is of like nature, and the first voice I uttered was
crying, as all others do." Burton, in his _Anatomy of Melancholy_,
bluntly resumes both: "He is born naked, and falls a-whining at the
The Spaniards have a proverb, brusque and cynical:--
"Des que naei llore, y cada dia nace porque.
[I wept as soon as I was born, and every day explains why.]"
A quaint legend of the Jewish Rabbis, however, accounts for children's
tears in this fashion:--
"Beside the child unborn stand two angels, who not only teach it the
whole Tora [the traditional interpretation of the Mosaic law], but also
let it see all the joys of Paradise and all the torments of Hell. But,
since it may not be that a child should come into the world endowed with
such knowledge, ere it is born into the life of men an angel strikes it
on the upper lip, and all wisdom vanishes. The dimple on the upper lip
is the mark of the stroke, and this is why new-born babes cry and weep"
Curiously enough, as if to emphasize the relativity of
folk-explanations, a Mussulman legend states that it is "the touch of
Satan" that renders the child "susceptible of sin from its birth," and
that is the reason why "all children cry aloud when they are born" (547.
Henderson tells us that in the north and south of England "nurses think
it lucky for the child to cry at its baptism; they say that otherwise
the baby shows that it is too good to live." But there are those also
who believe that "this cry betokens the pangs of the new birth," while
others hold that it is "the voice of the Evil Spirit as he is driven out
by the baptismal water" (469. 16).
Among the untaught peasantry of Sicily, the sweet story goes that "Mary
sends an angel from Heaven one day every week to play with the souls of
the unbaptized children [in hell]; and when he goes away, he takes with
him, in a golden chalice, all the tears which the little innocents have
shed all through the week, and pours them into the sea, where they
become pearls" (449. 326).
Here again we have a borrowing from an older myth. An Eastern legend has
it that when Eden was lost, Eve, the mother of all men, wept bitterly,
and "her tears, which flowed into the ocean, were changed into costly
pearls, while those which fell on the earth brought forth all beautiful
flowers" (547. 34). In the classic myth, the pearl is said to have been
born of the tears of Venus, just as a Greek legend makes _alektron_
come from the tears of the sisters of Phaethon, the daughters of the
sun, and Teutonic story turns the tears of the goddess Freyja into drops
of gold (462. III. 1218).
In the _Kalevala_ we read how, after the wonderful harping of
Wainamoinen, the great Finnish hero, which enchanted beasts, birds, and
even fishes, was over, the musician shed tears of gratitude, and these,
trickling down his body and through his many garments, were transmuted
into pearls of the sea.
Shakespeare, in _King Henry V_., makes Exeter say to the King,--
"But all my mother came into mine eyes,
And gave me up to tears,"--
and the tears of the mother-god figures in the folk-lore of many lands.
The vervain, or verbena, was known as the "Tears of Isis," as well as
the "Tears of Juno,"--a name given also to an East Indian grass (_Coix
lacryma_). The lily of the valley, in various parts of Europe, is
called "The Virgin's Tears," "Tears of Our Lady," "Tears of St. Mary."
Zmigrodzki notes the following belief as current in Germany: "If the
mother weeps too much, her dead child comes to her at night, naked and
trembling, with its little shirt in its hand, and says: 'Ah, dearest
mother, do not weep! See! I have no rest in the grave; I cannot put on
my little shirt, it is all wet with your tears.'" In Cracow, the common
saying is, "God forbid that the tears of the mother should fall upon the
corpse of her child." In Brittany the folk-belief is that "the dead
child has to carry water up a hill in a little bucket, and the tears of
the mother increase its weight" (174. 141).
The Greeks fabled Eos, the dawn-goddess, to have been so disconsolate at
the death of Memnon, her son, that she wept for him every morning, and
her tears are the dewdrops found upon the earth. In the mythology of the
Samoans of the Pacific, the Heaven-god, father of all things, and the
Earth-goddess, mother of all things, once held each other in firm
embrace, but were separated in the long ago. Heaven, however, retains
his love for earth, and, mourning for her through the long nights, he
drops many tears upon her bosom,--these, men call dewdrops. The natives
of Tahiti have a like explanation for the thick-falling rain-drops that
dimple the surface of the ocean, heralding an approaching storm,--they
are tears of the heaven-god. The saying is:--
"Thickly falls the small rain on the face of the sea,
They are not drops of rain, but they are tears of Oro."
(Tylor, Early Hist. of Mankind, p. 334.)
An Indian tribe of California believe that "the rain is the falling
tears of Indians sick in heaven," and they say that it was "the tears of
all mankind, weeping for the loss of a good young Indian," that caused
the deluge, in which all were drowned save a single couple (440. 488).
Oriental legend relates, that, in his utter loneliness after the
expulsion from Paradise, "Adam shed such an abundance of tears that all
beasts and birds satisfied their thirst therewith; but some of them sunk
into the earth, and, as they still contained some of the juices of his
food in Paradise, produced the most fragrant trees and spices." We are
further told that "the tears flowed at last in such torrents from Adam's
eyes, that those of his right started the Euphrates, while those of his
left set the Tigris in motion" (547. 34).
These are some of the answers of the folk to the question of
"What's the matter,
That this distempered messenger of wet,
The many-coloured Iris, rounds thine eye?"
And many more are there that run along the lines of Scott's epigrammatic
"A child will weep a bramble's smart,
A maid to see her sparrow part,
A stripling for a woman's heart:
But woe betide a country, when
She sees the tears of bearded men."
According to Mr. Powers: "The conspicuous painstaking which the Modok
squaw expends upon her baby-basket is an index of her maternal love. And
indeed the Modok are strongly attached to their offspring,--a fact
abundantly attested by many sad and mournful spectacles witnessed in the
closing scenes of the war of 1873. On the other hand, a California squaw
often carelessly sets her baby in a deep, conical basket, the same in
which she carries her household effects, leaving him loose and liable to
fall out. If she makes a baby-basket, it is totally devoid of ornament;
and one tribe, the Miwok, contemptuously call it 'the dog's nest.' It is
among Indians like these that we hear of infanticide" (519. 257).
