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The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

Part 3 out of 19

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of water over her. One of the songs they sing runs thus:

"We go through the village;
The clouds go in the sky;
We go faster,
Faster go the clouds;
They have overtaken us,
And wetted the corn and the vine."

At Poona in India, when rain is needed, the boys dress up one of
their number in nothing but leaves and call him King of Rain. Then
they go round to every house in the village, where the house-holder
or his wife sprinkles the Rain King with water, and gives the party
food of various kinds. When they have thus visited all the houses,
they strip the Rain King of his leafy robes and feast upon what they
have gathered.

Bathing is practised as a rain-charm in some parts of Southern and
Western Russia. Sometimes after service in church the priest in his
robes has been thrown down on the ground and drenched with water by
his parishioners. Sometimes it is the women who, without stripping
off their clothes, bathe in crowds on the day of St. John the
Baptist, while they dip in the water a figure made of branches,
grass, and herbs, which is supposed to represent the saint. In
Kursk, a province of Southern Russia, when rain is much wanted, the
women seize a passing stranger and throw him into the river, or
souse him from head to foot. Later on we shall see that a passing
stranger is often taken for a deity or the personification of some
natural power. It is recorded in official documents that during a
drought in 1790 the peasants of Scheroutz and Werboutz collected all
the women and compelled them to bathe, in order that rain might
fall. An Armenian rain-charm is to throw the wife of a priest into
the water and drench her. The Arabs of North Africa fling a holy
man, willy-nilly, into a spring as a remedy for drought. In
Minahassa, a province of North Celebes, the priest bathes as a
rain-charm. In Central Celebes when there has been no rain for a
long time and the rice-stalks begin to shrivel up, many of the
villagers, especially the young folk, go to a neighbouring brook and
splash each other with water, shouting noisily, or squirt water on
one another through bamboo tubes. Sometimes they imitate the plump
of rain by smacking the surface of the water with their hands, or by
placing an inverted gourd on it and drumming on the gourd with their

Women are sometimes supposed to be able to make rain by ploughing,
or pretending to plough. Thus the Pshaws and Chewsurs of the
Caucasus have a ceremony called "ploughing the rain," which they
observe in time of drought. Girls yoke themselves to a plough and
drag it into a river, wading in the water up to their girdles. In
the same circumstances Armenian girls and women do the same. The
oldest woman, or the priest's wife, wears the priest's dress, while
the others, dressed as men, drag the plough through the water
against the stream. In the Caucasian province of Georgia, when a
drought has lasted long, marriageable girls are yoked in couples
with an ox-yoke on their shoulders, a priest holds the reins, and
thus harnessed they wade through rivers, puddles, and marshes,
praying, screaming, weeping, and laughing. In a district of
Transylvania when the ground is parched with drought, some girls
strip themselves naked, and, led by an older woman, who is also
naked, they steal a harrow and carry it across the fields to a
brook, where they set it afloat. Next they sit on the harrow and
keep a tiny flame burning on each corner of it for an hour. Then
they leave the harrow in the water and go home. A similar rain-charm
is resorted to in some parts of India; naked women drag a plough
across a field by night, while the men keep carefully out of the
way, for their presence would break the spell.

Sometimes the rain-charm operates through the dead. Thus in New
Caledonia the rain-makers blackened themselves all over, dug up a
dead body, took the bones to a cave, jointed them, and hung the
skeleton over some taro leaves. Water was poured over the skeleton
to run down on the leaves. They believed that the soul of the
deceased took up the water, converted it into rain, and showered it
down again. In Russia, if common report may be believed, it is not
long since the peasants of any district that chanced to be afflicted
with drought used to dig up the corpse of some one who had drunk
himself to death and sink it in the nearest swamp or lake, fully
persuaded that this would ensure the fall of the needed rain. In
1868 the prospect of a bad harvest, caused by a prolonged drought,
induced the inhabitants of a village in the Tarashchansk district to
dig up the body of a Raskolnik, or Dissenter, who had died in the
preceding December. Some of the party beat the corpse, or what was
left of it, about the head, exclaiming, "Give us rain!" while others
poured water on it through a sieve. Here the pouring of water
through a sieve seems plainly an imitation of a shower, and reminds
us of the manner in which Strepsiades in Aristophanes imagined that
rain was made by Zeus. Sometimes, in order to procure rain, the
Toradjas make an appeal to the pity of the dead. Thus, in the
village of Kalingooa, there is the grave of a famous chief, the
grandfather of the present ruler. When the land suffers from
unseasonable drought, the people go to this grave, pour water on it,
and say, "O grandfather, have pity on us; if it is your will that
this year we should eat, then give rain." After that they hang a
bamboo full of water over the grave; there is a small hole in the
lower end of the bamboo, so that the water drips from it
continually. The bamboo is always refilled with water until rain
drenches the ground. Here, as in New Caledonia, we find religion
blent with magic, for the prayer to the dead chief, which is purely
religious, is eked out with a magical imitation of rain at his
grave. We have seen that the Baronga of Delagoa Bay drench the tombs
of their ancestors, especially the tombs of twins, as a raincharm.
Among some of the Indian tribes in the region of the Orinoco it was
customary for the relations of a deceased person to disinter his
bones a year after burial, burn them, and scatter the ashes to the
winds, because they believed that the ashes were changed into rain,
which the dead man sent in return for his obsequies. The Chinese are
convinced that when human bodies remain unburied, the souls of their
late owners feel the discomfort of rain, just as living men would do
if they were exposed without shelter to the inclemency of the
weather. These wretched souls, therefore, do all in their power to
prevent the rain from falling, and often their efforts are only too
successful. Then drought ensues, the most dreaded of all calamities
in China, because bad harvests, dearth, and famine follow in its
train. Hence it has been a common practice of the Chinese
authorities in time of drought to inter the dry bones of the
unburied dead for the purpose of putting an end to the scourge and
conjuring down the rain.

Animals, again, often play an important part in these
weather-charms. The Anula tribe of Northern Australia associate the
dollar-bird with rain, and call it the rain-bird. A man who has the
bird for his totem can make rain at a certain pool. He catches a
snake, puts it alive into the pool, and after holding it under water
for a time takes it out, kills it, and lays it down by the side of
the creek. Then he makes an arched bundle of grass stalks in
imitation of a rainbow, and sets it up over the snake. After that
all he does is to sing over the snake and the mimic rainbow; sooner
or later the rain will fall. They explain this procedure by saying
that long ago the dollar-bird had as a mate at this spot a snake,
who lived in the pool and used to make rain by spitting up into the
sky till a rainbow and clouds appeared and rain fell. A common way
of making rain in many parts of Java is to bathe a cat or two cats,
a male and a female; sometimes the animals are carried in procession
with music. Even in Batavia you may from time to time see children
going about with a cat for this purpose; when they have ducked it in
a pool, they let it go.

Among the Wambugwe of East Africa, when the sorcerer desires to make
rain, he takes a black sheep and a black calf in bright sunshine,
and has them placed on the roof of the common hut in which the
people live together. Then he slits the stomachs of the animals and
scatters their contents in all directions. After that he pours water
and medicine into a vessel; if the charm has succeeded, the water
boils up and rain follows. On the other hand, if the sorcerer wishes
to prevent rain from falling, he withdraws into the interior of the
hut, and there heats a rock-crystal in a calabash. In order to
procure rain the Wagogo sacrifice black fowls, black sheep, and
black cattle at the graves of dead ancestors, and the rain-maker
wears black clothes during the rainy season. Among the Matabele the
rain-charm employed by sorcerers was made from the blood and gall of
a black ox. In a district of Sumatra, in order to procure rain, all
the women of the village, scantily clad, go to the river, wade into
it, and splash each other with the water. A black cat is thrown into
the stream and made to swim about for a while, then allowed to
escape to the bank, pursued by the splashing of the women. The Garos
of Assam offer a black goat on the top of a very high mountain in
time of drought. In all these cases the colour of the animal is part
of the charm; being black, it will darken the sky with rain-clouds.
So the Bechuanas burn the stomach of an ox at evening, because they
say, "The black smoke will gather the clouds and cause the rain to
come." The Timorese sacrifice a black pig to the Earth-goddess for
rain, a white or red one to the Sun-god for sunshine. The Angoni
sacrifice a black ox for rain and a white one for fine weather.
Among the high mountains of Japan there is a district in which, if
rain has not fallen for a long time, a party of villagers goes in
procession to the bed of a mountain torrent, headed by a priest, who
leads a black dog. At the chosen spot they tether the beast to a
stone, and make it a target for their bullets and arrows. When its
life-blood bespatters the rocks, the peasants throw down their
weapons and lift up their voices in supplication to the dragon
divinity of the stream, exhorting him to send down forthwith a
shower to cleanse the spot from its defilement. Custom has
prescribed that on these occasions the colour of the victim shall be
black, as an emblem of the wished-for rain-clouds. But if fine
weather is wanted, the victim must be white, without a spot.

The intimate association of frogs and toads with water has earned
for these creatures a widespread reputation as custodians of rain;
and hence they often play a part in charms designed to draw needed
showers from the sky. Some of the Indians of the Orinoco held the
toad to be the god or lord of the waters, and for that reason feared
to kill the creature. They have been known to keep frogs under a pot
and to beat them with rods when there was a drought. It is said that
the Aymara Indians often make little images of frogs and other
aquatic animals and place them on the tops of the hills as a means
of bringing down rain. The Thompson Indians of British Columbia and
some people in Europe think that to kill a frog will cause rain to
fall. In order to procure rain people of low caste in the Central
Provinces of India will tie a frog to a rod covered with green
leaves and branches of the _nîm_ tree (_Azadirachta Indica_) and
carry it from door to door singing:

"Send soon, O frog, the jewel of water!
And ripen the wheat and millet in the field."

The Kapus or Reddis are a large caste of cultivators and landowners
in the Madras Presidency. When rain fails, women of the caste will
catch a frog and tie it alive to a new winnowing fan made of bamboo.
On this fan they spread a few margosa leaves and go from door to
door singing, "Lady frog must have her bath. Oh! rain-god, give a
little water for her at least." While the Kapu women sing this song,
the woman of the house pours water over the frog and gives an alms,
convinced that by so doing she will soon bring rain down in

Sometimes, when a drought has lasted a long time, people drop the
usual hocus-pocus of imitative magic altogether, and being far too
angry to waste their breath in prayer they seek by threats and
curses or even downright physical force to extort the waters of
heaven from the supernatural being who has, so to say, cut them off
at the main. In a Japanese village, when the guardian divinity had
long been deaf to the peasants' prayers for rain, they at last threw
down his image and, with curses loud and long, hurled it head
foremost into a stinking rice-field. "There," they said, "you may
stay yourself for a while, to see how _you_ will feel after a few
days' scorching in this broiling sun that is burning the life from
our cracking fields." In the like circumstances the Feloupes of
Senegambia cast down their fetishes and drag them about the fields,
cursing them till rain falls.

The Chinese are adepts in the art of taking the kingdom of heaven by
storm. Thus, when rain is wanted they make a huge dragon of paper or
wood to represent the rain-god, and carry it about in procession;
but if no rain follows, the mock-dragon is execrated and torn to
pieces. At other times they threaten and beat the god if he does not
give rain; sometimes they publicly depose him from the rank of
deity. On the other hand, if the wished-for rain falls, the god is
promoted to a higher rank by an imperial decree. In April 1888 the
mandarins of Canton prayed to the god Lung-wong to stop the
incessant downpour of rain; and when he turned a deaf ear to their
petitions they put him in a lock-up for five days. This had a
salutary effect. The rain ceased and the god was restored to
liberty. Some years before, in time of drought, the same deity had
been chained and exposed to the sun for days in the courtyard of his
temple in order that he might feel for himself the urgent need of
rain. So when the Siamese need rain, they set out their idols in the
blazing sun; but if they want dry weather, they unroof the temples
and let the rain pour down on the idols. They think that the
inconvenience to which the gods are thus subjected will induce them
to grant the wishes of their worshippers.

