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The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

Part 11 out of 19

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priests had invested his worship, the conception of him as the
corn-god comes clearly out in the festival of his death and
resurrection, which was celebrated in the month of Khoiak and at a
later period in the month of Athyr. That festival appears to have
been essentially a festival of sowing, which properly fell at the
time when the husbandman actually committed the seed to the earth.
On that occasion an effigy of the corn-god, moulded of earth and
corn, was buried with funeral rites in the ground in order that,
dying there, he might come to life again with the new crops. The
ceremony was, in fact, a charm to ensure the growth of the corn by
sympathetic magic, and we may conjecture that as such it was
practised in a simple form by every Egyptian farmer on his fields
long before it was adopted and transfigured by the priests in the
stately ritual of the temple. In the modern, but doubtless ancient,
Arab custom of burying "the Old Man," namely, a sheaf of wheat, in
the harvest-field and praying that he may return from the dead, we
see the germ out of which the worship of the corn-god Osiris was
probably developed.

The details of his myth fit in well with this interpretation of the
god. He was said to be the offspring of Sky and Earth. What more
appropriate parentage could be invented for the corn which springs
from the ground that has been fertilised by the water of heaven? It
is true that the land of Egypt owed its fertility directly to the
Nile and not to showers; but the inhabitants must have known or
guessed that the great river in its turn was fed by the rains which
fell in the far interior. Again, the legend that Osiris was the
first to teach men the use of corn would be most naturally told of
the corn-god himself. Further, the story that his mangled remains
were scattered up and down the land and buried in different places
may be a mythical way of expressing either the sowing or the
winnowing of the grain. The latter interpretation is supported by
the tale that Isis placed the severed limbs of Osiris on a
corn-sieve. Or more probably the legend may be a reminiscence of a
custom of slaying a human victim, perhaps a representative of the
corn-spirit, and distributing his flesh or scattering his ashes over
the fields to fertilise them. In modern Europe the figure of Death
is sometimes torn in pieces, and the fragments are then buried in
the ground to make the crops grow well, and in other parts of the
world human victims are treated in the same way. With regard to the
ancient Egyptians we have it on the authority of Manetho that they
used to burn red-haired men and scatter their ashes with winnowing
fans, and it is highly significant that this barbarous sacrifice was
offered by the kings at the grave of Osiris. We may conjecture that
the victims represented Osiris himself, who was annually slain,
dismembered, and buried in their persons that he might quicken the
seed in the earth.

Possibly in prehistoric times the kings themselves played the part
of the god and were slain and dismembered in that character. Set as
well as Osiris is said to have been torn in pieces after a reign of
eighteen days, which was commemorated by an annual festival of the
same length. According to one story Romulus, the first king of Rome,
was cut in pieces by the senators, who buried the fragments of him
in the ground; and the traditional day of his death, the seventh of
July, was celebrated with certain curious rites, which were
apparently connected with the artificial fertilisation of the fig.
Again, Greek legend told how Pentheus, king of Thebes, and Lycurgus,
king of the Thracian Edonians, opposed the vine-god Dionysus, and
how the impious monarchs were rent in pieces, the one by the
frenzied Bacchanals, the other by horses. The Greek traditions may
well be distorted reminiscences of a custom of sacrificing human
beings, and especially divine kings, in the character of Dionysus, a
god who resembled Osiris in many points and was said like him to
have been torn limb from limb. We are told that in Chios men were
rent in pieces as a sacrifice to Dionysus; and since they died the
same death as their god, it is reasonable to suppose that they
personated him. The story that the Thracian Orpheus was similarly
torn limb from limb by the Bacchanals seems to indicate that he too
perished in the character of the god whose death he died. It is
significant that the Thracian Lycurgus, king of the Edonians, is
said to have been put to death in order that the ground, which had
ceased to be fruitful, might regain its fertility.

Further, we read of a Norwegian king, Halfdan the Black, whose body
was cut up and buried in different parts of his kingdom for the sake
of ensuring the fruitfulness of the earth. He is said to have been
drowned at the age of forty through the breaking of the ice in
spring. What followed his death is thus related by the old Norse
historian Snorri Sturluson: "He had been the most prosperous
(literally, blessed with abundance) of all kings. So greatly did men
value him that when the news came that he was dead and his body
removed to Hringariki and intended for burial there, the chief men
from Raumariki and Westfold and Heithmörk came and all requested
that they might take his body with them and bury it in their various
provinces; they thought that it would bring abundance to those who
obtained it. Eventually it was settled that the body was distributed
in four places. The head was laid in a barrow at Steinn in
Hringariki, and each party took away their own share and buried it.
All these barrows are called Halfdan's barrows." It should be
remembered that this Halfdan belonged to the family of the Ynglings,
who traced their descent from Frey, the great Scandinavian god of

The natives of Kiwai, an island lying off the mouth of the Fly River
in British New Guinea, tell of a certain magician named Segera, who
had sago for his totem. When Segera was old and ill, he told the
people that he would soon die, but that, nevertheless, he would
cause their gardens to thrive. Accordingly, he instructed them that
when he was dead they should cut him up and place pieces of his
flesh in their gardens, but his head was to be buried in his own
garden. Of him it is said that he outlived the ordinary age, and
that no man knew his father, but that he made the sago good and no
one was hungry any more. Old men who were alive some years ago
affirmed that they had known Segera in their youth, and the general
opinion of the Kiwai people seems to be that Segera died not more
than two generations ago.

Taken all together, these legends point to a widespread practice of
dismembering the body of a king or magician and burying the pieces
in different parts of the country in order to ensure the fertility
of the ground and probably also the fecundity of man and beast.

To return to the human victims whose ashes the Egyptians scattered
with winnowing-fans, the red hair of these unfortunates was probably
significant. For in Egypt the oxen which were sacrificed had also to
be red; a single black or white hair found on the beast would have
disqualified it for the sacrifice. If, as I conjecture, these human
sacrifices were intended to promote the growth of the crops--and the
winnowing of their ashes seems to support this view--redhaired
victims were perhaps selected as best fitted to personate the spirit
of the ruddy grain. For when a god is represented by a living
person, it is natural that the human representative should be chosen
on the ground of his supposed resemblance to the divine original.
Hence the ancient Mexicans, conceiving the maize as a personal being
who went through the whole course of life between seed-time and
harvest, sacrificed new-born babes when the maize was sown, older
children when it had sprouted, and so on till it was fully ripe,
when they sacrificed old men. A name for Osiris was the "crop" or
"harvest"; and the ancients sometimes explained him as a
personification of the corn.

2. Osiris a Tree-spirit

BUT Osiris was more than a spirit of the corn; he was also a
tree-spirit, and this may perhaps have been his primitive character,
since the worship of trees is naturally older in the history of
religion than the worship of the cereals. The character of Osiris as
a tree-spirit was represented very graphically in a ceremony
described by Firmicus Maternus. A pine-tree having been cut down,
the centre was hollowed out, and with the wood thus excavated an
image of Osiris was made, which was then buried like a corpse in the
hollow of the tree. It is hard to imagine how the conception of a
tree as tenanted by a personal being could be more plainly
expressed. The image of Osiris thus made was kept for a year and
then burned, exactly as was done with the image of Attis which was
attached to the pine-tree. The ceremony of cutting the tree, as
described by Firmicus Maternus, appears to be alluded to by
Plutarch. It was probably the ritual counterpart of the mythical
discovery of the body of Osiris enclosed in the _erica_-tree. In the
hall of Osiris at Denderah the coffin containing the hawk-headed
mummy of the god is clearly depicted as enclosed within a tree,
apparently a conifer, the trunk and branches of which are seen above
and below the coffin. The scene thus corresponds closely both to the
myth and to the ceremony described by Firmicus Maternus.

It accords with the character of Osiris as a tree-spirit that his
worshippers were forbidden to injure fruit-trees, and with his
character as a god of vegetation in general that they were not
allowed to stop up wells of water, which are so important for the
irrigation of hot southern lands. According to one legend, he taught
men to train the vine to poles, to prune its superfluous foliage,
and to extract the juice of the grape. In the papyrus of Nebseni,
written about 1550 B.C., Osiris is depicted sitting in a shrine,
from the roof of which hang clusters of grapes; and in the papyrus
of the royal scribe Nekht we see the god enthroned in front of a
pool, from the banks of which a luxuriant vine, with many bunches of
grapes, grows towards the green face of the seated deity. The ivy
was sacred to him, and was called his plant because it is always

3. Osiris a God of Fertility

AS A GOD of vegetation Osiris was naturally conceived as a god of
creative energy in general, since men at a certain stage of
evolution fail to distinguish between the reproductive powers of
animals and of plants. Hence a striking feature in his worship was
the coarse but expressive symbolism by which this aspect of his
nature was presented to the eye not merely of the initiated but of
the multitude. At his festival women used to go about the villages
singing songs in his praise and carrying obscene images of him which
they set in motion by means of strings. The custom was probably a
charm to ensure the growth of the crops. A similar image of him,
decked with all the fruits of the earth, is said to have stood in a
temple before a figure of Isis, and in the chambers dedicated to him
at Philae the dead god is portrayed lying on his bier in an attitude
which indicates in the plainest way that even in death his
generative virtue was not extinct but only suspended, ready to prove
a source of life and fertility to the world when the opportunity
should offer. Hymns addressed to Osiris contain allusions to this
important side of his nature. In one of them it is said that the
world waxes green in triumph through him; and another declares,
"Thou art the father and mother of mankind, they live on thy breath,
they subsist on the flesh of thy body." We may conjecture that in
this paternal aspect he was supposed, like other gods of fertility,
to bless men and women with offspring, and that the processions at
his festival were intended to promote this object as well as to
quicken the seed in the ground. It would be to misjudge ancient
religion to denounce as lewd and profligate the emblems and the
ceremonies which the Egyptians employed for the purpose of giving
effect to this conception of the divine power. The ends which they
proposed to themselves in these rites were natural and laudable;
only the means they adopted to compass them were mistaken. A similar
fallacy induced the Greeks to adopt a like symbolism in their
Dionysiac festivals, and the superficial but striking resemblance
thus produced between the two religions has perhaps more than
anything else misled enquirers, both ancient and modern, into
identifying worships which, though certainly akin in nature, are
perfectly distinct and independent in origin.

4. Osiris a God of the Dead

WE have seen that in one of his aspects Osiris was the ruler and
judge of the dead. To a people like the Egyptians, who not only
believed in a life beyond the grave but actually spent much of their
time, labour, and money in preparing for it, this office of the god
must have appeared hardly, if at all, less important than his
function of making the earth to bring forth its fruits in due
season. We may assume that in the faith of his worshippers the two
provinces of the god were intimately connected. In laying their dead
in the grave they committed them to his keeping who could raise them
from the dust to life eternal, even as he caused the seed to spring
from the ground. Of that faith the corn-stuffed effigies of Osiris
found in Egyptian tombs furnish an eloquent and un-equivocal
testimony. They were at once an emblem and an instrument of
resurrection. Thus from the sprouting of the grain the ancient
Egyptians drew an augury of human immortality. They are not the only
people who have built the same lofty hopes on the same slender

A god who thus fed his people with his own broken body in this life,
and who held out to them a promise of a blissful eternity in a
better world hereafter, naturally reigned supreme in their
affections. We need not wonder, therefore, that in Egypt the worship
of the other gods was overshadowed by that of Osiris, and that while
they were revered each in his own district, he and his divine
partner Isis were adored in all.

XLI. Isis

THE ORIGINAL meaning of the goddess Isis is still more difficult to
determine than that of her brother and husband Osiris. Her
attributes and epithets were so numerous that in the hieroglyphics
she is called "the many-named," "the thousand-named," and in Greek
inscriptions "the myriad-named." Yet in her complex nature it is
perhaps still possible to detect the original nucleus round which by
a slow process of accretion the other elements gathered. For if her
brother and husband Osiris was in one of his aspects the corn-god,
as we have seen reason to believe, she must surely have been the
corn-goddess. There are at least some grounds for thinking so. For
if we may trust Diodorus Siculus, whose authority appears to have
been the Egyptian historian Manetho, the discovery of wheat and
barley was attributed to Isis, and at her festivals stalks of these
grains were carried in procession to commemorate the boon she had
conferred on men. A further detail is added by Augustine. He says
that Isis made the discovery of barley at the moment when she was
sacrificing to the common ancestors of her husband and herself, all
of whom had been kings, and that she showed the newly discovered
ears of barley to Osiris and his councillor Thoth or Mercury, as
Roman writers called him. That is why, adds Augustine, they identify
Isis with Ceres. Further, at harvest-time, when the Egyptian reapers
had cut the first stalks, they laid them down and beat their
breasts, wailing and calling upon Isis. The custom has been already
explained as a lamen for the corn-spirit slain under the sickle.
Amongst the epithets by which Isis is designated in the inscriptions
are "Creatress of green things," "Green goddess, whose green colour
is like unto the greenness of the earth," "Lady of Bread," "Lady of
Beer," "Lady of Abundance." According to Brugsch she is "not only
the creatress of the fresh verdure of vegetation which covers the
earth, but is actually the green corn-field itself, which is
personified as a goddess." This is confirmed by her epithet _Sochit_
or _Sochet,_ meaning "a corn-field," a sense which the word still
retains in Coptic. The Greeks conceived of Isis as a corn-goddess,
for they identified her with Demeter. In a Greek epigram she is
described as "she who has given birth to the fruits of the earth,"
and "the mother of the ears of corn"; and in a hymn composed in her
honour she speaks of herself as "queen of the wheat-field," and is
described as "charged with the care of the fruitful furrow's
wheat-rich path." Accordingly, Greek or Roman artists often
represented her with ears of corn on her head or in her hand.

