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The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

Part 2 out of 19

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hair of a hornless ox among their own hair, and the skin of a frog
on their mantle, because a frog is slippery, and the ox, having no
horns, is hard to catch; so the man who is provided with these
charms believes that he will be as hard to hold as the ox and the
frog. Again, it seems plain that a South African warrior who twists
tufts of rat's hair among his own curly black locks will have just
as many chances of avoiding the enemy's spear as the nimble rat has
of avoiding things thrown at it; hence in these regions rats' hair
is in great demand when war is expected. One of the ancient books of
India prescribes that when a sacrifice is offered for victory, the
earth out of which the altar is to be made should be taken from a
place where a boar has been wallowing, since the strength of the
boar will be in that earth. When you are playing the one-stringed
lute, and your fingers are stiff, the thing to do is to catch some
long-legged field spiders and roast them, and then rub your fingers
with the ashes; that will make your fingers as lithe and nimble as
the spiders' legs--at least so think the Galelareese. To bring back
a runaway slave an Arab will trace a magic circle on the ground,
stick a nail in the middle of it, and attach a beetle by a thread to
the nail, taking care that the sex of the beetle is that of the
fugitive. As the beetle crawls round and round, it will coil the
thread about the nail, thus shortening its tether and drawing nearer
to the centre at every circuit. So by virtue of homoeopathic magic
the runaway slave will be drawn back to his master.

Among the western tribes of British New Guinea, a man who has killed
a snake will burn it and smear his legs with the ashes when he goes
into the forest; for no snake will bite him for some days
afterwards. If a South Slavonian has a mind to pilfer and steal at
market, he has nothing to do but to burn a blind cat, and then throw
a pinch of its ashes over the person with whom he is higgling; after
that he can take what he likes from the booth, and the owner will
not be a bit the wiser, having become as blind as the deceased cat
with whose ashes he has been sprinkled. The thief may even ask
boldly, "Did I pay for it?" and the deluded huckster will reply,
"Why, certainly." Equally simple and effectual is the expedient
adopted by natives of Central Australia who desire to cultivate
their beards. They prick the chin all over with a pointed bone, and
then stroke it carefully with a magic stick or stone, which
represents a kind of rat that has very long whiskers. The virtue of
these whiskers naturally passes into the representative stick or
stone, and thence by an easy transition to the chin, which,
consequently, is soon adorned with a rich growth of beard. The
ancient Greeks thought that to eat the flesh of the wakeful
nightingale would prevent a man from sleeping; that to smear the
eyes of a blear-sighted person with the gall of an eagle would give
him the eagle's vision; and that a raven's eggs would restore the
blackness of the raven to silvery hair. Only the person who adopted
this last mode of concealing the ravages of time had to be most
careful to keep his mouth full of oil all the time he applied the
eggs to his venerable locks, else his teeth as well as his hair
would be dyed raven black, and no amount of scrubbing and scouring
would avail to whiten them again. The hair-restorer was in fact a
shade too powerful, and in applying it you might get more than you
bargained for.

The Huichol Indians admire the beautiful markings on the backs of
serpents. Hence when a Huichol woman is about to weave or embroider,
her husband catches a large serpent and holds it in a cleft stick,
while the woman strokes the reptile with one hand down the whole
length of its back; then she passes the same hand over her forehead
and eyes, that she may be able to work as beautiful patterns in the
web as the markings on the back of the serpent.

On the principle of homoeopathic magic, inanimate things, as well as
plants and animals, may diffuse blessing or bane around them,
according to their own intrinsic nature and the skill of the wizard
to tap or dam, as the case may be, the stream of weal or woe. In
Samaracand women give a baby sugar candy to suck and put glue in the
palm of its hand, in order that, when the child grows up, his words
may be sweet and precious things may stick to his hands as if they
were glued. The Greeks thought that a garment made from the fleece
of a sheep that had been torn by a wolf would hurt the wearer,
setting up an itch or irritation in his skin. They were also of
opinion that if a stone which had been bitten by a dog were dropped
in wine, it would make all who drank of that wine to fall out among
themselves. Among the Arabs of Moab a childless woman often borrows
the robe of a woman who has had many children, hoping with the robe
to acquire the fruitfulness of its owner. The Caffres of Sofala, in
East Africa, had a great dread of being struck with anything hollow,
such as a reed or a straw, and greatly preferred being thrashed with
a good thick cudgel or an iron bar, even though it hurt very much.
For they thought that if a man were beaten with anything hollow, his
inside would waste away till he died. In eastern seas there is a
large shell which the Buginese of Celebes call the "old man"
(_kadjÔwo_). On Fridays they turn these "old men" upside down and
place them on the thresholds of their houses, believing that whoever
then steps over the threshold of the house will live to be old. At
initiation a Brahman boy is made to tread with his right foot on a
stone, while the words are repeated, "Tread on this stone; like a
stone be firm"; and the same ceremony is performed, with the same
words, by a Brahman bride at her marriage. In Madagascar a mode of
counteracting the levity of fortune is to bury a stone at the foot
of the heavy house-post. The common custom of swearing upon a stone
may be based partly on a belief that the strength and stability of
the stone lend confirmation to an oath. Thus the old Danish
historian Saxo Grammaticus tells us that "the ancients, when they
were to choose a king, were wont to stand on stones planted in the
ground, and to proclaim their votes, in order to foreshadow from the
steadfastness of the stones that the deed would be lasting."

But while a general magical efficacy may be supposed to reside in
all stones by reason of their common properties of weight and
solidity, special magical virtues are attributed to particular
stones, or kinds of stone, in accordance with their individual or
specific qualities of shape and colour. For example, the Indians of
Peru employed certain stones for the increase of maize, others for
the increase of potatoes, and others again for the increase of
cattle. The stones used to make maize grow were fashioned in the
likeness of cobs of maize, and the stones destined to multiply
cattle had the shape of sheep.

In some parts of Melanesia a like belief prevails that certain
sacred stones are endowed with miraculous powers which correspond in
their nature to the shape of the stone. Thus a piece of water-worn
coral on the beach often bears a surprising likeness to a
bread-fruit. Hence in the Banks Islands a man who finds such a coral
will lay it at the root of one of his bread-fruit trees in the
expectation that it will make the tree bear well. If the result
answers his expectation, he will then, for a proper remuneration,
take stones of less-marked character from other men and let them lie
near his, in order to imbue them with the magic virtue which resides
in it. Similarly, a stone with little discs upon it is good to bring
in money; and if a man found a large stone with a number of small
ones under it, like a sow among her litter, he was sure that to
offer money upon it would bring him pigs. In these and similar cases
the Melanesians ascribe the marvellous power, not to the stone
itself, but to its indwelling spirit; and sometimes, as we have just
seen, a man endeavours to propitiate the spirit by laying down
offerings on the stone. But the conception of spirits that must be
propitiated lies outside the sphere of magic, and within that of
religion. Where such a conception is found, as here, in conjunction
with purely magical ideas and practices, the latter may generally be
assumed to be the original stock on which the religious conception
has been at some later time engrafted. For there are strong grounds
for thinking that, in the evolution of thought, magic has preceded
religion. But to this point we shall return presently.

The ancients set great store on the magical qualities of precious
stones; indeed it has been maintained, with great show of reason,
that such stones were used as amulets long before they were worn as
mere ornaments. Thus the Greeks gave the name of tree-agate to a
stone which exhibits tree-like markings, and they thought that if
two of these gems were tied to the horns or necks of oxen at the
plough, the crop would be sure to be plentiful. Again, they
recognised a milkstone which produced an abundant supply of milk in
women if only they drank it dissolved in honey-mead. Milk-stones are
used for the same purpose by Greek women in Crete and Melos at the
present day; in Albania nursing mothers wear the stones in order to
ensure an abundant flow of milk. Again, the Greeks believed in a
stone which cured snake-bites, and hence was named the snake-stone;
to test its efficacy you had only to grind the stone to powder and
sprinkle the powder on the wound. The wine-coloured amethyst
received its name, which means "not drunken," because it was
supposed to keep the wearer of it sober; and two brothers who
desired to live at unity were advised to carry magnets about with
them, which, by drawing the twain together, would clearly prevent
them from falling out.

The ancient books of the Hindoos lay down a rule that after sunset
on his marriage night a man should sit silent with his wife till the
stars begin to twinkle in the sky. When the pole-star appears, he
should point it out to her, and, addressing the star, say, "Firm art
thou; I see thee, the firm one. Firm be thou with me, O thriving
one!" Then, turning to his wife, he should say, "To me Brihaspati
has given thee; obtaining offspring through me, thy husband, live
with me a hundred autumns." The intention of the ceremony is plainly
to guard against the fickleness of fortune and the instability of
earthly bliss by the steadfast influence of the constant star. It is
the wish expressed in Keats's last sonnet:

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night.

Dwellers by the sea cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of its
ceaseless ebb and flow, and are apt, on the principles of that rude
philosophy of sympathy and resemblance which here engages our
attention, to trace a subtle relation, a secret harmony, between its
tides and the life of man, of animals, and of plants. In the flowing
tide they see not merely a symbol, but a cause of exuberance, of
prosperity, and of life, while in the ebbing tide they discern a
real agent as well as a melancholy emblem of failure, of weakness,
and of death. The Breton peasant fancies that clover sown when the
tide is coming in will grow well, but that if the plant be sown at
low water or when the tide is going out, it will never reach
maturity, and that the cows which feed on it will burst. His wife
believes that the best butter is made when the tide has just turned
and is beginning to flow, that milk which foams in the churn will go
on foaming till the hour of high water is past, and that water drawn
from the well or milk extracted from the cow while the tide is
rising will boil up in the pot or saucepan and overflow into the
fire. According to some of the ancients, the skins of seals, even
after they had been parted from their bodies, remained in secret
sympathy with the sea, and were observed to ruffle when the tide was
on the ebb. Another ancient belief, attributed to Aristotle, was
that no creature can die except at ebb tide. The belief, if we can
trust Pliny, was confirmed by experience, so far as regards human
beings, on the coast of France. Philostratus also assures us that at
Cadiz dying people never yielded up the ghost while the water was
high. A like fancy still lingers in some parts of Europe. On the
Cantabrian coast they think that persons who die of chronic or acute
disease expire at the moment when the tide begins to recede. In
Portugal, all along the coast of Wales, and on some parts of the
coast of Brittany, a belief is said to prevail that people are born
when the tide comes in, and die when it goes out. Dickens attests
the existence of the same superstition in England. "People can't
die, along the coast," said Mr. Pegotty, "except when the tide's
pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's pretty nigh in--not
properly born till flood." The belief that most deaths happen at ebb
tide is said to be held along the east coast of England from
Northumberland to Kent. Shakespeare must have been familiar with it,
for he makes Falstaff die "even just between twelve and one, e'en at
the turning o' the tide." We meet the belief again on the Pacific
coast of North America among the Haidas. Whenever a good Haida is
about to die he sees a canoe manned by some of his dead friends, who
come with the tide to bid him welcome to the spirit land. "Come with
us now," they say, "for the tide is about to ebb and we must
depart." At Port Stephens, in New South Wales, the natives always
buried their dead at flood tide, never at ebb, lest the retiring
water should bear the soul of the departed to some distant country.

To ensure a long life the Chinese have recourse to certain
complicated charms, which concentrate in themselves the magical
essence emanating, on homoeopathic principles, from times and
seasons, from persons and from things. The vehicles employed to
transmit these happy influences are no other than grave-clothes.
These are provided by many Chinese in their lifetime, and most
people have them cut out and sewn by an unmarried girl or a very
young woman, wisely calculating that, since such a person is likely
to live a great many years to come, a part of her capacity to live
long must surely pass into the clothes, and thus stave off for many
years the time when they shall be put to their proper use. Further,
the garments are made by preference in a year which has an
intercalary month; for to the Chinese mind it seems plain that
grave-clothes made in a year which is unusually long will possess
the capacity of prolonging life in an unusually high degree. Amongst
the clothes there is one robe in particular on which special pains
have been lavished to imbue it with this priceless quality. It is a
long silken gown of the deepest blue colour, with the word
"longevity" embroidered all over it in thread of gold. To present an
aged parent with one of these costly and splendid mantles, known as
"longevity garments," is esteemed by the Chinese an act of filial
piety and a delicate mark of attention. As the garment purports to
prolong the life of its owner, he often wears it, especially on
festive occasions, in order to allow the influence of longevity,
created by the many golden letters with which it is bespangled, to
work their full effect upon his person. On his birthday, above all,
he hardly ever fails to don it, for in China common sense bids a man
lay in a large stock of vital energy on his birthday, to be expended
in the form of health and vigour during the rest of the year.
Attired in the gorgeous pall, and absorbing its blessed influence at
every pore, the happy owner receives complacently the
congratulations of friends and relations, who warmly express their
admiration of these magnificent cerements, and of the filial piety
which prompted the children to bestow so beautiful and useful a
present on the author of their being.