The reader may smile at the meteorology of the Far East; but
precisely similar modes of procuring rain have been resorted to in
Christian Europe within our own lifetime. By the end of April 1893
there was great distress in Sicily for lack of water. The drought
had lasted six months. Every day the sun rose and set in a sky of
cloudless blue. The gardens of the Conca d'Oro, which surround
Palermo with a magnificent belt of verdure, were withering. Food was
becoming scarce. The people were in great alarm. All the most
approved methods of procuring rain had been tried without effect.
Processions had traversed the streets and the fields. Men, women,
and children, telling their beads, had lain whole nights before the
holy images. Consecrated candles had burned day and night in the
churches. Palm branches, blessed on Palm Sunday, had been hung on
the trees. At Solaparuta, in accordance with a very old custom, the
dust swept from the churches on Palm Sunday had been spread on the
fields. In ordinary years these holy sweepings preserve the crops;
but that year, if you will believe me, they had no effect whatever.
At Nicosia the inhabitants, bare-headed and bare-foot, carried the
crucifixes through all the wards of the town and scourged each other
with iron whips. It was all in vain. Even the great St. Francis of
Paolo himself, who annually performs the miracle of rain and is
carried every spring through the market-gardens, either could not or
would not help. Masses, vespers, concerts, illuminations,
fire-works--nothing could move him. At last the peasants began to
lose patience. Most of the saints were banished. At Palermo they
dumped St. Joseph in a garden to see the state of things for
himself, and they swore to leave him there in the sun till rain
fell. Other saints were turned, like naughty children, with their
faces to the wall. Others again, stripped of their beautiful robes,
were exiled far from their parishes, threatened, grossly insulted,
ducked in horse-ponds. At Caltanisetta the golden wings of St.
Michael the Archangel were torn from his shoulders and replaced with
wings of pasteboard; his purple mantle was taken away and a clout
wrapt about him instead. At Licata the patron saint, St. Angelo,
fared even worse, for he was left without any garments at all; he
was reviled, he was put in irons, he was threatened with drowning or
hanging. "Rain or the rope!" roared the angry people at him, as they
shook their fists in his face.

Sometimes an appeal is made to the pity of the gods. When their corn
is being burnt up by the sun, the Zulus look out for a "heaven
bird," kill it, and throw it into a pool. Then the heaven melts with
tenderness for the death of the bird; "it wails for it by raining,
wailing a funeral wail." In Zululand women sometimes bury their
children up to the neck in the ground, and then retiring to a
distance keep up a dismal howl for a long time. The sky is supposed
to melt with pity at the sight. Then the women dig the children out
and feel sure that rain will soon follow. They say that they call to
"the lord above" and ask him to send rain. If it comes they declare
that "Usondo rains." In times of drought the Guanches of Teneriffe
led their sheep to sacred ground, and there they separated the lambs
from their dams, that their plaintive bleating might touch the heart
of the god. In Kumaon a way of stopping rain is to pour hot oil in
the left ear of a dog. The animal howls with pain, his howls are
heard by Indra, and out of pity for the beast's sufferings the god
stops the rain. Sometimes the Toradjas attempt to procure rain as
follows. They place the stalks of certain plants in water, saying,
"Go and ask for rain, and so long as no rain falls I will not plant
you again, but there shall you die." Also they string some
fresh-water snails on a cord, and hang the cord on a tree, and say
to the snails, "Go and ask for rain, and so long as no rain comes, I
will not take you back to the water." Then the snails go and weep,
and the gods take pity and send rain. However, the foregoing
ceremonies are religious rather than magical, since they involve an
appeal to the compassion of higher powers.

Stones are often supposed to possess the property of bringing on
rain, provided they be dipped in water or sprinkled with it, or
treated in some other appropriate manner. In a Samoan village a
certain stone was carefully housed as the representative of the
rain-making god, and in time of drought his priests carried the
stone in procession and dipped it in a stream. Among the Ta-ta-thi
tribe of New South Wales, the rain-maker breaks off a piece of
quartz-crystal and spits it towards the sky; the rest of the crystal
he wraps in emu feathers, soaks both crystal and feathers in water,
and carefully hides them. In the Keramin tribe of New South Wales
the wizard retires to the bed of a creek, drops water on a round
flat stone, then covers up and conceals it. Among some tribes of
North-western Australia the rain-maker repairs to a piece of ground
which is set apart for the purpose of rain-making. There he builds a
heap of stones or sand, places on the top of it his magic stone, and
walks or dances round the pile chanting his incantations for hours,
till sheer exhaustion obliges him to desist, when his place is taken
by his assistant. Water is sprinkled on the stone and huge fires are
kindled. No layman may approach the sacred spot while the mystic
ceremony is being performed. When the Sulka of New Britain wish to
procure rain they blacken stones with the ashes of certain fruits
and set them out, along with certain other plants and buds, in the
sun. Then a handful of twigs is dipped in water and weighted with
stones, while a spell is chanted. After that rain should follow. In
Manipur, on a lofty hill to the east of the capital, there is a
stone which the popular imagination likens to an umbrella. When rain
is wanted, the rajah fetches water from a spring below and sprinkles
it on the stone. At Sagami in Japan there is a stone which draws
down rain whenever water is poured on it. When the Wakondyo, a tribe
of Central Africa, desire rain, they send to the Wawamba, who dwell
at the foot of snowy mountains, and are the happy possessors of a
"rain-stone." In consideration of a proper payment, the Wawamba wash
the precious stone, anoint it with oil, and put it in a pot full of
water. After that the rain cannot fail to come. In the arid wastes
of Arizona and New Mexico the Apaches sought to make rain by
carrying water from a certain spring and throwing it on a particular
point high up on a rock; after that they imagined that the clouds
would soon gather, and that rain would begin to fall.

But customs of this sort are not confined to the wilds of Africa and
Asia or the torrid deserts of Australia and the New World. They have
been practised in the cool air and under the grey skies of Europe.
There is a fountain called Barenton, of romantic fame, in those
"wild woods of Broceliande," where, if legend be true, the wizard
Merlin still sleeps his magic slumber in the hawthorn shade. Thither
the Breton peasants used to resort when they needed rain. They
caught some of the water in a tankard and threw it on a slab near
the spring. On Snowdon there is a lonely tarn called Dulyn, or the
Black Lake, lying "in a dismal dingle surrounded by high and
dangerous rocks." A row of stepping-stones runs out into the lake,
and if any one steps on the stones and throws water so as to wet the
farthest stone, which is called the Red Altar, "it is but a chance
that you do not get rain before night, even when it is hot weather."
In these cases it appears probable that, as in Samoa, the stone is
regarded as more or less divine. This appears from the custom
sometimes observed of dipping a cross in the Fountain of Barenton to
procure rain, for this is plainly a Christian substitute for the old
pagan way of throwing water on the stone. At various places in
France it is, or used till lately to be, the practice to dip the
image of a saint in water as a means of procuring rain. Thus, beside
the old priory of Commagny, there is a spring of St. Gervais,
whither the inhabitants go in procession to obtain rain or fine
weather according to the needs of the crops. In times of great
drought they throw into the basin of the fountain an ancient stone
image of the saint that stands in a sort of niche from which the
fountain flows. At Collobrières and Carpentras a similar practice
was observed with the images of St. Pons and St. Gens respectively.
In several villages of Navarre prayers for rain used to be offered
to St. Peter, and by way of enforcing them the villagers carried the
image of the saint in procession to the river, where they thrice
invited him to reconsider his resolution and to grant their prayers;
then, if he was still obstinate, they plunged him in the water,
despite the remonstrances of the clergy, who pleaded with as much
truth as piety that a simple caution or admonition administered to
the image would produce an equally good effect. After this the rain
was sure to fall within twenty-four hours. Catholic countries do not
enjoy a monopoly of making rain by ducking holy images in water. In
Mingrelia, when the crops are suffering from want of rain, they take
a particularly holy image and dip it in water every day till a
shower falls; and in the Far East the Shans drench the images of
Buddha with water when the rice is perishing of drought. In all such
cases the practice is probably at bottom a sympathetic charm,
however it may be disguised under the appearance of a punishment or
a threat.

Like other peoples, the Greeks and Romans sought to obtain rain by
magic, when prayers and processions had proved ineffectual. For
example, in Arcadia, when the corn and trees were parched with
drought, the priest of Zeus dipped an oak branch into a certain
spring on Mount Lycaeus. Thus troubled, the water sent up a misty
cloud, from which rain soon fell upon the land. A similar mode of
making rain is still practised, as we have seen, in Halmahera near
New Guinea. The people of Crannon in Thessaly had a bronze chariot
which they kept in a temple. When they desired a shower they shook
the chariot and the shower fell. Probably the rattling of the
chariot was meant to imitate thunder; we have already seen that mock
thunder and lightning form part of a rain-charm in Russia and Japan.
The legendary Salmoneus, King of Elis, made mock thunder by dragging
bronze kettles behind his chariot, or by driving over a bronze
bridge, while he hurled blazing torches in imitation of lightning.
It was his impious wish to mimic the thundering car of Zeus as it
rolled across the vault of heaven. Indeed he declared that he was
actually Zeus, and caused sacrifices to be offered to himself as
such. Near a temple of Mars, outside the walls of Rome, there was
kept a certain stone known as the _lapis manalis._ In time of
drought the stone was dragged into Rome, and this was supposed to
bring down rain immediately.

3. The Magical Control of the Sun

AS THE MAGICIAN thinks he can make rain, so he fancies he can cause
the sun to shine, and can hasten or stay its going down. At an
eclipse the Ojebways used to imagine that the sun was being
extinguished. So they shot fire-tipped arrows in the air, hoping
thus to rekindle his expiring light. The Sencis of Peru also shot
burning arrows at the sun during an eclipse, but apparently they did
this not so much to relight his lamp as to drive away a savage beast
with which they supposed him to be struggling. Conversely during an
eclipse of the moon some tribes of the Orinoco used to bury lighted
brands in the ground; because, said they, if the moon were to be
extinguished, all fire on earth would be extinguished with her,
except such as was hidden from her sight. During an eclipse of the
sun the Kamtchatkans were wont to bring out fire from their huts and
pray the great luminary to shine as before. But the prayer addressed
to the sun shows that this ceremony was religious rather than
magical. Purely magical, on the other hand, was the ceremony
observed on similar occasions by the Chilcotin Indians. Men and
women tucked up their robes, as they do in travelling, and then
leaning on staves, as if they were heavy laden, they continued to
walk in a circle till the eclipse was over. Apparently they thought
thus to support the failing steps of the sun as he trod his weary
round in the sky. Similarly in ancient Egypt the king, as the
representative of the sun, walked solemnly round the walls of a
temple in order to ensure that the sun should perform his daily
journey round the sky without the interruption of an eclipse or
other mishap. And after the autumnal equinox the ancient Egyptians
held a festival called "the nativity of the sun's walking-stick,"
because, as the luminary declined daily in the sky, and his light
and heat diminished, he was supposed to need a staff on which to
lean. In New Caledonia when a wizard desires to make sunshine, he
takes some plants and corals to the burial-ground, and fashions them
into a bundle, adding two locks of hair cut from a living child of
his family, also two teeth or an entire jawbone from the skeleton of
an ancestor. He then climbs a mountain whose top catches the first
rays of the morning sun. Here he deposits three sorts of plants on a
flat stone, places a branch of dry coral beside them, and hangs the
bundle of charms over the stone. Next morning he returns to the spot
and sets fire to the bundle at the moment when the sun rises from
the sea. As the smoke curls up, he rubs the stone with the dry
coral, invokes his ancestors and says: "Sun! I do this that you may
be burning hot, and eat up all the clouds in the sky." The same
ceremony is repeated at sunset. The New Caledonians also make a
drought by means of a disc-shaped stone with a hole in it. At the
moment when the sun rises, the wizard holds the stone in his hand
and passes a burning brand repeatedly into the hole, while he says:
"I kindle the sun, in order that he may eat up the clouds and dry up
our land, so that it may produce nothing." The Banks Islanders make
sunshine by means of a mock sun. They take a very round stone,
called a _vat loa_ or sunstone, wind red braid about it, and stick
it with owls' feathers to represent rays, singing the proper spell
in a low voice. Then they hang it on some high tree, such as a
banyan or a casuarina, in a sacred place.

