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The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

Part 9 out of 19

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spring. For the decay of plant life in winter is readily interpreted
by primitive man as an enfeeblement of the spirit of vegetation; the
spirit has, he thinks, grown old and weak and must therefore be
renovated by being slain and brought to life in a younger and
fresher form. Thus the killing of the representative of the
tree-spirit in spring is regarded as a means to promote and quicken
the growth of vegetation. For the killing of the tree-spirit is
associated always (we must suppose) implicitly, and sometimes
explicitly also, with a revival or resurrection of him in a more
youthful and vigorous form. So in the Saxon and Thüringen custom,
after the Wild Man has been shot he is brought to life again by a
doctor; and in the Wurmlingen ceremony there figures a Dr.
Iron-Beard, who probably once played a similar part; certainly in
another spring ceremony, which will be described presently, Dr.
Iron-Beard pretends to restore a dead man to life. But of this
revival or resurrection of the god we shall have more to say anon.

The points of similarity between these North European personages and
the subject of our enquiry--the King of the Wood or priest of
Nemi--are sufficiently striking. In these northern maskers we see
kings, whose dress of bark and leaves along with the hut of green
boughs and the fir-trees, under which they hold their court,
proclaim them unmistakably as, like their Italian counterpart, Kings
of the Wood. Like him they die a violent death, but like him they
may escape from it for a time by their bodily strength and agility;
for in several of these northern customs the flight and pursuit of
the king is a prominent part of the ceremony, and in one case at
least if the king can outrun his pursuers he retains his life and
his office for another year. In this last case the king in fact
holds office on condition of running for his life once a year, just
as the King of Calicut in later times held office on condition of
defending his life against all comers once every twelve years, and
just as the priest of Nemi held office on condition of defending
himself against any assault at any time. In every one of these
instances the life of the god-man is prolonged on condition of his
showing, in a severe physical contest of fight or flight, that his
bodily strength is not decayed, and that, therefore, the violent
death, which sooner or later is inevitable, may for the present be
postponed. With regard to flight it is noticeable that flight
figured conspicuously both in the legend and in the practice of the
King of the Wood. He had to be a runaway slave in memory of the
flight of Orestes, the traditional founder of the worship; hence the
Kings of the Wood are described by an ancient writer as "both strong
of hand and fleet of foot." Perhaps if we knew the ritual of the
Arician grove fully we might find that the king was allowed a chance
for his life by flight, like his Bohemian brother. I have already
conjectured that the annual flight of the priestly king at Rome
(_regifugium_) was at first a flight of the same kind; in other
words, that he was originally one of those divine kings who are
either put to death after a fixed period or allowed to prove by the
strong hand or the fleet foot that their divinity is vigorous and
unimpaired. One more point of resemblance may be noted between the
Italian King of the Wood and his northern counterparts. In Saxony
and Thüringen the representative of the tree-spirit, after being
killed, is brought to life again by a doctor. This is exactly what
legend affirmed to have happened to the first King of the Wood at
Nemi, Hippolytus or Virbius, who after he had been killed by his
horses was restored to life by the physician Aesculapius. Such a
legend tallies well with the theory that the slaying of the King of
the Wood was only a step to his revival or resurrection in his

2. Burying the Carnival

THUS far I have offered an explanation of the rule which required
that the priest of Nemi should be slain by his successor. The
explanation claims to be no more than probable; our scanty knowledge
of the custom and of its history forbids it to be more. But its
probability will be augmented in proportion to the extent to which
the motives and modes of thought which it assumes can be proved to
have operated in primitive society. Hitherto the god with whose
death and resurrection we have been chiefly concerned has been the
tree-god. But if I can show that the custom of killing the god and
the belief in his resurrection originated, or at least existed, in
the hunting and pastoral stage of society, when the slain god was an
animal, and that it survived into the agricultural stage, when the
slain god was the corn or a human being representing the corn, the
probability of my explanation will have been considerably increased.
This I shall attempt to do in the sequel, and in the course of the
discussion I hope to clear up some obscurities which still remain,
and to answer some objections which may have suggested themselves to
the reader.

We start from the point at which we left off--the spring customs of
European peasantry. Besides the ceremonies already described there
are two kindred sets of observances in which the simulated death of
a divine or supernatural being is a conspicuous feature. In one of
them the being whose death is dramatically represented is a
personification of the Carnival; in the other it is Death himself.
The former ceremony falls naturally at the end of the Carnival,
either on the last day of that merry season, namely Shrove Tuesday,
or on the first day of Lent, namely Ash Wednesday. The date of the
other ceremony--the Carrying or Driving out of Death, as it is
commonly called--is not so uniformly fixed. Generally it is the
fourth Sunday in Lent, which hence goes by the name of Dead Sunday;
but in some places the celebration falls a week earlier, in others,
as among the Czechs of Bohemia, a week later, while in certain
German villages of Moravia it is held on the first Sunday after
Easter. Perhaps, as has been suggested, the date may originally have
been variable, depending on the appearance of the first swallow or
some other herald of the spring. Some writers regard the ceremony as
Slavonic in its origin. Grimm thought it was a festival of the New
Year with the old Slavs, who began their year in March. We shall
first take examples, of the mimic death of the Carnival, which
always falls before the other in the calendar.

At Frosinone, in Latium, about half-way between Rome and Naples, the
dull monotony of life in a provincial Italian town is agreeably
broken on the last day of the Carnival by the ancient festival known
as the _Radica._ About four o'clock in the afternoon the town band,
playing lively tunes and followed by a great crowd, proceeds to the
Piazza del Plebiscito, where is the Sub-Prefecture as well as the
rest of the Government buildings. Here, in the middle of the square,
the eyes of the expectant multitude are greeted by the sight of an
immense car decked with many-coloured festoons and drawn by four
horses. Mounted on the car is a huge chair, on which sits enthroned
the majestic figure of the Carnival, a man of stucco about nine feet
high with a rubicund and smiling countenance. Enormous boots, a tin
helmet like those which grace the heads of officers of the Italian
marine, and a coat of many colours embellished with strange devices,
adorn the outward man of this stately personage. His left hand rests
on the arm of the chair, while with his right he gracefully salutes
the crowd, being moved to this act of civility by a string which is
pulled by a man who modestly shrinks from publicity under the
mercy-seat. And now the crowd, surging excitedly round the car,
gives vent to its feelings in wild cries of joy, gentle and simple
being mixed up together and all dancing furiously the _Saltarello._
A special feature of the festival is that every one must carry in
his hand what is called a _radica_ ( "root"), by which is meant a
huge leaf of the aloe or rather the agave. Any one who ventured into
the crowd without such a leaf would be unceremoniously hustled out
of it, unless indeed he bore as a substitute a large cabbage at the
end of a long stick or a bunch of grass curiously plaited. When the
multitude, after a short turn, has escorted the slow-moving car to
the gate of the Sub-Prefecture, they halt, and the car, jolting over
the uneven ground, rumbles into the courtyard. A hush now falls on
the crowd, their subdued voices sounding, according to the
description of one who has heard them, like the murmur of a troubled
sea. All eyes are turned anxiously to the door from which the
Sub-Prefect himself and the other representatives of the majesty of
the law are expected to issue and pay their homage to the hero of
the hour. A few moments of suspense and then a storm of cheers and
hand-clapping salutes the appearance of the dignitaries, as they
file out and, descending the staircase, take their place in the
procession. The hymn of the Carnival is now thundered out, after
which, amid a deafening roar, aloe leaves and cabbages are whirled
aloft and descend impartially on the heads of the just and the
unjust, who lend fresh zest to the proceedings by engaging in a free
fight. When these preliminaries have been concluded to the
satisfaction of all concerned, the procession gets under weigh. The
rear is brought up by a cart laden with barrels of wine and
policemen, the latter engaged in the congenial task of serving out
wine to all who ask for it, while a most internecine struggle,
accompanied by a copious discharge of yells, blows, and blasphemy,
goes on among the surging crowd at the cart's tail in their anxiety
not to miss the glorious opportunity of intoxicating themselves at
the public expense. Finally, after the procession has paraded the
principal streets in this majestic manner, the effigy of Carnival is
taken to the middle of a public square, stripped of his finery, laid
on a pile of wood, and burnt amid the cries of the multitude, who
thundering out once more the song of the Carnival fling their
so-called "roots" on the pyre and give themselves up without
restraint to the pleasures of the dance.

In the Abruzzi a pasteboard figure of the Carnival is carried by
four grave-diggers with pipes in their mouths and bottles of wine
slung at their shoulder-belts. In front walks the wife of the
Carnival, dressed in mourning and dissolved in tears. From time to
time the company halts, and while the wife addresses the
sympathising public, the grave-diggers refresh the inner man with a
pull at the bottle. In the open square the mimic corpse is laid on a
pyre, and to the roll of drums, the shrill screams of the women, and
the gruffer cries of the men a light is set to it. While the figure
burns, chestnuts are thrown about among the crowd. Sometimes the
Carnival is represented by a straw-man at the top of a pole which is
borne through the town by a troop of mummers in the course of the
afternoon. When evening comes on, four of the mummers hold out a
quilt or sheet by the corners, and the figure of the Carnival is
made to tumble into it. The procession is then resumed, the
performers weeping crocodile tears and emphasising the poignancy of
their grief by the help of saucepans and dinner bells. Sometimes,
again, in the Abruzzi the dead Carnival is personified by a living
man who lies in a coffin, attended by another who acts the priest
and dispenses holy water in great profusion from a bathing tub.

At Lerida, in Catalonia, the funeral of the Carnival was witnessed
by an English traveller in 1877. On the last Sunday of the Carnival
a grand procession of infantry, cavalry, and maskers of many sorts,
some on horseback and some in carriages, escorted the grand car of
His Grace Pau Pi, as the effigy was called, in triumph through the
principal streets. For three days the revelry ran high, and then at
midnight on the last day of the Carnival the same procession again
wound through the streets, but under a different aspect and for a
different end. The triumphal car was exchanged for a hearse, in
which reposed the effigy of his dead Grace: a troop of maskers, who
in the first procession had played the part of Students of Folly
with many a merry quip and jest, now, robed as priests and bishops,
paced slowly along holding aloft huge lighted tapers and singing a
dirge. All the mummers wore crape, and all the horsemen carried
blazing flambeaux. Down the high street, between the lofty,
many-storeyed and balconied houses, where every window, every
balcony, every housetop was crammed with a dense mass of spectators,
all dressed and masked in fantastic gorgeousness, the procession
took its melancholy way. Over the scene flashed and played the
shifting cross-lights and shadows from the moving torches: red and
blue Bengal lights flared up and died out again; and above the
trampling of the horses and the measured tread of the marching
multitude rose the voices of the priests chanting the requiem, while
the military bands struck in with the solemn roll of the muffled
drums. On reaching the principal square the procession halted, a
burlesque funeral oration was pronounced over the defunct Pau Pi,
and the lights were extinguished. Immediately the devil and his
angels darted from the crowd, seized the body and fled away with it,
hotly pursued by the whole multitude, yelling, screaming, and
cheering. Naturally the fiends were overtaken and dispersed; and the
sham corpse, rescued from their clutches, was laid in a grave that
had been made ready for its reception. Thus the Carnival of 1877 at
Lerida died and was buried.