The subject of children's cradles, baby-baskets, baby-boards, and the
methods of manipulating and carrying the infant in connection therewith,
have been treated of in great detail by Ploss (325), Pokrovski, and
Mason (306), the second of whom has written especially of the cradles in
use among the various peoples of European and Asiatic Eussia, with a
general view of those employed by other races, the last with particular
reference to the American aborigines. The work is illustrated, as is
also that of Ploss, with many engravings. Professor Mason thus briefly
sums up the various purposes which the different species of cradle
subserve (306. 161-162):--
"(1) It is a mere nest for the helpless infant.
"(2) It is a bed so constructed and manipulated as to enable the child
to sleep either in a vertical or a horizontal position.
"(3) It is a vehicle in which the child is to be transported, chiefly on
the mother's back by means of a strap over the forehead, but frequently
dangling like a bundle at the saddle-bow. This function, of course,
always modifies the structure of the cradle, and, indeed, may have
determined its very existence among nomadic tribes.
"(4) It is indeed a cradle, to be hung upon the limbs to rock, answering
literally to the nursery-rhyme:--
'Rock-a-bye baby upon the tree-top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough bends, the cradle will fall,
Down will come baby, and cradle, and all.'
"(5) It is also a playhouse and baby-jumper. On many--nearly
all--specimens may be seen dangling objects to evoke the senses,
foot-rests by means of which the little one may exercise its legs,
besides other conveniences anticipatory of the child's needs.
"(6) The last set of functions to which the frame is devoted are those
relating to what we may call the graduation of infancy, when the papoose
crawls out of its chrysalis little by little, and then abandons it
altogether. The child is next seen standing partly on the mother's
cincture and partly hanging to her neck, or resting like a pig in a poke
within the folds of her blanket."
Professor Mason sees in the cradle-board or frame "the child of
geography and of meteorology," and in its use "a beautiful illustration
of Bastian's theory of 'great areas.'" In the frozen North, for example,
"the Eskimo mother carries her infant in the hood of her parka whenever
it is necessary to take it abroad. If she used a board or a frame, the
child would perish with the cold."
The varieties of cradles are almost endless. We have the "hood"
(sometimes the "boot") of the Eskimo; the birch-bark cradle (or hammock)
of several of the northern tribes (as in Alaska, or Cape Breton); the
"moss-bag" of the eastern Tinne, the use of which has now extended to
the employes of the Hudson's Bay Company; the "trough-cradle" of the
Bilqula; the Chinook cradle, with its apparatus for head-flattening; the
trowel-shaped cradle of the Oregon coast; the wicker-cradle of the
Hupas; the Klamath cradle of wicker and rushes; the Pomo cradle of
willow rods and wicker-work, with rounded portion for the child to sit
in; the Mohave cradle, with ladder-frame, having a bed of shredded bark
for the child to lie upon; the Yaqui cradle of canes, with soft bosses
for pillows; the Nez Perce cradle-board with buckskin sides, and the
Sahaptian, Ute, and Kootenay cradles which resemble it; the Moki
cradle-frame of coarse wicker, with an awning; the Navajo cradle, with
wooden hood and awning of dressed buckskin; the rude Comanche cradle,
made of a single stiff piece of black-bear skin; the Blackfoot cradle of
lattice-work and leather; the shoe-shaped Sioux cradle, richly adorned
with coloured bead-work; the Iroquois cradle (now somewhat modernized),
with "the back carved in flowers and birds, and painted blue, red,
green, and yellow." Among the Araucanians of Chili we meet with a cradle
which "seems to be nothing more than a short ladder, with cross-bars,"
to which the child is lashed. In the tropical regions and in South
America we find the habit of "carrying the children in the shawl or
sash, and bedding them in the hammock." Often, as in various parts of
Africa, the woman herself forms the cradle, the child clinging astride
her neck or hips, with no bands or attachments whatever. Of woman as
carrier much may be read in the entertaining and instructive volume of
Professor Mason (113). The primitive cradle, bed, and carrier, was the
_Father and Child._
With many of the more primitive races, the idea so tritely expressed in
our familiar saying, "He is a chip of the old block,"--_patris est
filius_, "he is the son of his father,"--and so beautifully wrought
out by Shakespeare,--
"Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father: eye, nose, lip,
The trick of his frown, his forehead; nay, the valley,
The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek; his smiles,
The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger,"
has a strong hold, making itself felt in a thousand ways and fashions.
The many rites and ceremonies, ablutions, fastings, abstentions from
certain foods and drinks, which the husband has to undergo and submit to
among certain more or less uncivilized peoples, shortly before, or
after, or upon, the occasion of the birth of a child, or while his wife
is pregnant, arise, in part at least, from a firm belief in the
influence of parent upon child and the intimate sympathy between them
even while the latter is yet unborn. Of the Indians of British Guiana,
Mr. im Thurn says, they believe that if the father should eat the flesh
of the capybara, the child would have large protruding teeth like that
animal, while if he should eat that of the labba, the child's skin would
be spotted. "Apparently there is also some idea that for the father to
eat strong food, to wash, to smoke, to handle weapons, would have the
same result as if the new-born baby ate such food, washed, smoked, or
played with edged tools." The connection between the father and the
child, the author thinks, is thought by these Indians to be much closer
than that existing between the mother and her offspring (477. 218). Much
has been written about, and many explanations suggested for, this
ancient and widespread custom. The investigations of recent travellers
seem to have cast some light upon this difficult problem in ethnology.