Such, we may suppose, was Isis in the olden time, a rustic
Corn-Mother adored with uncouth rites by Egyptian swains. But the
homely features of the clownish goddess could hardly be traced in
the refined, the saintly form which, spiritualised by ages of
religious evolution, she presented to her worshippers of after days
as the true wife, the tender mother, the beneficent queen of nature,
encircled with the nimbus of moral purity, of immemorial and
mysterious sanctity. Thus chastened and transfigured she won many
hearts far beyond the boundaries of her native land. In that welter
of religions which accompanied the decline of national life in
antiquity her worship was one of the most popular at Rome and
throughout the empire. Some of the Roman emperors themselves were
openly addicted to it. And however the religion of Isis may, like
any other, have been often worn as a cloak by men and women of loose
life, her rites appear on the whole to have been honourably
distinguished by a dignity and composure, a solemnity and decorum,
well fitted to soothe the troubled mind, to ease the burdened heart.
They appealed therefore to gentle spirits, and above all to women,
whom the bloody and licentious rites of other Oriental goddesses
only shocked and repelled. We need not wonder, then, that in a
period of decadence, when traditional faiths were shaken, when
systems clashed, when men's minds were disquieted, when the fabric
of empire itself, once deemed eternal, began to show ominous rents
and fissures, the serene figure of Isis with her spiritual calm, her
gracious promise of immortality, should have appeared to many like a
star in a stormy sky, and should have roused in their breasts a
rapture of devotion not unlike that which was paid in the Middle
Ages to the Virgin Mary. Indeed her stately ritual, with its shaven
and tonsured priests, its matins and vespers, its tinkling music,
its baptism and aspersions of holy water, its solemn processions,
its jewelled images of the Mother of God, presented many points of
similarity to the pomps and ceremonies of Catholicism. The
resemblance need not be purely accidental. Ancient Egypt may have
contributed its share to the gorgeous symbolism of the Catholic
Church as well as to the pale abstractions of her theology.
Certainly in art the figure of Isis suckling the infant Horus is so
like that of the Madonna and child that it has sometimes received
the adoration of ignorant Christians. And to Isis in her later
character of patroness of mariners the Virgin Mary perhaps owes her
beautiful epithet of _Stella Maris,_ "Star of the Sea," under which
she is adored by tempest-tossed sailors. The attributes of a marine
deity may have been bestowed on Isis by the sea-faring Greeks of
Alexandria. They are quite foreign to her original character and to
the habits of the Egyptians, who had no love of the sea. On this
hypothesis Sirius, the bright star of Isis, which on July mornings
rises from the glassy waves of the eastern Mediterranean, a
harbinger of halcyon weather to mariners, was the true _Stella
Maris,_ "the Star of the Sea."

XLII. Osiris and the Sun

OSIRIS has been sometimes interpreted as the sun-god, and in modern
times this view has been held by so many distinguished writers that
it deserves a brief examination. If we enquire on what evidence
Osiris has been identified with the sun or the sun-god, it will be
found on analysis to be minute in quantity and dubious, where it is
not absolutely worthless, in quality. The diligent Jablonski, the
first modern scholar to collect and sift the testimony of classical
writers on Egyptian religion, says that it can be shown in many ways
that Osiris is the sun, and that he could produce a cloud of
witnesses to prove it, but that it is needless to do so, since no
learned man is ignorant of the fact. Of the ancient writers whom he
condescends to quote, the only two who expressly identify Osiris
with the sun are Diodorus and Macrobius. But little weight can be
attached to their evidence; for the statement of Diodorus is vague
and rhetorical, and the reasons which Macrobius, one of the fathers
of solar mythology, assigns for the identification are exceedingly

The ground upon which some modern writers seem chiefly to rely for
the identification of Osiris with the sun is that the story of his
death fits better with the solar phenomena than with any other in
nature. It may readily be admitted that the daily appearance and
disappearance of the sun might very naturally be expressed by a myth
of his death and resurrection; and writers who regard Osiris as the
sun are careful to indicate that it is the diurnal, and not the
annual, course of the sun to which they understand the myth to
apply. Thus Renouf, who identified Osiris with the sun, admitted
that the Egyptian sun could not with any show of reason be described
as dead in winter. But if his daily death was the theme of the
legend, why was it celebrated by an annual ceremony? This fact alone
seems fatal to the interpretation of the myth as descriptive of
sunset and sunrise. Again, though the sun may be said to die daily,
in what sense can he be said to be torn in pieces?

In the course of our enquiry it has, I trust, been made clear that
there is another natural phenomenon to which the conception of death
and resurrection is as applicable as to sunset and sunrise, and
which, as a matter of fact, has been so conceived and represented in
folk-custom. That phenomenon is the annual growth and decay of
vegetation. A strong reason for interpreting the death of Osiris as
the decay of vegetation rather than as the sunset is to be found in
the general, though not unanimous, voice of antiquity, which classed
together the worship and myths of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus,
and Demeter, as religions of essentially the same type. The
consensus of ancient opinion on this subject seems too great to be
rejected as a mere fancy. So closely did the rites of Osiris
resemble those of Adonis at Byblus that some of the people of Byblus
themselves maintained that it was Osiris and not Adonis whose death
was mourned by them. Such a view could certainly not have been held
if the rituals of the two gods had not been so alike as to be almost
indistinguishable. Herodotus found the similarity between the rites
of Osiris and Dionysus so great, that he thought it impossible the
latter could have arisen independently; they must, he supposed, have
been recently borrowed, with slight alterations, by the Greeks from
the Egyptians. Again, Plutarch, a very keen student of comparative
religion, insists upon the detailed resemblance of the rites of
Osiris to those of Dionysus. We cannot reject the evidence of such
intelligent and trustworthy witnesses on plain matters of fact which
fell under their own cognizance. Their explanations of the worships
it is indeed possible to reject, for the meaning of religious cults
is often open to question; but resemblances of ritual are matters of
observation. Therefore, those who explain Osiris as the sun are
driven to the alternative of either dismissing as mistaken the
testimony of antiquity to the similarity of the rites of Osiris,
Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, or of interpreting all these
rites as sun-worship. No modern scholar has fairly faced and
accepted either side of this alternative. To accept the former would
be to affirm that we know the rites of these deities better than the
men who practised, or at least who witnessed them. To accept the
latter would involve a wrenching, clipping, mangling, and distorting
of myth and ritual from which even Macrobius shrank. On the other
hand, the view that the essence of all these rites was the mimic
death and revival of vegetation, explains them separately and
collectively in an easy and natural way, and harmonises with the
general testimony borne by the ancients to their substantial

XLIII. Dionysus

IN THE PRECEDING chapters we saw that in antiquity the civilised
nations of Western Asia and Egypt pictured to themselves the changes
of the seasons, and particularly the annual growth and decay of
vegetation, as episodes in the life of gods, whose mournful death
and happy resurrection they celebrated with dramatic rites of
alternate lamentation and rejoicing. But if the celebration was in
form dramatic, it was in substance magical; that is to say, it was
intended, on the principles of sympathetic magic, to ensure the
vernal regeneration of plants and the multiplication of animals,
which had seemed to be menaced by the inroads of winter. In the
ancient world, however, such ideas and such rites were by no means
confined to the Oriental peoples of Babylon and Syria, of Phrygia
and Egypt; they were not a product peculiar to the religious
mysticism of the dreamy East, but were shared by the races of
livelier fancy and more mercurial temperament who inhabited the
shores and islands of the Aegean. We need not, with some enquirers
in ancient and modern times, suppose that these Western peoples
borrowed from the older civilisation of the Orient the conception of
the Dying and Reviving God, together with the solemn ritual, in
which that conception was dramatically set forth before the eyes of
the worshippers. More probably the resemblance which may be traced
in this respect between the religions of the East and West is no
more than what we commonly, though incorrectly, call a fortuitous
coincidence, the effect of similar causes acting alike on the
similar constitution of the human mind in different countries and
under different skies. The Greek had no need to journey into far
countries to learn the vicissitudes of the seasons, to mark the
fleeting beauty of the damask rose, the transient glory of the
golden corn, the passing splendour of the purple grapes. Year by
year in his own beautiful land he beheld, with natural regret, the
bright pomp of summer fading into the gloom and stagnation of
winter, and year by year he hailed with natural delight the outburst
of fresh life in spring. Accustomed to personify the forces of
nature, to tinge her cold abstractions with the warm hues of
imagination, to clothe her naked realities with the gorgeous drapery
of a mythic fancy, he fashioned for himself a train of gods and
goddesses, of spirits and elves, out of the shifting panorama of the
seasons, and followed the annual fluctuations of their fortunes with
alternate emotions of cheerfulness and dejection, of gladness and
sorrow, which found their natural expression in alternate rites of
rejoicing and lamentation, of revelry and mourning. A consideration
of some of the Greek divinities who thus died and rose again from
the dead may furnish us with a series of companion pictures to set
side by side with the sad figures of Adonis, Attis, and Osiris. We
begin with Dionysus.

The god Dionysus or Bacchus is best known to us as a personification
of the vine and of the exhilaration produced by the juice of the
grape. His ecstatic worship, characterised by wild dances, thrilling
music, and tipsy excess, appears to have originated among the rude
tribes of Thrace, who were notoriously addicted to drunkenness. Its
mystic doctrines and extravagant rites were essentially foreign to
the clear intelligence and sober temperament of the Greek race. Yet
appealing as it did to that love of mystery and that proneness to
revert to savagery which seem to be innate in most men, the religion
spread like wildfire through Greece until the god whom Homer hardly
deigned to notice had become the most popular figure of the
pantheon. The resemblance which his story and his ceremonies present
to those of Osiris have led some enquirers both in ancient and
modern times to hold that Dionysus was merely a disguised Osiris,
imported directly from Egypt into Greece. But the great
preponderance of evidence points to his Thracian origin, and the
similarity of the two worships is sufficiently explained by the
similarity of the ideas and customs on which they were founded.

While the vine with its clusters was the most characteristic
manifestation of Dionysus, he was also a god of trees in general.
Thus we are told that almost all the Greeks sacrificed to "Dionysus
of the tree." In Boeotia one of his titles was "Dionysus in the
tree." His image was often merely an upright post, without arms, but
draped in a mantle, with a bearded mask to represent the head, and
with leafy boughs projecting from the head or body to show the
nature of the deity. On a vase his rude effigy is depicted appearing
out of a low tree or bush. At Magnesia on the Maeander an image of
Dionysus is said to have been found in a plane-tree, which had been
broken by the wind. He was the patron of cultivated trees: prayers
were offered to him that he would make the trees grow; and he was
especially honoured by husbandmen, chiefly fruit-growers, who set up
an image of him, in the shape of a natural tree-stump, in their
orchards. He was said to have discovered all tree-fruits, amongst
which apples and figs are particularly mentioned; and he was
referred to as "well-fruited," "he of the green fruit," and "making
the fruit to grow." One of his titles was "teeming" or "bursting"
(as of sap or blossoms); and there was a Flowery Dionysus in Attica
and at Patrae in Achaia. The Athenians sacrificed to him for the
prosperity of the fruits of the land. Amongst the trees particularly
sacred to him, in addition to the vine, was the pine-tree. The
Delphic oracle commanded the Corinthians to worship a particular
pine-tree "equally with the god," so they made two images of
Dionysus out of it, with red faces and gilt bodies. In art a wand,
tipped with a pine-cone, is commonly carried by the god or his
worshippers. Again, the ivy and the fig-tree were especially
associated with him. In the Attic township of Acharnae there was a
Dionysus Ivy; at Lacedaemon there was a Fig Dionysus; and in Naxos,
where figs were called _meilicha,_ there was a Dionysus Meilichios,
the face of whose image was made of fig-wood.