Another application of the maxim that like produces like is seen in
the Chinese belief that the fortunes of a town are deeply affected
by its shape, and that they must vary according to the character of
the thing which that shape most nearly resembles. Thus it is related
that long ago the town of Tsuen-cheu-fu, the outlines of which are
like those of a carp, frequently fell a prey to the depredations of
the neighbouring city of Yung-chun, which is shaped like a
fishing-net, until the inhabitants of the former town conceived the
plan of erecting two tall pagodas in their midst. These pagodas,
which still tower above the city of Tsuen-cheu-fu, have ever since
exercised the happiest influence over its destiny by intercepting
the imaginary net before it could descend and entangle in its meshes
the imaginary carp. Some forty years ago the wise men of Shanghai
were much exercised to discover the cause of a local rebellion. On
careful enquiry they ascertained that the rebellion was due to the
shape of a large new temple which had most unfortunately been built
in the shape of a tortoise, an animal of the very worst character.
The difficulty was serious, the danger was pressing; for to pull
down the temple would have been impious, and to let it stand as it
was would be to court a succession of similar or worse disasters.
However, the genius of the local professors of geomancy, rising to
the occasion, triumphantly surmounted the difficulty and obviated
the danger. By filling up two wells, which represented the eyes of
the tortoise, they at once blinded that disreputable animal and
rendered him incapable of doing further mischief.

Sometimes homoeopathic or imitative magic is called in to annul an
evil omen by accomplishing it in mimicry. The effect is to
circumvent destiny by substituting a mock calamity for a real one.
In Madagascar this mode of cheating the fates is reduced to a
regular system. Here every man's fortune is determined by the day or
hour of his birth, and if that happens to be an unlucky one his fate
is sealed, unless the mischief can be extracted, as the phrase goes,
by means of a substitute. The ways of extracting the mischief are
various. For example, if a man is born on the first day of the
second month (February), his house will be burnt down when he comes
of age. To take time by the forelock and avoid this catastrophe, the
friends of the infant will set up a shed in a field or in the
cattle-fold and burn it. If the ceremony is to be really effective,
the child and his mother should be placed in the shed and only
plucked, like brands, from the burning hut before it is too late.
Again, dripping November is the month of tears, and he who is born
in it is born to sorrow. But in order to disperse the clouds that
thus gather over his future, he has nothing to do but to take the
lid off a boiling pot and wave it about. The drops that fall from it
will accomplish his destiny and so prevent the tears from trickling
from his eyes. Again, if fate has decreed that a young girl, still
unwed, should see her children, still unborn, descend before her
with sorrow to the grave, she can avert the calamity as follows. She
kills a grasshopper, wraps it in a rag to represent a shroud, and
mourns over it like Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to
be comforted. Moreover, she takes a dozen or more other
grasshoppers, and having removed some of their superfluous legs and
wings she lays them about their dead and shrouded fellow. The buzz
of the tortured insects and the agitated motions of their mutilated
limbs represent the shrieks and contortions of the mourners at a
funeral. After burying the deceased grasshopper she leaves the rest
to continue their mourning till death releases them from their pain;
and having bound up her dishevelled hair she retires from the grave
with the step and carriage of a person plunged in grief. Thenceforth
she looks cheerfully forward to seeing her children survive her; for
it cannot be that she should mourn and bury them twice over. Once
more, if fortune has frowned on a man at his birth and penury has
marked him for her own, he can easily erase the mark in question by
purchasing a couple of cheap pearls, price three halfpence, and
burying them. For who but the rich of this world can thus afford to
fling pearls away?

3. Contagious Magic

THUS far we have been considering chiefly that branch of sympathetic
magic which may be called homoeopathic or imitative. Its leading
principle, as we have seen, is that like produces like, or, in other
words, that an effect resembles its cause. The other great branch of
sympathetic magic, which I have called Contagious Magic, proceeds
upon the notion that things which have once been conjoined must
remain ever afterwards, even when quite dissevered from each other,
in such a sympathetic relation that whatever is done to the one must
similarly affect the other. Thus the logical basis of Contagious
Magic, like that of Homoeopathic Magic, is a mistaken association of
ideas; its physical basis, if we may speak of such a thing, like the
physical basis of Homoeopathic Magic, is a material medium of some
sort which, like the ether of modern physics, is assumed to unite
distant objects and to convey impressions from one to the other. The
most familiar example of Contagious Magic is the magical sympathy
which is supposed to exist between a man and any severed portion of
his person, as his hair or nails; so that whoever gets possession of
human hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the
person from whom they were cut. This superstition is world-wide;
instances of it in regard to hair and nails will be noticed later on
in this work.

Among the Australian tribes it was a common practice to knock out
one or more of a boy's front teeth at those ceremonies of initiation
to which every male member had to submit before he could enjoy the
rights and privileges of a full-grown man. The reason of the
practice is obscure; all that concerns us here is the belief that a
sympathetic relation continued to exist between the lad and his
teeth after the latter had been extracted from his gums. Thus among
some of the tribes about the river Darling, in New South Wales, the
extracted tooth was placed under the bark of a tree near a river or
water-hole; if the bark grew over the tooth, or if the tooth fell
into the water, all was well; but if it were exposed and the ants
ran over it, the natives believed that the boy would suffer from a
disease of the mouth. Among the Murring and other tribes of New
South Wales the extracted tooth was at first taken care of by an old
man, and then passed from one headman to another, until it had gone
all round the community, when it came back to the lad's father, and
finally to the lad himself. But however it was thus conveyed from
hand to hand, it might on no account be placed in a bag containing
magical substances, for to do so would, they believed, put the owner
of the tooth in great danger. The late Dr. Howitt once acted as
custodian of the teeth which had been extracted from some novices at
a ceremony of initiation, and the old men earnestly besought him not
to carry them in a bag in which they knew that he had some quartz
crystals. They declared that if he did so the magic of the crystals
would pass into the teeth, and so injure the boys. Nearly a year
after Dr. Howitt's return from the ceremony he was visited by one of
the principal men of the Murring tribe, who had travelled some two
hundred and fifty miles from his home to fetch back the teeth. This
man explained that he had been sent for them because one of the boys
had fallen into ill health, and it was believed that the teeth had
received some injury which had affected him. He was assured that the
teeth had been kept in a box apart from any substances, like quartz
crystals, which could influence them; and he returned home bearing
the teeth with him carefully wrapt up and concealed.

The Basutos are careful to conceal their extracted teeth, lest these
should fall into the hands of certain mythical beings who haunt
graves, and who could harm the owner of the tooth by working magic
on it. In Sussex some fifty years ago a maid-servant remonstrated
strongly against the throwing away of children's cast teeth,
affirming that should they be found and gnawed by any animal, the
child's new tooth would be, for all the world, like the teeth of the
animal that had bitten the old one. In proof of this she named old
Master Simmons, who had a very large pig's tooth in his upper jaw, a
personal defect that he always averred was caused by his mother, who
threw away one of his cast teeth by accident into the hog's trough.
A similar belief has led to practices intended, on the principles of
homoeopathic magic, to replace old teeth by new and better ones.
Thus in many parts of the world it is customary to put extracted
teeth in some place where they will be found by a mouse or a rat, in
the hope that, through the sympathy which continues to subsist
between them and their former owner, his other teeth may acquire the
same firmness and excellence as the teeth of these rodents. For
example, in Germany it is said to be an almost universal maxim among
the people that when you have had a tooth taken out you should
insert it in a mouse's hole. To do so with a child's milk-tooth
which has fallen out will prevent the child from having toothache.
Or you should go behind the stove and throw your tooth backwards
over your head, saying "Mouse, give me your iron tooth; I will give
you my bone tooth." After that your other teeth will remain good.
Far away from Europe, at Raratonga, in the Pacific, when a child's
tooth was extracted, the following prayer used to be recited:

"Big rat! little rat!
Here is my old tooth.
Pray give me a new one."

Then the tooth was thrown on the thatch of the house, because rats
make their nests in the decayed thatch. The reason assigned for
invoking the rats on these occasions was that rats' teeth were the
strongest known to the natives.

Other parts which are commonly believed to remain in a sympathetic
union with the body, after the physical connexion has been severed,
are the navel-string and the afterbirth, including the placenta. So
intimate, indeed, is the union conceived to be, that the fortunes of
the individual for good or evil throughout life are often supposed
to be bound up with one or other of these portions of his person, so
that if his navel-string or afterbirth is preserved and properly
treated, he will be prosperous; whereas if it be injured or lost, he
will suffer accordingly. Thus certain tribes of Western Australia
believe that a man swims well or ill, according as his mother at his
birth threw the navel-string into water or not. Among the natives on
the Pennefather River in Queensland it is believed that a part of
the child's spirit (_cho-i_) stays in the afterbirth. Hence the
grandmother takes the afterbirth away and buries it in the sand. She
marks the spot by a number of twigs which she sticks in the ground
in a circle, tying their tops together so that the structure
resembles a cone. When Anjea, the being who causes conception in
women by putting mud babies into their wombs, comes along and sees
the place, he takes out the spirit and carries it away to one of his
haunts, such as a tree, a hole in a rock, or a lagoon where it may
remain for years. But sometime or other he will put the spirit again
into a baby, and it will be born once more into the world. In
Ponape, one of the Caroline Islands, the navel-string is placed in a
shell and then disposed of in such a way as shall best adapt the
child for the career which the parents have chosen for him; for
example, if they wish to make him a good climber, they will hang the
navel-string on a tree. The Kei islanders regard the navel-string as
the brother or sister of the child, according to the sex of the
infant. They put it in a pot with ashes, and set it in the branches
of a tree, that it may keep a watchful eye on the fortunes of its
comrade. Among the Bataks of Sumatra, as among many other peoples of
the Indian Archipelago, the placenta passes for the child's younger
brother or sister, the sex being determined by the sex of the child,
and it is buried under the house. According to the Bataks it is
bound up with the child's welfare, and seems, in fact, to be the
seat of the transferable soul, of which we shall hear something
later on. The Karo Bataks even affirm that of a man's two souls it
is the true soul that lives with the placenta under the house; that
is the soul, they say, which begets children.

The Baganda believe that every person is born with a double, and
this double they identify with the afterbirth, which they regard as
a second child. The mother buries the afterbirth at the root of a
plantain tree, which then becomes sacred until the fruit has
ripened, when it is plucked to furnish a sacred feast for the
family. Among the Cherokees the navel-string of a girl is buried
under a corn-mortar, in order that the girl may grow up to be a good
baker; but the navel-string of a boy is hung up on a tree in the
woods, in order that he may be a hunter. The Incas of Peru preserved
the navel-string with the greatest care, and gave it to the child to
suck whenever it fell ill. In ancient Mexico they used to give a
boy's navel-string to soldiers, to be buried by them on a field of
battle, in order that the boy might thus acquire a passion for war.
But the navel-string of a girl was buried beside the domestic
hearth, because this was believed to inspire her with a love of home
and taste for cooking and baking.

Even in Europe many people still believe that a person's destiny is
more or less bound up with that of his navel-string or afterbirth.
Thus in Rhenish Bavaria the navel-string is kept for a while wrapt
up in a piece of old linen, and then cut or pricked to pieces
according as the child is a boy or a girl, in order that he or she
may grow up to be a skilful workman or a good sempstress. In Berlin
the midwife commonly delivers the dried navel-string to the father
with a strict injunction to preserve it carefully, for so long as it
is kept the child will live and thrive and be free from sickness. In
Beauce and Perche the people are careful to throw the navel-string
neither into water nor into fire, believing that if that were done
the child would be drowned or burned.