Dr. Karl von den Steinen (536. 331-337) tells us that the native tribes
of Central Brazil not only believe that the child is "the son of the
father," but that it _is_ the father. To quote his own significant
words: "The father is the patient in so far as he feels himself one with
the new-born child. It is not very difficult to see how he arrives at
this conclusion. Of the human egg-cell and the Graafian follicle the
aborigine is not likely to know anything, nor can he know that the
mother lodges the thing corresponding to the eggs of birds. For him the
man is the bearer of the eggs, which, to speak plainly and clearly, lays
in the mother, and which she hatches during the period of pregnancy. In
the linguistic material at hand we see how this very natural attempt to
explain generation finds expression in the words for 'father',
'testicle,' and 'egg.' In Guarani _tub_ means 'father, spawn,
eggs,' _tupia_ 'eggs,' and even _tup-i_, the name of the
people (the _-i_ is diminutive) really signifies 'little father,'
or 'eggs,' or 'children,' as you please; the 'father' is 'egg,' and the
'child' is 'the little father.' Even the language declares that the
'child' is nothing else than the 'father.' Among the Tupi the father was
also accustomed to take a new name after the birth of each new son; to
explain this, it is in no way necessary to assume that the 'soul' of the
father proceeds each time into the son. In Karaibi we find exactly the
same idea; _imu_ is 'egg,' or 'testicles,'
Among other cognate tribes we find the same thoughts:--
In the Ipurucoto language _imu_ signifies "egg."
In the Bakairi language _imu_ signifies "testicles."
In the Tamanako language _imu_ signifies "father."
In the Makusi language _imu_ signifies "semen."
In several dialects _imu-ru_ signifies "child."
Dr. von den Steinen further observes: "Among the Bakairi 'child' and
'small' are both _imeri_, 'the child of the chief,' _pima
imeri_; we can translate as we please, either 'the child of the
chief,' or 'the little chief,' and in the case of the latter form, which
we can use more in jest of the son, we are not aware that to the Indian
the child is really nothing more than the little chief, the miniature of
the big one. Strange and hardly intelligible to us is this idea when it
is a girl that is in question. For the girl, too, is 'the little
_father_,' and not 'the little _mother_'; it is only the
father who has made her. In Bakairi there are no special words for 'son'
and 'daughter,' but a sex-suffix is added to the word for child when a
distinction is necessary; _pima imeri_ may signify either the son
or the daughter of the chief. The only daughter of the chief is the
inheritrix of possession and rank, both of which pass over with her own
possession to the husband." The whole question of the "Couvade" and like
practices finds its solution in these words of the author: "The
behaviour of the mother, according as she is regarded as more or less
suffering, may differ much with the various tribes, while the conduct of
the father is practically the same with all She goes about her business,
if she feels strong enough, suckles her child, etc. Between the father
and the child there is no mysterious correlation; the child is a
multiplication of him; the father is duplicated, and in order that no
harm may come to the helpless, irrational creature, a miniature of
himself, he must demean himself as a child" (536. 338).
The close relationship between father and child appears also in
folk-medicine, where children (or often adults) are preserved from, or
cured of, certain ailments and diseases by the application of blood
drawn from the father.
In Bavaria a popular remedy against cramps consisted in "the father
pricking himself in the finger and giving the child in its mouth three
drops of blood out of the wound," and at Rackow, in Neu Stettin, to cure
epilepsy in little children, "the father gives the child three drops of
blood out of the first joint of his ring-finger" (361. 19). In Annam,
when a physician cures a small-pox patient, it is thought that the pocks
pass over to his children, and among the Dieyerie of South Australia,
when a child has met with an accident, "all the relatives are beaten
with sticks or boomerangs on the head till the blood flows over their
faces. This is believed to lessen the pain of the child" (397. 60, 205).
Among some savage and uncivilized peoples, the father is associated
closely with the child from the earliest days of its existence. With the
Mincopies of the Andaman Islands, it is the father who, "from the day of
its birth onwards presses the skull and body of the child to give them
the proper form," and among the Macusi Indians of Guiana, the father "in
early youth, pierces the ear-lobe, the lower lip, and the septum of the
nose," while with the Pampas Indians of the Argentine, in the third year
of the child's life, the child's ears are pierced by the father in the
following fashion: "A horse has its feet tied together, is thrown to the
ground, and held fast. The child is then brought out and placed on the
horse, while the father bores its ears with a needle" (326.1.296,301).
With some primitive peoples the father evinces great affection for his
child. Concerning the natives of Australia whom he visited, Lumholtz
observes: "The father may also be good to the child, and he frequently
carries it, takes it in his lap, pats it, searches its hair, plays with
it, and makes little boomerangs which he teaches it to throw. He,
however, prefers boys to girls, and does not pay much attention to the
latter" (495.193). Speaking of another region of the world where
infanticide prevailed,--the Solomon Islands,--Mr. Guppy cites not a few
instances of parental regard and affection. On one occasion "the chief's
son, a little shapeless mass of flesh, a few months old, was handed
about from man to man with as much care as if he had been composed of
something brittle." Of chief Gorai and his wife, whose child was blind,
the author says: "I was much struck with the tenderness displayed in the
manner of both the parents towards their little son, who, seated in his
mother's lap, placed his hand in that of his father, when he was
directed to raise his eyes towards the light for my inspection" (466.
Of the Patwin Indians of California, who are said to rank among the
lowest of the race, Mr. Powers tells us: "Parents are very easygoing
with their children, and never systematically punish them, though they
sometimes strike them in momentary anger. On the Sacramento they teach
them how to swim when a few weeks old by holding them on their hands in
the water. I have seen a father coddle and teeter his baby in an attack
of crossness for an hour with the greatest patience, then carry him down
to the river, laughing good-naturedly, gently dip the little brown
smooth-skinned nugget in the waves clear under, and then lay him on the
moist, warm sand. The treatment was no less effectual than harmless, for
it stopped the perverse, persistent squalling at once" (519. 222). Such
demonstrations of tenderness have been supposed to be rare among the
Indians, but the same authority says again: "Many is the Indian I have
seen tending the baby with far more patience and good-nature than a
civilized father would display" (519. 23). Concerning the Eskimo, Eeclus
observes: "All over Esquimaux Land fathers and mothers vie with one
another in spoiling their offspring, never strike, and rarely rebuke
them" (523. 37).