Further, there are indications, few but significant, that Dionysus
was conceived as a deity of agriculture and the corn. He is spoken
of as himself doing the work of a husbandman: he is reported to have
been the first to yoke oxen to the plough, which before had been
dragged by hand alone; and some people found in this tradition the
clue to the bovine shape in which, as we shall see, the god was
often supposed to present himself to his worshippers. Thus guiding
the ploughshare and scattering the seed as he went, Dionysus is said
to have eased the labour of the husbandman. Further, we are told
that in the land of the Bisaltae, a Thracian tribe, there was a
great and fair sanctuary of Dionysus, where at his festival a bright
light shone forth at night as a token of an abundant harvest
vouchsafed by the diety; but if the crops were to fail that year,
the mystic light was not seen, darkness brooded over the sanctuary
as at other times. Moreover, among the emblems of Dionysus was the
winnowing-fan, that is the large open shovel-shaped basket, which
down to modern times has been used by farmers to separate the grain
from the chaff by tossing the corn in the air. This simple
agricultural instrument figured in the mystic rites of Dionysus;
indeed the god is traditionally said to have been placed at birth in
a winnowing-fan as in a cradle: in art he is represented as an
infant so cradled; and from these traditions and representations he
derived the epithet of _Liknites,_ that is, "He of the

Like other gods of vegetation Dionysus was believed to have died a
violent death, but to have been brought to life again; and his
sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted in his sacred
rites. His tragic story is thus told by the poet Nonnus. Zeus in the
form of a serpent visited Persephone, and she bore him Zagreus, that
is, Dionysus, a horned infant. Scarcely was he born, when the babe
mounted the throne of his father Zeus and mimicked the great god by
brandishing the lightning in his tiny hand. But he did not occupy
the throne long; for the treacherous Titans, their faces whitened
with chalk, attacked him with knives while he was looking at himself
in a mirror. For a time he evaded their assaults by turning himself
into various shapes, assuming the likeness successively of Zeus and
Cronus, of a young man, of a lion, a horse, and a serpent. Finally,
in the form of a bull, he was cut to pieces by the murderous knives
of his enemies. His Cretan myth, as related by Firmicus Maternus,
ran thus. He was said to have been the bastard son of Jupiter, a
Cretan king. Going abroad, Jupiter transferred the throne and
sceptre to the youthful Dionysus, but, knowing that his wife Juno
cherished a jealous dislike of the child, he entrusted Dionysus to
the care of guards upon whose fidelity he believed he could rely.
Juno, however, bribed the guards, and amusing the child with rattles
and a cunningly-wrought looking glass lured him into an ambush,
where her satellites, the Titans, rushed upon him, cut him limb from
limb, boiled his body with various herbs, and ate it. But his sister
Minerva, who had shared in the deed, kept his heart and gave it to
Jupiter on his return, revealing to him the whole history of the
crime. In his rage, Jupiter put the Titans to death by torture, and,
to soothe his grief for the loss of his son, made an image in which
he enclosed the child's heart, and then built a temple in his
honour. In this version a Euhemeristic turn has been given to the
myth by representing Jupiter and Juno (Zeus and Hera) as a king and
queen of Crete. The guards referred to are the mythical Curetes who
danced a war-dance round the infant Dionysus, as they are said to
have done round the infant Zeus. Very noteworthy is the legend,
recorded both by Nonnus and Firmicus, that in his infancy Dionysus
occupied for a short time the throne of his father Zeus. So Proclus
tells us that "Dionysus was the last king of the gods appointed by
Zeus. For his father set him on the kingly throne, and placed in his
hand the sceptre, and made him king of all the gods of the world."
Such traditions point to a custom of temporarily investing the
king's son with the royal dignity as a preliminary to sacrificing
him instead of his father. Pomegranates were supposed to have sprung
from the blood of Dionysus, as anemones from the blood of Adonis and
violets from the blood of Attis: hence women refrained from eating
seeds of pomegranates at the festival of the Thesmophoria. According
to some, the severed limbs of Dionysus were pieced together, at the
command of Zeus, by Apollo, who buried them on Parnassus. The grave
of Dionysus was shown in the Delphic temple beside a golden statue
of Apollo. However, according to another account, the grave of
Dionysus was at Thebes, where he is said to have been torn in
pieces. Thus far the resurrection of the slain god is not mentioned,
but in other versions of the myth it is variously related. According
to one version, which represented Dionysus as a son of Zeus and
Demeter, his mother pieced together his mangled limbs and made him
young again. In others it is simply said that shortly after his
burial he rose from the dead and ascended up to heaven; or that Zeus
raised him up as he lay mortally wounded; or that Zeus swallowed the
heart of Dionysus and then begat him afresh by Semele, who in the
common legend figures as mother of Dionysus. Or, again, the heart
was pounded up and given in a potion to Semele, who thereby
conceived him.

Turning from the myth to the ritual, we find that the Cretans
celebrated a biennial festival at which the passion of Dionysus was
represented in every detail. All that he had done or suffered in his
last moments was enacted before the eyes of his worshippers, who
tore a live bull to pieces with their teeth and roamed the woods
with frantic shouts. In front of them was carried a casket supposed
to contain the sacred heart of Dionysus, and to the wild music of
flutes and cymbals they mimicked the rattles by which the infant god
had been lured to his doom. Where the resurrection formed part of
the myth, it also was acted at the rites, and it even appears that a
general doctrine of resurrection, or at least of immortality, was
inculcated on the worshippers; for Plutarch, writing to console his
wife on the death of their infant daughter, comforts her with the
thought of the immortality of the soul as taught by tradition and
revealed in the mysteries of Dionysus. A different form of the myth
of the death and resurrection of Dionysus is that he descended into
Hades to bring up his mother Semele from the dead. The local Argive
tradition was that he went down through the Alcyonian lake; and his
return from the lower world, in other words his resurrection, was
annually celebrated on the spot by the Argives, who summoned him
from the water by trumpet blasts, while they threw a lamb into the
lake as an offering to the warder of the dead. Whether this was a
spring festival does not appear, but the Lydians certainly
celebrated the advent of Dionysus in spring; the god was supposed to
bring the season with him. Deities of vegetation, who are believed
to pass a certain portion of each year underground, naturally come
to be regarded as gods of the lower world or of the dead. Both
Dionysus and Osiris were so conceived.

A feature in the mythical character of Dionysus, which at first
sight appears inconsistent with his nature as a deity of vegetation,
is that he was often conceived and represented in animal shape,
especially in the form, or at least with the horns, of a bull. Thus
he is spoken of as "cow-born," "bull," "bull-shaped," "bull-faced,"
"bull-browed," "bull-horned," "horn-bearing," "two-horned,"
"horned." He was believed to appear, at least occasionally, as a
bull. His images were often, as at Cyzicus, made in bull shape, or
with bull horns; and he was painted with horns. Types of the horned
Dionysus are found amongst the surviving monuments of antiquity. On
one statuette he appears clad in a bull's hide, the head, horns, and
hoofs hanging down behind. Again, he is represented as a child with
clusters of grapes round his brow, and a calf's head, with sprouting
horns, attached to the back of his head. On a red-figured vase the
god is portrayed as a calf-headed child seated on a woman's lap. The
people of Cynaetha held a festival of Dionysus in winter, when men,
who had greased their bodies with oil for the occasion, used to pick
out a bull from the herd and carry it to the sanctuary of the god.
Dionysus was supposed to inspire their choice of the particular
bull, which probably represented the deity himself; for at his
festivals he was believed to appear in bull form. The women of Elis
hailed him as a bull, and prayed him to come with his bull's foot.
They sang, "Come hither, Dionysus, to thy holy temple by the sea;
come with the Graces to thy temple, rushing with thy bull's foot, O
goodly bull, O goodly bull!" The Bacchanals of Thrace wore horns in
imitation of their god. According to the myth, it was in the shape
of a bull that he was torn to pieces by the Titans; and the Cretans,
when they acted the sufferings and death of Dionysus, tore a live
bull to pieces with their teeth. Indeed, the rending and devouring
of live bulls and calves appear to have been a regular feature of
the Dionysiac rites. When we consider the practice of portraying the
god as a bull or with some of the features of the animal, the belief
that he appeared in bull form to his worshippers at the sacred
rites, and the legend that in bull form he had been torn in pieces,
we cannot doubt that in rending and devouring a live bull at his
festival the worshippers of Dionysus believed themselves to be
killing the god, eating his flesh, and drinking his blood.

Another animal whose form Dionysus assumed was the goat. One of his
names was "Kid." At Athens and at Hermion he was worshipped under
the title of "the one of the Black Goatskin," and a legend ran that
on a certain occasion he had appeared clad in the skin from which he
took the title. In the wine-growing district of Phlius, where in
autumn the plain is still thickly mantled with the red and golden
foliage of the fading vines, there stood of old a bronze image of a
goat, which the husbandmen plastered with gold-leaf as a means of
protecting their vines against blight. The image probably
represented the vine-god himself. To save him from the wrath of
Hera, his father Zeus changed the youthful Dionysus into a kid; and
when the gods fled to Egypt to escape the fury of Typhon, Dionysus
was turned into a goat. Hence when his worshippers rent in pieces a
live goat and devoured it raw, they must have believed that they
were eating the body and blood of the god. The custom of tearing in
pieces the bodies of animals and of men and then devouring them raw
has been practised as a religious rite by savages in modern times.
We need not therefore dismiss as a fable the testimony of antiquity
to the observance of similar rites among the frenzied worshippers of

The custom of killing a god in animal form, which we shall examine
more in detail further on, belongs to a very early stage of human
culture, and is apt in later times to be misunderstood. The advance
of thought tends to strip the old animal and plant gods of their
bestial and vegetable husk, and to leave their human attributes
(which are always the kernel of the conception) as the final and
sole residuum. In other words, animal and plant gods tend to become
purely anthropomorphic. When they have become wholly or nearly so,
the animals and plants which were at first the deities themselves,
still retain a vague and ill-understood connexion with the
anthropomorphic gods who have developed out of them. The origin of
the relationship between the deity and the animal or plant having
been forgotten, various stories are invented to explain it. These
explanations may follow one of two lines according as they are based
on the habitual or on the exceptional treatment of the sacred animal
or plant. The sacred animal was habitually spared, and only
exceptionally slain; and accordingly the myth might be devised to
explain either why it was spared or why it was killed. Devised for
the former purpose, the myth would tell of some service rendered to
the deity by the animal; devised for the latter purpose, the myth
would tell of some injury inflicted by the animal on the god. The
reason given for sacrificing goats to Dionysus exemplifies a myth of
the latter sort. They were sacrificed to him, it was said, because
they injured the vine. Now the goat, as we have seen, was originally
an embodiment of the god himself. But when the god had divested
himself of his animal character and had become essentially
anthropomorphic, the killing of the goat in his worship came to be
regarded no longer as a slaying of the deity himself, but as a
sacrifice offered to him; and since some reason had to be assigned
why the goat in particular should be sacrificed, it was alleged that
this was a punishment inflicted on the goat for injuring the vine,
the object of the god's especial care. Thus we have the strange
spectacle of a god sacrificed to himself on the ground that he is
his own enemy. And as the deity is supposed to partake of the victim
offered to him, it follows that, when the victim is the god's old
self, the god eats of his own flesh. Hence the goat-god Dionysus is
represented as eating raw goat's blood; and the bull-god Dionysus is
called "eater of bulls." On the analogy of these instances we may
conjecture that wherever a deity is described as the eater of a
particular animal, the animal in question was originally nothing but
the deity himself. Later on we shall find that some savages
propitiate dead bears and whales by offering them portions of their
own bodies.

All this, however, does not explain why a deity of vegetation should
appear in animal form. But the consideration of that point had
better be deferred till we have discussed the character and
attributes of Demeter. Meantime it remains to mention that in some
places, instead of an animal, a human being was torn in pieces at
the rites of Dionysus. This was the practice in Chios and Tenedos;
and at Potniae in Boeotia the tradition ran that it had been
formerly the custom to sacrifice to the goat-smiting Dionysus a
child, for whom a goat was afterwards substituted. At Orchomenus, as
we have seen, the human victim was taken from the women of an old
royal family. As the slain bull or goat represented the slain god,
so, we may suppose, the human victim also represented him.