Thus in many parts of the world the navel-string, or more commonly
the afterbirth, is regarded as a living being, the brother or sister
of the infant, or as the material object in which the guardian
spirit of the child or part of its soul resides. Further, the
sympathetic connexion supposed to exist between a person and his
afterbirth or navel-string comes out very clearly in the widespread
custom of treating the afterbirth or navel-string in ways which are
supposed to influence for life the character and career of the
person, making him, if it is a man, a nimble climber, a strong
swimmer, a skilful hunter, or a brave soldier, and making her, if it
is a woman, a cunning sempstress, a good baker, and so forth. Thus
the beliefs and usages concerned with the afterbirth or placenta,
and to a less extent with the navel-string, present a remarkable
parallel to the widespread doctrine of the transferable or external
soul and the customs founded on it. Hence it is hardly rash to
conjecture that the resemblance is no mere chance coincidence, but
that in the afterbirth or placenta we have a physical basis (not
necessarily the only one) for the theory and practice of the
external soul. The consideration of that subject is reserved for a
later part of this work.

A curious application of the doctrine of contagious magic is the
relation commonly believed to exist between a wounded man and the
agent of the wound, so that whatever is subsequently done by or to
the agent must correspondingly affect the patient either for good or
evil. Thus Pliny tells us that if you have wounded a man and are
sorry for it, you have only to spit on the hand that gave the wound,
and the pain of the sufferer will be instantly alleviated. In
Melanesia, if a man's friends get possession of the arrow which
wounded him, they keep it in a damp place or in cool leaves, for
then the inflammation will be trifling and will soon subside.
Meantime the enemy who shot the arrow is hard at work to aggravate
the wound by all the means in his power. For this purpose he and his
friends drink hot and burning juices and chew irritating leaves, for
this will clearly inflame and irritate the wound. Further, they keep
the bow near the fire to make the wound which it has inflicted hot;
and for the same reason they put the arrow-head, if it has been
recovered, into the fire. Moreover, they are careful to keep the
bow-string taut and to twang it occasionally, for this will cause
the wounded man to suffer from tension of the nerves and spasms of
tetanus. "It is constantly received and avouched," says Bacon, "that
the anointing of the weapon that maketh the wound will heal the
wound itself. In this experiment, upon the relation of men of credit
(though myself, as yet, am not fully inclined to believe it), you
shall note the points following: first, the ointment wherewith this
is done is made of divers ingredients, whereof the strangest and
hardest to come by are the moss upon the skull of a dead man
unburied, and the fats of a boar and a bear killed in the act of
generation." The precious ointment compounded out of these and other
ingredients was applied, as the philosopher explains, not to the
wound but to the weapon, and that even though the injured man was at
a great distance and knew nothing about it. The experiment, he tells
us, had been tried of wiping the ointment off the weapon without the
knowledge of the person hurt, with the result that he was presently
in a great rage of pain until the weapon was anointed again.
Moreover, "it is affirmed that if you cannot get the weapon, yet if
you put an instrument of iron or wood resembling the weapon into the
wound, whereby it bleedeth, the anointing of that instrument will
serve and work the effect." Remedies of the sort which Bacon deemed
worthy of his attention are still in vogue in the eastern counties
of England. Thus in Suffolk if a man cuts himself with a bill-hook
or a scythe he always takes care to keep the weapon bright, and oils
it to prevent the wound from festering. If he runs a thorn or, as he
calls it, a bush into his hand, he oils or greases the extracted
thorn. A man came to a doctor with an inflamed hand, having run a
thorn into it while he was hedging. On being told that the hand was
festering, he remarked, "That didn't ought to, for I greased the
bush well after I pulled it out." If a horse wounds its foot by
treading on a nail, a Suffolk groom will invariably preserve the
nail, clean it, and grease it every day, to prevent the foot from
festering. Similarly Cambridgeshire labourers think that if a horse
has run a nail into its foot, it is necessary to grease the nail
with lard or oil and put it away in some safe place, or the horse
will not recover. A few years ago a veterinary surgeon was sent for
to attend a horse which had ripped its side open on the hinge of a
farm gatepost. On arriving at the farm he found that nothing had
been done for the wounded horse, but that a man was busy trying to
pry the hinge out of the gatepost in order that it might be greased
and put away, which, in the opinion of the Cambridge wiseacres,
would conduce to the recovery of the animal. Similarly Essex rustics
opine that, if a man has been stabbed with a knife, it is essential
to his recovery that the knife should be greased and laid across the
bed on which the sufferer is lying. So in Bavaria you are directed
to anoint a linen rag with grease and tie it on the edge of the axe
that cut you, taking care to keep the sharp edge upwards. As the
grease on the axe dries, your wound heals. Similarly in the Harz
Mountains they say that if you cut yourself, you ought to smear the
knife or the scissors with fat and put the instrument away in a dry
place in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
As the knife dries, the wound heals. Other people, however, in
Germany say that you should stick the knife in some damp place in
the ground, and that your hurt will heal as the knife rusts. Others
again, in Bavaria, recommend you to smear the axe or whatever it is
with blood and put it under the eaves.

The train of reasoning which thus commends itself to English and
German rustics, in common with the savages of Melanesia and America,
is carried a step further by the aborigines of Central Australia,
who conceive that under certain circumstances the near relations of
a wounded man must grease themselves, restrict their diet, and
regulate their behaviour in other ways in order to ensure his
recovery. Thus when a lad has been circumcised and the wound is not
yet healed, his mother may not eat opossum, or a certain kind of
lizard, or carpet snake, or any kind of fat, for otherwise she would
retard the healing of the boy's wound. Every day she greases her
digging-sticks and never lets them out of her sight; at night she
sleeps with them close to her head. No one is allowed to touch them.
Every day also she rubs her body all over with grease, as in some
way this is believed to help her son's recovery. Another refinement
of the same principle is due to the ingenuity of the German peasant.
It is said that when one of his pigs or sheep breaks its leg, a
farmer of Rhenish Bavaria or Hesse will bind up the leg of a chair
with bandages and splints in due form. For some days thereafter no
one may sit on that chair, move it, or knock up against it; for to
do so would pain the injured pig or sheep and hinder the cure. In
this last case it is clear that we have passed wholly out of the
region of contagious magic and into the region of homoeopathic or
imitative magic; the chair-leg, which is treated instead of the
beast's leg, in no sense belongs to the animal, and the application
of bandages to it is a mere simulation of the treatment which a more
rational surgery would bestow on the real patient.

The sympathetic connexion supposed to exist between a man and the
weapon which has wounded him is probably founded on the notion that
the blood on the weapon continues to feel with the blood in his
body. For a like reason the Papuans of Tumleo, an island off New
Guinea, are careful to throw into the sea the bloody bandages with
which their wounds have been dressed, for they fear that if these
rags fell into the hands of an enemy he might injure them magically
thereby. Once when a man with a wound in his mouth, which bled
constantly, came to the missionaries to be treated, his faithful
wife took great pains to collect all the blood and cast it into the
sea. Strained and unnatural as this idea may seem to us, it is
perhaps less so than the belief that magic sympathy is maintained
between a person and his clothes, so that whatever is done to the
clothes will be felt by the man himself, even though he may be far
away at the time. In the Wotjobaluk tribe of Victoria a wizard would
sometimes get hold of a man's opossum rug and roast it slowly in the
fire, and as he did so the owner of the rug would fall sick. If the
wizard consented to undo the charm, he would give the rug back to
the sick man's friends, bidding them put it in water, "so as to wash
the fire out." When that happened, the sufferer would feel a
refreshing coolness and probably recover. In Tanna, one of the New
Hebrides, a man who had a grudge at another and desired his death
would try to get possession of a cloth which had touched the sweat
of his enemy's body. If he succeeded, he rubbed the cloth carefully
over with the leaves and twigs of a certain tree, rolled and bound
cloth, twigs, and leaves into a long sausage-shaped bundle, and
burned it slowly in the fire. As the bundle was consumed, the victim
fell ill, and when it was reduced to ashes, he died. In this last
form of enchantment, however, the magical sympathy may be supposed
to exist not so much between the man and the cloth as between the
man and the sweat which issued from his body. But in other cases of
the same sort it seems that the garment by itself is enough to give
the sorcerer a hold upon his victim. The witch in Theocritus, while
she melted an image or lump of wax in order that her faithless lover
might melt with love of her, did not forget to throw into the fire a
shred of his cloak which he had dropped in her house. In Prussia
they say that if you cannot catch a thief, the next best thing you
can do is to get hold of a garment which he may have shed in his
flight; for if you beat it soundly, the thief will fall sick. This
belief is firmly rooted in the popular mind. Some eighty or ninety
years ago, in the neighbourhood of Berend, a man was detected trying
to steal honey, and fled, leaving his coat behind him. When he heard
that the enraged owner of the honey was mauling his lost coat, he
was so alarmed that he took to his bed and died.

Again, magic may be wrought on a man sympathetically, not only
through his clothes and severed parts of himself, but also through
the impressions left by his body in sand or earth. In particular, it
is a world-wide superstition that by injuring footprints you injure
the feet that made them. Thus the natives of South-eastern Australia
think that they can lame a man by placing sharp pieces of quartz,
glass, bone, or charcoal in his footprints. Rheumatic pains are
often attributed by them to this cause. Seeing a Tatungolung man
very lame, Mr. Howitt asked him what was the matter. He said, "some
fellow has put _bottle_ in my foot." He was suffering from
rheumatism, but believed that an enemy had found his foot-track and
had buried it in a piece of broken bottle, the magical influence of
which had entered his foot.

Similar practices prevail in various parts of Europe. Thus in
Mecklenburg it is thought that if you drive a nail into a man's
footprint he will fall lame; sometimes it is required that the nail
should be taken from a coffin. A like mode of injuring an enemy is
resorted to in some parts of France. It is said that there was an
old woman who used to frequent Stow in Suffolk, and she was a witch.
If, while she walked, any one went after her and stuck a nail or a
knife into her footprint in the dust, the dame could not stir a step
till it was withdrawn. Among the South Slavs a girl will dig up the
earth from the footprints of the man she loves and put it in a
flower-pot. Then she plants in the pot a marigold, a flower that is
thought to be fadeless. And as its golden blossom grows and blooms
and never fades, so shall her sweetheart's love grow and bloom, and
never, never fade. Thus the love-spell acts on the man through the
earth he trod on. An old Danish mode of concluding a treaty was
based on the same idea of the sympathetic connexion between a man
and his footprints: the covenanting parties sprinkled each other's
footprints with their own blood, thus giving a pledge of fidelity.
In ancient Greece superstitions of the same sort seem to have been
current, for it was thought that if a horse stepped on the track of
a wolf he was seized with numbness; and a maxim ascribed to
Pythagoras forbade people to pierce a man's footprints with a nail
or a knife.

The same superstition is turned to account by hunters in many parts
of the world for the purpose of running down the game. Thus a German
huntsman will stick a nail taken from a coffin into the fresh spoor
of the quarry, believing that this will hinder the animal from
escaping. The aborigines of Victoria put hot embers in the tracks of
the animals they were pursuing. Hottentot hunters throw into the air
a handful of sand taken from the footprints of the game, believing
that this will bring the animal down. Thompson Indians used to lay
charms on the tracks of wounded deer; after that they deemed it
superfluous to pursue the animal any further that day, for being
thus charmed it could not travel far and would soon die. Similarly,
Ojebway Indians placed "medicine" on the track of the first deer or
bear they met with, supposing that this would soon bring the animal
into sight, even if it were two or three days' journey off; for this
charm had power to compress a journey of several days into a few
hours. Ewe hunters of West Africa stab the footprints of game with a
sharp-pointed stick in order to maim the quarry and allow them to
come up with it.

But though the footprint is the most obvious it is not the only
impression made by the body through which magic may be wrought on a
man. The aborigines of South-eastern Australia believe that a man
may be injured by burying sharp fragments of quartz, glass, and so
forth in the mark made by his reclining body; the magical virtue of
these sharp things enters his body and causes those acute pains
which the ignorant European puts down to rheumatism. We can now
understand why it was a maxim with the Pythagoreans that in rising
from bed you should smooth away the impression left by your body on
the bed-clothes. The rule was simply an old precaution against
magic, forming part of a whole code of superstitious maxims which
antiquity fathered on Pythagoras, though doubtless they were
familiar to the barbarous forefathers of the Greeks long before the
time of that philosopher.