Among the Indians of British Guiana, according to Mr. im Thurn, both
mother and father are "very affectionate towards the young child." The
mother "almost always, even when working, carries it against her hip,
slung in a small hammock from her neck or shoulder," while the father,
"when he returns from hunting, brings it strange seeds to play with, and
makes it necklaces and other ornaments." The young children themselves
"seem fully to reciprocate the affection of their parents; but as they
grow older, the affection on both sides seems to cool, though, in
reality, it perhaps only becomes less demonstrative" (477. 219).
Everywhere we find evidence of parental affection and love for children,
shining sometimes from the depths of savagery and filling with sunshine
at least a few hours of days that seem so sombre and full of gloom when
viewed afar off.
Mr. Scudder has treated at considerable length the subject of "Childhood
in Literature and Art" (350), dealing with it as found in Greek, Roman,
Hebrew, Early Christian, English, French, German, American, literature,
in mediaval art, and in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. Of Greek
the author observes: "There is scarcely a child's voice to be heard in
the whole range of Greek poetic art. The conception is universally of
the child, not as acting, far less as speaking, but as a passive member
of the social order. It is not its individual so much as its related
life which is contemplated." The silent presence of children in the
roles of the Greek drama is very impressive (350. 21). At Rome, though
childhood is more of a "vital force" than in Greece, yet "it is not
contemplated as a fine revelation of nature." Sometimes, in its brutal
aspects, "children are reckoned as scarcely more than cubs," yet with
refinement they "come to represent the more spiritual side of the family
life." The folktale of Romulus and Remus and Catullus' picture of the
young Torquatus represent these two poles (350. 32). The scant
appearances of children in the Old Testament, the constant prominence
given to the male succession, are followed later on by the promise which
buds and flowers in the world-child Jesus, and the childhood which is
the new-birth, the golden age of which Jewish seers and prophets had
dreamt. In early Christianity, it would appear that, with the exception
of the representation in art of the child, the infant Christ, "childhood
as an image had largely faded out of art and literature" (350. 80). The
Renaissance "turned its face toward childhood, and looked into that
image for the profoundest realization of its hopes and dreams" (350.
102), and since then Christianity has followed that path. And the folk
were walking in these various ages and among these different peoples
humbly along the same road, which their geniuses travelled. Of the great
modern writers and poets, the author notes especially Wordsworth,
through whom the child was really born in our literature, the linker
together of the child and the race; Rousseau, who told of childhood as
"refuge from present evil, a mournful reminiscence of a lost Paradise,
who (like St. Pierre) preached a return to nature, and left his own
offspring to the tender mercy of a foundling asylum"; Luther, the great
religious reformer, who was ever "a father among his children"; Goethe,
who represents German intellectualism, yet a great child-artist;
Froebel, the patron saint of the kindergarten; Hans Andersen, the
"inventor" of fairy-tales, and the transformer of folk-stories, that
rival the genuine, untouched, inedited article; Hawthorne, the
child-artist of America.
CHILDHOOD THE GOLDEN AGE.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.--_Wordsworth_.
Die Kindheit ist ein Augenblick Gottes.--_Achim v. Arnim_.
Wahre dir den Kindersinn,
Kindheit bluht in Liebe bin,
Kinderzeit ist heil'ge Zeit,
Happy those early days, when I Shined in my angel infancy.
Childhood shall be all divine.--_B. W. Proctor_.
But Heaven is kind, and therefore all possess,
Once in their life, fair Eden's simpleness.--_H. Coleridge_.
But to the couch where childhood lies,
A more delicious trance is given,
Lit up by rays from seraph eyes,
And glimpses of remembered heaven.--_W. M. Praed_.
O for boyhood's time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon!--_Whittier_.
The English word _world_, as the Anglo-Saxon _weorold_,
Icelandic _verold_, and Old High German _weralt_ indicate,
signified originally "age of man," or "course of man's life," and in the
mind of the folk the life of the world and the life of man have run
about the same course. By common consent the golden age of both was at
the beginning, _ab ovo_. With Wordsworth, unlettered thousands have
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!"
_Die Kindheit ist ein Augenblick Gottes_, "childhood is a moment of
God," said Achim Ton Arnim, and Hartley Coleridge expresses the same
idea in other words:--
"But Heaven is kind, and therefore all possess,
Once in their life, fair Eden's simpleness."
This belief in the golden age of childhood,--_die heilige
Kinderzeit_, the heaven of infancy,--is ancient and modern,
world-wide, shared in alike by primitive savage and nineteenth-century
philosopher. The peasant of Brittany thinks that children preserve their
primal purity up to the seventh year of their age, and, if they die
before then, go straight to heaven (174. 141), and the great Chinese
philosopher, linking together, as others have done since his time, the
genius and the child, declared that a man is great only as he preserves
the pure ideas of his childhood, while Coleridge, in like fashion tells
us: "Genius is the power of carrying the feelings of childhood into the
power of manhood."
Everywhere we hear the same refrain:--
"Aus der Jugendzeit, aus der Jugendzeit,
Klingt ein Lied immerdar;
O wie liegt so weit, o wie liegt so weit,
Was mein einst war!"
The Paradise that man lost, the Eden from which he has been driven, is
not the God-planted Garden by the banks of Euphrates, but the "happy
days of angel infancy," and "boyhood's time of June," the childhood out
of which in the fierce struggle--for existence the race has rudely
grown, and back to which, for its true salvation, it must learn to make
its way again. As he, who was at once genius and child, said, nearly
twenty centuries ago: "Except ye turn and become as little children, ye
shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven."