The offering made by the Brahman in the morning is supposed to
produce the sun, and we are told that "assuredly it would not rise,
were he not to make that offering." The ancient Mexicans conceived
the sun as the source of all vital force; hence they named him
Ipalnemohuani, "He by whom men live." But if he bestowed life on the
world, he needed also to receive life from it. And as the heart is
the seat and symbol of life, bleeding hearts of men and animals were
presented to the sun to maintain him in vigour and enable him to run
his course across the sky. Thus the Mexican sacrifices to the sun
were magical rather than religious, being designed, not so much to
please and propitiate him, as physically to renew his energies of
heat, light, and motion. The constant demand for human victims to
feed the solar fire was met by waging war every year on the
neighbouring tribes and bringing back troops of captives to be
sacrificed on the altar. Thus the ceaseless wars of the Mexicans and
their cruel system of human sacrifices, the most monstrous on
record, sprang in great measure from a mistaken theory of the solar
system. No more striking illustration could be given of the
disastrous consequences that may flow in practice from a purely
speculative error. The ancient Greeks believed that the sun drove in
a chariot across the sky; hence the Rhodians, who worshipped the sun
as their chief deity, annually dedicated a chariot and four horses
to him, and flung them into the sea for his use. Doubtless they
thought that after a year's work his old horses and chariot would be
worn out. From a like motive, probably, the idolatrous kings of
Judah dedicated chariots and horses to the sun, and the Spartans,
Persians, and Massagetae sacrificed horses to him. The Spartans
performed the sacrifice on the top of Mount Taygetus, the beautiful
range behind which they saw the great luminary set every night. It
was as natural for the inhabitants of the valley of Sparta to do
this as it was for the islanders of Rhodes to throw the chariot and
horses into the sea, into which the sun seemed to them to sink at
evening. For thus, whether on the mountain or in the sea, the fresh
horses stood ready for the weary god where they would be most
welcome, at the end of his day's journey.

As some people think they can light up the sun or speed him on his
way, so others fancy they can retard or stop him. In a pass of the
Peruvian Andes stand two ruined towers on opposite hills. Iron hooks
are clamped into their walls for the purpose of stretching a net
from one tower to the other. The net is intended to catch the sun.
Stories of men who have caught the sun in a noose are widely spread.
When the sun is going southward in the autumn, and sinking lower and
lower in the Arctic sky, the Esquimaux of Iglulik play the game of
cat's cradle in order to catch him in the meshes of the string and
so prevent his disappearance. On the contrary, when the sun is
moving northward in the spring, they play the game of cup-and-ball
to hasten his return. When an Australian blackfellow wishes to stay
the sun from going down till he gets home, he puts a sod in the fork
of a tree, exactly facing the setting sun. On the other hand, to
make it go down faster, the Australians throw sand into the air and
blow with their mouths towards the sun, perhaps to waft the
lingering orb westward and bury it under the sands into which it
appears to sink at night.

As some people imagine they can hasten the sun, so others fancy they
can jog the tardy moon. The natives of New Guinea reckon months by
the moon, and some of them have been known to throw stones and
spears at the moon, in order to accelerate its progress and so to
hasten the return of their friends, who were away from home for
twelve months working on a tobacco plantation. The Malays think that
a bright glow at sunset may throw a weak person into a fever. Hence
they attempt to extinguish the glow by spitting out water and
throwing ashes at it. The Shuswap Indians believe that they can
bring on cold weather by burning the wood of a tree that has been
struck by lightning. The belief may be based on the observation that
in their country cold follows a thunder-storm. Hence in spring, when
these Indians are travelling over the snow on high ground, they burn
splinters of such wood in the fire in order that the crust of the
snow may not melt.

4. The Magical Control of the Wind

ONCE more, the savage thinks he can make the wind to blow or to be
still. When the day is hot and a Yakut has a long way to go, he
takes a stone which he has chanced to find in an animal or fish,
winds a horse-hair several times round it, and ties it to a stick.
He then waves the stick about, uttering a spell. Soon a cool breeze
begins to blow. In order to procure a cool wind for nine days the
stone should first be dipped in the blood of a bird or beast and
then presented to the sun, while the sorcerer makes three turns
contrary to the course of the luminary. If a Hottentot desires the
wind to drop, he takes one of his fattest skins and hangs it on the
end of a pole, in the belief that by blowing the skin down the wind
will lose all its force and must itself fall. Fuegian wizards throw
shells against the wind to make it drop. The natives of the island
of Bibili, off New Guinea, are reputed to make wind by blowing with
their mouths. In stormy weather the Bogadjim people say, "The Bibili
folk are at it again, blowing away." Another way of making wind
which is practised in New Guinea is to strike a "wind-stone" lightly
with a stick; to strike it hard would bring on a hurricane. So in
Scotland witches used to raise the wind by dipping a rag in water
and beating it thrice on a stone, saying:

"I knok this rag upone this stane
To raise the wind in the divellis name,
It sall not lye till I please againe."

In Greenland a woman in child-bed and for some time after delivery
is supposed to possess the power of laying a storm. She has only to
go out of doors, fill her mouth with air, and coming back into the
house blow it out again. In antiquity there was a family at Corinth
which enjoyed the reputation of being able to still the raging wind;
but we do not know in what manner its members exercised a useful
function, which probably earned for them a more solid recompense
than mere repute among the seafaring population of the isthmus. Even
in Christian times, under the reign of Constantine, a certain
Sopater suffered death at Constantinople on a charge of binding the
winds by magic, because it happened that the corn-ships of Egypt and
Syria were detained afar off by calms or head-winds, to the rage and
disappointment of the hungry Byzantine rabble. Finnish wizards used
to sell wind to storm-stayed mariners. The wind was enclosed in
three knots; if they undid the first knot, a moderate wind sprang
up; if the second, it blew half a gale; if the third, a hurricane.
Indeed the Esthonians, whose country is divided from Finland only by
an arm of the sea, still believe in the magical powers of their
northern neighbours. The bitter winds that blow in spring from the
north and north-east, bringing ague and rheumatic inflammations in
their train, are set down by the simple Esthonian peasantry to the
machinations of the Finnish wizards and witches. In particular they
regard with special dread three days in spring to which they give
the name of Days of the Cross; one of them falls on the Eve of
Ascension Day. The people in the neighbourhood of Fellin fear to go
out on these days lest the cruel winds from Lappland should smite
them dead. A popular Esthonian song runs:

Wind of the Cross! rushing and mighty!
Heavy the blow of thy wings sweeping past!
Wild wailing wind of misfortune and sorrow,
Wizards of Finland ride by on the blast.

It is said, too, that sailors, beating up against the wind in the
Gulf of Finland, sometimes see a strange sail heave in sight astern
and overhaul them hand over hand. On she comes with a cloud of
canvas--all her studding-sails out--right in the teeth of the wind,
forging her way through the foaming billows, dashing back the spray
in sheets from her cutwater, every sail swollen to bursting, every
rope strained to cracking. Then the sailors know that she hails from

The art of tying up the wind in three knots, so that the more knots
are loosed the stronger will blow the wind, has been attributed to
wizards in Lappland and to witches in Shetland, Lewis, and the Isle
of Man. Shetland seamen still buy winds in the shape of knotted
handkerchiefs or threads from old women who claim to rule the
storms. There are said to be ancient crones in Lerwick now who live
by selling wind. Ulysses received the winds in a leathern bag from
Aeolus, King of the Winds. The Motumotu in New Guinea think that
storms are sent by an Oiabu sorcerer; for each wind he has a bamboo
which he opens at pleasure. On the top of Mount Agu in Togo, a
district of West Africa, resides a fetish called Bagba, who is
supposed to control the wind and the rain. His priest is said to
keep the winds shut up in great pots.

Often the stormy wind is regarded as an evil being who may be
intimidated, driven away, or killed. When storms and bad weather
have lasted long and food is scarce with the Central Esquimaux, they
endeavour to conjure the tempest by making a long whip of seaweed,
armed with which they go down to the beach and strike out in the
direction of the wind, crying "_Taba_ (it is enough)!" Once when
north-westerly winds had kept the ice long on the coast and food was
becoming scarce, the Esquimaux performed a ceremony to make a calm.
A fire was kindled on the shore, and the men gathered round it and
chanted. An old man then stepped up to the fire and in a coaxing
voice invited the demon of the wind to come under the fire and warm
himself. When he was supposed to have arrived, a vessel of water, to
which each man present had contributed, was thrown on the flames by
an old man, and immediately a flight of arrows sped towards the spot
where the fire had been. They thought that the demon would not stay
where he had been so badly treated. To complete the effect, guns
were discharged in various directions, and the captain of a European
vessel was invited to fire on the wind with cannon. On the
twenty-first of February 1883 a similar ceremony was performed by
the Esquimaux of Point Barrow, Alaska, with the intention of killing
the spirit of the wind. Women drove the demon from their houses with
clubs and knives, with which they made passes in the air; and the
men, gathering round a fire, shot him with their rifles and crushed
him under a heavy stone the moment that steam rose in a cloud from
the smouldering embers, on which a tub of water had just been

The Lengua Indians of the Gran Chaco ascribe the rush of a
whirl-wind to the passage of a spirit and they fling sticks at it to
frighten it away. When the wind blows down their huts, the Payaguas
of South America snatch up firebrands and run against the wind,
menacing it with the blazing brands, while others beat the air with
their fists to frighten the storm. When the Guaycurus are threatened
by a severe storm, the men go out armed, and the women and children
scream their loudest to intimidate the demon. During a tempest the
inhabitants of a Batak village in Sumatra have been seen to rush
from their houses armed with sword and lance. The rajah placed
himself at their head, and with shouts and yells they hewed and
hacked at the invisible foe. An old woman was observed to be
specially active in the defence of her house, slashing the air right
and left with a long sabre. In a violent thunderstorm, the peals
sounding very near, the Kayans of Borneo have been seen to draw
their swords threateningly half out of their scabbards, as if to
frighten away the demons of the storm. In Australia the huge columns
of red sand that move rapidly across a desert tract are thought by
the natives to be spirits passing along. Once an athletic young
black ran after one of these moving columns to kill it with
boomerangs. He was away two or three hours, and came back very
weary, saying he had killed Koochee (the demon), but that Koochee
had growled at him and he must die. Of the Bedouins of Eastern
Africa it is said that "no whirl-wind ever sweeps across the path
without being pursued by a dozen savages with drawn creeses, who
stab into the centre of the dusty column in order to drive away the
evil spirit that is believed to be riding on the blast."

In the light of these examples a story told by Herodotus, which his
modern critics have treated as a fable, is perfectly credible. He
says, without however vouching for the truth of the tale, that once
in the land of the Psylli, the modern Tripoli, the wind blowing from
the Sahara had dried up all the water-tanks. So the people took
counsel and marched in a body to make war on the south wind. But
when they entered the desert the simoon swept down on them and
buried them to a man. The story may well have been told by one who
watched them disappearing, in battle array, with drums and cymbals
beating, into the red cloud of whirling sand.

VI. Magicians as Kings

THE FOREGOING evidence may satisfy us that in many lands and many
races magic has claimed to control the great forces of nature for
the good of man. If that has been so, the practitioners of the art
must necessarily be personages of importance and influence in any
society which puts faith in their extravagant pretensions, and it
would be no matter for surprise if, by virtue of the reputation
which they enjoy and of the awe which they inspire, some of them
should attain to the highest position of authority over their
credulous fellows. In point of fact magicians appear to have often
developed into chiefs and kings.

Let us begin by looking at the lowest race of men as to whom we
possess comparatively full and accurate information, the aborigines
of Australia. These savages are ruled neither by chiefs nor kings.
So far as their tribes can be said to have a political constitution,
it is a democracy or rather an oligarchy of old and influential men,
who meet in council and decide on all measures of importance to the
practical exclusion of the younger men. Their deliberative assembly
answers to the senate of later times: if we had to coin a word for
such a government of elders we might call it a _gerontocracy._ The
elders who in aboriginal Australia thus meet and direct the affairs
of their tribe appear to be for the most part the headmen of their
respective totem clans. Now in Central Australia, where the desert
nature of the country and the almost complete isolation from foreign
influences have retarded progress and preserved the natives on the
whole in their most primitive state, the headmen of the various
totem clans are charged with the important task of performing
magical ceremonies for the multiplication of the totems, and as the
great majority of the totems are edible animals or plants, it
follows that these men are commonly expected to provide the people
with food by means of magic. Others have to make the rain to fall or
to render other services to the community. In short, among the
tribes of Central Australia the headmen are public magicians.
Further, their most important function is to take charge of the
sacred storehouse, usually a cleft in the rocks or a hole in the
ground, where are kept the holy stones and sticks (_churinga_) with
which the souls of all the people, both living and dead, are
apparently supposed to be in a manner bound up. Thus while the
headmen have certainly to perform what we should call civil duties,
such as to inflict punishment for breaches of tribal custom, their
principal functions are sacred or magical.