4. The Magician's Progress

WE have now concluded our examination of the general principles of
sympathetic magic. The examples by which I have illustrated them
have been drawn for the most part from what may be called private
magic, that is from magical rites and incantations practised for the
benefit or the injury of individuals. But in savage society there is
commonly to be found in addition what we may call public magic, that
is, sorcery practised for the benefit of the whole community.
Wherever ceremonies of this sort are observed for the common good,
it is obvious that the magician ceases to be merely a private
practitioner and becomes to some extent a public functionary. The
development of such a class of functionaries is of great importance
for the political as well as the religious evolution of society. For
when the welfare of the tribe is supposed to depend on the
performance of these magical rites, the magician rises into a
position of much influence and repute, and may readily acquire the
rank and authority of a chief or king. The profession accordingly
draws into its ranks some of the ablest and most ambitious men of
the tribe, because it holds out to them a prospect of honour,
wealth, and power such as hardly any other career could offer. The
acuter minds perceive how easy it is to dupe their weaker brother
and to play on his superstition for their own advantage. Not that
the sorcerer is always a knave and impostor; he is often sincerely
convinced that he really possesses those wonderful powers which the
credulity of his fellows ascribes to him. But the more sagacious he
is, the more likely he is to see through the fallacies which impose
on duller wits. Thus the ablest members of the profession must tend
to be more or less conscious deceivers; and it is just these men who
in virtue of their superior ability will generally come to the top
and win for themselves positions of the highest dignity and the most
commanding authority. The pitfalls which beset the path of the
professional sorcerer are many, and as a rule only the man of
coolest head and sharpest wit will be able to steer his way through
them safely. For it must always be remembered that every single
profession and claim put forward by the magician as such is false;
not one of them can be maintained without deception, conscious or
unconscious. Accordingly the sorcerer who sincerely believes in his
own extravagant pretensions is in far greater peril and is much more
likely to be cut short in his career than the deliberate impostor.
The honest wizard always expects that his charms and incantations
will produce their supposed effect; and when they fail, not only
really, as they always do, but conspicuously and disastrously, as
they often do, he is taken aback: he is not, like his knavish
colleague, ready with a plausible excuse to account for the failure,
and before he can find one he may be knocked on the head by his
disappointed and angry employers.

The general result is that at this stage of social evolution the
supreme power tends to fall into the hands of men of the keenest
intelligence and the most unscrupulous character. If we could
balance the harm they do by their knavery against the benefits they
confer by their superior sagacity, it might well be found that the
good greatly outweighed the evil. For more mischief has probably
been wrought in the world by honest fools in high places than by
intelligent rascals. Once your shrewd rogue has attained the height
of his ambition, and has no longer any selfish end to further, he
may, and often does, turn his talents, his experience, his
resources, to the service of the public. Many men who have been
least scrupulous in the acquisition of power have been most
beneficent in the use of it, whether the power they aimed at and won
was that of wealth, political authority, or what not. In the field
of politics the wily intriguer, the ruthless victor, may end by
being a wise and magnanimous ruler, blessed in his lifetime,
lamented at his death, admired and applauded by posterity. Such men,
to take two of the most conspicuous instances, were Julius Caesar
and Augustus. But once a fool always a fool, and the greater the
power in his hands the more disastrous is likely to be the use he
makes of it. The heaviest calamity in English history, the breach
with America, might never have occurred if George the Third had not
been an honest dullard.

Thus, so far as the public profession of magic affected the
constitution of savage society, it tended to place the control of
affairs in the hands of the ablest man: it shifted the balance of
power from the many to the one: it substituted a monarchy for a
democracy, or rather for an oligarchy of old men; for in general the
savage community is ruled, not by the whole body of adult males, but
by a council of elders. The change, by whatever causes produced, and
whatever the character of the early rulers, was on the whole very
beneficial. For the rise of monarchy appears to be an essential
condition of the emergence of mankind from savagery. No human being
is so hide-bound by custom and tradition as your democratic savage;
in no state of society consequently is progress so slow and
difficult. The old notion that the savage is the freest of mankind
is the reverse of the truth. He is a slave, not indeed to a visible
master, but to the past, to the spirits of his dead forefathers, who
haunt his steps from birth to death, and rule him with a rod of
iron. What they did is the pattern of right, the unwritten law to
which he yields a blind unquestioning obedience. The least possible
scope is thus afforded to superior talent to change old customs for
the better. The ablest man is dragged down by the weakest and
dullest, who necessarily sets the standard, since he cannot rise,
while the other can fall. The surface of such a society presents a
uniform dead level, so far as it is humanly possible to reduce the
natural inequalities, the immeasurable real differences of inborn
capacity and temper, to a false superficial appearance of equality.
From this low and stagnant condition of affairs, which demagogues
and dreamers in later times have lauded as the ideal state, the
Golden Age, of humanity, everything that helps to raise society by
opening a career to talent and proportioning the degrees of
authority to men's natural abilities, deserves to be welcomed by all
who have the real good of their fellows at heart. Once these
elevating influences have begun to operate--and they cannot be for
ever suppressed--the progress of civilisation becomes comparatively
rapid. The rise of one man to supreme power enables him to carry
through changes in a single lifetime which previously many
generations might not have sufficed to effect; and if, as will often
happen, he is a man of intellect and energy above the common, he
will readily avail himself of the opportunity. Even the whims and
caprices of a tyrant may be of service in breaking the chain of
custom which lies so heavy on the savage. And as soon as the tribe
ceases to be swayed by the timid and divided counsels of the elders,
and yields to the direction of a single strong and resolute mind, it
becomes formidable to its neighbours and enters on a career of
aggrandisement, which at an early stage of history is often highly
favourable to social, industrial, and intellectual progress. For
extending its sway, partly by force of arms, partly by the voluntary
submission of weaker tribes, the community soon acquires wealth and
slaves, both of which, by relieving some classes from the perpetual
struggle for a bare subsistence, afford them an opportunity of
devoting themselves to that disinterested pursuit of knowledge which
is the noblest and most powerful instrument to ameliorate the lot of

Intellectual progress, which reveals itself in the growth of art and
science and the spread of more liberal views, cannot be dissociated
from industrial or economic progress, and that in its turn receives
an immense impulse from conquest and empire. It is no mere accident
that the most vehement outbursts of activity of the human mind have
followed close on the heels of victory, and that the great
conquering races of the world have commonly done most to advance and
spread civilisation, thus healing in peace the wounds they inflicted
in war. The Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs are our
witnesses in the past: we may yet live to see a similar outburst in
Japan. Nor, to remount the stream of history to its sources, is it
an accident that all the first great strides towards civilisation
have been made under despotic and theocratic governments, like those
of Egypt, Babylon, and Peru, where the supreme ruler claimed and
received the servile allegiance of his subjects in the double
character of a king and a god. It is hardly too much to say that at
this early epoch despotism is the best friend of humanity and,
paradoxical as it may sound, of liberty. For after all there is more
liberty in the best sense--liberty to think our own thoughts and to
fashion our own destinies--under the most absolute despotism, the
most grinding tyranny, than under the apparent freedom of savage
life, where the individual's lot is cast from the cradle to the
grave in the iron mould of hereditary custom.

So far, therefore, as the public profession of magic has been one of
the roads by which the ablest men have passed to supreme power, it
has contributed to emancipate mankind from the thraldom of tradition
and to elevate them into a larger, freer life, with a broader
outlook on the world. This is no small service rendered to humanity.
And when we remember further that in another direction magic has
paved the way for science, we are forced to admit that if the black
art has done much evil, it has also been the source of much good;
that if it is the child of error, it has yet been the mother of
freedom and truth.

IV. Magic and Religion

THE examples collected in the last chapter may suffice to illustrate
the general principles of sympathetic magic in its two branches, to
which we have given the names of Homoeopathic and Contagious
respectively. In some cases of magic which have come before us we
have seen that the operation of spirits is assumed, and that an
attempt is made to win their favour by prayer and sacrifice. But
these cases are on the whole exceptional; they exhibit magic tinged
and alloyed with religion. Wherever sympathetic magic occurs in its
pure unadulterated form, it assumes that in nature one event follows
another necessarily and invariably without the intervention of any
spiritual or personal agency. Thus its fundamental conception is
identical with that of modern science; underlying the whole system
is a faith, implicit but real and firm, in the order and uniformity
of nature. The magician does not doubt that the same causes will
always produce the same effects, that the performance of the proper
ceremony, accompanied by the appropriate spell, will inevitably be
attended by the desired result, unless, indeed, his incantations
should chance to be thwarted and foiled by the more potent charms of
another sorcerer. He supplicates no higher power: he sues the favour
of no fickle and wayward being: he abases himself before no awful
deity. Yet his power, great as he believes it to be, is by no means
arbitrary and unlimited. He can wield it only so long as he strictly
conforms to the rules of his art, or to what may be called the laws
of nature as conceived by him. To neglect these rules, to break
these laws in the smallest particular, is to incur failure, and may
even expose the unskilful practitioner himself to the utmost peril.
If he claims a sovereignty over nature, it is a constitutional
sovereignty rigorously limited in its scope and exercised in exact
conformity with ancient usage. Thus the analogy between the magical
and the scientific conceptions of the world is close. In both of
them the succession of events is assumed to be perfectly regular and
certain, being determined by immutable laws, the operation of which
can be foreseen and calculated precisely; the elements of caprice,
of chance, and of accident are banished from the course of nature.
Both of them open up a seemingly boundless vista of possibilities to
him who knows the causes of things and can touch the secret springs
that set in motion the vast and intricate mechanism of the world.
Hence the strong attraction which magic and science alike have
exercised on the human mind; hence the powerful stimulus that both
have given to the pursuit of knowledge. They lure the weary
enquirer, the footsore seeker, on through the wilderness of
disappointment in the present by their endless promises of the
future: they take him up to the top of an exceeding high mountain
and show him, beyond the dark clouds and rolling mists at his feet,
a vision of the celestial city, far off, it may be, but radiant with
unearthly splendour, bathed in the light of dreams.

The fatal flaw of magic lies not in its general assumption of a
sequence of events determined by law, but in its total misconception
of the nature of the particular laws which govern that sequence. If
we analyse the various cases of sympathetic magic which have been
passed in review in the preceding pages, and which may be taken as
fair samples of the bulk, we shall find, as I have already
indicated, that they are all mistaken applications of one or other
of two great fundamental laws of thought, namely, the association of
ideas by similarity and the association of ideas by contiguity in
space or time. A mistaken association of similar ideas produces
homoeopathic or imitative magic: a mistaken association of
contiguous ideas produces contagious magic. The principles of
association are excellent in themselves, and indeed absolutely
essential to the working of the human mind. Legitimately applied
they yield science; illegitimately applied they yield magic, the
bastard sister of science. It is therefore a truism, almost a
tautology, to say that all magic is necessarily false and barren;
for were it ever to become true and fruitful, it would no longer be
magic but science. From the earliest times man has been engaged in a
search for general rules whereby to turn the order of natural
phenomena to his own advantage, and in the long search he has
scraped together a great hoard of such maxims, some of them golden
and some of them mere dross. The true or golden rules constitute the
body of applied science which we call the arts; the false are magic.