A ceremony of the same sort is observed in Provence on Ash
Wednesday. An effigy called Caramantran, whimsically attired, is
drawn in a chariot or borne on a litter, accompanied by the populace
in grotesque costumes, who carry gourds full of wine and drain them
with all the marks, real or affected, of intoxication. At the head
of the procession are some men disguised as judges and barristers,
and a tall gaunt personage who masquerades as Lent; behind them
follow young people mounted on miserable hacks and attired as
mourners who pretend to bewail the fate that is in store for
Caramantran. In the principal square the procession halts, the
tribunal is constituted, and Caramantran placed at the bar. After a
formal trial he is sentenced to death amid the groans of the mob:
the barrister who defended him embraces his client for the last
time: the officers of justice do their duty: the condemned is set
with his back to a wall and hurried into eternity under a shower of
stones. The sea or a river receives his mangled remains. Throughout
nearly the whole of the Ardennes it was and still is customary on
Ash Wednesday to burn an effigy which is supposed to represent the
Carnival, while appropriate verses are sung round about the blazing
figure. Very often an attempt is made to fashion the effigy in the
likeness of the husband who is reputed to be least faithful to his
wife of any in the village. As might perhaps have been anticipated,
the distinction of being selected for portraiture under these
painful circumstances has a slight tendency to breed domestic jars,
especially when the portrait is burnt in front of the house of the
gay deceiver whom it represents, while a powerful chorus of
caterwauls, groans, and other melodious sounds bears public
testimony to the opinion which his friends and neighbours entertain
of his private virtues. In some villages of the Ardennes a young man
of flesh and blood, dressed up in hay and straw, used to act the
part of Shrove Tuesday (_Mardi Gras_), as the personification of the
Carnival is often called in France after the last day of the period
which he personates. He was brought before a mock tribunal, and
being condemned to death was placed with his back to a wall, like a
soldier at a military execution, and fired at with blank cartridges.
At Vrigne-aux-Bois one of these harmless buffoons, named Thierry,
was accidentally killed by a wad that had been left in a musket of
the firing-party. When poor Shrove Tuesday dropped under the fire,
the applause was loud and long, he did it so naturally; but when he
did not get up again, they ran to him and found him a corpse. Since
then there have been no more of these mock executions in the

In Normandy on the evening of Ash Wednesday it used to be the custom
to hold a celebration called the Burial of Shrove Tuesday. A squalid
effigy scantily clothed in rags, a battered old hat crushed down on
his dirty face, his great round paunch stuffed with straw,
represented the disreputable old rake who, after a long course of
dissipation, was now about to suffer for his sins. Hoisted on the
shoulders of a sturdy fellow, who pretended to stagger under the
burden, this popular personification of the Carnival promenaded the
streets for the last time in a manner the reverse of triumphal.
Preceded by a drummer and accompanied by a jeering rabble, among
whom the urchins and all the tag-rag and bobtail of the town
mustered in great force, the figure was carried about by the
flickering light of torches to the discordant din of shovels and
tongs, pots and pans, horns and kettles, mingled with hootings,
groans, and hisses. From time to time the procession halted, and a
champion of morality accused the broken-down old sinner of all the
excesses he had committed and for which he was now about to be
burned alive. The culprit, having nothing to urge in his own
defence, was thrown on a heap of straw, a torch was put to it, and a
great blaze shot up, to the delight of the children who frisked
round it screaming out some old popular verses about the death of
the Carnival. Sometimes the effigy was rolled down the slope of a
hill before being burnt. At Saint-Lō the ragged effigy of Shrove
Tuesday was followed by his widow, a big burly lout dressed as a
woman with a crape veil, who emitted sounds of lamentation and woe
in a stentorian voice. After being carried about the streets on a
litter attended by a crowd of maskers, the figure was thrown into
the River Vire. The final scene has been graphically described by
Madame Octave Feuillet as she witnessed it in her childhood some
sixty years ago. "My parents invited friends to see, from the top of
the tower of Jeanne Couillard, the funeral procession passing. It
was there that, quaffing lemonade--the only refreshment allowed
because of the fast--we witnessed at nightfall a spectacle of which
I shall always preserve a lively recollection. At our feet flowed
the Vire under its old stone bridge. On the middle of the bridge lay
the figure of Shrove Tuesday on a litter of leaves, surrounded by
scores of maskers dancing, singing, and carrying torches. Some of
them in their motley costumes ran along the parapet like fiends. The
rest, worn out with their revels, sat on the posts and dozed. Soon
the dancing stopped, and some of the troop, seizing a torch, set
fire to the effigy, after which they flung it into the river with
redoubled shouts and clamour. The man of straw, soaked with resin,
floated away burning down the stream of the Vire, lighting up with
its funeral fires the woods on the bank and the battlements of the
old castle in which Louis XI. and Francis I. had slept. When the
last glimmer of the blazing phantom had vanished, like a falling
star, at the end of the valley, every one withdrew, crowd and
maskers alike, and we quitted the ramparts with our guests."

In the neighbourhood of Tübingen on Shrove Tuesday a straw-man,
called the Shrovetide Bear, is made up; he is dressed in a pair of
old trousers, and a fresh black-pudding or two squirts filled with
blood are inserted in his neck. After a formal condemnation he is
beheaded, laid in a coffin, and on Ash Wednesday is buried in the
churchyard. This is called "Burying the Carnival." Amongst some of
the Saxons of Transylvania the Carnival is hanged. Thus at Braller
on Ash Wednesday or Shrove Tuesday two white and two chestnut horses
draw a sledge on which is placed a straw-man swathed in a white
cloth; beside him is a cart-wheel which is kept turning round. Two
lads disguised as old men follow the sledge lamenting. The rest of
the village lads, mounted on horseback and decked with ribbons,
accompany the procession, which is headed by two girls crowned with
evergreen and drawn in a waggon or sledge. A trial is held under a
tree, at which lads disguised as soldiers pronounce sentence of
death. The two old men try to rescue the straw-man and to fly with
him, but to no purpose; he is caught by the two girls and handed
over to the executioner, who hangs him on a tree. In vain the old
men try to climb up the tree and take him down; they always tumble
down, and at last in despair they throw themselves on the ground and
weep and howl for the hanged man. An official then makes a speech in
which he declares that the Carnival was condemned to death because
he had done them harm, by wearing out their shoes and making them
tired and sleepy. At the "Burial of Carnival" in Lechrain, a man
dressed as a woman in black clothes is carried on a litter or bier
by four men; he is lamented over by men disguised as women in black
clothes, then thrown down before the village dung-heap, drenched
with water, buried in the dung-heap, and covered with straw. On the
evening of Shrove Tuesday the Esthonians make a straw figure called
_metsik_ or "wood-spirit"; one year it is dressed with a man's coat
and hat, next year with a hood and a petticoat. This figure is stuck
on a long pole, carried across the boundary of the village with loud
cries of joy, and fastened to the top of a tree in the wood. The
ceremony is believed to be a protection against all kinds of

Sometimes at these Shrovetide or Lenten ceremonies the resurrection
of the pretended dead person is enacted. Thus, in some parts of
Swabia on Shrove Tuesday Dr. Iron-Beard professes to bleed a sick
man, who thereupon falls as dead to the ground; but the doctor at
last restores him to life by blowing air into him through a tube. In
the Harz Mountains, when Carnival is over, a man is laid on a
baking-trough and carried with dirges to the grave; but in the grave
a glass of brandy is buried instead of the man. A speech is
delivered and then the people return to the village-green or
meeting-place, where they smoke the long clay pipes which are
distributed at funerals. On the morning of Shrove Tuesday in the
following year the brandy is dug up and the festival begins by every
one tasting the spirit which, as the phrase goes, has come to life

3. Carrying out Death

THE CEREMONY of "Carrying out Death" presents much the same features
as "Burying the Carnival"; except that the carrying out of Death is
generally followed by a ceremony, or at least accompanied by a
profession, of bringing in Summer, Spring, or Life. Thus in Middle
Franken, a province of Bavaria, on the fourth Sunday in Lent, the
village urchins used to make a straw effigy of Death, which they
carried about with burlesque pomp through the streets, and
afterwards burned with loud cries beyond the bounds. The Frankish
custom is thus described by a writer of the sixteenth century: "At
Mid-Lent, the season when the church bids us rejoice, the young
people of my native country make a straw image of Death, and
fastening it to a pole carry it with shouts to the neighbouring
villages. By some they are kindly received, and after being
refreshed with milk, peas, and dried pears, the usual food of that
season, are sent home again. Others, however, treat them with
anything but hospitality; for, looking on them as harbingers of
misfortune, to wit of death, they drive them from their boundaries
with weapons and insults." In the villages near Erlangen, when the
fourth Sunday in Lent came around, the peasant girls used to dress
themselves in all their finery with flowers in their hair. Thus
attired they repaired to the neighbouring town, carrying puppets
which were adorned with leaves and covered with white cloths. These
they took from house to house in pairs, stopping at every door where
they expected to receive something, and singing a few lines in which
they announced that it was Mid-Lent and that they were about to
throw Death into the water. When they had collected some trifling
gratuities they went to the river Regnitz and flung the puppets
representing Death into the stream. This was done to ensure a
fruitful and prosperous year; further, it was considered a safeguard
against pestilence and sudden death. At Nuremberg girls of seven to
eighteen years of age go through the streets bearing a little open
coffin, in which is a doll hidden under a shroud. Others carry a
beech branch, with an apple fastened to it for a head, in an open
box. They sing, "We carry Death into the water, it is well," or "We
carry Death into the water, carry him in and out again." In some
parts of Bavaria down to 1780 it was believed that a fatal epidemic
would ensue if the custom of "Carrying out Death" were not observed.

In some villages of Thüringen, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the
children used to carry a puppet of birchen twigs through the
village, and then threw it into a pool, while they sang, "We carry
the old Death out behind the herdman's old house; we have got
Summer, and Kroden's (?) power is destroyed." At Debschwitz or
Dobschwitz, near Gera, the ceremony of "Driving out Death" is or was
annually observed on the first of March. The young people make up a
figure of straw or the like materials, dress it in old clothes,
which they have begged from houses in the village, and carry it out
and throw it into the river. On returning to the village they break
the good news to the people, and receive eggs and other victuals as
a reward. The ceremony is or was supposed to purify the village and
to protect the inhabitants from sickness and plague. In other
villages of Thüringen, in which the population was originally
Slavonic, the carrying out of the puppet is accompanied with the
singing of a song, which begins, "Now we carry Death out of the
village and Spring into the village." At the end of the seventeenth
and beginning of the eighteenth century the custom was observed in
Thüringen as follows. The boys and girls made an effigy of straw or
the like materials, but the shape of the figure varied from year to
year. In one year it would represent an old man, in the next an old
woman, in the third a young man, and in the fourth a maiden, and the
dress of the figure varied with the character it personated. There
used to be a sharp contest as to where the effigy was to be made,
for the people thought that the house from which it was carried
forth would not be visited with death that year. Having been made,
the puppet was fastened to a pole and carried by a girl if it
represented an old man, but by a boy if it represented an old woman.
Thus it was borne in procession, the young people holding sticks in
their hands and singing that they were driving out Death. When they
came to water they threw the effigy into it and ran hastily back,
fearing that it might jump on their shoulders and wring their necks.
They also took care not to touch it, lest it should dry them up. On
their return they beat the cattle with the sticks, believing that
this would make the animals fat or fruitful. Afterwards they visited
the house or houses from which they had carried the image of Death;
where they received a dole of half-boiled peas. The custom of
"Carrying out Death" was practised also in Saxony. At Leipsic the
bastards and public women used to make a straw effigy of Death every
year at Mid-Lent. This they carried through all the streets with
songs and showed it to the young married women. Finally they threw
it into the river Parthe. By this ceremony they professed to make
the young wives fruitful, to purify the city, and to protect the
inhabitants for that year from plague and other epidemics.

Ceremonies of the same sort are observed at Mid-Lent in Silesia.
Thus in many places the grown girls with the help of the young men
dress up a straw figure with women's clothes and carry it out of the
village towards the setting sun. At the boundary they strip it of
its clothes, tear it in pieces, and scatter the fragments about the
fields. This is called "Burying Death." As they carry the image out,
they sing that they are about to bury Death under an oak, that he
may depart from the people. Sometimes the song runs that they are
bearing Death over hill and dale to return no more. In the Polish
neighbourhood of Gross-Strehlitz the puppet is called Goik. It is
carried on horseback and thrown into the nearest water. The people
think that the ceremony protects them from sickness of every sort in
the coming year. In the districts of Wohlau and Guhrau the image of
Death used to be thrown over the boundary of the next village. But
as the neighbours feared to receive the ill-omened figure, they were
on the look-out to repel it, and hard knocks were often exchanged
between the two parties. In some Polish parts of Upper Silesia the
effigy, representing an old woman, goes by the name of Marzana, the
goddess of death. It is made in the house where the last death
occurred, and is carried on a pole to the boundary of the village,
where it is thrown into a pond or burnt. At Polkwitz the custom of
"Carrying out Death" fell into abeyance; but an outbreak of fatal
sickness which followed the intermission of the ceremony induced the
people to resume it.