When we pass from Australia to New Guinea we find that, though the
natives stand at a far higher level of culture than the Australian
aborigines, the constitution of society among them is still
essentially democratic or oligarchic, and chieftainship exists only
in embryo. Thus Sir William MacGregor tells us that in British New
Guinea no one has ever arisen wise enough, bold enough, and strong
enough to become the despot even of a single district. "The nearest
approach to this has been the very distant one of some person
becoming a renowned wizard; but that has only resulted in levying a
certain amount of blackmail."

According to a native account, the origin of the power of Melanesian
chiefs lies entirely in the belief that they have communication with
mighty ghosts, and wield that supernatural power whereby they can
bring the influence of the ghosts to bear. If a chief imposed a
fine, it was paid because the people universally dreaded his ghostly
power, and firmly believed that he could inflict calamity and
sickness upon such as resisted him. As soon as any considerable
number of his people began to disbelieve in his influence with the
ghosts, his power to levy fines was shaken. Again, Dr. George Brown
tells us that in New Britain "a ruling chief was always supposed to
exercise priestly functions, that is, he professed to be in constant
communication with the _tebarans_ (spirits), and through their
influence he was enabled to bring rain or sunshine, fair winds or
foul ones, sickness or health, success or disaster in war, and
generally to procure any blessing or curse for which the applicant
was willing to pay a sufficient price."

Still rising in the scale of culture we come to Africa, where both
the chieftainship and the kingship are fully developed; and here the
evidence for the evolution of the chief out of the magician, and
especially out of the rain-maker, is comparatively plentiful. Thus
among the Wambugwe, a Bantu people of East Africa, the original form
of government was a family republic, but the enormous power of the
sorcerers, transmitted by inheritance, soon raised them to the rank
of petty lords or chiefs. Of the three chiefs living in the country
in 1894 two were much dreaded as magicians, and the wealth of cattle
they possessed came to them almost wholly in the shape of presents
bestowed for their services in that capacity. Their principal art
was that of rain-making. The chiefs of the Wataturu, another people
of East Africa, are said to be nothing but sorcerers destitute of
any direct political influence. Again, among the Wagogo of East
Africa the main power of the chiefs, we are told, is derived from
their art of rain-making. If a chief cannot make rain himself, he
must procure it from some one who can.

Again, among the tribes of the Upper Nile the medicine-men are
generally the chiefs. Their authority rests above all upon their
supposed power of making rain, for "rain is the one thing which
matters to the people in those districts, as if it does not come
down at the right time it means untold hardships for the community.
It is therefore small wonder that men more cunning than their
fellows should arrogate to themselves the power of producing it, or
that having gained such a reputation, they should trade on the
credulity of their simpler neighbours." Hence "most of the chiefs of
these tribes are rain-makers, and enjoy a popularity in proportion
to their powers to give rain to their people at the proper season. .
. . Rain-making chiefs always build their villages on the slopes of
a fairly high hill, as they no doubt know that the hills attract the
clouds, and that they are, therefore, fairly safe in their weather
forecasts." Each of these rain-makers has a number of rain-stones,
such as rock-crystal, aventurine, and amethyst, which he keeps in a
pot. When he wishes to produce rain he plunges the stones in water,
and taking in his hand a peeled cane, which is split at the top, he
beckons with it to the clouds to come or waves them away in the way
they should go, muttering an incantation the while. Or he pours
water and the entrails of a sheep or goat into a hollow in a stone
and then sprinkles the water towards the sky. Though the chief
acquires wealth by the exercise of his supposed magical powers, he
often, perhaps generally, comes to a violent end; for in time of
drought the angry people assemble and kill him, believing that it is
he who prevents the rain from falling. Yet the office is usually
hereditary and passes from father to son. Among the tribes which
cherish these beliefs and observe these customs are the Latuka,
Bari, Laluba, and Lokoiya.

In Central Africa, again, the Lendu tribe, to the west of Lake
Albert, firmly believe that certain people possess the power of
making rain. Among them the rain-maker either is a chief or almost
invariably becomes one. The Banyoro also have a great respect for
the dispensers of rain, whom they load with a profusion of gifts.
The great dispenser, he who has absolute and uncontrollable power
over the rain, is the king; but he can depute his power to other
persons, so that the benefit may be distributed and the heavenly
water laid on over the various parts of the kingdom.

In Western as well as in Eastern and Central Africa we meet with the
same union of chiefly with magical functions. Thus in the Fan tribe
the strict distinction between chief and medicine-man does not
exist. The chief is also a medicine-man and a smith to boot; for the
Fans esteem the smith's craft sacred, and none but chiefs may meddle
with it.

As to the relation between the offices of chief and rain-maker in
South Africa a well-informed writer observes: "In very old days the
chief was the great Rain-maker of the tribe. Some chiefs allowed no
one else to compete with them, lest a successful Rain-maker should
be chosen as chief. There was also another reason: the Rain-maker
was sure to become a rich man if he gained a great reputation, and
it would manifestly never do for the chief to allow any one to be
too rich. The Rain-maker exerts tremendous control over the people,
and so it would be most important to keep this function connected
with royalty. Tradition always places the power of making rain as
the fundamental glory of ancient chiefs and heroes, and it seems
probable that it may have been the origin of chieftainship. The man
who made the rain would naturally become the chief. In the same way
Chaka [the famous Zulu despot] used to declare that he was the only
diviner in the country, for if he allowed rivals his life would be
insecure." Similarly speaking of the South African tribes in
general, Dr. Moffat says that "the rain-maker is in the estimation
of the people no mean personage, possessing an influence over the
minds of the people superior even to that of the king, who is
likewise compelled to yield to the dictates of this arch-official."

The foregoing evidence renders it probable that in Africa the king
has often been developed out of the public magician, and especially
out of the rain-maker. The unbounded fear which the magician
inspires and the wealth which he amasses in the exercise of his
profession may both be supposed to have contributed to his
promotion. But if the career of a magician and especially of a
rain-maker offers great rewards to the successful practitioner of
the art, it is beset with many pitfalls into which the unskilful or
unlucky artist may fall. The position of the public sorcerer is
indeed a very precarious one; for where the people firmly believe
that he has it in his power to make the rain to fall, the sun to
shine, and the fruits of the earth to grow, they naturally impute
drought and dearth to his culpable negligence or wilful obstinacy,
and they punish him accordingly. Hence in Africa the chief who fails
to procure rain is often exiled or killed. Thus, in some parts of
West Africa, when prayers and offerings presented to the king have
failed to procure rain, his subjects bind him with ropes and take
him by force to the grave of his forefathers that he may obtain from
them the needed rain. The Banjars in West Africa ascribe to their
king the power of causing rain or fine weather. So long as the
weather is fine they load him with presents of grain and cattle. But
if long drought or rain threatens to spoil the crops, they insult
and beat him till the weather changes. When the harvest fails or the
surf on the coast is too heavy to allow of fishing, the people of
Loango accuse their king of a "bad heart" and depose him. On the
Grain Coast the high priest or fetish king, who bears the title of
Bodio, is responsible for the health of the community, the fertility
of the earth, and the abundance of fish in the sea and rivers; and
if the country suffers in any of these respects the Bodio is deposed
from his office. In Ussukuma, a great district on the southern bank
of the Victoria Nyanza, "the rain and locust question is part and
parcel of the Sultan's government. He, too, must know how to make
rain and drive away the locusts. If he and his medicine-men are
unable to accomplish this, his whole existence is at stake in times
of distress. On a certain occasion, when the rain so greatly desired
by the people did not come, the Sultan was simply driven out (in
Ututwa, near Nassa). The people, in fact, hold that rulers must have
power over Nature and her phenomena." Again, we are told of the
natives of the Nyanaza region generally that "they are persuaded
that rain only falls as a result of magic, and the important duty of
causing it to descend devolves on the chief of the tribe. If rain
does not come at the proper time, everybody complains. More than one
petty king has been banished his country because of drought." Among
the Latuka of the Upper Nile, when the crops are withering, and all
the efforts of the chief to draw down rain have proved fruitless,
the people commonly attack him by night, rob him of all he
possesses, and drive him away. But often they kill him.

In many other parts of the world kings have been expected to
regulate the course of nature for the good of their people and have
been punished if they failed to do so. It appears that the
Scythians, when food was scarce, used to put their king in bonds. In
ancient Egypt the sacred kings were blamed for the failure of the
crops, but the sacred beasts were also held responsible for the
course of nature. When pestilence and other calamities had fallen on
the land, in consequence of a long and severe drought, the priests
took the animals by night and threatened them, but if the evil did
not abate they slew the beasts. On the coral island of Niue¯ or
Savage Island, in the South Pacific, there formerly reigned a line
of kings. But as the kings were also high priests, and were supposed
to make the food grow, the people became angry with them in times of
scarcity and killed them; till at last, as one after another was
killed, no one would be king, and the monarchy came to an end.
Ancient Chinese writers inform us that in Corea the blame was laid
on the king whenever too much or too little rain fell and the crops
did not ripen. Some said that he must be deposed, others that he
must be slain.

Among the American Indians the furthest advance towards civilisation
was made under the monarchical and theocratic governments of Mexico
and Peru; but we know too little of the early history of these
countries to say whether the predecessors of their deified kings
were medicine-men or not. Perhaps a trace of such a succession may
be detected in the oath which the Mexican kings, when they mounted
the throne, swore that they would make the sun to shine, the clouds
to give rain, the rivers to flow, and the earth to bring forth
fruits in abundance. Certainly, in aboriginal America the sorcerer
or medicine-man, surrounded by a halo of mystery and an atmosphere
of awe, was a personage of great influence and importance, and he
may well have developed into a chief or king in many tribes, though
positive evidence of such a development appears to be lacking. Thus
Catlin tells us that in North America the medicine-men "are valued
as dignitaries in the tribe, and the greatest respect is paid to
them by the whole community; not only for their skill in their
_materia medica,_ but more especially for their tact in magic and
mysteries, in which they all deal to a very great extent. . . . In
all tribes their doctors are conjurers--are magicians--are
sooth-sayers, and I had like to have said high-priests, inasmuch as
they superintend and conduct all their religious ceremonies; they
are looked upon by all as oracles of the nation. In all councils of
war and peace, they have a seat with the chiefs, are regularly
consulted before any public step is taken, and the greatest
deference and respect is paid to their opinions." Similarly in
California "the shaman was, and still is, perhaps the most important
individual among the Maidu. In the absence of any definite system of
government, the word of a shaman has great weight: as a class they
are regarded with much awe, and as a rule are obeyed much more than
the chief."

In South America also the magicians or medicine-men seem to have
been on the highroad to chieftainship or kingship. One of the
earliest settlers on the coast of Brazil, the Frenchman Thevet,
reports that the Indians "hold these _pages_ (or medicine-men) in
such honour and reverence that they adore, or rather idolise them.
You may see the common folk go to meet them, prostrate themselves,
and pray to them, saying, 'Grant that I be not ill, that I do not
die, neither I nor my children,' or some such request. And he
answers, 'You shall not die, you shall not be ill,' and such like
replies. But sometimes if it happens that these _pages_ do not tell
the truth, and things turn out otherwise than they predicted, the
people make no scruple of killing them as unworthy of the title and
dignity of _pages._" Among the Lengua Indians of the Gran Chaco
every clan has its cazique or chief, but he possesses little
authority. In virtue of his office he has to make many presents, so
he seldom grows rich and is generally more shabbily clad than any of
his subjects. "As a matter of fact the magician is the man who has
most power in his hands, and he is accustomed to receive presents
instead of to give them." It is the magician's duty to bring down
misfortune and plagues on the enemies of his tribe, and to guard his
own people against hostile magic. For these services he is well
paid, and by them he acquires a position of great influence and

Throughout the Malay region the rajah or king is commonly regarded
with superstitious veneration as the possessor of supernatural
powers, and there are grounds for thinking that he too, like
apparently so many African chiefs, has been developed out of a
simple magician. At the present day the Malays firmly believe that
the king possesses a personal influence over the works of nature,
such as the growth of the crops and the bearing of fruit-trees. The
same prolific virtue is supposed to reside, though in a lesser
degree, in his delegates, and even in the persons of Europeans who
chance to have charge of districts. Thus in Selangor, one of the
native states of the Malay Peninsula, the success or failure of the
rice-crops is often attributed to a change of district officers. The
Toorateyas of Southern Celebes hold that the prosperity of the rice
depends on the behaviour of their princes, and that bad government,
by which they mean a government which does not conform to ancient
custom, will result in a failure of the crops.