The legends of the deaths of Pentheus and Lycurgus, two kings who
are said to have been torn to pieces, the one by Bacchanals, the
other by horses, for their opposition to the rites of Dionysus, may
be, as I have already suggested, distorted reminiscences of a custom
of sacrificing divine kings in the character of Dionysus and of
dispersing the fragments of their broken bodies over the fields for
the purpose of fertilising them. It is probably no mere coincidence
that Dionysus himself is said to have been torn in pieces at Thebes,
the very place where according to legend the same fate befell king
Pentheus at the hands of the frenzied votaries of the vine-god.

However, a tradition of human sacrifice may sometimes have been a
mere misinterpretation of a sacrificial ritual in which an animal
victim was treated as a human being. For example, at Tenedos the
new-born calf sacrificed to Dionysus was shod in buskins, and the
mother cow was tended like a woman in child-bed. At Rome a shegoat
was sacrificed to Vedijovis as if it were a human victim. Yet on the
other hand it is equally possible, and perhaps more probable, that
these curious rites were themselves mitigations of an older and
ruder custom of sacrificing human beings, and that the later
pretence of treating the sacrificial victims as if they were human
beings was merely part of a pious and merciful fraud, which palmed
off on the deity less precious victims than living men and women.
This interpretation is supported by many undoubted cases in which
animals have been substituted for human victims.

XLIV. Demeter and Persephone

DIONYSUS was not the only Greek deity whose tragic story and ritual
appear to reflect the decay and revival of vegetation. In another
form and with a different application the old tale reappears in the
myth of Demeter and Persephone. Substantially their myth is
identical with the Syrian one of Aphrodite (Astarte) and Adonis, the
Phrygian one of Cybele and Attis, and the Egyptian one of Isis and
Osiris. In the Greek fable, as in its Asiatic and Egyptian
counterparts, a goddess mourns the loss of a loved one, who
personifies the vegetation, more especially the corn, which dies in
winter to revive in spring; only whereas the Oriental imagination
figured the loved and lost one as a dead lover or a dead husband
lamented by his leman or his wife, Greek fancy embodied the same
idea in the tenderer and purer form of a dead daughter bewailed by
her sorrowing mother.

The oldest literary document which narrates the myth of Demeter and
Persephone is the beautiful Homeric _Hymn to Demeter,_ which critics
assign to the seventh century before our era. The object of the poem
is to explain the origin of the Eleusinian mysteries, and the
complete silence of the poet as to Athens and the Athenians, who in
after ages took conspicuous part in the festival, renders it
probable that the hymn was composed in the far off time when Eleusis
was still a petty independent state, and before the stately
procession of the Mysteries had begun to defile, in bright September
days, over the low chain of barren rocky hills which divides the
flat Eleusinian cornland from the more spacious olive-clad expanse
of the Athenian plain. Be that as it may, the hymn reveals to us the
conception which the writer entertained of the character and
functions of the two goddesses; their natural shapes stand out
sharply enough under the thin veil of poetical imagery. The youthful
Persephone, so runs the tale, was gathering roses and lilies,
crocuses and violets, hyacinths and narcissuses in a lush meadow,
when the earth gaped and Pluto, lord of the Dead, issuing from the
abyss carried her off on his golden car to be his bride and queen in
the gloomy subterranean world. Her sorrowing mother Demeter, with
her yellow tresses veiled in a dark mourning mantle, sought her over
land and sea, and learning from the Sun her daughter's fate she
withdrew in high dudgeon from the gods and took up her abode at
Eleusis, where she presented herself to the king's daughters in the
guise of an old woman, sitting sadly under the shadow of an olive
tree beside the Maiden's Well, to which the damsels had come to draw
water in bronze pitchers for their father's house. In her wrath at
her bereavement the goddess suffered not the seed to grow in the
earth but kept it hidden under ground, and she vowed that never
would she set foot on Olympus and never would she let the corn
sprout till her lost daughter should be restored to her. Vainly the
oxen dragged the ploughs to and fro in the fields; vainly the sower
dropped the barley seed in the brown furrows; nothing came up from
the parched and crumbling soil. Even the Rarian plain near Eleusis,
which was wont to wave with yellow harvests, lay bare and fallow.
Mankind would have perished of hunger and the gods would have been
robbed of the sacrifices which were their due, if Zeus in alarm had
not commanded Pluto to disgorge his prey, to restore his bride
Persephone to her mother Demeter. The grim lord of the Dead smiled
and obeyed, but before he sent back his queen to the upper air on a
golden car, he gave her the seed of a pomegranate to eat, which
ensured that she would return to him. But Zeus stipulated that
henceforth Persephone should spend two thirds of every year with her
mother and the gods in the upper world and one third of the year
with her husband in the nether world, from which she was to return
year by year when the earth was gay with spring flowers. Gladly the
daughter then returned to the sunshine, gladly her mother received
her and fell upon her neck; and in her joy at recovering the lost
one Demeter made the corn to sprout from the clods of the ploughed
fields and all the broad earth to be heavy with leaves and blossoms.
And straightway she went and showed this happy sight to the princes
of Eleusis, to Triptolemus, Eumolpus, Diocles, and to the king
Celeus himself, and moreover she revealed to them her sacred rites
and mysteries. Blessed, says the poet, is the mortal man who has
seen these things, but he who has had no share of them in life will
never be happy in death when he has descended into the darkness of
the grave. So the two goddesses departed to dwell in bliss with the
gods on Olympus; and the bard ends the hymn with a pious prayer to
Demeter and Persephone that they would be pleased to grant him a
livelihood in return for his song.

It has been generally recognised, and indeed it seems scarcely open
to doubt, that the main theme which the poet set before himself in
composing this hymn was to describe the traditional foundation of
the Eleusinian mysteries by the goddess Demeter. The whole poem
leads up to the transformation scene in which the bare leafless
expanse of the Eleusinian plain is suddenly turned, at the will of
the goddess, into a vast sheet of ruddy corn; the beneficent deity
takes the princes of Eleusis, shows them what she has done, teaches
them her mystic rites, and vanishes with her daughter to heaven. The
revelation of the mysteries is the triumphal close of the piece.
This conclusion is confirmed by a more minute examination of the
poem, which proves that the poet has given, not merely a general
account of the foundation of the mysteries, but also in more or less
veiled language mythical explanations of the origin of particular
rites which we have good reason to believe formed essential features
of the festival. Amongst the rites as to which the poet thus drops
significant hints are the preliminary fast of the candidates for
initiation, the torchlight procession, the all-night vigil, the
sitting of the candidates, veiled and in silence, on stools covered
with sheepskins, the use of scurrilous language, the breaking of
ribald jests, and the solemn communion with the divinity by
participation in a draught of barley-water from a holy chalice.

But there is yet another and a deeper secret of the mysteries which
the author of the poem appears to have divulged under cover of his
narrative. He tells us how, as soon as she had transformed the
barren brown expanse of the Eleusinian plain into a field of golden
grain, she gladdened the eyes of Triptolemus and the other
Eleusinian princes by showing them the growing or standing corn.
When we compare this part of the story with the statement of a
Christian writer of the second century, Hippolytus, that the very
heart of the mysteries consisted in showing to the initiated a
reaped ear of corn, we can hardly doubt that the poet of the hymn
was well acquainted with this solemn rite, and that he deliberately
intended to explain its origin in precisely the same way as he
explained other rites of the mysteries, namely by representing
Demeter as having set the example of performing the ceremony in her
own person. Thus myth and ritual mutually explain and confirm each
other. The poet of the seventh century before our era gives us the
myth--he could not without sacrilege have revealed the ritual: the
Christian father reveals the ritual, and his revelation accords
perfectly with the veiled hint of the old poet. On the whole, then,
we may, with many modern scholars, confidently accept the statement
of the learned Christian father Clement of Alexandria, that the myth
of Demeter and Persephone was acted as a sacred drama in the
mysteries of Eleusis.

But if the myth was acted as a part, perhaps as the principal part,
of the most famous and solemn religious rites of ancient Greece, we
have still to enquire, What was, after all, stripped of later
accretions, the original kernel of the myth which appears to later
ages surrounded and transfigured by an aureole of awe and mystery,
lit up by some of the most brilliant rays of Grecian literature and
art? If we follow the indications given by our oldest literary
authority on the subject, the author of the Homeric hymn to Demeter,
the riddle is not hard to read; the figures of the two goddesses,
the mother and the daughter, resolve themselves into
personifications of the corn. At least this appears to be fairly
certain for the daughter Persephone. The goddess who spends three
or, according to another version of the myth, six months of every
year with the dead under ground and the remainder of the year with
the living above ground; in whose absence the barley seed is hidden
in the earth and the fields lie bare and fallow; on whose return in
spring to the upper world the corn shoots up from the clods and the
earth is heavy with leaves and blossoms--this goddess can surely be
nothing else than a mythical embodiment of the vegetation, and
particularly of the corn, which is buried under the soil for some
months of every winter and comes to life again, as from the grave,
in the sprouting cornstalks and the opening flowers and foliage of
every spring. No other reasonable and probable explanation of
Persephone seems possible. And if the daughter goddess was a
personification of the young corn of the present year, may not the
mother goddess be a personification of the old corn of last year,
which has given birth to the new crops? The only alternative to this
view of Demeter would seem to be to suppose that she is a
personification of the earth, from whose broad bosom the corn and
all other plants spring up, and of which accordingly they may
appropriately enough be regarded as the daughters. This view of the
original nature of Demeter has indeed been taken by some writers,
both ancient and modern, and it is one which can be reasonably
maintained. But it appears to have been rejected by the author of
the Homeric hymn to Demeter, for he not only distinguishes Demeter
from the personified Earth but places the two in the sharpest
opposition to each other. He tells us that it was Earth who, in
accordance with the will of Zeus and to please Pluto, lured
Persephone to her doom by causing the narcissuses to grow which
tempted the young goddess to stray far beyond the reach of help in
the lush meadow. Thus Demeter of the hymn, far from being identical
with the Earth-goddess, must have regarded that divinity as her
worst enemy, since it was to her insidious wiles that she owed the
loss of her daughter. But if the Demeter of the hymn cannot have
been a personification of the earth, the only alternative apparently
is to conclude that she was a personification of the corn.

The conclusion is confirmed by the monuments; for in ancient art
Demeter and Persephone are alike characterised as goddesses of the
corn by the crowns of corn which they wear on their heads and by the
stalks of corn which they hold in their hands. Again, it was Demeter
who first revealed to the Athenians the secret of the corn and
diffused the beneficent discovery far and wide through the agency of
Triptolemus, whom she sent forth as an itinerant missionary to
communicate the boon to all mankind. On monuments of art, especially
in vase-paintings, he is constantly represented along with Demeter
in this capacity, holding corn-stalks in his hand and sitting in his
car, which is sometimes winged and sometimes drawn by dragons, and
from which he is said to have sowed the seed down on the whole world
as he sped through the air. In gratitude for the priceless boon many
Greek cities long continued to send the first-fruits of their barley
and wheat harvests as thank-offerings to the Two Goddesses, Demeter
and Persephone, at Eleusis, where subterranean granaries were built
to store the overflowing contributions. Theocritus tells how in the
island of Cos, in the sweet-scented summer time, the farmer brought
the first-fruits of the harvest to Demeter who had filled his
threshingfloor with barley, and whose rustic image held sheaves and
poppies in her hands. Many of the epithets bestowed by the ancients
on Demeter mark her intimate association with the corn in the
clearest manner.

How deeply implanted in the mind of the ancient Greeks was this
faith in Demeter as goddess of the corn may be judged by the
circumstance that the faith actually persisted among their Christian
descendants at her old sanctuary of Eleusis down to the beginning of
the nineteenth century. For when the English traveller Dodwell
revisited Eleusis, the inhabitants lamented to him the loss of a
colossal image of Demeter, which was carried off by Clarke in 1802
and presented to the University of Cambridge, where it still
remains. "In my first journey to Greece," says Dodwell, "this
protecting deity was in its full glory, situated in the centre of a
threshing-floor, amongst the ruins of her temple. The villagers were
impressed with a persuasion that their rich harvests were the effect
of her bounty, and since her removal, their abundance, as they
assured me, has disappeared." Thus we see the Corn Goddess Demeter
standing on the threshing-floor of Eleusis and dispensing corn to
her worshippers in the nineteenth century of the Christian era,
precisely as her image stood and dispensed corn to her worshippers
on the threshing-floor of Cos in the days of Theocritus. And just as
the people of Eleusis in the nineteenth century attributed the
diminution of their harvests to the loss of the image of Demeter, so
in antiquity the Sicilians, a corn-growing people devoted to the
worship of the two Corn Goddesses, lamented that the crops of many
towns had perished because the unscrupulous Roman governor Verres
had impiously carried off the image of Demeter from her famous
temple at Henna. Could we ask for a clearer proof that Demeter was
indeed the goddess of the corn than this belief, held by the Greeks
down to modern times, that the corn-crops depended on her presence
and bounty and perished when her image was removed?