In Bohemia the children go out with a straw-man, representing Death,
to the end of the village, where they burn it, singing--

"Now carry we Death out of the village,
The new Summer into the village,
Welcome, dear Summer,
Green little corn."

At Tabor in Bohemia the figure of Death is carried out of the town
and flung from a high rock into the water, while they sing--

"Death swims on the water,
Summer will soon be here,
We carried Death away for you
We brought the Summer.
And do thou, O holy Marketa,
Give us a good year
For wheat and for rye."

In other parts of Bohemia they carry Death to the end of the
village, singing--

"We carry Death out of the village,
And the New Year into the village.
Dear Spring, we bid you welcome,
Green grass, we bid you welcome."

Behind the village they erect a pyre, on which they burn the straw
figure, reviling and scoffing at it the while. Then they return,

"We have carried away Death,
And brought Life back.
He has taken up his quarters in the village,
Therefore sing joyous songs."

In some German villages of Moravia, as in Jassnitz and Seitendorf,
the young folk assemble on the third Sunday in Lent and fashion a
straw-man, who is generally adorned with a fur cap and a pair of old
leathern hose, if such are to be had. The effigy is then hoisted on
a pole and carried by the lads and lasses out into the open fields.
On the way they sing a song, in which it is said that they are
carrying Death away and bringing dear Summer into the house, and
with Summer the May and the flowers. On reaching an appointed place
they dance in a circle round the effigy with loud shouts and
screams, then suddenly rush at it and tear it to pieces with their
hands. Lastly, the pieces are thrown together in a heap, the pole is
broken, and fire is set to the whole. While it burns the troop
dances merrily round it, rejoicing at the victory won by Spring; and
when the fire has nearly died out they go to the householders to beg
for a present of eggs wherewith to hold a feast, taking care to give
as a reason for the request that they have carried Death out and

The preceding evidence shows that the effigy of Death is often
regarded with fear and treated with marks of hatred and abhorrence.
Thus the anxiety of the villagers to transfer the figure from their
own to their neighbours' land, and the reluctance of the latter to
receive the ominous guest, are proof enough of the dread which it
inspires. Further, in Lusatia and Silesia the puppet is sometimes
made to look in at the window of a house, and it is believed that
some one in the house will die within the year unless his life is
redeemed by the payment of money. Again, after throwing the effigy
away, the bearers sometimes run home lest Death should follow them,
and if one of them falls in running, it is believed that he will die
within the year. At Chrudim, in Bohemia, the figure of Death is made
out of a cross, with a head and mask stuck at the top, and a shirt
stretched out on it. On the fifth Sunday in Lent the boys take this
effigy to the nearest brook or pool, and standing in a line throw it
into the water. Then they all plunge in after it; but as soon as it
is caught no one more may enter the water. The boy who did not enter
the water or entered it last will die within the year, and he is
obliged to carry the Death back to the village. The effigy is then
burned. On the other hand, it is believed that no one will die
within the year in the house out of which the figure of Death has
been carried; and the village out of which Death has been driven is
sometimes supposed to be protected against sickness and plague. In
some villages of Austrian Silesia on the Saturday before Dead Sunday
an effigy is made of old clothes, hay, and straw, for the purpose of
driving Death out of the village. On Sunday the people, armed with
sticks and straps, assemble before the house where the figure is
lodged. Four lads then draw the effigy by cords through the village
amid exultant shouts, while all the others beat it with their sticks
and straps. On reaching a field which belongs to a neighbouring
village they lay down the figure, cudgel it soundly, and scatter the
fragments over the field. The people believe that the village from
which Death has been thus carried out will be safe from any
infectious disease for the whole year.

4. Bringing in Summer

IN THE PRECEDING ceremonies the return of Spring, Summer, or Life,
as a sequel to the expulsion of Death, is only implied or at most
announced. In the following ceremonies it is plainly enacted. Thus
in some parts of Bohemia the effigy of Death is drowned by being
thrown into the water at sunset; then the girls go out into the wood
and cut down a young tree with a green crown, hang a doll dressed as
a woman on it, deck the whole with green, red, and white ribbons,
and march in procession with their _Lķto_ (Summer) into the village,
collecting gifts and singing--

"Death swims in the water,
Spring comes to visit us,
With eggs that are red,
With yellow pancakes.
We carried Death out of the village,
We are carrying Summer into the village."

In many Silesian villages the figure of Death, after being treated
with respect, is stript of its clothes and flung with curses into
the water, or torn to pieces in a field. Then the young folk repair
to a wood, cut down a small fir-tree, peel the trunk, and deck it
with festoons of evergreens, paper roses, painted egg-shells, motley
bits of cloth, and so forth. The tree thus adorned is called Summer
or May. Boys carry it from house to house singing appropriate songs
and begging for presents. Among their songs is the following:

"We have carried Death out,
We are bringing the dear Summer back,
The Summer and the May
And all the flowers gay."

Sometimes they also bring back from the wood a prettily adorned
figure, which goes by the name of Summer, May, or the Bride; in the
Polish districts it is called Dziewanna, the goddess of spring.

At Eisenach on the fourth Sunday in Lent young people used to fasten
a straw-man, representing Death, to a wheel, which they trundled to
the top of a hill. Then setting fire to the figure they allowed it
and the wheel to roll down the slope. Next day they cut a tall
fir-tree, tricked it out with ribbons, and set it up in the plain.
The men then climbed the tree to fetch down the ribbons. In Upper
Lusatia the figure of Death, made of straw and rags, is dressed in a
veil furnished by the last bride and a shirt provided by the house
in which the last death took place. Thus arrayed the figure is stuck
on the end of a long pole and carried at full speed by the tallest
and strongest girl, while the rest pelt the effigy with sticks and
stones. Whoever hits it will be sure to live through the year. In
this way Death is carried out of the village and thrown into the
water or over the boundary of the next village. On their way home
each one breaks a green branch and carries it gaily with him till he
reaches the village, when he throws it away. Sometimes the young
people of the next village, upon whose land the figure has been
thrown, run after them and hurl it back, not wishing to have Death
among them. Hence the two parties occasionally come to blows.

In these cases Death is represented by the puppet which is thrown
away, Summer or Life by the branches or trees which are brought
back. But sometimes a new potency of life seems to be attributed to
the image of Death itself, and by a kind of resurrection it becomes
the instrument of the general revival. Thus in some parts of Lusatia
women alone are concerned in carrying out Death, and suffer no male
to meddle with it. Attired in mourning, which they wear the whole
day, they make a puppet of straw, clothe it in a white shirt, and
give it a broom in one hand and a scythe in the other. Singing songs
and pursued by urchins throwing stones, they carry the puppet to the
village boundary, where they tear it in pieces. Then they cut down a
fine tree, hang the shirt on it, and carry it home singing. On the
Feast of Ascension the Saxons of Braller, a village of Transylvania,
not far from Hermannstadt, observe the ceremony of "Carrying out
Death" in the following manner. After morning service all the
school-girls repair to the house of one of their number, and there
dress up the Death. This is done by tying a threshed-out sheaf of
corn into a rough semblance of a head and body, while the arms are
simulated by a broomstick thrust through it horizontally. The figure
is dressed in the holiday attire of a young peasant woman, with a
red hood, silver brooches, and a profusion of ribbons at the arms
and breast. The girls bustle at their work, for soon the bells will
be ringing to vespers, and the Death must be ready in time to be
placed at the open window, that all the people may see it on their
way to church. When vespers are over, the longed-for moment has come
for the first procession with the Death to begin; it is a privilege
that belongs to the school-girls alone. Two of the older girls seize
the figure by the arms and walk in front: all the rest follow two
and two. Boys may take no part in the procession, but they troop
after it gazing with open-mouthed admiration at the "beautiful
Death." So the procession goes through all the streets of the
village, the girls singing the old hymn that begins--

"Gott mein Vater, deine Liebe
Reicht so weit der Himmel ist,"

to a tune that differs from the ordinary one. When the procession
has wound its way through every street, the girls go to another
house, and having shut the door against the eager prying crowd of
boys who follow at their heels, they strip the Death and pass the
naked truss of straw out of the window to the boys, who pounce on
it, run out of the village with it without singing, and fling the
dilapidated effigy into the neighbouring brook. This done, the
second scene of the little drama begins. While the boys were
carrying away the Death out of the village, the girls remained in
the house, and one of them is now dressed in all the finery which
had been worn by the effigy. Thus arrayed she is led in procession
through all the streets to the singing of the same hymn as before.
When the procession is over they all betake themselves to the house
of the girl who played the leading part. Here a feast awaits them
from which also the boys are excluded. It is a popular belief that
the children may safely begin to eat gooseberries and other fruit
after the day on which Death has thus been carried out; for Death,
which up to that time lurked especially in gooseberries, is now
destroyed. Further, they may now bathe with impunity out of doors.
Very similar is the ceremony which, down to recent years, was
observed in some of the German villages of Moravia. Boys and girls
met on the afternoon of the first Sunday after Easter, and together
fashioned a puppet of straw to represent Death. Decked with
bright-coloured ribbons and cloths, and fastened to the top of a
long pole, the effigy was then borne with singing and clamour to the
nearest height, where it was stript of its gay attire and thrown or
rolled down the slope. One of the girls was next dressed in the
gauds taken from the effigy of Death, and with her at its head the
procession moved back to the village. In some villages the practice
is to bury the effigy in the place that has the most evil reputation
of all the country-side: others throw it into running water.

In the Lusatian ceremony described above, the tree which is brought
home after the destruction of the figure of Death is plainly
equivalent to the trees or branches which, in the preceding customs,
were brought back as representatives of Summer or Life, after Death
had been thrown away or destroyed. But the transference of the shirt
worn by the effigy of Death to the tree clearly indicates that the
tree is a kind of revivification, in a new form, of the destroyed
effigy. This comes out also in the Transylvanian and Moravian
customs: the dressing of a girl in the clothes worn by the Death,
and the leading her about the village to the same song which had
been sung when the Death was being carried about, show that she is
intended to be a kind of resuscitation of the being whose effigy has
just been destroyed. These examples therefore suggest that the Death
whose demolition is represented in these ceremonies cannot be
regarded as the purely destructive agent which we understand by
Death. If the tree which is brought back as an embodiment of the
reviving vegetation of spring is clothed in the shirt worn by the
Death which has just been destroyed, the object certainly cannot be
to check and counteract the revival of vegetation: it can only be to
foster and promote it. Therefore the being which has just been
destroyed--the so-called Death--must be supposed to be endowed with
a vivifying and quickening influence, which it can communicate to
the vegetable and even the animal world. This ascription of a
life-giving virtue to the figure of Death is put beyond a doubt by
the custom, observed in some places, of taking pieces of the straw
effigy of Death and placing them in the fields to make the crops
grow, or in the manger to make the cattle thrive. Thus in
Spachendorf, a village of Austrian Silesia, the figure of Death,
made of straw, brushwood, and rags, is carried with wild songs to an
open place outside the village and there burned, and while it is
burning a general struggle takes place for the pieces, which are
pulled out of the flames with bare hands. Each one who secures a
fragment of the effigy ties it to a branch of the largest tree in
his garden, or buries it in his field, in the belief that this
causes the crops to grow better. In the Troppau district of Austrian
Silesia the straw figure which the boys make on the fourth Sunday in
Lent is dressed by the girls in woman's clothes and hung with
ribbons, necklace, and garlands. Attached to a long pole it is
carried out of the village, followed by a troop of young people of
both sexes, who alternately frolic, lament, and sing songs. Arrived
at its destination--a field outside the village--the figure is
stripped of its clothes and ornaments; then the crowd rushes at it
and tears it to bits, scuffling for the fragments. Every one tries
to get a wisp of the straw of which the effigy was made, because
such a wisp, placed in the manger, is believed to make the cattle
thrive. Or the straw is put in the hens' nest, it being supposed
that this prevents the hens from carrying away their eggs, and makes
them brood much better. The same attribution of a fertilising power
to the figure of Death appears in the belief that if the bearers of
the figure, after throwing it away, beat cattle with their sticks,
this will render the beasts fat or prolific. Perhaps the sticks had
been previously used to beat the Death, and so had acquired the
fertilising power ascribed to the effigy. We have seen, too, that at
Leipsic a straw effigy of Death was shown to young wives to make
them fruitful.