The Dyaks of Sarawak believed that their famous English ruler, Rajah
Brooke, was endowed with a certain magical virtue which, if properly
applied, could render the rice-crops abundant. Hence when he visited
a tribe, they used to bring him the seed which they intended to sow
next year, and he fertilised it by shaking over it the women's
necklaces, which had been previously dipped in a special mixture.
And when he entered a village, the women would wash and bathe his
feet, first with water, and then with the milk of a young coco-nut,
and lastly with water again, and all this water which had touched
his person they preserved for the purpose of distributing it on
their farms, believing that it ensured an abundant harvest. Tribes
which were too far off for him to visit used to send him a small
piece of white cloth and a little gold or silver, and when these
things had been impregnated by his generative virtue they buried
them in their fields, and confidently expected a heavy crop. Once
when a European remarked that the rice-crops of the Samban tribe
were thin, the chief immediately replied that they could not be
otherwise, since Rajah Brooke had never visited them, and he begged
that Mr. Brooke might be induced to visit his tribe and remove the
sterility of their land.

The belief that kings possess magical or supernatural powers by
virtue of which they can fertilise the earth and confer other
benefits on their subjects would seem to have been shared by the
ancestors of all the Aryan races from India to Ireland, and it has
left clear traces of itself in our own country down to modern times.
Thus the ancient Hindoo law-book called _The Laws of Manu_ describes
as follows the effects of a good king's reign: "In that country
where the king avoids taking the property of mortal sinners, men are
born in due time and are long-lived. And the crops of the husbandmen
spring up, each as it was sown, and the children die not, and no
misshaped offspring is born." In Homeric Greece kings and chiefs
were spoken of as sacred or divine; their houses, too, were divine
and their chariots sacred; and it was thought that the reign of a
good king caused the black earth to bring forth wheat and barley,
the trees to be loaded with fruit, the flocks to multiply, and the
sea to yield fish. In the Middle Ages, when Waldemar I., King of
Denmark, travelled in Germany, mothers brought their infants and
husbandmen their seed for him to lay his hands on, thinking that
children would both thrive the better for the royal touch, and for a
like reason farmers asked him to throw the seed for them. It was the
belief of the ancient Irish that when their kings observed the
customs of their ancestors, the seasons were mild, the crops
plentiful, the cattle fruitful, the waters abounded with fish, and
the fruit trees had to be propped up on account of the weight of
their produce. A canon attributed to St. Patrick enumerates among
the blessings that attend the reign of a just king "fine weather,
calm seas, crops abundant, and trees laden with fruit." On the other
hand, dearth, dryness of cows, blight of fruit, and scarcity of corn
were regarded as infallible proofs that the reigning king was bad.

Perhaps the last relic of such superstitions which lingered about
our English kings was the notion that they could heal scrofula by
their touch. The disease was accordingly known as the King's Evil.
Queen Elizabeth often exercised this miraculous gift of healing. On
Midsummer Day 1633, Charles the First cured a hundred patients at
one swoop in the chapel royal at Holyrood. But it was under his son
Charles the Second that the practice seems to have attained its
highest vogue. It is said that in the course of his reign Charles
the Second touched near a hundred thousand persons for scrofula. The
press to get near him was sometimes terrific. On one occasion six or
seven of those who came to be healed were trampled to death. The
cool-headed William the Third contemptuously refused to lend himself
to the hocuspocus; and when his palace was besieged by the usual
unsavoury crowd, he ordered them to be turned away with a dole. On
the only occasion when he was importuned into laying his hand on a
patient, he said to him, "God give you better health and more
sense." However, the practice was continued, as might have been
expected, by the dull bigot James the Second and his dull daughter
Queen Anne.

The kings of France also claimed to possess the same gift of healing
by touch, which they are said to have derived from Clovis or from
St. Louis, while our English kings inherited it from Edward the
Confessor. Similarly the savage chiefs of Tonga were believed to
heal scrofula and cases of indurated liver by the touch of their
feet; and the cure was strictly homoeopathic, for the disease as
well as the cure was thought to be caused by contact with the royal
person or with anything that belonged to it.

On the whole, then, we seem to be justified in inferring that in
many parts of the world the king is the lineal successor of the old
magician or medicine-man. When once a special class of sorcerers has
been segregated from the community and entrusted by it with the
discharge of duties on which the public safety and welfare are
believed to depend, these men gradually rise to wealth and power,
till their leaders blossom out into sacred kings. But the great
social revolution which thus begins with democracy and ends in
despotism is attended by an intellectual revolution which affects
both the conception and the functions of royalty. For as time goes
on, the fallacy of magic becomes more and more apparent to the
acuter minds and is slowly displaced by religion; in other words,
the magician gives way to the priest, who, renouncing the attempt to
control directly the processes of nature for the good of man, seeks
to attain the same end indirectly by appealing to the gods to do for
him what he no longer fancies he can do for himself. Hence the king,
starting as a magician, tends gradually to exchange the practice of
magic for the priestly functions of prayer and sacrifice. And while
the distinction between the human and the divine is still
imperfectly drawn, it is often imagined that men may themselves
attain to godhead, not merely after their death, but in their
lifetime, through the temporary or permanent possession of their
whole nature by a great and powerful spirit. No class of the
community has benefited so much as kings by this belief in the
possible incarnation of a god in human form. The doctrine of that
incarnation, and with it the theory of the divinity of kings in the
strict sense of the word, will form the subject of the following

VII. Incarnate Human Gods

THE INSTANCES which in the preceding chapters I have drawn from the
beliefs and practices of rude peoples all over the world, may
suffice to prove that the savage fails to recognise those
limitations to his power over nature which seem so obvious to us. In
a society where every man is supposed to be endowed more or less
with powers which we should call supernatural, it is plain that the
distinction between gods and men is somewhat blurred, or rather has
scarcely emerged. The conception of gods as superhuman beings
endowed with powers to which man possesses nothing comparable in
degree and hardly even in kind, has been slowly evolved in the
course of history. By primitive peoples the supernatural agents are
not regarded as greatly, if at all, superior to man; for they may be
frightened and coerced by him into doing his will. At this stage of
thought the world is viewed as a great democracy; all beings in it,
whether natural or supernatural, are supposed to stand on a footing
of tolerable equality. But with the growth of his knowledge man
learns to realise more clearly the vastness of nature and his own
littleness and feebleness in presence of it. The recognition of his
helplessness does not, however, carry with it a corresponding belief
in the impotence of those supernatural beings with which his
imagination peoples the universe. On the contrary, it enhances his
conception of their power. For the idea of the world as a system of
impersonal forces acting in accordance with fixed and invariable
laws has not yet fully dawned or darkened upon him. The germ of the
idea he certainly has, and he acts upon it, not only in magic art,
but in much of the business of daily life. But the idea remains
undeveloped, and so far as he attempts to explain the world he lives
in, he pictures it as the manifestation of conscious will and
personal agency. If then he feels himself to be so frail and slight,
how vast and powerful must he deem the beings who control the
gigantic machinery of nature! Thus as his old sense of equality with
the gods slowly vanishes, he resigns at the same time the hope of
directing the course of nature by his own unaided resources, that
is, by magic, and looks more and more to the gods as the sole
repositories of those supernatural powers which he once claimed to
share with them. With the advance of knowledge, therefore, prayer
and sacrifice assume the leading place in religious ritual; and
magic, which once ranked with them as a legitimate equal, is
gradually relegated to the background and sinks to the level of a
black art. It is not regarded as an encroachment, at once vain and
impious, on the domain of the gods, and as such encounters the
steady opposition of the priests, whose reputation and influence
rise or fall with those of their gods. Hence, when at a late period
the distinction between religion and superstition has emerged, we
find that sacrifice and prayer are the resource of the pious and
enlightened portion of the community, while magic is the refuge of
the superstitious and ignorant. But when, still later, the
conception of the elemental forces as personal agents is giving way
to the recognition of natural law; then magic, based as it
implicitly is on the idea of a necessary and invariable sequence of
cause and effect, independent of personal will, reappears from the
obscurity and discredit into which it had fallen, and by
investigating the causal sequences in nature, directly prepares the
way for science. Alchemy leads up to chemistry.

The notion of a man-god, or of a human being endowed with divine or
supernatural powers, belongs essentially to that earlier period of
religious history in which gods and men are still viewed as beings
of much the same order, and before they are divided by the
impassable gulf which, to later thought, opens out between them.
Strange, therefore, as may seem to us the idea of a god incarnate in
human form, it has nothing very startling for early man, who sees in
a man-god or a god-man only a higher degree of the same supernatural
powers which he arrogates in perfect good faith to himself. Nor does
he draw any very sharp distinction between a god and a powerful
sorcerer. His gods are often merely invisible magicians who behind
the veil of nature work the same sort of charms and incantations
which the human magician works in a visible and bodily form among
his fellows. And as the gods are commonly believed to exhibit
themselves in the likeness of men to their worshippers, it is easy
for the magician, with his supposed miraculous powers, to acquire
the reputation of being an incarnate deity. Thus beginning as little
more than a simple conjurer, the medicine-man or magician tends to
blossom out into a full-blown god and king in one. Only in speaking
of him as a god we must beware of importing into the savage
conception of deity those very abstract and complex ideas which we
attach to the term. Our ideas on this profound subject are the fruit
of a long intellectual and moral evolution, and they are so far from
being shared by the savage that he cannot even understand them when
they are explained to him. Much of the controversy which has raged
as to the religion of the lower races has sprung merely from a
mutual misunderstanding. The savage does not understand the thoughts
of the civilised man, and few civilised men understand the thoughts
of the savage. When the savage uses his word for god, he has in his
mind a being of a certain sort: when the civilised man uses his word
for god, he has in his mind a being of a very different sort; and
if, as commonly happens, the two men are equally unable to place
themselves at the other's point of view, nothing but confusion and
mistakes can result from their discussions. If we civilised men
insist on limiting the name of God to that particular conception of
the divine nature which we ourselves have formed, then we must
confess that the savage has no god at all. But we shall adhere more
closely to the facts of history if we allow most of the higher
savages at least to possess a rudimentary notion of certain
supernatural beings who may fittingly be called gods, though not in
the full sense in which we use the word. That rudimentary notion
represents in all probability the germ out of which the civilised
peoples have gradually evolved their own high conceptions of deity;
and if we could trace the whole course of religious development, we
might find that the chain which links our idea of the Godhead with
that of the savage is one and unbroken.

With these explanations and cautions I will now adduce some examples
of gods who have been believed by their worshippers to be incarnate
in living human beings, whether men or women. The persons in whom a
deity is thought to reveal himself are by no means always kings or
descendants of kings; the supposed incarnation may take place even
in men of the humblest rank. In India, for example, one human god
started in life as a cotton-bleacher and another as the son of a
carpenter. I shall therefore not draw my examples exclusively from
royal personages, as I wish to illustrate the general principle of
the deification of living men, in other words, the incarnation of a
deity in human form. Such incarnate gods are common in rude society.
The incarnation may be temporary or permanent. In the former case,
the incarnation--commonly known as inspiration or
possession--reveals itself in supernatural knowledge rather than in
supernatural power. In other words, its usual manifestations are
divination and prophecy rather than miracles. On the other hand,
when the incarnation is not merely temporary, when the divine spirit
has permanently taken up its abode in a human body, the god-man is
usually expected to vindicate his character by working miracles.
Only we have to remember that by men at this stage of thought
miracles are not considered as breaches of natural law. Not
conceiving the existence of natural law, primitive man cannot
conceive a breach of it. A miracle is to him merely an unusually
striking manifestation of a common power.