On the whole, then, if, ignoring theories, we adhere to the evidence
of the ancients themselves in regard to the rites of Eleusis, we
shall probably incline to agree with the most learned of ancient
antiquaries, the Roman Varro, who, to quote Augustine's report of
his opinion, "interpreted the whole of the Eleusinian mysteries as
relating to the corn which Ceres (Demeter) had discovered, and to
Proserpine (Persephone), whom Pluto had carried off from her. And
Proserpine herself he said, signifies the fecundity of the seeds,
the failure of which at a certain time had caused the earth to mourn
for barrenness, and therefore had given rise to the opinion that the
daughter of Ceres, that is, fecundity itself, had been ravished by
Pluto and detained in the nether world; and when the dearth had been
publicly mourned and fecundity had returned once more, there was
gladness at the return of Proserpine and solemn rites were
instituted accordingly. After that he says," continues Augustine,
reporting Varro, "that many things were taught in her mysteries
which had no reference but to the discovery of the corn."

Thus far I have for the most part assumed an identity of nature
between Demeter and Persephone, the divine mother and daughter
personifying the corn in its double aspect of the seed-corn of last
year and the ripe ears of this, and this view of the substantial
unity of mother and daughter is borne out by their portraits in
Greek art, which are often so alike as to be indistinguishable. Such
a close resemblance between the artistic types of Demeter and
Persephone militates decidedly against the view that the two
goddesses are mythical embodiments of two things so different and so
easily distinguishable from each other as the earth and the
vegetation which springs from it. Had Greek artists accepted that
view of Demeter and Persephone, they could surely have devised types
of them which would have brought out the deep distinction between
the goddesses. And if Demeter did not personify the earth, can there
be any reasonable doubt that, like her daughter, she personified the
corn which was so commonly called by her name from the time of Homer
downwards? The essential identity of mother and daughter is
suggested, not only by the close resemblance of their artistic
types, but also by the official title of "the Two Goddesses" which
was regularly applied to them in the great sanctuary at Eleusis
without any specification of their individual attributes and titles,
as if their separate individualities had almost merged in a single
divine substance.

Surveying the evidence as a whole, we are fairly entitled to
conclude that in the mind of the ordinary Greek the two goddesses
were essentially personifications of the corn, and that in this germ
the whole efflorescence of their religion finds implicitly its
explanation. But to maintain this is not to deny that in the long
course of religious evolution high moral and spiritual conceptions
were grafted on this simple original stock and blossomed out into
fairer flowers than the bloom of the barley and the wheat. Above
all, the thought of the seed buried in the earth in order to spring
up to new and higher life readily suggested a comparison with human
destiny, and strengthened the hope that for man too the grave may be
but the beginning of a better and happier existence in some brighter
world unknown. This simple and natural reflection seems perfectly
sufficient to explain the association of the Corn Goddess at Eleusis
with the mystery of death and the hope of a blissful immortality.
For that the ancients regarded initiation in the Eleusinian
mysteries as a key to unlock the gates of Paradise appears to be
proved by the allusions which well-informed writers among them drop
to the happiness in store for the initiated hereafter. No doubt it
is easy for us to discern the flimsiness of the logical foundation
on which such high hopes were built. But drowning men clutch at
straws, and we need not wonder that the Greeks, like ourselves, with
death before them and a great love of life in their hearts, should
not have stopped to weigh with too nice a hand the arguments that
told for and against the prospect of human immortality. The
reasoning that satisfied Saint Paul and has brought comfort to
untold thousands of sorrowing Christians, standing by the deathbed
or the open grave of their loved ones, was good enough to pass
muster with ancient pagans, when they too bowed their heads under
the burden of grief, and, with the taper of life burning low in the
socket, looked forward into the darkness of the unknown. Therefore
we do no indignity to the myth of Demeter and Persephone--one of the
few myths in which the sunshine and clarity of the Greek genius are
crossed by the shadow and mystery of death--when we trace its origin
to some of the most familiar, yet eternally affecting aspects of
nature, to the melancholy gloom and decay of autumn and to the
freshness, the brightness, and the verdure of spring.

XLV. The Corn-Mother and the Corn-Maiden in Northern Europe

IT has been argued by W. Mannhardt that the first part of Demeter's
name is derived from an alleged Cretan word _deai,_ "barley," and
that accordingly Demeter means neither more nor less than
"Barley-mother" or "Corn-mother"; for the root of the word seems to
have been applied to different kinds of grain by different branches
of the Aryans. As Crete appears to have been one of the most ancient
seats of the worship of Demeter, it would not be surprising if her
name were of Cretan origin. But the etymology is open to serious
objections, and it is safer therefore to lay no stress on it. Be
that as it may, we have found independent reasons for identifying
Demeter as the Corn-mother, and of the two species of corn
associated with her in Greek religion, namely barley and wheat, the
barley has perhaps the better claim to be her original element; for
not only would it seem to have been the staple food of the Greeks in
the Homeric age, but there are grounds for believing that it is one
of the oldest, if not the very oldest, cereal cultivated by the
Aryan race. Certainly the use of barley in the religious ritual of
the ancient Hindoos as well as of the ancient Greeks furnishes a
strong argument in favour of the great antiquity of its cultivation,
which is known to have been practised by the lake-dwellers of the
Stone Age in Europe.

Analogies to the Corn-mother or Barley-mother of ancient Greece have
been collected in great abundance by W. Mannhardt from the folk-lore
of modern Europe. The following may serve as specimens.

In Germany the corn is very commonly personified under the name of
the Corn-mother. Thus in spring, when the corn waves in the wind,
the peasants say, "There comes the Corn-mother," or "The Corn-mother
is running over the field," or "The Corn-mother is going through the
corn." When children wish to go into the fields to pull the blue
corn-flowers or the red poppies, they are told not to do so, because
the Corn-mother is sitting in the corn and will catch them. Or again
she is called, according to the crop, the Rye-mother or the
Pea-mother, and children are warned against straying in the rye or
among the peas by threats of the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother. Again
the Corn-mother is believed to make the crop grow. Thus in the
neighbourhood of Magdeburg it is sometimes said, "It will be a good
year for flax; the Flax-mother has been seen." In a village of
Styria it is said that the Corn-mother, in the shape of a female
puppet made out of the last sheaf of corn and dressed in white, may
be seen at mid-night in the corn-fields, which she fertilises by
passing through them; but if she is angry with a farmer, she withers
up all his corn.

Further, the Corn-mother plays an important part in harvest customs.
She is believed to be present in the handful of corn which is left
standing last on the field; and with the cutting of this last
handful she is caught, or driven away, or killed. In the first of
these cases, the last sheaf is carried joyfully home and honoured as
a divine being. It is placed in the barn, and at threshing the
corn-spirit appears again. In the Hanoverian district of Hadeln the
reapers stand round the last sheaf and beat it with sticks in order
to drive the Corn-mother out of it. They call to each other, "There
she is! hit her! Take care she doesn't catch you!" The beating goes
on till the grain is completely threshed out; then the Corn-mother
is believed to be driven away. In the neighbourhood of Danzig the
person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which
is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman and is brought home on
the last waggon. In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed
in woman's clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on
the last waggon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The
drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm. In the district of
Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, is made up
into the shape of a woman by the oldest married woman in the
village, of an age from fifty to fifty-five years. The finest ears
are plucked out of it and made into a wreath, which, twined with
flowers, is carried on her head by the prettiest girl of the village
to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid down in the
barn to keep off the mice. In other villages of the same district
the Corn-mother, at the close of harvest, is carried by two lads at
the top of a pole. They march behind the girl who wears the wreath
to the squire's house, and while he receives the wreath and hangs it
up in the hall, the Corn-mother is placed on the top of a pile of
wood, where she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance.
Afterwards she is hung up in the barn and remains there till the
threshing is over. The man who gives the last stroke at threshing is
called the son of the Corn-mother; he is tied up in the Corn-mother,
beaten, and carried through the village. The wreath is dedicated in
church on the following Sunday; and on Easter Eve the grain is
rubbed out of it by a seven-year-old girl and scattered amongst the
young corn. At Christmas the straw of the wreath is placed in the
manger to make the cattle thrive. Here the fertilising power of the
Corn-mother is plainly brought out by scattering the seed taken from
her body (for the wreath is made out of the Corn-mother) among the
new corn; and her influence over animal life is indicated by placing
the straw in the manger. Amongst the Slavs also the last sheaf is
known as the Rye-mother, the Wheat-mother, the Oats-mother, the
Barley-mother, and so on, according to the crop. In the district of
Tarnow, Galicia, the wreath made out of the last stalks is called
the Wheat-mother, Rye-mother, or Pea-mother. It is placed on a
girl's head and kept till spring, when some of the grain is mixed
with the seed-corn. Here again the fertilising power of the
Corn-mother is indicated. In France, also, in the neighbourhood of
Auxerre, the last sheaf goes by the name of the Mother of the Wheat,
Mother of the Barley, Mother of the Rye, or Mother of the Oats. They
leave it standing in the field till the last waggon is about to wend
homewards. Then they make a puppet out of it, dress it with clothes
belonging to the farmer, and adorn it with a crown and a blue or
white scarf. A branch of a tree is stuck in the breast of the
puppet, which is now called the Ceres. At the dance in the evening
the Ceres is set in the middle of the floor, and the reaper who
reaped fastest dances round it with the prettiest girl for his
partner. After the dance a pyre is made. All the girls, each wearing
a wreath, strip the puppet, pull it to pieces, and place it on the
pyre, along with the flowers with which it was adorned. Then the
girl who was the first to finish reaping sets fire to the pile, and
all pray that Ceres may give a fruitful year. Here, as Mannhardt
observes, the old custom has remained intact, though the name Ceres
is a bit of schoolmaster's learning. In Upper Brittany the last
sheaf is always made into human shape; but if the farmer is a
married man, it is made double and consists of a little corn-puppet
placed inside of a large one. This is called the Mother-sheaf. It is
delivered to the farmer's wife, who unties it and gives drink-money
in return.

Sometimes the last sheaf is called, not the Corn-mother, but the
Harvest-mother or the Great Mother. In the province of Osnabrück,
Hanover, it is called the Harvest-mother; it is made up in female
form, and then the reapers dance about with it. In some parts of
Westphalia the last sheaf at the rye-harvest is made especially
heavy by fastening stones in it. They bring it home on the last
waggon and call it the Great Mother, though they do not fashion it
into any special shape. In the district of Erfurt a very heavy
sheaf, not necessarily the last, is called the Great Mother, and is
carried on the last waggon to the barn, where all hands lift it down
amid a fire of jokes.

Sometimes again the last sheaf is called the Grandmother, and is
adorned with flowers, ribbons, and a woman's apron. In East Prussia,
at the rye or wheat harvest, the reapers call out to the woman who
binds the last sheaf, "You are getting the Old Grandmother." In the
neighbourhood of Magdeburg the men and women servants strive who
shall get the last sheaf, called the Grandmother. Whoever gets it
will be married in the next year, but his or her spouse will be old;
if a girl gets it, she will marry a widower; if a man gets it, he
will marry an old crone. In Silesia the Grandmother--a huge bundle
made up of three or four sheaves by the person who tied the last
sheaf--was formerly fashioned into a rude likeness of the human
form. In the neighbourhood of Belfast the last sheaf sometimes goes
by the name of the Granny. It is not cut in the usual way, but all
the reapers throw their sickles at it and try to bring it down. It
is plaited and kept till the (next?) autumn. Whoever gets it will
marry in the course of the year.

Often the last sheaf is called the Old Woman or the Old Man. In
Germany it is frequently shaped and dressed as a woman, and the
person who cuts it or binds it is said to "get the Old Woman." At
Altisheim, in Swabia, when all the corn of a farm has been cut
except a single strip, all the reapers stand in a row before the
strip; each cuts his share rapidly, and he who gives the last cut
"has the Old Woman." When the sheaves are being set up in heaps, the
person who gets hold of the Old Woman, which is the largest and
thickest of all the sheaves, is jeered at by the rest, who call out
to him, "He has the Old Woman and must keep her." The woman who
binds the last sheaf is sometimes herself called the Old Woman, and
it is said that she will be married in the next year. In Neusaass,
West Prussia, both the last sheaf--which is dressed up in jacket,
hat, and ribbons--and the woman who binds it are called the Old
Woman. Together they are brought home on the last waggon and are
drenched with water. In various parts of North Germany the last
sheaf at harvest is made up into a human effigy and called "the Old
Man"; and the woman who bound it is said "to have the Old Man."