If magic is thus next of kin to science, we have still to enquire
how it stands related to religion. But the view we take of that
relation will necessarily be coloured by the idea which we have
formed of the nature of religion itself; hence a writer may
reasonably be expected to define his conception of religion before
he proceeds to investigate its relation to magic. There is probably
no subject in the world about which opinions differ so much as the
nature of religion, and to frame a definition of it which would
satisfy every one must obviously be impossible. All that a writer
can do is, first, to say clearly what he means by religion, and
afterwards to employ the word consistently in that sense throughout
his work. By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or
conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct
and control the course of nature and of human life. Thus defined,
religion consists of two elements, a theoretical and a practical,
namely, a belief in powers higher than man and an attempt to
propitiate or please them. Of the two, belief clearly comes first,
since we must believe in the existence of a divine being before we
can attempt to please him. But unless the belief leads to a
corresponding practice, it is not a religion but merely a theology;
in the language of St. James, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead,
being alone." In other words, no man is religious who does not
govern his conduct in some measure by the fear or love of God. On
the other hand, mere practice, divested of all religious belief, is
also not religion. Two men may behave in exactly the same way, and
yet one of them may be religious and the other not. If the one acts
from the love or fear of God, he is religious; if the other acts
from the love or fear of man, he is moral or immoral according as
his behaviour comports or conflicts with the general good. Hence
belief and practice or, in theological language, faith and works are
equally essential to religion, which cannot exist without both of
them. But it is not necessary that religious practice should always
take the form of a ritual; that is, it need not consist in the
offering of sacrifice, the recitation of prayers, and other outward
ceremonies. Its aim is to please the deity, and if the deity is one
who delights in charity and mercy and purity more than in oblations
of blood, the chanting of hymns, and the fumes of incense, his
worshippers will best please him, not by prostrating themselves
before him, by intoning his praises, and by filling his temples with
costly gifts, but by being pure and merciful and charitable towards
men, for in so doing they will imitate, so far as human infirmity
allows, the perfections of the divine nature. It was this ethical
side of religion which the Hebrew prophets, inspired with a noble
ideal of God's goodness and holiness, were never weary of
inculcating. Thus Micah says: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is
good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And at a later time
much of the force by which Christianity conquered the world was
drawn from the same high conception of God's moral nature and the
duty laid on men of conforming themselves to it. "Pure religion and
undefiled," says St. James, "before God and the Father is this, To
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world."

But if religion involves, first, a belief in superhuman beings who
rule the world, and, second, an attempt to win their favour, it
clearly assumes that the course of nature is to some extent elastic
or variable, and that we can persuade or induce the mighty beings
who control it to deflect, for our benefit, the current of events
from the channel in which they would otherwise flow. Now this
implied elasticity or variability of nature is directly opposed to
the principles of magic as well as of science, both of which assume
that the processes of nature are rigid and invariable in their
operation, and that they can as little be turned from their course
by persuasion and entreaty as by threats and intimidation. The
distinction between the two conflicting views of the universe turns
on their answer to the crucial question, Are the forces which govern
the world conscious and personal, or unconscious and impersonal?
Religion, as a conciliation of the superhuman powers, assumes the
former member of the alternative. For all conciliation implies that
the being conciliated is a conscious or personal agent, that his
conduct is in some measure uncertain, and that he can be prevailed
upon to vary it in the desired direction by a judicious appeal to
his interests, his appetites, or his emotions. Conciliation is never
employed towards things which are regarded as inanimate, nor towards
persons whose behaviour in the particular circumstances is known to
be determined with absolute certainty. Thus in so far as religion
assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who may be
turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental
antagonism to magic as well as to science, both of which take for
granted that the course of nature is determined, not by the passions
or caprice of personal beings, but by the operation of immutable
laws acting mechanically. In magic, indeed, the assumption is only
implicit, but in science it is explicit. It is true that magic often
deals with spirits, which are personal agents of the kind assumed by
religion; but whenever it does so in its proper form, it treats them
exactly in the same fashion as it treats inanimate agents, that is,
it constrains or coerces instead of conciliating or propitiating
them as religion would do. Thus it assumes that all personal beings,
whether human or divine, are in the last resort subject to those
impersonal forces which control all things, but which nevertheless
can be turned to account by any one who knows how to manipulate them
by the appropriate ceremonies and spells. In ancient Egypt, for
example, the magicians claimed the power of compelling even the
highest gods to do their bidding, and actually threatened them with
destruction in case of disobedience. Sometimes, without going quite
so far as that, the wizard declared that he would scatter the bones
of Osiris or reveal his sacred legend, if the god proved
contumacious. Similarly in India at the present day the great Hindoo
trinity itself of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva is subject to the
sorcerers, who, by means of their spells, exercise such an
ascendency over the mightiest deities, that these are bound
submissively to execute on earth below, or in heaven above, whatever
commands their masters the magicians may please to issue. There is a
saying everywhere current in India: "The whole universe is subject
to the gods; the gods are subject to the spells (_mantras_); the
spells to the Brahmans; therefore the Brahmans are our gods."

This radical conflict of principle between magic and religion
sufficiently explains the relentless hostility with which in history
the priest has often pursued the magician. The haughty
self-sufficiency of the magician, his arrogant demeanour towards the
higher powers, and his unabashed claim to exercise a sway like
theirs could not but revolt the priest, to whom, with his awful
sense of the divine majesty, and his humble prostration in presence
of it, such claims and such a demeanour must have appeared an
impious and blasphemous usurpation of prerogatives that belong to
God alone. And sometimes, we may suspect, lower motives concurred to
whet the edge of the priest's hostility. He professed to be the
proper medium, the true intercessor between God and man, and no
doubt his interests as well as his feelings were often injured by a
rival practitioner, who preached a surer and smoother road to
fortune than the rugged and slippery path of divine favour.

Yet this antagonism, familiar as it is to us, seems to have made its
appearance comparatively late in the history of religion. At an
earlier stage the functions of priest and sorcerer were often
combined or, to speak perhaps more correctly, were not yet
differentiated from each other. To serve his purpose man wooed the
good-will of gods or spirits by prayer and sacrifice, while at the
same time he had recourse to ceremonies and forms of words which he
hoped would of themselves bring about the desired result without the
help of god or devil. In short, he performed religious and magical
rites simultaneously; he uttered prayers and incantations almost in
the same breath, knowing or recking little of the theoretical
inconsistency of his behaviour, so long as by hook or crook he
contrived to get what he wanted. Instances of this fusion or
confusion of magic with religion have already met us in the
practices of Melanesians and of other peoples.

The same confusion of magic and religion has survived among peoples
that have risen to higher levels of culture. It was rife in ancient
India and ancient Egypt; it is by no means extinct among European
peasantry at the present day. With regard to ancient India we are
told by an eminent Sanscrit scholar that "the sacrificial ritual at
the earliest period of which we have detailed information is
pervaded with practices that breathe the spirit of the most
primitive magic." Speaking of the importance of magic in the East,
and especially in Egypt, Professor Maspero remarks that "we ought
not to attach to the word magic the degrading idea which it almost
inevitably calls up in the mind of a modern. Ancient magic was the
very foundation of religion. The faithful who desired to obtain some
favour from a god had no chance of succeeding except by laying hands
on the deity, and this arrest could only be effected by means of a
certain number of rites, sacrifices, prayers, and chants, which the
god himself had revealed, and which obliged him to do what was
demanded of him."

Among the ignorant classes of modern Europe the same confusion of
ideas, the same mixture of religion and magic, crops up in various
forms. Thus we are told that in France "the majority of the peasants
still believe that the priest possesses a secret and irresistible
power over the elements. By reciting certain prayers which he alone
knows and has the right to utter, yet for the utterance of which he
must afterwards demand absolution, he can, on an occasion of
pressing danger, arrest or reverse for a moment the action of the
eternal laws of the physical world. The winds, the storms, the hail,
and the rain are at his command and obey his will. The fire also is
subject to him, and the flames of a conflagration are extinguished
at his word." For example, French peasants used to be, perhaps are
still, persuaded that the priests could celebrate, with certain
special rites, a Mass of the Holy Spirit, of which the efficacy was
so miraculous that it never met with any opposition from the divine
will; God was forced to grant whatever was asked of Him in this
form, however rash and importunate might be the petition. No idea of
impiety or irreverence attached to the rite in the minds of those
who, in some of the great extremities of life, sought by this
singular means to take the kingdom of heaven by storm. The secular
priests generally refused to say the Mass of the Holy Spirit; but
the monks, especially the Capuchin friars, had the reputation of
yielding with less scruple to the entreaties of the anxious and
distressed. In the constraint thus supposed by Catholic peasantry to
be laid by the priest upon the deity we seem to have an exact
counterpart of the power which the ancient Egyptians ascribed to
their magicians. Again, to take another example, in many villages of
Provence the priest is still reputed to possess the faculty of
averting storms. It is not every priest who enjoys this reputation;
and in some villages, when a change of pastors takes place, the
parishioners are eager to learn whether the new incumbent has the
power (_pouder_), as they call it. At the first sign of a heavy
storm they put him to the proof by inviting him to exorcise the
threatening clouds; and if the result answers to their hopes, the
new shepherd is assured of the sympathy and respect of his flock. In
some parishes, where the reputation of the curate in this respect
stood higher than that of his rector, the relations between the two
have been so strained in consequence that the bishop has had to
translate the rector to another benefice. Again, Gascon peasants
believe that to revenge themselves on their enemies bad men will
sometimes induce a priest to say a mass called the Mass of Saint
SÚcaire. Very few priests know this mass, and three-fourths of those
who do know it would not say it for love or money. None but wicked
priests dare to perform the gruesome ceremony, and you may be quite
sure that they will have a very heavy account to render for it at
the last day. No curate or bishop, not even the archbishop of Auch,
can pardon them; that right belongs to the pope of Rome alone. The
Mass of Saint SÚcaire may be said only in a ruined or deserted
church, where owls mope and hoot, where bats flit in the gloaming,
where gypsies lodge of nights, and where toads squat under the
desecrated altar. Thither the bad priest comes by night with his
light o' love, and at the first stroke of eleven he begins to mumble
the mass backwards, and ends just as the clocks are knelling the
midnight hour. His leman acts as clerk. The host he blesses is black
and has three points; he consecrates no wine, but instead he drinks
the water of a well into which the body of an unbaptized infant has
been flung. He makes the sign of the cross, but it is on the ground
and with his left foot. And many other things he does which no good
Christian could look upon without being struck blind and deaf and
dumb for the rest of his life. But the man for whom the mass is said
withers away little by little, and nobody can say what is the matter
with him; even the doctors can make nothing of it. They do not know
that he is slowly dying of the Mass of Saint SÚcaire.

Yet though magic is thus found to fuse and amalgamate with religion
in many ages and in many lands, there are some grounds for thinking
that this fusion is not primitive, and that there was a time when
man trusted to magic alone for the satisfaction of such wants as
transcended his immediate animal cravings. In the first place a
consideration of the fundamental notions of magic and religion may
incline us to surmise that magic is older than religion in the
history of humanity. We have seen that on the one hand magic is
nothing but a mistaken application of the very simplest and most
elementary processes of the mind, namely the association of ideas by
virtue of resemblance or contiguity; and that on the other hand
religion assumes the operation of conscious or personal agents,
superior to man, behind the visible screen of nature. Obviously the
conception of personal agents is more complex than a simple
recognition of the similarity or contiguity of ideas; and a theory
which assumes that the course of nature is determined by conscious
agents is more abstruse and recondite, and requires for its
apprehension a far higher degree of intelligence and reflection,
than the view that things succeed each other simply by reason of
their contiguity or resemblance. The very beasts associate the ideas
of things that are like each other or that have been found together
in their experience; and they could hardly survive for a day if they
ceased to do so. But who attributes to the animals a belief that the
phenomena of nature are worked by a multitude of invisible animals
or by one enormous and prodigiously strong animal behind the scenes?
It is probably no injustice to the brutes to assume that the honour
of devising a theory of this latter sort must be reserved for human
reason. Thus, if magic be deduced immediately from elementary
processes of reasoning, and be, in fact, an error into which the
mind falls almost spontaneously, while religion rests on conceptions
which the merely animal intelligence can hardly be supposed to have
yet attained to, it becomes probable that magic arose before
religion in the evolution of our race, and that man essayed to bend
nature to his wishes by the sheer force of spells and enchantments
before he strove to coax and mollify a coy, capricious, or irascible
deity by the soft insinuation of prayer and sacrifice.

The conclusion which we have thus reached deductively from a
consideration of the fundamental ideas of magic and religion is
confirmed inductively by the observation that among the aborigines
of Australia, the rudest savages as to whom we possess accurate
information, magic is universally practised, whereas religion in the
sense of a propitiation or conciliation of the higher powers seems
to be nearly unknown. Roughly speaking, all men in Australia are
magicians, but not one is a priest; everybody fancies he can
influence his fellows or the course of nature by sympathetic magic,
but nobody dreams of propitiating gods by prayer and sacrifice.