It seems hardly possible to separate from the May-trees the trees or
branches which are brought into the village after the destruction of
the Death. The bearers who bring them in profess to be bringing in
the Summer, therefore the trees obviously represent the Summer;
indeed in Silesia they are commonly called the Summer or the May,
and the doll which is sometimes attached to the Summer-tree is a
duplicate representative of the Summer, just as the May is sometimes
represented at the same time by a May-tree and a May Lady. Further,
the Summer-trees are adorned like May-trees with ribbons and so on;
like May-trees, when large, they are planted in the ground and
climbed up; and like May-trees, when small, they are carried from
door to door by boys or girls singing songs and collecting money.
And as if to demonstrate the identity of the two sets of customs the
bearers of the Summer-tree sometimes announce that they are bringing
in the Summer and the May. The customs, therefore, of bringing in
the May and bringing in the Summer are essentially the same; and the
Summer-tree is merely another form of the May-tree, the only
distinction (besides that of name) being in the time at which they
are respectively brought in; for while the May-tree is usually
fetched in on the first of May or at Whitsuntide, the Summer-tree is
fetched in on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Therefore, if the May-tree
is an embodiment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation, the
Summer-tree must likewise be an embodiment of the tree-spirit or
spirit of vegetation. But we have seen that the Summer-tree is in
some cases a revivification of the effigy of Death. It follows,
therefore, that in these cases the effigy called Death must be an
embodiment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation. This
inference is confirmed, first, by the vivifying and fertilising
influence which the fragments of the effigy of Death are believed to
exercise both on vegetable and on animal life; for this influence,
as we saw in an earlier part of this work, is supposed to be a
special attribute of the tree-spirit. It is confirmed, secondly, by
observing that the effigy of Death is sometimes decked with leaves
or made of twigs, branches, hemp, or a threshed-out sheaf of corn;
and that sometimes it is hung on a little tree and so carried about
by girls collecting money, just as is done with the May-tree and the
May Lady, and with the Summer-tree and the doll attached to it. In
short we are driven to regard the expulsion of Death and the
bringing in of Summer as, in some cases at least, merely another
form of that death and revival of the spirit of vegetation in spring
which we saw enacted in the killing and resurrection of the Wild
Man. The burial and resurrection of the Carnival is probably another
way of expressing the same idea. The interment of the representative
of the Carnival under a dung-heap is natural, if he is supposed to
possess a quickening and fertilising influence like that ascribed to
the effigy of Death. The Esthonians, indeed, who carry the straw
figure out of the village in the usual way on Shrove Tuesday, do not
call it the Carnival, but the Wood-spirit (_Metsik_), and they
clearly indicate the identity of the effigy with the wood-spirit by
fixing it to the top of a tree in the wood, where it remains for a
year, and is besought almost daily with prayers and offerings to
protect the herds; for like a true wood-spirit the _Metsik_ is a
patron of cattle. Sometimes the _Metsik_ is made of sheaves of corn.

Thus we may fairly conjecture that the names Carnival, Death, and
Summer are comparatively late and inadequate expressions for the
beings personified or embodied in the customs with which we have
been dealing. The very abstractness of the names bespeaks a modern
origin; for the personification of times and seasons like the
Carnival and Summer, or of an abstract notion like death, is not
primitive. But the ceremonies themselves bear the stamp of a
dateless antiquity; therefore we can hardly help supposing that in
their origin the ideas which they embodied were of a more simple and
concrete order. The notion of a tree, perhaps of a particular kind
of tree (for some savages have no word for tree in general), or even
of an individual tree, is sufficiently concrete to supply a basis
from which by a gradual process of generalisation the wider idea of
a spirit of vegetation might be reached. But this general idea of
vegetation would readily be confounded with the season in which it
manifests itself; hence the substitution of Spring, Summer, or May
for the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation would be easy and
natural. Again, the concrete notion of the dying tree or dying
vegetation would by a similar process of generalisation glide into a
notion of death in general; so that the practice of carrying out the
dying or dead vegetation in spring, as a preliminary to its revival,
would in time widen out into an attempt to banish Death in general
from the village or district. The view that in these spring
ceremonies Death meant originally the dying or dead vegetation of
winter has the high support of W. Mannhardt; and he confirms it by
the analogy of the name Death as applied to the spirit of the ripe
corn. Commonly the spirit of the ripe corn is conceived, not as
dead, but as old, and hence it goes by the name of the Old Man or
the Old Woman. But in some places the last sheaf cut at harvest,
which is generally believed to be the seat of the corn spirit, is
called "the Dead One": children are warned against entering the
corn-fields because Death sits in the corn; and, in a game played by
Saxon children in Transylvania at the maize harvest, Death is
represented by a child completely covered with maize leaves.

5. Battle of Summer and Winter

SOMETIMES in the popular customs of the peasantry the contrast
between the dormant powers of vegetation in winter and their
awakening vitality in spring takes the form of a dramatic contest
between actors who play the parts respectively of Winter and Summer.
Thus in the towns of Sweden on May Day two troops of young men on
horseback used to meet as if for mortal combat. One of them was led
by a representative of Winter clad in furs, who threw snowballs and
ice in order to prolong the cold weather. The other troop was
commanded by a representative of Summer covered with fresh leaves
and flowers. In the sham fight which followed the party of Summer
came off victorious, and the ceremony ended with a feast. Again, in
the region of the middle Rhine, a representative of Summer clad in
ivy combats a representative of Winter clad in straw or moss and
finally gains a victory over him. The vanquished foe is thrown to
the ground and stripped of his casing of straw, which is torn to
pieces and scattered about, while the youthful comrades of the two
champions sing a song to commemorate the defeat of Winter by Summer.
Afterwards they carry about a summer garland or branch and collect
gifts of eggs and bacon from house to house. Sometimes the champion
who acts the part of Summer is dressed in leaves and flowers and
wears a chaplet of flowers on his head. In the Palatinate this mimic
conflict takes place on the fourth Sunday in Lent. All over Bavaria
the same drama used to be acted on the same day, and it was still
kept up in some places down to the middle of the nineteenth century
or later. While Summer appeared clad all in green, decked with
fluttering ribbons, and carrying a branch in blossom or a little
tree hung with apples and pears, Winter was muffled up in cap and
mantle of fur and bore in his hand a snow-shovel or a flail.
Accompanied by their respective retinues dressed in corresponding
attire, they went through all the streets of the village, halting
before the houses and singing staves of old songs, for which they
received presents of bread, eggs, and fruit. Finally, after a short
struggle, Winter was beaten by Summer and ducked in the village well
or driven out of the village with shouts and laughter into the

At Goepfritz in Lower Austria, two men personating Summer and Winter
used to go from house to house on Shrove Tuesday, and were
everywhere welcomed by the children with great delight. The
representative of Summer was clad in white and bore a sickle; his
comrade, who played the part of Winter, had a fur-cap on his head,
his arms and legs were swathed in straw, and he carried a flail. In
every house they sang verses alternately. At Drömling in Brunswick,
down to the present time, the contest between Summer and Winter is
acted every year at Whitsuntide by a troop of boys and a troop of
girls. The boys rush singing, shouting, and ringing bells from house
to house to drive Winter away; after them come the girls singing
softly and led by a May Bride, all in bright dresses and decked with
flowers and garlands to represent the genial advent of spring.
Formerly the part of Winter was played by a straw-man which the boys
carried with them; now it is acted by a real man in disguise.

Among the Central Esquimaux of North America the contest between
representatives of summer and winter, which in Europe has long
degenerated into a mere dramatic performance, is still kept up as a
magical ceremony of which the avowed intention is to influence the
weather. In autumn, when storms announce the approach of the dismal
Arctic winter, the Esquimaux divide themselves into two parties
called respectively the ptarmigans and the ducks, the ptarmigans
comprising all persons born in winter, and the ducks all persons
born in summer. A long rope of sealskin is then stretched out, and
each party laying hold of one end of it seeks by tugging with might
and main to drag the other party over to its side. If the ptarmigans
get the worst of it, then summer has won the game and fine weather
may be expected to prevail through the winter.

6. Death and Resurrection of Kostrubonko

I RUSSIA funeral ceremonies like those of "Burying the Carnival" and
"Carrying out Death" are celebrated under the names, not of Death or
the Carnival, but of certain mythic figures, Kostrubonko, Kostroma,
Kupalo, Lada, and Yarilo. These Russian ceremonies are observed both
in spring and at midsummer. Thus "in Little Russia it used to be the
custom at Eastertide to celebrate the funeral of a being called
Kostrubonko, the deity of the spring. A circle was formed of singers
who moved slowly around a girl who lay on the ground as if dead, and
as they went they sang:

'Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko!
Dead, dead is our dear one!'

until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the chorus joyfully

'Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko!
Come to life, come to life has our dear one!'"

On the Eve of St. John (Midsummer Eve) a figure of Kupalo is made of
straw and "is dressed in woman's clothes, with a necklace and a
floral crown. Then a tree is felled, and, after being decked with
ribbons, is set up on some chosen spot. Near this tree, to which
they give the name of Marena [Winter or Death], the straw figure is
placed, together with a table, on which stand spirits and viands.
Afterwards a bonfire is lit, and the young men and maidens jump over
it in couples, carrying the figure with them. On the next day they
strip the tree and the figure of their ornaments, and throw them
both into a stream." On St. Peter's Day, the twenty-ninth of June,
or on the following Sunday, "the Funeral of Kostroma" or of Lada or
of Yarilo is celebrated in Russia. In the Governments of Penza and
Simbirsk the funeral used to be represented as follows. A bonfire
was kindled on the twenty-eighth of June, and on the next day the
maidens chose one of their number to play the part of Kostroma. Her
companions saluted her with deep obeisances, placed her on a board,
and carried her to the bank of a stream. There they bathed her in
the water, while the oldest girl made a basket of lime-tree bark and
beat it like a drum. Then they returned to the village and ended the
day with processions, games, and dances. In the Murom district
Kostroma was represented by a straw figure dressed in woman's
clothes and flowers. This was laid in a trough and carried with
songs to the bank of a lake or river. Here the crowd divided into
two sides, of which the one attacked and the other defended the
figure. At last the assailants gained the day, stripped the figure
of its dress and ornaments, tore it in pieces, trod the straw of
which it was made under foot, and flung it into the stream; while
the defenders of the figure hid their faces in their hands and
pretended to bewail the death of Kostroma. In the district of
Kostroma the burial of Yarilo was celebrated on the twenty-ninth or
thirtieth of June. The people chose an old man and gave him a small
coffin containing a Priapus-like figure representing Yarilo. This he
carried out of the town, followed by women chanting dirges and
expressing by their gestures grief and despair. In the open fields a
grave was dug, and into it the figure was lowered amid weeping and
wailing, after which games and dances were begun, "calling to mind
the funeral games celebrated in old times by the pagan Slavonians."
In Little Russia the figure of Yarilo was laid in a coffin and
carried through the streets after sunset surrounded by drunken
women, who kept repeating mournfully, "He is dead! he is dead!" The
men lifted and shook the figure as if they were trying to recall the
dead man to life. Then they said to the women, "Women, weep not. I
know what is sweeter than honey." But the women continued to lament
and chant, as they do at funerals. "Of what was he guilty? He was so
good. He will arise no more. O how shall we part from thee? What is
life without thee? Arise, if only for a brief hour. But he rises
not, he not." At last the Yarilo was buried in a grave.

7. Death and Revival of Vegetation

THESE Russian customs are plainly of the same nature as those which
in Austria and Germany are known as "Carrying out Death." Therefore
if the interpretation here adopted of the latter is right, the
Russian Kostrubonko, Yarilo, and the rest must also have been
originally embodiments of the spirit of vegetation, and their death
must have been regarded as a necessary preliminary to their revival.
The revival as a sequel to the death is enacted in the first of the
ceremonies described, the death and resurrection of Kostrubonko. The
reason why in some of these Russian ceremonies the death of the
spirit of vegetation is celebrated at midsummer may be that the
decline of summer is dated from Midsummer Day, after which the days
begin to shorten, and the sun sets out on his downward journey:

"To the darksome hollows
Where the frosts of winter lie."