The belief in temporary incarnation or inspiration is world-wide.
Certain persons are supposed to be possessed from time to time by a
spirit or deity; while the possession lasts, their own personality
lies in abeyance, the presence of the spirit is revealed by
convulsive shiverings and shakings of the man's whole body, by wild
gestures and excited looks, all of which are referred, not to the
man himself, but to the spirit which has entered into him; and in
this abnormal state all his utterances are accepted as the voice of
the god or spirit dwelling in him and speaking through him. Thus,
for example, in the Sandwich Islands, the king, personating the god,
uttered the responses of the oracle from his concealment in a frame
of wicker-work. But in the southern islands of the Pacific the god
"frequently entered the priest, who, inflated as it were with the
divinity, ceased to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but moved and
spoke as entirely under supernatural influence. In this respect
there was a striking resemblance between the rude oracles of the
Polynesians, and those of the celebrated nations of ancient Greece.
As soon as the god was supposed to have entered the priest, the
latter became violently agitated, and worked himself up to the
highest pitch of apparent frenzy, the muscles of the limbs seemed
convulsed, the body swelled, the countenance became terrific, the
features distorted, and the eyes wild and strained. In this state he
often rolled on the earth, foaming at the mouth, as if labouring
under the influence of the divinity by whom he was possessed, and,
in shrill cries, and violent and often indistinct sounds, revealed
the will of the god. The priests, who were attending, and versed in
the mysteries, received, and reported to the people, the
declarations which had been thus received. When the priest had
uttered the response of the oracle, the violent paroxysm gradually
subsided, and comparative composure ensued. The god did not,
however, always leave him as soon as the communication had been
made. Sometimes the same _taura,_ or priest, continued for two or
three days possessed by the spirit or deity; a piece of a native
cloth, of a peculiar kind, worn round one arm, was an indication of
inspiration, or of the indwelling of the god with the individual who
wore it. The acts of the man during this period were considered as
those of the god, and hence the greatest attention was paid to his
expressions, and the whole of his deportment. . . . When _uruhia_
(under the inspiration of the spirit), the priest was always
considered as sacred as the god, and was called, during this period,
_atua,_ god, though at other times only denominated _taura_ or

But examples of such temporary inspiration are so common in every
part of the world and are now so familiar through books on ethnology
that it is needless to multiply illustrations of the general
principle. It may be well, however, to refer to two particular modes
of producing temporary inspiration, because they are perhaps less
known than some others, and because we shall have occasion to refer
to them later on. One of these modes of producing inspiration is by
sucking the fresh blood of a sacrificed victim. In the temple of
Apollo Diradiotes at Argos, a lamb was sacrificed by night once a
month; a woman, who had to observe a rule of chastity, tasted the
blood of the lamb, and thus being inspired by the god she prophesied
or divined. At Aegira in Achaia the priestess of Earth drank the
fresh blood of a bull before she descended into the cave to
prophesy. Similarly among the Kuruvikkarans, a class of
bird-catchers and beggars in Southern India, the goddess Kali is
believed to descend upon the priest, and he gives oracular replies
after sucking the blood which streams from the cut throat of a goat.
At a festival of the Alfoors of Minahassa, in Northern Celebes,
after a pig has been killed, the priest rushes furiously at it,
thrusts his head into the carcase, and drinks of the blood. Then he
is dragged away from it by force and set on a chair, whereupon he
begins to prophesy how the rice-crop will turn out that year. A
second time he runs at the carcase and drinks of the blood; a second
time he is forced into the chair and continues his predictions. It
is thought that there is a spirit in him which possesses the power
of prophecy.

The other mode of producing temporary inspiration, to which I shall
here refer, consists in the use of a sacred tree or plant. Thus in
the Hindoo Koosh a fire is kindled with twigs of the sacred cedar;
and the Dainyal or sibyl, with a cloth over her head, inhales the
thick pungent smoke till she is seized with convulsions and falls
senseless to the ground. Soon she rises and raises a shrill chant,
which is caught up and loudly repeated by her audience. So Apollo's
prophetess ate the sacred laurel and was fumigated with it before
she prophesied. The Bacchanals ate ivy, and their inspired fury was
by some believed to be due to the exciting and intoxicating
properties of the plant. In Uganda the priest, in order to be
inspired by his god, smokes a pipe of tobacco fiercely till he works
himself into a frenzy; the loud excited tones in which he then talks
are recognised as the voice of the god speaking through him. In
Madura, an island off the north coast of Java, each spirit has its
regular medium, who is oftener a woman than a man. To prepare
herself for the reception of the spirit she inhales the fumes of
incense, sitting with her head over a smoking censer. Gradually she
falls into a sort of trance accompanied by shrieks, grimaces, and
violent spasms. The spirit is now supposed to have entered into her,
and when she grows calmer her words are regarded as oracular, being
the utterances of the indwelling spirit, while her own soul is
temporarily absent.

The person temporarily inspired is believed to acquire, not merely
divine knowledge, but also, at least occasionally, divine power. In
Cambodia, when an epidemic breaks out, the inhabitants of several
villages unite and go with a band of music at their head to look for
the man whom the local god is supposed to have chosen for his
temporary incarnation. When found, the man is conducted to the altar
of the god, where the mystery of incarnation takes place. Then the
man becomes an object of veneration to his fellows, who implore him
to protect the village against the plague. A certain image of
Apollo, which stood in a sacred cave at Hylae near Magnesia, was
thought to impart superhuman strength. Sacred men, inspired by it,
leaped down precipices, tore up huge trees by the roots, and carried
them on their backs along the narrowest defiles. The feats performed
by inspired dervishes belong to the same class.

Thus far we have seen that the savage, failing to discern the limits
of his ability to control nature, ascribes to himself and to all men
certain powers which we should now call supernatural. Further, we
have seen that, over and above this general supernaturalism, some
persons are supposed to be inspired for short periods by a divine
spirit, and thus temporarily to enjoy the knowledge and power of the
indwelling deity. From beliefs like these it is an easy step to the
conviction that certain men are permanently possessed by a deity, or
in some other undefined way are endued with so high a degree of
supernatural power as to be ranked as gods and to receive the homage
of prayer and sacrifice. Sometimes these human gods are restricted
to purely supernatural or spiritual functions. Sometimes they
exercise supreme political power in addition. In the latter case
they are kings as well as gods, and the government is a theocracy.
Thus in the Marquesas or Washington Islands there was a class of men
who were deified in their lifetime. They were supposed to wield a
supernatural power over the elements: they could give abundant
harvests or smite the ground with barrenness; and they could inflict
disease or death. Human sacrifices were offered to them to avert
their wrath. There were not many of them, at the most one or two in
each island. They lived in mystic seclusion. Their powers were
sometimes, but not always, hereditary. A missionary has described
one of these human gods from personal observation. The god was a
very old man who lived in a large house within an enclosure. In the
house was a kind of altar, and on the beams of the house and on the
trees round it were hung human skeletons, head down. No one entered
the enclosure except the persons dedicated to the service of the
god; only on days when human victims were sacrificed might ordinary
people penetrate into the precinct. This human god received more
sacrifices than all the other gods; often he would sit on a sort of
scaffold in front of his house and call for two or three human
victims at a time. They were always brought, for the terror he
inspired was extreme. He was invoked all over the island, and
offerings were sent to him from every side. Again, of the South Sea
Islands in general we are told that each island had a man who
represented or personified the divinity. Such men were called gods,
and their substance was confounded with that of the deity. The
man-god was sometimes the king himself; oftener he was a priest or
subordinate chief.

The ancient Egyptians, far from restricting their adoration to cats
and dogs and such small deer, very liberally extended it to men. One
of these human deities resided at the village of Anabis, and burnt
sacrifices were offered to him on the altars; after which, says
Porphyry, he would eat his dinner just as if he were an ordinary
mortal. In classical antiquity the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles
gave himself out to be not merely a wizard but a god. Addressing his
fellow-citizens in verse he said:

"O friends, in this great city that climbs the yellow slope
Of Agrigentum's citadel, who make good works your scope,
Who offer to the stranger a haven quiet and fair,
All hail! Among you honoured I walk with lofty air.
With garlands, blooming garlands you crown my noble brow,
A mortal man no longer, a deathless godhead now.
Where e'er I go, the people crowd round and worship pay,
And thousands follow seeking to learn the better way.
Some crave prophetic visions, some smit with anguish sore
Would fain hear words of comfort and suffer pain no more."

He asserted that he could teach his disciples how to make the wind
to blow or be still, the rain to fall and the sun to shine, how to
banish sickness and old age and to raise the dead. When Demetrius
Poliorcetes restored the Athenian democracy in 307 B.C., the
Athenians decreed divine honours to him and his father Antigonus,
both of them being then alive, under the title of the Saviour Gods.
Altars were set up to the Saviours, and a priest appointed to attend
to their worship. The people went forth to meet their deliverer with
hymns and dances, with garlands and incense and libations; they
lined the streets and sang that he was the only true god, for the
other gods slept, or dwelt far away, or were not. In the words of a
contemporary poet, which were chanted in public and sung in private:

"Of all the gods the greatest and the dearest
To the city are come.
For Demeter and Demetrius
Together time has brought.
She comes to hold the Maiden's awful rites,
And he joyous and fair and laughing,
As befits a god.
A glorious sight, with all his friends about him,
He in their midst,
They like to stars, and he the sun.
Son of Poseidon the mighty, Aphrodite's son,
All hail!
The other gods dwell far away,
Or have no ears,
Or are not, or pay us no heed.
But thee we present see,
No god of wood or stone, but godhead true.
Therefore to thee we pray."

The ancient Germans believed that there was something holy in women,
and accordingly consulted them as oracles. Their sacred women, we
are told, looked on the eddying rivers and listened to the murmur or
the roar of the water, and from the sight and sound foretold what
would come to pass. But often the veneration of the men went
further, and they worshipped women as true and living goddesses. For
example, in the reign of Vespasian a certain Veleda, of the tribe of
the Bructeri, was commonly held to be a deity, and in that character
reigned over her people, her sway being acknowledged far and wide.
She lived in a tower on the river Lippe, a tributary of the Rhine.
When the people of Cologne sent to make a treaty with her, the
ambassadors were not admitted to her presence; the negotiations were
conducted through a minister, who acted as the mouthpiece of her
divinity and reported her oracular utterances. The example shows how
easily among our rude forefathers the ideas of divinity and royalty
coalesced. It is said that among the Getae down to the beginning of
our era there was always a man who personified a god and was called
God by the people. He dwelt on a sacred mountain and acted as
adviser to the king.

According to the early Portuguese historian, Dos Santos, the Zimbas,
or Muzimbas, a people of South-eastern Africa, "do not adore idols
or recognize any god, but instead they venerate and honour their
king, whom they regard as a divinity, and they say he is the
greatest and best in the world. And the said king says of himself
that he alone is god of the earth, for which reason if it rains when
he does not wish it to do so, or is too hot, he shoots arrows at the
sky for not obeying him." The Mashona of Southern Africa informed
their bishop that they had once had a god, but that the Matabeles
had driven him away. "This last was in reference to a curious custom
in some villages of keeping a man they called their god. He seemed
to be consulted by the people and had presents given to him. There
was one at a village belonging to a chief Magondi, in the old days.
We were asked not to fire off any guns near the village, or we
should frighten him away." This Mashona god was formerly bound to
render an annual tribute to the king of the Matabele in the shape of
four black oxen and one dance. A missionary has seen and described
the deity discharging the latter part of his duty in front of the
royal hut. For three mortal hours, without a break, to the banging
of a tambourine, the click of castanettes, and the drone of a
monotonous song, the swarthy god engaged in a frenzied dance,
crouching on his hams like a tailor, sweating like a pig, and
bounding about with an agility which testified to the strength and
elasticity of his divine legs.

The Baganda of Central Africa believed in a god of Lake Nyanza, who
sometimes took up his abode in a man or woman. The incarnate god was
much feared by all the people, including the king and the chiefs.
When the mystery of incarnation had taken place, the man, or rather
the god, removed about a mile and a half from the margin of the
lake, and there awaited the appearance of the new moon before he
engaged in his sacred duties. From the moment that the crescent moon
appeared faintly in the sky, the king and all his subjects were at
the command of the divine man, or _Lubare_ (god), as he was called,
who reigned supreme not only in matters of faith and ritual, but
also in questions of war and state policy. He was consulted as an
oracle; by his word he could inflict or heal sickness, withhold
rain, and cause famine. Large presents were made him when his advice
was sought. The chief of Urua, a large region to the west of Lake
Tanganyika, "arrogates to himself divine honours and power and
pretends to abstain from food for days without feeling its
necessity; and, indeed, declares that as a god he is altogether
above requiring food and only eats, drinks, and smokes for the
pleasure it affords him." Among the Gallas, when a woman grows tired
of the cares of housekeeping, she begins to talk incoherently and to
demean herself extravagantly. This is a sign of the descent of the
holy spirit Callo upon her. Immediately her husband prostrates
himself and adores her; she ceases to bear the humble title of wife
and is called "Lord"; domestic duties have no further claim on her,
and her will is a divine law.