But if in the most backward state of human society now known to us
we find magic thus conspicuously present and religion conspicuously
absent, may we not reasonably conjecture that the civilised races of
the world have also at some period of their history passed through a
similar intellectual phase, that they attempted to force the great
powers of nature to do their pleasure before they thought of
courting their favour by offerings and prayer--in short that, just
as on the material side of human culture there has everywhere been
an Age of Stone, so on the intellectual side there has everywhere
been an Age of Magic? There are reasons for answering this question
in the affirmative. When we survey the existing races of mankind
from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego, or from Scotland to Singapore,
we observe that they are distinguished one from the other by a great
variety of religions, and that these distinctions are not, so to
speak, merely coterminous with the broad distinctions of race, but
descend into the minuter subdivisions of states and commonwealths,
nay, that they honeycomb the town, the village, and even the family,
so that the surface of society all over the world is cracked and
seamed, sapped and mined with rents and fissures and yawning
crevasses opened up by the disintegrating influence of religious
dissension. Yet when we have penetrated through these differences,
which affect mainly the intelligent and thoughtful part of the
community, we shall find underlying them all a solid stratum of
intellectual agreement among the dull, the weak, the ignorant, and
the superstitious, who constitute, unfortunately, the vast majority
of mankind. One of the great achievements of the nineteenth century
was to run shafts down into this low mental stratum in many parts of
the world, and thus to discover its substantial identity everywhere.
It is beneath our feet--and not very far beneath them--here in
Europe at the present day, and it crops up on the surface in the
heart of the Australian wilderness and wherever the advent of a
higher civilisation has not crushed it under ground. This universal
faith, this truly Catholic creed, is a belief in the efficacy of
magic. While religious systems differ not only in different
countries, but in the same country in different ages, the system of
sympathetic magic remains everywhere and at all times substantially
alike in its principles and practice. Among the ignorant and
superstitious classes of modern Europe it is very much what it was
thousands of years ago in Egypt and India, and what it now is among
the lowest savages surviving in the remotest corners of the world.
If the test of truth lay in a show of hands or a counting of heads,
the system of magic might appeal, with far more reason than the
Catholic Church, to the proud motto, "_Quod semper, quod ubique,
quod ab omnibus,_" as the sure and certain credential of its own

It is not our business here to consider what bearing the permanent
existence of such a solid layer of savagery beneath the surface of
society, and unaffected by the superficial changes of religion and
culture, has upon the future of humanity. The dispassionate
observer, whose studies have led him to plumb its depths, can hardly
regard it otherwise than as a standing menace to civilisation. We
seem to move on a thin crust which may at any moment be rent by the
subterranean forces slumbering below. From time to time a hollow
murmur underground or a sudden spirt of flame into the air tells of
what is going on beneath our feet. Now and then the polite world is
startled by a paragraph in a newspaper which tells how in Scotland
an image has been found stuck full of pins for the purpose of
killing an obnoxious laird or minister, how a woman has been slowly
roasted to death as a witch in Ireland, or how a girl has been
murdered and chopped up in Russia to make those candles of human
tallow by whose light thieves hope to pursue their midnight trade
unseen. But whether the influences that make for further progress,
or those that threaten to undo what has already been accomplished,
will ultimately prevail; whether the impulsive energy of the
minority or the dead weight of the majority of mankind will prove
the stronger force to carry us up to higher heights or to sink us
into lower depths, are questions rather for the sage, the moralist,
and the statesman, whose eagle vision scans the future, than for the
humble student of the present and the past. Here we are only
concerned to ask how far the uniformity, the universality, and the
permanence of a belief in magic, compared with the endless variety
and the shifting character of religious creeds, raises a presumption
that the former represents a ruder and earlier phase of the human
mind, through which all the races of mankind have passed or are
passing on their way to religion and science.

If an Age of Religion has thus everywhere, as I venture to surmise,
been preceded by an Age of Magic, it is natural that we should
enquire what causes have led mankind, or rather a portion of them,
to abandon magic as a principle of faith and practice and to betake
themselves to religion instead. When we reflect upon the multitude,
the variety, and the complexity of the facts to be explained, and
the scantiness of our information regarding them, we shall be ready
to acknowledge that a full and satisfactory solution of so profound
a problem is hardly to be hoped for, and that the most we can do in
the present state of our knowledge is to hazard a more or less
plausible conjecture. With all due diffidence, then, I would suggest
that a tardy recognition of the inherent falsehood and barrenness of
magic set the more thoughtful part of mankind to cast about for a
truer theory of nature and a more fruitful method of turning her
resources to account. The shrewder intelligences must in time have
come to perceive that magical ceremonies and incantations did not
really effect the results which they were designed to produce, and
which the majority of their simpler fellows still believed that they
did actually produce. This great discovery of the inefficacy of
magic must have wrought a radical though probably slow revolution in
the minds of those who had the sagacity to make it. The discovery
amounted to this, that men for the first time recognised their
inability to manipulate at pleasure certain natural forces which
hitherto they had believed to be completely within their control. It
was a confession of human ignorance and weakness. Man saw that he
had taken for causes what were no causes, and that all his efforts
to work by means of these imaginary causes had been vain. His
painful toil had been wasted, his curious ingenuity had been
squandered to no purpose. He had been pulling at strings to which
nothing was attached; he had been marching, as he thought, straight
to the goal, while in reality he had only been treading in a narrow
circle. Not that the effects which he had striven so hard to produce
did not continue to manifest themselves. They were still produced,
but not by him. The rain still fell on the thirsty ground: the sun
still pursued his daily, and the moon her nightly journey across the
sky: the silent procession of the seasons still moved in light and
shadow, in cloud and sunshine across the earth: men were still born
to labour and sorrow, and still, after a brief sojourn here, were
gathered to their fathers in the long home hereafter. All things
indeed went on as before, yet all seemed different to him from whose
eyes the old scales had fallen. For he could no longer cherish the
pleasing illusion that it was he who guided the earth and the heaven
in their courses, and that they would cease to perform their great
revolutions were he to take his feeble hand from the wheel. In the
death of his enemies and his friends he no longer saw a proof of the
resistless potency of his own or of hostile enchantments; he now
knew that friends and foes alike had succumbed to a force stronger
than any that he could wield, and in obedience to a destiny which he
was powerless to control.

Thus cut adrift from his ancient moorings and left to toss on a
troubled sea of doubt and uncertainty, his old happy confidence in
himself and his powers rudely shaken, our primitive philosopher must
have been sadly perplexed and agitated till he came to rest, as in a
quiet haven after a tempestuous voyage, in a new system of faith and
practice, which seemed to offer a solution of his harassing doubts
and a substitute, however precarious, for that sovereignty over
nature which he had reluctantly abdicated. If the great world went
on its way without the help of him or his fellows, it must surely be
because there were other beings, like himself, but far stronger,
who, unseen themselves, directed its course and brought about all
the varied series of events which he had hitherto believed to be
dependent on his own magic. It was they, as he now believed, and not
he himself, who made the stormy wind to blow, the lightning to
flash, and the thunder to roll; who had laid the foundations of the
solid earth and set bounds to the restless sea that it might not
pass; who caused all the glorious lights of heaven to shine; who
gave the fowls of the air their meat and the wild beasts of the
desert their prey; who bade the fruitful land to bring forth in
abundance, the high hills to be clothed with forests, the bubbling
springs to rise under the rocks in the valleys, and green pastures
to grow by still waters; who breathed into man's nostrils and made
him live, or turned him to destruction by famine and pestilence and
war. To these mighty beings, whose handiwork he traced in all the
gorgeous and varied pageantry of nature, man now addressed himself,
humbly confessing his dependence on their invisible power, and
beseeching them of their mercy to furnish him with all good things,
to defend him from the perils and dangers by which our mortal life
is compassed about on every hand, and finally to bring his immortal
spirit, freed from the burden of the body, to some happier world,
beyond the reach of pain and sorrow, where he might rest with them
and with the spirits of good men in joy and felicity for ever.

In this, or some such way as this, the deeper minds may be conceived
to have made the great transition from magic to religion. But even
in them the change can hardly ever have been sudden; probably it
proceeded very slowly, and required long ages for its more or less
perfect accomplishment. For the recognition of man's powerlessness
to influence the course of nature on a grand scale must have been
gradual; he cannot have been shorn of the whole of his fancied
dominion at a blow. Step by step he must have been driven back from
his proud position; foot by foot he must have yielded, with a sigh,
the ground which he had once viewed as his own. Now it would be the
wind, now the rain, now the sunshine, now the thunder, that he
confessed himself unable to wield at will; and as province after
province of nature thus fell from his grasp, till what had once
seemed a kingdom threatened to shrink into a prison, man must have
been more and more profoundly impressed with a sense of his own
helplessness and the might of the invisible beings by whom he
believed himself to be surrounded. Thus religion, beginning as a
slight and partial acknowledgment of powers superior to man, tends
with the growth of knowledge to deepen into a confession of man's
entire and absolute dependence on the divine; his old free bearing
is exchanged for an attitude of lowliest prostration before the
mysterious powers of the unseen, and his highest virtue is to submit
his will to theirs: _In la sua volontade Ŕ nostra pace._ But this
deepening sense of religion, this more perfect submission to the
divine will in all things, affects only those higher intelligences
who have breadth of view enough to comprehend the vastness of the
universe and the littleness of man. Small minds cannot grasp great
ideas; to their narrow comprehension, their purblind vision, nothing
seems really great and important but themselves. Such minds hardly
rise into religion at all. They are, indeed, drilled by their
betters into an outward conformity with its precepts and a verbal
profession of its tenets; but at heart they cling to their old
magical superstitions, which may be discountenanced and forbidden,
but cannot be eradicated by religion, so long as they have their
roots deep down in the mental framework and constitution of the
great majority of mankind.

The reader may well be tempted to ask, How was it that intelligent
men did not sooner detect the fallacy of magic? How could they
continue to cherish expectations that were invariably doomed to
disappointment? With what heart persist in playing venerable antics
that led to nothing, and mumbling solemn balderdash that remained
without effect? Why cling to beliefs which were so flatly
contradicted by experience? How dare to repeat experiments that had
failed so often? The answer seems to be that the fallacy was far
from easy to detect, the failure by no means obvious, since in many,
perhaps in most cases, the desired event did actually follow, at a
longer or shorter interval, the performance of the rite which was
designed to bring it about; and a mind of more than common acuteness
was needed to perceive that, even in these cases, the rite was not
necessarily the cause of the event. A ceremony intended to make the
wind blow or the rain fall, or to work the death of an enemy, will
always be followed, sooner or later, by the occurrence it is meant
to bring to pass; and primitive man may be excused for regarding the
occurrence as a direct result of the ceremony, and the best possible
proof of its efficacy. Similarly, rites observed in the morning to
help the sun to rise, and in spring to wake the dreaming earth from
her winter sleep, will invariably appear to be crowned with success,
at least within the temperate zones; for in these regions the sun
lights his golden lamp in the east every morning, and year by year
the vernal earth decks herself afresh with a rich mantle of green.
Hence the practical savage, with his conservative instincts, might
well turn a deaf ear to the subtleties of the theoretical doubter,
the philosophic radical, who presumed to hint that sunrise and
spring might not, after all, be direct consequences of the punctual
performance of certain daily or yearly ceremonies, and that the sun
might perhaps continue to rise and trees to blossom though the
ceremonies were occasionally intermitted, or even discontinued
altogether. These sceptical doubts would naturally be repelled by
the other with scorn and indignation as airy reveries subversive of
the faith and manifestly contradicted by experience. "Can anything
be plainer," he might say, "than that I light my twopenny candle on
earth and that the sun then kindles his great fire in heaven? I
should be glad to know whether, when I have put on my green robe in
spring, the trees do not afterwards do the same? These are facts
patent to everybody, and on them I take my stand. I am a plain
practical man, not one of your theorists and splitters of hairs and
choppers of logic. Theories and speculation and all that may be very
well in their way, and I have not the least objection to your
indulging in them, provided, of course, you do not put them in
practice. But give me leave to stick to facts; then I know where I
am." The fallacy of this reasoning is obvious to us, because it
happens to deal with facts about which we have long made up our
minds. But let an argument of precisely the same calibre be applied
to matters which are still under debate, and it may be questioned
whether a British audience would not applaud it as sound, and esteem
the speaker who used it a safe man--not brilliant or showy, perhaps,
but thoroughly sensible and hard-headed. If such reasonings could
pass muster among ourselves, need we wonder that they long escaped
detection by the savage?