Such a turning-point of the year, when vegetation might be thought
to share the incipient though still almost imperceptible decay of
summer, might very well be chosen by primitive man as a fit moment
for resorting to those magic rites by which he hopes to stay the
decline, or at least to ensure the revival, of plant life.

But while the death of vegetation appears to have been represented
in all, and its revival in some, of these spring and midsummer
ceremonies, there are features in some of them which can hardly be
explained on this hypothesis alone. The solemn funeral, the
lamentations, and the mourning attire, which often characterise
these rites, are indeed appropriate at the death of the beneficent
spirit of vegetation. But what shall we say of the glee with which
the effigy is often carried out, of the sticks and stones with which
it is assailed, and the taunts and curses which are hurled at it?
What shall we say of the dread of the effigy evinced by the haste
with which the bearers scamper home as soon as they have thrown it
away, and by the belief that some one must soon die in any house
into which it has looked? This dread might perhaps be explained by a
belief that there is a certain infectiousness in the dead spirit of
vegetation which renders its approach dangerous. But this
explanation, besides being rather strained, does not cover the
rejoicings which often attend the carrying out of Death. We must
therefore recognise two distinct and seemingly opposite features in
these ceremonies: on the one hand, sorrow for the death, and
affection and respect for the dead; on the other hand, fear and
hatred of the dead, and rejoicings at his death. How the former of
these features is to be explained I have attempted to show: how the
latter came to be so closely associated with the former is a
question which I shall try to answer in the sequel.

8. Analogous Rites in India

IN THE KANAGRA district of India there is a custom observed by young
girls in spring which closely resembles some of the European spring
ceremonies just described. It is called the _Ralī Ka melā,_ or fair
of Ralī, the _Ralī_ being a small painted earthen image of Siva or
Pārvatī. The custom is in vogue all over the Kanagra district, and
its celebration, which is entirely confined to young girls, lasts
through most of Chet (March-April) up to the Sankrānt of Baisākh
(April). On a morning in March all the young girls of the village
take small baskets of _dūb_ grass and flowers to an appointed place,
where they throw them in a heap. Round this heap they stand in a
circle and sing. This goes on every day for ten days, till the heap
of grass and flowers has reached a fair height. Then they cut in the
jungle two branches, each with three prongs at one end, and place
them, prongs downwards, over the heap of flowers, so as to make two
tripods or pyramids. On the single uppermost points of these
branches they get an image-maker to construct two clay images, one
to represent Siva, and the other Pārvatī. The girls then divide
themselves into two parties, one for Siva and one for Pārvatī, and
marry the images in the usual way, leaving out no part of the
ceremony. After the marriage they have a feast, the cost of which is
defrayed by contributions solicited from their parents. Then at the
next Sankrānt (Baisākh) they all go together to the river-side,
throw the images into a deep pool, and weep over the place, as
though they were performing funeral obsequies. The boys of the
neighbourhood often tease them by diving after the images, bringing
them up, and waving them about while the girls are crying over them.
The object of the fair is said to be to secure a good husband.

That in this Indian ceremony the deities Siva and Pārvatī are
conceived as spirits of vegetation seems to be proved by the placing
of their images on branches over a heap of grass and flowers. Here,
as often in European folk-custom, the divinities of vegetation are
represented in duplicate, by plants and by puppets. The marriage of
these Indian deities in spring corresponds to the European
ceremonies in which the marriage of the vernal spirits of vegetation
is represented by the King and Queen of May, the May Bride,
Bridegroom of the May, and so forth. The throwing of the images into
the water, and the mourning for them, are the equivalents of the
European customs of throwing the dead spirit of vegetation under the
name of Death, Yarilo, Kostroma, and the rest, into the water and
lamenting over it. Again, in India, as often in Europe, the rite is
performed exclusively by females. The notion that the ceremony helps
to procure husbands for the girls can be explained by the quickening
and fertilising influence which the spirit of vegetation is believed
to exert upon the life of man as well as of plants.

9. The Magic Spring

THE GENERAL explanation which we have been led to adopt of these and
many similar ceremonies is that they are, or were in their origin,
magical rites intended to ensure the revival of nature in spring.
The means by which they were supposed to effect this end were
imitation and sympathy. Led astray by his ignorance of the true
causes of things, primitive man believed that in order to produce
the great phenomena of nature on which his life depended he had only
to imitate them, and that immediately by a secret sympathy or mystic
influence the little drama which he acted in forest glade or
mountain dell, on desert plain or wind-swept shore, would be taken
up and repeated by mightier actors on a vaster stage. He fancied
that by masquerading in leaves and flowers he helped the bare earth
to clothe herself with verdure, and that by playing the death and
burial of winter he drove that gloomy season away, and made smooth
the path for the footsteps of returning spring. If we find it hard
to throw ourselves even in fancy into a mental condition in which
such things seem possible, we can more easily picture to ourselves
the anxiety which the savage, when he first began to lift his
thoughts above the satisfaction of his merely animal wants, and to
meditate on the causes of things, may have felt as to the continued
operation of what we now call the laws of nature. To us, familiar as
we are with the conception of the uniformity and regularity with
which the great cosmic phenomena succeed each other, there seems
little ground for apprehension that the causes which produce these
effects will cease to operate, at least within the near future. But
this confidence in the stability of nature is bred only by the
experience which comes of wide observation and long tradition; and
the savage, with his narrow sphere of observation and his
short-lived tradition, lacks the very elements of that experience
which alone could set his mind at rest in face of the ever-changing
and often menacing aspects of nature. No wonder, therefore, that he
is thrown into a panic by an eclipse, and thinks that the sun or the
moon would surely perish, if he did not raise a clamour and shoot
his puny shafts into the air to defend the luminaries from the
monster who threatens to devour them. No wonder he is terrified when
in the darkness of night a streak of sky is suddenly illumined by
the flash of a meteor, or the whole expanse of the celestial arch
glows with the fitful light of the Northern Streamers. Even
phenomena which recur at fixed and uniform intervals may be viewed
by him with apprehension, before he has come to recognise the
orderliness of their recurrence. The speed or slowness of his
recognition of such periodic or cyclic changes in nature will depend
largely on the length of the particular cycle. The cycle, for
example, of day and night is everywhere, except in the polar
regions, so short and hence so frequent that men probably soon
ceased to discompose themselves seriously as to the chance of its
failing to recur, though the ancient Egyptians, as we have seen,
daily wrought enchantments to bring back to the east in the morning
the fiery orb which had sunk at evening in the crimson west. But it
was far otherwise with the annual cycle of the seasons. To any man a
year is a considerable period, seeing that the number of our years
is but few at the best. To the primitive savage, with his short
memory and imperfect means of marking the flight of time, a year may
well have been so long that he failed to recognise it as a cycle at
all, and watched the changing aspects of earth and heaven with a
perpetual wonder, alternately delighted and alarmed, elated and cast
down, according as the vicissitudes of light and heat, of plant and
animal life, ministered to his comfort or threatened his existence.
In autumn when the withered leaves were whirled about the forest by
the nipping blast, and he looked up at the bare boughs, could he
feel sure that they would ever be green again? As day by day the sun
sank lower and lower in the sky, could he be certain that the
luminary would ever retrace his heavenly road? Even the waning moon,
whose pale sickle rose thinner and thinner every night over the rim
of the eastern horizon, may have excited in his mind a fear lest,
when it had wholly vanished, there should be moons no more.

These and a thousand such misgivings may have thronged the fancy and
troubled the peace of the man who first began to reflect on the
mysteries of the world he lived in, and to take thought for a more
distant future than the morrow. It was natural, therefore, that with
such thoughts and fears he should have done all that in him lay to
bring back the faded blossom to the bough, to swing the low sun of
winter up to his old place in the summer sky, and to restore its
orbed fulness to the silver lamp of the waning moon. We may smile at
his vain endeavours if we please, but it was only by making a long
series of experiments, of which some were almost inevitably doomed
to failure, that man learned from experience the futility of some of
his attempted methods and the fruitfulness of others. After all,
magical ceremonies are nothing but experiments which have failed and
which continue to be repeated merely because, for reasons which have
already been indicated, the operator is unaware of their failure.
With the advance of knowledge these ceremonies either cease to be
performed altogether or are kept up from force of habit long after
the intention with which they were instituted has been forgotten.
Thus fallen from their high estate, no longer regarded as solemn
rites on the punctual performance of which the welfare and even the
life of the community depend, they sink gradually to the level of
simple pageants, mummeries, and pastimes, till in the final stage of
degeneration they are wholly abandoned by older people, and, from
having once been the most serious occupation of the sage, become at
last the idle sport of children. It is in this final stage of decay
that most of the old magical rites of our European forefathers
linger on at the present day, and even from this their last retreat
they are fast being swept away by the rising tide of those
multitudinous forces, moral, intellectual, and social, which are
bearing mankind onward to a new and unknown goal. We may feel some
natural regret at the disappearance of quaint customs and
picturesque ceremonies, which have preserved to an age often deemed
dull and prosaic something of the flavour and freshness of the olden
time, some breath of the springtime of the world; yet our regret
will be lessened when we remember that these pretty pageants, these
now innocent diversions, had their origin in ignorance and
superstition; that if they are a record of human endeavour, they are
also a monument of fruitless ingenuity, of wasted labour, and of
blighted hopes; and that for all their gay trappings--their flowers,
their ribbons, and their music--they partake far more of tragedy
than of farce.

The interpretation which, following in the footsteps of W.
Mannhardt, I have attempted to give of these ceremonies has been not
a little confirmed by the discovery, made since this book was first
written, that the natives of Central Australia regularly practise
magical ceremonies for the purpose of awakening the dormant energies
of nature at the approach of what may be called the Australian
spring. Nowhere apparently are the alternations of the seasons more
sudden and the contrasts between them more striking than in the
deserts of Central Australia, where at the end of a long period of
drought the sandy and stony wilderness, over which the silence and
desolation of death appear to brood, is suddenly, after a few days
of torrential rain, transformed into a landscape smiling with
verdure and peopled with teeming multitudes of insects and lizards,
of frogs and birds. The marvellous change which passes over the face
of nature at such times has been compared even by European observers
to the effect of magic; no wonder, then, that the savage should
regard it as such in very deed. Now it is just when there is promise
of the approach of a good season that the natives of Central
Australia are wont especially to perform those magical ceremonies of
which the avowed intention is to multiply the plants and animals
they use as food. These ceremonies, therefore, present a close
analogy to the spring customs of our European peasantry not only in
the time of their celebration, but also in their aim; for we can
hardly doubt that in instituting rites designed to assist the
revival of plant life in spring our primitive forefathers were
moved, not by any sentimental wish to smell at early violets, or
pluck the rathe primrose, or watch yellow daffodils dancing in the
breeze, but by the very practical consideration, certainly not
formulated in abstract terms, that the life of man is inextricably
bound up with that of plants, and that if they were to perish he
could not survive. And as the faith of the Australian savage in the
efficacy of his magic rites is confirmed by observing that their
performance is invariably followed, sooner or later, by that
increase of vegetable and animal life which it is their object to
produce, so, we may suppose, it was with European savages in the
olden time. The sight of the fresh green in brake and thicket, of
vernal flowers blowing on mossy banks, of swallows arriving from the
south, and of the sun mounting daily higher in the sky, would be
welcomed by them as so many visible signs that their enchantments
were indeed taking effect, and would inspire them with a cheerful
confidence that all was well with a world which they could thus
mould to suit their wishes. Only in autumn days, as summer slowly
faded, would their confidence again be dashed by doubts and
misgivings at symptoms of decay, which told how vain were all their
efforts to stave off for ever the approach of winter and of death.