When we speak of "the halcyon days of childhood," we recall an ancient
myth, telling how, in an age when even more than now "all Nature loved a
lover," even the gods watched over the loves of Ceyx and Halcyone. Ever
since the kingfisher has been regarded as the emblem, of lasting
fidelity in love. As Ebers aptly puts it: "Is there anywhere a sweeter
legend than that of the Halcyons, the ice-birds who love each other so
tenderly that, when the male becomes enfeebled by age, his mate carries
him on her outspread wings whithersoever he wills; and the gods desiring
to reward such faithful love cause the sun to shine more kindly, and
still the winds and waves on the 'Halcyon Days' during which these birds
are building their nests and brooding over their young" (390. II. 269).
Of a special paradise for infants, something has been said elsewhere. Of
Srahmanadzi, the other world, the natives of Ashanti say: "There an old
man becomes young, a young man a boy, and a boy an infant. They grow and
become old. But age does not carry with it any diminution of strength or
wasting of body. When they reach the prime of life, they remain so, and
never change more" (438. 157).
The Kalmucks believe that some time in the future "each child will speak
immediately after its birth, and the next day be capable of undertaking
its own management" (518. I. 427). But that blissful day is far off, and
the infant human still needs the overshadowing of the gods to usher him
into the real world of life.
_Guardian Angels and Deities._
Christ, speaking his memorable words about little children to those who
had inquired who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven, uttered the
warning: "See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say
unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my
Father which is in heaven." In the hagiology of the Christian churches,
and in the folk-lore of modern Europe, the idea contained in our
familiar expression "guardian angel" has a firm hold; by celestial
watchers and protectors the steps of the infant are upheld, and his mind
guided, until he reaches maturity, and even then the guardian spirit
often lingers to guide the favoured being through all the years of his
life (191. 8). The natives of Ashanti believe that special spirits watch
over girls until they are married, and in China there is a special
mother-goddess who guards and protects childhood.
Walter Savage Landor has said:--
"Around the child bend all the three
Sweet Graces,--Faith, Hope, Charity,"
and the "three Fates" of classic antiquity, the three Norns of
Scandinavian mythology, the three Sudieicky or fate-goddesses of the
Czechs of Bohemia, the three fate- and birth-goddesses of the other
Slavonic peoples, the three [Greek: _Moirai_] of Modern Greece, the
three Phatite of Albania, the three white ladies, three virgins, three
Mary's, etc., of German legend of to-day, have woven about them a wealth
of quaint and curious lore (326. I. 42-47).
The survival of the old heathen belief alongside the Christian is often
seen, as, e.g., at Palermo, in Sicily, where "the mother, when she lifts
the child out of the cradle, says aloud: _'Nuome di Dio_, In God's
name,' but quickly adds sotto voce: _'Cu licenzi, signuri mui_, By
your leave, Ladies.'" The reference is to the "three strange ladies,"
representing the three Fates, who preside over the destiny of human
Ploss has discussed at length the goddesses of child-birth and infancy,
and exhibited their relations to the growing, fertilizing, regenerative
powers of nature, especially the earth, sun, moon, etc.; the Hindu
_Bhavani_ (moon-goddess); the Persian _Anahita_; the Assyrian
_Belit_, the spouse of _Bel_; the Phoenician _Astarte_;
the Egyptian _Isis_; the Etruscan _Mater matuta_; the Greek
_Hera Eileithyia, Artemis_,; the Roman _Diana, Lucina, Juno_;
the Phrygian _Cybele_; the Germanic _Freia, Holla, Gude,
Harke_; the Slavonic _Siwa, Libussa, Zlata Baba_ ("the golden
woman"); the ancient Mexican _Itzcuinam, Yohmaltcitl, Tezistecatl_;
the Chibchan rainbow-goddess _Cuchavira_; the Japanese _Kojasi
Kwanon_, and hundreds more.
The number of gods and goddesses presiding over motherhood and childhood
is legion; in every land divine beings hover about the infant human to
protect it and assure the perpetuity of the race. In ancient Rome,
besides the divinities who were connected with generation, the embryo,
etc., we find, among others, the following tutelary deities of
_Parca_ or _Partula_, the goddess of child-birth;
_Diespiter_, the god who brings the infant to the light of day;
_Opis_, the divinity who takes the infant from within the bosom of
mother-earth; _Vaticanus_, the god who opens the child's mouth in
crying; _Cunina_, the protectress of the cradle and its contents;
_Rumina_, the goddess of the teat or breast; _Ossipaga_, the
goddess who hardens and solidifies the bones of little children;
_Carna_, the goddess who strengthens the flesh of little children;
_Diva potina_, the goddess of the drink of children; _Diva
edusa_, the goddess of the food of children; _Cuba_, the goddess
of the sleep of the child; _Levana_, the goddess who lifts the
child from the earth; _Statanus_, the god, and _Dea Statina_,
the goddess, of the child's standing; _Fabulinus_, the god of the
child's speech; _Abeona_ and _Adiona_, the protectresses of
the child in its goings out and its comings in; _Deus catus pater_,
the father-god who "sharpens" the wits of children; _Dea mens_, the
goddess of the child's mind; _Minerva_, the goddess who is the
giver of memory to the child; _Numeria_, the goddess who teaches
the child to count; _Voleta_, the goddess, and _Volumnus_ the
god, of will or wishing; _Venilia_, the goddess of hope, of "things
to come"; _Deus conus_, the god of counsel, the counsel-giver;
_Peragenor_ or _Agenona_, the deity of the child's action;
_Camona_, the goddess who teaches the child to sing, etc.
Here the child is overshadowed, watched over, taught and instructed by
the heavenly powers:--
"But to the couch where childhood lies
A more delicious trance is given,
Lit up by rays from seraph eyes,
And glimpses of remembered heaven."