V. The Magical Control of the Weather

1. The Public Magician

THE READER may remember that we were led to plunge into the
labyrinth of magic by a consideration of two different types of
man-god. This is the clue which has guided our devious steps through
the maze, and brought us out at last on higher ground, whence,
resting a little by the way, we can look back over the path we have
already traversed and forward to the longer and steeper road we have
still to climb.

As a result of the foregoing discussion, the two types of human gods
may conveniently be distinguished as the religious and the magical
man-god respectively. In the former, a being of an order different
from and superior to man is supposed to become incarnate, for a
longer or a shorter time, in a human body, manifesting his
super-human power and knowledge by miracles wrought and prophecies
uttered through the medium of the fleshly tabernacle in which he has
deigned to take up his abode. This may also appropriately be called
the inspired or incarnate type of man-god. In it the human body is
merely a frail earthly vessel filled with a divine and immortal
spirit. On the other hand, a man-god of the magical sort is nothing
but a man who possesses in an unusually high degree powers which
most of his fellows arrogate to themselves on a smaller scale; for
in rude society there is hardly a person who does not dabble in
magic. Thus, whereas a man-god of the former or inspired type
derives his divinity from a deity who has stooped to hide his
heavenly radiance behind a dull mask of earthly mould, a man-god of
the latter type draws his extraordinary power from a certain
physical sympathy with nature. He is not merely the receptacle of a
divine spirit. His whole being, body and soul, is so delicately
attuned to the harmony of the world that a touch of his hand or a
turn of his head may send a thrill vibrating through the universal
framework of things; and conversely his divine organism is acutely
sensitive to such slight changes of environment as would leave
ordinary mortals wholly unaffected. But the line between these two
types of man-god, however sharply we may draw it in theory, is
seldom to be traced with precision in practice, and in what follows
I shall not insist on it.

We have seen that in practice the magic art may be employed for the
benefit either of individuals or of the whole community, and that
according as it is directed to one or other of these two objects it
may be called private or public magic. Further, I pointed out that
the public magician occupies a position of great influence, from
which, if he is a prudent and able man, he may advance step by step
to the rank of a chief or king. Thus an examination of public magic
conduces to an understanding of the early kingship, since in savage
and barbarous society many chiefs and kings appear to owe their
authority in great measure to their reputation as magicians.

Among the objects of public utility which magic may be employed to
secure, the most essential is an adequate supply of food. The
examples cited in preceding pages prove that the purveyors of
food--the hunter, the fisher, the farmer--all resort to magical
practices in the pursuit of their various callings; but they do so
as private individuals for the benefit of themselves and their
families, rather than as public functionaries acting in the interest
of the whole people. It is otherwise when the rites are performed,
not by the hunters, the fishers, the farmers themselves, but by
professional magicians on their behalf. In primitive society, where
uniformity of occupation is the rule, and the distribution of the
community into various classes of workers has hardly begun, every
man is more or less his own magician; he practises charms and
incantations for his own good and the injury of his enemies. But a
great step in advance has been taken when a special class of
magicians has been instituted; when, in other words, a number of men
have been set apart for the express purpose of benefiting the whole
community by their skill, whether that skill be directed to the
healing of diseases, the forecasting of the future, the regulation
of the weather, or any other object of general utility. The
impotence of the means adopted by most of these practitioners to
accomplish their ends ought not to blind us to the immense
importance of the institution itself. Here is a body of men
relieved, at least in the higher stages of savagery, from the need
of earning their livelihood by hard manual toil, and allowed, nay,
expected and encouraged, to prosecute researches into the secret
ways of nature. It was at once their duty and their interest to know
more than their fellows, to acquaint themselves with everything that
could aid man in his arduous struggle with nature, everything that
could mitigate his sufferings and prolong his life. The properties
of drugs and minerals, the causes of rain and drought, of thunder
and lightning, the changes of the seasons, the phases of the moon,
the daily and yearly journeys of the sun, the motions of the stars,
the mystery of life, and the mystery of death, all these things must
have excited the wonder of these early philosophers, and stimulated
them to find solutions of problems that were doubtless often thrust
on their attention in the most practical form by the importunate
demands of their clients, who expected them not merely to understand
but to regulate the great processes of nature for the good of man.
That their first shots fell very far wide of the mark could hardly
be helped. The slow, the never-ending approach to truth consists in
perpetually forming and testing hypotheses, accepting those which at
the time seem to fit the facts and rejecting the others. The views
of natural causation embraced by the savage magician no doubt appear
to us manifestly false and absurd; yet in their day they were
legitimate hypotheses, though they have not stood the test of
experience. Ridicule and blame are the just meed, not of those who
devised these crude theories, but of those who obstinately adhered
to them after better had been propounded. Certainly no men ever had
stronger incentives in the pursuit of truth than these savage
sorcerers. To maintain at least a show of knowledge was absolutely
necessary; a single mistake detected might cost them their life.
This no doubt led them to practise imposture for the purpose of
concealing their ignorance; but it also supplied them with the most
powerful motive for substituting a real for a sham knowledge, since,
if you would appear to know anything, by far the best way is
actually to know it. Thus, however justly we may reject the
extravagant pretensions of magicians and condemn the deceptions
which they have practised on mankind, the original institution of
this class of men has, take it all in all, been productive of
incalculable good to humanity. They were the direct predecessors,
not merely of our physicians and surgeons, but of our investigators
and discoverers in every branch of natural science. They began the
work which has since been carried to such glorious and beneficent
issues by their successors in after ages; and if the beginning was
poor and feeble, this is to be imputed to the inevitable
difficulties which beset the path of knowledge rather than to the
natural incapacity or wilful fraud of the men themselves.

2. The Magical Control of Rain

OF THE THINGS which the public magician sets himself to do for the
good of the tribe, one of the chief is to control the weather and
especially to ensure an adequate fall of rain. Water is an essential
of life, and in most countries the supply of it depends upon
showers. Without rain vegetation withers, animals and men languish
and die. Hence in savage communities the rain-maker is a very
important personage; and often a special class of magicians exists
for the purpose of regulating the heavenly water-supply. The methods
by which they attempt to discharge the duties of their office are
commonly, though not always, based on the principle of homoeopathic
or imitative magic. If they wish to make rain they simulate it by
sprinkling water or mimicking clouds: if their object is to stop
rain and cause drought, they avoid water and resort to warmth and
fire for the sake of drying up the too abundant moisture. Such
attempts are by no means confined, as the cultivated reader might
imagine, to the naked inhabitants of those sultry lands like Central
Australia and some parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, where often
for months together the pitiless sun beats down out of a blue and
cloudless sky on the parched and gaping earth. They are, or used to
be, common enough among outwardly civilised folk in the moister
climate of Europe. I will now illustrate them by instances drawn
from the practice both of public and private magic.

Thus, for example, in a village near Dorpat, in Russia, when rain
was much wanted, three men used to climb up the fir-trees of an old
sacred grove. One of them drummed with a hammer on a kettle or small
cask to imitate thunder; the second knocked two fire-brands together
and made the sparks fly, to imitate lightning; and the third, who
was called "the rain-maker," had a bunch of twigs with which he
sprinkled water from a vessel on all sides. To put an end to drought
and bring down rain, women and girls of the village of Ploska are
wont to go naked by night to the boundaries of the village and there
pour water on the ground. In Halmahera, or Gilolo, a large island to
the west of New Guinea, a wizard makes rain by dipping a branch of a
particular kind of tree in water and then scattering the moisture
from the dripping bough over the ground. In New Britain the
rain-maker wraps some leaves of a red and green striped creeper in a
banana-leaf, moistens the bundle with water, and buries it in the
ground; then he imitates with his mouth the plashing of rain.
Amongst the Omaha Indians of North America, when the corn is
withering for want of rain, the members of the sacred Buffalo
Society fill a large vessel with water and dance four times round
it. One of them drinks some of the water and spirts it into the air,
making a fine spray in imitation of a mist or drizzling rain. Then
he upsets the vessel, spilling the water on the ground; whereupon
the dancers fall down and drink up the water, getting mud all over
their faces. Lastly, they squirt the water into the air, making a
fine mist. This saves the corn. In spring-time the Natchez of North
America used to club together to purchase favourable weather for
their crops from the wizards. If rain was needed, the wizards fasted
and danced with pipes full of water in their mouths. The pipes were
perforated like the nozzle of a watering-can, and through the holes
the rain-maker blew the water towards that part of the sky where the
clouds hung heaviest. But if fine weather was wanted, he mounted the
roof of his hut, and with extended arms, blowing with all his might,
he beckoned to the clouds to pass by. When the rains do not come in
due season the people of Central Angoniland repair to what is called
the rain-temple. Here they clear away the grass, and the leader
pours beer into a pot which is buried in the ground, while he says,
"Master _Chauta,_ you have hardened your heart towards us, what
would you have us do? We must perish indeed. Give your children the
rains, there is the beer we have given you." Then they all partake
of the beer that is left over, even the children being made to sip
it. Next they take branches of trees and dance and sing for rain.
When they return to the village they find a vessel of water set at
the doorway by an old woman; so they dip their branches in it and
wave them aloft, so as to scatter the drops. After that the rain is
sure to come driving up in heavy clouds. In these practices we see a
combination of religion with magic; for while the scattering of the
water-drops by means of branches is a purely magical ceremony, the
prayer for rain and the offering of beer are purely religious rites.
In the Mara tribe of Northern Australia the rain-maker goes to a
pool and sings over it his magic song. Then he takes some of the
water in his hands, drinks it, and spits it out in various
directions. After that he throws water all over himself, scatters it
about, and returns quietly to the camp. Rain is supposed to follow.
The Arab historian Makrizi describes a method of stopping rain which
is said to have been resorted to by a tribe of nomads called Alqamar
in Hadramaut. They cut a branch from a certain tree in the desert,
set it on fire, and then sprinkled the burning brand with water.
After that the vehemence of the rain abated, just as the water
vanished when it fell on the glowing brand. Some of the Eastern
Angamis of Manipur are said to perform a some-what similar ceremony
for the opposite purpose, in order, namely, to produce rain. The
head of the village puts a burning brand on the grave of a man who
has died of burns, and quenches the brand with water, while he prays
that rain may fall. Here the putting out the fire with water, which
is an imitation of rain, is reinforced by the influence of the dead
man, who, having been burnt to death, will naturally be anxious for
the descent of rain to cool his scorched body and assuage his pangs.

Other people besides the Arabs have used fire as a means of stopping
rain. Thus the Sulka of New Britain heat stones red hot in the fire
and then put them out in the rain, or they throw hot ashes in the
air. They think that the rain will soon cease to fall, for it does
not like to be burned by the hot stones or ashes. The Telugus send a
little girl out naked into the rain with a burning piece of wood in
her hand, which she has to show to the rain. That is supposed to
stop the downpour. At Port Stevens in New South Wales the
medicine-men used to drive away rain by throwing fire-sticks into
the air, while at the same time they puffed and shouted. Any man of
the Anula tribe in Northern Australia can stop rain by simply
warming a green stick in the fire, and then striking it against the