XXIX. The Myth of Adonis

THE SPECTACLE of the great changes which annually pass over the face
of the earth has powerfully impressed the minds of men in all ages,
and stirred them to meditate on the causes of transformations so
vast and wonderful. Their curiosity has not been purely
disinterested; for even the savage cannot fail to perceive how
intimately his own life is bound up with the life of nature, and how
the same processes which freeze the stream and strip the earth of
vegetation menace him with extinction. At a certain stage of
development men seem to have imagined that the means of averting the
threatened calamity were in their own hands, and that they could
hasten or retard the flight of the seasons by magic art. Accordingly
they performed ceremonies and recited spells to make the rain to
fall, the sun to shine, animals to multiply, and the fruits of the
earth to grow. In course of time the slow advance of knowledge,
which has dispelled so many cherished illusions, convinced at least
the more thoughtful portion of mankind that the alternations of
summer and winter, of spring and autumn, were not merely the result
of their own magical rites, but that some deeper cause, some
mightier power, was at work behind the shifting scenes of nature.
They now pictured to themselves the growth and decay of vegetation,
the birth and death of living creatures, as effects of the waxing or
waning strength of divine beings, of gods and goddesses, who were
born and died, who married and begot children, on the pattern of
human life.

Thus the old magical theory of the seasons was displaced, or rather
supplemented, by a religious theory. For although men now attributed
the annual cycle of change primarily to corresponding changes in
their deities, they still thought that by performing certain magical
rites they could aid the god who was the principle of life, in his
struggle with the opposing principle of death. They imagined that
they could recruit his failing energies and even raise him from the
dead. The ceremonies which they observed for this purpose were in
substance a dramatic representation of the natural processes which
they wished to facilitate; for it is a familiar tenet of magic that
you can produce any desired effect by merely imitating it. And as
they now explained the fluctuations of growth and decay, of
reproduction and dissolution, by the marriage, the death, and the
rebirth or revival of the gods, their religious or rather magical
dramas turned in great measure on these themes. They set forth the
fruitful union of the powers of fertility, the sad death of one at
least of the divine partners, and his joyful resurrection. Thus a
religious theory was blended with a magical practice. The
combination is familiar in history. Indeed, few religions have ever
succeeded in wholly extricating themselves from the old trammels of
magic. The inconsistency of acting on two opposite principles,
however it may vex the soul of the philosopher, rarely troubles the
common man; indeed he is seldom even aware of it. His affair is to
act, not to analyse the motives of his action. If mankind had always
been logical and wise, history would not be a long chronicle of
folly and crime.

Of the changes which the seasons bring with them, the most striking
within the temperate zone are those which affect vegetation. The
influence of the seasons on animals, though great, is not nearly so
manifest. Hence it is natural that in the magical dramas designed to
dispel winter and bring back spring the emphasis should be laid on
vegetation, and that trees and plants should figure in them more
prominently than beasts and birds. Yet the two sides of life, the
vegetable and the animal, were not dissociated in the minds of those
who observed the ceremonies. Indeed they commonly believed that the
tie between the animal and the vegetable world was even closer than
it really is; hence they often combined the dramatic representation
of reviving plants with a real or a dramatic union of the sexes for
the purpose of furthering at the same time and by the same act the
multiplication of fruits, of animals, and of men. To them the
principle of life and fertility, whether animal or vegetable, was
one and indivisible. To live and to cause to live, to eat food and
to beget children, these were the primary wants of men in the past,
and they will be the primary wants of men in the future so long as
the world lasts. Other things may be added to enrich and beautify
human life, but unless these wants are first satisfied, humanity
itself must cease to exist. These two things, therefore, food and
children, were what men chiefly sought to procure by the performance
of magical rites for the regulation of the seasons.

Nowhere, apparently, have these rites been more widely and solemnly
celebrated than in the lands which border the Eastern Mediterranean.
Under the names of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, and Attis, the peoples of
Egypt and Western Asia represented the yearly decay and revival of
life, especially of vegetable life, which they personified as a god
who annually died and rose again from the dead. In name and detail
the rites varied from place to place: in substance they were the
same. The supposed death and resurrection of this oriental deity, a
god of many names but of essentially one nature, is now to be
examined. We begin with Tammuz or Adonis.

The worship of Adonis was practised by the Semitic peoples of
Babylonia and Syria, and the Greeks borrowed it from them as early
as the seventh century before Christ. The true name of the deity was
Tammuz: the appellation of Adonis is merely the Semitic _Adon,_
"lord," a title of honour by which his worshippers addressed him.
But the Greeks through a misunderstanding converted the title of
honour into a proper name. In the religious literature of Babylonia
Tammuz appears as the youthful spouse or lover of Ishtar, the great
mother goddess, the embodiment of the reproductive energies of
nature. The references to their connexion with each other in myth
and ritual are both fragmentary and obscure, but we gather from them
that every year Tammuz was believed to die, passing away from the
cheerful earth to the gloomy subterranean world, and that every year
his divine mistress journeyed in quest of him "to the land from
which there is no returning, to the house of darkness, where dust
lies on door and bolt." During her absence the passion of love
ceased to operate: men and beasts alike forgot to reproduce their
kinds: all life was threatened with extinction. So intimately bound
up with the goddess were the sexual functions of the whole animal
kingdom that without her presence they could not be discharged. A
messenger of the great god Ea was accordingly despatched to rescue
the goddess on whom so much depended. The stern queen of the
infernal regions, Allatu or Eresh-Kigal by name, reluctantly allowed
Ishtar to be sprinkled with the Water of Life and to depart, in
company probably with her lover Tammuz, that the two might return
together to the upper world, and that with their return all nature
might revive.

Laments for the departed Tammuz are contained in several Babylonian
hymns, which liken him to plants that quickly fade. He is

"A tamarisk that in the garden has drunk no water,
Whose crown in the field has brought forth no blossom.
A willow that rejoiced not by the watercourse,
A willow whose roots were torn up.
A herb that in the garden had drunk no water."

His death appears to have been annually mourned, to the shrill music
of flutes, by men and women about midsummer in the month named after
him, the month of Tammuz. The dirges were seemingly chanted over an
effigy of the dead god, which was washed with pure water, anointed
with oil, and clad in a red robe, while the fumes of incense rose
into the air, as if to stir his dormant senses by their pungent
fragrance and wake him from the sleep of death. In one of these
dirges, inscribed _Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz,_ we seem still
to hear the voices of the singers chanting the sad refrain and to
catch, like far-away music, the wailing notes of the flutes:

"At his vanishing away she lifts up a lament,
'Oh my child!' at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament;
'My Damu!' at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament.
'My enchanter and priest!' at his vanishing away
she lifts up a lament,
At the shining cedar, rooted in a spacious place,
In Eanna, above and below, she lifts up a lament.
Like the lament that a house lifts up for its master,
lifts she up a lament,
Like the lament that a city lifts up for its lord,
lifts she up a lament.
Her lament is the lament for a herb that grows not in the bed,
Her lament is the lament for the corn that grows not in the ear.
Her chamber is a possession that brings not forth a possession,
A weary woman, a weary child, forspent.
Her lament is for a great river, where no willows grow,
Her lament is for a field, where corn and herbs grow not.
Her lament is for a pool, where fishes grow not.
Her lament is for a thickest of reeds, where no reeds grow.
Her lament is for woods, where tamarisks grow not.
Her lament is for a wilderness where no cypresses (?) grow.
Her lament is for the depth of a garden of trees,
where honey and wine grow not.
Her lament is for meadows, where no plants grow.
Her lament is for a palace, where length of life grows not."

The tragical story and the melancholy rites of Adonis are better
known to us from the descriptions of Greek writers than from the
fragments of Babylonian literature or the brief reference of the
prophet Ezekiel, who saw the women of Jerusalem weeping for Tammuz
at the north gate of the temple. Mirrored in the glass of Greek
mythology, the oriental deity appears as a comely youth beloved by
Aphrodite. In his infancy the goddess hid him in a chest, which she
gave in charge to Persephone, queen of the nether world. But when
Persephone opened the chest and beheld the beauty of the babe, she
refused to give him back to Aphrodite, though the goddess of love
went down herself to hell to ransom her dear one from the power of
the grave. The dispute between the two goddesses of love and death
was settled by Zeus, who decreed that Adonis should abide with
Persephone in the under world for one part of the year, and with
Aphrodite in the upper world for another part. At last the fair
youth was killed in hunting by a wild boar, or by the jealous Ares,
who turned himself into the likeness of a boar in order to compass
the death of his rival. Bitterly did Aphrodite lament her loved and
lost Adonis. In this form of the myth, the contest between Aphrodite
and Persephone for the possession of Adonis clearly reflects the
struggle between Ishtar and Allatu in the land of the dead, while
the decision of Zeus that Adonis is to spend one part of the year
under ground and another part above ground is merely a Greek version
of the annual disappearance and reappearance of Tammuz.

XXX. Adonis in Syria

THE MYTH of Adonis was localised and his rites celebrated with much
solemnity at two places in Western Asia. One of these was Byblus on
the coast of Syria, the other was Paphos in Cyprus. Both were great
seats of the worship of Aphrodite, or rather of her Semitic
counterpart, Astarte; and of both, if we accept the legends,
Cinyras, the father of Adonis, was king. Of the two cities Byblus
was the more ancient; indeed it claimed to be the oldest city in
Phoenicia, and to have been founded in the early ages of the world
by the great god El, whom Greeks and Romans identified with Cronus
and Saturn respectively. However that may have been, in historical
times it ranked as a holy place, the religious capital of the
country, the Mecca or Jerusalem of the Phoenicians. The city stood
on a height beside the sea, and contained a great sanctuary of
Astarte, where in the midst of a spacious open court, surrounded by
cloisters and approached from below by staircases, rose a tall cone
or obelisk, the holy image of the goddess. In this sanctuary the
rites of Adonis were celebrated. Indeed the whole city was sacred to
him, and the river Nahr Ibrahim, which falls into the sea a little
to the south of Byblus, bore in antiquity the name of Adonis. This
was the kingdom of Cinyras. From the earliest to the latest times
the city appears to have been ruled by kings, assisted perhaps by a
senate or council of elders.

The last king of Byblus bore the ancient name of Cinyras, and was
beheaded by Pompey the Great for his tyrannous excesses. His
legendary namesake Cinyras is said to have founded a sanctuary of
Aphrodite, that is, of Astarte, at a place on Mount Lebanon, distant
a day's journey from the capital. The spot was probably Aphaca, at
the source of the river Adonis, half-way between Byblus and Baalbec;
for at Aphaca there was a famous grove and sanctuary of Astarte
which Constantine destroyed on account of the flagitious character
of the worship. The site of the temple has been discovered by modern
travellers near the miserable village which still bears the name of
Afka at the head of the wild, romantic, wooded gorge of the Adonis.
The hamlet stands among groves of noble walnut-trees on the brink of
the lyn. A little way off the river rushes from a cavern at the foot
of a mighty amphitheatre of towering cliffs to plunge in a series of
cascades into the awful depths of the glen. The deeper it descends,
the ranker and denser grows the vegetation, which, sprouting from
the crannies and fissures of the rocks, spreads a green veil over
the roaring or murmuring stream in the tremendous chasm below. There
is something delicious, almost intoxicating, in the freshness of
these tumbling waters, in the sweetness and purity of the mountain
air, in the vivid green of the vegetation. The temple, of which some
massive hewn blocks and a fine column of Syenite granite still mark
the site, occupied a terrace facing the source of the river and
commanding a magnificent prospect. Across the foam and the roar of
the waterfalls you look up to the cavern and away to the top of the
sublime precipices above. So lofty is the cliff that the goats which
creep along its ledges to browse on the bushes appear like ants to
the spectator hundreds of feet below. Seaward the view is especially
impressive when the sun floods the profound gorge with golden light,
revealing all the fantastic buttresses and rounded towers of its
mountain rampart, and falling softly on the varied green of the
woods which clothe its depths. It was here that, according to the
legend, Adonis met Aphrodite for the first or the last time, and
here his mangled body was buried. A fairer scene could hardly be
imagined for a story of tragic love and death. Yet, sequestered as
the valley is and must always have been, it is not wholly deserted.
A convent or a village may be observed here and there standing out
against the sky on the top of some beetling crag, or clinging to the
face of a nearly perpendicular cliff high above the foam and the din
of the river; and at evening the lights that twinkle through the
gloom betray the presence of human habitations on slopes which might
seem inaccessible to man. In antiquity the whole of the lovely vale
appears to have been dedicated to Adonis, and to this day it is
haunted by his memory; for the heights which shut it in are crested
at various points by ruined monuments of his worship, some of them
overhanging dreadful abysses, down which it turns the head dizzy to
look and see the eagles wheeling about their nests far below. One
such monument exists at Ghineh. The face of a great rock, above a
roughly hewn recess, is here carved with figures of Adonis and
Aphrodite. He is portrayed with spear in rest, awaiting the attack
of a bear, while she is seated in an attitude of sorrow. Her
grief-stricken figure may well be the mourning Aphrodite of the
Lebanon described by Macrobius, and the recess in the rock is
perhaps her lover's tomb. Every year, in the belief of his
worshippers, Adonis was wounded to death on the mountains, and every
year the face of nature itself was dyed with his sacred blood. So
year by year the Syrian damsels lamented his untimely fate, while
the red anemone, his flower, bloomed among the cedars of Lebanon,
and the river ran red to the sea, fringing the winding shores of the
blue Mediterranean, whenever the wind set inshore, with a sinuous
band of crimson.