In West Prussia, when the last rye is being raked together, the
women and girls hurry with the work, for none of them likes to be
the last and to get "the Old Man," that is, a puppet made out of the
last sheaf, which must be carried before the other reapers by the
person who was the last to finish. In Silesia the last sheaf is
called the Old Woman or the Old Man and is the theme of many jests;
it is made unusually large and is sometimes weighted with a stone.
Among the Wends the man or woman who binds the last sheaf at wheat
harvest is said to "have the Old Man." A puppet is made out of the
wheaten straw and ears in the likeness of a man and decked with
flowers. The person who bound the last sheaf must carry the Old Man
home, while the rest laugh and jeer at him. The puppet is hung up in
the farmhouse and remains till a new Old Man is made at the next

In some of these customs, as Mannhardt has remarked, the person who
is called by the same name as the last sheaf and sits beside it on
the last waggon is obviously identified with it; he or she
represents the corn-spirit which has been caught in the last sheaf;
in other words, the corn-spirit is represented in duplicate, by a
human being and by a sheaf. The identification of the person with
the sheaf is made still clearer by the custom of wrapping up in the
last sheaf the person who cuts or binds it. Thus at Hermsdorf in
Silesia it used to be the regular practice to tie up in the last
sheaf the woman who had bound it. At Weiden, in Bavaria, it is the
cutter, not the binder, of the last sheaf who is tied up in it. Here
the person wrapt up in the corn represents the corn-spirit, exactly
as a person wrapt in branches or leaves represents the tree-spirit.

The last sheaf, designated as the Old Woman, is often distinguished
from the other sheaves by its size and weight. Thus in some villages
of West Prussia the Old Woman is made twice as long and thick as a
common sheaf, and a stone is fastened in the middle of it. Sometimes
it is made so heavy that a man can barely lift it. At Alt-Pillau, in
Samland, eight or nine sheaves are often tied together to make the
Old Woman, and the man who sets it up grumbles at its weight. At
Itzgrund, in Saxe-Coburg, the last sheaf, called the Old Woman, is
made large with the express intention of thereby securing a good
crop next year. Thus the custom of making the last sheaf unusually
large or heavy is a charm, working by sympathetic magic, to ensure a
large and heavy crop at the following harvest.

In Scotland, when the last corn was cut after Hallowmas, the female
figure made out of it was sometimes called the Carlin or Carline,
that is, the Old Woman. But if cut before Hallowmas, it was called
the Maiden; if cut after sunset, it was called the Witch, being
supposed to bring bad luck. Among the Highlanders of Scotland the
last corn cut at harvest is known either as the Old Wife
(_Cailleach_) or as the Maiden; on the whole the former name seems
to prevail in the western and the latter in the central and eastern
districts. Of the Maiden we shall speak presently; here we are
dealing with the Old Wife. The following general account of the
custom is given by a careful and well-informed enquirer, the Rev. J.
G. Campbell, minister of the remote Hebridean island of Tiree: "The
Harvest Old Wife (_a Cailleach_).--In harvest, there was a struggle
to escape from being the last done with the shearing, and when
tillage in common existed, instances were known of a ridge being
left unshorn (no person would claim it) because of it being behind
the rest. The fear entertained was that of having the 'famine of the
farm' (_gort a bhaile_), in the shape of an imaginary old woman
(_cailleach_), to feed till next harvest. Much emulation and
amusement arose from the fear of this old woman. . . . The first
done made a doll of some blades of corn, which was called the 'old
wife,' and sent it to his nearest neighbour. He in turn, when ready,
passed it to another still less expeditious, and the person it last
remained with had 'the old woman' to keep for that year."

In the island of Islay the last corn cut goes by the name of the Old
Wife (_Cailleach_), and when she has done her duty at harvest she is
hung up on the wall and stays there till the time comes to plough
the fields for the next year's crop. Then she is taken down, and on
the first day when the men go to plough she is divided among them by
the mistress of the house. They take her in their pockets and give
her to the horses to eat when they reach the field. This is supposed
to secure good luck for the next harvest, and is understood to be
the proper end of the Old Wife.

Usages of the same sort are reported from Wales. Thus in North
Pembrokeshire a tuft of the last corn cut, from six to twelve inches
long, is plaited and goes by the name of the Hag (_wrach_); and
quaint old customs used to be practised with it within the memory of
many persons still alive. Great was the excitement among the reapers
when the last patch of standing corn was reached. All in turn threw
their sickles at it, and the one who succeeded in cutting it
received a jug of home-brewed ale. The Hag (_wrach_) was then
hurriedly made and taken to a neighbouring farm, where the reapers
were still busy at their work. This was generally done by the
ploughman; but he had to be very careful not to be observed by his
neighbours, for if they saw him coming and had the least suspicion
of his errand they would soon make him retrace his steps. Creeping
stealthily up behind a fence he waited till the foreman of his
neighbour's reapers was just opposite him and within easy reach.
Then he suddenly threw the Hag over the fence and, if possible, upon
the foreman's sickle. On that he took to his heels and made off as
fast as he could run, and he was a lucky man if he escaped without
being caught or cut by the flying sickles which the infuriated
reapers hurled after him. In other cases the Hag was brought home to
the farmhouse by one of the reapers. He did his best to bring it
home dry and without being observed; but he was apt to be roughly
handled by the people of the house, if they suspected his errand.
Sometimes they stripped him of most of his clothes, sometimes they
would drench him with water which had been carefully stored in
buckets and pans for the purpose. If, however, he succeeded in
bringing the Hag in dry and unobserved, the master of the house had
to pay him a small fine; or sometimes a jug of beer "from the cask
next to the wall," which seems to have commonly held the best beer,
would be demanded by the bearer. The Hag was then carefully hung on
a nail in the hall or elsewhere and kept there all the year. The
custom of bringing in the Hag (_wrach_) into the house and hanging
it up still exists in some farms of North Pembrokeshire, but the
ancient ceremonies which have just been described are now

In County Antrim, down to some years ago, when the sickle was
finally expelled by the reaping machine, the few stalks of corn left
standing last on the field were plaited together; then the reapers,
blindfolded, threw their sickles at the plaited corn, and whoever
happened to cut it through took it home with him and put it over his
door. This bunch of corn was called the Carley--probably the same
word as Carlin.

Similar customs are observed by Slavonic peoples. Thus in Poland the
last sheaf is commonly called the Baba, that is, the Old Woman. "In
the last sheaf," it is said, "sits the Baba." The sheaf itself is
also called the Baba, and is sometimes composed of twelve smaller
sheaves lashed together. In some parts of Bohemia the Baba, made out
of the last sheaf, has the figure of a woman with a great straw hat.
It is carried home on the last harvest-waggon and delivered, along
with a garland, to the farmer by two girls. In binding the sheaves
the women strive not to be last, for she who binds the last sheaf
will have a child next year. Sometimes the harvesters call out to
the woman who binds the last sheaf, "She has the Baba," or "She is
the Baba." In the district of Cracow, when a man binds the last
sheaf, they say, "The Grandfather is sitting in it"; when a woman
binds it, they say, "The Baba is sitting in it," and the woman
herself is wrapt up in the sheaf, so that only her head projects out
of it. Thus encased in the sheaf, she is carried on the last
harvest-waggon to the house, where she is drenched with water by the
whole family. She remains in the sheaf till the dance is over, and
for a year she retains the name of Baba.

In Lithuania the name for the last sheaf is Boba (Old Woman),
answering to the Polish name Baba. The Boba is said to sit in the
corn which is left standing last. The person who binds the last
sheaf or digs the last potato is the subject of much banter, and
receives and long retains the name of the Old Rye-woman or the Old
Potato-woman. The last sheaf--the Boba--is made into the form of a
woman, carried solemnly through the village on the last
harvest-waggon, and drenched with water at the farmer's house; then
every one dances with it.

In Russia also the last sheaf is often shaped and dressed as a
woman, and carried with dance and song to the farmhouse. Out of the
last sheaf the Bulgarians make a doll which they call the Corn-queen
or Corn-mother; it is dressed in a woman's shirt, carried round the
village, and then thrown into the river in order to secure plenty of
rain and dew for the next year's crop. Or it is burned and the ashes
strew on the fields, doubtless to fertilise them. The name Queen, as
applied to the last sheaf, has its analogies in Central and Northern
Europe. Thus, in the Salzburg district of Austria, at the end of the
harvest a great procession takes place, in which a Queen of the
Corn-ears (_Ährenkönigin_) is drawn along in a little carriage by
young fellows. The custom of the Harvest Queen appears to have been
common in England. Milton must have been familiar with it, for in
_Paradise Lost_ he says:

"Adam the while
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flow'rs a garland to adorn
Her tresses, and her rural labours crown,
As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen."

Often customs of this sort are practised, not on the harvest-field
but on the threshing-floor. The spirit of the corn, fleeing before
the reapers as they cut down the ripe grain, quits the reaped corn
and takes refuge in the barn, where it appears in the last sheaf
threshed, either to perish under the blows of the flail or to flee
thence to the still unthreshed corn of a neighbouring farm. Thus the
last corn to be threshed is called the Mother-Corn or the Old Woman.
Sometimes the person who gives the last stroke with the flail is
called the Old Woman, and is wrapt in the straw of the last sheaf,
or has a bundle of straw fastened on his back. Whether wrapt in the
straw or carrying it on his back, he is carted through the village
amid general laughter. In some districts of Bavaria, Thüringen, and
elsewhere, the man who threshes the last sheaf is said to have the
Old Woman or the Old Corn-woman; he is tied up in straw, carried or
carted about the village, and set down at last on the dunghill, or
taken to the threshing-floor of a neighbouring farmer who has not
finished his threshing. In Poland the man who gives the last stroke
at threshing is called Baba (Old Woman); he is wrapt in corn and
wheeled through the village. Sometimes in Lithuania the last sheaf
is not threshed, but is fashioned into female shape and carried to
the barn of a neighbour who has not finished his threshing.

In some parts of Sweden, when a stranger woman appears on the
threshing-floor, a flail is put round her body, stalks of corn are
wound round her neck, a crown of ears is placed on her head, and the
threshers call out, "Behold the Corn-woman." Here the stranger
woman, thus suddenly appearing, is taken to be the corn-spirit who
has just been expelled by the flails from the corn-stalks. In other
cases the farmer's wife represents the corn-spirit. Thus in the
Commune of Saligné (Vendée), the farmer's wife, along with the last
sheaf, is tied up in a sheet, placed on a litter, and carried to the
threshing machine, under which she is shoved. Then the woman is
drawn out and the sheaf is threshed by itself, but the woman is
tossed in the sheet, as if she were being winnowed. It would be
impossible to express more clearly the identification of the woman
with the corn than by this graphic imitation of threshing and
winnowing her.

In these customs the spirit of the ripe corn is regarded as old, or
at least as of mature age. Hence the names of Mother, Grandmother,
Old Woman, and so forth. But in other cases the corn-spirit is
conceived as young. Thus at Saldern, near Wolfenbuttel, when the rye
has been reaped, three sheaves are tied together with a rope so as
to make a puppet with the corn ears for a head. This puppet is
called the Maiden or the Corn-maiden. Sometimes the corn-spirit is
conceived as a child who is separated from its mother by the stroke
of the sickle. This last view appears in the Polish custom of
calling out to the man who cuts the last handful of corn, "You have
cut the navel-string." In some districts of West Prussia the figure
made out of the last sheaf is called the Bastard, and a boy is wrapt
up in it. The woman who binds the last sheaf and represents the
Corn-mother is told that she is about to be brought to bed; she
cries like a woman in travail, and an old woman in the character of
grandmother acts as midwife. At last a cry is raised that the child
is born; whereupon the boy who is tied up in the sheaf whimpers and
squalls like an infant. The grandmother wraps a sack, in imitation
of swaddling bands, round the pretended baby, who is carried
joyfully to the barn, lest he should catch cold in the open air. In
other parts of North Germany the last sheaf, or the puppet made out
of it, is called the Child, the Harvest-Child, and so on, and they
call out to the woman who binds the last sheaf, "you are getting the

In some parts of Scotland, as well as in the north of England, the
last handful of corn cut on the harvest-field was called the _kirn,_
and the person who carried it off was said "to win the kirn." It was
then dressed up like a child's doll and went by the name of the
kirn-baby, the kirn-doll, or the Maiden. In Berwickshire down to
about the middle of the nineteenth century there was an eager
competition among the reapers to cut the last bunch of standing
corn. They gathered round it at a little distance and threw their
sickles in turn at it, and the man who succeeded in cutting it
through gave it to the girl he preferred. She made the corn so cut
into a kirn-dolly and dressed it, and the doll was then taken to the
farmhouse and hung up there till the next harvest, when its place
was taken by the new kirn-dolly. At Spottiswoode in Berwickshire the
reaping of the last corn at harvest was called "cutting the Queen"
almost as often as "cutting the kirn." The mode of cutting it was
not by throwing sickles. One of the reapers consented to be
blindfolded, and having been given a sickle in his hand and turned
twice or thrice about by his fellows, he was bidden to go and cut
the kirn. His groping about and making wild strokes in the air with
his sickle excited much hilarity. When he had tired himself out in
vain and given up the task as hopeless, another reaper was
blindfolded and pursued the quest, and so on, one after the other,
till at last the kirn was cut. The successful reaper was tossed up
in the air with three cheers by his brother harvesters. To decorate
the room in which the kirn-supper was held at Spottiswoode as well
as the granary, where the dancing took place, two women made
kirn-dollies or Queens every year; and many of these rustic effigies
of the corn-spirit might be seen hanging up together.