The king of Loango is honoured by his people "as though he were a
god; and he is called Sambee and Pango, which mean god. They believe
that he can let them have rain when he likes; and once a year, in
December, which is the time they want rain, the people come to beg
of him to grant it to them." On this occasion the king, standing on
his throne, shoots an arrow into the air, which is supposed to bring
on rain. Much the same is said of the king of Mombasa. Down to a few
years ago, when his spiritual reign on earth was brought to an
abrupt end by the carnal weapons of English marines and bluejackets,
the king of Benin was the chief object of worship in his dominions.
"He occupies a higher post here than the Pope does in Catholic
Europe; for he is not only God's vicegerent upon earth, but a god
himself, whose subjects both obey and adore him as such, although I
believe their adoration to arise rather from fear than love." The
king of Iddah told the English officers of the Niger Expedition,
"God made me after his own image; I am all the same as God; and he
appointed me a king."

A peculiarly bloodthirsty monarch of Burma, by name Badonsachen,
whose very countenance reflected the inbred ferocity of his nature,
and under whose reign more victims perished by the executioner than
by the common enemy, conceived the notion that he was something more
than mortal, and that this high distinction had been granted him as
a reward for his numerous good works. Accordingly he laid aside the
title of king and aimed at making himself a god. With this view, and
in imitation of Buddha, who, before being advanced to the rank of a
divinity, had quitted his royal palace and seraglio and retired from
the world, Badonsachen withdrew from his palace to an immense
pagoda, the largest in the empire, which he had been engaged in
constructing for many years. Here he held conferences with the most
learned monks, in which he sought to persuade them that the five
thousand years assigned for the observance of the law of Buddha were
now elapsed, and that he himself was the god who was destined to
appear after that period, and to abolish the old law by substituting
his own. But to his great mortification many of the monks undertook
to demonstrate the contrary; and this disappointment, combined with
his love of power and his impatience under the restraints of an
ascetic life, quickly disabused him of his imaginary godhead, and
drove him back to his palace and his harem. The king of Siam "is
venerated equally with a divinity. His subjects ought not to look
him in the face; they prostrate themselves before him when he
passes, and appear before him on their knees, their elbows resting
on the ground." There is a special language devoted to his sacred
person and attributes, and it must be used by all who speak to or of
him. Even the natives have difficulty in mastering this peculiar
vocabulary. The hairs of the monarch's head, the soles of his feet,
the breath of his body, indeed every single detail of his person,
both outward and inward, have particular names. When he eats or
drinks, sleeps or walks, a special word indicates that these acts
are being performed by the sovereign, and such words cannot possibly
be applied to the acts of any other person whatever. There is no
word in the Siamese language by which any creature of higher rank or
greater dignity than a monarch can be described; and the
missionaries, when they speak of God, are forced to use the native
word for king.

But perhaps no country in the world has been so prolific of human
gods as India; nowhere has the divine grace been poured out in a
more liberal measure on all classes of society from kings down to
milkmen. Thus amongst the Todas, a pastoral people of the Neilgherry
Hills of Southern India, the dairy is a sanctuary, and the milkman
who attends to it has been described as a god. On being asked
whether the Todas salute the sun, one of these divine milkmen
replied, "Those poor fellows do so, but I," tapping his chest, "I, a
god! why should I salute the sun?" Every one, even his own father,
prostrates himself before the milkman, and no one would dare to
refuse him anything. No human being, except another milkman, may
touch him; and he gives oracles to all who consult him, speaking
with the voice of a god.

Further, in India "every king is regarded as little short of a
present god." The Hindoo law-book of Manu goes farther and says that
"even an infant king must not be despised from an idea that he is a
mere mortal; for he is a great deity in human form." There is said
to have been a sect in Orissa some years ago who worshipped the late
Queen Victoria in her lifetime as their chief divinity. And to this
day in India all living persons remarkable for great strength or
valour or for supposed miraculous powers run the risk of being
worshipped as gods. Thus, a sect in the Punjaub worshipped a deity
whom they called Nikkal Sen. This Nikkal Sen was no other than the
redoubted General Nicholson, and nothing that the general could do
or say damped the ardour of his adorers. The more he punished them,
the greater grew the religious awe with which they worshipped him.
At Benares not many years ago a celebrated deity was incarnate in
the person of a Hindoo gentleman who rejoiced in the euphonious name
of Swami Bhaskaranandaji Saraswati, and looked uncommonly like the
late Cardinal Manning, only more ingenuous. His eyes beamed with
kindly human interest, and he took what is described as an innocent
pleasure in the divine honours paid him by his confiding

At Chinchvad, a small town about ten miles from Poona in Western
India, there lives a family of whom one in each generation is
believed by a large proportion of the Mahrattas to be an incarnation
of the elephant-headed god Gunputty. That celebrated deity was first
made flesh about the year 1640 in the person of a Brahman of Poona,
by name Mooraba Gosseyn, who sought to work out his salvation by
abstinence, mortification, and prayer. His piety had its reward. The
god himself appeared to him in a vision of the night and promised
that a portion of his, that is, of Gunputty's holy spirit should
abide with him and with his seed after him even to the seventh
generation. The divine promise was fulfilled. Seven successive
incarnations, transmitted from father to son, manifested the light
of Gunputty to a dark world. The last of the direct line, a
heavy-looking god with very weak eyes, died in the year 1810. But
the cause of truth was too sacred, and the value of the church
property too considerable, to allow the Brahmans to contemplate with
equanimity the unspeakable loss that would be sustained by a world
which knew not Gunputty. Accordingly they sought and found a holy
vessel in whom the divine spirit of the master had revealed itself
anew, and the revelation has been happily continued in an unbroken
succession of vessels from that time to this. But a mysterious law
of spiritual economy, whose operation in the history of religion we
may deplore though we cannot alter, has decreed that the miracles
wrought by the god-man in these degenerate days cannot compare with
those which were wrought by his predecessors in days gone by; and it
is even reported that the only sign vouchsafed by him to the present
generation of vipers is the miracle of feeding the multitude whom he
annually entertains to dinner at Chinchvad.

A Hindoo sect, which has many representatives in Bombay and Central
India, holds that its spiritual chiefs or Maharajas, as they are
called, are representatives or even actual incarnations on earth of
the god Krishna. And as Krishna looks down from heaven with most
favour on such as minister to the wants of his successors and vicars
on earth, a peculiar rite called Self-devotion has been instituted,
whereby his faithful worshippers make over their bodies, their
souls, and, what is perhaps still more important, their worldly
substance to his adorable incarnations; and women are taught to
believe that the highest bliss for themselves and their families is
to be attained by yielding themselves to the embraces of those
beings in whom the divine nature mysteriously coexists with the form
and even the appetites of true humanity.

Christianity itself has not uniformly escaped the taint of these
unhappy delusions; indeed it has often been sullied by the
extravagances of vain pretenders to a divinity equal to or even
surpassing that of its great Founder. In the second century Montanus
the Phrygian claimed to be the incarnate Trinity, uniting in his
single person God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Nor is this an isolated case, the exorbitant pretension of a single
ill-balanced mind. From the earliest times down to the present day
many sects have believed that Christ, nay God himself, is incarnate
in every fully initiated Christian, and they have carried this
belief to its logical conclusion by adoring each other. Tertullian
records that this was done by his fellow-Christians at Carthage in
the second century; the disciples of St. Columba worshipped him as
an embodiment of Christ; and in the eighth century Elipandus of
Toledo spoke of Christ as "a god among gods," meaning that all
believers were gods just as truly as Jesus himself. The adoration of
each other was customary among the Albigenses, and is noticed
hundreds of times in the records of the Inquisition at Toulouse in
the early part of the fourteenth century.

In the thirteenth century there arose a sect called the Brethren and
Sisters of the Free Spirit, who held that by long and assiduous
contemplation any man might be united to the deity in an ineffable
manner and become one with the source and parent of all things, and
that he who had thus ascended to God and been absorbed in his
beatific essence, actually formed part of the Godhead, was the Son
of God in the same sense and manner with Christ himself, and enjoyed
thereby a glorious immunity from the trammels of all laws human and
divine. Inwardly transported by this blissful persuasion, though
outwardly presenting in their aspect and manners a shocking air of
lunacy and distraction, the sectaries roamed from place to place,
attired in the most fantastic apparel and begging their bread with
wild shouts and clamour, spurning indignantly every kind of honest
labour and industry as an obstacle to divine contemplation and to
the ascent of the soul towards the Father of spirits. In all their
excursions they were followed by women with whom they lived on terms
of the closest familiarity. Those of them who conceived they had
made the greatest proficiency in the higher spiritual life dispensed
with the use of clothes altogether in their assemblies, looking upon
decency and modesty as marks of inward corruption, characteristics
of a soul that still grovelled under the dominion of the flesh and
had not yet been elevated into communion with the divine spirit, its
centre and source. Sometimes their progress towards this mystic
communion was accelerated by the Inquisition, and they expired in
the flames, not merely with unclouded serenity, but with the most
triumphant feelings of cheerfulness and joy.

About the year 1830 there appeared, in one of the States of the
American Union bordering on Kentucky, an impostor who declared that
he was the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind, and that he had
reappeared on earth to recall the impious, the unbelieving, and
sinners to their duty. He protested that if they did not mend their
ways within a certain time, he would give the signal, and in a
moment the world would crumble to ruins. These extravagant
pretensions were received with favour even by persons of wealth and
position in society. At last a German humbly besought the new
Messiah to announce the dreadful catastrophe to his
fellow-countrymen in the German language, as they did not understand
English, and it seemed a pity that they should be damned merely on
that account. The would-be Saviour in reply confessed with great
candour that he did not know German. "What!" retorted the German,
"you the Son of God, and don't speak all languages, and don't even
know German? Come, come, you are a knave, a hypocrite, and a madman.
Bedlam is the place for you." The spectators laughed, and went away
ashamed of their credulity.

Sometimes, at the death of the human incarnation, the divine spirit
transmigrates into another man. The Buddhist Tartars believe in a
great number of living Buddhas, who officiate as Grand Lamas at the
head of the most important monasteries. When one of these Grand
Lamas dies his disciples do not sorrow, for they know that he will
soon reappear, being born in the form of an infant. Their only
anxiety is to discover the place of his birth. If at this time they
see a rainbow they take it as a sign sent them by the departed Lama
to guide them to his cradle. Sometimes the divine infant himself
reveals his identity. "I am the Grand Lama," he says, "the living
Buddha of such and such a temple. Take me to my old monastery. I am
its immortal head." In whatever way the birthplace of the Buddha is
revealed, whether by the Buddha's own avowal or by the sign in the
sky, tents are struck, and the joyful pilgrims, often headed by the
king or one of the most illustrious of the royal family, set forth
to find and bring home the infant god. Generally he is born in
Tibet, the holy land, and to reach him the caravan has often to
traverse the most frightful deserts. When at last they find the
child they fall down and worship him. Before, however, he is
acknowledged as the Grand Lama whom they seek he must satisfy them
of his identity. He is asked the name of the monastery of which he
claims to be the head, how far off it is, and how many monks live in
it; he must also describe the habits of the deceased Grand Lama and
the manner of his death. Then various articles, as prayer-books,
tea-pots, and cups, are placed before him, and he has to point out
those used by himself in his previous life. If he does so without a
mistake his claims are admitted, and he is conducted in triumph to
the monastery. At the head of all the Lamas is the Dalai Lama of
Lhasa, the Rome of Tibet. He is regarded as a living god, and at
death his divine and immortal spirit is born again in a child.
According to some accounts the mode of discovering the Dalai Lama is
similar to the method, already described, of discovering an ordinary
Grand Lama. Other accounts speak of an election by drawing lots from
a golden jar. Wherever he is born, the trees and plants put forth
green leaves; at his bidding flowers bloom and springs of water
rise; and his presence diffuses heavenly blessings.