In time of severe drought the Dieri of Central Australia, loudly
lamenting the impoverished state of the country and their own
half-starved condition, call upon the spirits of their remote
predecessors, whom they call Mura-muras, to grant them power to make
a heavy rain-fall. For they believe that the clouds are bodies in
which rain is generated by their own ceremonies or those of
neighbouring tribes, through the influence of the Mura-muras. The
way in which they set about drawing rain from the clouds is this. A
hole is dug about twelve feet long and eight or ten broad, and over
this hole a conical hut of logs and branches is made. Two wizards,
supposed to have received a special inspiration from the Mura-muras,
are bled by an old and influential man with a sharp flint; and the
blood, drawn from their arms below the elbow, is made to flow on the
other men of the tribe, who sit huddled together in the hut. At the
same time the two bleeding men throw handfuls of down about, some of
which adheres to the blood-stained bodies of their comrades, while
the rest floats in the air. The blood is thought to represent the
rain, and the down the clouds. During the ceremony two large stones
are placed in the middle of the hut; they stand for gathering clouds
and presage rain. Then the wizards who were bled carry away the two
stones for about ten or fifteen miles, and place them as high as
they can in the tallest tree. Meanwhile the other men gather gypsum,
pound it fine, and throw it into a water-hole. This the Mura-muras
see, and at once they cause clouds to appear in the sky. Lastly, the
men, young and old, surround the hut, and, stooping down, butt at it
with their heads, like so many rams. Thus they force their way
through it and reappear on the other side, repeating the process
till the hut is wrecked. In doing this they are forbidden to use
their hands or arms; but when the heavy logs alone remain, they are
allowed to pull them out with their hands. "The piercing of the hut
with their heads symbolises the piercing of the clouds; the fall of
the hut, the fall of the rain." Obviously, too, the act of placing
high up in trees the two stones, which stand for clouds, is a way of
making the real clouds to mount up in the sky. The Dieri also
imagine that the foreskins taken from lads at circumcision have a
great power of producing rain. Hence the Great Council of the tribe
always keeps a small stock of foreskins ready for use. They are
carefully concealed, being wrapt up in feathers with the fat of the
wild dog and of the carpet snake. A woman may not see such a parcel
opened on any account. When the ceremony is over, the foreskin is
buried, its virtue being exhausted. After the rains have fallen,
some of the tribe always undergo a surgical operation, which
consists in cutting the skin of their chest and arms with a sharp
flint. The wound is then tapped with a flat stick to increase the
flow of blood, and red ochre is rubbed into it. Raised scars are
thus produced. The reason alleged by the natives for this practice
is that they are pleased with the rain, and that there is a
connexion between the rain and the scars. Apparently the operation
is not very painful, for the patient laughs and jokes while it is
going on. Indeed, little children have been seen to crowd round the
operator and patiently take their turn; then after being operated
on, they ran away, expanding their little chests and singing for the
rain to beat upon them. However, they were not so well pleased next
day, when they felt their wounds stiff and sore. In Java, when rain
is wanted, two men will sometimes thrash each other with supple rods
till the blood flows down their backs; the streaming blood
represents the rain, and no doubt is supposed to make it fall on the
ground. The people of Egghiou, a district of Abyssinia, used to
engage in sanguinary conflicts with each other, village against
village, for a week together every January for the purpose of
procuring rain. Some years ago the emperor Menelik forbade the
custom. However, the following year the rain was deficient, and the
popular outcry so great that the emperor yielded to it, and allowed
the murderous fights to be resumed, but for two days a year only.
The writer who mentions the custom regards the blood shed on these
occasions as a propitiatory sacrifice offered to spirits who control
the showers; but perhaps, as in the Australian and Javanese
ceremonies, it is an imitation of rain. The prophets of Baal, who
sought to procure rain by cutting themselves with knives till the
blood gushed out, may have acted on the same principle.

There is a widespread belief that twin children possess magical
powers over nature, especially over rain and the weather. This
curious superstition prevails among some of the Indian tribes of
British Columbia, and has led them often to impose certain singular
restrictions or taboos on the parents of twins, though the exact
meaning of these restrictions is generally obscure. Thus the
Tsimshian Indians of British Columbia believe that twins control the
weather; therefore they pray to wind and rain, "Calm down, breath of
the twins." Further, they think that the wishes of twins are always
fulfilled; hence twins are feared, because they can harm the man
they hate. They can also call the salmon and the olachen or
candle-fish, and so they are known by a name which means "making
plentiful." In the opinion of the Kwakiutl Indians of British
Columbia twins are transformed salmon; hence they may not go near
water, lest they should be changed back again into the fish. In
their childhood they can summon any wind by motions of their hands,
and they can make fair or foul weather, and also cure diseases by
swinging a large wooden rattle. The Nootka Indians of British
Columbia also believe that twins are somehow related to salmon.
Hence among them twins may not catch salmon, and they may not eat or
even handle the fresh fish. They can make fair or foul weather, and
can cause rain to fall by painting their faces black and then
washing them, which may represent the rain dripping from the dark
clouds. The Shuswap Indians, like the Thompson Indians, associate
twins with the grizzly bear, for they call them "young grizzly
bears." According to them, twins remain throughout life endowed with
supernatural powers. In particular they can make good or bad
weather. They produce rain by spilling water from a basket in the
air; they make fine weather by shaking a small flat piece of wood
attached to a stick by a string; they raise storms by strewing down
on the ends of spruce branches.

The same power of influencing the weather is attributed to twins by
the Baronga, a tribe of Bantu negroes who, inhabit the shores of
Delagoa Bay in South-eastern Africa. They bestow the name of
_Tilo_--that is, the sky--on a woman who has given birth to twins,
and the infants themselves are called the children of the sky. Now
when the storms which generally burst in the months of September and
October have been looked for in vain, when a drought with its
prospect of famine is threatening, and all nature, scorched and
burnt up by a sun that has shone for six months from a cloudless
sky, is panting for the beneficent showers of the South African
spring, the women perform ceremonies to bring down the longed-for
rain on the parched earth. Stripping themselves of all their
garments, they assume in their stead girdles and head-dresses of
grass, or short petticoats made of the leaves of a particular sort
of creeper. Thus attired, uttering peculiar cries and singing ribald
songs, they go about from well to well, cleansing them of the mud
and impurities which have accumulated in them. The wells, it may be
said, are merely holes in the sand where a little turbid unwholesome
water stagnates. Further, the women must repair to the house of one
of their gossips who has given birth to twins, and must drench her
with water, which they carry in little pitchers. Having done so they
go on their way, shrieking out their loose songs and dancing
immodest dances. No man may see these leaf-clad women going their
rounds. If they meet a man, they maul him and thrust him aside. When
they have cleansed the wells, they must go and pour water on the
graves of their ancestors in the sacred grove. It often happens,
too, that at the bidding of the wizard they go and pour water on the
graves of twins. For they think that the grave of a twin ought
always to be moist, for which reason twins are regularly buried near
a lake. If all their efforts to procure rain prove abortive, they
will remember that such and such a twin was buried in a dry place on
the side of a hill. "No wonder," says the wizard in such a case,
"that the sky is fiery. Take up his body and dig him a grave on the
shore of the lake." His orders are at once obeyed, for this is
supposed to be the only means of bringing down the rain.

Some of the foregoing facts strongly support an interpretation which
Professor Oldenberg has given of the rules to be observed by a
Brahman who would learn a particular hymn of the ancient Indian
collection known as the Samaveda. The hymn, which bears the name of
the Sakvari» song, was believed to embody the might of Indra's
weapon, the thunderbolt; and hence, on account of the dreadful and
dangerous potency with which it was thus charged, the bold student
who essayed to master it had to be isolated from his fellow-men, and
to retire from the village into the forest. Here for a space of
time, which might vary, according to different doctors of the law,
from one to twelve years, he had to observe certain rules of life,
among which were the following. Thrice a day he had to touch water;
he must wear black garments and eat black food; when it rained, he
might not seek the shelter of a roof, but had to sit in the rain and
say, "Water is the Sakvari» song"; when the lightning flashed, he
said, "That is like the Sakvari» song"; when the thunder pealed, he
said, "The Great One is making a great noise." He might never cross
a running stream without touching water; he might never set foot on
a ship unless his life were in danger, and even then he must be sure
to touch water when he went on board; "for in water," so ran the
saying, "lies the virtue of the Sakvari» song." When at last he was
allowed to learn the song itself, he had to dip his hands in a
vessel of water in which plants of all sorts had been placed. If a
man walked in the way of all these precepts, the rain-god Parjanya,
it was said, would send rain at the wish of that man. It is clear,
as Professor Oldenberg well points out, that "all these rules are
intended to bring the Brahman into union with water, to make him, as
it were, an ally of the water powers, and to guard him against their
hostility. The black garments and the black food have the same
significance; no one will doubt that they refer to the rain-clouds
when he remembers that a black victim is sacrificed to procure rain;
'it is black, for such is the nature of rain.' In respect of another
rain-charm it is said plainly, 'He puts on a black garment edged
with black, for such is the nature of rain.' We may therefore assume
that here in the circle of ideas and ordinances of the Vedic schools
there have been preserved magical practices of the most remote
antiquity, which were intended to prepare the rain-maker for his
office and dedicate him to it."

It is interesting to observe that where an opposite result is
desired, primitive logic enjoins the weather-doctor to observe
precisely opposite rules of conduct. In the tropical island of Java,
where the rich vegetation attests the abundance of the rainfall,
ceremonies for the making of rain are rare, but ceremonies for the
prevention of it are not uncommon. When a man is about to give a
great feast in the rainy season and has invited many people, he goes
to a weather-doctor and asks him to "prop up the clouds that may be
lowering." If the doctor consents to exert his professional powers,
he begins to regulate his behaviour by certain rules as soon as his
customer has departed. He must observe a fast, and may neither drink
nor bathe; what little he eats must be eaten dry, and in no case may
he touch water. The host, on his side, and his servants, both male
and female, must neither wash clothes nor bathe so long as the feast
lasts, and they have all during its continuance to observe strict
chastity. The doctor seats himself on a new mat in his bedroom, and
before a small oil-lamp he murmurs, shortly before the feast takes
place, the following prayer or incantation: "Grandfather and
Grandmother Sroekoel" (the name seems to be taken at random; others
are sometimes used), "return to your country. Akkemat is your
country. Put down your water-cask, close it properly, that not a
drop may fall out." While he utters this prayer the sorcerer looks
upwards, burning incense the while. So among the Toradjas the
rain-doctor, whose special business it is to drive away rain, takes
care not to touch water before, during, or after the discharge of
his professional duties. He does not bathe, he eats with unwashed
hands, he drinks nothing but palm wine, and if he has to cross a
stream he is careful not to step in the water. Having thus prepared
himself for his task he has a small hut built for himself outside of
the village in a rice-field, and in this hut he keeps up a little
fire, which on no account may be suffered to go out. In the fire he
burns various kinds of wood, which are supposed to possess the
property of driving off rain; and he puffs in the direction from
which the rain threatens to come, holding in his hand a packet of
leaves and bark which derive a similar cloud-compelling virtue, not
from their chemical composition, but from their names, which happen
to signify something dry or volatile. If clouds should appear in the
sky while he is at work, he takes lime in the hollow of his hand and
blows it towards them. The lime, being so very dry, is obviously
well adapted to disperse the damp clouds. Should rain afterwards be
wanted, he has only to pour water on his fire, and immediately the
rain will descend in sheets.

The reader will observe how exactly the Javanese and Toradja
observances, which are intended to prevent rain, form the antithesis
of the Indian observances, which aim at producing it. The Indian
sage is commanded to touch water thrice a day regularly as well as
on various special occasions; the Javanese and Toradja wizards may
not touch it at all. The Indian lives out in the forest, and even
when it rains he may not take shelter; the Javanese and the Toradja
sit in a house or a hut. The one signifies his sympathy with water
by receiving the rain on his person and speaking of it respectfully;
the others light a lamp or a fire and do their best to drive the
rain away. Yet the principle on which all three act is the same;
each of them, by a sort of childish make-believe, identifies himself
with the phenomenon which he desires to produce. It is the old
fallacy that the effect resembles its cause: if you would make wet
weather, you must be wet; if you would make dry weather, you must be

In South-eastern Europe at the present day ceremonies are
observed for the purpose of making rain which not only rest on the
same general train of thought as the preceding, but even in their
details resemble the ceremonies practised with the same intention
by the Baronga of Delagoa Bay. Among the Greeks of Thessaly and
Macedonia, when a drought has lasted a long time, it is customary
to send a procession of children round to all the wells and springs
of the neighbourhood. At the head of the procession walks a girl
adorned with flowers, whom her companions drench with water at
every halting-place, while they sing an invocation, of which the
following is part:

"Perperia all fresh bedewed,
Freshen all the neighbourhood;
By the woods, on the highway,
As thou goest, to God now pray:
O my God, upon the plain,
Send thou us a still, small rain;
That the fields may fruitful be,
And vines in blossom we may see;
That the grain be full and sound,
And wealthy grow the folks around."

In time of drought the Serbians strip a girl to her skin and clothe
her from head to foot in grass, herbs, and flowers, even her face
being hidden behind a veil of living green. Thus disguised she is
called the Dodola, and goes through the village with a troop of
girls. They stop before every house; the Dodola keeps turning
herself round and dancing, while the other girls form a ring about
her singing one of the Dodola songs, and the housewife pours a pail

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