In some parts of the Highlands of Scotland the last handful of corn
that is cut by the reapers on any particular farm is called the
Maiden, or in Gaelic _Maidhdeanbuain,_ literally, "the shorn
Maiden." Superstitions attach to the winning of the Maiden. If it is
got by a young person, they think it an omen that he or she will be
married before another harvest. For that or other reasons there is a
strife between the reapers as to who shall get the Maiden, and they
resort to various stratagems for the purpose of securing it. One of
them, for example, will often leave a handful of corn uncut and
cover it up with earth to hide it from the other reapers, till all
the rest of the corn on the field is cut down. Several may try to
play the same trick, and the one who is coolest and holds out
longest obtains the coveted distinction. When it has been cut, the
Maiden is dressed with ribbons into a sort of doll and affixed to a
wall of the farmhouse. In the north of Scotland the Maiden is
carefully preserved till Yule morning, when it is divided among the
cattle "to make them thrive all the year round." In the
neighbourhood of Balquhidder, Perthshire, the last handful of corn
is cut by the youngest girl on the field, and is made into the rude
form of a female doll, clad in a paper dress, and decked with
ribbons. It is called the Maiden, and is kept in the farmhouse,
generally above the chimney, for a good while, sometimes till the
Maiden of the next year is brought in. The writer of this book
witnessed the ceremony of cutting the Maiden at Balquhidder in
September 1888. A lady friend informed me that as a young girl she
cut the Maiden several times at the request of the reapers in the
neighbourhood of Perth. The name of the Maiden was given to the last
handful of standing corn; a reaper held the top of the bunch while
she cut it. Afterwards the bunch was plaited, decked with ribbons,
and hung up in a conspicuous place on the wall of the kitchen till
the next Maiden was brought in. The harvest-supper in this
neighbourhood was also called the Maiden; the reapers danced at it.

On some farms on the Gareloch, in Dumbartonshire, about the year
1830, the last handful of standing corn was called the Maiden. It
was divided in two, plaited, and then cut with the sickle by a girl,
who, it was thought, would be lucky and would soon be married. When
it was cut the reapers gathered together and threw their sickles in
the air. The Maiden was dressed with ribbons and hung in the kitchen
near the roof, where it was kept for several years with the date
attached. Sometimes five or six Maidens might be seen hanging at
once on hooks. The harvest-supper was called the Kirn. In other
farms on the Gareloch the last handful of corn was called the
Maidenhead or the Head; it was neatly plaited, sometimes decked with
ribbons, and hung in the kitchen for a year, when the grain was
given to the poultry.

In Aberdeenshire "the last sheaf cut, or 'Maiden,' is carried home
in merry procession by the harvesters. It is then presented to the
mistress of the house, who dresses it up to be preserved till the
first mare foals. The Maiden is then taken down and presented to the
mare as its first food. The neglect of this would have untoward
effects upon the foal, and disastrous consequences upon farm
operations generally for the season." In the north-east of
Aberdeenshire the last sheaf is commonly called the _clyack_ sheaf.
It used to be cut by the youngest girl present and was dressed as a
woman. Being brought home in triumph, it was kept till Christmas
morning, and then given to a mare in foal, if there was one on the
farm, or, if there was not, to the oldest cow in calf. Elsewhere the
sheaf was divided between all the cows and their calves or between
all the horses and the cattle of the farm. In Fifeshire the last
handful of corn, known as the Maiden, is cut by a young girl and
made into the rude figure of a doll, tied with ribbons, by which it
is hung on the wall of the farm-kitchen till the next spring. The
custom of cutting the Maiden at harvest was also observed in
Inverness-shire and Sutherlandshire.

A somewhat maturer but still youthful age is assigned to the
corn-spirit by the appellations of Bride, Oats-bride, and
Wheat-bride, which in Germany are sometimes bestowed both on the
last sheaf and on the woman who binds it. At wheat-harvest near
Müglitz, in Moravia, a small portion of the wheat is left standing
after all the rest has been reaped. This remnant is then cut, amid
the rejoicing of the reapers, by a young girl who wears a wreath of
wheaten ears on her head and goes by the name of the Wheat-bride. It
is supposed that she will be a real bride that same year. Near
Roslin and Stonehaven, in Scotland, the last handful of corn cut
"got the name of 'the bride,' and she was placed over the _bress_ or
chimney-piece; she had a ribbon tied below her numerous _ears,_ and
another round her waist."

Sometimes the idea implied by the name of Bride is worked out more
fully by representing the productive powers of vegetation as bride
and bridegroom. Thus in the Vorharz an Oats-man and an Oats-woman,
swathed in straw, dance at the harvest feast. In South Saxony an
Oats-bridegroom and an Oats-bride figure together at the harvest
celebration. The Oats-bridegroom is a man completely wrapt in
oats-straw; the Oats-bride is a man dressed in woman's clothes, but
not wrapt in straw. They are drawn in a waggon to the ale-house,
where the dance takes place. At the beginning of the dance the
dancers pluck the bunches of oats one by one from the
Oats-bridegroom, while he struggles to keep them, till at last he is
completely stript of them and stands bare, exposed to the laughter
and jests of the company. In Austrian Silesia the ceremony of "the
Wheat-bride" is celebrated by the young people at the end of the
harvest. The woman who bound the last sheaf plays the part of the
Wheat-bride, wearing the harvest-crown of wheat ears and flowers on
her head. Thus adorned, standing beside her Bridegroom in a waggon
and attended by bridesmaids, she is drawn by a pair of oxen, in full
imitation of a marriage procession, to the tavern, where the dancing
is kept up till morning. Somewhat later in the season the wedding of
the Oats-bride is celebrated with the like rustic pomp. About
Neisse, in Silesia, an Oats-king and an Oats-queen, dressed up
quaintly as a bridal pair, are seated on a harrow and drawn by oxen
into the village.

In these last instances the corn-spirit is personified in double
form as male and female. But sometimes the spirit appears in a
double female form as both old and young, corresponding exactly to
the Greek Demeter and Persephone, if my interpretation of these
goddesses is right. We have seen that in Scotland, especially among
the Gaelic-speaking population, the last corn cut is sometimes
called the Old Wife and sometimes the Maiden. Now there are parts of
Scotland in which both an Old Wife (_Cailleach_) and a Maiden are
cut at harvest. The accounts of this custom are not quite clear and
consistent, but the general rule seems to be that, where both a
Maiden and an Old Wife (_Cailleach_) are fashioned out of the reaped
corn at harvest, the Maiden is made out of the last stalks left
standing, and is kept by the farmer on whose land it was cut; while
the Old Wife is made out of other stalks, sometimes out of the first
stalks cut, and is regularly passed on to a laggard farmer who
happens to be still reaping after his brisker neighbour has cut all
his corn. Thus while each farmer keeps his own Maiden, as the
embodiment of the young and fruitful spirit of the corn, he passes
on the Old Wife as soon as he can to a neighbour, and so the old
lady may make the round of all the farms in the district before she
finds a place in which to lay her venerable head. The farmer with
whom she finally takes up her abode is of course the one who has
been the last of all the countryside to finish reaping his crops,
and thus the distinction of entertaining her is rather an invidious
one. He is thought to be doomed to poverty or to be under the
obligation of "providing for the dearth of the township" in the
ensuing season. Similarly we saw that in Pembrokeshire, where the
last corn cut is called, not the Maiden, but the Hag, she is passed
on hastily to a neighbour who is still at work in his fields and who
receives his aged visitor with anything but a transport of joy. If
the Old Wife represents the corn-spirit of the past year, as she
probably does wherever she is contrasted with and opposed to a
Maiden, it is natural enough that her faded charms should have less
attractions for the husbandman than the buxom form of her daughter,
who may be expected to become in her turn the mother of the golden
grain when the revolving year has brought round another autumn. The
same desire to get rid of the effete Mother of the Corn by palming
her off on other people comes out clearly in some of the customs
observed at the close of threshing, particularly in the practice of
passing on a hideous straw puppet to a neighbour farmer who is still
threshing his corn.

The harvest customs just described are strikingly analogous to the
spring customs which we reviewed in an earlier part of this work.
(1) As in the spring customs the tree-spirit is represented both by
a tree and by a person, so in the harvest customs the corn-spirit is
represented both by the last sheaf and by the person who cuts or
binds or threshes it. The equivalence of the person to the sheaf is
shown by giving him or her the same name as the sheaf; by wrapping
him or her in it; and by the rule observed in some places, that when
the sheaf is called the Mother, it must be made up into human shape
by the oldest married woman, but that when it is called the Maiden,
it must be cut by the youngest girl. Here the age of the personal
representative of the corn-spirit corresponds with that of the
supposed age of the corn-spirit, just as the human victims offered
by the Mexicans to promote the growth of the maize varied with the
age of the maize. For in the Mexican, as in the European, custom the
human beings were probably representatives of the corn-spirit rather
than victims offered to it. (2) Again the same fertilising influence
which the tree-spirit is supposed to exert over vegetation, cattle,
and even women is ascribed to the corn-spirit. Thus, its supposed
influence on vegetation is shown by the practice of taking some of
the grain of the last sheaf (in which the corn-spirit is regularly
supposed to be present), and scattering it among the young corn in
spring or mixing it with the seed-corn. Its influence on animals is
shown by giving the last sheaf to a mare in foal, to a cow in calf,
and to horses at the first ploughing. Lastly, its influence on women
is indicated by the custom of delivering the Mother-sheaf, made into
the likeness of a pregnant woman, to the farmer's wife; by the
belief that the woman who binds the last sheaf will have a child
next year; perhaps, too, by the idea that the person who gets it
will soon be married.

Plainly, therefore, these spring and harvest customs are based on
the same ancient modes of thought, and form parts of the same
primitive heathendom, which was doubtless practised by our
forefathers long before the dawn of history. Amongst the marks of a
primitive ritual we may note the following:

1. No special class of persons is set apart for the performance of
the rites; in other words, there are no priests. The rites may be
performed by any one, as occasion demands.

2. No special places are set apart for the performance of the rites;
in other words, there are no temples. The rites may be performed
anywhere, as occasion demands.

3. Spirits, not gods, are recognised. (_a_) As distinguished from
gods, spirits are restricted in their operations to definite
departments of nature. Their names are general, not proper. Their
attributes are generic, rather than individual; in other words,
there is an indefinite number of spirits of each class, and the
individuals of a class are all much alike; they have no definitely
marked individuality; no accepted traditions are current as to their
origin, life, adventures, and character. (_b_) On the other hand
gods, as distinguished from spirits, are not restricted to definite
departments of nature. It is true that there is generally some one
department over which they preside as their special province; but
they are not rigorously confined to it; they can exert their power
for good or evil in many other spheres of nature and life. Again,
they bear individual or proper names, such as Demeter, Persephone,
Dionysus; and their individual characters and histories are fixed by
current myths and the representations of art.

4. The rites are magical rather than propitiatory. In other words,
the desired objects are attained, not by propitiating the favour of
divine beings through sacrifice, prayer, and praise, but by
ceremonies which, as I have already explained, are believed to
influence the course of nature directly through a physical sympathy
or resemblance between the rite and the effect which it is the
intention of the rite to produce.