In line with the poet's thought, though of a ruder mould, is the belief
of the Iroquois Indians recorded by Mrs. Smith: "When a living nursing
child is taken out at night, the mother takes a pinch of white ashes and
rubs it on the face of the child so that the spirits will not trouble,
because they say that a child still continues to hold intercourse with
the spirit-world whence it so recently came" (534. 69).
President Hall has treated of "The Contents of Children's Minds on
Entering School" (252), but we yet lack a like elaborate and suggestive
study of "The Contents of Parents' Minds on Entering the Nursery." We
owe to the excellent investigation carried on by Principal Russell and
his colleagues at the State Normal School in Worcester, Mass., "Some
Records of the Thoughts and Reasonings of Children" (194), and President
Hall has written about "Children's Lies" (252a), but we are still
without a correspondingly accurate and extensive compilation of "The
Thoughts and Reasonings of Parents," and a plain, unbiassed register of
the "white lies" and equivoques, the fictions and epigrammatic myths,
with which parents are wont to answer, or attempt to answer, the
manifold questions of their tender offspring. From time immemorial the
communication between parent (and nurse) and child, between the old of
both sexes and little children, far from being yea and nay, has been
cast in the mould of the advice given in the German quatrain:--
"Ja haltet die Aequivocabula nur fest,
Sind sie doch das einzige Mittel,
Dem Kind die Wahrheit zu bergen und doch
Zu brauchen den richtigen Titel."
["Hold fast to the words that we equivoques call;
For they are indeed the only safe way
To keep from the children the truth away,
Yet use the right name after all."]
Around the birth of man centres a great cycle of fiction and myth. The
folk-lore respecting the provenience of children may be divided into two
categories. The first is represented by our "the doctor brought it,"
"God sent it," and the "van Moor" of the peasantry of North Friesland,
which may signify either "from the moor," or "from mother." The second
consists of renascent myths of bygone ages, distorted, sometimes, it is
true, and recast. As men, in the dim, prehistoric past, ascribed to
their first progenitors a celestial, a terrestrial, a subterranean, a
subaqueous origin, a coming into being from animals, birds, insects,
trees, plants, rocks, stones, etc.,--for all were then akin,--so, after
long centuries have rolled by, father, mother, nurse, older brother or
sister, speaking of the little one in whom they see their stock renewed,
or their kinship widened, resurrect and regild the old fables and
rejuvenate and reanimate the lore that lay sunk beneath the threshold of
racial consciousness. Once more "the child is father of the man"; his
course begins from that same spring whence the first races of men had
their remotest origins. George Macdonald, in the first lines of his poem
on "Baby" (337. 182):--
"Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the _everywhere_ into here,"
has expressed a truth of folk-lore, for there is scarcely a place in the
"everywhere" whence the children have not been fabled to come. Children
are said to come from heaven (Germany, England, America, etc.); from the
sea (Denmark); from lakes, ponds, rivers (Germany, Austria, Japan); from
moors and sand-hills (northeastern Germany); from gardens (China); from
under the cabbage-leaves (Brittany, Alsace), or the parsley-bed
(England); from sacred or hollow trees, such as the ash, linden, beech,
oak, etc. (Germany, Austria); from inside or from underneath rocks and
stones (northeastern Germany, Switzerland, Bohemia, etc.). It is worthy
of note how the topography of the country, its physiographic character,
affects these beliefs, which change with hill and plain, with moor and
meadow, seashore and inland district. The details of these birth-myths
may be read in Ploss (326. I. 2), Schell (343), Sundermann (366).
Specially interesting are the _Kindersee_ ("child-lake"),
_Kinderbaum_ ("child-tree"), and _Kinderbrunnen_
("child-fountain") of the Teutonic lands,--offering analogies with the
"Tree of Life" and the "Fountain of Eternal Youth" of other ages and
peoples; the _Titistein_, or "little children's stone," and the
_Kindertruog_ ("child's trough") of Switzerland, and the
"stork-stones" of North Germany.
Dr. Haas, in his interesting little volume of folk-lore from the island
of Rugen, in the Baltic, records some curious tales about the birth of
children. The following practice of the children in that portion of
Germany is significant: "Little white and black smooth stones, found on
the shore, are called 'stork-stones.' These the children are wont to
throw backwards over their heads, asking, at the same time, the stork to
bring them a little brother or sister" (466 a. 144). This recalls
vividly the old Greek deluge-myth, in which we are told, that, after the
Flood, Deucalion was ordered to cast behind him the "bones of his
mother." This he interpreted to mean the "stones," which seemed, as it
were, the "bones" of "mother-earth." So he and his wife Pyrrha picked up
some stones from the ground and cast them over their shoulders,
whereupon those thrown by Deucalion became men, those thrown by Pyrrha,
women. Here belongs, also, perhaps, the Wallachian custom, mentioned by
Mr. Sessions (who thinks it was "probably to keep evil spirits away"),
in accordance with which "when a child is born every one present throws
a stone behind him."
On the island of Rugen erratic blocks on the seashore are called
_Adeborsteine_, "stork-stones," and on such a rock or boulder near
Wrek in Wittow, Dr. Haas says "the stork is said to dry the little
children, after he has fetched them out of the sea, before he brings
them to the mothers. The latter point out these blocks to their little
sons and daughters, telling them how once they were laid upon them by
the stork to get dry." The great blocks of granite that lie scattered on
the coast of Jasmund are termed _Schwansteine_, "swan-stones," and,
according to nursery-legend, the children to be born are shut up in
them. When a sister or brother asks: "Where did the little
_swan-child_"--for so babies are called--"come from?" the mother
replies: "From the swan-stone. It was opened with a key, and a little
swan-child taken out." The term "swan-child" is general in this region,
and Dr. Haas is inclined to think that the swan-myth is older than the
stork-myth (466 a. 143, 144).
Curious indeed is the belief of the Hidatsa Indians, as reported by Dr.