XXXI. Adonis in Cyprus

THE ISLAND of Cyprus lies but one day's sail from the coast of
Syria. Indeed, on fine summer evenings its mountains may be descried
looming low and dark against the red fires of sunset. With its rich
mines of copper and its forests of firs and stately cedars, the
island naturally attracted a commercial and maritime people like the
Phoenicians; while the abundance of its corn, its wine, and its oil
must have rendered it in their eyes a Land of Promise by comparison
with the niggardly nature of their own rugged coast, hemmed in
between the mountains and the sea. Accordingly they settled in
Cyprus at a very early date and remained there long after the Greeks
had also established themselves on its shores; for we know from
inscriptions and coins that Phoenician kings reigned at Citium, the
Chittim of the Hebrews, down to the time of Alexander the Great.
Naturally the Semitic colonists brought their gods with them from
the mother-land. They worshipped Baal of the Lebanon, who may well
have been Adonis, and at Amathus on the south coast they instituted
the rites of Adonis and Aphrodite, or rather Astarte. Here, as at
Byblus, these rites resembled the Egyptian worship of Osiris so
closely that some people even identified the Adonis of Amathus with

But the great seat of the worship of Aphrodite and Adonis in Cyprus
was Paphos on the south-western side of the island. Among the petty
kingdoms into which Cyprus was divided from the earliest times until
the end of the fourth century before our era Paphos must have ranked
with the best. It is a land of hills and billowy ridges, diversified
by fields and vineyards and intersected by rivers, which in the
course of ages have carved for themselves beds of such tremendous
depth that travelling in the interior is difficult and tedious. The
lofty range of Mount Olympus (the modern Troodos), capped with snow
the greater part of the year, screens Paphos from the northerly and
easterly winds and cuts it off from the rest of the island. On the
slopes of the range the last pine-woods of Cyprus linger, sheltering
here and there monasteries in scenery not unworthy of the Apennines.
The old city of Paphos occupied the summit of a hill about a mile
from the sea; the newer city sprang up at the harbour some ten miles
off. The sanctuary of Aphrodite at Old Paphos (the modern Kuklia)
was one of the most celebrated shrines in the ancient world.
According to Herodotus, it was founded by Phoenician colonists from
Ascalon; but it is possible that a native goddess of fertility was
worshipped on the spot before the arrival of the Phoenicians, and
that the newcomers identified her with their own Baalath or Astarte,
whom she may have closely resembled. If two deities were thus fused
in one, we may suppose that they were both varieties of that great
goddess of motherhood and fertility whose worship appears to have
been spread all over Western Asia from a very early time. The
supposition is confirmed as well by the archaic shape of her image
as by the licentious character of her rites; for both that shape and
those rites were shared by her with other Asiatic deities. Her image
was simply a white cone or pyramid. In like manner, a cone was the
emblem of Astarte at Byblus, of the native goddess whom the Greeks
called Artemis at Perga in Pamphylia, and of the sun-god
Heliogabalus at Emesa in Syria. Conical stones, which apparently
served as idols, have also been found at Golgi in Cyprus, and in the
Phoenician temples of Malta; and cones of sandstone came to light at
the shrine of the "Mistress of Torquoise" among the barren hills and
frowning precipices of Sinai.

In Cyprus it appears that before marriage all women were formerly
obliged by custom to prostitute themselves to strangers at the
sanctuary of the goddess, whether she went by the name of Aphrodite,
Astarte, or what not. Similar customs prevailed in many parts of
Western Asia. Whatever its motive, the practice was clearly
regarded, not as an orgy of lust, but as a solemn religious duty
performed in the service of that great Mother Goddess of Western
Asia whose name varied, while her type remained constant, from place
to place. Thus at Babylon every woman, whether rich or poor, had
once in her life to submit to the embraces of a stranger at the
temple of Mylitta, that is, of Ishtar or Astarte, and to dedicate to
the goddess the wages earned by this sanctified harlotry. The sacred
precinct was crowded with women waiting to observe the custom. Some
of them had to wait there for years. At Heliopolis or Baalbec in
Syria, famous for the imposing grandeur of its ruined temples, the
custom of the country required that every maiden should prostitute
herself to a stranger at the temple of Astarte, and matrons as well
as maids testified their devotion to the goddess in the same manner.
The emperor Constantine abolished the custom, destroyed the temple,
and built a church in its stead. In Phoenician temples women
prostituted themselves for hire in the service of religion,
believing that by this conduct they propitiated the goddess and won
her favour. "It was a law of the Amorites, that she who was about to
marry should sit in fornication seven days by the gate." At Byblus
the people shaved their heads in the annual mourning for Adonis.
Women who refused to sacrifice their hair had to give themselves up
to strangers on a certain day of the festival, and the money which
they thus earned was devoted to the goddess. A Greek inscription
found at Tralles in Lydia proves that the practice of religious
prostitution survived in that country as late as the second century
of our era. It records of a certain woman, Aurelia Aemilia by name,
not only that she herself served the god in the capacity of a harlot
at his express command, but that her mother and other female
ancestors had done the same before her; and the publicity of the
record, engraved on a marble column which supported a votive
offering, shows that no stain attached to such a life and such a
parentage. In Armenia the noblest families dedicated their daughters
to the service of the goddess Anaitis in her temple of Acilisena,
where the damsels acted as prostitutes for a long time before they
were given in marriage. Nobody scrupled to take one of these girls
to wife when her period of service was over. Again, the goddess Ma
was served by a multitude of sacred harlots at Comana in Pontus, and
crowds of men and women flocked to her sanctuary from the
neighbouring cities and country to attend the biennial festivals or
to pay their vows to the goddess.

If we survey the whole of the evidence on this subject, some of
which has still to be laid before the reader, we may conclude that a
great Mother Goddess, the personification of all the reproductive
energies of nature, was worshipped under different names but with a
substantial similarity of myth and ritual by many peoples of Western
Asia; that associated with her was a lover, or rather series of
lovers, divine yet mortal, with whom she mated year by year, their
commerce being deemed essential to the propagation of animals and
plants, each in their several kind; and further, that the fabulous
union of the divine pair was simulated and, as it were, multiplied
on earth by the real, though temporary, union of the human sexes at
the sanctuary of the goddess for the sake of thereby ensuring the
fruitfulness of the ground and the increase of man and beast.

At Paphos the custom of religious prostitution is said to have been
instituted by King Cinyras, and to have been practised by his
daughters, the sisters of Adonis, who, having incurred the wrath of
Aphrodite, mated with strangers and ended their days in Egypt. In
this form of the tradition the wrath of Aphrodite is probably a
feature added by a later authority, who could only regard conduct
which shocked his own moral sense as a punishment inflicted by the
goddess instead of as a sacrifice regularly enjoined by her on all
her devotees. At all events the story indicates that the princesses
of Paphos had to conform to the custom as well as women of humble

Among the stories which were told of Cinyras, the ancestor of the
priestly kings of Paphos and the father of Adonis, there are some
that deserve our attention. In the first place, he is said to have
begotten his son Adonis in incestuous intercourse with his daughter
Myrrha at a festival of the corn-goddess, at which women robed in
white were wont to offer corn-wreaths as first-fruits of the harvest
and to observe strict chastity for nine days. Similar cases of
incest with a daughter are reported of many ancient kings. It seems
unlikely that such reports are without foundation, and perhaps
equally improbable that they refer to mere fortuitous outbursts of
unnatural lust. We may suspect that they are based on a practice
actually observed for a definite reason in certain special
circumstances. Now in countries where the royal blood was traced
through women only, and where consequently the king held office
merely in virtue of his marriage with an hereditary princess, who
was the real sovereign, it appears to have often happened that a
prince married his own sister, the princess royal, in order to
obtain with her hand the crown which otherwise would have gone to
another man, perhaps to a stranger. May not the same rule of descent
have furnished a motive for incest with a daughter? For it seems a
natural corollary from such a rule that the king was bound to vacate
the throne on the death of his wife, the queen, since he occupied it
only by virtue of his marriage with her. When that marriage
terminated, his right to the throne terminated with it and passed at
once to his daughter's husband. Hence if the king desired to reign
after his wife's death, the only way in which he could legitimately
continue to do so was by marrying his daughter, and thus prolonging
through her the title which had formerly been his through her

Cinyras is said to have been famed for his exquisite beauty and to
have been wooed by Aphrodite herself. Thus it would appear, as
scholars have already observed, that Cinyras was in a sense a
duplicate of his handsome son Adonis, to whom the inflammable
goddess also lost her heart. Further, these stories of the love of
Aphrodite for two members of the royal house of Paphos can hardly be
dissociated from the corresponding legend told of Pygmalion, a
Phoenician king of Cyprus, who is said to have fallen in love with
an image of Aphrodite and taken it to his bed. When we consider that
Pygmalion was the father-in-law of Cinyras, that the son of Cinyras
was Adonis, and that all three, in successive generations, are said
to have been concerned in a love-intrigue with Aphrodite, we can
hardly help concluding that the early Phoenician kings of Paphos, or
their sons, regularly claimed to be not merely the priests of the
goddess but also her lovers, in other words, that in their official
capacity they personated Adonis. At all events Adonis is said to
have reigned in Cyprus, and it appears to be certain that the title
of Adonis was regularly borne by the sons of all the Phoenician
kings of the island. It is true that the title strictly signified no
more than "lord"; yet the legends which connect these Cyprian
princes with the goddess of love make it probable that they claimed
the divine nature as well as the human dignity of Adonis. The story
of Pygmalion points to a ceremony of a sacred marriage in which the
king wedded the image of Aphrodite, or rather of Astarte. If that
was so, the tale was in a sense true, not of a single man only, but
of a whole series of men, and it would be all the more likely to be
told of Pygmalion, if that was a common name of Semitic kings in
general, and of Cyprian kings in particular. Pygmalion, at all
events, is known as the name of the king of Tyre from whom his
sister Dido fled; and a king of Citium and Idalium in Cyprus, who
reigned in the time of Alexander the Great, was also called
Pygmalion, or rather Pumiyathon, the Phoenician name which the
Greeks corrupted into Pygmalion. Further, it deserves to be noted
that the names Pygmalion and Astarte occur together in a Punic
inscription on a gold medallion which was found in a grave at
Carthage; the characters of the inscription are of the earliest
type. As the custom of religious prostitution at Paphos is said to
have been founded by king Cinyras and observed by his daughters, we
may surmise that the kings of Paphos played the part of the divine
bridegroom in a less innocent rite than the form of marriage with a
statue; in fact, that at certain festivals each of them had to mate
with one or more of the sacred harlots of the temple, who played
Astarte to his Adonis. If that was so, there is more truth than has
commonly been supposed in the reproach cast by the Christian fathers
that the Aphrodite worshipped by Cinyras was a common whore. The
fruit of their union would rank as sons and daughters of the deity,
and would in time become the parents of gods and goddesses, like
their fathers and mothers before them. In this manner Paphos, and
perhaps all sanctuaries of the great Asiatic goddess where sacred
prostitution was practised, might be well stocked with human
deities, the offspring of the divine king by his wives, concubines,
and temple harlots. Any one of these might probably succeed his
father on the throne or be sacrificed in his stead whenever stress
of war or other grave junctures called, as they sometimes did, for
the death of a royal victim. Such a tax, levied occasionally on the
king's numerous progeny for the good of the country, would neither
extinguish the divine stock nor break the father's heart, who
divided his paternal affection among so many. At all events, if, as
there seems reason to believe, Semitic kings were often regarded at
the same time as hereditary deities, it is easy to understand the
frequency of Semitic personal names which imply that the bearers of
them were the sons or daughters, the brothers or sisters, the
fathers or mothers of a god, and we need not resort to the shifts
employed by some scholars to evade the plain sense of the words.
This interpretation is confirmed by a parallel Egyptian usage; for
in Egypt, where the kings were worshipped as divine, the queen was
called "the wife of the god" or "the mother of the god," and the
title "father of the god" was borne not only by the king's real
father but also by his father-in-law. Similarly, perhaps, among the
Semites any man who sent his daughter to swell the royal harem may
have been allowed to call himself "the father of the god."