Judged by these tests, the spring and harvest customs of our
European peasantry deserve to rank as primitive. For no special
class of persons and no special places are set exclusively apart for
their performance; they may be performed by any one, master or man,
mistress or maid, boy or girl; they are practised, not in temples or
churches, but in the woods and meadows, beside brooks, in barns, on
harvest fields and cottage floors. The supernatural beings whose
existence is taken for granted in them are spirits rather than
deities: their functions are limited to certain well-defined
departments of nature: their names are general like the
Barley-mother, the Old Woman, the Maiden, not proper names like
Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus. Their generic attributes are known,
but their individual histories and characters are not the subject of
myths. For they exist in classes rather than as individuals, and the
members of each class are indistinguishable. For example, every farm
has its Corn-mother, or its Old Woman, or its Maiden; but every
Corn-mother is much like every other Corn-mother, and so with the
Old Women and Maidens. Lastly, in these harvests, as in the spring
customs, the ritual is magical rather than propitiatory. This is
shown by throwing the Corn-mother into the river in order to secure
rain and dew for the crops; by making the Old Woman heavy in order
to get a heavy crop next year; by strewing grain from the last sheaf
amongst the young crops in spring; and by giving the last sheaf to
the cattle to make them thrive.

XLVI. The Corn-Mother in Many Lands

1. The Corn-mother in America

EUROPEAN peoples, ancient and modern, have not been singular in
personifying the corn as a mother goddess. The same simple idea has
suggested itself to other agricultural races in distant parts of the
world, and has been applied by them to other indigenous cereals than
barley and wheat. If Europe has its Wheat-mother and its
Barley-mother, America has its Maize-mother and the East Indies
their Rice-mother. These personifications I will now illustrate,
beginning with the American personification of the maize.

We have seen that among European peoples it is a common custom to
keep the plaited corn-stalks of the last sheaf, or the puppet which
is formed out of them, in the farm-house from harvest to harvest.
The intention no doubt is, or rather originally was, by preserving
the representative of the corn-spirit to maintain the spirit itself
in life and activity throughout the year, in order that the corn may
grow and the crops be good. This interpretation of the custom is at
all events rendered highly probable by a similar custom observed by
the ancient Peruvians, and thus described by the old Spanish
historian Acosta: "They take a certain portion of the most fruitful
of the maize that grows in their farms, the which they put in a
certain granary which they do call _Pirua,_ with certain ceremonies,
watching three nights; they put this maize in the richest garments
they have, and being thus wrapped and dressed, they worship this
_Pirua,_ and hold it in great veneration, saying it is the mother of
the maize of their inheritances, and that by this means the maize
augments and is preserved. In this month [the sixth month, answering
to May] they make a particular sacrifice, and the witches demand of
this _Pirua_ if it hath strength sufficient to continue until the
next year; and if it answers no, then they carry this maize to the
farm to burn, whence they brought it, according to every man's
power; then they make another _Pirua,_ with the same ceremonies,
saying that they renew it, to the end the seed of maize may not
perish, and if it answers that it hath force sufficient to last
longer, they leave it until the next year. This foolish vanity
continueth to this day, and it is very common amongst the Indians to
have these _Piruas._"

In this description of the custom there seems to be some error.
Probably it was the dressed-up bunch of maize, not the granary
(_Pirua_), which was worshipped by the Peruvians and regarded as the
Mother of the Maize. This is confirmed by what we know of the
Peruvian custom from another source. The Peruvians, we are told,
believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine being who
causes their growth. According to the particular plant, these divine
beings were called the Maize-mother (_Zara-mama_), the Quinoa-mother
(_Quinoa-mama_), the Coca-mother (_Coca-mama_), and the
Potato-mother (_Axo-mama_). Figures of these divine mothers were
made respectively of ears of maize and leaves of the quinoa and coca
plants; they were dressed in women's clothes and worshipped. Thus
the Maize-mother was represented by a puppet made of stalks of maize
dressed in full female attire; and the Indians believed that "as
mother, it had the power of producing and giving birth to much
maize." Probably, therefore, Acosta misunderstood his informant, and
the Mother of the Maize which he describes was not the granary
(_Pirua_), but the bunch of maize dressed in rich vestments. The
Peruvian Mother of the Maize, like the harvest-Maiden at
Balquhidder, was kept for a year in order that by her means the corn
might grow and multiply. But lest her strength might not suffice to
last till the next harvest, she was asked in the course of the year
how she felt, and if she answered that she felt weak, she was burned
and a fresh Mother of the Maize made, "to the end the seed of maize
may not perish." Here, it may be observed, we have a strong
confirmation of the explanation already given of the custom of
killing the god, both periodically and occasionally. The Mother of
the maize was allowed, as a rule, to live through a year, that being
the period during which her strength might reasonably be supposed to
last unimpaired; but on any symptom of her strength failing she was
put to death, and a fresh and vigorous Mother of the Maize took her
place, lest the maize which depended on her for its existence should
languish and decay.

2. The Rice-mother in the East Indies

IF THE READER still feels any doubts as to the meaning of the
harvest customs which have been practised within living memory by
European peasants, these doubts may perhaps be dispelled by
comparing the customs observed at the rice-harvest by the Malays and
Dyaks of the East Indies. For these Eastern peoples have not, like
our peasantry, advanced beyond the intellectual stage at which the
customs originated; their theory and their practice are still in
unison; for them the quaint rites which in Europe have long dwindled
into mere fossils, the pastime of clowns and the puzzle of the
learned, are still living realities of which they can render an
intelligible and truthful account. Hence a study of their beliefs
and usages concerning the rice may throw some light on the true
meaning of the ritual of the corn in ancient Greece and modern

Now the whole of the ritual which the Malays and Dyaks observe in
connexion with the rice is founded on the simple conception of the
rice as animated by a soul like that which these people attribute to
mankind. They explain the phenomena of reproduction, growth, decay,
and death in the rice on the same principles on which they explain
the corresponding phenomena in human beings. They imagine that in
the fibres of the plant, as in the body of a man, there is a certain
vital element, which is so far independent of the plant that it may
for a time be completely separated from it without fatal effects,
though if its absence be prolonged beyond certain limits the plant
will wither and die. This vital yet separable element is what, for
the want of a better word, we must call the soul of a plant, just as
a similar vital and separable element is commonly supposed to
constitute the soul of man; and on this theory or myth of the
plant-soul is built the whole worship of the cereals, just as on the
theory or myth of the human soul is built the whole worship of the
dead,--a towering superstructure reared on a slender and precarious

Believing the rice to be animated by a soul like that of a man, the
Indonesians naturally treat it with the deference and the
consideration which they show to their fellows. Thus they behave
towards the rice in bloom as they behave towards a pregnant woman;
they abstain from firing guns or making loud noises in the field,
lest they should so frighten the soul of the rice that it would
miscarry and bear no grain; and for the same reason they will not
talk of corpses or demons in the rice-fields. Moreover, they feed
the blooming rice with foods of various kinds which are believed to
be wholesome for women with child; but when the rice-ears are just
beginning to form, they are looked upon as infants, and women go
through the fields feeding them with rice-pap as if they were human
babes. In such natural and obvious comparisons of the breeding plant
to a breeding woman, and of the young grain to a young child, is to
be sought the origin of the kindred Greek conception of the
Corn-mother and the Corn-daughter, Demeter and Persephone. But if
the timorous feminine soul of the rice can be frightened into a
miscarriage even by loud noises, it is easy to imagine what her
feelings must be at harvest, when people are under the sad necessity
of cutting down the rice with the knife. At so critical a season
every precaution must be used to render the necessary surgical
operation of reaping as inconspicuous and as painless as possible.
For that reason the reaping of the seed-rice is done with knives of
a peculiar pattern, such that the blades are hidden in the reapers'
hands and do not frighten the rice-spirit till the very last moment,
when her head is swept off almost before she is aware; and from a
like delicate motive the reapers at work in the fields employ a
special form of speech, which the rice-spirit cannot be expected to
understand, so that she has no warning or inkling of what is going
forward till the heads of rice are safely deposited in the basket.

Among the Indonesian peoples who thus personify the rice we may take
the Kayans or Bahaus of Central Borneo as typical. In order to
secure and detain the volatile soul of the rice the Kayans resort to
a number of devices. Among the instruments employed for this purpose
are a miniature ladder, a spatula, and a basket containing hooks,
thorns, and cords. With the spatula the priestess strokes the soul
of the rice down the little ladder into the basket, where it is
naturally held fast by the hooks, the thorn, and the cord; and
having thus captured and imprisoned the soul she conveys it into the
rice-granary. Sometimes a bamboo box and a net are used for the same
purpose. And in order to ensure a good harvest for the following
year it is necessary not only to detain the soul of all the grains
of rice which are safely stored in the granary, but also to attract
and recover the soul of all the rice that has been lost through
falling to the earth or being eaten by deer, apes, and pigs. For
this purpose instruments of various sorts have been invented by the
priests. One, for example, is a bamboo vessel provided with four
hooks made from the wood of a fruit-tree, by means of which the
absent rice-soul may be hooked and drawn back into the vessel, which
is then hung up in the house. Sometimes two hands carved out of the
wood of a fruit-tree are used for the same purpose. And every time
that a Kayan housewife fetches rice from the granary for the use of
her household, she must propitiate the souls of the rice in the
granary, lest they should be angry at being robbed of their

The same need of securing the soul of the rice, if the crop is to
thrive, is keenly felt by the Karens of Burma. When a rice-field
does not flourish, they suppose that the soul (_kelah_) of the rice
is in some way detained from the rice. If the soul cannot be called
back, the crop will fail. The following formula is used in recalling
the _kelah_ (soul) of the rice: "O come, rice-_kelah,_ come! Come to
the field. Come to the rice. With seed of each gender, come. Come
from the river Kho, come from the river Kaw; from the place where
they meet, come. Come from the West, come from the East. From the
throat of the bird, from the maw of the ape, from the throat of the
elephant. Come from the sources of rivers and their mouths. Come
from the country of the Shan and Burman. From the distant kingdoms
come. From all granaries come. O rice-_kelah,_ come to the rice."

The Corn-mother of our European peasants has her match in the
Rice-mother of the Minangkabauers of Sumatra. The Minangkabauers
definitely attribute a soul to rice, and will sometimes assert that
rice pounded in the usual way tastes better than rice ground in a
mill, because in the mill the body of the rice was so bruised and
battered that the soul has fled from it. Like the Javanese they
think that the rice is under the special guardianship of a female
spirit called Saning Sari, who is conceived as so closely knit up
with the plant that the rice often goes by her name, as with the
Romans the corn might be called Ceres. In particular Saning Sari is
represented by certain stalks or grains called _indoea padi,_ that
is, literally, "Mother of Rice," a name that is often given to the
guardian spirit herself. This so-called Mother of Rice is the
occasion of a number of ceremonies observed at the planting and
harvesting of the rice as well as during its preservation in the
barn. When the seed of the rice is about to be sown in the nursery
or bedding-out ground, where under the wet system of cultivation it
is regularly allowed to sprout before being transplanted to the
fields, the best grains are picked out to form the Rice-mother.
These are then sown in the middle of the bed, and the common seed is
planted round about them. The state of the Rice-mother is supposed
to exert the greatest influence on the growth of the rice; if she
droops or pines away, the harvest will be bad in consequence. The
woman who sows the Rice-mother in the nursery lets her hair hang
loose and afterwards bathes, as a means of ensuring an abundant
harvest. When the time comes to transplant the rice from the nursery
to the field, the Rice-mother receives a special place either in the
middle or in a corner of the field, and a prayer or charm is uttered
as follows: "Saning Sari, may a measure of rice come from a stalk of
rice and a basketful from a root; may you be frightened neither by
lightning nor by passers-by! Sunshine make you glad; with the storm
may you be at peace; and may rain serve to wash your face!" While
the rice is growing, the particular plant which was thus treated as
the Rice-mother is lost sight of; but before harvest another
Rice-mother is found. When the crop is ripe for cutting, the oldest
woman of the family or a sorcerer goes out to look for her. The
first stalks seen to bend under a passing breeze are the
Rice-mother, and they are tied together but not cut until the
first-fruits of the field have been carried home to serve as a
festal meal for the family and their friends, nay even for the
domestic animals; since it is Saning Sari's pleasure that the beasts
also should partake of her good gifts. After the meal has been
eaten, the Rice-mother is fetched home by persons in gay attire, who
carry her very carefully under an umbrella in a neatly worked bag to
the barn, where a place in the middle is assigned to her. Every one
believes that she takes care of the rice in the barn and even
multiplies it not uncommonly.

When the Tomori of Central Celebes are about to plant the rice, they

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