Matthews, in the "Makadistati, or house of infants." This is described
as "a cavern near Knife River, which, they supposed, extended far into
the earth, but whose entrance was only a span wide. It was resorted to
by the childless husband or the barren wife. There are those among them
who imagine that in some way or other their children come from the
Makadistati; and marks of contusion on an infant, arising from tight
swaddling or other causes, are gravely attributed to kicks received from
his former comrades when he was ejected from his subterranean home"
In Hesse, Germany, there is a children's song (326. I. 9):--
Da unten steht ein Stockchen,
Da oben steht ein golden Haus,
Da gucken viele schone Kinder raus.
The current belief in that part of Europe is that "unborn children live
in a very beautiful dwelling, for so long as children are no year old
and have not yet looked into a mirror, everything that comes before
their eyes appears to be gold." Here folk-thought makes the beginnings
of human life a real golden age. They are Midases of the eye, not of the
_Children's Questions and Parents' Answers._
Another interesting class of "parents' lies" consists in the replies to,
or comments upon, the questionings and remarks of children about the
ordinary affairs of life. The following examples, selected from
Dirksen's studies of East-Frisian Proverbs, will serve to indicate the
general nature and extent of these.
1. When a little child says, "I am hungry," the mother sometimes
answers, "Eat some salt, and then you will be thirsty, too."
2. When a child, seeing its mother drink tea or coffee, says, "I'm
thirsty," the answer may be, "If you're thirsty, go to Jack ter Host;
there's a cow in the stall, go sit under it and drink." Some of the
variants of this locution are expressed in very coarse language (431. I.
3. If a child asks, when it sees that its parent is going out, "Am I not
going, too?" the answer is, "You are going along, where nobody has gone,
to Poodle's wedding," or "You are going along on Stay-here's cart." A
third locution is, "You are going along to the Kukendell fair"
(Kukendell being a part of Meiderich, where a fair has never been held).
In Oldenburg the answer is: "You shall go along on Jack-stay-at-home's
(Janblievtohus) cart." Sometimes the child is quieted by being told,
"I'll bring you back a little silver nothing (enn silwer Nickske)" (431.
4. If, when he is given a slice of bread, he asks for a thinner one, the
mother may remark, "Thick pieces make fat bodies" (431. I. 35).
5. When some one says in the hearing of the father or mother of a child
that it ought not to have a certain apple, a certain article of
clothing, or the like, the answer is, "That is no illegitimate child."
The locution is based upon the fact that illegitimate children do not
enjoy the same rights and privileges as those born in wedlock (431. I.
6. Of children's toys and playthings it is sometimes said, when they are
very fragile, "They will last from twelve o'clock till midday"
7. When any one praises her child in the presence of the mother, the
latter says, "It's a good child when asleep" (431. I. 51).
8. In the winter-time, when the child asks its mother for an apple, the
latter may reply, "the apples are piping in the tree," meaning that
there are no longer any apples on the tree, but the sparrows are sitting
there, crying and lamenting. In Meiderich the locution is "Apples have
golden stems," _i.e._ they are rare and dear in winter-time (431.
9. When the child says, "I can't sit down," the mother may remark, "Come
and sit on my thumb; nobody has ever fallen off it" (_i.e._ because
no one has ever tried to sit on it) (431. I. 92).
10. When a lazy child, about to be sent out upon an errand, protests
that it does not know where the person to whom the message is to be sent
lives, and consequently cannot do the errand, the mother remarks
threateningly, "I'll show where Abraham ground the mustard," _i.e._
"I give you a good thrashing, till the tears come into your eyes (as
when grinding mustard)" (431. I. 105).
11. When a child complains that a sister or brother has done something
to hurt him, the mother's answer is, "Look out! He shall have water in
the cabbage, and go barefoot to bed" (431. I. 106).
12. Sometimes their parents or elders turn to children and ask them "if
they would like to be shown the Bremen geese." If the child says yes, he
is seized by the ears and head with both hands and lifted off the
ground. In some parts of Germany this is called "showing Rome," and
there are variants of the practice in other lands (431. II. 14).
13. When a child complains of a sore in its eye, or on its neck, the
answer is: "That will get well before you are a great-grandmother" (431.
14. When one child asks for one thing and another for something else,
the mother exclaims petulantly, "One calls out 'lime,' the other
'stones.'" The reference is to the confusion of tongues at Babel, which
is assumed to have been of such a nature that one man would call out
"lime," and another "stones" (431. II. 53).
15. When a child asks for half a slice of bread instead of a whole one,
the mother may say, "Who doesn't like a whole, doesn't like a half
either" (431. II. 43).
16. When a child says, "That is my place, I sat there," the reply is,
"You have no place; your place is in the churchyard" (_i.e._ a
grave) (431. II. 76).
When the child says "I will," the mother says threateningly, "Your
'will' is in your mother's pocket." It is in her pocket that she carries
the rope for whipping the child. Another locution is, "Your will is in
the corner" (_i.e._ the corner of the room in which stands the
broomstick) (431. II. 81).
These specimens of the interchange of courtesies between the child and
its parent or nurse might be paralleled from our own language; indeed,
many of the correspondences will suggest themselves at once. The deceits
practised in the Golden Age of childhood resemble those practised by the
gods in the Golden Age of the world, when divine beings walked the earth
and had intercourse with the sons and daughters of men.
Even as the serpent marred the Eden of which the sacred legends of the
Semites tell, so in the folk-thought does some evil sprite or phantom
ever and anon intrude itself in the Paradise of childhood and seek its
Shakespeare has well said:--
"Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil,"
and the chronicle of the "painted devils," bogies, scarecrows, _et id
genus omne_, is a long one, whose many chapters may be read in Ploss,
Hartland, Henderson, Gregor, etc. Some of the "devils" are mild and
almost gentlemen, like their lord and master at times; others are
fierce, cruel, and bloodthirsty; their number is almost infinite, and
they have the forms of women as well as of men.