But he is by no means the only man who poses as a god in these
regions. A register of all the incarnate gods in the Chinese empire
is kept in the _Li fan yiian_ or Colonial Office at Peking. The
number of gods who have thus taken out a license is one hundred and
sixty. Tibet is blessed with thirty of them, Northern Mongolia
rejoices in nineteen, and Southern Mongolia basks in the sunshine of
no less than fifty-seven. The Chinese government, with a paternal
solicitude for the welfare of its subjects, forbids the gods on the
register to be reborn anywhere but in Tibet. They fear lest the
birth of a god in Mongolia should have serious political
consequences by stirring the dormant patriotism and warlike spirit
of the Mongols, who might rally round an ambitious native deity of
royal lineage and seek to win for him, at the point of the sword, a
temporal as well as a spiritual kingdom. But besides these public or
licensed gods there are a great many little private gods, or
unlicensed practitioners of divinity, who work miracles and bless
their people in holes and corners; and of late years the Chinese
government has winked at the rebirth of these pettifogging deities
outside of Tibet. However, once they are born, the government keeps
its eye on them as well as on the regular practitioners, and if any
of them misbehaves he is promptly degraded, banished to a distant
monastery, and strictly forbidden ever to be born again in the

From our survey of the religious position occupied by the king in
rude societies we may infer that the claim to divine and
supernatural powers put forward by the monarchs of great historical
empires like those of Egypt, Mexico, and Peru, was not the simple
outcome of inflated vanity or the empty expression of a grovelling
adulation; it was merely a survival and extension of the old savage
apotheosis of living kings. Thus, for example, as children of the
Sun the Incas of Peru were revered like gods; they could do no
wrong, and no one dreamed of offending against the person, honour,
or property of the monarch or of any of the royal race. Hence, too,
the Incas did not, like most people, look on sickness as an evil.
They considered it a messenger sent from their father the Sun to
call them to come and rest with him in heaven. Therefore the usual
words in which an Inca announced his approaching end were these: "My
father calls me to come and rest with him." They would not oppose
their father's will by offering sacrifice for recovery, but openly
declared that he had called them to his rest. Issuing from the
sultry valleys upon the lofty tableland of the Colombian Andes, the
Spanish conquerors were astonished to find, in contrast to the
savage hordes they had left in the sweltering jungles below, a
people enjoying a fair degree of civilisation, practising
agriculture, and living under a government which Humboldt has
compared to the theocracies of Tibet and Japan. These were the
Chibchas, Muyscas, or Mozcas, divided into two kingdoms, with
capitals at Bogota and Tunja, but united apparently in spiritual
allegiance to the high pontiff of Sogamozo or Iraca. By a long and
ascetic novitiate, this ghostly ruler was reputed to have acquired
such sanctity that the waters and the rain obeyed him, and the
weather depended on his will. The Mexican kings at their accession,
as we have seen, took an oath that they would make the sun to shine,
the clouds to give rain, the rivers to flow, and the earth to bring
forth fruits in abundance. We are told that Montezuma, the last king
of Mexico, was worshipped by his people as a god.

The early Babylonian kings, from the time of Sargon I. till the
fourth dynasty of Ur or later, claimed to be gods in their lifetime.
The monarchs of the fourth dynasty of Ur in particular had temples
built in their honour; they set up their statues in various
sanctuaries and commanded the people to sacrifice to them; the
eighth month was especially dedicated to the kings, and sacrifices
were offered to them at the new moon and on the fifteenth of each
month. Again, the Parthian monarchs of the Arsacid house styled
themselves brothers of the sun and moon and were worshipped as
deities. It was esteemed sacrilege to strike even a private member
of the Arsacid family in a brawl.

The kings of Egypt were deified in their lifetime, sacrifices were
offered to them, and their worship was celebrated in special temples
and by special priests. Indeed the worship of the kings sometimes
cast that of the gods into the shade. Thus in the reign of Merenra a
high official declared that he had built many holy places in order
that the spirits of the king, the ever-living Merenra, might be
invoked "more than all the gods." "It has never been doubted that
the king claimed actual divinity; he was the 'great god,' the'golden
Horus,' and son of Ra. He claimed authority not only over Egypt, but
over'all lands and nations,''the whole world in its length and its
breadth, the east and the west,''the entire compass of the great
circuit of the sun,''the sky and what is in it, the earth and all
that is upon it,''every creature that walks upon two or upon four
legs, all that fly or flutter, the whole world offers her
productions to him.' Whatever in fact might be asserted of the
Sun-god, was dogmatically predicable of the king of Egypt. His
titles were directly derived from those of the Sun-god." "In the
course of his existence," we are told, "the king of Egypt exhausted
all the possible conceptions of divinity which the Egyptians had
framed for themselves. A superhuman god by his birth and by his
royal office, he became the deified man after his death. Thus all
that was known of the divine was summed up in him."

We have now completed our sketch, for it is no more than a sketch,
of the evolution of that sacred kingship which attained its highest
form, its most absolute expression, in the monarchies of Peru and
Egypt. Historically, the institution appears to have originated in
the order of public magicians or medicine-men; logically it rests on
a mistaken deduction from the association of ideas. Men mistook the
order of their ideas for the order of nature, and hence imagined
that the control which they have, or seem to have, over their
thoughts, permitted them to exercise a corresponding control over
things. The men who for one reason or another, because of the
strength or the weakness of their natural parts, were supposed to
possess these magical powers in the highest degree, were gradually
marked off from their fellows and became a separate class, who were
destined to exercise a most far-reaching influence on the political,
religious, and intellectual evolution of mankind. Social progress,
as we know, consists mainly in a successive differentiation of
functions, or, in simpler language, a division of labour. The work
which in primitive society is done by all alike and by all equally
ill, or nearly so, is gradually distributed among different classes
of workers and executed more and more perfectly; and so far as the
products, material or immaterial, of this specialised labour are
shared by all, the whole community benefits by the increasing
specialisation. Now magicians or medicine-men appear to constitute
the oldest artificial or professional class in the evolution of
society. For sorcerers are found in every savage tribe known to us;
and among the lowest savages, such as the Australian aborigines,
they are the only professional class that exists. As time goes on,
and the process of differentiation continues, the order of
medicine-men is itself subdivided into such classes as the healers
of disease, the makers of rain, and so forth; while the most
powerful member of the order wins for himself a position as chief
and gradually develops into a sacred king, his old magical functions
falling more and more into the background and being exchanged for
priestly or even divine duties, in proportion as magic is slowly
ousted by religion. Still later, a partition is effected between the
civil and the religious aspect of the kingship, the temporal power
being committed to one man and the spiritual to another. Meanwhile
the magicians, who may be repressed but cannot be extirpated by the
predominance of religion, still addict themselves to their old
occult arts in preference to the newer ritual of sacrifice and
prayer; and in time the more sagacious of their number perceive the
fallacy of magic and hit upon a more effectual mode of manipulating
the forces of nature for the good of man; in short, they abandon
sorcery for science. I am far from affirming that the course of
development has everywhere rigidly followed these lines: it has
doubtless varied greatly in different societies. I merely mean to
indicate in the broadest outline what I conceive to have been its
general trend. Regarded from the industrial point of view the
evolution has been from uniformity to diversity of function:
regarded from the political point of view, it has been from
democracy to despotism. With the later history of monarchy,
especially with the decay of despotism and its displacement by forms
of government better adapted to the higher needs of humanity, we are
not concerned in this enquiry: our theme is the growth, not the
decay, of a great and, in its time, beneficent institution.

VIII. Departmental Kings of Nature

THE PRECEDING investigation has proved that the same union of sacred
functions with a royal title which meets us in the King of the Wood
at Nemi, the Sacrificial King at Rome, and the magistrate called the
King at Athens, occurs frequently outside the limits of classical
antiquity and is a common feature of societies at all stages from
barbarism to civilisation. Further, it appears that the royal priest
is often a king, not only in name but in fact, swaying the sceptre
as well as the crosier. All this confirms the traditional view of
the origin of the titular and priestly kings in the republics of
ancient Greece and Italy. At least by showing that the combination
of spiritual and temporal power, of which Graeco-Italian tradition
preserved the memory, has actually existed in many places, we have
obviated any suspicion of improbability that might have attached to
the tradition. Therefore we may now fairly ask, May not the King of
the Wood have had an origin like that which a probable tradition
assigns to the Sacrificial King of Rome and the titular King of
Athens? In other words, may not his predecessors in office have been
a line of kings whom a republican revolution stripped of their
political power, leaving them only their religious functions and the
shadow of a crown? There are at least two reasons for answering this
question in the negative. One reason is drawn from the abode of the
priest of Nemi; the other from his title, the King of the Wood. If
his predecessors had been kings in the ordinary sense, he would
surely have been found residing, like the fallen kings of Rome and
Athens, in the city of which the sceptre had passed from him. This
city must have been Aricia, for there was none nearer. But Aricia
was three miles off from his forest sanctuary by the lake shore. If
he reigned, it was not in the city, but in the greenwood. Again his
title, King of the Wood, hardly allows us to suppose that he had
ever been a king in the common sense of the word. More likely he was
a king of nature, and of a special side of nature, namely, the woods
from which he took his title. If we could find instances of what we
may call departmental kings of nature, that is of persons supposed
to rule over particular elements or aspects of nature, they would
probably present a closer analogy to the King of the Wood than the
divine kings we have been hitherto considering, whose control of
nature is general rather than special. Instances of such
departmental kings are not wanting.

On a hill at Bomma near the mouth of the Congo dwells Namvulu Vumu,
King of the Rain and Storm. Of some of the tribes on the Upper Nile
we are told that they have no kings in the common sense; the only
persons whom they acknowledge as such are the Kings of the Rain,
_Mata Kodou,_ who are credited with the power of giving rain at the
proper time, that is, the rainy season. Before the rains begin to
fall at the end of March the country is a parched and arid desert;
and the cattle, which form the people's chief wealth, perish for
lack of grass. So, when the end of March draws on, each householder
betakes himself to the King of the Rain and offers him a cow that he
may make the blessed waters of heaven to drip on the brown and
withered pastures. If no shower falls, the people assemble and
demand that the king shall give them rain; and if the sky still
continues cloudless, they rip up his belly, in which he is believed
to keep the storms. Amongst the Bari tribe one of these Rain Kings
made rain by sprinkling water on the ground out of a handbell.

Among tribes on the outskirts of Abyssinia a similar office exists
and has been thus described by an observer: "The priesthood of the
Alfai, as he is called by the Barea and Kunama, is a remarkable one;
he is believed to be able to make rain. This office formerly existed
among the Algeds and appears to be still common to the Nuba negroes.
The Alfai of the Barea, who is also consulted by the northern
Kunama, lives near Tembadere on a mountain alone with his family.
The people bring him tribute in the form of clothes and fruits, and
cultivate for him a large field of his own. He is a kind of king,
and his office passes by inheritance to his brother or sister's son.
He is supposed to conjure down rain and to drive away the locusts.
But if he disappoints the people's expectation and a great drought
arises in the land, the Alfai is stoned to death, and his nearest
relations are obliged to cast the first stone at him. When we passed
through the country, the office of Alfai was still held by an old
man; but I heard that rain-making had proved too dangerous for him
and that he had renounced his office."

In the backwoods of Cambodia live two mysterious sovereigns known as
the King of the Fire and the King of the Water. Their fame is spread
all over the south of the great Indo-Chinese peninsula; but only a
faint echo of it has reached the West. Down to a few years ago no
European, so far as is known, had ever seen either of them; and
their very existence might have passed for a fable, were it not that
till lately communications were regularly maintained between them
and the King of Cambodia, who year by year exchanged presents with
them. Their royal functions are of a purely mystic or spiritual
order; they have no political authority; they are simple peasants,
living by the sweat of their brow and the offerings of the faithful.
According to one account they live in absolute solitude, never
meeting each other and never seeing a human face. They inhabit
successively seven towers perched upon seven mountains, and every
year they pass from one tower to another. People come furtively and
cast within their reach what is needful for their subsistence. The
kingship lasts seven years, the time necessary to inhabit all the

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