If we may judge by his name, the Semitic king who bore the name of
Cinyras was, like King David, a harper; for the name of Cinyras is
clearly connected with the Greek _cinyra,_ "a lyre," which in its
turn comes from the Semitic _kinnor,_ "a lyre," the very word
applied to the instrument on which David played before Saul. We
shall probably not err in assuming that at Paphos as at Jerusalem
the music of the lyre or harp was not a mere pastime designed to
while away an idle hour, but formed part of the service of religion,
the moving influence of its melodies being perhaps set down, like
the effect of wine, to the direct inspiration of a deity. Certainly
at Jerusalem the regular clergy of the temple prophesied to the
music of harps, of psalteries, and of cymbals; and it appears that
the irregular clergy also, as we may call the prophets, depended on
some such stimulus for inducing the ecstatic state which they took
for immediate converse with the divinity. Thus we read of a band of
prophets coming down from a high place with a psaltery, a timbrel, a
pipe, and a harp before them, and prophesying as they went. Again,
when the united forces of Judah and Ephraim were traversing the
wilderness of Moab in pursuit of the enemy, they could find no water
for three days, and were like to die of thirst, they and the beasts
of burden. In this emergency the prophet Elisha, who was with the
army, called for a minstrel and bade him play. Under the influence
of the music he ordered the soldiers to dig trenches in the sandy
bed of the waterless waddy through which lay the line of march. They
did so, and next morning the trenches were full of the water that
had drained down into them underground from the desolate, forbidding
mountains on either hand. The prophet's success in striking water in
the wilderness resembles the reported success of modern dowsers,
though his mode of procedure was different. Incidentally he rendered
another service to his countrymen. For the skulking Moabites from
their lairs among the rocks saw the red sun of the desert reflected
in the water, and taking it for the blood, or perhaps rather for an
omen of the blood, of their enemies, they plucked up heart to attack
the camp and were defeated with great slaughter.

Again, just as the cloud of melancholy which from time to time
darkened the moody mind of Saul was viewed as an evil spirit from
the Lord vexing him, so on the other hand the solemn strains of the
harp, which soothed and composed his troubled thoughts, may well
have seemed to the hag-ridden king the very voice of God or of his
good angel whispering peace. Even in our own day a great religious
writer, himself deeply sensitive to the witchery of music, has said
that musical notes, with all their power to fire the blood and melt
the heart, cannot be mere empty sounds and nothing more; no, they
have escaped from some higher sphere, they are outpourings of
eternal harmony, the voice of angels, the Magnificat of saints. It
is thus that the rude imaginings of primitive man are transfigured
and his feeble lispings echoed with a rolling reverberation in the
musical prose of Newman. Indeed the influence of music on the
development of religion is a subject which would repay a sympathetic
study. For we cannot doubt that this, the most intimate and
affecting of all the arts, has done much to create as well as to
express the religious emotions, thus modifying more or less deeply
the fabric of belief to which at first sight it seems only to
minister. The musician has done his part as well as the prophet and
the thinker in the making of religion. Every faith has its
appropriate music, and the difference between the creeds might
almost be expressed in musical notation. The interval, for example,
which divides the wild revels of Cybele from the stately ritual of
the Catholic Church is measured by the gulf which severs the
dissonant clash of cymbals and tambourines from the grave harmonies
of Palestrina and Handel. A different spirit breathes in the
difference of the music.

XXXII. The Ritual of Adonis

AT THE FESTIVALS of Adonis, which were held in Western Asia and in
Greek lands, the death of the god was annually mourned, with a
bitter wailing, chiefly by women; images of him, dressed to resemble
corpses, were carried out as to burial and then thrown into the sea
or into springs; and in some places his revival was celebrated on
the following day. But at different places the ceremonies varied
somewhat in the manner and apparently also in the season of their
celebration. At Alexandria images of Aphrodite and Adonis were
displayed on two couches; beside them were set ripe fruits of all
kinds, cakes, plants growing in flower-pots, and green bowers twined
with anise. The marriage of the lovers was celebrated one day, and
on the morrow women attired as mourners, with streaming hair and
bared breasts, bore the image of the dead Adonis to the sea-shore
and committed it to the waves. Yet they sorrowed not without hope,
for they sang that the lost one would come back again. The date at
which this Alexandrian ceremony was observed is not expressly
stated; but from the mention of the ripe fruits it has been inferred
that it took place in late summer. In the great Phoenician sanctuary
of Astarte at Byblus the death of Adonis was annually mourned, to
the shrill wailing notes of the flute, with weeping, lamentation,
and beating of the breast; but next day he was believed to come to
life again and ascend up to heaven in the presence of his
worshippers. The disconsolate believers, left behind on earth,
shaved their heads as the Egyptians did on the death of the divine
bull Apis; women who could not bring themselves to sacrifice their
beautiful tresses had to give themselves up to strangers on a
certain day of the festival, and to dedicate to Astarte the wages of
their shame.

This Phoenician festival appears to have been a vernal one, for its
date was determined by the discoloration of the river Adonis, and
this has been observed by modern travellers to occur in spring. At
that season the red earth washed down from the mountains by the rain
tinges the water of the river, and even the sea, for a great way
with a blood-red hue, and the crimson stain was believed to be the
blood of Adonis, annually wounded to death by the boar on Mount
Lebanon. Again, the scarlet anemone is said to have sprung from the
blood of Adonis, or to have been stained by it; and as the anemone
blooms in Syria about Easter, this may be thought to show that the
festival of Adonis, or at least one of his festivals, was held in
spring. The name of the flower is probably derived from Naaman
("darling"), which seems to have been an epithet of Adonis. The
Arabs still call the anemone "wounds of the Naaman." The red rose
also was said to owe its hue to the same sad occasion; for
Aphrodite, hastening to her wounded lover, trod on a bush of white
roses; the cruel thorns tore her tender flesh, and her sacred blood
dyed the white roses for ever red. It would be idle, perhaps, to lay
much weight on evidence drawn from the calendar of flowers, and in
particular to press an argument so fragile as the bloom of the rose.
Yet so far as it counts at all, the tale which links the damask rose
with the death of Adonis points to a summer rather than to a spring
celebration of his passion. In Attica, certainly, the festival fell
at the height of summer. For the fleet which Athens fitted out
against Syracuse, and by the destruction of which her power was
permanently crippled, sailed at midsummer, and by an ominous
coincidence the sombre rites of Adonis were being celebrated at the
very time. As the troops marched down to the harbour to embark, the
streets through which they passed were lined with coffins and
corpse-like effigies, and the air was rent with the noise of women
wailing for the dead Adonis. The circumstance cast a gloom over the
sailing of the most splendid armament that Athens ever sent to sea.
Many ages afterwards, when the Emperor Julian made his first entry
into Antioch, he found in like manner the gay, the luxurious capital
of the East plunged in mimic grief for the annual death of Adonis;
and if he had any presentiment of coming evil, the voices of
lamentation which struck upon his ear must have seemed to sound his

The resemblance of these ceremonies to the Indian and European
ceremonies which I have described elsewhere is obvious. In
particular, apart from the somewhat doubtful date of its
celebration, the Alexandrian ceremony is almost identical with the
Indian. In both of them the marriage of two divine beings, whose
affinity with vegetation seems indicated by the fresh plants with
which they are surrounded, is celebrated in effigy, and the effigies
are afterwards mourned over and thrown into the water. From the
similarity of these customs to each other and to the spring and
midsummer customs of modern Europe we should naturally expect that
they all admit of a common explanation. Hence, if the explanation
which I have adopted of the latter is correct, the ceremony of the
death and resurrection of Adonis must also have been a dramatic
representation of the decay and revival of plant life. The inference
thus based on the resemblance of the customs is confirmed by the
following features in the legend and ritual of Adonis. His affinity
with vegetation comes out at once in the common story of his birth.
He was said to have been born from a myrrh-tree, the bark of which
bursting, after a ten months' gestation, allowed the lovely infant
to come forth. According to some, a boar rent the bark with his tusk
and so opened a passage for the babe. A faint rationalistic colour
was given to the legend by saying that his mother was a woman named
Myrrh, who had been turned into a myrrh-tree soon after she had
conceived the child. The use of myrrh as incense at the festival of
Adonis may have given rise to the fable. We have seen that incense
was burnt at the corresponding Babylonian rites, just as it was
burnt by the idolatrous Hebrews in honour of the Queen of Heaven,
who was no other than Astarte. Again, the story that Adonis spent
half, or according to others a third, of the year in the lower world
and the rest of it in the upper world, is explained most simply and
naturally by supposing that he represented vegetation, especially
the corn, which lies buried in the earth half the year and reappears
above ground the other half. Certainly of the annual phenomena of
nature there is none which suggests so obviously the idea of death
and resurrection as the disappearance and reappearance of vegetation
in autumn and spring. Adonis has been taken for the sun; but there
is nothing in the sun's annual course within the temperate and
tropical zones to suggest that he is dead for half or a third of the
year and alive for the other half or two-thirds. He might, indeed,
be conceived as weakened in winter, but dead he could not be thought
to be; his daily reappearance contradicts the supposition. Within
the Arctic Circle, where the sun annually disappears for a
continuous period which varies from twenty-four hours to six months
according to the latitude, his yearly death and resurrection would
certainly be an obvious idea; but no one except the unfortunate
astronomer Bailly has maintained that the Adonis worship came from
the Arctic regions. On the other hand, the annual death and revival
of vegetation is a conception which readily presents itself to men
in every stage of savagery and civilisation; and the vastness of the
scale on which this ever-recurring decay and regeneration takes
place, together with man's intimate dependence on it for
subsistence, combine to render it the most impressive annual
occurrence in nature, at least within the temperate zones. It is no
wonder that a phenomenon so important, so striking, and so universal
should, by suggesting similar ideas, have given rise to similar
rites in many lands. We may, therefore, accept as probable an
explanation of the Adonis worship which accords so well with the
facts of nature and with the analogy of similar rites in other
lands. Moreover, the explanation is countenanced by a considerable
body of opinion amongst the ancients themselves, who again and again
interpreted the dying and reviving god as the reaped and sprouting

The character of Tammuz or Adonis as a corn-spirit comes out plainly
in an account of his festival given by an Arabic writer of the tenth
century. In describing the rites and sacrifices observed at the
different seasons of the year by the heathen Syrians of Harran, he
says: "Tammuz (July). In the middle of this month is the festival of
el-Būgāt, that is, of the weeping women, and this is the Tā-uz
festival, which is celebrated in honour of the god Tā-uz. The women
bewail him, because his lord slew him so cruelly, ground his bones
in a mill, and then scattered them to the wind. The women (during
this festival) eat nothing which has been ground in a mill, but
limit their diet to steeped wheat, sweet vetches, dates, raisins,
and the like." Tā-uz, who is no other than Tammuz, is here like
Burns's John Barleycorn:

"They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all--
For he crush'd him between two stones."

This concentration, so to say, of the nature of Adonis upon the
cereal crops is characteristic of the stage of culture reached by

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