Over a large portion of western Europe is found the nursery story of the
"Sand-Man," who causes children to become drowsy and sleepy; "the
sand-man is coming, the sand-man has put dust in your eyes," are some of
the sayings in use. By and by the child gets "so fast asleep that one
eye does not see the other," as the Frisian proverb puts it. When, on a
cold winter day, her little boy would go out without his warm mittens
on, the East Frisian mother says, warningly: _De Fingerbiter is
buten_, "the Finger-biter is outside."
Among the formidable evil spirits who war against or torment the child
and its mother are the Hebrew Lilith, the long-haired night-flier; the
Greek _Strigalai_, old and ugly owl-women; the Roman
_Caprimulgus_, the nightly goat-milker and child-killer, and the
wood-god Silvanus; the Coptic _Berselia_; the Hungarian
"water-man," or "water-woman," who changes children for criples or
demons; the Moravian _Vestice_, or "wild woman," able to take the
form of any animal, who steals away children at the breast, and
substitutes changelings for them; the Bohemian _Polednice_, or
"noon-lady," who roams around only at noon, and substitutes changelings
for real children; the Lithuanian and Old Prussian _Laume_, a
child-stealer, whose breast is the thunderbolt, and whose girdle is the
rainbow; the Servian _Wjeschtitza_, or witches, who take on the
form of an insect, and eat up children at night; the Russian "midnight
spirit," who robs children of rest and sleep; the Wendish "Old
mountain-woman"; the German (Brunswick) "corn-woman," who makes off with
little children looking for flowers in the fields; the Roggenmuhme (
"rye-aunt"), the _Tremsemutter_, who walks about in the cornfields;
the _Katzenveit_, a wood spirit, and a score of bogies called
_Popel, Popelmann, Popanz, Butz_, etc.; the Scotch "Boo Man,"
"Bogie Man," "Jenny wi' the Airn Teeth," "Jenny wi' the lang Pock "; the
English and American bogies, goblins, ogres, ogresses, witches, and the
like; besides, common to all peoples, a host of werwolves and vampires,
giants and dwarfs, witches, ogres, ogresses, fairies, evil spirits of
air, water, land, inimical to childhood and destructive of its peace and
enjoyment. The names, lineage, and exploits of these may be read in
Ploss, Grimm, Hartland, etc.
In the time of the Crusades, Richard Cour de Lion, the hero-king of
England, became so renowned among the Saracens that (Gibbon informs us)
his name was used by mothers and nurses to quiet their infants, and
other historical characters before and after him served to like purpose.
To the children of Rome in her later days, Attila, the great Hun, was
such a bogy, as was Narses, the Byzantian general (d. 568 A.D.), to the
Assyrian children. Bogies also were Matthias Corvinus (d. 1490 A.D.),
the Hungarian king and general, to the Turks; Tamerlane (Timur), the
great Mongolian conqueror (d. 1405 A.D.), to the Persians; and
Bonaparte, at the close of the eighteenth and the beginning of the
nineteenth century, in various parts of the continent of Europe. These,
and other historical characters have, in part, taken the place of the
giants and bogies of old, some of whom, however, linger, even yet, in
the highest civilizations, together with fabulous animals (reminiscent
of stern reality in primitive times), with which, less seriously than in
the lands of the eastern world, childhood is threatened and cowed into
The Ponka Indian mothers tell their children that if they do not behave
themselves the Indacinga (a hairy monster shaped like a human being,
that hoots like an owl) will get them; the Omaha bogy is Icibaji; a
Dakota child-stealer and bogy is Anungite or "Two Faces" (433. 386,
473). With the Kootenay Indians, of south-eastern British Columbia, the
owl is the bogy with which children are frightened into good behaviour,
the common saying of mothers, when their children are troublesome,
being, "If you are not quiet, I'll give you to the owl" (203).
Longfellow, in his _Hiawatha_, speaks of one of the bogies of the
"Thus the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rooked him in his linden cradle,
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
'Hush! the naked bear will get thee!'"
Among the Nipissing Algonkian Indians, _koko_ is a child-word for
any terrible being; the mothers say to their children, "beware of the
_koko_." Champlain and Lescarbot, the early chroniclers of Canada,
mention a terrible creature (concerning which tales were told to
frighten children) called _gougou_, supposed to dwell on an island
in the Baie des Chaleurs (200. 239). Among the bogies of the Mayas of
Yucatan, Dr. Brinton mentions: the _balams_ (giant beings of the
night), who carry off children; the _culcalkin_, or "neckless
priest"; besides giants and witches galore (411. 174, 177).
Among the Gualala Indians of California, we find the "devil-dance,"
which Powers compares to the _haberfeldtreiben_ of the Bavarian
peasants,--an institution got up for the purpose of frightening the
women and children, and keeping them in order. While the ordinary dances
are going on, there suddenly stalks forth "an ugly apparition in the
shape of a man, wearing a feather mantle on his back, reaching from the
arm-pits down to the mid-thighs, zebra-painted on his breast and legs
with black stripes, bear-skin shako on his head, and his arms stretched
out at full length along a staff passing behind his neck. Accoutred in
this harlequin rig, he dashes at the squaws, capering, dancing,
whooping; and they and the children flee for life, keeping several
hundred yards between him and themselves." It is believed that, if they
were even to touch his stick, their children would die (519. 194).
Among the Patwin, Nishinam, and Pomo Indians, somewhat similar practices
are in vogue (519. 157, 160, 225). From the golden age of childhood,
with its divinities and its demons, we may now pass to the consideration
of more special topics concerning the young of the races of men.
Der Mensch ist, was er isst.--_Feuerbach_.
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.--_Coleridge_.
Man did eat angels' food.--_Psalm_ ixxviii. 25.
_Der Mensch ist, was er isst_,--"man is what he eats,"--says